Tuesday: Deuteronomy 4:15-24; Psalms 36; 2 Corinthians 1:12-22; Luke 15:1-10
Moses warns the people against any attempt to fashion an idol to represent the God they encountered at Mt. Horeb. Remember, they saw no form out of the fire, only the fire and smoke. They are to take care then, to assure that they do not “act corruptly” by fashioning an idol of God resembling any living creature the Lord God made. Nor are they to be lead astray to worship the sun, moon or stars, as though they were divine. They are not. They are creations of God’s hands just as much as the animals, the birds and the fish. Though God has allotted all of this to all people under heaven, the Lord has taken the children of Israel and brought them out of the “iron-smelter” of Egypt, to make them into a people of his very own—God’s own possession. However, Moses says, it was because of them that the Lord was angry with Moses and vowed that Moses would not cross over into the land that the Lord is giving them. It is interesting to see how Moses side-steps his own culpability here, blaming them for his striking the rock (Numbers 20:1-13). Still, Moses is going to die here, in this land, rather than cross over with them into the land of promise, where they will take possession of the land. So, they are to be careful not to forget the covenant the Lord has made with them and all of its demands, especially the one regarding the making of idols. For the Lord is a jealous God, a devouring fire, and will not have what belong to him given to any other thing he has made, much less something made of wood or stone.
This psalm reflects on the capacity for wickedness deep within the human heart and is unique in that the one speaking is transgression itself, rather than the Lord. The wicked have no fear of God. There is no end to the way they flatter themselves in their own eyes, thinking that their iniquity is hidden. They have ceased to live wisely and spend their time in plots of mischief and embrace evil rather than reject it. Now, in contrast, the psalm turns to the Lord’s steadfast love, which extends to the heavens. God’s righteousness is like the mighty mountains and judgments like the great deep. The Lord saves humans and animals alike. The psalm lauds the preciousness of God’s steadfast love and confesses that all take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. It goes on to speak of the abundance and goodness of God’s house, where God gives drink from the river of delights. God is the fountain of life; in his light we see light. The prayer concludes by asking for God’s continued steadfast love to those who know him. As for the arrogant, do not let their foot tread on him or the hand of the wicked drive him away. Rather, let the Lord continue his salvation. As for evildoers, let them lie prostrate, thrust down, unable to rise.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that he and his companions have acted in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom, but the grace of God, and all the more to them. They have written nothing to the Corinthians that they cannot understand, and he hopes they will continue to understand it to the end. On the day of the Lord Jesus, the Corinthians will be their boast, and Paul and his companions the Corinthians’ boast. And now Paul addresses why he did not come to them as first planned. Initially, he had hoped to visit Corinth on his way to Macedonia and again on his return from it and then have the Corinthians send him on his way to Judea. Was Paul vacillating when he wanted to do this? Does he make his plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “yes” and “no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, that has not been the case. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom they proclaimed was not “yes and no”; but in him it is always “Yes.” In him, every one of God’s promises is “Yes.” That is why, through him, we say “Amen,” to the glory of God. It is God who establishes Paul and his companions, as well as the Corinthians, in Christ and has anointed Paul and his fellow-workers with the seal of his Spirit in their hearts as the first installment on the promise.
Tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling that Jesus not only welcomed them but ate with them. This forms the setting for telling three parables about the joy of finding and reclaiming those who have been lost. The first is the parable of the shepherd, who having 100 sheep has lost one of them and does an astonishing thing: he leaves the 99 to go look for the one who is lost. Finding it, he places it over his shoulder and rejoices, and upon arriving home, invites all of his friends to come and rejoice with him. Just so, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who have no need of repentance. So too, the woman who had ten silver coins but lost one of them. Does she not take a lamp and sweep the house clean, turning it upside down until she finds that lost coin? And when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Monday: Deuteronomy 4:9-14; Psalm 9; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11; Luke 14:25-35
Moses reminds the people of how they stood at the base of Mt. Horeb (Sinai) and witnessed the presence of God as the mountain blazed, shrouded in dark clouds, and God spoke to them out of the fire. They are to take care and watch closely so that they do not forget what they have seen and heard. Not only must they remember and keep the words they heard from the Lord, they must also teach them to their children and their children’s children. Tell them how they stood before the Lord at Horeb and how they heard the words but saw no form. The Lord declared to them his covenant, which they were charged to observe, including the ten commands that God wrote on two stone tablet. At that time the Lord charged Moses to teach them not only the commandments but also the statues and ordinances that he is about to reiterate, so that they can observe them in the land they are about to occupy.
