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Month: June 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 4, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 4, 1027

Jeremiah 28:1-9

In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

The book of the prophecy of Jeremiah takes place after the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. When Babylonia conquered/assimilated Assyria, it marched on many lands, including the Southern Kingdom of Israel which consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Jeremiah prophesies to the Southern Kingdom before, during, and after Jerusalem falls to Babylonia.

The above passage takes place after Jerusalem fell to Babylonia. At that time, the Temple in Jerusalem was sacked. The gold lampstand, the golden incense bowl, and the other vessels of precious metals and gems, were taken as booty to Babylon, as were the King, Queen mother, courtiers, artisans, and other educated elite of Judah. Left behind were the farmers, lower government workers (priests, scribes), peasants, etc. A new king was put into place by Babylonia, King Zedekiah, who struggled to be both faithful to Yahweh, and keep the oppression of Babylonia at bay.

Years before this passage, God told Jeremiah to prophesy that the people of Judah would wear the yoke of captivity because they no longer loved God but only went through the motions of the law as good luck charms. When Jeremiah proclaimed this prophecy, he put on an ox yoke, which he always wore when out in public. Hananiah is a false prophet who predicts that, after only two years, God will release all the Israelites from King Nebuchadnezzar’s captivity, or as he puts it, yoke. Jeremiah says, “I hope you are right! However, that is not what I am hearing from God. We will see which prophecies come true in the months ahead.” Hananiah was so insulted by this that he went up to Jeremiah, took the ox yoke, and smashed it

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord,* for ever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2 I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

3 You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
4 “I will establish your descendants for ever,
and build your throne for all generations.” ’
15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
16 they exult in your name all day long,
and extol* your righteousness.
17 For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favour our horn is exalted.
18 For our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.

This psalm was written during or shortly after the Babylonian exile, which means it is a contemporary of Jeremiah. The psalmist is praising God for God’s faithfulness and at the same time, pleading with God to show faithfulness and restore the Kingdom of Israel in Jerusalem.

“Our horn is exalted” – whether this refers to a shofar (ram’s horn exterior used as a bugle of sorts) or not is unclear, but “horn” is an implement of war.

Romans 6:12-23

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments* of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments* of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.* For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is a continuation of the last two week’s readings form Romans. Paul has made clear that when we were baptized into Jesus (in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!), we were drowned to sin but given new life in Jesus. The above passage continues to explain how that plays out in daily life.

“No longer present your members to sin” – Certainly one can imagine Paul writing to Gentiles who practiced all manner of pagan religious rituals before becoming Christian (ie: having sex with priestess/prostitutes, participating in orgies, seeking oracles from priestesses, drinking of the milk running from the Diana statues’ breasts, etc.) and admonishing them in the above passage. However, Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome not as a reply to their letter, but rather as a letter of introduction of himself and his theology. So then, this passage may refer to pagan religious practices, but it also does refer to anything that we have confessed on Sunday mornings in church but resume as soon as we close our hymnals and head home for another week.

Sanctification – “Being made holy.” What does “holy” mean? “Set apart for God’s purpose.” Therefore, being sanctified means being set apart for God’s purpose, letting go of the desire to march in our own direction and instead grasp God’s hand and follow him.

Matthew 10:40-42

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

These are the final verses of Jesus’ instructions to the 12 disciples before he sends them out to “heal the sick, raise the dead, and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.” Two weeks ago we heard that “if any do not welcome you, shake the dust from your sandals as a protest against them.” In the above passage, we return to the idea of “welcome”.

In western culture, and especially in US culture, the individual stands alone more so than in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. This comes to bear quite strongly in understanding the above passage. “Positive outcomes allows the one showing hospitality to reciprocate good treatment by the person in question as well as his kinship network. Keeping kinship networks in view is important, since ancient Mediterranean societies were not individualist. They had what is called a "dyadic" view of personality: every person is embedded in other persons (especially the family) and derives his/her sense of identity from their group to which he/she belongs. Thus people can be stereotyped (see Mark 6:3; 14:70; John 1:46; 7:52; Titus 1:13) because it is expected that family or place of origin or occupation encodes what is needed in order to know what a person is. It is also assumed that identity, character, and patterns of behavior exist in and are shaped by this web of interconnected relationships. Exactly this kind of dyadic relationship is assumed here. [p. 92] (Malina & Rohrbaugh Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels)

“In the name of” – This is rather like “Mom said so!” A child serves as Mom’s agent and invokes Mom’s name and authority. In the case of the above quote from Jesus, the name/status of a prophet is invokes as one grants welcome as if that person were a prophet. Jesus’ point is that the name/status of God are invoked and honored when one grants welcome to a statusless one.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 3, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 3, 2017

Jeremiah 20:7-13

O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

Jeremiah had a very difficult task of being in love with and faithful to God in a time when the southern kingdom of Judah didn’t give a rip about God. In the verses immediately preceding this passage, Jeremiah proclaimed the word of the Lord, but the high priest didn’t like what Jeremiah said so he had Jeremiah flogged and jailed for “speaking falsely about God.”

