Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14, Ordinary 19, Year C)

Readings for 12th Sunday After Pentecost, 8/11/13:
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20, Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20:
  • I like this passage. The text makes a lot of sense to me. If you read through Leviticus, the first many chapters are filled with detailed codes for sacrifices to God for the community of faith. In this text from Isaiah, God doesn't say through the prophet that the sacrifices are meaningless or wrong per se, just that they're worthless because they obviously are meaningless to the ones offering them to God - and because of that have become meaningless to God.
  • God says, literally here, "I have had enough!" Enough of your offerings that are not matched by your actions. Enough of your worship when you don't actually do what I say when it matters. Enough ritual and show of faith when you don't live your faith. You can't fool God - your words and rituals don't match your actions and your living.
  • God says, back to the basics. This is what you need to do: Wash yourselves clean. Stop doing evil. Do good instead, by seeking justice, looking out for the oppressed, protecting the orphan. That's it.
  • "The mouth of the Lord has spoken." I like that visual emphasis on 'mouth.' Straight from the source. (Of course, I also think of "the mouth of Sauron" in the extended version of the film Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, but I think Isaiah is going for a different picture :) ) 

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23:
  • For once I like what they leave out of this selection better than what they leave in. Do check out verses 9-21 - they seem to me to leave out some good verses and to make the first section of text sound abruptly chopped off when these verses are omitted.
  • "Our God comes and does not keep silence." That's comforting - God speaks. God speaks for God's people. Even when we don't want to hear God's words!
  • God as Judge. How do you picture God judging?
  • "Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me." Again, like Isaiah's text, the people here seem to be doing a good job of following the law and custom to the letter. But still God is unsatisfied, because they are totally missing the deeper meanings.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16:
  • This text from Hebrews is a favorite of many - in elementary school at church we had to pick a favorite passage to read in worship as part of my Sunday School class - this was the text I chose - the account of the faith of that "great cloud of witnesses."
  • "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." What do you believe in that you have not seen? Why, when we believe in so many unseen things, is it hard to do the same when it comes to faith in God, faith in God's goodness, faith in God's love?
  • Disappointingly, but not unsurprisingly, this faith account details only the faith of the men in these stories, all of which had women in roles in the Old Testament. Too bad! Sarah and Rachel and Leah and Rebekah and Miriam were all part of these stories of faith too - don't forget them!

Luke 12:32-40:
  • Always be prepared - a good summary of this text! But there's more in it than that.
  • Would it be common practice for a master to serve the slaves, even if the master was pleased with their diligence? Yet read verse 37 - the master is serving the slaves. Jesus is twisting roles around here!
  • "For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also." This well-known verse packs a punch if we don't trivialize it into a little proverb. Try reversing the order: Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also." It doesn't work that way correctly, or as well, does it? There's a reason why Jesus says what he does. We start by examining our life and asking, "what is it that we treasure, honestly?" That's where our heart is. So we must be careful what we call 'treasure.' 
  • If it is the Son of Man who comes unexpectedly, like the thief, who plays master and who plays slaves? Interesting...

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