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Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 6

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 7, 2016

Isaiah 66:10-14

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her—
11 that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious bosom.

12 For thus says the Lord:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies* shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants,
and his indignation is against his enemies.

The prophecy of Isaiah is generally divided into three parts. The first part is chapters 1-39 and is likely written by a prophet living in Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE. It is a prophecy to the Southern Kingdom of Israel before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylonia. Chapters 40-57, commonly called second Isaiah, prophesy to Israel immediately before, during, and after the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, 584 – 587 BCE. Third Isaiah is chapters 58-66 and addresses the return of the Israelites exiled in Babylon and the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the rest of the kingdom.

Immediately prior to the pericope, God has told the Israelites that God will do a miracle. “Before her [Israel’s] labor, she delivered; before her birth pangs, she brought forth a son.” God is telling Israel that God will restore it in no time at all; no pregnancy, no labor, just delivery.

For this wonder, the above text calls for rejoicing. God will feed his people from the bounty of Jerusalem. Note God’s maternal side in verse 13.

Psalm 66:1-9

To the leader. A Song. A Psalm.
1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.’

5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7 who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.

8 Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.

While this psalm lavishes rather general praise on God, it was chosen to accompany the above Isaiah text because it can be interpreted as praising God for the return of the exiles from Babylonia and the rebuilding of the Temple. References are made to miracles God wrought throughout Israel’s history, such as the parting of the Red/Reed Sea.

Galatians 6:1-16

My friends,* if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil* the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads.

6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which* the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.15For* neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

A pastor friend of mine once said, “All comparisons of ourselves to others are, at their root, sinful, save one; the comparison of ourselves to Christ. This one comparison drives us to our knees at the foot of the cross.” This is a sound summary of Paul’s admonitions in verses 1-5. Do not compare yourself to others, or even compare one person to another. Instead, love and forgive one another in gentles.

Verse 6 is an admonition to pay those whose livelihood is teaching the gospel.

Starting at verse 11, Paul employs a common Hellenistic practice. While Paul dictated the body of the letter, he adds a postscript in his own hand. However, Paul’s postscript is much more than the customary “Give my love to ________.” Here, Paul summarizes his letter to this errant congregation. Ignore those Jewish Christians who say you must be circumcised [made Jewish] before being Christian and becoming part of the body of Christ. It is not outward signs that save you anyway. To be a follower of Jesus, you must put the whole of your being into faith in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit makes a new creation of you through that faith!

Luke 10:1-20

After this the Lord appointed seventy* others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”* 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”* 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

17 The seventy* returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

While last week’s text illustrated how very difficult and confusing following Jesus can be, nevertheless, Jesus still has 70 disciples (including the 12 apostles?) to deploy in pairs as his fore teams.

Why 70? Some manuscripts say 72! Genesis 10 lists the nations of the world generations after the flood. They number 70 in the Hebrew manuscripts and 72 in the Septuagint (the more ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures). Jesus is symbolically sending out disciples to all nations of the world.

As all farmers know, there is urgency in gathering the harvest at its peak. Jesus reflects that urgency in his admonitions to the 70 to travel light and keep to themselves on the road so as to not be delayed in socializing.

Deployed disciples are to grant peace, eat what is provided, cure the sick, and proclaim the Kingdom of God. This is exactly the mission carried on by Jesus thus far. Now that Jesus has predicted his death and “set his face toward Jerusalem,” the disciples must hone their missionary/evangelism skills.

The chastisement of towns is an example of what happens when God/Jesus is rejected. Jesus sends out the disciples in the most important and urgent of labors, to exemplify the love of God. If folks reject it, Jesus will reject them. Verse 16 even puts this into the legal language of the day.

When the disciples return, they rejoice at their effectiveness! Jesus’ statement, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening,” could be an exclamation of evil flagging in the face of this new work of the disciples. It could also be an actual report, however puzzling. Serpents and scorpions are traditionally seen as images for Satan. Jesus grants the disciples authority over all such things. However, interpreted the success of the disciples is also the downfall of evil, and “signals the reign of God on earth.” (New Interpreter’s Bible)

No matter what power the disciples now have, Jesus cautions them that this power is not the point, but instead a symptom of a wonderful truth, their salvation in Christ is assured.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 6 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 6, 2016

1 Kings 19:15-21

15Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.16Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

19So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. 20He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” 21He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

This is a small section of the truly amazing story of Elijah’s retirement from being the greatest prophet of God, perhaps with the exception of Moses. This portion of the story is coupled with the gospel reading below because of the mention of plowing and ministry.

This Elijah story begins with Jezebel, pagan queen of Israel, setting a bounty on Elijah’s head. Elijah is so terrified by that, and so burned out from fighting King Ahab and Queen Jezebel for all the years they have reigned, that is cries out to God, “Won’t don’t you just take my life now?! Better you than Jezebel!” Editing out significant portions of the story, God does hold audience of sort with Elijah, accepts his resignation, and asks him to go appoint his successor and two others.

Our pericope for today is the story of Elisha’s appointment as Elijah’s successor. The designation of one’s successor by laying one’s outer garment on the other’s shoulders is found nowhere else in the Bible or in ancient literature. When Elisha responds to this gesture by asking for a couple hours of time to say goodbye, Elijah acts as if he truly could not care less. “What’s it to me?!” So burned out and fatigues is Elijah that once he hefts his burden onto someone else’s shoulders, he doesn’t care what happens to it. “Not my problem anymore!”

Psalm 16

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my kidney instructs me.

I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

While this psalm sounds very much like many other psalms, there are some unique idiosyncrasies. Verse 7 “kidney” is unique to this psalm. In Hebrew tradition, the kidneys were the seat of conscience, the right hand the center of power, the left hand and the womb were the centers of compassion and nurturing.

This psalmist makes many references to God as wealth: portion, lot, goodly inheritance with boundaries falling in the psalmist’s favor. God is the source of eternal pleasure.

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

1For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;* only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,* but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy,* drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Here the Apostle Paul lays out one of the knife’s edges Christians try to walk. Paul says in the first verse of this pericope that “For freedom Christ has set you free,” and then goes on to admonish the Galatians that they should not allow themselves to be enslaved, either to The Law of Moses or to their own desires and longings. Rather, they should embody the freedom Christ has won for them by bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

I interpret this admonition to freedom as encouragement to serve God by doing what is humble and loving in each situation. As Christians living with lots of other Christians, however, doing what is humble and loving is doing to look different to each individual in each situation and that is very unsettling to some folks, those who really like rules and policies. And, indeed, we live in a world that bristles at loosy-goosy, especially our legal systems. So this freedom to which Paul points is quickly turned into rules and orders that make it very difficult to bear love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Often, one must employ all these fruits, especially peace and patience, to get past the rules to the living of Christ’s freedom.

Luke 9:51-62

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The opening sentence of this text is the gospel writer’s idiom for telling the readers that Jesus knows where his life’s road is headed. At this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ focus changes from teaching the disciples to recognize the Kingdom of God, to fulfilling his mission on earth: the cross. Jesus’ tone changes with his focus. Jesus gets more anxious and less patient. One man’s rock-star-devotional outburst is met with sardonic lament from the Son of God. Jesus has no patience even for funerals and interments, goodbyes or second thoughts. Jesus isn’t allowing himself any, and at this stage in the game, he brooks none from anyone else.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus has found no one fit for the kingdom of God during his time among us. Sure, there have been some who were close, the rich man whom Jesus “loved”, Lazarus whom Jesus raised, the apostles, the women who supported Jesus’ ministry from their own means. But all of them and all of us second guess ourselves when it comes to the gospel. We never act purely altruistically. We are a fallen people, and in this passage in Luke, we can see Jesus really knows who we are: 1) he gets a bit peevish, and 2) he changes tacks into the wind and heads for the cross. Jesus can’t change us, and finds it extremely difficult to teach us, so he cuts it short and just saves us. Once saved, maybe now we can learn and change.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost V 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost V 2016

