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Wrestling with the Word, episode 90: Lectionary 24 (16 Pentecost), Year C (September 12, 2010) August 29, 2010

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Lectionary 24 (16 Pentecost)

When life takes its well-known detours that result in anguish of our souls, we sometimes stretch an accusing finger at God. Those unexpected turns seem at times to demonstrate that God is not faithful to promises—whether they were made or we imagine they were. We might find a biblical passage here or there that promises health or wealth or peace or security in our lifetimes, and there is plenty of evidence in the world to indicate we are not on the road we were hoping for. But the promise of God that occurs everywhere in the Bible, the one that provides hope and healing, even on the worst of roads, is forgiveness of our sin. That promise lies at the very nature of God, and it is the assurance of God’s forgiveness that enables us to negotiate the bumps and turns on our journey.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 90: Lectionary 24 (16 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 51:1-10 (NRSV 1-9)
Like Psalms 38 and 130, the psalm is a penitential psalm. Accordingly, the psalm was used by someone suffering various torments as a result of one’s sinfulness against God. The plea for forgiveness in verses 1-2 sets the tone for the entire psalm and is offered only because of trust in God’s “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy.” The acknowledgement of guilt and confession in verses 3-6 moves beyond the understanding of sin as an ethical code. Verse 5 (NRSV) has sometimes been used to connect the origin of human sinfulness to the sexual act by which the person was conceived.  The intent of the words, however, is to indicate that from the very beginning of his existence the psalmist has been a sinner and a member of a world which has always been at odds with God. The depth of sin is nothing less than the dishonoring of God by all of humankind (see Isa. 6:5; Rom. 1—2; 11:32). The petition for forgiveness comes to focus in verses 7-12 with such words as “purge me,” “wash me,” “fill me,” “blot out all my iniquities.” As the psalm continues, such forgiveness results in the newness of life that can come only from God (see Jer. 31:31-34).

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Exodus 32:7-14
The Lord encourages those who have access to God to intercede even for those who make and worship false gods.

Context
Chapters 32-34 make up a relatively separate block of narrative material that separates the instructions of 25–31 from those in 35–40.  Chapter 32 is influenced by the account of the golden calves installed at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12).  Jeroboam’s infamous act following the division of the monarchy probably led the Jerusalem religious establishment to “prove” the error of his ways by demonstrating God’s judgment on a similar act back in the days of Moses.

Key Words
V. 8.  “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt”:  The statement already appeared at v. 4.  Note the request of the people at v. 1 contains:  “Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt”:  The same expression comes out of the mouth of God at v. 7.

V. 10.  we’e‘eseh ’ôtekā legôy gādôl = “and I will make you a great nation”:  The promise is identical to the words God uttered to Abraham at Gen. 12:2.

V. 13.  “multiply your descendants … and all this land … I will give …”:  These promises made to the patriarchs appear at Gen. 12:7; 15:1-6, 17-21; 17:4-8; 22:17; 26:4; 28:13-14.

V. 14.  wayyinnāchem YHWH = “and the Lord repented”:  That God changes the plan from judgment due to a human intercession, see also Amos 7:3 and Abraham’s attempt at Gen. 18:16-33.

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1 Timothy 1:12-17
As he begins his instruction and exhortation to Timothy, leader of the church in Ephesus, the apostle expresses thanks and praise for the goodness of the gospel to himself in words that sound like “amazing grace.”

Context
The authorship of the Pastoral Epistles has been debated for some time.  Whether or not this letter comes from Paul’s hand, the hand of a secretary, or from someone else entirely, the epistle, like that of 2 Timothy and Titus, provides us with instructions to individuals who are leaders of the churches in their respective geographical areas.  As such, they serve to remind leaders of the church at all times of the responsibilities they carry to prevent false teachings from entering the church and to abstain from the ways of the world.

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Luke 15:1-10
Addressing some prevailing religious positions of his day, Jesus explains his hospitality to outcasts on the basis of God’s love for the lost and joy over their recovery.

Context
In contrast to the preceding paragraphs which related Jesus’ teaching about the demands of discipleship to the crowds who had joined him on his journey, Jesus now deals with the grumbling on the part of the “religious” folk over the kinds of people to whom Jesus has been relating.

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Parallel Passage:  Matthew 18:12-13
In Matthew, Jesus addressed the parable to the disciples, making the point that the disciples should not extol themselves and despise the “little ones” but recognize that God rejoices at finding those who have gone astray. In Luke, Jesus addressed the parable to his religious opponents regarding God’s forgiveness of sin and the divine joy over the sinners’ restoration.

Key Words
Vv. 1-2.  pantes hoi telōnai kai hoi hamartōloi … diegoggyzon hoi te Pharisaioi kai hoi grammateis = “all the toll-collectors and sinners … the Pharisees and the scribes murmured”:  See 5:29-30 and 7:33-34 for similar reaction to the company Jesus was keeping.

V. 2.  diegogguzon = “kept murmuring”:  The imperfect tense of the verb indicates the continuing nature of their complaining (see 19:7). Their response to Jesus’ companions is not an isolated one; neither is his hospitality to the outcasts.

V. 4.  poreuetai epi to apolōlos heōs heurē auto = “goes after the lost one until he finds it”:  Forms of apollymi = “ruin, lose” appear to describe “lost sheep” at Matt. 10:6; 15:24; in OT cf. Ezek. 34:4 (11-16); Ps. 119:176.  God is the good shepherd who seeks out the lost (see John 10:11-12).  On the mission of Jesus to seek and save the “lost,” see Luke 19:10.

Vv. 6, 9.  sygcharēte moi = “rejoice with me”:  Joy is something to be shared, as in festal events (cf. Deut. 12:7; Pss. 33; 95; 98; Is. 9:3).

Vv. 7, 10.  chara en tō ouranō … chara enōpion tōn aggelōn tou theou = “joy in heaven … joy before the angels of God”:  For moments when God rejoices, see the new creation bliss at Isa. 65:19, the restoration of the people of Israel to God at Isa. 62:5, and the renewal of love with the people at Zeph. 3:17.  On God’s pleasure at having a wicked person repent and live, see Ezek. 18:23.  For the assembly before the throne of God, see 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1; Isa. 6:1-3; Ps. 82; 89:5-8, and often.