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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday: Hosea 9:1-9; Psalm 132; Acts 24:1-23; Luke 7:36-50

The Lord continues to pour judgment and contempt upon Israel for its apostasy. Using metaphors that point to their participation in the Baal cult because of their expectation that it will insure their crops, they are told that all will fail. Their alliances with Assyria will result in their being captive to Assyria, and their pact with Egypt will reclaim them as well and take them into captivity. There was a time when Israel was God’s prophet, but it has been caught in the bird’s snare. They continue to try to worship the Lord as well, pouring out their drink offerings and bread offerings, but the Lord rejects them. He remembers their sin and he will reject them.

This Royal Psalm celebrates and legitimates the reign of the Davidic dynasty recalling the covenant the Lord made with David to insure his reign and the reign of his descendants on the throne of all Israel forever. (2 Samuel 7) It begins recalling David’s hardships in capturing Jerusalem to establish a capital for a united kingdom there, then his vow to build a Temple so that that Lord would have a resting place among them. “We heard it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar,” is a reference to the return of the Ark of the Covenant which had been lost in battle to the Philistines, but was left in the field of Jaar because it was perceived too dangerous (2 Samuel 6) until David brought it to Jerusalem and placed it in the tent of the meeting that he had erected there. (The building of the actual Temple would fall to his son Solomon). With the Ark in Jerusalem, it was ever-after understood as the place of the Lord’s habitation, until the division of the kingdom after Solomon’s rule. Given the sanctuaries in the Northern Kingdom, after their division, the psalm probably had polemic effect as well, insisting that Zion was God’s only place of worship. The psalm includes a remembrance of God’s oath to David that one of his sons would always sit on the throne, and the promise that the Lord, not David, had chosen Zion as his “desired habitation” forever. It concludes with the blessings that come to Jerusalem because of God’s presence there, and how God will continue to bless the descents of David who sit on his throne (cause a horn to sprout up for David). After the destruction of the Temple and the loss of the king in 587 BCE, the psalm served as a reminder that the Lord is the ultimate king over Israel, as well as fired Messianic expectation.

The high priest Ananias arrives in Caesarea with some elders and an attorney named Tertullus, to begin Paul’s trial. Tertullus attempts to ingratiate himself to Felix with kind words about his execution of Roman rule among them, and then outlines their case against Paul as “a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world (Roman empire), and “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes,” the first time Christianity is acknowledged as a sect of Judaism, similar to the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Felix then allows Paul opportunity to defend himself. Paul does so “cheerfully” also ingratiating himself to Felix with kind words. But then he points out that their charges against him are false: he was disputing with anyone in the Temple or their synagogues in the city. He has simply entered the Temple after purification in order to bring alms and offer sacrifices. It was Jews from Asia that arrived and created the disturbance. This one charge alone, he will acknowledge, he is a member of “the Way,” which they call a sect. He hopes in the same God, follows the same law, but believes in the resurrection, and it is about this that he is on trial. Felix himself was well informed about the Way, and adjourned the hearing until the tribune Lysias, who sent Paul to Felix, can arrive. Until then, Paul is to be kept in the custody of Felix (for safekeeping), but is to be allowed to have his friends help care for his needs.

Jesus accepts the invitation to dine at the home of a Pharisee. While he is at table, a women who is a “notorious sinner” enters the room with an alabaster jar of ointment and, standing behind Jesus as he reclines on the floor at table, she begins to bath, anoint and wipe his feet with her hair (a woman letting down her hair in a man’s presence was an act of great intimacy). When the host sees this he says to himself, “This man cannot be a great prophet, for if he were, he would know who this woman was and not allow her behavior.” Jesus, of course, knows precisely what the Pharisee is thinking, and so asks a question about the forgiveness of debts, one very large, and one small. Which of the two debtors would be the most grateful? The Pharisee responds, “The one who owed the most.” The Pharisee is, of course, right, so Jesus goes on to outline the forms of behavior she has exhibited to express her great gratitude, while he as host has done the minimal in inviting Jesus to dinner. Both are forgiven, but only one seems to really recognize it. Then Jesus says to the Pharisee, “her sins, which were many, have been forgiven, hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Turning to the woman Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” The other guests at the table wonder among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Posted October 11, 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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