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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday: Hosea 13:4-8; Psalm 18; Acts 27:27-44; Luke 9:18-27

Hosea reminds the people that God brought them out of Egypt and cared for them in the wilderness wanderings, feeding them until they were satisfied. But when they became satisfied, they also became proud and quickly forgot the Lord. Consequently, God will punish them, become like a lion or leopard among them, or a bear deprived of her cubs, tearing them open and devouring them as a wild animal consumes its prey.

Introduced as a psalm of David, uttered when the Lord has rescued him from the hand of Saul, scholars classify this as a “Royal Psalm of Thanks for Victory.” But without the elaborate introduction between “To the leader…,” and “I love you, O Lord…,” this is a classic psalm of thanksgiving and praise for God’s intervention in one’s life, regardless of the circumstances or whether or not one is king. Notice how general the psalmist’s troubles are: “cords of death encompass, torrents of perdition assail, cords of Sheol entangle, the snares of death confront.” They could apply to anyone. There is simply unabashed love expressed for the Lord because of God’s deliverance and salvation. From the Temple in Jerusalem, the Lord has heard the psalmist’s cry. The central portion of this reading uses the familiar storm image to speak of God’s presence and sovereignty. Such language was common in the religious language of the Canaanites as well, and may well have been appropriated from a Baal liturgy to make the point that it is the Lord who is sovereign even over those deities. Remember, at this stage, Israel was not monotheistic, but convinced that their God was the God of gods. Today’s reading concludes with the psalmist expressing the conviction that all this has taken place because God has rewarded his own integrity—it has nothing to do with what the psalmist has done. It then returns to the theme of the blessings of keeping the ways of the Lord. This is the third longest psalm in the collection, fifty verses in all. Only in that final verse do we learn that the psalmist is the king, the Lord’s anointed.

Fourteen days adrift on the sea on what is now the Mediterranean (Sea of Adria—not the Adriatic Sea so designated today) the sailor can smell land and begin to take soundings of the sea. They discover that “the bottom is coming up quickly” and fear they may run aground (as Paul has said they would), and so put out anchor from the stern. Some of the sailors decide to abandon ship in one of the small boats, under the guise of placing an anchor from the bow. Paul discovers this and warns the centurion and the soldiers that unless all stay aboard ship, they will not be saved. So the sailors cut the ropes to the boat and set it adrift. Just before daybreak, Paul urges everyone to take some food, for it will strengthen them for the ordeal they are about to undergo, yet not a one of them “will lose a hair from [their] head.” Then, using language that is Eucharistic, Paul takes bread, gives thanks to God, breaks it and begins to eat, and encourages the others to do so also. If so, in so doing, this is the first “open” Eucharist on record! The others did eat, and we are told that there are two hundred seventy-six people on board. After eating they throw the rest of the wheat into the sea. As the sun rises, they see land but do not recognize it. However, they see a bay with a beach and plan to run the ship ashore there and cast out the anchors. Using oars and hoisting a foresail they make for the beach, but strike a reef in route. Try though they might to free the ship, they cannot, while the stern of the ship is being broken up by the waves. The soldiers plan to kill the prisoners, lest some swim away and escape, but the centurion, in an attempt to save Paul, prevents them from doing so. Rather, he orders those who can swim to jump overboard and head to the beach, while the rest follow floating in on planks and other debris from the disintegrating ship. In the end, all two hundred seventy-six make it safely to shore.

Jesus withdraws to a lonely place to pray and has taken the twelve with him. He asks them who the people say that he is, and we hear the answer given a few verses earlier in describing Herod’s awareness of Jesus. Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah, and still others, one of the ancient prophets arisen. Jesus then asks who they think he is, and Peter confesses him to be the Messiah (Christ) of God.” In response, Jesus sternly orders them to tell no one anything, saying “The Son of Man” (Jesus’ favorite term for himself) must undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Contrary to Mark, we hear no objection to this, much less any sense that they understand what he is saying. Rather, Luke includes Jesus’ words on discipleship and what it means: denying themselves, taking up their cross daily and following him. We sense that these words are meant less for the twelve than those to whom this gospel is later being read. To this is added Jesus’ words on finding our lives through losing them for his sake, and the question of what profit there is in gaining the whole world and losing our lives in the process. His words on being ashamed of him are clearly directed to the listener more than the twelve, as we are reminded that abandoning him in times of trial will mean his abandonment of us when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels. He then adds a promise that, for the reader, has already been fulfilled: some of them standing there will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. The kingdom has been revealed in his resurrection.


Posted October 18, 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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