21 June 2017

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, 2 July 2017

Track One:
Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13

Track Two:
Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Romans 6:12-23
St. Matthew 10:40-42

Background: The Prophets

Prophecy and prophets are not unique to either Israel, or to the Bible. There are several examples from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, wherein the prophet was seen as a messenger from the gods. In Israel, the prophet received the message from God via the agency of dreams, visions, or a direct communication from God. The difficulty was, however, how such messages might be authenticated – often times the messages were in conflict with another prophet’s vision. We see that especially in the work of Jeremiah. Much of the prophetic work was oral rather than written, and was often introduced with a “messenger formula” Thus says the Lord. The form of these messages was various, using the mode of legal writs, laments, hymnody, curses, oracles, and similar forms. The content of the prophet’s messages may have collected and saved by supporters or by disciples. In some cases, a scribe was used to collect and redact the material. In the case of Ezekiel, the later Isaiahs, and Jeremiah, the work was probably written.

First Reading: Genesis 22:1-14

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

This is a moving tale that might have had several purposes. Regardless of the purpose it grabs the hearers attention as an effective piece of prose. We are introduced to the theme in an immediate and stark phrase, “God tested Abraham.” We are introduced to the humanity of this story by means of levels of focus, such as when we are introduced to Isaac,

“Take your son,
your only one,
whom you love,

Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), an eleventh century French rabbi proposed the phrase as a conversation between God and Abraham, which adds to the drama of the initial scene:

            “Take your son”                    “I have two sons.”
            “your only one,                     “This one is an only one to his mother.”
            “whom you love”                  “I love both of them.”

The narrative makes certain that we understand the roles here, father and beloved son, and a theme that is repeated over and over again. The journey, which would have taken a great deal of time, seems to happen quickly, and yet the author spares no detail as he names all the equipment and activities necessary to carry out the command. In their progress to the site of the sacrifice it is Abraham who carries the dangerous implements, the knife and the torch. It is clear that Abraham does not want to harm his son.

A verb and theme that announces itself frequently in the text is “to see”. Abraham sees the place from afar, and at the end finally sees the ram. But God also “sees to it” when Isaac questions the sacrifice due to the lack of a victim. At this point the action slows down. Each activity connected with the sacrifice is enumerated. It reads like a movie script, which is only interrupted by the voice from heaven. Abraham is asked to stay his hand, as is Hagar in the story about her and Ishmael in Genesis 21:17. Both stories show the promise of a future for Abraham and his sons. It is a promise that Abraham sees, and so he names the place, in our translation, “The Lord will provide.” A better translation that meets the theme seen over and over again is, “The Lord sees.”

Breaking open Genesis:
1.          Why has this story been saved for us?
2.          What are Isaac’s reactions during the story?
3.         What is Abraham thinking?

Psalm 13 Usquequo, Domine?

     How long, O Lord?
will you forget me for ever? *
how long will you hide your face from me?
2      How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
and grief in my heart, day after day? *
how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3      Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; *
give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4      Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," *
and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5      But I put my trust in your mercy; *
my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6      I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; *
I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.

The initial verse of the psalm gives us a spectrum of experience that the psalmist explores: “How long” vs. “forever”. Such is the perspective when God appears to be absent from the problems of our lives. Of special interest here, following the “See” theme in the first reading is the language of verse 3, “give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death.” In spite of the troubles of the present time, the author would rather see the world even in the midst of trouble, and of waiting for God’s good pleasure. He dreads the possibility that his enemy might take delight in his demise. In place of that dread he instead puts his trust in God.

Breaking open Psalm 13
  1. In what ways is God silent for you?
  2. When you think of God’s world, what do you see?
  3. What does it mean to trust in God?


