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Lectionary Notes for Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A (Proper 15, Ordinary 20)

Readings for 10th Sunday after Pentecost, 8/17/14: 
Genesis 45:1-15, Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Genesis 45:1-15:
  • This is a great story of forgiveness. Is it a story of redemption too? After all, though Joseph is quite moved to see his brothers, the only word we get about how they feel is "dismayed." OK, he did trick them over Benjamin and stealing, but they sold him into slavery and said he was dead! Overall, Joseph's forgiveness seems quite impressive, and it is never asked for by his brothers.
  • Anyway, I think that forgiving those we love the most, or we had expected the most form, is the hardest kind of forgiveness to give. But the most needed. What enables you to be ready to forgive, even when those you must forgive aren't ready to repent?
Psalm 133:
  • Short and sweet?! Check out Chris Haslam's notes on this Psalm. The image of Aaron's beard dripping with oil signifies total consecration to God.
  • Haslam also notes the connection between this Psalm and our Genesis text in that verse 1 here declares, "how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity."
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32:
  • "for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." That is a powerful verse. irrevocable=irreversible, can't be taken back, or taken away. That means that God does not un-gift us or un-call us. We are gifted, and we are called. We can wish we were not connected to God in this way. We can reject our gifts, ignore our call, but we can't get rid of them.
  • "so that [God] may be merciful to all." Paul's logic here is ... interesting. He suggests that God 'imprisons' us in disobedience so that God can show us mercy. I'm not sure I agree with Paul on his take of God's motivations. But I like his inclusive vision of God's mercy - it is for all.
  • Paul is interested in showing God's continued special relationship with Israel (the irrevocable relationship) at the same time as he wants to convince his Gentile audience that they can have a special relationship with God too.
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28:
  • What comes out of our mouths and not what goes in that defiles. We forget this one, even today. We may not follow kosher food laws today, but we are worried in different ways. Sometimes Christians want to shelter themselves from the 'evils' of the world, and especially from others judged unclean, instead of examining themselves for right hearts.
  • The second part of this text is one we have a harder time dealing with. "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs," and "he did not answer her at all." - These are hard sentences to construct in a way flattering to Jesus. I don't have good answers. I don't want to explain away Jesus' words by trying to translate the Greek differently. Was Jesus just joking with the woman? I don't see it. What I see is a woman who is as persistent as the widow Jesus tells a parable about elsewhere in the gospels, and she receives her reward. And what I see is a Jesus who is focused on the mission he sees: to the Jews - who lets his own vision be expanded. The woman shows him a way to spread more grace. 
  • Even with his resistance, we can be comforted that Jesus heard her out, despite his apparent skepticism: the disciples wanted to send her away, but Jesus heard her, and really listened, until he recognized great faith in one whom he did not expect to find it.



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