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Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 11, 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 11, 2016

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23

2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 3What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?

12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind

18I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

First, on the name “Ecclesiastes”: The books in the Hebrew Scriptures are almost all named for the first word in the book. In this case, the first word in this book is Koheleth, which means “the assembler” or “the instructor”. The Greek word for “Koheleth” is Ecclesiastes which means “the assembly” or “those assembled”. The book assembles wisdom sayings which are attributed to King Solomon.

Second, the word, “vanity”. We think of vanity as obsession with appearance. That is absolutely not what the Koheleth had in mind when writing this book. The Jewish Study Bible translates the word not as vanity but “utter futility”. This translation harkens to a less used definition of vanity, “the quality of being worthless or futile.” The actual word being translated is “hevel”, which literally means “wind, breath” which refers to the temporariness of all to which the Koheleth refers.

The Koheleth states the despair which he feels as he contemplates the meaning of his life’s work.

Psalm 49:1-12

1Hear this, all you peoples; give ear, all inhabitants of the world,

2both low and high, rich and poor together.

3My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

4I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

5Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,

6those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?

7Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it.

8For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice

9that one should live on forever and never see the grave.

10When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others.

11Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own.

12Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.

This is an unusual psalm in that it is not addressed to God, but to foreign peoples. The main theme is “Rich people should not be envied or emulated.” It is also unusual in that it speaks of the common fate of the wise and foolish, the faithful and unfaithful: all die, despite humanity’s hubris.

Colossians 3:1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Paul offers a remedy to the emptiness humans find in daily toil to amass stuff: set your mind on Christ, who is all and in all. When one takes purpose and meaning in life from Jesus, then vices (verse 5 & 8) melt away into the puddle of self focus, and are replaced by the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, gentleness, and self control.

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

“Who made me judge and arbitrator over you?” – In the same way that Martha tries to get Jesus to judge Mary and make her do what Martha wanted, so now this man approaches Jesus to get a favorable judgement. But Jesus refuses. From our point of view, that is exactly what God should do, judge between us and make us all behave. But Jesus rejects being boxed into the probate court bench, in favor of pointing us to real life.

“Those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” When we make decisions in self centered isolation, resisting the influence of the rest of the world, and God, we “are not rich toward God.” Jesus says, “Whoever has two coats must give one away.” This does not mean that you give away everything and freeze to death while others are warm in your old clothes. No, it means that you allow the wealth that God has entrusted to you to not only provide for you, but also for others.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 10, 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 10, 2016

Genesis 18:20-32

20Then the Lord said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.’

22 So the men turned from there, and went towards Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.* 23Then Abraham came near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ 26And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.’ 27Abraham answered, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’ 29Again he spoke to him, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’ 30Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.’ He answered, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ 31He said, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’ 32Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’

Abraham, a man with chutzpah! He argues with God but in such a deferential way! This text gives us such a revealing glimpse into dickering in ancient times.

God and the two men with him have just finished the feast Abraham laid before them. God declares that Abraham and Sarah will have a son by this time next year and Sarah laughs. Then God declares that he must go scrutinize Sodom and Gomorrah. But it is, in fact, the men/angels who go to Sodom and Gomorrah. God continues speaking to Abraham. Abraham knows that his nephew, Lot, and Lot’s family, live in Sodom. Abraham is very concerned for him so he works God into an agreement that God will not destroy these two cities if there are found ten people who worship God alone in them. Note that Abraham does not ask God to merely spare the innocent, but to forgive the sins of these two cities on the merit of the righteousness of ten faithful people. This idea of a few righteous earning the favor of God for the whole community or nation is a common thread in the Hebrew Scriptures.

When the men/angels arrive at Sodom, it is Lot who offers hospitality to them. The men of the city gather at Lot’s front door, wanting Lot to throw out the two men/angels for the crowd’s sexual pleasure. Here is the evidence God was looking for and Abraham hoped would not be. Lot offers the crowd his daughters instead, so as to save honor by protecting his guests. The men/angels pull Lot back into the house, away from the near riot crowd and bar the door. Very early the next morning, the men/angels pull the reluctant Lot, his wife, and his two daughters out of the city just as it is being destroyed by sulfur and fire (maybe volcano?).