This psalm gives thanks to the Lord for continuing protection and salvation. Though it might appear a royal psalm, the enemies being other nations, we never hear the voice in the prayer identified as the king’s, as it would be in a royal psalm. Rather it simply focuses on God’s ability to respond, whether “present” or afar, to scatter the wicked and maintain the just person’s cause. The text moves from thanksgiving for God’s wonderful deeds, to thanks for deliverance from particular enemies, to praise for the rebuke of other nations and the wicked, to the affirmation that the Lord is enthroned forever and his throne is a throne of judgment. Then it affirms that the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed who seek him. These he will not forsake. After calling for praise in Zion, the psalmist turns to personal intercession for deliverance from: those who hate him. Again, there is the recollection of God’s judgment on the nations that have been caught in their own net. The wicked are consigned to Sheol while the needy shall “not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor taken away,” one of the high and memorial phrases from this psalm. Finally, God is called upon to “Rise up,” judge the nations, and put them in their place—they are only human. “Se’lah,” is a word that appears to now call upon the temple musicians for a musical chorus of praise, whether instrumental or vocal. Because this is an acrostic psalm, beginning each successive section with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the flow of ideas can seem a bit jumbled. It can seem that two psalms have been joined into one: the first, a psalm of thanksgiving; the second, a petition for help. And because Psalm 10 has no introductory material, some believe Psalm 9 and Psalm 10 were originally one. In fact, they appear as one in both the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) and, consequently, the Roman Catholic Vulgate Bible, which used the Septuagint to make its Latin translation.
Though Paul had promised the Corinthians in his first letter to them that he planned to return to them while traveling through Macedonia, beginning and ending in Corinth, and perhaps staying with them for the winter, that visit never took place. Whether in disappointment or for reasons of loyalty to other apostles and teachers, the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians thereafter became strained, as the people accused him of vacillating and questioned not only Paul’s pastoral authority but also his integrity. Another visit is noted, one that was “painful” for all concerned, causing Paul to delay other visits in case they too should be as destructive as this painful one (there is no record of this visit in the Book of Acts). Instead of visiting, Paul wrote a letter out of distress and anguish that was, of Paul’s own admission, severe in its nature, as he tried to express his love for the Corinthians. This letter he sent to them by the hand of a fellow-worker, who many assume was Titus. Whether that letter has been lost, or is embedded within chapters 10-13 of this letter is a debate left to scholars. The severity of the letter caused Paul even more anxiety, and caused him to leave Ephesus in search of Titus to learn what he could about things in Corinth. Finally connecting with Titus in Macedonia, Paul received good news about the Corinthians and their feeling for Paul. Encouraged, Paul writes this letter, which has come to be known as 2nd Corinthians. It opens with its customary self-identification: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, Timothy “our brother,” to the church of God in Corinth as well as all the saints throughout Achaia. This is followed by a typical Pauline greeting: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” God is blessed as the father of all mercies and consolation who consoles all who are in affliction—themes that will emerge and be elaborated on in the letter. As affliction and suffering are abundant through Christ so too is consolation. It is with that consolation that Paul and his colleagues can console the Corinthians. Paul says his own afflictions are for the Corinthians’ consolation, which they experience as they patiently endure the same sufferings he is suffering. He adds that his hope for them is unshaken knowing that as they share in his sufferings so too they share in his consolation. Paul now goes on to describe the afflictions in Asia as their being “utterly, unbearably crushed so that they despaired of life itself.” It was as though they had been sentenced to death so that they would rely, not on themselves, but solely on God who raises the dead. God, who rescued them from so deadly a peril (never defined), will continue to rescue them; on this they have set their hope. God will rescue them again as the Corinthians join in helping Paul and Timothy with their prayers.
Jesus leaves the dinner table and again takes up his travels to Jerusalem. A large crowd travels with Jesus, as if to follow him. On the way, he tells them that whoever comes to him and does not “hate father and mother, wife and children, brother or sister, yes, even life itself,” cannot be his disciple. The phrase “hate” here is hyperbolic rather than literal, stronger than Matthew’s “love more,” and points to the issue of primary loyalty when it comes to making choices between Jesus and others, even those as close as family. Those who do not carry their crosses and follow him cannot be his disciple. And so Jesus reminds them to count the cost beforehand. Which of them intending to build a tower would not first count the cost, lest, after laying the foundation, they should run out of money and not be able to complete it. Would not others call them “foolish?” Or what king, going to wage war against another, does not first sit down and consider the cost? And if it were too great, would he not, rather, send a delegation to sue for terms of peace? So, Jesus says to those around him, “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” The shift from family and the cost of things can seem sudden, and a shift in syntax, but, as we read on we hear what Jesus means. All of this is summarized with Jesus’ saying on salt: it is good, but if it has lost its taste what good is it except to be thrown out? As a chemist once pointed out to me, sodium chloride does not lose its taste—it is always sodium chloride. Rather, it become diluted. And this is precisely Jesus’ point: our discipleship cannot be diluted with other things like family, wealth or possessions. Any mode of discipleship that tries to balance commitments to Jesus with commitments to others or other things is not discipleship and is fit for nothing; it will be “tossed out.”
Sunday: Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Psalm 114; Revelation 7:1-4, 9-17; Matthew 12:33-45
Moses has reviewed with the children of Israel all that took place from the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, to their refusal to try to take the land, in spite of Caleb and Joshua’s insistence that they could, and the resultant wilderness wanderings. Still, in the wanderings, the Lord had cared for them. Moses concludes his first address to the people urging them to heed and live by the statutes and ordinances that he is teaching them so that they may live to enter into the land that the Lord is giving them. They are neither to add nor to take away from them. After all, they do remember what the Lord did with regard to their behavior at Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:1-9) and how the Lord destroyed all among them who worshipped Baal there with their Moabite women. Only those who remained steadfast to the Lord survived. And so, just as the Lord has charged Moses, so now Moses teaches and charges the people to observe the statutes diligently. In so doing they will show their wisdom and discernment to the people of the land, who will respond, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people! For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is when we call on him?” And what other great nation has such statutes and ordinances as just as the entire law that Moses is setting before them this day?
This psalm is a hymn praising God’s power, recounting the wonders God did in claiming the house of Israel as his own and bringing them out of Egypt to make them God’s own dwelling place in the land of promise. The psalm uses various images from creation to emphasize God’s sovereignty at critical points in Israel’s life—the sea looked and fled; the river Jordan turned back to allow the people to cross over. At God’s presence, the mountains skipped like rams and the hills like lambs. Why? Because it is the Lord, the one who turns rocks into pools of water and flint into a gushing spring, a reference to Moses striking the rock in the wilderness. The hymn is a remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and was later sung at Passover on the 8th day of that celebration, and still is today.
Between the opening of the 6th and the 7th seal, each of which is about a particular form of plague of judgment like the plagues in Egypt, there is this interlude of two visions. In the first, the people of God are marked as God’s own as a means of protecting them from the various plagues. Four angels stand at the corners of the earth holding back the four winds. Another angel comes from the east with the seal of the living God and calls out with a loud voice to the four at the corners of the earth demanding that there be no damage on the earth or the sea until they have marked the servants of God with a seal on their foreheads. John overhears the number of those sealed, 144,000, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The number here is symbolic of the completeness of Israel and not to be taken arithmetically. After this there is a second vision in which a multitude so large none could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language on the earth, stands before God’s throne and before the Lamb, robed in white with palm branches in hand—both are signs of victory and triumph—singing the song of salvation. As they do the angels and elders and four living creatures (remember the book of Ezekiel and the four living creatures who conjoined at wingtip to form the base of God’s throne and presence) all fall on their faces and worship before God’s throne, singing a seven-fold hymn of blessing to God. One of the elders then addresses John, asking the question: “Who are these and where have they come from?” John replies that it is the elder who knows. The elder then says, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal (KJV translated the word thlipis “tribulation,”) who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” Notice that their being sealed did not keep them from the ordeal, but sustained them through tribulation and brought them into God’s presence. They remain there, day and night, worshipping God, who shelters them so that they never again will know hunger, thirst or the sun’s scorching heat because the Lamb at the center of the throne is their shepherd. He will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eye.
