Proper 26

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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.

Isaiah 1:10-18
{10} Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! {11} What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. {12} When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; {13} bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation-- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. {14} Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. {15} When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. {16} Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, {17} learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. {18} Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

10. you rulers of Sodom…you people of Gomorrah: The words are addressed to disobedient Israelites as though to the pagan inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed by Yahweh’s anger (Genesis 18).
10-15: Yahweh is not impressed by the sacrifices or burnt offerings or incense, solemn assemblies or festivals of those who have done wrong. They have known what Yahweh wanted them to do and have disobeyed deliberately, so Yahweh refuses their offerings.
16-17: Instead they are to "remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes," they must seek justice for the oppressed, the orphan and the widow.
The orphan…the widow: The wicked "kill the widow and the stranger, they murder the orphan, and they say, "The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive" (Psalm 94:6-7). In Deuteronomy alien or stranger, the widow and the orphan are seen as the special objects of concern for Yahweh’s people (Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:19-21; 27:19).
18. let us argue it out: This is the language of the law court. If the wicked repent and change their behavior, their sins will be purged and they will be purified.

Psalm 32:1-7
{1} Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. {2} Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. {3} While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. {4} For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah {5} Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah {6} Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. {7} You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

3-5: The singer describes his/her situation. Until (s)he confessed "my transgressions to the Lord" (s)he suffered physically. Confession brought forgiveness and healing
6, 8-10: The singer encourages the faithful to pray to Yahweh when they are in distress. The way of the faithful should be disciplined, for the wicked suffer torment, while those who trust Yahweh are surrounded by love.
     One of the seven traditional penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). "The secret of Psalm 32…lies in the fact that this song from the very beginning takes the hearer and reader into the cheering reality of forgiveness and the bestowal of salvation…. ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘goodness’ are the gifts coming from Yahweh that are spontaneously given to him who opens up his life and confess his guilt (v. 5)…. There is only one theme in the entire song of thanksgiving: the relation of the human being to God broken and restored through forgiveness." [1] Paul quotes verses 1-2 in Romans 4:7-8 as an example of "the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works." The theme of the Psalm is the great relief and joy of forgiveness. It is the Good News that, in fact, God has provided for our forgiveness. Therefore we rejoice and shout joy.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
{1} Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: {2} Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {3} We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. {4} Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring…. {11} To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, {12} so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. To the church of the Thessalonians: "…we should probably visualize a number of groups in Thessalonica and its environs, which to Paul’s mind together constituted the church…. The primary group to whom the first letter was addressed was Gentile… Paul now again writes to the entire church, but with a different primary group in mind as the recipients of the letter [those who had received a copy of Paul’s first letter and an interpretation of it that was not what Paul had intended]." [2]
3. We must always give thanks to God: See also 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
4. we ourselves boast of your among the churches of God: Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. See 2 Corinthians 8:1 for Paul’s boasting about one aspect of the Macedonian’s expression of faith.
[5-10: Paul continues by describing the fate of the wicked, and the blessedness of the faithful.]
11. God will make you worthy of his call: This implies that we are not worthy of God.

Luke 19:1-10
{1} He entered Jericho and was passing through it. {2} A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. {3} He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. {4} So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. {5} When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." {6} So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. {7} All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." {8} Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." {9} Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. {10} For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

2. Zacchaeus: "The name Zacchaeus is either a short form for Zechariah or means ‘the pure, righteous one’ (cf. Ezra 2.9; Neh. 7.14)." [3]
a chief tax collector…rich: For those to whom Jesus spoke, the poor, the oppressed, these were descriptions of contempt. The judgment of the crowd is given in verse 7; they were offended by Jesus’ decision to eat with him, for he was a sinner.
9. he too is a son of Abraham: As a descendant of Abraham Zacchaeus is also heir to the promise of Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham, "I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2-3).
8. half my possessions…I will give to the poor: Zacchaeus’ vow to give half his possessions to the poor reminds me of King Ahasuarus’ vow of half his kingdom to Queen Esther (Esther 5:3, 6; 7:2), and the "man of God’s" vow not to stay with Jereboam even if he were to give him half his kingdom, and finally Herod’s offer to the daughter of Herodias of up to half his kingdom.
and if I have defrauded anyone…I will pay back four times as much: The law required a thief to restore double what he had stolen. Zacchaeus vows to pay back four times as much if he defrauded any one. "Since both Greek verbs are in the present tense, thus: ‘I give’ and ‘I pay back’ (and not future, as is usually assumed by Western readers)—and since there is no mention here of any special repentance at the time of this encounter, we must assume that Zacchaeus is already practicing this kind of compensatory behavior." [4]
9. Today salvation has come to this house: This salvation is the "restoration of this chief toll collector to his rightful place in Israel" which had been destroyed by his profession which disrupted normal social relationships within his community.
10. the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost: See Ezekiel 34:16, especially in the LXX, "I shall seek out what was lost and shall turn back what is going astray."

     The first lesson tells us that God wants us to avoid evil and to learn to do good, especially acting on behalf of those who are powerless to act for themselves, namely, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow (or comparable groups of people in our times). The Psalm is spoken by the congregation in worship: phrases like you are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance, are more than pious vacuity, they express our dependence of God’s grace. By speaking it aloud and in unison we acknowledge God’s grace, and place ourselves under its protection. In the second lesson Paul boasts about the steadfastness of the Thessalonians in the face of persecution and affliction, with the implication that we should also be faithful. The Gospel points out that even those whose work or associations we deplore may receive the gracious presence of Jesus. Zacchaeus’ care not to use his position to defraud others, and his willingness to use his resources to benefit the poor are actions that are desired by God.

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

306 --E--Chief of Sinners
158 --E--Alleluia! Sing to
298 --D--One There Is,
304 --G--Today Your Mercy

291 --G--Jesus Sinners Will
424 --G--Lord of Glory,
356, 494, 781s/721v, 297

Prayers of the People [6]
Presider or deacon
In the love of Christ that increases among us, let us offer prayers to God who gives the wealth of faith to the poor.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering, and for the people of God in every place.
For all peoples and their leaders, and for mercy and justice throughout the world.
For good weather, abundant fruits of the earth, and peaceful times.
For those afflicted and oppressed, orphans and widows, the dying and the dead.
For our families and neighbors and for all the people of our city.
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 Abraham, whose Son came to seek and save the lost, hear the prayers we offer this day and fill us with every good resolve and every work of faith, 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] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 372.
[2] Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2000, p. 380.
[3] Gerd Lüdemann, Jesus after Two Thousand Years: What he really said and did. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2001, p. 380.
[4] Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 387.