In the Quran, it is Muhammad who argues with God, not Abraham. The argument was not over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but rather how many times a day the Muslim should pray. God started at 50 but Muhammad got it down to five.

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down towards your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
above everything.*
3 On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.*

4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he perceives from far away.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

“Before the gods”-ancient Israelites believed God to be the chief God of a council of divine beings. By the time of Jesus, that was considered myth.

“Steadfast Love and Faithfulness” – these are words which lay claim to the covenant God made with humanity. They are not feelings but rather legally bound commitments God pledged to Abraham and his descendants forever.

“Your right hand delivers me” – In many ancient cultures, the right hand is the hand of power. Kings would hold their scepters in their right hands.

Colossians 2:6-19

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives* in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe,* and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision,* by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God* made you* alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed* the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling* on visions,* puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,* 19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

“Elemental spirits of the universe.” According to the Harper Collins Study Bible, “This refers to the widespread Greco-Roman notion that the universe is composed of celestial powers that rule life.”

“The fullness of deity” – Just as God is fully present in Jesus, so Jesus makes us fully who God created us to be through faith in his life, death, and resurrection.

Circumcision-The mark of a Jew, verses a Gentile, is a circumcised male. Jews have never performed “female circumcision.” For Jews, the removal of the foreskin was a sign of complete exposure to and vulnerability to God. Circumcision is the initiation right to enter the chosen people of God, the Jews. But Jesus called for baptism into Him for the forgiveness of sins and for new, eternal life. For the Christian, baptism replaces circumcision. However, in the very early church, those Jews who were now following Jesus believed that both circumcision and baptism were required to be Christian. Paul argues against that, stating that baptism and faith in Christ alone are needed.

Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father,* hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.*
3 Give us each day our daily bread.*
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’*

5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.”7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for* a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit* to those who ask him!’

Note what Jesus finds important to pray for.

“Hallowed be your name.” – Hallowed or holy, means “set apart for God’s purpose.” We pray that God’s name be used only for God’s purpose. Sure, this prayer asks that we not use God’s name in vain. But it also asks that when we use God’s name, even in prayer, that we only use it rightly, praying for those things which God desires.

“Your Kingdom come” – This petition asks that God’s kingdom replaces the one in which we already live. As we do not know what God’s kingdom will look light, this is a risky petition.

“Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone indebted to us.” In ancient Jewish culture, sins were not things you do that hurt other people’s feelings, they were things done to give people shame and take away their honor. In that way, if you sinned against someone, you owed them honor, you were indebted to them. In this petition, note that Jesus has the prayer stating that he/she gives all who have taken away honor, and therefore God should forgive him/her. Can we honestly pray this?

“Time of Trial” – There is no clear definition of the Time of Trial. Some Jewish tradition held that there would be a Day of the Lord where God would come to earth and adjudicate all the peoples of the earth in some manner. Other traditions held that humans would go through some kind of testing by God and the lesser deities. Jesus, himself, in the gospel of Matthew tells the parable of the sheep and the goats where Jesus separates the faithful from the unfaithful. Here, Jesus teaches that no matter how we envision it, we should ask God to save us from it.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 9, 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 9, 2016

Genesis 18:1-10

The Lord appeared to Abraham* by the oaks* of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ 6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures* of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ 7Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

9 They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.

God appeared to Abraham back in Genesis 12 and told him that he would be the father of many nations, yet Abraham and Sarah are without children. Abraham and Lot have already journeyed to Canaan. They have parted company, each settling in different areas. Abraham and Sarah have already had a child by a surrogate slave, Haggar.

