The following material was written by the Rev. John Shearman (email@example.com) of the United Church of Canada. John has structured his offerings so that the first portion can be used as a bulletin insert, while the second portion provides a more in depth 'introduction to the scripture'.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SCRIPTURE
Ordinary 11 - Proper 6 - Year C
1 KINGS 21:1- 21a This simply told tale echoes across the centuries
as brilliant example of how the Israelites put their message about God's
justice so even a child could understand. The depressed bumbling of Ahab
make great irony and the deceit of Jezebel clearly describes how the
powerful victimize the powerless. The dramatic words of Elijah reveal how
God feels about such selfish unfairness.
PSALM 5:1-8 This lyrical lament may well have been recited by
temple singers to the music of flutes. It tells worshippers making their
way into the temple that God hears their cries for help because God has
only steadfast love for all who follow God's righteous ways.
GALATIANS 2:15- 21 Paul cites the basic difference between Jews and
Gentiles as resting on the law given to Moses when he led the Jews out of
slavery in Egypt. Then Paul strikes down that distinction because Jesus
Christ has established an entirely new relationship with God for Jews and
Gentiles alike. It rests on faith in Jesus Christ who was crucified and
raised from the dead to live in anyone who believes.
LUKE 7:36- 8:3 Luke tells several things about Jesus' ministry in
Galilee. He had friends among the Pharisees and one invited him to dine.
He rebuked his host for neglecting a customary welcome. Jesus also had
great compassion for this disreputable women, always thought of as a
prostitute. The parable Jesus told to drive home his message must have cut
the Pharisee to the quick. The point of the whole incident is that
forgiveness depends on our faith in God's compassionate love, not on how
righteous we may strive to be.
NOTE: There are two alternative lessons from the OT and
Psalms. The summaries and analysis of these passages
follow those of the regular RCL lessons.
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10,13-15 This conclusion of the story about David's
lustful adultery with Bathsheba forcefully conveys the moral lessons that
God's justice is meeted out equally to kings and commoners. The prophet
Nathan confronts David about his deceitful arranging for Uriah's death so
that he might marry Bathsheba. Despite David's confession of sin, Nathan
declares God's judgment against the king: Bathsheba's child will die.
Psalm 32 This prayer of confession has nothing to do with
King David's confession. It contains a hopeful expression of God's
forgiveness for the penitent rooted in the steadfast love of God, in which
we can truly rejoice.
1 KINGS 21:1- 21a This simply told tale echoes across the centuries as
brilliant example of how the Israelites put their message about God's
justice so even a child could understand. Yet its fine points speak to our
age as crisply as it formed one of what is known as "the Elijah cycle" of
stories about one of Israel's greatest prophets and his conflict with King
Ahab and his Tyrian queen, Jezebel. Two other cycles of stories closely
related to this one featured the prophet Elisha and the reign of the weak
King Ahab. Scholarly debates have not completely settled how the three
have been melded into the whole of the Book of Kings. Several incidental
narratives are scattered in different places in I and II Kings.
It is thought that these three sets of stories originated in the Northern
Kingdom in late 9th century BCE. They existed separately and circulated
centuries before being included in the Book of Kings by an editor of the
Deuteronomic school. Written after Israel's return from the exile in
Babylon in the late 6th or early 5th century BCE, the main concern of the
Deuteronomic editors of the Book of Kings was the struggle to maintain the
worship of Israel centralized in the temple Jerusalem against the
incursions of alien gods. They believed that it was Israel's infidelity to
the worship of Yahweh and the Torah which brought the great disaster of the
Babylonian exile upon them.
In this particularly dramatic incident, the depressed bumbling of Ahab make
great irony and the deceit of Jezebel clearly describes how the powerful
can victimize the powerless. The dramatic words of Elijah reveal how God
feels about such selfish unfairness.
Just reading the story to its conclusion at vs. 29 would make a great
sermon in itself. If one chose to elaborate and draw parallels to present
times, one would find ample illustration in the economic and political
injustices rampant in the world as we see it described in our news media.
PSALM 5:1-8 This lyrical lament may well have been recited by the temple
singers to the music of flutes. It may have been used as a prayer during
the morning sacrifice (vs.2). While it is written as if sung as a solo, it
tells worshipers making their way into the temple that God hears their
cries for help because God has only steadfast love for those who follow
God's righteous ways.
We can only imagine the specific circumstances in which the psalmist had
composed this prayer. It would appear that he was beset by a menacing
group of fellows Israelites. He had suffered from their boastful arrogance
and slanderous lies vividly described in vss. 6 & 9. The psalmist found
relief from this unbearable annoyance in the assurance of Yahweh's
steadfast love communicated through worship (vs.7). This results in his
commitment to Yahweh's righteousness, i.e. the Torah.
Vs.7 contains what may be an oblique reference to the Babylonian exile.
The psalmist may not have been in the temple precincts at all, but far
away in Babylon and turning toward the temple as he uttered his morning
prayers (cf. Daniel 6:10). It is logical to assume, therefore, that the
psalm comes from the post-exilic period.
The varying readings of vs.3b suggest that this is so. The KJV has added
the words "my prayer" to the Hebrew text, "I direct *my prayer* to thee,
and will look up," to convey a clearer sense of its assumed meaning. The
RSV gives an alternate reading: "I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and
watch." The NEB tends to agree: "I set out my morning sacrifice and watch
for thee, O Lord." The NRSV, however, stays closer to the Hebrew text
conveyed by the KJV: "in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch."
The rather obscure Hebrew verb *'awrak* (= prepare) does have several
meanings, but chiefly "to arrange or put in order." One may choose which
one to prefer.
GALATIANS 2:15-21 Paul's primary concern in his Letter to the Galatians
was to prevent them from falling away from the simple freedom of their new
faith under attack from other Jewish Christians. These "Judaizers" had
persuaded them that to be Christians they must also follow the strict
Jewish laws. In this passage Paul cited the basic difference between Jews
and Gentiles. It rested on the law of the covenant given to Moses when he
led them out of slavery in Egypt. In Paul's estimation, his fellow Jews
were wrong in assuming that they put themselves in good standing with God
("justified" - vs.16) by keeping the laws designed to create a ritual
purity worthy of admission to God's covenant. Dietary restrictions and
circumcision were the particular aspects of the covenant law against which
Paul was arguing. Gentiles could not easily accept such rigorous
purification as practical expressions of a relationship with God.
Realizing this, and pleading freedom from the ritual restraints of the
Jewish tradition, Paul worried that his Galatian friends would desert the
Christian community altogether. As we know, in times of crisis it does not
take much to create doubt and disaffection in the minds and hearts of
Then, in a series of rhetorical questions(vss.16b-17), Paul strikes down
the distinction he had drawn between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus Christ has
established an entirely new relationship with God for Jews and Gentiles
alike. It rests on faith in Jesus Christ who was crucified and raised from
the dead to live in anyone who believes. But the English translation of
what Paul was saying is by no means easy to grasp.
He used his own experience as the main illustration of his argument. Does
he not claim to have invalidated not just certain parts of the Judaic law,
but the legalist tradition as a whole? Trying to understand Paul's impact
on both Judaism and Christianity, many scholars have followed this train of
thought in the past century and a half. It was not so much Jesus, but Paul
who is regarded as the architect of the Christian tradition distinct from
its earlier roots in Judaism. We may firmly counter such a view by showing
that, according to this passage, Paul himself believed only that his faith
depended entirely on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
But what did he mean in vs.19 that "through the law (he) died to the law?
There may well be some specific act of transgression the memory of which
still bothered Paul's conscience. We get much the same impression if we
compare this passage to Romans 7:7-12 where he identifies a sin but does
not specifically state what that sin may have been. It could have been
something he coveted, but had to relinquish because it was unattainable or
because his changed relationship with Christ prevented its achievement.
There is an ancient legend that part of the price Paul paid when he became
a Christian was to give up hope of marriage to the daughter of Caiaphas,
the high priest. Was this an indirect reference to such an experience? It
was unusual for a young rabbi not to marry and such a marriage would have
been immensely advantageous to any ambitious young man. How he would have
coveted it. Dare we speculate that this could have been the reason why the
"Judaizers" followed him wherever he went and tried to undo all he had done
in the predominately Gentile cities of Galatia? As a servant of the high
priest he had deserted his commission and had gone over to the enemy. How
could that ever be forgiven by the priestly authorities whom he had
Paul had found a new hope, nonetheless. It was in Christ. Whatever his
sacrifice had been, he saw it as being personally crucified, yet he was
alive as never before, not because of anything he had done, but because
Christ had forgiven him and had given him a much greater commission. He
now could live for Christ assured that the risen Christ was with him
always, indeed the Spirit of Christ was alive in him transforming him day
by day into a new creation. That was the faith which sustained him. He
had an entirely new relationship with God which rested on faith alone. If
this were not so, claimed his clinching point, then Christ died for
LUKE 7:36-8:3 In this passage Luke tells several important things about
Jesus' ministry in Galilee. One can easily assume that Jesus' most ardent
opposition came from those who belonged to the party of the Pharisees. On
the other hand, he also had many good friends among this ultra-religious
party and this one invited him to dine.
In his *Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography*, Bruce Chilton bases much of
his analysis of Jesus' ministry on the frequency of his dining out with
just about anyone who would invite him. Certainly, some of those who
opposed him accused him of being a glutton and an alcoholic. Luke reported
that charge immediately before this passage. Chilton regards Jesus'
penchant for being a guest at other people's homes as being particularly
significant in marking out his differences with the priestly authorities as
well as the Pharisees. When sacrifices were offered in the temple, part of
the offering was burned on the altar, but most of it was divided between
the priests and the worshiper for their own consumption. Jesus may have
regarded the temple sacrifices as dining in the presence of God. It
culminated, in Chilton's view, in the intimate fellowship meals of which
the Last Supper was only one instance.
According to this pericope, Jesus was not afraid to rebuke his host for
neglecting the customary welcome he ought to have received. The normal
customs of the time required that on the arrival of his guests, the host
would provide water for them the freshen up after walking through dirty and
dusty streets. Ritual washing was also required of everyone who ate at home
or as invited guests at a feast. In all probability, this stringent
practice was frequently ignored, especially far from Jerusalem in Galilee.
The story sets up an interesting contrast between Jesus rebuke of his host
and his compassion for this women. Apparently she just came in off the
street uninvited, knowing that Jesus was there. Perhaps she had followed
him. She has always been thought of as a prostitute, but she could well
have had other well-known sins which characterized her demeanor. Her
presence quite naturally upset the host who remonstrated with Jesus for
allowing such a person to touch him thus making him impure according to the
strict interpretation of the laws governing such behavior.
The parable Jesus told to drive home his message must have cut the Pharisee
to the quick. Comparison with Paul's words to the Galatians reveals that
both are very clearly the good news Jesus came to reveal and make effective
in reconciling us with God and with one another. The point of both
passages is that forgiveness depends on our faith in God's compassionate
love, not on how righteous we may strive to be.
During one of Nelson Mandela's visits to Canada, one member of the
Parliament of Canada publicly condemned the South African leader as a
communist who had advocated violent revolution in South Africa before and
during his imprisonment. However true or false that may have been, the
gift Mandela has given to the world in his long struggle against apartheid
is that the worst of enemies can be reconciled through the forgiving love
of God working through ordinary people of every race and creed. That too
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10,13-15 This conclusion of the story about David's
lustful adultery with Bathsheba forcefully conveys the moral lesson that
God's justice is meeted out equally to kings and commoners, to rich and
Whether or not this was indeed an historical event from the later years of
David's reign can never be proven. However, the narrative bears the marks
of a much later time in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE when justice had
become an important element of the preaching of Israel's great prophets
Amos, Micah and Isaiah.
The prophet Nathan confronted David about his deceitful arranging for
Uriah's death so that he might marry Bathsheba. But the wily prophet
doesn't do it with a blunt charge of misbehaviour. He skillfully tells a
parable about a rich man who coveted his poor neighbour's lamb. The rich
man stole the poor man's lamb to provide a feast for a visitor. When David
challenged the prophet to identify the culprit of this injustice, Nathan
pointed his finger directly at the king and in Yahweh's name condemned the
king for what he had done to Uriah and Bathsheba.
Despite David's confession of sin, Nathan declares God's judgment against
the king: Bathsheba's child will die. More than that, David's household
would experience nothing but strife, a prophecy that subsequent events
Psalm 32 This prayer of confession has nothing to do with King David's
confession. Is one of series of penitential psalms frequently used in the
Lenten season. The others like it are Pss. 6, 38, 51, 102. 130 and 143.
It belongs to a class of wisdom psalms designed to instruct the faithful in
times of sickness and distress. Like all theology in the ancient Middle
East, it closely links sickness ands sin.
Although attributed to David in the superscription, it actually comes from
the late Persian or early Greek periods (4th century BCE) when wisdom
literature strove to maintain the true faith of Israelites in the moral law
of the ancient covenantal tradition.
Whatever its origins, the psalm contains a hopeful expression of God's
forgiveness for the penitent rooted in the steadfast love of God. It
describes quite effectively the process of penitience, the acceptance of
forgiveness, the resolution to guilt, and includes a didactic moral with a
touch of irony about our human resistance to true penitence. The psalm
ends with a shout of praise for God's compassionate grace in which we can
copyright - Comments by Rev. John Shearman and page by Richard J. Fairchild, 2006, 2004
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these resources.