The come the above words. Jeremiah speaks about God like a lover, which is both somewhat alarming and completely reasonable. By this time in Jeremiah’s life, God is truly his only supporter. Jeremiah preaches the destruction of Judah due to its complete abandonment of God, and obviously the people of Judah don’t want to hear it. The passage plays with the word translated “entice” in that both the evil does and God entice Jeremiah but only God prevails. Note Jeremiah’s prayer for vengeance against his persecutors at the end of the above passage.

Psalm 69:7-18

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help

rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.

Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.

This psalm is a deep, intense lament which uses the metaphor of drowning to best describe his experience. The psalmist speaks of being mocked and derided for acts of repentance—fasting and donning sack cloth. What a horrible position in which to find one’s self, obeying God, or saving face with family and friends.

“those who sit in the gate” – The gates of ancient walled cities were much wider than the walls of the city, with rooms in them. During battle, soldiers would fill these rooms and defend the city from the windows facing out. Every day operations would find government officials occupying these rooms so business could be conducted between cities without traveling through the city to some municipal building. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, “sat in the gate” which means he held a governmental post.

I am struck by how perfectly the psalmist describes depression in the second half of the above passage. Thanks be to God that God hears the prayers of the persecuted and depressed.

Romans 6:1-11

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The book of Romans is a lovely and unique letter in the New Testament Canon. In all of Paul’s other letters, he writes to address problems in congregations which have been brought to his attention by messenger or by letter from those congregations. Romans is written to the congregation in Rome completely unsolicited. Paul is not answering any questions posed to him. Some scholars call the book of Romans St. Paul’s calling card. Paul wants to visit Rome, indeed, he may well have written this letter while under house arrest while awaiting a trail to Rome for his trail. Paul will need that congregation to help him should he arrive in Rome and be held in detention awaiting trail there. Also, Paul seems to want to “set the record straight” on who Jesus is/was and spell out the correct teaching about God, Jesus, and the Spirit of the Lord.

Paul was a master rhetorician, and had a very sharp command of Greek, his second language. Paul’s letters are filled with well executed arguments and teachings, but those are usually in response to letters which were not preserved in the Canon. The book of Romans is Paul’s linear argument for why a messiah was needed and proof that Jesus is that messiah. Once that point is made, Paul argues how Jews and non-Jews/Gentiles alike come to know God through Jesus and have access to the grace and salvation that Jesus makes possible. In other words, the book of Romans is the best fully formed systematic on Christianity in the Bible.

The above passage comes from a point in Paul’s argument where he has stated that “just as one man’s sin led to the condemnation of all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” 5:18 Paul asks the question that begins the above passage in a couple places in his canonical writing. Here he answers with the teaching that is directly quoted in the Lutheran Rite of Funeral and Burial. Those who would be called Christians struggle against sin, not because we are afraid God won’t forgive us, but rather to live new, baptized life, leaving behind self centered, self serving unbaptized life.

Matthew 10:24-39

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

This passage immediately follows last week’s gospel lesson. Last week the disciples were chosen and sent out without any luggage to proclaim, “The kingdom of Heaven has drawn near.” Jesus bestowed on them a measure of his spirit so that they could, “cure the sick, raise the dead, cure lepers, cast out demons.” Jesus also prepared them for rejection and gave them permission to “shake the dust off your sandals” and “if they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.”

It seems that Jesus is answering the disciples’ unspoken question with the first paragraph of the above pericope. “Why would they persecute us and reject our peace if we are doing your will and healing their sick?!” “Because that is what they have been and will be doing to me,” replies Jesus. Just a chapter earlier in Matthew, the Pharisees write off Jesus’ power over demons saying, “By the ruler of demons does he cast out demons.” 9:34

Jesus goes on to paradoxically explain his actions to the disciples. Jesus declares he is all about apocalypse, that is “to pull back the curtains and reveal,” and came to shed light on all of the evil doings in darkness.