This story takes place by the Oaks of Mamre. These become an important landmark throughout early Israelite history. These are not merely trees, but a place of pagan worship. When Sarah dies, Abraham still does not have land of his own but goes to the local Canaanites and buys from them a cave near these oaks. Abraham entombs Sarah in this cave. He is later also entombed there, as is Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob. When the Israelites escape Egypt, they bring with them Joseph’s body with the intention of laying him also in the cave by the Oaks of Mamre.

This story tells us much about Abraham and Sarah’s daily life and style of hospitality.

Abraham and Sarah are wealthy enough to have servants. We also know this from Abraham’s plea earlier in Genesis, “But Eleazar of Damascus, my servant, is my only heir!” In this story, a servant boy prepares the calf.

Abraham undersells his hospitality. After Abraham runs to greet the passersby, he offers them “a bit of water to wash your feet and a morsel of food” but hours later brings them a roasted calf, fresh baked pita bread, and milk with curds. Then Abraham, himself, master of the house, waits on them.

The strangest aspect of this story are the identities of the three men. The first verse of the story says “The Lord appears” to Abraham. But when Abraham sees the Lord, the story says that he sees three men. This story becomes the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two of the three men are the angels who save Lot and his family and then destroy those cities. But did Abraham really see God and two attendants but not know it was them? There is a strong biblical tradition that no one can see God and live. God’s perfection does not allow human imperfection to survive in God’s presence. When Moses and Elijah speak with God, God’s voice comes from a cloud or a burning bush, not a human form.

Psalm 15

O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?

2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart;
3 who do not slander with their tongue,
and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbours;
4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
but who honour those who fear the Lord;
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
5 who do not lend money at interest,
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Jewish scholars believe this psalm to be one used as worshippers entered the Tent of meeting and later the actual Temple in Jerusalem. It was possibly a dialogue between priest and parishioners as they gathered for worship.

Colossians 1:15-28

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in* him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled* in his fleshly body* through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

This is a hymn about God and Jesus. Paul uses hymns in his letters in Philippians and Corinthians as well. Here Paul Writes the lyrics to the hymn and then applies it throughout this letter.

“He is the image of the invisible God.” What a glorious thought this opening line conveys! God made visible! This thought is proclaimed in the Great Thanksgiving chant during the Easter season, that in loving Christ, “…we may come to love the God whom we cannot see.” This is stated in the reverse in verse 19, where God is please to dwell completely as human in Jesus. This is the meat on which to feast in meditation.

“In him all things…were created…” This is doctrine that is also reflected in the Philippians hymn, and later beautifully stated in the opening chapter of the gospel of John.

The hymn culminates in the doctrine of salvation, God creates peace between God’s perfection and sin stained creation by God’s own blood, Jesus on the cross.

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;42there is need of only one thing.* Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

Here is our introduction to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in the gospel of Luke. Only the gospel of John has the story of the raising of Lazarus. In the gospel of Luke, we meet Mary and Martha here, and as Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment. In order to fully appreciate this story, one must read it coupled with the one immediately preceding it, last week’s gospel reading of the Good Samaritan parable.

Luke emphasizes discipleship in his gospel and defines discipleship as “Those who hear the word and do it.” The parable of the Good Samaritan exemplifies one who does the word. Mary exemplifies one who hears the word.

In the parable and Luke’s recount of Mary and Martha, unusual heroes are found. Obviously the Samaritan obeying God over and against the priest and the Levite makes him an unusual hero. The Samaritan acted like a godly Jewish man. Martha opens her home to Jesus and the disciples, an act of hospitality that includes quite a bit of work! As Jewish women, Mary and Martha would be expected to prepare food and accommodations for all these guests. While Martha lives by societal expectations, Mary is found sitting at the feet of the master, learning all that she can. Societally, Mary is not only burdening her sister, but bringing shame onto the family (and possibly causing discomfort to all their guests) by acting completely outside social and religious norms. Mary is acting like a godly Jewish man.

The Samaritan and Mary, disciples doing and hearing the word. Both of these acts of discipleship come at a price. Mary irritates her sister and brings shame onto her family by acting outside of rigid gender roles. The Samaritan puts out time and money to help the mugging victim.

