Posts Tagged 'proper 24'

For Oct. 20, 2013: Proper 24, Year C

The Reading            Jeremiah 31:27-34

In this Sunday’s reading, from the closing chapters called the Book of Consolation, Jeremiah prophesies a new covenant, not written in stone but written on hearts because it is no longer between God and the nation as a whole but between God and each one of us.

The Response            Psalm 119:97-104

“I do not shrink from your judgments, because you yourself have taught me.”

The Epistle            2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

This Sunday’s second reading counsels the young church leader to continue in belief that is founded on faith in Jesus and to persist in proclaiming the message “with the utmost patience in teaching”. Those with “itching ears” can as well be those who insist on biblical literalism as those who never open the book.

The Gospel            Luke 18:1-8

“‘And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?’”


Further thoughts

This Sunday’s readings deliver mixed messages, comforting even as they make us squirm.

The last several weeks’ readings from the book of Jeremiah have cemented for us his reputation as “the weeping prophet”. This Sunday’s closing reading begins with a promise to repeople, as plentifully as wheat in a field, the lands of Israel and Judah that were deserted in the exile. In addition, in place of the covenant with the entire nation—which required good-faith performance on both sides, with the result that, when the leaders led badly, the whole operation went off the rails—the Lord is instituting a new covenant with each individual, written on each heart. Great news… except that I can no longer legitimately blame the government or my dysfunctional family or my lousy job for my failures to love God and all those around me: it’s now all on me.

Could that be too much? The selection from Psalm 119 praises the individual relationship with God, perhaps to the point of preening or the pride that goeth before a fall. Salvation is individual, but its means are communal, and its ends are also: notice how much of the hard work recommended in 2 Timothy is work in community.

The parable of the widow and the crooked judge is a tidy little package with its moral right there in the first line. Parables rarely work that way. With respect to God and others, I am surely the Widow Nobody, with no more right to salvation or others’ intervention than God and they give me, and therefore the onus is on me to express what I need and to keep expressing it. But I am also the crooked judge, well-bribed by the baubles of the world or my own sense of entitlement to ignore the expressed needs of those around me, and the onus is on me to reject the goodies in favor of listening and responding to the cries of all the other Widow Nobodies. And thus may the Son of Man find faith on earth.

For Oct. 21, 2012: Proper 24, Year B

The Reading            Isaiah 53:4-12

Today’s reading from Isaiah is one that we associate with Holy Week. It speaks—at first from the point of view of those who benefit, later from the point of view of God—of a mysterious figure who suffers grievously in order that others may be spared the punishment they deserve.

The Response            Psalm 91:9-16

The Epistle            Hebrews 5:1-10

Hebrews 5:1-10 explains how and why Jesus Christ is the ultimate high priest, in both senses of the term: he is human, so he understands human weakness; he is God, but served humbly just as, in today’s gospel, he calls us to serve; he knows what it is to sacrifice—and to be the sacrifice. Melchizedek, which can mean ‘king of righteousness’, is the king and priest who came to Abram in Genesis bringing bread and wine.

The Gospel            Mark 10:35-45


Further thoughts

The Melchizedek who is Jesus’ prototype in the book of Hebrews is named in Genesis 14:13-20: as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and three other kingdoms flee from an unsuccessful revolt, their overlords the Elamites capture Lot, who is the nephew of a certain Hebrew that the world will later know as Abraham. Blood being thicker than water, Abram combines his own forces with those of his neighbor Mamre and Mamre’s brothers Eshcol and Aner and goes to Lot’s rescue.

Abram’s forces rout the enemy and take Lot and and his goods plus, one surmises, prisoners and booty. On the way back, Abram meets the king of Sodom—Lot’s king—in the Valley of Shaveh. Also there is Melchizedek, king of Salem (which is Arabic and Hebrew for ‘peace’) and priest of God Most High. This is in the time before the Levites in Israel were set aside as priests; indeed, neither Israel nor the tribe of Levi even existed. Now it was not unusual for a king also to be a priest. Unusually, though, Melchizedek comes to Abram rather than making Abram come to him, and Melchizedek brings bread and wine. That is, even though Melchizedek is a king and Abram is not, Melchizedek serves and honors Abram before blessing him.

What a contrast this is with the bumptious Sons of Thunder, James and John, demanding their places at Jesus’ left and right hands in heaven! It’s easy to laugh at their lack of polish, at least when I’m not wincing at how much it looks like my own.

And yet the most valuable servant is not the one who passively waits for orders but rather the one who takes initiative. James and John, and the almost irrepressible Peter, have caught glimpses of what Jesus is doing on earth; whatever their mistakes, they are doing their best to live into the vision given their understanding of the way the world works. That God Almighty is also in the business of seeking dirty feet to wash remains a startling concept, two millennia and thousands of Bible studies later. As I struggle to reconcile Jesus’ vision of servant leadership with the facts of worldly hierarchical life, I have a good model to follow in Melchizedek’s graceful integration of the exalted roles of king and priest with a personal reality in which, by God’s grace, he is clearly pretty well over himself. I have a very long way to go to match Melchizedek as a servant, let alone Jesus—but, as with James and John and Peter, there’s grace and work and hope for me, too, in Jesus’ vision.

Enter your email address to subscribe to St Alban's Lections and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers