Proper 25

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Proper 25
Pentecost 23
October 27, 2002

     Lutherans frequently observe the last Sunday in October as Reformation Sunday. Studies of those texts will be found under Reformation Day.

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

     The original collect is from the Sacramentary attributed to Leo I (pope 460-461), a fragmentary collection of prayers.) [1]

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
{1} The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: {2} Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.... {15} You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. {16} You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. {17} You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. {18} You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

2. the congregation of Israel: The entire people of Israel, men, women, and children. "Its unique placement here underscores the importance of the prescriptions that follow: They are quintessentially the means by which Israel can become a holy nation." [2]
You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy: "As used in the Bible, the basic meaning [of ‘holy’] is ‘separated from the profane realm’ and hence from sin; the intrinsic relation between holiness, separation, and cleanness can be seen in Leviticus 20:24-26." [3] The people of Israel are to behave differently from other, "profane," people. They are to imitate God. See Matthew 5:48: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect," and Luke 6:36: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." "The full implication is drawn by the R. Eleazar b. Azariah: ‘No one should say, I do not want to wear a garment of mixed seed, I do not want to eat pig flesh, I do not want to engage in illicit sex. I indeed want (them), but what I can I do? My father in heaven imposed these (prohibitions) upon me: ‘I have set you apart from other peoples to be min.’ Thus ones separates himself from sin and accepts the yoke of heaven’ (Sipra Qedoshim 11:22)." [4]
[3-10: Verses 3 & 4 reflect the dialog. Verses 5-8 have to do with sacrifice. Verses 9-11 require provision for the poor and the alien.
[11-14: These verses forbid lying and false swearing by Yahweh’s name, exploitation of the hireling, insensitivity toward the deaf and the blind. It is not clear why they were omitted, since the concerns continue to be relevant.]
15-16: The people of Israel are not to be partial in judgment, nor slander their fellows, nor profit dishonestly at their expense.
: These two verses go together. Hatred, vengeance, and grudges are forbidden, reproof is encouraged.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord: The holiness Yahweh demands is self-denying. It seeks the well being of all and forbids benefit at the expense of the weak or helpless. Yahweh’s people are to act as Yahweh acts, to be holy as Yahweh is holy. This is summed up in the admonition, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And it is grounded in the holiness of Yahweh, which the people of Israel are to imitate. Israel’s behavior is a repudiation of the natural behavior of people.

Psalm 1
{1} Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; {2} but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. {3} They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. {4} The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. {5} Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; {6} for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

      Psalm 1 is appointed for use four times in the three years of the lectionary, twice in year C and once each in years A and B. It is a wisdom meditation on the contrasting paths of the wicked and the righteous. As a response to the first lesson, it exemplifies the holiness of Israel.

1. Happy are those…: The Revised Standard Version has "Blessed is the man…" (the noun is singular). The form is the beatitude, like those in Matthew 5:3 ff or Luke 6:20 ff.
wicked…sinners…scoffers: The periphrastic translation of New Revised Standard Version loses the sequence "walks…stands…sits" for the three representatives of the ungodly. "…the psalmist shows in detail and in phrases which are progressively intensified the various possible ways that lead to sin, and he does so by using concrete examples. The least sinful way is dealt with first, namely the way of ‘walking in the counsel of the wicked’, which means letting oneself be guided by the advice of evildoers. Then there is the ‘standing in the way of sinners’, which means conforming to the example of sinners. And finally, the worst sin is that of taking a seat in the meetings of the scoffers and actively participating in their mocking of the things which are sacred." [5]
2. their delight: The pronoun is singular as are the other pronouns in the Psalm. The one who delights in the law of the Lord has a secure and fruitful life (verse 3).
the law of the Lord: Torah "is ‘instruction’ in the sense of the ‘merciful revelation of the will of God’ (cf. G. von Rad OT Theol, 1:190ff.)." [6]
4-5. The wicked are…like chaff: The wicked are without substance or vigor; they will not survive the judgment.
6. the way of the righteous…of the wicked: It is God who determines which way will endure and which will disappear.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
{1} You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, {2} but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. {3} For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, {4} but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. {5} As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; {6} nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, {7} though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. {8} So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

2. we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi: Paul and Silas had been arrested and illegally beaten in Philippi, the first city to the east on the Egnatian Way from Thessalonica (Acts 16).
great opposition: Paul and Silas had taught in the synagogue for three weeks. Some Jews and many Gentiles who worshipped in the synagogue became believers. There was violent opposition from the Jews; Jason, their host, had to furnish a peace bond, and Paul and his colleagues went to Beroea (Acts 16:19-24, 35-40).
3-7: Paul’s description of the motivations for his ministry in Thessalonica no doubt mirrors the accusations that were advanced against him. His motives were not pure. He was a trickster. He taught an attenuated religion that did not require any effort. He was always looking for approval and making demands. In response Paul says he is not motivated by "deceit or impure motives or trickery," but by a desire to please God.
8. we are determined to share with you…our own selves, because you have become very dear to us: Paul expresses his deep feelings for the Christian community in Thessalonica. Paul and his colleagues are the examples of the love of neighbor which is an expression of the meaning of the law both in Leviticus and Matthew. Such love does not arise out of base motives, and it is not hindered by violence. Instead it is an expression of the love God has for his people. [10]

Matthew 22:34-46
{34} When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, {35} and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. {36} "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" {37} He said to him, "’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ {38} This is the greatest and first commandment. {39} And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ {40} On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." {41} Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: {42} "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." {43} He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, {44} ‘The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet"’? {45} If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" {46} No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

     In the Talmud there are four kinds of questions: The first type of question is the halakhic question, concerning the law; the second, questions of haggada, questions about apparent contradictions between different verses from Scripture; third, questions of boruth, third are mocking questions which ridicule the belief of the rabbi, and fourth, questions about the principles of morality.
     In the Passover service four questions are asked by the youngest son. Traditionally there are also four types sons, the wise son, the wicked son, the pious son and the son who does not know how to ask.
     The section Matthew 22:15-46, which includes four questions are "representative of four different types of question distinguished by the early Rabbis." [7] The questions concern whether tribute to Caesar was lawful (Matthew 22:15-22), halakha); whose wife the woman married to seven brothers would be (Matthew 23-33, boruth); which is the greatest commandment in the law (Matthew 22:34-40, principles of morality; and why David called the Messiah, Lord (implying "Yahweh") if the Messiah is David’s son (Matthew 22:41-46, haggada). [8] It is likely that the structure of this passage is reflects these two traditional structures, with a Pharisee asking a question of law, the Sadducees asking question mocking the doctrine of the resurrection, the lawyer asking about the greatest question, and Jesus asking a question of haggadha, a contradiction in Scripture on behalf of the one who does not know how to ask.
34. he had silenced the Sadducees: The Sadducees had sought to reduce the doctrine of the resurrection to an absurdity, but Jesus astounded the crowds by showing that God was not a God of the dead but of the living.
35: In Mark the question is asked by a scribe. A Pharisee who was a lawyer asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in the Torah. Jesus replied that it was the instruction that accompanied the Shema’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Nomikos, "lawyer," is used in Matthew only here. Otherwise, in the New Testament it is used only by Luke, "who often uses it as the equivalent of  "[grammateus]," ‘scribe.’" [9]
37. And he said to him: In Matthew and Mark Jesus answered the Pharisee. In Luke Jesus turns the question back to the lawyer and he answered.
You shall love the Lord your God: In Mark 12:29 Jesus quotes the beginning of the Shema’ from Deuteronomy 6:4, and then continues with 6:5. Matthew omits the beginning of the Shema’.
with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind: In Hebrew the heart is the organ of thought, so the addition of "with all your mind" at the end of the quotation is an annotation which provided the Greek reader with an interpretation of the word "heart."
39. You shall love your neighbor as yourself: Leviticus 19:18: Jesus adds the second law, which elsewhere in the New Testament is identified as the summary of the Law: see Galatians 5:14: "the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor....’" Romans 13:9: "The commandments...are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor...." James 2:8: "the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor...." 1 John 4:20-21: "Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also." In Leviticus the neighbor is a fellow Israelite, and the reason for the admonition to love is that both one’s neighbor and one’s self belong to Yahweh. Loving one’s neighbor is grounded in one’s love for Yahweh.
40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets: The law and the prophets is the first century way to say "The Old Testament." Paul makes the same assertion in slightly different form: ‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself."’
41-46: Having disposed of the Pharisee’s test Jesus offers a challenge of his own: Who is the Messiah? Daube sees this as a reflection of the description of the four kinds of sons who ask questions during the Passover Seder. The last son is the one who does not know how to ask, and for whom the father must ask the question. [10] The question that Jesus asks is of the character of haggadha, a question about a seeming contradiction in scripture.
42. The son of David: This is a correct answer. The Messiah was an anointed prince of Israel, a descendant of the dynasty of David. In Matthew Jesus is frequently identified as the "Son of David" (Matthew 1:1 and throughout). Now Jesus springs his trap.
43-45. How is it that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."’?: The form of the question depends on the Greek form of the Psalm since in the Hebrew the first "Lord" is the name Yahweh. The meaning of the Psalm verse in Hebrew is: "Yahweh said to my Lord (David)…." Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel interprets the Greek form of the Psalm to say that David (the Lord) said to the Messiah (my Lord). So, the Messiah "must be greater than David, because David calls him Lord." [11]
46: Daube suggests that this statement should be introductory to verse 45 and indicates the quandary of the son who does not know how to ask, so the father must pose a question for him. [12] Others see this as Jesus total victory over his questioners.

     In the Prayer of the Day we pray "make us love what you command. In the first lesson we are called to be holy because God is holy. In the Psalm we are reminded that those who delight in the law of the Lord are happy (blessed), and are watched over by the Lord. In Philippians Paul expresses the love he and his colleagues have for the Thessalonian converts. Jesus calls on us to love God and our neighbor in fulfillment of God’s Torah, his law which is to guide our lives.
     "Leviticus 19:18 is quoted three times in our Gospel, more than any other Old Testament text: 4:43; 19:19; 22:39. The first citation expands the meaning of neighbor to make it universal; even the enemy is to be loved. The second citation reveals Leviticus 19:18’s status as a fundamental summary of the moral demands of the Decalogue (cf. Rom. 13:8-10; Gal 5:14). The third brings the love of neighbor into innermost connection with the commandment to love God and thus, in typical Matthean fashion, fuses religion and ethics." [13]
      Although we may find many excuses for not loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, and although we may feel that love (as affection) can not be produced on demand, nevertheless what God expects his people to subordinate their individual desires and needs to the needs of the community of the faithful. Love is not affection but service, and that is what God asks.

Hymns [14]
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

815s E—The Spirit of the
270 E—God of Our
491 D—O God, I Love
444 P—With the Lord
325 G—Lord, Thee I
486 G—Spirit of God,
494, 502, 480, 537

Prayers of the People [15]
P or A: Recalling the grace and mercy of God, let us pray for the needs of all people saying, "Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning," and responding, "and we shall be glad all our days."
A: That your church may worship and serve you well, grant us leaders who after the example of the apostle Paul are gentle, going among their people like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. We ask this grace especially for our bishop _______, and for our national bishop Telmor. Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning, and we shall be glad all our days.
A: For the afflicted and poor of the earth who are waiting for the mercy of God, we ask how long they must wait. Let a true spirit of jubilee come down over the world so that those with nothing need wait no more. Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning, and we shall be glad all our days.
A: You have said you shall love your neighbor as yourself, is one of the greatest commandments. Teach us to love ourselves in a healthy way so that all our relationships may be enriched. Take away relationships or co-dependencies that damage love and heal the wounds of those who are hurt by them. Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning, and we shall be glad all our days.
A: Nurse and relieve those who are suffering from illness or grief. We name those who have asked for our prayers _______. When you turn us back to dust and say, "Go back, child of earth," give us good courage and hope. Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning, and we shall be glad all our days.
P: Show your servants your works and your splendor to their children. We commend ourselves and all people’s needs into your care, though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or [16]

Presider or deacon
Let us cry out to God, who always listens, and offer prayers for the poor and needy.
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 candidates for public office and 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, aliens and refugees, widows and orphans, and those without clothing or shelter.
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, 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.
God of eternal love, hear the prayers we offer this day and enable us to obey your commandments with all our heart and soul and mind, 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] Luther D. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1947, pp. 533, 47.
[2] Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2000, p. 1603.
[3] Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1999, p. 188.
[4] Milgrom, ibid.,   p. 1764.
[5] Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962, pp. 103-104.
[6] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 116.
[7] David Daube, “Four Types of Question,” The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism. University of London: The Athlone Press, 1956, p. 159.
[8] Ibid., pp. 159-160
[9] Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel according Matthew: Translation, Introduction and Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1981, p. 442.
[10] Daube, ibid., p. 169.
[11] Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 140.
[12] Daube, ibid., pp. 168-169.
[13] Dale C. Allison, ”Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A,” The Lectionary Commentary: The Third Readings: The Gospels (edited by Roger E. Van Harn), Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001, p. 133.