Proper 26

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Pentecost 24
November 3, 2002

     Lutherans frequently observe the first Sunday in November as All Saints Sunday. Studies of those texts will be found under All Saints Day. 

Prayer of the Day
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people to seek more eagerly the help you offer, that, at the last, they may enjoy the fruit of salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ.

     The Collect is a free translation of the Gregorian original. The Prayer Book assigns the prayer to Trinity 25 and reads, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth with the and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end." [1]

Micah 3:5-12
{5} Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry "Peace" when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths. {6} Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; {7} the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God. {8} But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. {9} Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, {10} who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong! {11} Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, "Surely the LORD is with us! No harm shall come upon us." {12} Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

5. the prophets who lead my people astray: "Alongside the messengers of YHWH’s judgment stood prophets who contradicted their words with promises of weal and welfare" [2] These prophets are motivated by greed (Micah 2:11; 3:5).
6-7: These prophets have no revelation; they will be disgraced and put to shame because they have no word from God.
8. as for me: The word of Yahweh concerning Samaria and Jerusalem had come to Micah, and he was filled with the spirit of the Lord. Micah was active during the reigns of Jotham (742-435 b.c.), Ahaz (735-715 b.c.), and Hezekiah (715-687 b.c.). Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 b.c.
9-12: Micah’s message is directed to the rulers who have perverted justice and equity.
10 who build Zion with blood: A poetic metaphor for wrong as shown by the parallel in the last half of the verse.
11: Money can buy anything, judgment, a "teaching," that is, an interpretation of the Torah, an oracle foretelling a favorable future. The priests claim Yahweh’s favor.
12: Micah prophesies of the destruction of Jerusalem in language similar to his prophecy of the destruction of Samaria in Micah 1:6. The Temple will be destroyed, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will be ruined. Though Micah’s prophecy was not immediately fulfilled it was remembered and quoted at Jeremiah’s trial more than a hundred later (Jeremiah 26:18, to forestall a sentence of death on Jeremiah. They pointed out that Hezekiah had taken the prophecy seriously and prayed for Yahweh’s favor, and Yahweh had changed his mind and not destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in Micah’s day (26:19).

Psalm 43
{1} Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me! {2} For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off? Why must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy? {3} O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. {4} Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. {5} Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

     Psalms 42/43 are a single Psalm. Each of three stanzas are closed with the same refrain (42:5, 11; 43:5). In Psalm 42 the psalmist describes his sadness and feelings of desolation. In Psalm 43 he prays for deliverance from oppression by ungodly enemies. Psalm 42:6 describes the situation of the singer far from the Temple (in exile ?), at the source of the Jordan river, Mt. Mizar in the Hermon range.

1. defend my cause against an ungodly people: The singer prays for deliverance from his enemies. In verse three the singer continues his plea for restoration.
2: The singer has taken refuge in God, but he feels that God has abandoned him.
4. Then I will go to the altar of God: When God responds the singer will return to the Temple and praise God with the harp.
5: In spite of his feelings of desolation the psalmist encourages himself to continue to hope in God.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
{9} You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. {10} You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. {11} As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, {12} urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. {13} We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers.

9. our labor and toil...night and day: Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself (Acts 18:3), so he did not seek financial support from those to whom he preached (see 1 Corinthians 9). "Paul’s purpose in working so hard was not to burden...any of his converts, by which he would also incidentally distinguish himself from many freeloading and avaricious preachers of the day." [3]
10-12: Paul describes his relationship with the Thessalonians. His conduct was upright and blameless. He dealt with them as a father urging and encouraging them, thus implicitly imitating the Father.
13: Paul gives thanks to God that the Thessalonians accepted what Paul had proclaimed as God’s word.

Matthew 23:1-12
{1} Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, {2} "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; {3} therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. {4} They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. {5} They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. {6} They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, {7} and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. {8} But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. {9} And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. {10} Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. {11} The greatest among you will be your servant. {12} All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

2. The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat: "...'to sit on NN's seat' means to be his heir." [4] Matthew is writing for Christian Jews, and here seems to be saying that the Pharisees are for Christian Jews the authoritative successors to Moses. [5]
3: Matthew represents Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees as with their practice, not with their teaching. This "is at variance with the rejection of the authority of the oral Law in the dispute of chapter 15, where the scribes and Pharisees are accused of nullifying the word of God by their tradition, which Jesus called merely ‘precepts of men’ (15:6, 9). The words are no more than a foil for the charge that they do not themselves practice with their preach. As a blanket indictment of ‘the scribes and Pharisees’, the charge is grossly unjust. There would be sanctimonious hypocrites among them, but most of them were scrupulous in the observance of the Law." [6] Matthew may be using Jesus’ teaching to call Christians who were claiming the same authority as the scribes and Pharisees to account for their practice in the light of Jesus’ teachings.
4. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others: Both Peter (Acts 15:10) and Paul (Galatians 5:1; Romans 7:24f.) came to view the legal system as it had evolved in Israel as a burden that could not be born, and from which the faithful were free.
5. They do all their deeds to be seen by others: Jesus had advised against public show in the practice of one’s faith (Matthew 6:1-7). Even if the practice is honest, its public quality compromises it.
fringes: Fringes were reminders to keep the commandments (Numbers 15:38-39). Jesus wore fringes on his outer garment (Matthew 9:20; 14:36).
8. you are not to be called rabbi: The title rabbi, "teacher" is reserved for Jesus alone.
9. call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven: "Before the emergence of the church as a distinct community, there was no likelihood that disciples of Jesus would be honoured by any of these titles." Matthew " concerned over the tendency of Christian teachers and other leaders to assert authority and to insist of being treated with deference by the rank and file of members.... Ignatius, himself bishop of Antioch at this time or very little later, thinks of the bishops as monarch, and never ceases urging church people to be submissive to them.... Such a conception of the church is utterly abhorrent to Matthew." [7]
10: The same as verse 7.
11. The greatest among you will be your servant: In Matthew 20:25-27 Jesus compares the apostles to "the rulers of the Gentiles," and says that .. whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave... " emulating Jesus. See also Matthew 18:4.
12. All who exalt themselves...and all who humble themselves: See Proverbs 29:23. "The impersonal passives, ‘will be humbled’, ‘will be exalted’, are paraphrases for ‘God will bring low’, ‘God will exalt’, in keeping with the tendency to avoid speaking directly of God." [8]

