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Wrestling with the Word, episode 99: Lectionary 33 (25 Pentecost), Year C (November 14, 2010) November 7, 2010

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Lectionary 33 Pentecost 25
I shudder when I think of how I contribute to our country’s consumer spending problem. We have become accustomed to spending on just about everything and to satisfying our needs for instant gratification. We know the problems for the economy that go with that habit we share. At times of personal financial crises, we manage to cover the income loss by continuing our buying on credit, and, well, the results become more obvious all the time. Are we just spoiled? Oblivious to long term results? Or is it because we wait so long for the truly important things in life that we feel a need to treat ourselves in the meantime? God’s promises throughout the Bible are for the long term. They require divine repetition. God works hard to keep our trust in order to deliver the gratification that is still to come.

Download and listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 99: Lectionary 33 (25 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 98
The psalm summons worshipers to join the hymn of all creation because God has done wondrous things on the world’s behalf. The Lord has announced “his victory” (salvation) and revealed “his righteousness (recall Rom. 3:21). The motive for that universal saving event is God’s remembrance of “his steadfast love and faithfulness (chasdō we’emûnātō) to the house of Israel” (v. 3). Like 47, 93, 96-97, and 99, Psalm 98 acclaims the rule of YHWH on the basis of God’s victory (yešû’â in vss. 1, 2, 3) over the enemy. The nature of YHWH’s reign is announced: “he will judge the world with righteousness (tsedeq), and the peoples with equity (mêšārîm).”

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Malachi 4:1-2a
To the post-exilic community in Jerusalem whose social life was disintegrating and when the pious had begun to wonder about the usefulness of serving God, the Lord promises a Day when the wicked will be judged but those who fear the Lord will.

Context
This collection of prophecies is attributed to a certain “Malachi,” although that name is simply the Hebrew word for “my messenger.” The prophecies derive from between 500-450 B.C. on the basis of evidence regarding the religious and social institutions of the time.  The prophets Haggai and Zechariah had promised that when the temple was rebuilt following the return of the exiles from Babylon, the blessings of YHWH would finally become a reality. In fact, the people came to believe that the promised Day of the Lord would occur at the dedication of the new temple. However, after the temple had been rebuilt and the priesthood reestablished, religious and social life became lax and verged on disaster. It seemed to the people that God was absent: “Where is the God of justice?”(2:17). According to the prophet, the people were convinced that, if present at all, YHWH favored the wicked over the righteous.

Key Words
3:15.  gam bāchanû ʼelōhîm = “they put God to the test”:  While God tests humans in many places in the OT, God forbids humans from testing him. At Deut. 6:16 the word for “test” there is nāsâ rather than bāchan as here; however, Psalm 95:9 describes that same incident with the word bāchan.

3:17.  segullâ = “(a king’s) private treasure”: The word appears at Exod. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; Ps. 135:4 for the relationship between YHWH and Israel; at 1 Chron. 29:3, however, it refers to the private treasure of a king.

4:1. YHWH tsebāʼōt = “the Lord of hosts”: The title is common in Malachi, Haggai, and Zechariah. The word “hosts” can bear the meaning “armies” or at least military-like powers, and the title is especially appropriate here to point to God’s coming judgment on the wicked.

4:2.  šemeš tsedāqâ ûmarpeʼ biknāpehâ = “sun of righteousness and healing in its wings”: The imagery derives from ancient understandings of the sun with wings that enable it to fly across the sky. The promise of “righteousness” here appears to be God’s response to the people’s question, “Where is the God of justice? (mišpāt)” (2:17). That same lamenting question occurred among the exiles in Babylon: “My justice (mišpāt) is disregarded by my God” (Isa. 40:27).  The promise of healing recalls the lament in Jeremiah’s day when “healing” (//šālōm) were nowhere to be found in the land (Jer. 14:19). Here God promises healing and righteousness to those who fear God’s name, that is, God will answer their laments. The day of the Lord is still to come.

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Called to be active in the world, Christians are called to participate in daily work, earning their own living rather than contributing to the idle chaos of the world.

Context
Continuing some of the issues that were raised in 1 Thessalonians regarding the need to be about daily work as they await the coming of our Lord, the author here ostracizes those whose idleness leads to disorderliness.

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Luke 21:5-19
In response to the fascination over the splendor of this age, Jesus speaks of its destruction and adds words of warning about false messiahs who presume to know when the end is coming, about persecutions of disciples, and about the ultimate deliverance of those who remain faithful.

Context
Still teaching the people in the temple, Jesus dealt with the issue of Christ being David’s son and then proceeded to warn his disciples in the hearing of the people about the unscrupulous ways of the scribes.  Immediately prior to our pericope, Jesus commended the poor widow for her temple offering of two copper coins.

