Tuesday, August 20, 2019

11 Pentecost 2019, Proper 11C Readings & Commentaries

11th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16C)

1st Reading (Track 1):  Jeremiah 1:4-10
In the first three verses of chapter one, Jeremiah is said to be the son of Hilkiah, a priest at Anathoth. As such, he was probably a descendent of the priest Abiathar, who King Solomon banished to Anathoth (1 Kings 2:26,27). Anathoth may represent an alternative priestly and prophetic voice to that of Jerusalem, i.e., Jeremiah is an outsider to the political and religious establishment. He was a witness to the rise of the Babylonian empire and the attempt by the Kingdom of Judah to play off Babylon and Egypt against one another, which ultimately failed. An “alliance” was made with Babylon in 598 b.c.e. which led to a “puppet kingdom.” Judah ceased to exist in 586, and significant portions of its population taken into exile, an event which overshadows the whole book of Jeremiah. Our reading this morning is the story of Jeremiah’s call to a ministry which involves that fate of Judah, through the word of the Lord who speaks through the prophet.

1:4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Psalm 71:1-6 (Track 1)
Psalm 71 as a whole is the prayer of an elderly person, pursued by enemies and in urgent need of hope. This contrasts with the “youth” Jeremiah claims in the above reading, although one can easily hear this psalm on the lips of an elder Jeremiah. Verse 6 uses the imagery of a midwife, stating clearly that the writer has known and trusted the Lord from the day of his birth.

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; *
              let me never be ashamed.
2 In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; *
              incline your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; *
              you are my crag and my stronghold.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, *
              from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.
5 For you are my hope, O Lord God, *
              my confidence since I was young.
6 I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my strength; *
              my praise shall be always of you.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 58:9b-14
In 58:1-14, the prophet Isaiah speaks to the newly returned exiles about the requirements for rebuilding holy community. This can only happen when worship and the practice of daily living are in sync with one another. Those who worship the just God must live the just life. The crown jewel of living the just life is the practice of sabbath. Sabbath is not just about setting aside a day for worship and rest. To practice sabbath is to practice an alternative way of life, one in which the anxiety of acquiring things and the drive to control life by our own strength and for our own self-gain are rejected in favor of living in true community, where all may delight in the abundance of creation.

58:9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Psalm 103:1-8 (Track 2)
Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise for God’s salvation, the forgiveness of sins and the healing of infirmities, the vindication of human life and the doing of justice. Verse six is translated in the New Revised Standard Version, “The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.”

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
3 He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;
4 He redeems your life from the grave
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
5 He satisfies you with good things,
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
6 The Lord executes righteousness
and judgment for all who are oppressed.
7 He made his ways known to Moses
and his works to the children of Israel.
8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great kindness.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 12:18-29
Throughout the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer contrasts the “old” covenant with the “new.”  Our passage this morning comes from near the end of the letter and is a kind of climax of this contrast, using the images of Mount Sinai (where the old covenant was formed) with Mount Zion (which is the vision of the new covenant fulfilled).  The old covenant was received in terror such that even the great Moses trembled with fear (the quote regarding touching the mountain is from Exodus 19:12-13).  In contrast, the approach of Mount Zion is summed up in a long list of vivid images which speak of eager anticipation rather than dread.  Yet there is a warning:  do not refuse this new vision, and remember "our God is a consuming fire,” which is to say that the graciousness of God requires the offering of our whole lives just as much as the terror of God did. The quote in verse 26 is from the prophet Haggai (2:6).

12:18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20 (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Gospel Reading: Luke 13:10-17
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus continues a pattern in Luke’s Gospel establishing that the care of our fellow human beings takes priority over all ritual requirements and social “standards.” The practice of such things as sabbath was not intended to be a means of social control, but an enabling of social justice. Another way of putting this is to say that sabbath, or any other religious practice, must never be used as a means of burdening people, but of freeing them, as the woman in this story is given freedom from her physical burden. An almost identical sabbath healing occurs in 14:1-6. The reference for the synagogue leader’s protest in verse 14 is Exodus 20:9-10. The reference to “Satan” binding the woman in verse 16 was simply an acknowledgement that this state of affairs for the woman is evil, meaning that it does not come from God, which many of her contemporaries surely believed.

13:10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

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