Proper 15

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Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, you have given great and precious promises to those who believe. Grant us the perfect faith which overcomes all doubts, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jeremiah 23:23-29
{23} Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off? {24} Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD. {25} I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" {26} How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back--those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? {27} They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. {28} Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD. {29} Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

23. Am I a God near by…and not a God far off: "The sense is…God is no small local deity from whom one might conceivably hide, but a God who is in heaven and therefore sees all." [1]
25-27: "…Jeremiah assails the prophets for putting forth their own words as Yahweh’s word…. With concocting a message of their own and then, by proclaiming it in the form of prophetic address, conveying the impression that it was actually an oracle from Yahweh…with the bandying of dreams, and airy speculations of their own as the word of Yahweh, thereby leading the people into error." [2]
25. the prophets…who prophesy lies in my name: The prophets of Jerusalem (verse 14) are compared unfavorably to the prophets of Samarian (verse 13).
I have dreamed: Numbers 12:6 indicates Yahweh’s intention to speak to the prophets in dreams. But Deuteronomy 13:1-5 warns against listening to "those who divine by dreams" because Yahweh is testing them. Those who divine by dreams are to be put to death because they spoke "treason against the Lord your God."
27. forget my name: To forget Yahweh’s name would be to forget his very being and all that he had done for Israel in the exodus.
28. straw…wheat: In comparison with the word of Yahweh dreams are like worthless straw compared with valuable wheat. This saying is a neum Yahweh, an "oracle of Yahweh."
29: my word [is] like fire: This saying is also a neum Yahweh, an "oracle of Yahweh." See also Jeremiah 5:14 and 20:9. Jeremiah knows Yahweh’s word to be like a fire burning in him that breaks out to destroy the false prophets.
like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces: In 5:3 f. the poor, "who do not know the way of the Lord, the law of their God, have "have made their faces harder than rock" The power of Yahweh’s word is likened to a hammer that breaks a rock; the implication is that those who do not know Yahweh’s law will be broken in the same way.

Psalm 82
{1} God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: {2} "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah {3} Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. {4} Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." {5} They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. {6} I say, "You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; {7} nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince." {8} Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

1. the divine council…the gods: In this Psalm, as in Psalm 58, the gods (of the other nations) are members of Yahweh’s heavenly court, and therefore answerable to Yahweh for their actions.
2. How long will you judge unjustly…show partiality: Injustice is the result of the failure of the "gods" to act responsibly. For this they "shall die like mortals."
4: Protection of the weak, the orphan, the lowly, the destitute, the needy should be the proper work of the "gods." Righteousness for the "gods" as well as for the people of Israel is to respond with mercy and justice to the misery of the destitute and the weak.
they walk around in darkness: The moral darkness of the world is the lack of knowledge, understanding, and justice which the "gods" have failed to provide.
8. Rise up, O God, judge the earth: The psalmist implores God to judge the earth, which will include a judgment on the "gods" who have failed to perform as God’s agents.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2
{29} By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. {30} By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. {31} By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. {32} And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- {33} who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, {34} quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. {35} Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. {36} Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. {37} They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented-- {38} of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. {39} Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, {40} since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. {12:1} Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, {2} looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disre- garding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

29-34: More exemplars are brought forth: the people who left Egypt, the walls of Jericho, and Rahab, all associated with the Exodus and wandering in the wilderness; Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets in the land of Israel.
35. Women received their dead by resurrection: "These are particularly the widow of Zarephat, whose son was restored by Elijah, and the Shunammite woman aided by Elisha. The reference to ‘resurrection’ (...[ex anastaseos]) repeats the allusion made in connection with the Aqedah [the binding of Isaac] (vss 17-19), where Isaac was figuratively ‘raised.’" [3]
Others were tortured
: The verb is etumpanisthesan, and "refers most specifically to a procedure where the victim was stretched out, presumably like a tÚmpanon [tympanon] or drum, on a rack or wheel and then gradually beaten to death. It then comes to refer to other forms of torture or execution generally. The mention of the grisly form of torture was no doubt inspired by the fate of the aged martyr of Maccabean times, Eleazar, who dies for his refusal to eat pork" [4]
Did not accept release: "…applies particularly well to Eleazar who had been offered release by Antiochus. It applies equally well to the youngest of the seven youthful martyrs who spurned the king’s offer of salvation." [5]
a better resurrection: "Perhaps there is a distinction between the Israelites resuscitated by the prophets, who died again, and those who participate in the better resurrection, who live eternally." [6]
36-37. Others: "The stories of the prophets and the Maccabean martyrs continue to inspire the remarks on the ‘other’…persecuted faithful, who ‘experienced.’…a variety of torments.
stoned…sawn in two…killed by the sword: "That some were ‘stoned’…refers either to Zechariah, son of Jehoiada [2 Chronicles 24:20 f.], or to Jeremiah, who, according to legend met this fate in Egypt. That some were ‘sawn asunder’…applies primarily to Isaiah, who, again according to legend, met his end in this fashion [Ascension of Isaiah v. 1-14]. Only one case of ‘death by the sword’…is recorded of an Old Testament prophet, that of the obscure Uriah [Jeremiah 26:20-23]." [7]
skins of sheep and goats: "…recalls the distinctive cloak of Elijah and Elisha [1 Kings 19:13]." [8]
39. did not receive what was promised: "Although the ancient heroes exemplify what faith means, they only prefigure its final goal." [9]
40. God had provided something better: God provided Christ and his sacrifice, and in his sacrifice both the ancient heroes and the present faithful are made perfect.
12:1-2: Since we have all these witnesses, and can also look to Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" we are able to persevere in the struggle against the hostility and suffering we face because of him.
2. has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God: Christ has taken as his place the places vacated by the "gods" of Psalm 82.

Luke 12:49-56
{49} "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! {50} I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! {51} Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! {52} From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; {53} they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." {54} He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. {55} And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. {56} You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

49. I came to bring fire on the earth: John the Baptist said that the one who was coming "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16).
50. a baptism with which to be baptized: Jesus speaks of his baptism in Mark 10:38-39 as a metaphor for his passion.
52-53: See Micah 7:6 for the source of the description of the disintegration of family relationships. The rabbis expected family discord and conflict as a prelude to the Messianic age. [10] Here the divisions within a household are to be understood alienation from one’s family as a consequence of association with Jesus.
54-55: The weather proverbs are appropriate for Palestine. "The west wind brings the sea breezes off the Mediterranean and spreads moisture inland as far as the Judean hills. A south wind comes off the Negev, the desert…. It is a furnace blast of desert air (common in late spring) that can raise the temperature thirty degrees in an hour." [11]
56. You hypocrites: The crowd, Luke 12:1. "…Jesus is unmasking their attitude; their problem is much more an unwillingness to interpret than an inability." [12]
interpret the present time: The present time is the critical moment to see God’s activity in person of Jesus. To miss that is to miss everything, and to miss that and claim to know God’s ways is endanger others as well. "If the whole of Luke’s narrative were not confident of God’s saving triumph, this haunting question could only demonstrate the validity of divine judgment." [13] As it is, the inability to understand the present time is the context within which Jesus calls the people to repentance (Luke 13:1-5).

The suffering of the faithful and the certainty of God’s victory over those who oppose him are both certain. Many others have faced suffering faithfully, and we are called on to do the same, knowing that the victory is already won, and that we will share in that victory.
    The Psalm confronts the conflict between God’s goodness and righteousness and the reality of evil. "Both the notion of Satan, which, springing from other sources, penetrated the Old Testament, and the figure of the Devil in the Christian faith are but different figures of speech, expressing the same state of affairs, in which evil is taken quite seriously as the activity of a real personal being. However, the psalmist holds the view that the attempt at a dualistic solution of the problem of theodicy is not the final word in the quest for God’s righteousness…. With a prophetic assurance the psalmist recognizes that the real and final solution of the problem is to be found in the ultimate vindication of the righteousness of God." [14]

Hymns [15]
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

241 --E--We Praise You,
230 --D--Lord, Keep Us
308 --II--God the Father,

174 --II--For All the
500 --II--Faith of Our
567, 461, 320, 814s

Prayers of the People [16]
P or A: Seeking to do the will of God, we pray for guidance and assistance from our Lord in Jesus' name, and respond together, "Amen."
A: That the church be as a cultivated vineyard, yielding good fruits of justice and righteousness, rather than the wild grapes of hypocrisy and discrimination. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: That we might hear the cries of all those who despair--the hungry, the outcast, the victims of violence--offering them your strength and courage to carry on. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: That those who suffer for the sake of the gospel--by imprisonment, torture, or humiliation--remain faithful to you even unto death. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: That those who are lonely, sick, and bereaved may find their sorrows transformed into joy. We pray especially for __________. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
A: That we might refrain from settling too comfortably in this world, knowing that many of its pleasures are fleeting, and that Christ himself came to herald change and action for just living. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
P: May all that we ask in your name be according to your will. Amen.

Or [17]

Presider or deacon
Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us pray to God who strengthens the weak.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering, and for the people of God in every place.
For all nations and their leaders, and for mercy, justice, and peace in the world.
For students and teachers, and all those returning to their studies.
For good weather and abundant crops, and for travelers and those on vacation.
For the sick and the suffering, prisoners and their families, the hungry and the oppressed, and all in danger and need.
For those who rest in Christ and for all the 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, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ.
To you, O Lord.
God of all times and places, whose word is like fire, grant our prayers for all the world and bring peace to the earth, 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. 153.
[2] Ibid., p. 155.
[3] Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989, p. 349.
[4] Ibid., p. 349.
[5] Loc. cit.
[6] Loc. cit.
[7] Loc. cit.
[8] Loc. cit.
[9] Ibid., p. 352
[10] Samuel Tobias Lachs, A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Hoboken, New Jersey: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1987, p. 186.
[11] Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 362.
[12] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV): Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1985, p. 1000.
[13] David L. Tiede, Luke. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 245.
[14] Artur Weiser, The Psalms. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962, p. 558.