Jesus is in controversy with the Pharisees who have claimed that his mighty works have been done by the power of the ruler of demons. Jesus challenges them to either mark the tree good or bad on the basis of its fruit, not something else. Good comes from good, evil comes from evil. How could these good works come from the devil? Then, calling them a brood of vipers, he asks how anything good can come out of them, given how evil they are. On the Day of Judgment they will have to give an accounting of every careless word they have uttered against him and the Spirit (see Matthew 12:31 prior to today’s lesson). By their words they will be justified or condemned. At that, some scribes and Pharisees ask him for a sign. Jesus responds that it is an evil and adulterous generation that asks for signs, and that no sign will be given except that of the prophet Jonah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will then rise up and condemn this generation. After all, the people of Nineveh repented when Jonah warned them, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will also rise up in judgment against them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and something greater than Solomon is here. Finally, even those who have been cleansed of evil spirits, unless they put something more powerful in its place, will find that the spirit has returned from its wandering and, finding the house empty, re-enters and brings along seven others, so that the state of the person is now worse than it first was. So it will be with this evil generation that keeps asking for a sign.
Saturday: Deuteronomy 1:1-8; Psalm 10 ;1 Timothy 6:6-25; Luke 14:12-24
We begin a somewhat continuing reading of the Book of Deuteronomy, meaning the “second law.” Beyond reaffirming the covenant between the people of Israel and God, Deuteronomy not only repeats the legal tradition of Exodus, it reinterprets it in contemporary terms. As the preceding Book of Numbers comes to its close, Moses and the children of Israel are encamped in the plains of Moab, preparing to attack Canaan from the east. Deuteronomy is structured as Moses’ farewell address to the people in which he reiterates promises and issues warnings about what they will find in the Land of Promise. He pleads for singular loyalty to the Lord as the condition for living in and maintaining the land. Now it is time for the Children of Israel to end their forty years in the wilderness and enter the land long ago promised to them through Abraham and Jacob and reiterated by the Lord through Moses. The Lord speaks to Moses at Mt. Horeb (Sinai), and tells him to lead the people out of the plains of Moab, cross the Jordan and enter the land. They are to go into the hill country of the Amorites, south into the Negeb, west to the western sea, as far north as Lebanon and as far to the east as the Euphrates River. The dimensions included here describe the kingdom at the height of its expansion under David. The Lord is giving all of this land into their hands.
The evils of the wicked are set forth in vivid detail by this psalm that calls upon God to respond as the only source of defense against them. But first, the eternal question: why is God remote in all of this; why does God hide in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor, boasting in the desires of their greedy hearts, and curse and renounce the Lord, saying “There is no God,” the proverbial creed of fools. Why do they prosper, why are they allowed to ambush and murder the innocent and, like a lion, seize the poor and the helpless and drag them off to their dens to consume them? In their hearts they think that God has either forgotten, or has simply looked the other way. After a long rehearsal of their wickedness, the psalmist cries out, “Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed!” The Lord does see, does note trouble and grief, and does take it into his hands. “The helpless commit themselves to you, you who have been the helper of orphans. Break the arm of the wicked; seek out their wickedness until you find none.” This is followed by a confession of faith: “The Lord is king forever and ever.” Nations perish from his hand. And now, with a word of hopeful confidence the psalm proclaimed that the Lord will hear the desire of the meek and strengthen their hearts. The Lord will hear and do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from the earth who strike terror into them may do so no more.
Stepping beyond the unpopular texts about slaves regarding their masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of the Lord and the church’s teaching will not be blasphemed, and a warning to those slaves with believing masters not to attempt to take advantage of the fact that the masters are also believers, but rather, serve them all the more faithfully, there is another warning about false teachers and their doctrines. Then the subject turns to the gain of godliness combined with contentment with the reminder that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of the world. Therefore be content with what they have: food and clothing. Those who seek riches have fallen into many destructive and senseless traps bringing great harm upon themselves. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil, and in their pursuit of it many have wandered away from the truth—a double truth as painfully demonstrable today as when this was first written—the result of which is much piercing pain. Timothy is charged to shun all of this for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. He is to “fight the good fight of faith” and take hold of the eternal life to which he was called when he first made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. This is followed by another confessional extract ending with “Amen.” For those in the church who are rich (and today, that is most of us in the West!) they are to be commend not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. The rich are to do good with their riches—be rich in good works, generous and ready to share—thus they will store up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future. It will enable them to take hold of the life that is really life. Finally, Timothy is to guard what has been entrusted to him, avoid profane chatter and the contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (the Gnostics among them), for by professing the Gnostic version of Christ, many have missed the mark. The letter ends with a simple blessing: “Grace be with you.” In some ancient manuscripts the “you” is singular, and in others it is plural, adding to the scholarly challenge about authorship and purpose of the letter. Regardless, it is a treasure for us as we look at the church struggling to remain faithful as it makes cultural adaption and faces the fact that Jesus has not immediately returned.
As the guest are seated at table, Jesus turns to his host and challenges him saying, “When you give a dinner or luncheon, don’t invite your friends, or the wealthy and powerful, all who have the ability to reciprocate. Rather, invite the poor, the rippled, the lame and the blind—those who cannot repay you—and your reward will be that of the righteous at the resurrection. At the mention of the resurrection, one of the pious dinner guest blurts out, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (The fool, he is eating bread in the presence of the kingdom but is to blind or too pious or self-satisfied to see it.) Jesus uses the occasion to tell the parable of the great banquet to which the host invited many. When the dinner preparations were complete the host sent his slave to the invited to say, “Come; for everything is ready.” The slave meets one excuse after another: one has just purchased some land and needs to vet it, another has bought a yoke of oxen and needs to test them, another has just gotten married and is thus free from all social obligations until such time as his wife is pregnant. All send their regrets; next time! When this is reported to the master, he becomes enraged—the ingrates!—and sends his servant into the streets and lanes to bring in the poor, crippled, blind and lame (the very people Jesus had told his host to invite). The servant does but there is still room at the table. So the master sends the servant into the countryside to compel people to come and fill the house. saying, “None of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” The invitation has been extended but the invitees were so caught up in self-interest and entangled in their wealth, possessions and relationships that they turned down the invitation to the banquet. There is no acceptable excuse for not accepting, and failing to accept mean that others will be invited in your place. The judgment on those not responding to Jesus and his presence among them is pretty clear: they already have their consolation.
Friday: Ruth 4:1-17; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 5:17-22(23-25); Luke 14:1-11
The next day, Boaz goes to the city gate and waits until the next of kin arrives. He calls him aside as well as ten elders of the city, a minion, to serve as witnesses, and then Boaz tells the nameless next of kin that Naomi is about to sell a parcel of land that belonged to her deceased husband Elimelech, and as the nearest next of kin, he has the right to purchase it as an act of redemption that will keep the land within their tribe. If he is willing to do so, then let him redeem it. If not, then Boaz will purchase the field. The next of kin indicates that he is prepared to do so. Only then does Boaz tell him that Ruth, the Moabite woman, comes with the deal, and that in redeeming the land he will also redeem her and be expected to give her children who legally will belong to Ruth’s former husband Mahlon. At this, the next of kin replies that he cannot do this without damaging his own inheritance, and thus he renounces his right to redemption, telling Boaz to buy the field and giving Boaz his sandal in the presence of the minion as public witness to all of this. Boaz then responds in the presence of the elders that he will purchase the field that belonged to Naomi’s husband, and will also take Ruth as his wife. The elders at the gate bless Boaz for his action and invoke God’s blessing of fertility upon Ruth. Boaz takes Ruth as his wife, and soon Ruth is pregnant with Boaz’s child. When the son is born to Ruth, he is, by law, officially Mahlon’s child. The women of the city bless God for remembering Naomi and for giving her an heir. Naomi takes the child to serve as his nurse, and the woman of the village name him Obed, who will become the father of Jessie, the father of King David. As much parable as fact, the Book of Ruth celebrates God’s faithfulness to the poor, how God works through people who continue faithful to God and Torah, the importance of loyalty and fidelity in the family unit, the dynamics of levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) and the importance of maintaining property within the tribe. If this is written before the exile it establishes David’s ancestry and commends the importance of making provision for the poor within the community. If this is written after the exile it makes the point that a non-Israelite was the grandmother of Israel’s greatest king, herself a “foreign wife” that Ezra and Nehemiah railed against. Such a foreigner could become the Lord’s faithful servant (“Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God.” Ruth 1:16b) and even play an important role in what God is doing, as opposed to Ezra and Nehemiah’s insistence that foreign wives must be divorced and put away (see Ezra 9 & 10; Nehemiah 10:30).
