Proper 22C (OT27)
344: October 6, 2019
187: October 2, 2016
Consider starting with verse 1, not verse 5 - provides context
Last week we were talking with the Pharisees and this week the audience has shifted back to the disciples in a collection of 4 sayings (the first 3 appear in the other synoptics, but not alway bunched together in this way):
v.1-2 Woe to one who causes another to stumble
v. 3-4 Hold one another accountable and if there is repentance, then forgive (up to seven times a day)
v. 5-6 Faith of a mustard seed
v. 7-10 Do what is expected
These distinct proverbs which are not contextually bound, “The teacher and the preacher would not violate any one of the teachings, therefore, by lifting it from its present location and listening to it separately.” (Craddock, Interpretation: Luke)
However, there is a reasonable flow that Luke presents by linking these together.
Connecting the Proverbs
Opportunities to sin abound, do not tempt one another into sin
If you do, or if someone else does - hold them to account, if they change their way (repent) forgive them. Always. Over and over again - even to the absurd amount of 7 times a day (this is hyperbole not a prescription)
This command to forgive is what leads to the disciple’s request. Holding each other accountable is really hard and forgiving one another is even harder. The disciples assume that this will be easier if they had more faith - NEWSFLASH: it won’t be.
Faith allows us to do the impossible: to speak a truth to a friend, colleague or even mentor and to forgive others and ourselves.
Being honest, holding one another accountable and forgiving are harder than telling a Mulberry tree to get up and move itself. It seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God
So if you are able to do this - to listen, not lead others into sin, hold yourself and others to account if you do sin or lead another into sin, and then forgive yourself and/or others when you or they repent - then you must be a superhero of faith! You must have attended great wisdom and he held in a place of honor - right? No. You are simply doing what God expects from you.
Craddock - the first 2 proverbs (which lead into our reading) love prevails. Love for the community that seeks to help, not tempt or test others (v.1-2), love for one another that calls for honesty and forgiveness (v. 3-4). “In verse 5 they [the apostles] are feeling the burden, the heavy burden, of that leadership.”
Disciples and Apostles - Note the change from disciples (student) in v.1 to apostles (those who are sent) in v. 5. Luke has expanded this message to include the apostolic calling of the early church, post-resurrection. Also to indicate that what they need is not predicated on Jesus’ physical presence, for they will be sent out from Jesus.
Miracles - if you have enough faith then you should be able to do the miraculous (heal the sick, world peace, etc) and if you can’t do those things it is because you are not faithful enough
Used by atheists as a proof-text against faith.
Used to proclaim a prosperity Gospel
Churches are full of faithful people who are suffering: “twenty-five-year employee whose corporation has downsized him out; for the woman whose lump was malignant; for the boy whose spot on the varsity was supposed to resolve old feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and unpopularity.” - John Buchanan, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).
Slaves - this has been used to keep oppressed peoples oppressed (women, African Americans, etc).
Translation Issue: NIV uses the word “servant.” Is this helpful or does it sterilize the text?
Craddock suggested reframing this passage in terms of employee and employer as “The parable is built around the slave-master relationship, rather common in New Testament parables but without a clear analogy in our culture.” Craddock, Interpretation: Luke
Healthy- faithful interpretations:
Literary Context: Comes right after Jesus tells disciples to forgive seven times a day, which seems like an impossible task. In response to this, they say “Increase our faith”
Faith is as important to forgiveness as it is to healing (see Matthew 17:20)
Miracle is about moving hearts. Sometimes forgiveness is a miracle.
Still careful though, not to rush people into forgiveness. Must be allowed space for anger (see Psalm 137) before forgiveness.
Try reading this with a different tone- loving, not judging
Jesus is commending the disciples for the faith they have, knowing how difficult a task discipleship can be.
Don’t use a “lack of faith” as an excuse not to forgive and love
It isn’t about you- it is about God
Stop patting yourself on the back for being a decent person or doing what God asks of you - Love God, Live Well, Do Good
Being faithful to get into heaven or receive a reward is not ethical or moral, it is a transaction
Live faithfully out of what we have ALREADY received not what we hope to receive.
Faith is not a commodity to be gained or lost- it is a way of living
Economy of Faith - not stored or stockpiled, lived out, we cannot exchange faith for blessings
Thoughts and Questions
When was the last time you preached on forgiveness? The messiness, difficult and nearly impossible task for forgiving yourself and others. This might be the opportunity to explore what forgiveness is and to invite people into seeming impossible forgiveness.
We often look for excuses why we cannot live a faithful life: we cannot give because we don’t have enough money, we cannot help because we don’t have enough time, we cannot forgive because we don’t have enough faith. God has given you everything you need. The questions is what are you doing with what you have? If you have more than a mustard seed of resources, time and faith- you can move the world.
One of the most disturbing passages in the Bible
Frequently set to music
Dated during the exile of 587-539 BCE, or very shortly thereafter.
How often do we demand people to “sing” for us
It is about making us feel better and not allowing people to grieve or lament
Rush to forgiveness or to “get over it”
I had a CPE instructor tell me “never give someone a box of tissues.” Inadvertently, this is telling someone that their tears are troubling, and must be covered up.
Must remember - Hope in remembrance
Pain in remembrance
Hope in remembrance
Future seen in remembrance
The Old Testament stories of exile might be a resource, perhaps the only resource, to move us from denial and despair to possibility...From Israel the church can learn a better way to deal with grief and rage. It can learn to address these emotions to God, for it is God who is terminating our unjust privilege and deceptive certitude. Ancient Israel broke the pattern of denial by engaging in speeches of complaint and lamentation that dared to say how overwhelming was the loss, how great the anxiety, how deep the consequent fear. Lamentations expresses the sadness of this experience by describing a bereft Jerusalem: "She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her" (1:2). - Walter Brueggemann, “Conversations Among Exiles”, The Christian Century, July 2-9, 1997, pp. 630-632.
Horrible ending - often left out of the music
“There is no evidence the Psalmist acted out of the expressed desire for revenge. Rather, it is offered to God, and apparently left with God. The cycle of violence is actually broken by the Psalmist’s brutally honest prayer,” Clint McCann in Texts for Preaching, Year C.
In a world of platitudes, the brutal honesty of this Psalm is both shocking and therapeutic.
Gives allowance to the kind of anger that comes in the face of injustice
2 Timothy October mini-series
2 Timothy Recap according to three different Study Bibles
Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Zondervan): “As early Christian tradition suggests, Paul was probably released after two years of relatively light custody (Acts 28:30-31) but some time later rearrested. He was imprisoned under harsher conditions and ultimately executed under Nero.” Themes include
Facing imminent death
Encouragement of Timothy to succeed Paul
Instruction to “guard the gospel”
Africa Study Bible (Oasis International): “Paul likely wrote this letter around AD 65 during the second time he was in prison in Rome and shortly before his execution. In the letter, he mentions that he would soon be killed for his faith. Themes include:
Christians must keep true teaching - the gospel of Jesus Christ - and faithfully pass it on to the next generation
There is a high cost to following Jesus Christ.
Pastors in particular are held to a higher standard of learning the truth and teaching good doctrine.
Common English Study Bible (Common English Bible): “All three letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) say that they are written by Paul, but this is debated today. The three stand out as more similar to each other than to the rest of the Pauline letters. All three include events that can’t be found in Acts or the other Pauline letters, and that would seem to require Paul’s release from prison (rather than his death) after the end of Acts.” Themes include:
Written by an old man expecting death.
2 Timothy is more personal than 1 Timothy. Both are written to Timothy in Ephesus, who was one of Paul’s closest companions and most loyal followers.
Pass on the message, and share in the suffering.
Greeting (v. 1-2)
Typical pattern of greeting, with perhaps more intimacy.
Paul and Timothy had a long relationship.
“While 1 Timothy addresses matters of church governance (for example, what qualifies a person as bishop or a deacon), 2 Timothy addresses the faithful life of an individual Christian. (Beverly Gavents, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 541)
Thanksgiving and Prayer (v. 3-8)
Timothy is a third-generation Christian. His grandmother and mother were also followers of Christ.
Reminds Timothy of his family roots, and also his own connection to Christ.
Important that the generational life of the faith is strong. It is not just some movement of fanatics, but something that has now grown into itself and has a sense of stability and tradition.
Paul seems to understand that faith grows best within a family - or at least within community.
He had an experience of “laying on of hands,” which a ritual act for those with particular tasks.
“When Paul desires to ‘revive God’s gift that is in you,’ the gift here could refer to 1) Timothy’s spiritual office or responsibilities, 2) his God-given abilities for ministry, or 3) receiving the Holy Spirit…. The first option fits the context best” (Common English Study Bible notes on page 416 NT)
Don’t be ashamed (v. 8-14)
Encouragement to keep going in the midst of persecution and struggle.
Reminds Timothy that he was chosen for a reason.
No reason to fear because Christ has already won - “destroyed death.”
“At the same time, the letter’s celebration of abolished death comes in the service of encouraging Timothy to endure suffering (see 2 Timothy 3:12). It is distressingly easy for caregivers of any kind to use these words to diminish the reality of pain and humiliation people experience, as if the Christian response to suffering is supposed to be, “It will all be better when you’re dead” or, worse, “Man up and stop whining.” We must note that the suffering this letter has in view is quite specific: suffering endured as a result of being persecuted for one’s faith.” (Matt Skinner, Working Preacher)
If the worst they can do is kill, Christ has already won.
Thomas C Oden, author of Interpretation: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus series calls this “The Enabling of Effective Calling.” (p. 127)
“Paul did not view himself as the state’s prisoner, but as Christ’s! He could not escape the Roman prison, but refused to be trapped by it inwardly, spiritually.” (Oden, 127)
“Paul’s testimony took place not only by words but as embodied. He put his life on the line. This was not a masochistic appeal to look for ways of suffering generally. Rather, in whatever situation, we are to attest Christ’s living presence and take responsibility for the consequences. This is characteristically what Christans do: Share in Christ’s own suffering, which redeems the world.” (Oden, p. 128)
“This passage assumes cooperation between divine grace and human freedom. Grace enables freedom and does not compel freedom, but foresees its outcomes. Works do not save or merit divine mercy; they are elicited by it, yet without coercing freedom.” (Oden, p. 129)
Thoughts and Questions:
Some questions of this text asked by the Taize Community:
How can I awaken God’s gift in me?
Who has been a support for me in the course of my journey?
How do I understand these words: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of strength, love and self-control”?
“One of the questions that drive this passage is how Christians are to regard the sufferings of the apostles. For contemporary believers, accustomed to stories of earlier generations, the sufferings are read through somewhat romantic lenses. Paul’s letter to Philippi suggests, however, that some early Christians saw imprisonment as a sign of weakness and failure (Phil 1:12-18). Paul, of course, does not, appealing to the crucifixion of Christ as a precedent for his own suffering. 2 Timothy, perhaps written a generation later, takes the argument a step further by insisting that Paul’s suffering provides an example for all who serve in Christ’s name.” (Beverly Gaventa, p 542)
Just as Paul pointed to Christ to help endure suffering, the author of 2 Tim points to Paul to help endure suffering.
The answer is not in redemptive suffering, but that through Christ, even suffering can be redeemed.
This letter is from the perspective of a man writing his farewell. Last words are - in myth and storytelling - as important as origins.
“Paul comes across as one modeling how to die. He does this by giving instructions about how to live confidently and in ways that instill in others confidence in God’s promises. Human history teems with discussions about what it means to die well and what kind of life prepares a person for such a thing. We need real, flesh-and-blood examples of what good living and good dying look like. The memory of Paul offered one for an ancient audience and for us. What others can you think of?” (Matt Skinner, Working Preacher)
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.