Reading Ramblings – June 2, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

Date: June 2, 2013,
Second Sunday after Pentecost

Texts:
1Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43; Psalm 96:1-9; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke
7:1-10

Contextual
Notes:
Following the festival Sundays of Pentecost
and Holy Trinity, we now enter Ordinary Time proper. Ordinary Time
consists of those Sundays in the Church year that are not festival
Sundays (Christmas, Easter) or part of special seasons (Advent,
Lent). Ordinary time began in the season of Epiphany this year, and
lasted three Sundays prior to Transfiguration Sunday and then the
beginning of Lent. Now we begin Ordinary Time again during the
season of Pentecost. Ordinary Time readings focus on Christ in the
life of the Church. The readings are no longer necessarily as
tightly bound together as they were in Advent, Christmas, Lent, and
Easter. The Gospel and the Old Testament will continue to be linked
together, but the Epistle reading will start being used to read
through contiguous blocks of Scripture.


1 Kings 8:22-24: While
the reading for today is somewhat chopped up, the purpose is to keep
the reading reasonably short while concentrating on the particular
theme of God’s presence in his house, and the mediating effect of
that presence for the entire world. In the season of Pentecost, this
selection leads us to consider that the power and presence of God
reside in his Church – wherever the Word is preached in fullness
and the Sacraments celebrated properly. As such, the Church is a
place of power and promise for the people of God who constitute it.
However this blessing is not limited to those of the Church, but
rather the Church should become the vessel through which the power of
God pours out in love to all of his creation.

This is an important notion for the
Church to maintain and remember – we are not opposed to those
outside the Church. They are not our enemies (though some may act
like it and even consider themselves enemies). The Church is to be
the place where these people are prayed for, and where the power of
God still reaches into their lives intentionally, as the Gospel
lesson highlights as well. We pray for the world, and we pray for
the blessing of God on the world, that the world might come to know
and worship God.

Psalm 96:1-9 : A psalm
of praise. Who is to sing this psalm? All the earth – meaning all
of creation – since all of creation is the Lord’s work. This
praise should be declared amidst all the nations of the earth, not
just God’s special nation Israel (or now, the Church). Since God is
at work in all places and situations, we can always point to the work
of God the Holy Spirit even in the lives of those who do not yet
believe in him or know him. They may think there are other gods
(vs.4-5), but they are mistaken. In declaring the works of God, the
confusion of the nations should be dispelled that they might praise
him properly. This is the proper response to an encounter with the
God who created all creation!


Galatians 1:1-12:
We move away from the Book of Acts in order to begin the ancient
practice of lectio
continua

– extended, contiguous readings of Scripture. The purpose is not
necessarily to relate directly to the themes of the Old Testament and
Gospel readings (though sometimes this happens), but rather to
provide exposure to large sections of Scripture in whole. We’ll
spend six weeks reading through much of Galatians.

Paul
begins as he does almost all of his letters – by introducing
himself and stating his qualifications to be writing. He was not
merely designated an apostle by men (as though that were possible,
which Acts 1:23-26 demonstrates), but rather was directly called by
the resurrected Jesus Christ, referring to his conversion experience
on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He then speaks a blessing
(vs.3-5), and then moves to his main concern in the letter – that
the Galatians are losing the true Gospel. Before dealing with this
issue, Paul makes it clear that there can only be one good news, one
Gospel. Anything else is an abomination which must be stamped out.
No human or spiritual entity that proclaims a Gospel other than
Christ crucified should be listened to – and this includes Paul
himself!

Luke 7:1-10:
In the previous chapters of Luke, Jesus has called his disciples,
begun his ministry of teaching and working miracles – particularly
healing miracles. His teaching in the previous chapter focused on
the blessedness of those who love God, and the dangers of judging
others.

But we all judge – it is part of what we do, and while a necessary
aspect of our humanity, it can be a damaging one. Moreover, the
biases and prejudices that affect our judgment may be transparent to
us: we don’t know they are there or how they affect us until they are
pointed out to us.

So it is that after teaching about not judging others and loving your
enemies (Luke 6:27ff), Jesus drives home his point in the healing of
the centurion’s servant. This centurion is well thought of in the
Jewish community, supporting it by building them a synagogue. But he
is not a Jew. He is a gentile, an outsider. Still, the Jews are
willing to acknowledge that this man’s support for the Jews ought to
merit his prayers being answered.

Jesus responds to this request for healing, and allows the trust of
this Gentile centurion to be instructional for God’s people. This
encounter with a favored Gentile is the first obvious miracle worked
for someone outside of the Jewish faith. It is a prelude to what
will follow later in the Chapter, where a sinful woman is healed.

But the implications are already clear – the blessings of God are
not only for the people of God. God loves all of his creation and
desires to heal it. He is more than willing and able to work his
power in the lives even of those who do not profess faith in him.
Our faith in a particular set of beliefs or doctrines is not what
enables the Holy Spirit to do something or not. God works where He
will.

We as the people of God should always be placing ourselves in the
position of the Jewish leaders in this passage, advocating on behalf
of their Gentile neighbor, desiring to see God’s power poured out and
manifested. When we assert that we will not do this (or God cannot
do this) until a certain set of conditions are met, we are in error.
When we pray for the power of God in another person’s life, we are
praying that the Holy Spirit will be at work, and we know that the
Spirit’s ultimate purpose is to lead people to Jesus, who will point
them to the Father.

Pray for those in your life who do not know Jesus. Don’t just pray
that they come to faith, but pray for their struggles and sicknesses
and difficulties. Pray that by the Holy Spirit’s obvious activity in
their life, they will be brought to faith!

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