Track Two:

First Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

If you have the opportunity, glance through the previous two chapters. Although they are not a part of a single literary unity, they do speak of a theme that unites them with this chapter. The theme is the Judgment of Jerusalem, a theological follow-on from Jeremiah’s argument against the political leaders of the time and their prophets. Chapter 26 sees the destruction of the city, however in chapters 27 and 28 the argument centers not on destruction but on how long the exile, which Jeremiah sees, will last. These chapters are dated around 598 BCE, just after Babylon has inserted itself into the land of Judah and its rule.

We might wonder what meaning this has for the reader or hearer in our time – what is the theological import of this reading today? In the initial part of the reading we meet Hananiah the prophet. And here’s the theological problem; which prophet do we heed? This is a question for our own time when so many speak in the name of Jesus, but have differing messages. As I understand Jeremiah’s comment, “As for the prophet who prophesies peace…” it is in how the times and events that surround what is preached is made real for the welfare of the people of God. The proof of the pudding is how a prophet’s word comes to fruition. This is not an easy answer. It’s time for the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

Breaking open the Jeremiah:
1.         How do you know a prophet (preacher) is speaking the truth?
2.         Who are the prophets of our time?
3.        Who are the prophets that you trust?

Psalm 89:1-4,15-18  Misericordias Domini

     Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; *
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
2      For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
3      "I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4      'I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'"
15    Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
they walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence.
16    They rejoice daily in your Name; *
they are jubilant in your righteousness.
17    For you are the glory of their strength, *
and by your favor our might is exalted.
18    Truly, the Lord is our ruler; *
the Holy One of Israel is our King.

If there is a theme to this psalm it is certainly centered in the word “faithfulness”. It is repeated eight times within the verses of the psalm. The psalm is about God’s covenant with David, and it represents in a way the theological point of view that may have informed the prophet Hananiah in the First Reading. If you read the entirety of the psalm you will see that its references to David, or really to a king in the Davidid line, come from a time when that line is in danger. We can see that in these verses, which are not included in the liturgical reading:

31      If his sons forsake my teaching and do not go in my law,
32      if they profane my statutes and do not keep my commands,
33      I will requite their crime with the rod, and with plagues, their wrongdoing.”[1]

Faithfulness to God results in the faithfulness of God as described in the verses of our reading. Kingship and leadership should be modeled on the providential nature of our God, and not guided by any other thing. Here we have a lesson for our own leaders.

Breaking open the Psalm 89:
1.     What do you understand in the word “faithfulness”?
2.     Who has been faithful to you?
3.    How have you been faithful?

Second Reading: Romans 6:12-23

Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We continue a reading from the section of Romans that deals with the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Here the apostle instructs how to live a life born in the newness that results from our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus. He describes this in contrastive concepts, “instruments of wickedness” and “instruments of righteousness.” How do we live in righteousness? Do we abandon the Law because of grace? No, we are enjoined to be slaves of righteous, even while living in a time marked by sin and wickedness. The remainder of his argument turns on the consequences of our acts, “The wages of sin is death.” But Christ is life – and we are born into Christ. Therefore we have the hope of eternal life.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. Who are the “instruments of wickedness” that you see in the world?
  2. How are you an “instrument of righteousness”?
  3. What does it mean to be a “slave of righteousness”?

The Gospel: St. Matthew 10:40-42

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

William Albright in his commentary on Matthew makes an interesting and compelling argument about the “Prophet” and the “Righteous One”. He quotes an ancient text before beginning his notes on the verse that follows, “He who welcomes his fellow-man is considered as though he had welcomed the Shekinah.”[2] The “Shekinah” indicates the divine presence. The first point in his argument is that the “Righteous One” played an important role in the development and evolution of the idea of the Messiah. What follows then are two questions, “What righteous one?” “What prophet?” Are these examples of an everyman holy man, or are they intended by Jesus to indicate something more particular. Albright is of the opinion that Jesus references himself in these words. Therefore we welcome and receive him and then receive his reward in each case. The real reward, not only to us but also to our fellow human (love your neighbor as you love yourself) is the gift of water to anyone that results in our recognition of Jesus (to the least of these my brothers…as unto me). This is a passage that recognizes our relationship to Jesus, and his relationship with us.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What does it mean to call Jesus a prophet?
  2. How is Jesus the Righteous One?
  3. What is the reward that you are given?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday. 