Isaiah 65:1-9

65 I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that did not call on my name.
2 I held out my hands all day long
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and offering incense on bricks;
4 who sit inside tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat swine’s flesh,
with broth of abominable things in their vessels;
5 who say, “Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.
6 See, it is written before me:
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their laps
7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together,
says the Lord;
because they offered incense on the mountains
and reviled me on the hills,
I will measure into their laps
full payment for their actions.
8 Thus says the Lord:
As the wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, “Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it,”
so I will do for my servants’ sake,
and not destroy them all.
9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;
my chosen shall inherit it,
and my servants shall settle there.

The Israelites return from exile in Babylonia to find Jerusalem completely devastated. The city is burned to the ground, the Temple is gone, and the sacred vessels were carried off as plunder. The people cry out to God in accusation, “You have struck those [the returning
exiles] who would gladly do justice.” Believing that God has allowed Jerusalem to fall as punishment of Israeli for its many sins, the Israelites cry, “It is because YOU are angry that we have sinned.” This passage in the 65th chapter of Isaiah is God’s response to Israel’s accusations.

God states that during all of the years leading up to the exile and during the exile, God was faithful to the covenant with Israel, but Israel was a “disloyal people” who “followed their own designs.” “Sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on tiles” are worship practices to Canaanite gods. These were frequently done on the highest topographical locations, hence the term, “they made offerings upon the mountains and affronted Me upon the hills.”

Despite Israel’s many sins of unfaithfulness, God pledges God will not destroy Israel completely, but will build a great people from those who are still faithful to God(Hebrew Study Bible translation). Psalm 22:19-28

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

This is the psalm Jesus quotes from the cross, perhaps in keeping with ancient death bed traditions. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” In this chosen pericope, the psalmist pleads, “Do something good for me, God, so that I can sing your praise and brag about you!” “Pay attention to those whom the godless have brought low!”

The psalm goes on to sing God’s praise, trusting that God will answer the previous pleas. The psalmist then admonishes, “You who fear the Lord,” and “All you offspring of Jacob,” to also fear and praise God.

Galatians 3:23-29

23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Paul argues here, and in other letters, that the Law of Moses was only temporary, to be replaced by faith into Jesus. Using analogies of a prison/guard here, and of a tutor elsewhere, Paul teaches that the law was not a means to itself, nor God’s highest creation for humanity, but rather a guide toward God. Since humanity misunderstood the Law and made it a means of score keeping by which one earns God’s favor, God, himself, came in Jesus. Jesus is the example of how humans are to know/love God and live through that knowledge and love.

While the Law of Moses defined and divided humanity into the clean and the unclean, Jew and goyim (not Jew), male and female, Jesus defines all humanity as forgiven. Therefore, Paul proclaims, in Christ there are no distinctions! All are made equally guilty under the law by failure to keep the Law, and all are made free by Jesus through the forgiveness of sin.

Luke 8:26-39

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus[ had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed.37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenesasked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

The passage begins, “Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee,” which is a plain way of saying that Jesus and the disciples “aren’t in Kansas anymore.” They have crossed into non-Jewish territory. This is the first of several occasions in Luke where Jesus leads his disciples off their home turf, likely a first for all of them.

Now in “unclean” territory, what is the first thing that Jesus and the disciples encounter? A severely mentally disturbed, naked man screaming at them! You can just hear the disciples’ throughts: “This is why we should have STAYED AT HOME!” If that were not enough, these are swine keeping people with a herd just over yonder!

Luke makes very clear the distinction between those who recognize Jesus as Son of God and those who don’t, nowhere more clearly than in this story. The demons which possess this tragic man know and fear Jesus, while the people of the town completely reject Jesus.

Abyss: In Hebrew folklore, the abyss is the bottomless pit reserved for God’s enemies.

