For Sept. 29, 2013: Proper 21, Year C*

(There’s an asterisk on this post because St Alban’s isn’t using these lections for Sept. 29, 2013 – we’re using the lections for St Michael and All Angels instead – but I didn’t remember this until after I’d written up everything for Proper 21. It seemed a shame to waste the effort. Enjoy!)

The Reading            Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

When the Israelites first occupied the land of promise, they parceled it out by families, and by law land for sale was offered first to one’s relatives, to keep it in the family. Jeremiah knows that he and his people face deportation to Babylon. One hesitates to buy land in such a case—but the point of the elaborate purchase process is God’s assurance that, someday, God’s people will buy and sell and live in the land once more.

The Response            Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

“He shall say to the Lord, ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.”

The Epistle            1 Timothy 6:6-19

The first letter to Timothy continues with sage advice for a young pastor shepherding a new church, and for the rest of us. Today’s verses discuss the delicate matter of money. The author is not against money; he devotes attention to the good that we in the present age (that is, we in this world) can do for others with what we have.

The Gospel            Luke 16:19-31

“‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 

Further thoughts

A common theme in this Sunday’s readings—and perhaps throughout the Bible—is that it matters less what one has than what one does with what one has.

The thread is least obvious in the first reading. Jeremiah knows from God that his people are about to be overrun and exiled by the Babylonian empire, probably for a very long time. He is also under arrest in the court of Zedekiah, the puppet king that Babylon installed a decade earlier, for making predictions that the powerful don’t want to hear about the bad days to come. Jeremiah’s own future is grim. Then along comes Jeremiah’s cousin offering to sell a field. Jeremiah knows he himself may never even see the land, let alone enjoy it. But with members of the court as witnesses, he pays out a sum of money that could have made his own exile less painful and orders the deeds preserved: that is, he gives a sign that Israel indeed has a future, even if it isn’t his.

The connection between what one does is more obvious in the case of Jesus’ parable of the rich man, he of the feasts and costly purple clothes, and the ignored pauper Lazarus (whose name means ‘God is my help’ in Hebrew), with sores that made him ritually unclean. When both die and the rich man is in torment, he somehow thinks the pauper for whom he wouldn’t lift a finger or spend a dime in life should come to his rescue. Abraham is emphatic: God’s Word and the world around me should be quite enough to convince me to do all the good I can.

The first letter of Timothy addresses the issue more overtly. As the closing verses say, it isn’t that no one should be rich but that one should seek opportunities to do good with one’s wealth, and not seek to get richer at others’ expense. The oft-misquoted verse 10 is telling (emphases are mine): “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” It is, of course, the same with any other gift: even holiness, if I hoard it and muscle others out of the way for it to elevate myself above them, leads straight to the hell of the unbridgeable chasm.

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1 Response to “For Sept. 29, 2013: Proper 21, Year C*”


  1. 1 Linda Shipman September 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you, Linnea! Tomorrow’s readings as a whole will make more sense tomorrow.


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