Parallel Passages:  Mark 13:5-8, 21-23; Matt. 24:4-8, 23-25

Key Words
Vv. 5-6.  “the temple”:  The destruction of the temple was already a theme in some OT prophets, particularly Jeremiah 7 and 26; also Micah 3:9-12.  Solomon’s temple built was destroyed in 587 B.C.  Rebuilt in 520 B.C. on a modest scale, it was enhanced and enlarged by Herod the Great in 40 B.C.  In this Second Temple Jesus is standing with the people.

V. 8.  mē planēthēte = “not led astray”:  The word appears only here in Luke but see John 7:47; cf. also 1 Cor. 15:33 (from the truth).

Vv. 8-11.  the signs of the end:  see Isa. 19:2; Jer. 4:20; Ezek. 38:19-22; Dan. 2:28; Joel 3:9-14; 2 Chron. 15:6; Rev 2:20; 12:9; 13:14; 18:23; etc.

V. 8.  egō eimi = “I am (he)”:  The claim, even title, comes from God in OT:  see Exod. 3:14; Isa. 43:10-11; 48:12; 52:6. As Son of God, Jesus used the title of himself at Mark 6:50; 14:62; John 8:24, 28 and, of course, the many “I am” sayings in John’s Gospel.

V. 8.  ho kairos ēggiken = “the time is at hand”:  Recall Mark 1:14-15 where it is clear the reference is not to the Messiah but to the reign of God; cf. Zeph. 1:7; Dan. 7:22; Rom. 13:12; Rev. 1:3.

V. 9.  mē ptoēthēte = “do not be afraid”:  The expression occurs often in LXX in regard to the facing of enemies:  Deut. 31:6; 2 Chron. 32:7; Jer. 1:17; Ezek. 3:9.

V. 10.  “Nation will rise against nation”:  2 Chron. 15:6 (contrast Isa. 2:2-4); “kingdom against kingdom”:  see 4 Ezra 13:31.

V. 12.  diōxousin = “they will persecute you”:  See 11:49; Acts 7:52.

V.  12.  hēgemonas = “prefects”:  Gentile governors such as Felix (Acts 23:24–24:27) and Porcius Festus (Acts 24:27–26:32); cf. the persecution of Stephen, Peter, James, and Paul in Acts.

V. 15.  egō gar dōsō hymin stoma kai sophian = “I will give you a mouth and wisdom”:  Recall God’s promises at Exod. 4:15; cf. Jer. 1:7, 9; cf. also Luke 12:11-12.

V. 16. “You will be given up even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends”: The list sounds like those who persecuted Jeremiah for preaching the word of God faithfully (Jer. 11:18-23; 20:10).

V. 18.  “not a hair of your head will perish”:  See 1 Sam. 14:45; 2 Sam. 14:11; 1 Kings 1:52; Acts 27:34.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 21: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B (May 17, 2009) April 30, 2009

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Describing the relationship between God and the world in one sentence presents a significant challenge for Christians. On the one hand, God is the Creator of the world. On the other hand, the world does not acknowledge God to be the Creator. On the one hand, God made the world to be good and the people in it to care for one another and for the environment. On the other hand, the history of humanity and a walk in the park demonstrate that “the ground is cursed” (Gen. 3:17), along with the air and the water, because of humanity’s sinfulness. On the one hand, God loves the world. On the other hand, God is determined to “overcome the world.” Our lessons for this Sixth Sunday of Easter show us how God accomplishes that necessary victory.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 21: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B.

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Psalm 98
The psalm summons worshipers to join the hymn of all creation because God has wondrous things on the world’s behalf. The motive for that universal event is God’s remembrance of “his steadfast love and faithfulness (chasdō we’emûnātō) to the house of Israel” (v. 3). Like 47, 93, 96-97, and 99, Psalm 98 acclaims the rule of YHWH on the basis of God’s victory (yešû’â in vss. 1, 2, 3) over the enemy. The victory of YHWH results in his reign in which “he will judge the world with righteousness (tsedeq), and the peoples with equity (mêšārîm).”

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Acts 10:44-48
In the name of Jesus Christ, Peter ordered the baptizing of the Gentiles on whom the Holy Spirit fell though the preaching of the word — much to the surprise of the Jewish Christians present.

Context
Having described the visions to Cornelius in Caesarea and then to Peter in Joppa, the author brings the two together in Caesarea where each one shares his vision with the other. There follows Peter’s sermon about God’s refusal to show partiality, and so the gospel of Jesus Christ is shared with Jew and Gentile alike.

Key Words
V. 44. epepesen to pneuma to hagion epi pantas tous akouontas ton logon = “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word”: The preaching of the gospel, as Peter had just delivered it in the home of Cornelius, brings people to faith through the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul emphasized this critical role for preaching at Romans 10:13-17.

