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Proper 27, Year B, (Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time), November 11, 2018

First reading, 1 Kings 17:10-16

Our Liturgical Setting: Today's gospel, Mark 12:38-44, includes the familiar saying in which Jesus contrasts the tithes given by the wealthy with that offered by the poor widow. So today's first reading is an Old Testament story about a very poor widow and a gift requested of her. It's set in a time of drought and famine.

The Historical Situation: The Books 1 & 2 Kings as a whole are about the successors of David, the division of the land into two kingdoms (Israel in the north and Judah in the south), and the fortunes of the people linked to the religious fidelity or infidelity of their leaders. The drama consistently goes like this: God is good to the people and asks only their fidelity; the people and their leaders (kings, priests and the kings' house prophets) sin, usually by idolatry; God angrily punishes them, often through an enemy nation; the people suffer and ask forgiveness; God grants mercy and the cycle begins again. In this literary mix are chapters 17-22 of 1 Kings, a collection of stories about prophets. One of their purposes is to emphasize that the prophets were really more powerful than the kings of. The prophets, after all, speak God's word, and are more faithful to God than the kings are. The context of today's passage is this:

Elijah lived under the most unfaithful king Ahab (Ahab's queen was the foreigner Jezebel. It's from her that the name "Jezebel" acquired its modern connotations (on which see the famous Frankie Laine song of 1951 As Elijah had announced, God sent drought and famine upon the land of the sinful king. But God had promised relief and safety to Elijah himself.

Your Proclamation: First of all, know how to name the prophet and the name of the town. Click here, then click on the "E" and then on the word "Elijah", or on the "Z" and then the word "Zarephath."

The passage is more than a story, of course; it's a lesson about taking confidence from God's promise announced by the prophet. But you have to tell it like a story if the lesson is to come across. Some pointers:

Second Reading, Hebrews 9:24-28

The Historical Background: The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christ, in part to help them cope with the loss of the comforts they had enjoyed from the institutions of Judaism, from which they were now excommunicated. The author's logic is to show that Jesus, in our relationship with him, replaces those old institutions, and exceeds them.

In today's passage, the institutions in question are sanctuary, sacrifice, and judgment. In the old covenant, a priest conducted an annual ritual sacrifice in the sanctuary of the Temple, slaughtering a lamb. In the readings and Lector's Notes from two weeks ago and from three weeks ago, we saw that Jesus himself replaces the whole class of ancient priests. In today's passage:

Proclaiming It: So the reading is a series of contrasts between what the people have lost and what they now have in Jesus. Now practice making these contrasts audible in your proclamation.
Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group. The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes

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Last modified: October 5, 2018