Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 13, 2017
O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
As is frequently the case with the lives God’s prophets, Jeremiah’s life with God is a case in point example of Israel’s/Judah’s life with God. In this passage, Jeremiah is pleading his case to God. Jeremiah has found God’s commands and promises to “be like a deceitful brook”, that is, by the shape of the path and by the sound of water, it should be thirst quenching and satisfying, but when you go to get water, the course has changed or the water is dried up.
God’s response to Jeremiah, and to the people of Israel/Judah, is to invite them to turn back (the true meaning of the word “repent”). If Jeremiah repents, God will restore him to the role of God’s prophet. If Israel/Judah turns back, God will save them from their enemies.
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.
I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.
O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.
This psalm is the cry of someone suffering “for no good reason.” “If I haven’t done anything wrong, why, O Lord, are you punishing me?!” At the same time, the psalmist conveys a brazen hubris that Lutherans would not adopt. Lutherans believe that we are never perfect and blameless before God. I personally would be absolutely terrified to have God “prove me, try me, and test my heart and mind!”
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. ”No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Here the apostle, Paul, admonishes the congregation in Rome to show love to one another.
No doubt you have heard or read that there are three words in the Greek language that all mean love.
Agape-love of spouses for one another, love of parents to children
Philadelphia-love for friends, neighbors, community, country
This is a very typical confirmation class lesson here in the US. However, the distinctions between Agape and Philadelphia are not nearly so clear as appears to be the case in the above definitions. Paul, himself, seems to use the words interchangeably in his New Testament writings.
Confusion between Agape and Philadelphia withstanding, a far more important point in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is that they express love. Love as a feeling was not important at all in Paul’s writing. However, love as an action was extremely important! Note that the first sentence in the above pericope admonishes the baptized to “let your love be genuine.” The remainder of the pericope is Paul’s explanation on what “genuine love” looks like.
Our culture puts so much time and energy into exploring what love feels like, whether on talks shows or in movies and television. But the Bible puts all its time and energy into explaining what love looks like: God becoming a person, allowing people to execute Him in order that God might save all people. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is an attempt to help the church make sense of God’s love and to teach how the baptized can and should extend God’s love to all.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
How quickly poor Simon went from Petros, (Peter in English) the rock on which Jesus will build his church, to Petros, the rock that tries to make God stumble! Peter and the rest of the disciples expected Jesus to raise an army and march on Jerusalem to expel the Romans and reinstate the Davidic Dynasty. So what is Jesus talking about suffering and dying at the hands of the corrupt Temple authorities for?
Peter is sure that Jesus has misspoken or misinterpreted God’s will for him, so Peter usurps the role of teacher and challenges Jesus. When Jesus responds with, “Get behind me!” Jesus is putting Peter back in his place as disciple and follower.
Satan -In the tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, Satan was the accuser, the challenger, as in the book of Job. In the New Testament and subsequent tradition, Satan and the snake in the Garden of Eden have been conflated into the Tempter and Tormentor. When Jesus calls Peter, “Satan”, he is referring to the misdirection that Peter is giving, without any connotations of hell and damnation, etc.
“For those who love their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for the sake of me will find it.” – Jesus does not necessarily mean “death” when he says “lose their life.” The disciples did lose their businesses and social standing when they became apostles and lived as itinerate preachers after Jesus’ ascension. They lost their lives as they knew them, but found lives in Jesus. But most of the apostles, Peter among them, lost their lives, meaning died, at the hands of the Roman and Jewish authorities because they preached “Christ, and Christ crucified.” Even though they were martyred, they nevertheless gained eternal life with God because of the work of the Holy Spirit granting them faith.