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Alter, R. (2009) The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, W. W. Norton & Company, Kindle Edition, Location 7056.
[2]Mekilta, Tractate Amalek, 3.

08 June 2017

The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, 25 June 2017

Track One:
Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

Track Two:
Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69:8-11, (12-17), 18-20

Romans 6:1b-11
St. Matthew 10:24-39

Background: Disciple

Although this word is usually heard in a Christian context, there are examples from the Hebrew Scriptures as well. In Hebrew the term is translated as “scholar” or “pupil”.  A good example is in Isaiah 8:16, where the prophet realizing that his word is not being well received entrusts it to his disciples so that they might reveal it at a future time. In the New Testament, the Greek vocable mathetes is a form derived from the verb “to learn.”

Track One:

First Reading: Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

This is a deep study of human nature. Sarah and Hagar are in a rivalry not all that unusual in the ancient near east. The question is, “Who shall be the heir?” Given that background, Sarah’s comments upon seeing Ishmael playing with her son, Isaac, are deeper in their import, rather than being a casual comment upon the observation of two boys playing. The verb, depending on its conjugation, can mean anything from “mocking” or “joking” to mere “play,” or to a more troublesome meaning, “sexual activity.” That Ishmael might pretend to be the heir would be truly troubling to Sarah. Thus her demand that Hagar be sent away.

Now the focus of the story turns to Ishmael, and to a certain extent his mother as well. The issue of inheritance has been taken care of and God has promised to make of Ishmael a great nation as well. We need to be aware at this point of the meaning of Ishmael’s name – “God will hear.” That will become a very important meaning as the story continues. Here a model of prayer is formed, a model that will be upon the lips of Hannah the mother of Samuel, and other women as well. Here, however, the son is already present. The danger that is telegraphed to God is his risk in the wilderness. God opens her eyes, and she then can see what must be done for her son in the wilderness.

Breaking open Genesis:
1.          What do you think of Sarah’s actions?
2.          In what ways is Hagar admirable?
3.         What’s your impression of Ishmael?

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 Inclina, Domine

     Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, *
for I am poor and in misery.
2      Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; *
save your servant who puts his trust in you.
3      Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; *
I call upon you all the day long.
4      Gladden the soul of your servant, *
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5      For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, *
and great is your love toward all who call upon you.
6      Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer, *
and attend to the voice of my supplications.
7      In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, *
for you will answer me.
8      Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, *
nor anything like your works.
9      All nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord, *
and glorify your Name.
10    For you are great;
you do wondrous things; *
and you alone are God.
16    Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
give your strength to your servant;
and save the child of your handmaid.
17    Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

The match of this psalm with the first reading is stunning. Especially noted is the 16th verse, “and save the child of your handmaid.” The anthropomorphic image of God inclining to hear the prayer of the psalmist is quite moving. The translation of our version might cause us to miss the play between bending over, and lifting up. In verse 4 we have a tepid reading, “for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” The word translated as "soul" could be better rendered as “my very being and existence.” Here we hear the troubled necessity of the psalmist’s (and Hagar’s) prayer.

Breaking open Psalm 86
  1. How does God insinuate Godself into your world?
  2. What are the troubles that you lay upon God?
  3. How have you helped others who are troubled?


Track Two:

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-13

Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, "Violence and destruction!"
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, "I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,"
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
For I hear many whispering:
"Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!"
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
"Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him."
But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed. 
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hands of evildoers.

Here we see the troublesome world of the prophet, fated to speak God’s truth to an unwilling world. This reading is filled with a great deal of sorrow and fear. It is evident in he comment, “I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” But he has not been holding it in. In verses 3-6 we understand how difficult his speech has been.

