Proper 9A


227: July 9, 2017

70: July 6, 2014

Exegetical Notes


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 the yoke of Jesus

Initial Thoughts

  • Matthew 11 according to The Twible, by Jana Riess, “JC and JnBap are chided for not joining in the crowd’s reindeer games. JnBap’s too pious and JC’s not pious enough. They just can’t win.”

  • Lectionary edits the story for worship, but preacher must study the whole thing.

Bible Study

  • Three sections (lectionary includes the first and last)

1. Jesus and John do their own thing

  • Last piece of a collection of three passages about John and Jesus

    • 11:2-6 Who is Jesus?

    • 11:7-15 Who is John

      • What did you expect?

        • a reed blown by the wind (someone influenced by the current philosophy or intellectual fashion?)

        • royal robes (someone influences by power, wealthy or politics)?

        • John was neither of these and neither is Jesus

    • 11:16-19 Response to both

  • John was too countercultural, too threatening to the status quo

  • Jesus was not countercultural enough

  • Are not all pastors judged the same way?

    • Be pious, but be down to earth

    • Don’t swear, or drink too much or get angry or frustrated, but be human and relatable

  • Wisdom is justified by her deeds - great indication of the feminine divine and the work of the Spirit

2. Woe to the unrepentant cities

  • Begins a new section contrasting “this age” with the Kingdom of God

  • This is what happens to those who “don’t get it” see v. 16-19

  • Tyre, Sidon and Sodom - “evil” unfaithful and infamous Gentile cities

  • Jesus lifts them up over Jewish cities of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida - nearby towns, possibly the residents of whom he is talking to

    • Is this an external judgement (hellfire from the skies) or an internal judgement (if you don’t understand you will not live your life fully)?

    • They are judged - not for not believing in the miracles, but for not repenting and following Jesus’ way

3. Thanksgiving and invitation

  • Thanksgiving to the least of these - infants
    • How often do we celebrate children as theologians?

    • “The exclusiveness of the relation of Father to Son remind  readers that humans have no capacity of their own to fathom the knowledge of God. Neither the Father nor the Son is a genie to be controlled by human brilliance. God is known only as a gift of incredible grace… God simply eludes the human grasp” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 395)

  • The yoke of Jesus

    • Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    • Following Jesus is not carefree affirmation, but means taking up the yoke of love and forgiveness - a burden still exists, just a different one

    • “How can Jesus offer rest when he asks so much?...What Jesus offers is not freedom from work, but freedom from onerous labor...The easy yoke means having something to do: a purpose that demands your all and summons forth your best...It means work toward a certain future in which all of God's dreams will finally come true. To accept the yoke of the gentle and humble Lord is to embrace the worthy task that puts the soul at ease.” (Lance Pape)

    • “Rather than make demands or lay ponderous loads on followers, the text summons readers to a discipleship that is easy and a burden that is light (easy carries with it a connotation of ‘suitable, appropriate, easy to wear)”

Preaching Thoughts

  • What do you expect when you come to Jesus? Someone who will say you are ok just the way you are? Someone who invites you to follow in a way of love and to give up security, comfort, power and prestige for the sake of God and neighbor?

  • This teaching is about following a leader - a leader who is meek, mild, and loving. This way of Jesus though, is not one of care-free passivity. This teaching comes immediately after Jesus warned them of the trouble that comes from following him. It is not that the path is easy, but that the one who follows is one who yearns to love, not who is quick to punish.


Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Initial Thoughts

  • Genesis 24 according to The Twible, by Jana Riess “Meet-cute 1. Isaac is told, ‘Whoever waters the camels is your girl.’ Rebecca wins! See tabloids for spicy details & glam wedding pics.”

  • Lectionary edits the story for worship, but preacher must study the whole thing.

  • Comes between the death of Sarah and the death of Abraham.

    • Death of Sarah seals the immediate need.

    • Abraham needed to be alive to seal the approval of the marriage.

Bible Study

  • Story recap:

    • Isaac needs a wife.  God demands that he does not get a wife in the land of Canaan.  He is also forbidden to go to Canaan himself, so a servant is sent.  

    • Servant gets to the well, where there are a lot of women.  To help him decide, he says, “Lord, make the woman I want offer to give me and my camel water.”

    • Rebekah does just that, so the servant tells her his plans.  He goes back to her home, where he asks Laban if she can be brought back to Isaac to be her wife.  Laban agrees, and asks if Rebekah agrees.  She agrees to be brought back to Isaac.

    • Rebekah and Isaac get married.

  • Motifs (from Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: Genesis, pp. 199-200)

    • Blessedness

      • “Yahweh has blessed my master”

      • Laban blesses God as well.

        • It is clear that Laban is also a Yahweh-follower.  He is an “insider.”

    • Prosperity

      • Closely linked to blessedness.