Bible Tuesdays for Pentecost 8, 2016

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 8, 2016

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

9and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

The book of Deuteronomy is written as the final, very long, sermon given by Moses to the Israelites. At this point in the story, Moses knows he will die before the Israelites enter the Promised Land and that Joshua will takes his place and lead them in. In this fatherly last instruction, the entire Law is reiterated and summarized, including the Ten Commandments. In addition to the Law, blessings and curses are also discussed. In this context, curses are those things that will happen to the Israelites if/when they ignore or disobey God, and blessings are those things that will happen if they worship and adore God.

Both the books of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Revelation in the New Testament, use a strong “carrot and stick” approach to the God/human relationship. The above Bible passage immediately follows a delineation of how and why Israel should occupy Canaan and stay chaste of the religions already in the land. If religious chastity is maintained, then all the above blessings will shower down upon Israel. If not, God will punish.

How will the Israelites remember all of the Law, much less keep it?! Unlike the Code of Hammurabi and other ancient laws which were written on stone pillars for all to see, Moses says that this law will reside within each Israelite, in their hearts and on their lips.

Psalm 25:1-10

Of David.
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

“An individual’s petition in acrostic form: the first line begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second line begins with the second letter of the alphabet, and so on to the final letter. Two letters are missing and two are doubled. The psalm is made up of alternating petitions and expressions of trust. It resembles Wisdom Literature [Proverbs, Lamentation, Enoch] in its concern with learning and finding the right path, but has the religious concerns of Psalms in its hope for forgiveness and for deliverance from distress.” The Jewish Study Bible

The terms “mercy” and “steadfast love” can be perceived as emotion based, which would imply that if God isn’t feeling warm and snuggly toward Israel that they will suffer. But in fact both of these words are legal terminology in Hebrew. The psalmist is appealing to God’s covenant with humanity for forgiveness and favor.

Colossians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters* in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant.* He is a faithful minister of Christ on your* behalf, 8and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s*will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled* you* to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.*

Paul identifies himself as “an apostle by the will of God.” The mere fact that Paul states this as his credentials gives the reader an introductory glimpse into the conflict between Paul and this congregation in Colosse: who is Paul that we should listen to him over our own consciences?!

Even though Paul is writing this letter chastise and correct errant believers, nevertheless, Paul begins this letter with prayer and gratitude. It is Paul who repeatedly writes, “Give thanks to God in all things<” and here he practices what he preaches.

Paul’s prayer is that this congregation would have knowledge of the will of God. This congregation has become syncretistic, blending bits of many religions into their own concocted religion. But is it the will of God?

Luke 10:25-37

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii,* gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

While this may be the most famous of Jesus’ parables, there are important details which may be neglected in a fast read.

CONTEXT: The 70 (72) disciples have just returned from their mission and Jesus has praised them and prayed publically over them. Then Jesus says privately to them, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For truly I tell you, many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and did not, and to hear what you hear and did not.” Luke 10:23-24 Then in verse 25, a legal expert in the Law of Moses tests Jesus and Jesus responds with this famous parable. The end result being, the legal expert is one who does not see.

QUESTION: The legal expert asks the question that is on the minds the faithful, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But when Jesus answers, neither the legal expert, nor we, like the answer. The legal expert tries to dodge the answer with a wise ass question of his own, “But who is my neighbor?”

MERCY: Greek word is eleo. This word means, as I mentioned above, this word, mercy, is not an emotion but rather part of God’s covenant with humanity. Jesus calls on humans to act to each other in the same manner as humans expect from God.

DANARII: This is the equivalent to a day’s wages and would be about $20 in US dollars.

SAMARITAN: Samaritans are of mixed Jewish and polytheistic ancestry. Samaritans didn’t accept validity of Jerusalem as the capitol of the Jewish religion but instead stayed with the Northern Kingdom’s capital, Shiloh. Samaritans only accepted the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) as Holy Scriptures and reject all the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. Because Samaritans are almost Jewish but not quite, the real Jews HATE them!