Reading Ramblings – June 18, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 18, 2017

Texts: Exodus 19:2-8; Psalm 100; Romans 5:6-15; Matthew 9:35-10:20

Context: We are in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time now. This means that the Gospel and Old Testament lesson will work together, but the Epistle lesson will follow the lectio continua tradition of moving through contiguous blocks of the New Testament. We’ll work our way in this fashion through a large section of Romans before moving on to sections of other New Testament books. We will also stay primarily within the Gospel of Matthew, since we are in Year A of the three-year Revised Common Lectionary (and revised further by the LC-MS and other protestant groups) system.

Ordinary Time explores the life of Christ through the given Gospel for that year. However some of the ways the sections of Matthew are divided up leave a lot to be desired. For example, this week’s reading officially stops at 10:8. However I’m using the fuller lesson because it makes no sense to stop at verse 8. Even still, it’s not an ideal treatment of the text. It is paired with Exodus 19, which describes how God claims his people as his own, calling them to faith in him based on the powerful works He did against the Egyptians, which resulted in their freedom from slavery and genocide. As God’s chosen Old Testament people would be his witness in the world, so now Jesus sends his disciples to bear witness to his identity and purpose. In both cases, the reception is going to be somewhat less than warm!

Exodus 19:2-8 – God gathers his people around Mt. Sinai. He has led them out of slavery in Egypt and brought them here where He reveals himself to them in power and glory, inviting them into the most unique arrangement in all of human history. He invites this group of former slaves to become not simply his people, but his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God calls the Hebrews to this role for the purpose of fulfilling his promise to Abram in Genesis 12 – that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his descendants. They will be witnesses in their holy living to the other nations of the earth. God will fight for them and protect them. They will be unique among all of God’s creation. Their priesthood will entail the atonement for all of creation, a role they will never fulfill corporately, but only in the person and work of their descendant, Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God.

Psalm 100 – This psalm echoes the joyful confidence of a people who know who they are – they are the Lord’s! It is their duty and privilege to raise praises to him, to lead all of creation in a never-ending chorus of praise and worship. They enter into his presence not fearfully but with joy, knowing that God loves them and cares for them as a shepherd cares for his sheep. They can attest to the Lord’s goodness and worthiness of both worship and praise, because God is faithful to his people. He is not fickle or forgetful but rather faithful. So God’s people need never doubt his attitude towards them or their identity in him.

Romans 5:6-15 – God the Father summoned the Hebrews to himself in awe and majesty. Jesus called and commissioned his twelve disciples personally. How are you and I to know that we, too, are God’s people? Paul explains it beautifully. Jesus did not die just for his followers, but for all those who will accept what his death means. He did not die just for the worthy, but specifically because nobody is worthy, everyone is unworthy. His death has saved us from our sins and therefore from the wrath of God against sin (Romans 1:18). We are not simply spared, barely. Rather, we are fully reconciled. There is no issue between God the Father and us any more, because the death of God the Son on our behalf has paid the debt of our sin. And this is not an offer only for a select few, but for everyone who will receive it.

Matthew 9:35-10:20 – Jesus commissions his twelve disciples for a mission trip. Their work is to model the work of Jesus himself in vs.9:35-38. His disciples see firsthand the need for the good news and the power of God and Jesus clearly portrays this need to them as well. They are to pray for workers to go into the fields for the harvest that God has prepared ahead of time. Jesus then passes on to his disciples some of his power the power of God the Holy Spirit which He received at his baptism. He designates the limitations of their power, as well as the limitations of their mission. They are to speak only to Jewish communities (because this is the people that Jesus has come from and been sent to). Their message is that the kingdom of heaven as it hand (in the person and work of Jesus), and the signs and wonders that they perform are to act as testimonies to the truth of their words (just as Jesus’ own miracles are pointers to the truth of his words about himself).

They are not to expect a warm welcome everyplace. Those places that reject them and their message they are to leave. They are not to waste their time with people who refuse to hear and see. They should also expect active resistance and persecution. Jesus’ words here clearly point both to the mission trip they are leaving for as well as the greater mission work they will do after his ascension. While we are not aware of them suffering persecution at this time, almost every one of these twelve will eventually go to his death for the sake of the message they bear and the one who entrusted them with it.

Most of all they are to trust in the one who sent them (Jesus) and by extension the one who accompanies them (the Holy Spirit). It is not their strength or persuasiveness or public speaking skills that are at work. Rather, they will be inspired by God the Holy Spirit with them, and it is God the Holy Spirit whom their persecutors are rejecting.

As God’s people today we should expect persecution and rejection. While we experience this personally it is ultimately aimed at the one who has died for us and saved us and called us his own. It is ultimately God they reject, and ultimately God to whom they will answer for whatever they have done to us. This is to be our confidence even in the face of persecution, that God will be vindicated, and when his Holy name is shown to be righteous and true, all the voices of his persecuted people will rise up to praise him.

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