V. 46. ēkouon gar autōn lalountōn glōssais kai megalynontōn ton theon = “For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolled the Lord”: At Acts 19:17 the same word for “extol” describes the response of the people-both Jews and Greeks-at the miracle of Paul. At Psalm 69:30 the word appears in synonymous parallelism with “praise the name of God with a song” (see Psalm 98). With a human object, the author of Luke-Acts describes the “high honor” with which the people regarded the apostles (Acts 5:13). As for the “speaking in tongues,” the broken language that occurs out of religious ecstasy, Paul’s laying on of hands in Acts 19:6 endowed the people in Ephesus with the Holy Spirit and they “spoke with tongues and prophesied.” The practice apparently loomed large in Corinth, because Paul addressed the practice at length in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

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1 John 5:1-6
God calls us to love him by loving one another, thus demonstrating the faith which overcomes the hostile ways of the world.

Context
The last verses of chapter 4 indicate the necessary relationship between loving God and loving one another in visible ways. Indeed, it is God’s command that we love one another if we are truly to love God (4:21).

Key Words
Vv. 1-2.  ho christos, ek tou theou gegennētai, kai pas ho agapōn ton gennēsanta agapa [kai] ton gegennēmenon ex autou … agapōmen ta tekna tou theou = “Christ who was born from God and all who love the bearer (parent) love also the one born from him (the child)  … we love the children of God”:  Note the different words applied to Christ (ek tou theou gegennētai … ton gegennēmenon ex autou) and to Christians (ta tekna tou theou).

V. 4-5.  hoti pan to gegennēmenon ek tou theounika ton kosmon … hē pistis hēmōn … ho pisteuōn hoti ‘Iēsous estin ho huios tou theou = “for whatever is born from God overcomes the world … our faith … the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”: The theme of victory Brings us back to Psalm 98, but the means of victory is no longer “the right hand and the holy arm of God” but faith that Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus himself told his disciples, “I have overcome the world,” and so they might have peace even with the tribulation of the world (John 17:33).

V. 6. houtos estin ho elthōn di’ hydatos kai haimatos, ‘Iēsous Christos = “This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ”: The description of Jesus points to his own baptism (John 1:32-33) and to his sacrificial death (John 19:34). The one who was baptized with water is the same as the one who died on the cross.

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John 15:9-17
Jesus calls his disciples to love one another as he has loved us by the sacrifice of himself on the cross.
OR
On the basis of his sharing with his disciples all that he heard from his Father, Jesus changes their identity from servants to friends.

Context
After Jesus shared with his disciples a meal prior to the feast of the Passover (13:1-2), he washed their feet as an example of how the disciples are to treat one another (13:5ff.). Having spoken of the coming betrayal (13:21ff.), he promised to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house and the coming of the Counselor (the Holy Spirit; 14:16, 25) in the meantime. Then he related to them the analogy of the Vine and the branches (15:1-8).

Key Words
Vv. 9, 10, 12, 13, 17.  agapaō = “love”:  When the author here speaks of God’s love for Jesus or for Jesus’ love for his disciples, the aorist tense is used:  a single act of love is nothing other than Christ’s death on the cross.  The same verb tense is used at 17:24, 26 (the so-called priestly prayer). The present tense of agapaō is used at John 3:35 and 10:17 to express the ongoing love of God for Jesus. When used of the disciples’ love for one another, the present tense appears as an indication of the continuing nature of the act.

V. 11. hina chara hē emē en hymin hē kai hē chara hymōn plērōthē = “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full”: The author already spoke of “joy” at 14:28 where he virtually defined Jesus’ joy as going to be with the Father. In 16:20-24, the author writes of the joy the disciples will experience when Jesus comes to them again after his resurrection (see 4:36). They did experience that promised joy according to 20:20.

V. 13.  tis tēn psychēn autou thē hyper tōn philōn autou = “someone lays down his life for the sake of his friends”:  Peter offers to lay down his life at 13:37; doing so is evidence that Jesus is the Good Shepherd at 10:11; and such an act is the means by which we know the love of God at 1 John 3:16.

V. 15.  ho doulos ouk oiden … egnōrisa hymin = “the servant/slave does not know … I have made known to you”:  the distinction drawn here between slaves and friends is that of those in the dark and those in the know. Friends (philoi) are those who have heard and heeded the word that Jesus received from the Father and taught to them.

V. 16.  ouck hymeis me exelexasthe all’ egō exelexamēn hymas kai ethēka hymas, hina hymeis hypagēte kai karpon pherēte …= “you did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit …”:  Jesus himself is the “chosen one” at Matt. 12:18 (quoting Isa. 42:1); Luke 9:35; 23:35; 1 Peter 2:4, 6 (quoting Isa. 28:16). Jesus had earlier (John 6:70) talked of choosing “the twelve,” even though “one of you is a devil” (Judas). At John 13:18, Jesus uses the verb to speak of Judas and his role in betrayal. While the election of the twelve to be apostles occurs elsewhere (see Acts 1:2; 10:41), the “chosen” comes to include many more (see Rom. 16:18; 1 Cor. 1:26-28, etc.). Being Christ’s disciples is not a matter of our choice but of his choice. That election commissions us to “bear fruit” (see vss. 5, 8), that is, love one another.