      • Prosperity is an outward sign of the steadfast relationship between Abraham and God.

      • Powerful proof-texting material for Prosperity Gospel

    • Loyalty and Fidelity

      • Loyalty of God to follow through on the promises that were made.

      • Loyalty of the players to always trust in God’s leading.

        • Abraham follows God’s instructions

        • Servant

        • Laban

        • Especially Rebekah, who is given the option to not follow, but does.

    • Guidance of God

      • God’s hand is in all the action.  He is the unseen force behind all of the actions and decisions.

      • Isaac and Rebekah are not just a random couple, they were brought together with purpose from God.

      • (God was their match-maker)

  • Rebekah

    • From a household of Yahweh believers

    • Hospitable

    • Willing to follow God’s plan

Preaching Thoughts

  • “The text provides an important opportunity to help persons think about faith, what it is and how it comes.  In a culture which grasps for visible signs of faith, which is driven toward scientism, and which falls for too many religious quackeries, this story stands as a foil against easy and mistaken faith.  The workings of God are not spectacular, not magical, not oddities.  Disclosure of God comes by steady discernment and by readiness to trust” (from Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: Genesis, p 201).  How can we practice “steady discernment?”  What does this kind of relationship with God look like?  Is it possible to be this soaked in a relationship with God and not fall into “religious quackery”?

  • Traditional patriarchal reading of the story can transform Rebekah into a pawn.  Remember that it was her action that started things off.  Her kindness was not attributed to God’s leading, only her own character.  In fact, she is the only person in the story who is acting independently of God, or independently of an ulterior motive.  In the end, she is given the choice to go with Isaac, and again she chooses to act faithfully.


Romans 7:15-25a 

Initial Thoughts

  • Section really begins in v. 13 (or arguably 7:7)

  • Paul and the Law

    • Law is a stopgap- a safety net designed to keep us from sinning

    • Sin- that which is contrary to the will of God enters into the world through Adam

    • God gives Moses the law to guide people away from sin (but then people are clearly aware what is in by disobeying the law)

    • Since we are free from sin by grace, we do not need the law - does this mean the law is bad? NO, must not as necessary now that we have God’s grace.

    • Not anti-jewish

    • Not a disregard of the law- the law is still good as a tool to keep us faithful, but not necessary for salvation

Bible Study

  • This is a passage, not about Paul, but about the law and whether the law is good.

  • Sin for Paul

    • Sin is not a series of misdeeds or wrong doings

    • Sin is a pervasive power bending all things toward destruction and death - even the law

  • Sin is pervasive and evil (not of God) and can infect even our best of intentions

  • By following the law (which is good and holy - see v 12) Paul was led to do great evil - persecute the followers of Jesus

    • Sin is so pervasive that is creeps into both following and neglecting the law

    • Sometimes doing the right thing- is actually perpetuating evil

    • “What he counts as the greatest demonstration of the power of sin over his own life—his persecution of the body of Christ—came not because he failed to keep the law, but because he kept a law that sin had hijacked for its own purposes.” - Ted A. Smith, Feasting on the Word.

  • We have no excuse- we sin knowingly (thanks to the Law)

    • Children/little ones/ those that don’t know better may sin unknowingly

    • We know better...and still sin

  • The closer we are to doing good- the greater the temptation to sin

    • It can be so easy to justify a sin

    • Justification behind every boundaries violation (I deserve, It’s ok because, etc)

  • How can we break free from sin? From death?

    • You can’t

    • Only through God’s grace can we be free from death

    • The law, ethical codes, moral living - all good, but all will fail - only grace will save you

  • Really comes down to those final verses: wretch and thanks

    • Yep we are all wretched- we are all infected with sin

    • But thanks to God we do not need to be condemned, anxious, obsessed by it - grace is given to you- the news of Jesus is GOOD, the burden of Jesus is LIGHT, all you who are weary and overwhelmed COME and REST.

Preaching Thoughts

  • What are instances when doing the right thing is actually contributing to the wrong cause? Instances of false peace

    • “We can begin to understand that cosmic drama [between sin, law and grace] by recalling the confrontation between nonviolent civil rights marchers and law-enforcement officials on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, March 7, 1965. When state and local lawmen clubbed peaceful marchers, a sinful power showed itself for what it was. While sin seized the bridge on that day, it lost the luster and legitimacy it needed to survive as a social order.” -Ted A. Smith, Feasting on the Word.

  • Sin (i.e. missing the mark) can happen not only in the midst our worst failings and intentions, but also in the midst of our best intentions. It isn’t “the thought that counts”. Sometimes despite our best intentions and attempts- we fail and sin miserably- that is the nature of sin and evil - GOOD NEWS- we are not bound, judged or condemned by that evil- we repent, confess, change and try again.


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”).