Proper 4

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Pentecost 2
June 2, 2002

Prayer of the Day
Lord God of all nations, you have reveled your will to your people and promised your help to us all. Help us to hear and to do what you command, that the darkness may be overcome by the power of your light; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28
{18} You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. {19} Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. {20} Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, {21} so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth…. {26} See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: {27} the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today; {28} and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.

18-20: "This passage parallels 6:6-9, except that it is styled in the plural but for 19b.... This section seems to form an inclusio with 6:6-9, making Deut 6:4-11:21 appear to be a continuous, comprehensive sermon." [1]
18. You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul: In Jeremiah 31:33 Yahweh says that he will put the law in the hearts of his people. In either case having the law/Yahweh’s words in one’s heart makes them the driving force of one’s actions.
you shall bind them...on your hand, and...on your forehead: "...toward the end of the Second Temple period...the custom of phylacteries (tefillin) develop[ed]; these were cubical boxes of leather containing passages from Exod 13:1-10, 11-16; Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-21 written on parchment (passages in which the binding of symbols is prescribed. In the phylacteries found in Qumran the scriptural passages also contain the Decalogue, which precedes the Shema‘ (Deut 5).... The boxes are bound by leather strips on the left hand and on the head." [2]
19. talking about home and...away...when you lie down and when you rise: "Constant reading of the law is mentioned in the king’s law in [Deuteronomy] 17:19, ‘he shall read in it all his life,’ which is paraphrased in God’s command to Joshua, the leader, ‘the book of the law shall not cease from your lips and you shall recite and night’ (Josh 1:8). The same idea is expressed in Ps 1;2...." [3]
20. Write them on the doorposts of our house and on your gates: This was taken literally and became the mezuzah, a box with a text written on it fastened to the right-hand doorpost of the house. The tefillin and mezuzah are literal expressions of the metaphoric reality that for the faithful person Yahweh’s word will constantly in mind guide every thought and direct and empower every action.
26. a blessing and a curse: The nature of the blessing is given in verses 13ff and 22ff and the curse in verses 16ff. In verse 29 Moses is told to "set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal," an instruction repeated in Deuteronomy 27:11ff. Joshua 8:30-35 tells how Joshua carried out these instructions in the land of Israel. A somewhat similar custom was practiced in Iceland (until 1798) with the annual recitation of the law by the Logsgumadr or lawspeaker at the Althing in June when legal matters were settled.

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24
{1} In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. {2} Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. {3} You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me, {4} take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. {5} Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God….. {19} O how abundant is your goodness that you have laid up for those who fear you, and accomplished for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of everyone! {20} In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues. {21} Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. {22} I had said in my alarm, "I am driven far from your sight." But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help. {23} Love the LORD, all you his saints. The LORD preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. {24} Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.

     In Psalm 31 the singer seeks refuge with Yahweh, and pleads for protection and deliverance from his/her enemies. (S)he calls Yahweh a rock, a strong fortress and a refuge and declares that his/her life is in Yahweh’s hands.
5. Into your hand I commit my spirit: The word used here for "spirit" is the Hebrew ruah, the breath of life. The singer puts his/her life into Yahweh’s hands. In Luke 23:46 Jesus speaks these words as he dies. The same idea is present in verse 15: "my times are in your hand."
19-22: "For those who fear him and shelter themselves with him, Yahweh has designed and prepared a bountiful goodness. Accordingly, salvation was there long ago. It was hidden, and it crops out in the act of the hearing of prayer.... Yahweh shelters all who seek refuge with him ‘in the protection of his countenance.’" [4]
23-24: The faithful are invited to love the Lord, to be strong and courageous.

Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-28 [29-31]
{16} For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. {17} For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith".... {3:22b} For there is no distinction, {23} since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; {24} they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, {25} whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; {26} it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. {27} Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. {28} For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. {29} Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, {30} since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. {31} Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

16. I am not ashamed of the Gospel: The Gospel is folly and a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:18-23), because it is God’s power for salvation for those who trust him.
17. the righteousness of God: Righteousness here is not goodness. "It is the quality whereby God actively acquits his sinful people, manifesting toward them his power and gracious activity in a just judgment (see Isa 46:13 [where ‘my righteousness,’ and ‘my salvation’ stand in parallelism]; 51:5, 6, 8; 56:1; 61:10; Ps 40:9-10). It is now manifested toward humanity because of what Christ Jesus has done for them." [5] This is the major theme of the letter.
23. there is no distinction: Those who are "under the law" (verse 19) and those who are not "have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
24. they are now justified by his grace as a gift: They are, likewise, "‘made upright’ gratuitously through God’s powerful declaration of acquittal. Human beings thus achieve the status of uprightness before God’s tribunal…. Now human beings find that this status is not achieved by something within their own power or measured by their own merits. It comes to humanity through an unmerited dispensation of God himself…. The sinful human being is not only ‘declared upright,’ but is ‘made upright’ (as in 5:19), for the sinner’s condition has changed." [6]
25. as a sacrifice for sin.... to show his righteousness: Christ Jesus is both a sacrifice that brings about human righteousness, and the evidence of God’s righteousness who passed over former sins.
28. a person is justified by faith: See also Galatians 2:16. "Only faith appropriates God’s effective declaration of uprightness for a human being." [7]
apart from works prescribed by the law: Though justification comes apart from the law, it does not follow that we are excused from the performance of the law. Our motivation has changed. We do not keep the law to achieve righteousness. We keep the law because God had declared us righteous and the righteous do keep the law.
30. God is one: The one God is God both of the Jews and of the Gentiles.
he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith: Justification is the making innocent of the guilty. Both circumcised and uncircumcised are made innocent because they trust the gift of God in Christ.
31. Do we then overthrow the law: This is the issue between Christian Jews, some of whom at least believed that all who would be Christian must become members of the covenant first, and Gentile Christians, whom Paul argued could come to Christ apart from the law. Since Christ paid the penalty of the law for both Jew and Gentile the law is upheld.

Matthew 7:21-29
{21} "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. {22} On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ {23} Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ {24} Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. {25} The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. {26} And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. {27} The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!" {28} Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, {29} for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

21. only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven: "To designate Jesus ‘Lord’ would be to claim him as one’s patron (or broker).... Clients who do not do what a patron asks risk seeing the relationship broken off." The Father is the patron. Acknowledging Jesus as the Father’s agent, as Lord, is not enough. Only the one whose actions and words faithfully reflect the intentions of the Father will enter the kingdom.
24-27. Everyone then: In Greek the conjunction is oun, "therefore," "indicates that we have reached the end of the SM [Sermon on the Mount]." [8]
these words of mine: These verses close the Sermon on the Mount, so "these words" are Jesus’ sermon.
a wise men who built his house on rock...a foolish man who built his house on sand: "Corresponding to the Two Ways (7:13-14), this section shows two characters, the ‘prudent man’ (¢n¾r frÒnimoj [aner phronimos]) and the ‘foolish man’ (¢n¾r mwrÒj) [aner moros], as they build their houses, one on rock and the other on sand.... The two builders are to be likened to the faithful disciple who not only hears but also does the words of Jesus, and to the unfaithful disciple who only hears Jesus’ words but fails to do them. This contrast (syncrisis) of the two builders is intended to accomplish two goals: (1) to provide a summary of the purpose and function of the SM; and (2) to inject a final admonition and warning into the mind of the hearer or reader. The images used in the passage are traditional; its major terms are to be taken as metaphors." [9]
28-29. the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes: The standard of authoritative teaching was to cite authorities who were recognized by the people. To speak on one’s own authority was a challenge to a society in which one’s authority is determined by one’s place in the society, in Jesus’ case near the bottom of the ladder.

     The season of Pentecost is concerned with the way in which the Holy Spirit is active in the life of the believer. Each Sunday explores an aspect of that activity. On the first Sunday after Pentecost this year the lessons focus on faithful obedience to the will of God rather than lip-service. This theme is present already in the Prayer of the Day: "Help us to hear and to do what you command...."
     The new covenant, based on Yahweh’s law written in the heart, not on tables of stone, announced in Jeremiah 31:31 finds fulfillment in justification and righteousness grounded in the atonement of Jesus Christ, received by faith. God’s people are received, not because they have obeyed an external law, but because of the change of their nature accomplished by the sovereign act of God.
     "In many respects Psalm 31 is the model of prayer that is confident of being heard. The petitioner never tires of trustingly attaching every sentence of the petition to expressions of confidence." [10] For the Christian that model is enhanced by Christ’s use of the Psalm as he faced his death.
     Jesus’ similitude of the wise and foolish home builders are analogous to the blessing and curse set by the Lord in Deuteronomy. The sinner is not saved by works, but works are the expression of the gracious forgiveness and empowerment by God. Those who would claim to be Christian will demonstrate their Christianity by their faithfulness. God is the judge of what constitutes faithfulness. We should not presume to judge our neighbor.

Hymns [11]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

822s E--O Christ the
293/4 D--My Hope is
448 II--Amazing Grace, How
507 G--How Firm a
299, 454, 228/9, 552

Prayers of the People [12]
P or A: As we follow Jesus our teacher and master, let us continually pray for our own needs and faithfully intercede for others, saying, "God of all promise," and responding, "Keep us in faith."
A: We are privileged to be numbered among the countless spiritual descendants of Abraham and Sarah. Correct us when our actions communicate unbelief and may your gracious forgiveness renew our whole life in Christ. God of all promise: Keep us in faith.
A: We are joined by our faith to sisters and brothers in many nations. Grant your people vision and make us instruments of your peace. Call us to common repentance for our failures and lack of trust and to common action for the good of all peoples. God of all promise: Keep us in faith.
A: We are called to be servants; bishops, pastors, diaconal ministers and all the faithful. Open our eyes to loneliness, despair and needs of every kind, that we may see our responsibilities and opportunities to serve Christ in the poor and the broken-hearted. God of all promise: Keep us in faith.
A: We are exhorted to visit the sick and the prisoners. Take time from us to be given to others and teach us ways to be more creative and effective in the use of the time we are given. We ask your care for those who have requested that we remember them in prayer, _______. God of all promise: Keep us in faith.
A: The Evangelical Lutheran Women are meeting in synodical conventions at this time of year. We give thanks for their ministries and pray for continuing inspiration for their works of service and devotion. God of all promise: Keep us in faith.
P: We are thankful to recall the faith of those who have gone before us: Sarah and Abraham, Paul your apostle, Matthew the tax collector, a long-suffering woman who reached out for her healing and a little girl snatched from death to life again. Increase our faith, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. They encourage us to receive and become part of answer to prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or [13]

Presider or deacon
Through our faith in Jesus Christ, let us offer prayers to God our firm foundation.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering and for the people of God in every place.
For all nations, peoples, tribes, clans, and families.
For all that is good and bountiful for the world, and for mercy, justice, and peace.
For children and for those who teach them God’s commands.
For all those in danger and need: the sick and the suffering, the hungry and the oppressed, travelers and prisoners, the dying and the dead.
For ourselves, our families, and those we love.
Rock of ages, in whom we find our safety, hear the prayers we offer today and continually give us your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1991, p. 448.
[2] Ibid., pp. 342-343.
[3] Ibid., p. 341.
[4] Hans-Joachim Kraus,  Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 364.
[5] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1993, pp. 257-258.
[6] Ibid., p. 364.
[7] Ibid.’ p. 363.
[8] Hans Dieter Betz, The Sermon on the Mount: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, including the Sermon on the Plain (Matthew 5:3-7:27 and Luke 6:20-49). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995, p. 560.
[9], Ibid., p. 557.
[10] Kraus, Ibid., p. 365.
[11] 2.txt