Legion: In Middle eastern culture, to know one’s name is to have a measure of control over that one. In the Roman army, a Legion of soldier is 4,000 – 6,000 soldiers.

“Declare how much God has done for you.” Here is the first commissioned evangelist in the gospel of Luke, a healed man, only recently clothed, who heretofore has lived in a grave yard. This guy has a steep uphill battle for credibility with this swine herding community, but that is the job Jesus hands him.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost IV 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost IV

II Samuel 11:26 – 12:15

26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.”15 Then Nathan went to his house.

Unfortunately, the pericope only includes the middle one-third of the David and Bathsheba story. While this section of the story was chosen to focus on the theme of confession and absolution, it is hard to fully appreciate David’s contrition without reading the circumstances of David’s multiple sins against God, Uriah, Bathsheba and the nation of Israel.

In this story, David’s sins are many: abdication of leadership, adultery, abuse, deception and murder. The prophet, Nathan, proclaims through his parable that David’s greatest sin, which includes all previously listed, is his spurning of God’s graciousness. Wealthy, ambitious King David would not allow himself satiation in God’s benevolences, but greedily sought more, even stealing the meager fair of others.

When the prophet, Nathan, confronted David through parable, note David’s immediate honesty. No denial! King David is finally humbled by the truth of the matter.

Psalm 32

1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

6 Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

The relief of confession and absolution is so often precluded by the fear of “fessing up”. Our media is filled with stories of cover-ups. How much better for us if we are forthrightly honest about the wrongs we do.

That is certainly this psalmist’s take! This psalm is attributed to David. Whether he or someone else wrote it, the idea of the relief of confession and absolution is clearly conveyed. “While I kept silence” means “While I refused to admit.” “Your hand was heavy upon me.” is a great description of a guilty conscience!

But then, “I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not hide my iniquity;” and God forgave him! Mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing opens the floodgates of God’s grace!

Galatians 2:15-21

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

In this passage of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, Paul emphasizes everyone’s equality under the Law of Moses; equality in that all, Jews and non-Jews, are equally guilty in failing to perfectly keep the law. Being Jewish as over and against being non-Jewish, doesn’t get you any brownie points with God’s messiah either. God’s gift of faith into Jesus saves all, and is accessible to all, equally.

Luke 7:36 – 8:3

37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Just a couple months ago in late Lent we heard this story from the gospel of John, where Mary, Lazarus’s sister, anointed Jesus and Judas Iscariot objected to the “waste”. There, in Bethany, so close to Golgotha, both in distance and time, Jesus defends Mary’s actions by saying, “She has anointed me for the burial.” Notice how differently the story is told in Luke!

First, setting: Jesus is not dining with friends, but with a disrespectful Pharisee. It was tradition to show honor to another by kissing the other in greeting (which is why Jesus asks, “Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?”) but this Pharisee gave Jesus none. For cleanliness and comfort, a host also offered bowls of water and towels for guests to wash their feet, sometimes even providing a slave to do the washing. But, again, this Pharisee provided nothing. The Pharisee treated Jesus like a tardy cable man instead of a prophet, or even a colleague.

In order to understand the choreography of this scene, recall that dining at this time was done laying on one’s side propped up on one elbow either on a cushion on the floor or a cot.

Second, the woman: Luke describes the woman as “sinful”, but “sinful” is not defined. This word is different than the word for “prostitute”, so her sins may be thievery, etc. Because Jesus is reclining away from his fellow diners, the woman could easily stand behind Jesus’ feet and weep on them. The jar of perfumed ointment is not described as “costly”, nor preparation “for my burial”.

Contrition vs. Gratitude

Is the woman trying to earn her forgiveness or is she showing gratitude for what has been given? When Jesus applies the parable, he addresses the Pharisee and guests, saying, “Her sins have been forgiven” using the past perfect tense which means the forgiveness has already been granted the woman. She is showing a great amount of gratitude, as opposed to the Pharisee, who seems to only show contempt.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost IV 2016.docx