Proper 7

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Pentecost 5
June 23, 2002

Prayer of the Day
O God our defender, storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jeremiah 20:7-13
{7} "O 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. {8} 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. {9} 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. {10} 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." {11} 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. {12} O 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. {13} Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers."

     This reading is a part of the so-called "Confessions of Jeremiah," 11:18-12:6; 15:10f., 15-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-13, 14-18), where Jeremiah speaks in the first person, in his own name, not for God.
7. O Lord, you have enticed have overpowered me: See also Jeremiah 15:18; Ezekiel 14:9 (not about Jeremiah). In 1 Kings 22:20-22 Yahweh proposes "enticing" Ahab to attack the Arameans at Ramoth-Gilead, and a spirit agrees to become a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets. The verb "entice" is used in Exodus 22:16 concerning the seduction of a virgin. The verb "overpowered" is used of the rape of Tamar by Ammon (2 Samuel 13:14). "Here Jeremiah addresses his God in almost blasphemous language...while at the same time confessing that in spite of his desire to stop speaking in the name of Yahweh, he had found himself unable to do so." [1] Yahweh had not misled him with a false message, but with a message, though true, unpopular and unacceptable by the authorities and the general population.
I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me: This must be the fate of any who by choice or compulsion speak the words of God. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-29 Paul describes his message as foolishness. In Isaiah 29:14, the certainty of the prophet is based on Yahweh’s act: "The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden." We must be somewhat careful here, for the message that is foolishness is different. For Jeremiah it was a warning of violence and destruction, while for us it is a message of the foolish love of God in Christ.
10. Terror is all around!: This is the name Yahweh will call Pashhur, the son of Immer, the chief officer of the Temple, who had arrested Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:3). Here is a sort of nick-name for Jeremiah reflecting his unrelenting negative message.
All my close friends: Jesus was betrayed by his "friend" (Matthew 26:47-50). But how were they to know? What Jeremiah was saying and doing seemed wrong to them (as did what Jesus was doing).
we can prevail against him and take our revenge: This is what Jeremiah faces because he has faithfully spoken the word of the Lord.
11. the Lord is with me like a dread warrior: Yahweh has not deserted Jeremiah and is his protector. The image of Yahweh as a warrior is also used in Psalm 78:65, where he puts his adversaries to everlasting disgrace, as here he subjects them to eternal dishonor.
12. my persecutors will stumble…not prevail…greatly shamed…eternal dishonor…let me see your retribution upon them: Jeremiah looks forward to the dishonor of his enemies. In fact, he prays for Yahweh’s retribution on them. While this is a natural response to contempt and derision, Christians are urged to follow Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21-23, the second lesson for the Fourth Sunday of Easter this year).
13: "Form critically it is a hymnic song of thanksgiving; such a hymnic song may close a lament. This is notably the case with Psalm 22: vv. 2-22 in that psalm form the lament proper, and vv 23-32 a hymn." [2]

Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15] 16-18
{7} "It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. {8} I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother's children. {9} It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. {10} When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so. [{11} When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. {12} I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. {13} But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help {14} rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. {15} Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.] {16} Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. {17} Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress--make haste to answer me. {18} Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies."

     The setting of the Psalm is described in verse 4: "…many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely. What I did not steal must I now restore?" The Psalm belongs to the category of "prayer songs."
7. It is for your sake: The singer has been falsely accused. It is not for what (s)he has done that the singer is accused. Instead (s)he suffers reproach and shame because his/her zeal for Yahweh’s house (also verse 9).
8. I have become a stranger…an alien: (S)he has lost the support of his/her family. When one looses his/her place in the family, one’s situation is truly desperate.
9. It is zeal for your house that has consumed me: In John 2:17 the disciples remember this verse when Jesus cleanses the Temple.
[11-15: The singer is ridiculed for his/her piety and prays for God to rescue him/her from his/her enemies.]
16-18: The singer continues to pray that Yahweh will redeem him/her from his/her foes. Like Jeremiah in the first lesson the psalmist relies on Yahweh to answer his/her prayers for protection and redemption.

Romans 6:1b-11
{1b}Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? {2} By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? {3} Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? {4} 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. {5} 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. {6} 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. {7} For whoever has died is freed from sin. {8} But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. {9} We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. {10} The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. {11} So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

1. Should we continue in sin: We have to look back to 5:20-21 for the basis for such a question: "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." The full question would go something like this: If grace increases when sin increases why should we worry about sin? Grace will always be greater, so let’s continue in sin in order that grace may abound."
2. How can we who have died to sin go on living in it?: To die to sin means that sin is no longer a live option for action. One will reject and avoid the opportunities to sin, resist the temptation to sin, repent the inevitable sin, and seek forgiveness from God.
3. all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death: "Paul’s phrase is bold; he wants to bring out that the Christian is not merely identified with the ‘dying Christ,’ who has won victory over sin, but is introduced into the very act by which that victory is won..... It is not just that baptized Christians are symbolically ‘with Christ’; Paul means that they actually experience a union with him." [3]
4. we have buried with him by baptism into his death: Our baptism is not an external sign but a total reality. By baptism we are united with Christ in his death, and indeed buried with him so we might rise to a new life like that of the risen Christ (verse 4).
we too might walk in newness of life: "Walk" is a metaphor for leading "a new conscious life that can know no sin." [4]
5-8, 9-10: "Verses 5-8 affirm of the baptized Christian what Paul will say of Christ himself in vv 9-10. The latter verses supply the Christological basis for the affirmations about Christian life." [5]
11. So you must consider yourselves dead to sin....: This is what Paul has to say about the idea of continuing in sin so grace might abound. "By no means! (verse 2)" In Greek me genoito is a negative oath¸ "God forbid!" No, you are dead to sin! Instead consider yourselves alive to God in Christ!

Matthew 10:24-39
{24} ""A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; {25} 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! {26} "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. {27} What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. {28} 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. {29} Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. {30} And even the hairs of your head are all counted. {31} So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. {32} "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; {33} but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. {34} "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. {35} 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; {36} and one's foes will be members of one's own household. {37} 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; {38} and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. {39} Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

24. A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master: The saying means that disciples and slaves should not put on airs. It is developed along the line that the disciple or slave may expect the same honor (or dishonor) as the teacher or master. Peter uses the same idea to encourage his readers to asceticism and the rejection of Gentile appetites (1 Peter 4:1-2).
25. Beelzebul "The best guess is that BeelzhbooÚl [beelseboul] is an ancient name for the Canaanite god Baal, the Lord of the heavens…." [6] See Matthew 9:34 (also 12:24) for the authors of this claim. "The variant reading Beelzebub (Syriac, translators and Jerome) reflects a long-standing tradition of equating Beelzebul with the Philistine deity of the city of Ekron mentioned in 2 Kgs 1:2, 3, 6, 1. Baalzebub (Heb ba‘al zebub) seems to mean ‘lord of flies’...." [7]
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his house hold: Reasoning from lesser to greater; if this then how much more that. Disciples can expect to be honored (or dishonored) as their teacher is.
26. have no fear of them: If the disciples imitate Jesus, they will face the opposition he faced, but also they will enjoy the protection he enjoyed (even if it seemed for a time that he had been abandoned).
nothing is covered…nothing secret: The truth will prevail, the truth of the Gospel.
27: The disciples are to proclaim the Gospel in the confidence that their proclamation will be vindicated.
28. Do not fear those who kill the body…: The disciples are encouraged to be steadfast in the face of martyrdom.
29. two sparrows sold for a penny: Luke 12:6, five sparrows sold for two pennies. Sparrows were part of the diet of the poor, so they are not of great importance in the eternal scheme of things.
not one of them will fall to the ground…: Yet however insignificant they are God keeps track of them. And again, from lesser to greater, how much more will he protect the disciples who proclaim the truth.
32-33: "This is the language of patronage. In return for the benefits they provide, patrons and brokers expect both loyalty and public acknowledgement. Even if Jesus the broker may be spoken against, God the ultimate Patron may not." [8]
34-36: "…persons engaging in inappropriate social relations risked being cut off from the networks on which their positions depended. In traditional societies this was taken with deadly seriousness. Alienation from family or clan could literally be a matter of life and death, especially for the elite, who would risk everything by the wrong kind of association with the–wrong kind of people. Since the inclusive Christian communities demanded just this kind of association across kinship status lines, the situation depicted here is realistic indeed. The alienation would even spread beyond the family of origin (consanguinity, "blood" relatives) to the larger kinship network formed by marriage, the family of orientation (affines, in-laws)." [9] Verse 35 is based on Micah 7:6.
37-38: Loyalty to Jesus is more important than the most important social group in the life of first century Mediterranean people, their families. One must be ready even to suffer a dishonorable death.
39. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it: Cf. Mark 8:35. Also Matthew 16:25; Luke 17:33. The saying may imply self-denial and self-sacrifice rather than death, but martyrdom is not excluded. "The disciple must be ready to follow Jesus even to death. He or she must be willing to put one’s life on the line for the sake of the kingdom…. It has little to do with the patient endurance of the normal difficulties of life." [10] "Unbounded faith in God courageously looks beyond this world and the boundary of death to the eschatological future which God will give to his own." [11]

     The first lesson and the Gospel all reflect on the suffering of the believer, not for sin but for being faithful to the Lord. Jeremiah experienced the dangers posed by his friends, and even his own family because he spoke the words given him by Yahweh.
     The Psalm is chosen as a response to the situation of Jeremiah in the first lesson, and to the situation of all who are shamed because they serve the Lord. Our confident prayer is that God will guide us and protect us as we seek to know and do his will in a world full of conflicting strategies and goals.
         The second lesson tells us that we are dead! We have died with Christ; died to the law, died to sin, died to self, died to the world. We have already passed through our resurrection to walk in newness of life. Our life in the world is both a foreshadowing and a reflection of our resurrection life, as well as our life in Christ now in the world. 
     We are united with Christ in death. Not only are we united in his death, we also are in danger of death (or lesser threats) when we follow Christ in how we think and act and speak. Nevertheless, we need not be afraid of those who oppose us, for we are united with Christ in his resurrection. The quality of faith required to accept this is not insignificant, but in the end those who oppose Christ will be dishonored, and those who have remained faithful are redeemed and blessed with eternal life.

Hymns [12]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

192 E--Baptized into Your
504 D--O God, My Faithful
189 II--We Know That
195 II--This Is the
II--693v/759s, 695v, 698v 498
G--All Who Would
455 G--"Come, Follow Me,"
398, 810s/785v, 194

Prayers of the People [13]
P or A: Pray brothers and sisters that the needs of our neighbors in all the world as well as our own needs will be provided for, saying, "we put our trust in your mercy," and responding, "because of your saving help."
A: We have been freed from sin and enslaved to God. May our daily work as well as our worship and praise show others to whom we belong. We dare to serve others because our God is strong. We put our trust in your mercy, because of your saving help.
A: When we fail to be all you have created us to be, when we are hard-hearted, lead us to repentance and amendment of life. We put our trust in your mercy, because of your saving help.
A: That those who govern us and all nations may receive your help to eliminate injustice and evil. We place those who are chosen to lead in your hands. We put our trust in your mercy, because of your saving help.
A: With all whose lives bear witness to Christ; with all who minister in the church, with those who live with the poor and defenseless, with refugees and the oppressed, with the sick, particularly those who have asked for our prayers _______. We put our trust in your mercy, because of your saving help.
P: Open our eyes and arms in welcome whenever you come to us Lord, in whoever you come to us. Answer our prayers as you judge best for us and for all. Amen.

Or [14]

Presider or deacon
In the confidence that God sees all of us and counts us all of great value, let us offer prayers for every person in every place.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering and for the people of God in every place.
For all nations, peoples, tribes, clans, and families.
For all that is good and bountiful for the world, and for mercy, justice, and peace.
For all those in danger and need: the sick and the suffering, the hungry and the oppressed, travelers and prisoners, the dying and the dead.
For ourselves, our families, and those we love.
Lifting our voices with all creation, with the blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ. To you, O Lord.
Our Father in heaven, who acknowledges each of God’s creatures, receive the prayers we offer this day for all in every danger and every need, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] John Bright, Jeremiah: Introduction, Translation, and Notes: Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.,   1965, p. 134.
[2] William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 1-25. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986, p. 549.
[3] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1992, p. 433.
[4] Ibid., p. 435
[5] Ibid., p. 435.
[6] W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Volume II, Commentary on Matthew VIII-XVIII. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991, p. 195.
[7] Theodore J. Lewis, “Beelzebul,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary ed. by David Noel Freedman, et al). New York: Doubleday, 1922, vol. 1, p. 639.
[8] Bruce Malina & Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 91.
[9] Ibid., p. 92.
[10] Raymond F. Collins,   “Early Summer Reading: Reflections on the Gospel Lections for Propers 6-11,” Quarterly Review 19(1999), p.104.
[11] Davies & Allison, Ibid., p. 224.