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Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday: Hosea 4:11-19; Psalm 102; Acts 21:37—22:16; Luke 6:12-26

Hosea describes conditions in the Northern Kingdom of Israel as the people continue to prostitute themselves, participating in other cults of worship; going to diviners, using idols, and sacrificing at places of worship designated for the Canaanite gods. Israel’s daughters have played the whore. Yet, in a flash of unusual gender equality, God announces he will not punish them, because it is the men who have gone after the Baal prostitutes, sacrificing at their temples. Consequently none of the people have any understanding and all will come to ruin. Then there is a plea that this not spread to Judah. “Do not enter Gilgal” is a reference to the ancient sanctuary north of Jericho, from the time of Joshua (Joshua 3—5). “Bethaven” means, quite literally, “house of falsehood” and is a reference to Bethel, the site where Jacob, in his flight from his brother Esau, had the dream of the ladder into heaven, and that later became the center for worship in the Northern Kingdom after it split off from Judah (the Southern Kingdom). Israel has become like a stubborn heifer that is beyond anyone’s control. Ephraim, one of the northern tribes, is now a metaphor for the Northern Kingdom, Israel, who worships idols, drinks to excess and then engages in sexual orgies with the Baal, loves lewdness more than glory. The judgment ends with the plaintive phrase, “A wind has wrapped them in its wings,”—there is no going after them to try and catch them.

The psalm is named “a prayer of the afflicted when faint and pouring out one’s soul to the Lord.” That is precisely what this psalm is about. Pleading for the Lord’s saving and reviving presence, the psalmist laments, comparing himself to a pelican in the wilderness or an owl in a waste place, like a lone bird perched on a rooftop. He is so bereft and overcome that he has forgotten to eat. His flesh hangs on his bones, his food has been ashes and his tears so abundant that they have diluted his drink; all of this, because in God’s wrath he has been lifted up and cast away. Though his days are but a lengthened shadow, the Lord’s days are forever. And now the psalm turns the corner from lament to intercession as he pleads for God’s presence and compassion on Zion. The Lord, who lives forever, will arise and have compassion on Zion so that generations yet unborn will praise his name. The Lord has regarded the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise this one’s plea. Praising God as the maker of heaven and earth, she confesses that though these will all “wear out like a garment,” like other clothing God will change them, and they will be changed. Yet God will endure forever, for generation yet to come.

As Paul is being hauled off to the Roman barracks he asks the commander of the cohort something in Greek. Startled, the commander recognizes Paul is not who he thought he was—and Egyptian who had led a previous insurrection and revolt—and allows Paul to speak to the crowd. Paul does, in Hebrew, and in the process stirs up an even greater uproar as he tells his personal story about his past as a persecutor of “the way,” his experience on the Damascus road of meeting the Risen Christ, being struck blind and led by the hand to Damascus. He tells of Ananias coming to him to restore his sight, and deliver a message from God: Paul has been appointed to know “the righteous one,” to hear a word from his mouth, and to be a witness to him among all people. At Ananias’ command, Paul was baptized. Paul continues his speech tomorrow. For now, the crowd listens.

Jesus leaves behind the conflict over his healing on the Sabbath and goes to the mountain to pray through the night. Then Luke recounts the calling of the disciples, naming each—the only place this full list occurs. Twelve are chosen as apostles, one for each of the tribes of Israel, to restore and provide leadership to God’s people. Coming down off the mountain Jesus encounters a huge crowd that has come after him, and turning to his disciples he delivers “the sermon on the plain,” essentially Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. But notice, this is preached to the disciples rather than to a large crowd. It is their marching orders as leaders of the restoration.

Posted October 5, 2012


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The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson

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.

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