“not peace but a sword,” – Jesus does not come to make nicie nice among family members (“Who made me arbiter over you?!” Luke 12:14) but rather to cut misplaced priorities and family ties to make way for the kingdom of God. As tough as Jesus’ words of family division are to hear, no one should be more important to us that God, not even our beloved children and grandchildren. But that does not mean that we are sinning by loving our children. Of course not! But serving and loving family is done in the name of Christ and in keeping Christ first in our lives. No relationships keep us from church on Sundays, prevent us from acts of love and service to the needy. When we build our own lives on the foundations of our kids or our friends or our careers, that foundation will crack and we will lose ourselves because none of those things are meant to hold us up from womb to grave. Rather, when we build ourselves on Christ and add to our lives those whom we love and serve, we look to Christ for our lives. Not our careers or our kids.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 2, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 2, 2017

Exodus 19:2-8

2They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” 7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

This story takes places just over two months after Israel left Egypt. It is the transitional story which moves the Exodus narrative from the escape from Egypt into the giving of the law. Moses’ journey has come full circle, since the wilderness of Sinai is where he shepherded for his father-in-law, Jethro, and saw the burning bush. “The arrival there heralds the fulfillment of God’s promise to Moses. Having redeemed Israel, as promised, God proposes a covenant relationship, as promised. The relationship is modeled on ancient royal covenants in which a citizenry accepted a king.” Jewish Study Bible

Some ancient Israelite traditions hold that the phrase “house of Jacob” refers to the Israelite women, while “Israelites” refers to the men. If so, it is unusual that the covenant is made with both women and men, mentioning the women first. In making this covenant, God reminds Israel of what has already been done for them: “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you out myself.” God also reminds them of what God did to the enemies of the Israelites.

Note how readily the Israelites accept the covenant! And wow, how quickly they will break it!

Psalm 100

1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

2Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

3Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.

5For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

This psalm is a joyful call to dedicated, committed faithfulness to Yahweh. All creation on earth is called to faithfulness in verse 1. But this psalm does not admonish people to fear the Lord, but rather to rejoice in God. Why?! Because God created us and everything we see. Verse 5 refers to the covenants God has made with God’s people and how faithful God is to them, faithful forever. Verse 4 references the gates and courtyards of the Temple in Jerusalem. As such, this psalm was likely used during worship in the Temple.

“With praise” – can also be correctly translated “with a thank offering”

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Christianity is full of -isms and -ations which may be familiar to the reader’s ear but perhaps not easily defined.

Justified/Justification- If something is just, then it is the same for everyone. When folks want justice, they want equal treatment under the law. Justification is to make things equal. Think of justified margins; all the sentences are made equal on the right and left sides of the page, no matter their character count. In Christianity, to be justified is to be made to measure up to God’s standard, to be stretched out to equal that length no matter our lack of character. In the first sentence above, Paul tells us that we are made to measure to God’s standard through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to say that the suffering that befalls all human beings to one extent or another is made use of by the believer. As one endures suffering and turns to Jesus through that suffering, one grows into endurance, character, and hope, all of which are fulfilled in in Jesus. What gives the faithful the ability to transform pain, loneliness, rejection, powerlessness, etc., into hope? The Holy Spirit given through the “conversation and consolation of the brothers and sisters in Christ.” Martin Luther

Matthew 9:35-10:23

35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Harassed and helpless – The average Jewish commoner in Jesus’ time lived a rather rough life. Life expectancy was 30 -35 years of age, though this average was made so low, in part, by a high infant mortality rate. Jewish commoners were caught between the Roman occupying forces and the corrupt Temple authorities centered in Jerusalem. The Jewish peasants were taxed and bullied by both. They were discounted and condemned by both. In the gospel of Matthew, it is to these Jewish commoners/ peasants that Jesus is sent. The Romans had no time for conquered peoples and their religions, and the Jewish authorities viewed the groveling peasants as getting what they deserve.

Lord of the Harvest-this could be understood to be God/Yahweh or God/Jesus. The remainder of the pericope is the story of Jesus sending out laborers into the harvest. Why were they to stay among the Jews and not go among the Gentiles? The covenant that God made with Israel was that God would take care of Israel and Israel, in turn, would worship God and be God’s emissaries to all the world. The gospel of Matthew teaches that the disciples are sent out among the Israelites to heal them and get them back on track to minister to the rest of the world.

There were other miracles healers in Jesus’ day, some traveling Jews as well as the Roman goddess, Asclepios. The itinerate healers required payment, and the temples to Asclepios required sacrifices. Jesus sends out the twelve to heal and preach, but only accept hospitality in return.

Verses 16 and following are prophecy for what will happen to the apostles once Jesus has returned to heaven.

“endures to the end” – those who do not deny Jesus is the messiah.

“Shake off the dust from your feet” – symbolically showing that you have taken nothing from this town, nor are you leaving anything of yourself there. They are rejected what you have to give so you give them back everything they have, including the dust that clung to your shoes while you were there.

Bible Tuesday for Trinity Sunday, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Holy Trinity Sunday, 2017

Genesis 1:1 – 2:4

In the beginning when God created* the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20 And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24 And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
27 So God created humankind* in his image,
in the image of God he created them;*
male and female he created them.
28God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ 29God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Surely whole volumes have been written about this text over the course of Israel’s entire history. For me to attempt to cover the entirety of this text in this space with my level of training is an impossible task. So please accept the comments below as seeds for thought.

