Proper 17A (OT 22)


78: August 31, 2014

  1. Exodus 3:1-15

  2. Matthew 16:21-28

eatured Musician -  Sara Kay

Exegetical Notes

Matthew 16:21-28 

Initial Thoughts

  • Continuation of last week’s conversation. Make sure you recap.

  • Lectionary skips ahead next week to 18:15, which is more about group dynamics. This leads into the Transfiguration. Jesus predicts his death, which leads directly into a revelation about his glory.

    • Peter declares Messiah

    • Jesus predicts death. Peter denies death

    • Jesus revealed in glory of Transfiguration

Bible Study

  • “From that time on” - a shift to Jerusalem and passion

    • First of the passion predictions (cf. Mark 8:31-33 & Luke 9:22)

    • focus shifts from the “crowds” to the disciples

  • Jesus must suffer - a prediction of sacrificial atonement or an allusion to Isaiah 52-53 Suffering Servant

    • must (dei - it is necessary) - alludes to a pre-ordained divine plan, not Jesus’ choice to continue his ministry

    • see also the combination of “show” and “must” in Rev. 1:1

  • Text is vague- what does it mean that Jesus began to show them?

    • “Incarnation is a doctrine expressing Jesus' complete divinity and humanity; it also points to his embodiment of the gospel, as he showed people the gospel in all he did and said. His was a full-bodied pedagogy, not lecturing but revealing in parables, healings, exorcisms, and acts of compassion and confrontation.” Charles Hambrick-Stowe, Feasting on the Word

    • Perhaps he showed less concern over his own safety and survival than for sharing the good news?

  • Peter’s Response:

    • Understandable: “Nothing in [the disciples’] background prepared [them] for the notion that Israel’s eschatological champion should suffer a shameful death. The Messiah was expected to inflict suffering and death on Israel’s enemies and on the wicked within Israel, not to experience it himself.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 194)

    • Satan is the great tempter- Is Jesus tempted to walk away from his path?

      • Call back to chapter 4 and being tempted in the desert- once again Jesus is tempted to forgo his path/call/ministry

  • Jesus to Peter

    • Get behind me - rebuke or invitation?

      • “opiso mou” - get behind me. Same phrase used in 4:19 (follow me) - this may just as easily be a call to deeper discipleship

      • “It may refer to the direction of Jesus’ forthcoming journey: ‘Don’t stand in my way; follow me to the Cross!’” (Hare, p. 194)

    • How could he not be tempted to walk away? Running to the cross with ultimate confidence would strip some of the humanity from Jesus

      • Not the absence of fear or doubt, but overcoming through faith

      • Perhaps - he does ask God to "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” ( but obviously ends with “ yet not what I want but what you want.") - Matthew 26:39

    • Peter’s reaction any different from many of us when the survival of the church is threatened or our own safety is threatened?

    • Peter is transformed from the “rock” to the “stumbling block” (cf. Isaiah 8:11-15)

      • Skandalon is something that would trip someone up on a path. When you think of old stone paths, some of the stones would be secure. Others would be loose and would cause someone to stumble.

    • “Jesus’ mission is to inaugurate an alternative kingdom, a radically different way of exercising rulership and authority. Here his opponent is none other than the rock on which he will build the new community.” (Eugene Boring, New Interpreter's’ Bible, v. VIII, p. 350)

  • Jewish authorities

    • Not anti-Jewish: Matthew clearly identifies Jesus as the “Son of David” and the new Moses.

    • Jesus’ death was  political as much as it was religious as shown by the cross- a Roman execution reserved for political enemies (those who resisted Rome or Caesar. eg: social bandits (like those crucified alongside Jesus), revolutionaries (like Spartacus) or the Germanic tribes

  • Good News?

    • Yes- this is a message of reassurance that the death of Jesus is not meaningless, but is part of a greater plan

    • Yes - their own potential deaths (at the hands of the Romans or others) is also not meaningless

    • Yes - especially if held together with what comes next - The Transfiguration. Crucifixion itself is not good news, but it is the path to reveal God’s true glory. Kingdom of God revealed through holding tension of shame of crucifixion and glory of resurrection.

  • Take up your cross

    • BEWARE: This text has been misused to justify slavery, oppression, violence and domestic abuse by telling those oppressed to simply “bear their cross”

    • “The condemned criminal who carried the horizontal bar of the cross to the site of crucifixion would have been subjected to taunts, humiliation, rejection, and shame before finally enduring an agonizing death. The disciple who "takes up the cross" is one who is willing to surrender pride, ego, status, comfort, and even life for the sake of the kingdom of God." Mitchell Reddish, Feasting on the Word

    • What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus?

      • sacrifice? When was the last time you preached on sacrifice?

