Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lectionary Notes for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A (Proper 21, Ordinary 26)

Readings for 15th Sunday after Pentecost, 9/28/14:
Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16, Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32

Exodus 17:1-7:
  • "wilderness of Sin" - great image.
  • Human nature is so perfectly exhibited by the Israelites, isn't it? We tend to find things to gripe about no matter what is going on in our lives. "They are almost ready to stone me," Moses admits. Perhaps pastors sometimes feel that way when trying to lead congregations out of the wilderness and into the vision which God has laid before the people. How can we get over our griping, count our blessings, and forge ahead?
  • The name, Massah and Meribah, is summed up as indicating the question of the people, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Hopefully, that should be a rhetorical question: the answer is yes. And if God is among the people, then the people should respond, live, with faith.
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16:
  • "I will open my mouth in a parable" - I hadn't realized that the word 'parable' appeared in the Old Testament. But it reminds us that in Jesus' day, the people would have related to Jesus' style, more, perhaps, than we are able to relate today.
  • "We will not hide them from our children; we will tell to the coming generation" - I like these verses that convey a sense of the necessity to tell the story of a people, to make sure the history is known through time and generations. We have a tendency to forget whole chunks of our history, don't we, until we are repeating it!
  • Verses 12-16 refer to the Israelites being led through the Red Sea, into the wilderness, and receiving water to drink from the rock, which ties in with our Old Testament reading.
Philippians 2:1-13:
  • "if then there is any (fill in the blank) in Christ . . . be of the same mind, having the same love." Paul says that whatever in Christ there is, we should be like-minded. A good strategy!
  • "did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited" I find this such a unique statement. Imagine if Christ had used his equality to exploit? What would that look like? Perhaps this is what the devil was tempting Christ to do in the wilderness - to exploit his equality.
  • "emptied himself" Emptying ourselves.
  • "every knee should bend . . . every tongue should confess." Hm. This is one of those passages often used by people who are seeking to convert non-Christians and those of other faith traditions as proof or encouragement about the task at hand. Frankly, it makes me a bit uncomfortable. If the idea is that people will ultimately be moved to worship Jesus even against their will, I'm not sure I'd want to see that display...
  • "work out your own salvation" - this ends up being a very Wesleyan sentiment - obviously, Paul does not mean that we save ourselves, but he means to remind us that we are active participants in the justifying and sanctifying grace that should mark our lives as people of faith.
Matthew 21:23-32:
  • "by what authority" - the priests and elders want to know why Jesus thinks he "has the right" to teach as he's teaching. Who is he? Who's 'backing' him?
  • I love this, this trick Jesus sets them up for. Jesus himself knows the answer to his own question, doesn't he? But he traps them in a way that makes it impossible to answer. I think Jesus was having a good time here.
  • Jesus says - it is more important what you do than what your lips claim you believe. Did you hear that?
  • "change your minds" from the Greek metemele^the^te, which means "to repent" - this is not the typical word used for repentance/"change of minds" in the New Testament. It is usuallymetanoeo^, but the gist of the meaning is the same. But typically, NRSV translates the meaning as "repent" as opposed to this more literal rendering (preferred to me) of "change your minds."
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