Epiphany 6

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Prayer of the Day
Lord God, mercifully receive the prayers of your people. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jeremiah 17:5-10
{5} Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD. {6} They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. {7} Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. {8} They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. {9} The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse-- who can understand it? {10} I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

     "The passage [Jeremiah 17:5-8] breaks neatly into the curse of vv 5-6 and the blessing of vv 7-8 in a way similar to that of the model passage, Psalm 1 [based on the conclusion that Psalm 1 is earlier]…. The parity between the sections is close: the first colon of v 5 matches the two cola of v 7 (‘cursed/blessed is the man who trusts in…’), the first colon of v 6 matches the first colon of v 8 (‘he is like [a sort of plant or tree]’), and above all there is the word-play between ‘shall not see [yireh] rain come’ in v 6 and ‘shall not fear [yira’] when heat comes…. the simile of the cursed man is four cola (v 6), and the simile of the blessed man is six (v 8). By way of compensation the curse formula in v 5 is three cola and the blessing formula in v 7 is two." [1]
      "Jrm had accused Yahweh of being something other than the spring of running water (2:13), that he was, in fact, untrustworthy waters (15:18). Now, sobered by Yahweh’s instruction to repent, he offers his own version of Psalm 1: those who depend on human resources become as dried up as a desert shrub which produces no fruit whatever, but those who continue to depend on Yahweh can expect to stand firm and produce fruit even in a dry year. It is a moving testament to faith when all the props of faith seem to have gone." [2]
9. The mind is devious…who can understand it? Jeremiah muses over the power of the mind to twist and pervert what it considers, so that it can easily rationalize disobedient behavior. ("I stole the car because I didn’t have any money." or "The devil made me do it.") Is Jeremiah reflecting on his own mind?
10. I the Lord test the mind…search the heart…give to all according to their way…the fruit of their doings: Yahweh is not bemused by the mind of humans. He does not respond to its rationalizations, but to the deeds the person does. Paul’s thoughts ran along the same lines in Romans 7:14 ff.
the heart: In Hebrew physiology the heart was the center of reason and thought.

Psalm 1
{1} Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; {2} but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. {3} They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. {4} The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. {5} Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; {6} for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

     Psalm 1 is appointed for use four times in the three years of the lectionary, twice in year C alone (Epiphany 6 and Proper 18). It is a wisdom meditation on the contrasting paths of the wicked and the righteous.
1. Happy are those…: The Revised Standard Version has "Blessed is the man…" (the noun is singular). The form is the beatitude, like those in Matthew 5:3 ff or Luke 6:20 ff.
wicked…sinners…scoffers: The periphrastic translation of New Revised Standard Version loses the sequence "walks…stands…sits" for the three representatives of the ungodly. "…the psalmist shows in detail and in phrases which are progressively intensified the various possible ways that lead to sin, and he does so by using concrete examples. The least sinful way is dealt with first, namely the way of ‘walking in the counsel of the wicked’, which means letting oneself be guided by the advice of evildoers. Then there is the ‘standing in the way of sinners’, which means conforming to the example of sinners. And finally, the worst sin is that of taking a seat in the meetings of the scoffers and actively participating in their mocking of the things which are sacred." [3]
2. their delight: The pronoun is singular as are the other pronouns in the Psalm. The one who delights in the law of the Lord has a secure and fruitful life (verse 3).
the law of the Lord: Torah "is ‘instruction’ in the sense of the ‘merciful revelation of the will of God’ (cf. G. von Rad OT Theol, 1:190ff.)." [4]
4-5. The wicked are…like chaff: The wicked are without substance or vigor; they will not survive the judgment.
6. the way of the righteous…of the wicked: It is God who determines which way will endure and which will disappear.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20
{12} Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? {13} If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; {14} and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. {15} We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ--whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. {16} For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. {17} If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. {18} Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. {19} If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. {20} But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
12. how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead: The argument here is similar to that in 1 Corinthians 12:3: "…no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit." This is not a statement of what is physically possible, but rather a statement of what is possible spiritually. No one, speaking in the Spirit, could say that Jesus is cursed. No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," unless that (s)he speaks in the Spirit. No one who proclaims that Christ is raised from the dead, that is, who already lives in the reality of the resurrection of Christ can deny the resurrection of the dead, of whom (s)he had been one until (s)he was raised from the dead by Christ). Otherwise, "your faith has been in vain," and we have misrepresented God (verses 14, 15).
19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people, most to be pitied: The point is that we are not playing a game here. To be a member of the body of Christ is to live in the power of the Spirit, and in the community of the resurrection. And these are realities, not mental constructs. The resurrection life changes our way of living in this world, not because we have changed our presuppositions, but because our basis for life has been transferred to an eternal dimension. Its not just the future, eschatological, aspect that is in play here; it is the awareness that our whole being has changed.
20. in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died: Christ is risen as the first fruits of those who have died in faith. They know in its fullness what we who, though we live in the resurrection, know only by anticipation.

Luke 6:17-26
{17} He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. {18} They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. {19} And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. {20} Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. {21} "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. {22} "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. {23} Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. {24} "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. {25} "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. {26} "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

     This is Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel. The scene is surrealistic with a level place, a great crowd appearing in an ordinary way at the same time as unclean spirits and power flowing from Jesus to those who touch him, which are extra-ordinary all being present simultaneously.
20. he looked up at his disciples and said: While Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is directed toward both the disciples and the crowds, Luke’s sermon is directed toward the disciples.
20b-26: On the one hand Luke’s beatitudes are more earthy and less spiritual than Matthew’s, and on the other hand they are balanced by the "woes" in verses 24-26. Malina and Rohrbaugh view the blessings and woes culturally: "’Blessed…’ would mean: ‘How honorable….’ On the other hand, ‘Woe…’ connotes: ‘How shameless….’" [5] However, I believe it is more than just a cultural statement. It is a replication of the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28. The woes are a description of the intention of God toward one who has failed to live responsibly as God’s stewards. The poor are blessed…the rich are cursed; the hungry are blessed, and those who are full now are cursed; those who weep will laugh, while those who laugh now will mourn and weep; those who are rejected and excluded are blessed, while those who are accepted and admired are cursed.
     This more than wishful thinking on the part of the oppressed, or even the evidence of the interpretation of a morally sensitive observer. The rich assume that they are enjoying the favor of God. They implicitly steal from God by not using their wealth to serve the needs of their poor country-men and women as is God’s will. God will reverse the fortunes of the poor and the rich. The poverty of the poor is for only a while, and they will be blessed for eternity. The richness of the rich is also only for awhile. God will act for the poor and the rich will be woebegone for eternity. The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 expresses the nature of the reversal in parabolic form.
     See also 6:27-28: "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Christians are not to exclude, revile or defame others, but seek their blessing and welfare.

     The lessons contrast the actions and circumstances of the righteous and the unrighteous. In the first lesson and the Psalm the righteous are like a tree planted by a stream. Jeremiah points out that the mind (heart) can be very misleading as it interprets the meaning of the circumstances and happenings it observes. The second lesson suggests a principle, the spiritual person will live from the spiritual resources that come from the resurrection of Christ and our immanent resurrection. The Gospel reminds us that our present circumstances are not predictive of our ultimate situation. We should not emulate those who curse us, but bless them in spite of their ill will.

Hymns [6]
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

352 --E--I Know that
17 --D--How Blest Are
794s --D/G--Blest Are They (764v)
378 --I--Amid the World's

232 --P--Your Word, O
300 --II--O Christ, Our
340, 360, 427, 823

Prayers of the People [7]
P or A: We know that Christ is raised and dies no more. As a community of believers proclaiming Christ's resurrection and receiving God's gracious gift of eternal life, we pray to the Lord saying "Lord, in your mercy" and respond, "Hear our prayer."
A: That your church may be as a tree, nourished and sustained by the life-giving waters of baptism, bearing fruit of creativity in worship and in service. Lord, in your mercy. Hear...
A: That we may be worthy stewards of your earth, distributing the fruits of creation not only to the privileged few, but for the sustenance of the whole human family. Lord, in your mercy. Hear...
A: That we would remember, in the midst of our busy lives, the needs of the poor, the hungry, the grieving, and the persecuted, for you have called them blessed. Lord, in your mercy. Hear...
A: That we would not be satisfied with the empty pleasures of human riches, and would seek instead to be filled by your life-sustaining Word. Lord, in your mercy. Hear...
A: That the health of the sick and the dying may be restored, and that those who keep vigil with them be given hope. Lord, in your mercy. Hear...
P: Happy are those who place their trust in you, O God. We offer our prayers to you, trusting that they shall be heard . We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Or [8]

Presider or deacon
Trusting in the Lord for every mercy, let us offer prayers for all our sisters and brothers in the church and the world who need mercy.
Deacon or other leader
For the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
For N our bishop and N our presbyter, for the deacons and all who minister in Christ, and for all the people of God.
For those chosen to govern peoples and nations, and for the welfare of their people.
For all who suffer from any form of oppression, and for the poor and hungry.
For all who are sick and troubled, and for the dying and the dead.
For ourselves, and for our families and all those we love.
Remembering the blessed Virgin Mary, N, and all the saints, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ.
To you, O Lord.
God of every blessing, hear the prayers we offer you this day and plant your people like trees by water in the garden of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1] William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 1-25. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986, p. 490.
[2] Ibid., p. 493.
[3] Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962, pp. 103-104.
[4] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 116.
[5] Bruce Malina & Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 323.
[6] http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rclc0001.txt
[7] http://www.worship.on.ca/text/inter_c.txt
[8] http://members.cox.net/oplater/prayer.htm