     Micah speaks of those who claim to speak for Yahweh but have not authority to do so. They are not only spiritually dishonest, they also "sell" their authority and bring disrepute on themselves.
     In the liturgy the Psalm is a response to the first lesson. It imagines Micah’s discouragement in the face of his detractors, and his courage in remaining faithful to God and God’s message.
     Paul, like Micah, had a word of God to proclaim, and like Micah he did it with love and integrity not seeking to profit from it but seeking to encourage the Thessalonians to live lives worthy of God. This is in contrast with the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel who do not practice what they teach.
     Matthew’s description of the teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees are no doubt exaggerations of the historical reality, and should be understood as directed toward elements within the Christian community which sought to impose an extremely narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah on Jews who had become Christians. These are of the same mind as Paul’s opponents in Galatians 1-2, and those who accused him of violating the sanctity of the Temple in Acts 21. "The relationship of the inner circle of the disciples to Jesus was such that they could not be greeted (You must not be called ‘Teacher’) as thought they were occupying a place which was Jesus’ alone. So too with you must not call anyone on Earth ‘Father’; for the inner circle of disciples this would imply the formation of a hierarchy which was not proper during the earthly ministry of Jesus." [9] ‘...common sense and sound theology require that Matthew 23 should not encourage us to imagine that we are unlike others or better than they. The chapter should provoke not self-congratulations because Christians are better than those Jesus condemns, but self-examination because we are just like those Jesus condemns.... And how much more this is true in our time, when the church is more aware than ever of its historical misunderstanding and mistreatment of the Jewish people." [10]

Hymns [11]
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

750s E--O Holy Spirit,
508 D--Come Down, O
501 I--He Leadeth Me:
761s II--I Received the (700v)

308 G--God the Father,
309 G--Lord Jesus, Think
     420, 430, 482, 428

Prayers of the People [12]
A: That the greatest among us might become servants of all, we offer our prayers to God saying, "Let us pray to the Lord," and respond, "Lord have mercy."
A: That Bishop Telmor Sartison, Bishop ____________ and all who hold office in the church might be guided in the ways of justice and peace, let us pray to the Lord. C: Lord have mercy.
A: For a reduction in arms, an end to warring, and new avenues of employment for the people of the earth, let us pray to the Lord. C: Lord have mercy.
A: That the youth of our congregation might be honoured as servants of Christ and so be exalted among us, let us pray to the Lord. C: Lord have mercy.
A: That the members of our congregation might be reconciled to one another, eagerly desiring each other's well-being, let us pray to the Lord. C: Lord have mercy.
A: For an end to the chasm that separates the rich from the poor, let us pray to the Lord. C: Lord have mercy.
P: Lift up the weak and humble the proud, O Lord, that together we might stand before you as one people, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Or [13]

Presider or deacon
Let us call upon our Father in heaven for the needs of all peoples in the world.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering, and for the people of God in every place.
For all peoples and their leaders, for candidates for public office, and for justice and equity in the world.
For good weather, abundant fruits of the earth, and peaceful times.
For the sick and the suffering, travelers and prisoners, all who bear heavy burdens, and the dying and dead.
For our city and those who live in it, and for our families, companions, and all 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.
God and Father of all, who calls on us to serve you and one another, hear the prayers we offer this day and lead us to true humility, 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. 544-545.
[2] James Luther. Mays, Micah: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976, p. 81.
[3] Abraham Malherbe,  The Letters to the Thessalonians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2000, p. 148.
[4] Daniel R. Schwartz, Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity, p. 100, note 63.
[5] Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew: Translation, Introduction and Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981, p. 448.
[6] Ibid., pp. 448-449.
[7] Ibid., pp. 450-451.
[8] Ibid., p. 451.
[9] W. F. Albright and C.S. Man, Matthew: Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971, p. 279.
[10] Dale C. Allison, “Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A,” The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts. The Third Readings. The Gospels (ed. by Roger E. Van Harn). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001, p. 139.