Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10, Ordinary 15, Year C)

Readings for 8th Sunday after Pentecost, 7/14/13:
Amos 7:7-17, Psalm 82, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37

Amos 7:7-17:
  • Ah, the image of the plumb line, the leveling-object used in construction and building, to tell is something is straight, right, level. God declares the playing field will be made level. How will this happen? God says Israel, God's people, will never be passed by again. But God seems to indicate that this will happen by destruction/desolation/being laid to waste. Is God going to start from scratch?
  • The worst punishment for Amaziah? His wife will be made a prostitute. Why is this bad? His property - his possession - will be given to other men to have and possess. What could be worse than that!? Sigh. 
  • "I am no prophet . . . but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees." Labels - it's funny how we react to them. We call Amos a prophet whether he likes it or not, because we can recognize that in him which is the prophetic gift of truth-telling. What labels do you resist? Many resist "pastor" or "called one." I know it took me a long time to become accustomed to being called, "Pastor Beth" after just being "regular Beth" for so long!
  • Wondering what a "sycamore-tree dresser" is? Me too. Writes Chris Haslam here: "Amos was both a breeder of cattle and/or sheep ("herdsman", v. 14; "flock", v. 15) and a fruit farmer ("dresser of sycamore trees"). Born in Tekoa, in the hill country in northern Judah (sheep country), he likely also owned land in the Jordan valley, where sycamores flourished. (Palestinian sycamores bear fruit, much like figs, which has to be dressed (punctured) to make it edible.) God has called him to leave behind his prosperity, to warn the north about impending doom, a result of their waywardness."
  • "Amos had conspired against you . . . the land is not able to bear all his words." Substitute God/Christ here, and it sounds perfect too! God conspires against us sometimes, for our own good, and we are not able to bear God's words, or Christ's teachings.

Psalm 82:
  • This psalm has imagery of a council of gods, of which God (of Israel) is part. It is this (our) God who says, "forget about blessing the already blessed, blessing the wicked, blessing the greedy. Instead, bless the last and least!" Isn't that still the whole theme of our gospel, or Christ's message and teachings?
  • These gods will never even survive, says the psalmist - they will perish in their ignorance. To God alone belong the nations.
  • What do you think of this 'council of gods' imagery? Perhaps sometimes we see ourselves as part of this council, only to have God remind us otherwise and convict us of our idolatry? What do you think?

Colossians 1:1-14:
  • "We have heard of your faith . . . and of the love that you have . . . " Who can say that of you, your faith, and your love? Imagine knowing that your reputation preceded you, and that this was a good thing to be praised and admired!
  • Our hope is the good news! And the good news must bear fruit.
  • "We have not ceased praying for you" - a comfort. Even as a person of faith, I'm amazed by the reports and studies that show how prayer actually, measurably, makes a difference. Too bad, I guess, we leave it usually as a last resort. I'm not good, I admit, at a faithful prayer life.
  • Ending with verses of blessing.

Luke 10:25-37:
  • Dr. Amy-Jill Levine  lectured, in part, on The Good Samaritan text at the Festival of Homiletics in Nashville a few years ago, and her comments really changed my thinking about this text. I only wish I had typed verbatim what she said in my notes! She starts with clarifying that the priest and Levite didn't pass by the man because they didn't want to break purity laws. In fact, she said, they were breaking the law by passing by. 
  • AJ Levine: The priest and Levite think: “If I stop and help, what happens to me?” Samaritan thinks, “If I don’t stop, what happens to them?” Quoting from MLK's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.
  • AJ Levine: Priests, Levites, Israelites. That's how Israelites would have expected this story to go. Just like everyone thinks, “Larry, Curly, Moe.” But Jesus says, “Priest, Levite, Samaritan.” Like, “Larry, Curly, Osama Bin Laden.” The Samaritans are not like "oppressed people," as we often preach them to be in this parable. Instead, they are like Islam, Iraqis.
  • How would your understanding of this story change, or your preaching change, if you substituted Samaritan with "a member of Al Qaeda?" But a member of Al Qaeda while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity...
  • Intriguing: The lawyer adds "all your mind" to his quoting of scripture, along with the Old Testament words of heart, soul, and strength. I find that so interesting - something in his lawyer mind, perhaps, urges him to view loving God as an activity of the mind as well. I certainly often relate to God easiest in this way - better with my head than my heart!
  • In the parable, the word esplagchnisthe^, moved to compassion/pity, literally means, feeling in the bowels, as in turned-over gut-wrenching. This is the word frequently used in the gospels to describe Jesus' compassion on the crowds. It's one of my favorite Greek words!
  • The Samaritan gives to the robbed and beaten man: his actions, his money, his time, and freedom to rearrange his plans. That's a lot to give, and the Samaritan does it without complaint, hesitation, or second-thought. That is what is means to love your neighbor.
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