Monday, August 12, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15, Ordinary 20, Year C)

Readings for 13th Sunday after Pentecost, 8/18/13:
Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19, Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56

Isaiah 5:1-7:
  • Better to start right away by reading this text alongside Psalm 80 this week - they go together.
  • God has planted a vineyard, only instead of grapes, got wild grapes. So God plans to tear up the vineyard, destroy it totally, let it be overrun.
  • "God expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!" This is a big "God is disappointed in us" sort of theme. The people were not acting as God hoped/expected.
  • What's so wrong with wild grapes? Chris Haslam says the Hebrew word wild means stinks! That sheds some light :)
  • What kind of vineyard is your life? 
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19:
  • Compare this to the Isaiah text - impossible to know, of course, but this psalm definitely reads as a response by the people to God's voice in Isaiah 5.
  • This is a call to God for help - God had planted the vine=the people. But now God is destroying or at least neglecting the vine, giving no seeming care that animals are ravaging it, etc.
  • The psalmist wants God to "turn again", "look down from heaven", "see; have regard for this vine."
  • There is not much recognition here of what the people have done to warrant God's supposed neglect - do they feel culpability? The psalmist does at least briefly say "we will never turn back from you." But there is a sense of wondering why God is upset at all...
  • On that note, let me just say again, that I hate passages, Psalms particularly, that paint God as an old man with serious temper-tantrum problems!
Hebrews 11:29-12:2:
  • This is a continuation of last week's text. Actually, I wish they had kept both together, even though it is a long reading. I preached on the first part of the text, and kept wanting to refer to this second reading as well! It just goes together.
  • "Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised." I think this is the central part of this text. I think today people believe largely that their faith in God promises them a certain amount of protection, prosperity, blessings in life, etc. How quickly we forget Christ's clear messages about how much trouble our faith could bring for us! But our faith is in God's love of us - and that is enough.
  • We often, outside of our relationship with God, put our faith in things we don't expect to see unfold in our own lifetime. I think all social change, civil rights movements, require investments from those who know that they may never themselves see the promises. Parenting requires this, doesn't it? You teach and love your child, knowing that it is unlikely that you will get to see their whole lives. You may not see great-grandchildren grow up. Yet you act in faith. We need to adopt the same practice of faithfulness with God!
  • "so great a cloud of witnesses" - I love that phrase. It often comes to mind when I'm near people whose faith really inspires me.
Luke 12:49-56:
  • Do part 1 and part 2 in this text tie together, or are they just slapped together?
  • I am reminded of Bishop Mary Ann Swenson preaching near the last day of General Conference 2000 on the similar "not peace but a sword" text, one of my favorite sermons there. Read her awesome sermon!
  • Not peace, but division. What do we make of this? That Christ does not want peace? No, Christ even gives blessings of peace throughout the gospels. Rather, that Christ doesn't come to make things sweet and nice and comfortable. Christ comes to stir things up, to have us making a stand, even if it means a stand against those closest to us, to have us following God, even if that causes strife in the community for disrupting "the way things are."
  • "interpret the present time." I guess every generation tries to interpret texts like these in their own contexts - that's the beauty of it, this text always seems timely. What about today? What do you read in the signs? Peace, or division?
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