This text begins with the state of things before God began creating. The Hebrew words here translated as “the deep” and “formless void” are meant to describe chaos. The breath of God, Ruach, broods over complete and utter chaos as God prepares to act.

Throughout Jewish and Christian history, God’s ability to speak all creation into existence has been a wonder too great to truly fathom. First comes light. This is one of the titles that God proclaims for himself throughout the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament. The scriptures go so far as to call God light. Throughout their history, the Israelites were surrounded, and held in bondage to, cultures that believed the sun was a god, whom they worshiped. How marvelous that in the first words of the sacred text of Israel that God is not the sun, but the creator of ALL LIGHT!

The sun and moon are referred to as the greater light and the lesser light, not because Israel didn’t have names for the sun and moon, but rather that they would not dignify those “beings” with names and titles of divinity, as the surrounding cultures gave them. By not giving the greater and lesser lights names, the writer is making clear that the sun and moon are not only not divine, but not even persons worthy of mention.

This story of creation describes God making a habitation for earth and its creatures in the midst of the chaos. Waters are separated from waters by making a flat plain and covering it with a dome shaped lid. The waters are now below the plain and entirely on top of the domed lid, but inside the lid, on the plain, is earth and all its inhabitants. When describing the flood that covers the earth in the time of Noah and his family and the famous arc, the Hebrew says that God opened holes in the dome and in the plain and the waters rushed in until all the plain was flooded.

In this story, humans are created in the same method as all the rest of creation: God speaks and it occurs. This version of creation does not say that there is only one man and one woman at beginning, just that God created them male and female. Also, men and women are created at the same time and both in the image of God. “In the image of God” is a mysterious phrase not used anywhere else in Hebrew Scriptures, and not understood. Scholars opinions vary widely on that to which “imago dei” refers.

While Christians tend to read this text and marvel that God created humanity and said, “That is very good,” Jews tend to focus on the seventh day of creation. The Sabbath is a great gift from God, 1/7th of the week in which to rest with God and celebrate life. For farming, herding, migrating ancient peoples, a day of rest every week mandated by religious law must have been a true gift. For contemporary peoples with devices that make us accessible 24/7 and clutter our lives with ever increasing “information”, a day of rest with God and each other is something to which we should committedly avail ourselves.

Psalm 8

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals* that you care for them?

5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,*
and crowned them with glory and honour.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

This beautiful psalm sings praise to God through honoring creation and marveling at humanity’s place in it. Verse five has been traditionally translated “little lower than the angels” by Christians and Jews alike. However, such translating has more to do with discomfort with the psalmist’s intent than with accurate translating. “Little lower than God” is an accurate translation, and reflects Genesis 1’s place of honor that God gives humanity.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

11 Finally, brothers and sisters,* farewell.* Put things in order, listen to my appeal,* agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of* the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Many scholars believe that the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are a compilation of several letters Paul wrote through dictation to the congregation in Corinth. The above passage is taken from the end of the last letter in that compilation.

There are a few challenges to translation in this text. “Farewell” can also be translated, “rejoice!” “Put things in order” can also be translated “be restored to order.” “Listen to my appeal” may be translated “encourage one another.” Those do put quite a different spin on Paul’s last exhortations to the Corinthian congregation. However, they do emphasize Paul’s teaching in the entire last chapter of 2 Corinthians that God desires to make peace and harmony between God’s self and all humanity, and to make peace between all humans. Paul states that God does this through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the work of God’s spirit in all creation.

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*

Here we are, at the final moment of Jesus’ life on earth according to the gospel of Matthew. The eleven remaining apostles are with Jesus outside Jerusalem. These eleven, the key to spreading the good news of Jesus to all the earth, have mixed reactions to the about-to-ascend Jesus. Some believe “but some doubted”, yet they go on to spread the gospel! Pure, nary a doubt, faith is not present even in the apostles but flip-flopping faith does not preclude them from being Jesus’ disciples nor does it bar them from eternal life with God.

Jesus spoke to believers and doubters alike saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is a key point in the gospel of Matthew since the gospel writer has been trying to convince his readers/hearers that Jesus is God and has been given God’s authority because of Jesus’ faithfulness through life and even execution. Now that Jesus has God’s authority, Jesus now gives his first imperial command, “Go make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” Jesus is truly the Lord and Savior that the Hebrew prophets foretold. And just as said, this one from God is for the healing of all the nations, and all the nations will come to him and pay tribute to him.

Jesus foreshadows the extreme difficulty that the disciples will experience in sharing this gospel. It is not enough that they knew Jesus face to face in the flesh. No, memory alone will not see them through the trails evangelism will bring. That need what Jesus promises, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the age.”