This psalm is a confession of sin without peer, and as appropriate today as when it was first uttered. Tradition attributes it to David upon being challenged by his prophet, Nathan, concerning David’s sin with Bathsheba and his subsequent engineering of the military murder of her husband Uriah. However, it shows marks of having been written later than that, after the return from exile, especially the last two verses. The center of the psalm focuses on the human heart, which to the Hebrew mind is not the center of affections, but the center of one’s will. In pleading for a clean heart, the supplicant expresses the conviction that without the gift of a new and right spirit, it is not possible to remain in obedience. The human heart is prone to pride and stubbornness. And so, he pleads for God’s holy spirit to sustain him—one of the few places in the Old Testament where the phrase “holy spirit” is used. Even right praise is God’s gift to us. We cannot offer it without God’s prompting. Consequently, he utters the phrase that has become a classic invitation to prayer, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.” He then expressed the prophets’ recurring conviction that rather than sacrifice, what God truly desires in each of us is an obedient heart committed to God and God’s ways. Sacrifices God may or may not accept. After all, God does not need them, and since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, there have been none. Prayer itself has become the new form of sacrifice. And so, a heart in which stubbornness has been broken, and self-pride crushed, is a heart God will never despise or reject. The prayer ends with a plea for Zion and the rebuilding of its walls following its sack by Babylon in 587 BCE, and the restoration of the sacrificial system.
After stepping over some household instructions and standards for admitting widows into the congregation (remember, that in that culture, to welcome them into the church was to also take on responsibility to care for them), we turn today to issues involving those serving in leadership in the church, and something as mundane as “clergy compensation.” Let those who rule well be worthy of double “honor”—the word here means compensation. Pay them twice what they would normally be paid for their work! There were, of course, objections to paying them anything, which is why the author uses the image of not muzzling the ox as it is treading out the grain on the thrashing floor. And then, to make it more specific still, “The laborer deserves to be paid. Standards for accusations against their teaching elders are also set forth—there must be two, or even three who can corroborate the accusation, just as the Old Testament insisted upon two witnessed to any allegation in the courts. On the other hand, elders found to be involved in sin must be rebuked publically in order that they may live in the fear of the Lord. This comes with solemn warning in the presence of Christ and his holy angels. Timothy, evidently the Bishop overseeing all of the house churches in the community, is to ordain no one quickly, and is to, himself, withstand the sin others in leadership may be exhibiting. Further, no longer is he to drink only water (remember the earlier warning about those calling for asceticism), but to take a little wine for the sake of his stomach and other ailments.
Jesus continues his confrontations with the religious officials, this time, when invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner on the sabbath. Luke tells everyone was watching him closely to see what Jesus will do. A man plagued with dropsy (what we now know as edema) appears and Jesus asks those lawyers and Pharisees standing by it if is appropriate to heal on the sabbath. Luke tells us all remained silent. Jesus, of course, heals the man, and then turns to them and asks who of them, if their child, or even their ox, fell into a well would not rescue, and pull them out on the sabbath? All remain silent. Next Jesus watches the rest of the dinner guests filling the room as they jockey for the best seats and places of honor. He uses the occasion to tell them a parable, warning that they should initially take the lesser seats at the table, lest they find themselves in the place of another more honorable then themselves so that the host will have to ask them to move, thereby bringing dishonor upon themselves. Rather, seek the lower places so that when the host comes they can be ask to come higher. Jesus then warns that all who seek to exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Author: The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.