This is not the speech of the fearful, but one that recognizes the truth that God wishes to be known. It is also speech that makes for enemies and hostility. But it is not only in the others that Jeremiah recognizes fear and difficulty, but in his relationship with God as well. “Oh, Lord, you have enticed me.” This is the voice of one who is feeling abused and used. The power that Jeremiah sees and experiences in a deeply personal way, he wants used against those who are not following God’s will. “Let me see your retribution upon them.” This is not ambiguous speech. Jeremiah’s hope is expressed in the salvation he wishes to see for the needy.

Breaking open the Jeremiah:
1.         Why has Jeremiah begotten so many enemies?
2.         How do you deal with people who disrespect your Christianity?
3.        Why does Jeremiah complain to God?

Psalm 69: 8-11, (12-17), 18-20 Salvum me fac

     Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, *
and shame has covered my face.
9      I have become a stranger to my own kindred, *
an alien to my mother's children.
10    Zeal for your house has eaten me up; *
the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.
11    I humbled myself with fasting, *
but that was turned to my reproach.
[12   I put on sack-cloth also, *
and became a byword among them.
13    Those who sit at the gate murmur against me, *
and the drunkards make songs about me.
14    But as for me, this is my prayer to you, *
at the time you have set, O Lord:
15    "In your great mercy, O God, *
answer me with your unfailing help.
16    Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; *
let me be rescued from those who hate me
and out of the deep waters.
17    Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,
neither let the deep swallow me up; *
do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.]
18    Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; *
in your great compassion, turn to me.'
19    "Hide not your face from your servant; *
be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.
20    Draw near to me and redeem me; *
because of my enemies deliver me.

Once again the psalm and the first reading are well met. The prayer of the psalm, a supplication, is from one who is treading the dreadful waters of death. In verse 2 (not included in our text) we hear the cry, “Rescue me, God.” And what is all the trouble about? Verse 8 clues us in to what the psalmist is feeling. His attempts to honor God and what God has asked are seen by others as foolishness. The optional verses play on this theme, and accentuate the psychological risks in honoring God and God’s commands.

Breaking open the Psalm 69:
1.     From what has God rescued you?
2.     From what do you now need rescue?
3.    What do you do when you’re rescued?

Second Reading: Romans 6:1b-11

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

“Of what shall we boast?” the author asks. In this pericope the answer is sharp and clear. We should boast of and be found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He continues on then exploring how the Christian ought to live. Sin – for the sake of receiving grace? No. Paul wants his readers to understand that they have died to sin, just as Jesus died – and that they have been raised to a new kind of living, just as Jesus was raised. The battle with death and the grave has revealed some unexpected results. They have become the gateway to life – a life in Christ.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. What makes you unusual?
  2. What have you died to in the world?
  3. How have you been made alive?

The Gospel: St. Matthew 10:24-39

Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

The reading for today is spread across three different pericopes, “The Cost of Discipleship – Mission” (10:16-25), “- Fear” (10:26-31), and “- Acknowledgement of the Messiah” (10:32 – 11:1). In each of these instances, we are given the privilege of listening in on Jesus’ instruction to those closest to him. Some see in these instructions a focus on the end of time, but there is a more immediate understanding of this instruction. Jesus describes mission in its immediate context (to the people of Israel) and in its probable results (the rejection by both Israel, and others). That warning is accentuated in verses 26-31, which puts any possible fear within the understanding of God’s protection, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Finally, Jesus paints his expectations in sharp contrasts, “I have come neither to impose peace, nor yet to make war. I have come to divide.” The divisions noted by Jesus, (man against his father, etc.) seem more difficult than what is actually intended. The sufferings of division described by Jesus are a sign of the Messianic Era. Rabbinic writers saw such suffering as a harbinger of the time of the Messiah. In short the disciples are pushed to make a choice, and to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What is the mission that Jesus gives to the disciples?
  2. What is the fear that you share with them?
  3. How is Jesus the Messiah?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday. 

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller