Proper 25

October 26, 2003

Some congregations may observe the Festival of Reformation on the Sunday before November 1. The text study for Reformation Day is provided as a separate commentary.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jeremiah 31:7-9
{7} For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel." {8} See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. {9} With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

7. Jacob…the chief of the nationsthe remnant of Israel: Israel (Jacob—the northern kingdom) is addressed as both "the chief of the nations," and as "the remnant of Israel." The "chief of the nations" is similar to an ironic phrase in Amos 6:1. See Deuteronomy 7:7 for an assessment of the status of God people among the peoples of the earth. The "remnant of Israel" is also used in Isaiah 10:20, Jeremiah 6:9, and Ezekiel 11:13 as well as in 2 Chronicles 34:9 and Zephaniah 3:13. It specifies those who have returned to Yahweh.
the land of the north: Assyria, where the northern exiles were located. In 8-9: In words and images that resemble those of Isaiah Jeremiah tells of the rescue and restoration of the northern tribes.
I have become a father to Israel: "…it is appropriate that ‘father’ here is reminiscent of Deut 32:6b, in which Israel is addressed: ‘Is he not your father, your creator?’ Israel is called Yahweh’s ‘first-born’…in Exod 4:22, and Israel/Ephraim is called Yahweh’s ‘son’ in Hos 11:1-3."
Ephraim is my firstborn: Ephraim, another name for Israel. Ephraim was the second son of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob. There is no literal sense in which Ephraim could be called "my firstborn." [1]
     The point is that no matter how unlikely and even impossible it may seem, God is able to do whatever he decides. By his declaration he can change the realities of history and bring about consequences that have no possibility in human expectations.

Psalm 126
{1} When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. {2} Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." {3} The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. {4} Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb. {5} May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. {6} Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

1. the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion: A reference to the restoration of the exiles, with the recollection of all the times that Yahweh had intervened on behalf of the people of Israel.
we were like those in a dream: There was no reason for hope, except in the mercy of Yahweh. It was like a dream, and indeed it was, a dream, but a dream of reality beyond reality, a dream grounded in the actions of Yahweh.
2. The Lord has done great things for them: The nations recognize that Israel’s good fortune is not what they expected as the consequences of historical processes, but rather is the result of Yahweh’s intervention on her behalf.

Hebrews 7:23-28
{23} Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; {24} but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. {25} Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. {26} For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. {27} Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. {28} For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

24. he holds his priesthood permanently: The antecedent of the pronoun is "Jesus." Jesus was a high priest of "the order of Melchizedek," an eternal, permanent priesthood shared by the Judahite king (Psalm 110:4).
25. he always lives to make intercession for them: "Hebrews…offers assurance, by referring to the eternal, transcendent quality of Christ’s life, that the intercessory role traditionally ascribed to him is indeed effective." [2] See also Romans 8:34. The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us (Romans 8:27).
intercessor because of his human experience, but also because he is situated ‘at the right hand’ and is thus a part of God’s own sphere…. While first-century notions of heavenly intercession could encompass expiatory activity, as well as more general assistance, the earlier descriptions of Christ’s intercessory role in Hebrews indicate that the provision of such assistance in times of trial is also, if not primarily, in view." [3]
26. it was fitting: It is appropriate, not as a consequence of human worth, but fitting for God who is powerful to act mercifully on behalf of his people.
holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners,… exalted above the heavens: The high priest is described in moral terms that remind us that Jesus is sinless, and has no need, himself, of atonement, so he can offer himself as a perfect sacrifice for his people.
28. the word of the oath, which came later than the law: A reference to Hebrews 7:20-22, based on Psalm 110:4, which recalls the king’s priestly office in Jerusalem. The Sinai covenant, the covenant of law, was modified by the covenant with David, an everlasting covenant, which specifically asserted that the continuation of the covenant did not depend on obedience to the law (2 Samuel 7:8-16). Jesus fulfills that office in a new and unexpected way.

Mark 10:46-52
{46} They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. {47} When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" {48} Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" {49} Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." {50} So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. {51} Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." {52} Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

46. Jericho: Mark followed by Matthew set the story as Jesus was leaving Jericho; Luke sets it before they arrive in Jericho.
Bartimaeus: In Aramaic "Bartimaeus" means "son of Timaeus." The parallels in Matthew and Luke do not have the name, which suggests that it may be a later addition.
47. Son of David: The blind man capitalizes on Jesus’ Davidic descent and the expectation that a davidide will act benevolently.
have mercy on me
: He asks for a boon. Later, when he is asked specifically what he wants, he says, "let me see again."
51. My teacher: Rabbouni. The force of the address is the respect due one of higher rank. Matthew and Luke have kurios, "lord."
52. Go; your faith has made you well: Matthew has two blind men in his account of the incident and cures their blindness with a touch, while Luke includes a word of healing.
he regained his sight and followed him on the way: Having been healed, Bartimaeus reciprocates by following Jesus, as a disciple.
     "The juxtaposition of this story with the preceding ones about the disciples’ grasping for precedence and honor over each other is a clear attempt on the part of Mark to draw an association between physical and [spiritual] conditions." [4]

Reflection
     In Jesus the hopes and expectations of God’s declarations and promises take on new and unexpected content. God restored the fortunes of the exiles, but that restoration turned out to be only a pointer to the greater fulfillment of David’s ministry at the altar to the incomprehensibly greater ministry of Jesus, son of David, and David’s Lord. The blind beggar was able to see again, which points to the spiritual healing that enables us to "see" the reality that is hidden to physical eyes.
     We are in the realm of mystery and power beyond our comprehension here. Our prayer, that of blind beggars, "let me see again" is answered by wonders beyond our expectation. We pray for the gifts of "faith, hope, and charity," so we may love what Jesus commands us to do, and receive the fulfillment of his promises.

Hymns [5]
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

364 --E--Son of God,
538 --D--Oh, Praise the
764s --P--Taste and See
706v --P--Eat this Bread

352 --II--I Know that
426 --G--O Son of God,
431 --G--Your Hand, O
435, 815s, 823s/738v, 425

Prayers of the People [6]
     We praise you, O God, for the gift of Jesus, your Son and our great high priest forever. Open our eyes that we might know him here and in every day of our lives. Restore to us the great gift of faith and enable us to follow him. God who makes whole hear our prayer.
     Bless all who are involved in the care and nurture of our pastors: our bishops, committees of theological education and leadership, seminary staff and faculty, the board responsible for pensions and benefits, and all congregations. God who makes whole hear our prayer.
     You call the Church into being through the uncertainty of change. We thank and praise you for the readiness for change at the time of Martin Luther. We thank you for his ministry of insight. We thank you also for the signs of mutual understanding evident among the saints today. We celebrate with sisters and brothers past and present the signs of growing convergence. God who makes whole hear our prayer.

Or [7]

Presider or deacon
Let us cry out to God through our great high priest, Jesus the Son of David.
Deacon or other leader
For N our bishop and N our presbyter, for this holy gathering, and for the people of God in every place.
For mercy, justice, and peace among all peoples. 
For good weather, abundant fruits of the earth, and peaceful times. 
For our city and those who live in it, and for our families, companions, and all those we love. 
For all those in danger and need: the sick and the suffering, the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor.
For those who rest in Christ and for all the dead. 
For our deliverance from all affliction, strife, and need. 
Lifting our voices with all creation, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ.
To you, O Lord.
Presider
God of compassion, hear the prayers we offer this day, give sight to your faithful people, and enable us to follow your Son, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Notes
[1] William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 26-52. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989, p. 185.
[2] Ibid., p. 211.
[3] Ibid., p. 211-212.
[4] Bruce Malina & Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 247. The word “social’ has been replaced by the word “spiritual” which is used in the same paragraph in the commentary for Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43.
[5] http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rclb9900.txt
[6] http://www.worship.on.ca/text/pray_b2.txt
[7] http://members.cox.net/oplater/prayer.htm