Saturday: Hosea 5:1-7; Psalm 107:33-43; Acts 22:17-29; Luke 6:27-38
Hosea continues to level charges against the people of the Northern Kingdom, especially indicting its priests, prophets and king. All are responsible, as all have gone after the Baal. None of this is hidden from God. Their deeds keep them from returning to the Lord, for the spirit of whoredom dominates and controls their lives. The phrase concluding verse 4 has a powerful pun: the verb for “to know” (yada) can mean sexual intercourse or acquisition of knowledge. In their sexual behavior in the temples of Baal, they are actually depriving themselves of true knowledge of the Lord. Their arrogance witnesses against them, and their stumbling in guilt has even had an impact on Judah. Yet, with flocks and herds the Israelites will seek the Lord but not find him (they were also making sacrifices to the Lord as they sacrificed to Baal, hedging their bets) but will not find him, for the Lord has withdrawn from them. Having dealt falsely with the Lord, their children are illegitimate. Their new moon feast shall ultimately devour their children and their fields.
This psalm begins with “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever. Verse after verse examines the way God’s steadfast love has been expressed and experienced in Israel’s life and salvation history. Today we are at the conclusion of this psalm that focuses upon God’s providence and sovereignty over creation. God changes rivers and springs into waterless wasteland and rich fields into barren land because of the wickedness of its people. Conversely, God turns wastelands into rich inhabitable places so that the hungry might dwell there. God builds cities, sows fields, plants vineyards, and blesses with fruitful harvests. God brings down princes who abuse their power and lifts up the needy. The righteous see it and are glad while the unrighteous look on with shut mouths. If you are wise, give heed to these things and consider the loving kindness of the Lord.
Paul continues to make his defense before the crowd as he explains what happened following his baptism. He returned to Jerusalem and while in the Temple fell into a trance, in which the Lord appeared to him and told him to leave Jerusalem at once, for the people there will not accept his testimony about Jesus. Paul demurs, saying surely they will listen to him, who heretofore was a persecutor of those who believe in Jesus, even standing by with approval as they stoned Stephen, something the crowed would well remember. But when he tells them that Jesus told him, “Go! I will send you far away to the Gentiles,” that is too much for the crowd, and it again erupts in up roar, throwing their cloaks and dust in the air. The commander takes Paul to the Barracks where it is determined to beat the truth out of Paul in order to discover what is really afoot. Remember, such uprisings occurred in Jerusalem somewhat regularly and were a significant threat to Roman control. The commander has reason to be concerned. As they are stretching Paul out across the beating block, tying him hand and foot with thongs, Paul asks the Centurion if it is lawful for them to beat a Roman Citizen who is not yet condemned. Startled, the Centurion asks if Paul is a Roman citizen and hearing Paul’s answer, goes to his Commander, the tribune, to tell him and ask, “What shall we do?” The Commander rushes to Paul and asks if, indeed, he is a Roman citizen, admitting that he himself had paid a huge sum of money to buy his citizenship. Paul tells him that he is not only a Roman citizen, but was born so. Immediately, everyone assigned to the scourging detail release Paul and step back from him. Even binding him in chains is a violation of his citizenship, something that will trouble the Commander.
Jesus’ sermon on the plain continues: having been through the blessings and woes which challenge the way most people think in the world, Jesus begins a series of new and startling commandments: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, turn the other cheek, give not only your coat to whoever asks for it, but also your shirt, give to all who beg, and when something is taken from you, do not ask for it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. What credit is it that we love those who love us? Even sinners behave that way. And if you lend to someone, expecting to receive more in exchange, what credit is there in that? Again, sinners behave that way. Rather, love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward with be great: you will be children of the most high. As God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, you too must be merciful. If you judge others, you will be judged; if you condemn others you will be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given to you, in measure far beyond what you have given or forgiven. At a minimum, you will be given back what you have given. A people who receive grace must live out of it in grace-filled ways.
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.