      • This is not about daily annoyances. The term “this is my cross to bear is not to be used flippantly (or used to keep people in subjugation).

        • “To take up one’s cross thus means to accept ridicule and hostility from those who thinking reflects this world, not God’s… Bearing one’s cross and take up Jesus’ yoke are complementary: we learn from him how to remain obedient to God in a disobedient world.” (Hare, p. 196)

      • New life only comes through death - we often offer new life but are loath to invite people to die- how can we do this while retaining the joy of the Good News?

    • Not self abasement or self-esteem

      • Christian call is “an orientation to one’s life that is not focused on self at all, either as self-esteem or self-abasement, as self-fulfillment or self-emptying” - M. Eugene Boring, New Interpreter's’ Bible, v. VIII

Preaching Thoughts

  • Skandalon - a stumbling block. Also the root of the word “Scandal.” The cross is a scandal and also the path to glory. To the worldly understanding of power, being subjected to death - even on a cross - is the ultimate expression of having no power. His willingness to die - this scandal - was his ultimate expression of love and power.

  • If following Jesus is an invitation to new life - do we allow people to grieve their old life even as they step into the new?

  • Sacrifice - what place does it have in today’s Churches? How do we invite people to both the good news of Jesus Christ and to the good news of sacrifice?

  • What is more important survival or faithfulness? Do we justify the need to survive (a denominational, congregation, or individual) over being radically faithful?

  • Should the church be a sanctuary-opened to all; or gathering hall - locked to non-leaders except for business hours?

Exodus 3:1-15 

Initial Thoughts

  • Skips Moses’ troubles with Pharoah.  He was raised as a prince, apparently knew that he was a Hebrew.  He fell out of favor after murdering an Egyptian who was treating a Hebrew harshly.

    • Moses is a lost soul.” Raised by Hebrew mother. Adopted by Egyptian princess.  Murdered an Egyptian worker. Rejected by fellow Hebrews.  Flees his homeland, and is identified as an Egyptian by the woman he soon marries.  Now working for his father-in-law, his curiosity leads him to an incredible encounter.

  • The ultimate call story.  Moses going about his day-to-day business of tending the flock when he encounters something incredible.

  • “The story of the call of Moses has long fascinated the community of faith, particularly the burning bush. In my mind’s eye is a composite of numerous efforts by Bible storybook artists to depict this incident in full color. As is so often the case however, the picture stays in the memory but the content of Moses’ encounter with the divine remains hazy.” (Terence Fretheim, Interpretation: Exodus, p. 51)

Bible Study

  • Encounter happens in midst of everyday life

    • Horeb means “Wasteland”

    • “It would not be the last time that God chose a nontraditional, nonreligious setting for a hearing of the word.” (Freitheim, p. 54. Emphasis in original text)

    • Moses’ curiosity draws him into the encounter.  Not until Moses inquires about the strange fire does God intervene - and it is then revealed that it is not just a messenger of God, but God in the fire.

    • The fire is not an otherworldly vision.  Moses is awake, conscious, and aware of what is going on.  The ground must be felt at his feet to reaffirm that this is “real life.”  

    • God is clothed by the fire, but is not the fire.  God’s presence is obscured by the created world, but God is intimately involved in the midst of that world.

    • The holy ground was made holy by God’s presence.  God is not limited by sites, shrines, temples.  God has access to any where, and when God is there it is holy.

    • “The ground is now holy because of God’s appearance, not because it was already holy. There is no holiness inherent in the place as such… That which is part of the natural order is sanctified, set apart for special use by God.” (Fretheim, p. 56).

  • Memory and Sight

    • The act of sight is an important first step in the encounter.

      • First, God sees.  Then, Moses must see God.

      • God appears to Moses (3:2).  Moses tries to see the bush (3:3). Moses afraid to look (3:6).   God says “I have observed the misery of my people…” (3:7). “I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them.” (3:9).  

    • The act of remembering and forgetting will be an important theme throughout Exodus, and the rest of the Hebrew Bible.  

      • God connects Moses to his past “God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Ex 3:6).

      • When Moses asks about who to say sent him, God’s response ties the past and present together “I am who I am.” (3:14).  Then God again recalls the tradition of the patriarchs (3:15).

  • Mission and Objections

    • God’s Action: “I have come to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (3:8).

    • Moses’ mission: “So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

    • Moses: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?”

      • God: “I will be with you”

    • Moses: “What am I going to tell the Israelites? Who should I say sent me?”

      • God: “I am who I am.” (NRSV)

        • “One of the most puzzled over verses in the entire Hebrew Bible.” (Freitheim, p. 63)

        • “I will be what I will be.”

        • “I will cause to be what I will cause to be.”

        • “I will be who I am.”

        • “I am who I will be.”  “This seems to be the best option, in essence: ‘ will be God for you.’ The force is not simply that God is or that God is present but that God will be faithfully God for them.” Freitheim, p. 63)

      • “Without pursuing the endless critical opinions about the origin of the formula, it is enough to see that the formula bespeaks power, fidelity, and presence. This God is named as the power to create, the one who causes to be. This God is the one who will be present in faithful ways to make possible what is not otherwise possible.” (Brueggemann, p. 714).

    • Altogether, there are five objections that Moses raises.  Each one pointing to a past reality.  Each solution of God points to a new future. (Walter Brueggemann, New Interpreter's’ Bible, v. 1, p. 713)

Preaching Thoughts

  • Don’t be afraid to tell your call story.  No, preaching isn’t about the preacher, but it is a little. It is good to let people know - or even remind them - of how you were called to preach.  Did you have a burning bush?  Too many people think that call only comes through miraculous intervention.  Fact is for most, call comes again and again.  Someone might hear their own call through your story.  And remember, the story skips over the part where Moses objects, bargains, and tries to get out of it, and God equips Moses to fulfill the call.

  • “See and Remember.”  When God saw the oppression of his people, he could no longer sit idly by.  When sharing his identity, it was tied intimately with the past.  Part of our role as people called by God is to see and remember.  See the pain in the world that God would want us to heal, and remember that God is in our midst.

  • Moses task seems great, and his objections are numerous and reasonable, but at each objection, God has an answer.  Moses (like Peter in the above passage?) keeps thinking in human terms, fearful of failure and death.  God though, is thinking as God, knowing that new life comes through death.

Romans 12:9-21

Initial Thoughts

  • New section of Romans- chapter 12 is on living in the Way of Jesus:

    • vv.1-8 Loving God

    • vv. 9-21 Loving Others

Bible Study

  • The Mission of the Church- what sets the community of Jesus apart and grounds our actions, preaching, teaching, programs and proclamation

  • Embraces a call to be in but not of the world and surrounding culture:

    • “The greater the tension between a faith community and the surrounding world, the more sharply defined is the identity and character of the community. While no faith community is completely outside the mold of its surrounding society, the early Christian communities were actively self-aware of their identity and calling as "alternative societies" vis-à-vis the wider world, particularly the imperial Roman context. They wrestled not only with how to stand in contrast to the imperial Roman system of privilege, power, and social conformity, but also how to live differently as communities defined by the life and teachings of the crucified One.” - Eleazar Fernandez, Feasting on the Word

    • The current lack of cultural significance is, perhaps, something to be celebrated, not mourned as it forces us to “define” our identity and character.

    • The life of faith is not an invitation into a community or a program, but an invitation to a way of life and being in the world.

  • Genuine Love is the framework of 9-13

    • Rejects Evil

    • Embraces Good

    • Compete in Honoring one another

      • Dr. Paul Farmer’s Hermeneutic of Generosity, “means evaluating people's actions from an assumption that their motives are good even if, at first glance, one might suspect the opposite.” Rochelle Stackhouse, Feasting on the Word.

      • How quickly to we jump to the assumption that someone’s motives are evil or mis-intentioned or simply wrong? What a small step it is from judging someone’s motive to judging the individual.

      • Does not mean remaining silent in the face of hate and oppression (See v.9) but separates the word or action from the individual

  • Good Thinking- Bless those who persecute you

    • Actual and immediate-the expulsion of Jews from Rome by the Emperor Claudius (see Acts 18:2)- refers to authoritarian persecution from outside the community

    • V. 16 - also refers to persecution inside the community

    • Persecution meaning literal persecution and possibly those who are not showing genuine love

  • Nonviolent reconciliation

    • V. 21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

      • “darkness cannot drive out darkness-only hate can do that and hate cannot drive out hate- only love can do that” MLK Jr

      • “Good is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death.” Desmond Tutu

      • “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” James Baldwin

    • The temptation of evil, The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, “‘good people can be induced, seduced, and initiated into behaving in evil ways,’ especially when they submit to an authority that sanctions violence in particular situations” quoted by Christopher Hutson, Feasting on the Word.

  • V.20 - what about heaping burning coals on the heads of our enemies - perhaps a purification of evil and oppression through love.

Preaching Thoughts

  • Love which does not reject evil is not genuine. Genuine love must reject the systemic evils in our culture and society. This does not mean rejecting the individual, rather rejecting hateful ideology, language and actions that deny the humanity and prevents others from living fully and freely as God intended.

  • How much of our focus on love, hope, blessing, serving and forbearance and how much is on buildings, budgets and bodies (members)?

  • How might we bless the world and national leaders who are persecuting people- what would that look like?


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).