Epiphany 7

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Prayer of the Day
God of compassion, keep before us the love you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies; in our words and deeds help us to be like him through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Genesis 45:3-11, 15
{3} Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. {4} Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come closer to me." And they came closer. He said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. {5} And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. {6} For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. {7} God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. {8} So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. {9} Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. {10} You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. {11} I will provide for you there--since there are five more years of famine to come--so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty’…. {15} And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

     Joseph’s brothers have returned to Egypt, with Benjamin as required by Joseph, because of the continuing famine. At Joseph’s orders the steward put Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Then he sent the steward to discover the cup and detain the one who had the cup. Benjamin is taken and all the brothers return with him. Judah pleads that he be allowed to take Benjamin’s place as slave to Joseph, so that Benjamin could return to his father.
3-8: Joseph reveals that he is "Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt," and inquires about his father. The brothers are frightened by the revelation, so Joseph reassures them that "God sent me before you to preserve life….to preserve for you a remnant on earth…many survivors."
9-11: Joseph settles them in the land of Goshen and promises to provide for them there.
[12-14: An emotional scene in which Joseph tells his brothers to bring their father to Egypt, and tearfully embraces his brother Benjamin.]
15: After Joseph convinces them that he is not angry with them, "his brothers talked with him."
Comment: The Joseph story extends from chapter 37 of Genesis to chapter 50. It is a unitary narrative which realistically portrays characters and situations without speaking directly about God. Von Rad asserts that 45:5-7 and 50:20 f. are central is identifying the doctrinal intention of the narrative. God’s saving rule is concealed in the ordinary affairs of life, and "includes even man’s evil my making the plans of the human heart serve divine purposes, without hindering them or excusing them." This is a wisdom theme: "A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). [1]

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
{1} Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, {2} for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. {3} Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. {4} Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. {5} Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. {6} He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday. {7} Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. {8} Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret--it leads only to evil. {9} For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. {10} Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. {11} But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity…. (39} The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. {40} The LORD helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

1. Do not fret because of the wicked: This motif is repeated in verses 7-8. "The fretting of the pious is…not simply ‘moral indignation’ but a passionate inquiry about the living reality of Yahweh, about the power of his rule in this world." [2] To fret over the wicked is not only senseless, it is a sign of mistrust.
2. they will soon fade away: Since they have separated themselves from God their fate is determined.
3-5: The singer urges his pupil to put his/her trust in Yahweh, and Yahweh will bless him.
9-11. the wicked shall be cut off…will be no more: Those who have set themselves against Yahweh will be destroyed. Those who have put their trust in Yahweh will inherit the land. They will delight themselves in the bounty of the Lord. The land is "a pledge of Yahweh’s bestowal of blessing and life-preserving goodness." [3]
39-40: The Psalm does not solve the problem of evil. It does promise deliverance from them, and a certainty of salvation for those who take refuge in Yahweh.
Comment: Psalm 37 is an acrostic, didactic poem. The wicked, evildoers in the Psalm are not just morally corrupt, they resist the will of God.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
{35} But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" {36} Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. {37} And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. {38} But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body…. {42} So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. {43} It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. {44} It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. {45} Thus it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. {46} But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. {47} The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. {48} As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. {49} Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. {50} What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

35-38: The body we have in this life is to the resurrection body as the seed is to the plant. Though they are connected, they are vastly different.
42-44: The earthly body is perishable, dishonorable, weak, physical; the resurrection body will be imperishable, glorious, powerful and spiritual.
45-49: The first man, Adam, is contrasted with the last Adam, Christ, and by extention all who live in him. The first Adam was from the earth, and so are all who are of the dust, of this earth. But the last Adam is from heaven, and those who are from heaven are like him. We have been earthly, but we are heavenly.
we will bear the image of the man of heaven: There is a connection here with the idea of being created in the image and likeness of God.
50: We must be re-created by God in order to inherit the kingdom.
Comment: The second lesson is a continuation of the reading of 1 Corinthians, so it does not have any necessary thematic connection with the other lessons.

Luke 6:27-38
{27} But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. {29} If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. {30} Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. {31} Do to others as you would have them do to you. {32} "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. {35} But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. {36} Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. {37} "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; {38} give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

27. to you that listen: The Sermon on the Plain continues; those who listen are the disciples.
Love…hate: "Two words nearly always assigned to internal states in our society are ‘love’ and ‘hate.’ To understand what they meant in the first-century Mediterranean world, it is necessary to recognize their group orientation. The term ‘love,’ for example, is best translated ‘group attachment, attachment to some person’…. There may or may not be affection, but it is the inward feeling of attachment along with the outward behavior bound up with attachment that love entails…. ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’ is to be attached to the people in one’s neighborhood as to one’s own family…. Correspondingly, ‘hate’ would mean ‘disattachment, nonattachment, indifference.’ Again, there may or may not be feelings of repulsion. But it is the inward feeling of nonattachment along with the outward behavior bound up with not being attached to a group and the persons that are apart of that group that hate entails." [4]
love your enemies: This proposes a course of action that is contrary to human nature. Jesus calls those who follow him to repudiate their natural inclinations, and instead follow his example. "He recommends not merely a warm affection (philia) such as one might have for one’s family, or a passionate devotion (eros) such as one might expect between spouses, but a gracious, outgoing, active interest (agape) in the welfare of those persons who are precisely antagonistic." [5]
     "This and the next verse contain four commands of Jesus: love, do good, bless, and pray. Only the first and the last have counterparts in Matt 5:44. Luke has obviously added the other two in view of the four outrages expressed in the fourth beatitude (6:22); thus the three that follow specify the kind of love that the Christian follower is expected to show toward an enemy. The ‘enemy’ is thus the one who hates, outlaws, denounces, and rejects the Christian name." [6]
28. bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you: Paul repeats the commands in 1 Corinthians 12:14.
Verses 27-28, 31-36 use the second person plural, "you." Verses 29-30 use the second person singular.
29. strikes you on one cheek: "This injunction and that in v. 30b thus cut through the old principle of retaliation (Exod 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21)…." [7]
takes away your coat: This could mean theft, the act of a needy person, or security for a debt. In Luke 3:11 John the Baptist tells the crowd, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."
30. Give to everyone who begs: There is no allowance made for questions of need, or the possible bad consequences of giving to a beggar; the command is absolute. A possible limitation is explicitly rejected in verse 34.
31: The Golden Rule. The rule applies not only to those who are friends. Verses 32-33 apply the rule to those who may hate you or do evil to you.
35. expecting nothing in return: "The words in this phrase express the basic motivation of Christian love." [8]
the Most High…is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked: Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 4:31; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.
37-38: Two prohibitions and two commands. "‘Judging’ does not refer here to the judicial decision of a constituted judge, but to the human tendency to criticize and find fault with one’s neighbor. Mercy in judging should lead also to generosity in giving, and so the foursome is united." [9]
A good measure…: "If human conduct is not measured merely by the reciprocity of the Golden Rule, it will find its reward in divine superabundance, unstinted giving." [10]

     We pray that God will "keep before us the love you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies." In Gospel Jesus teaches about love and commands us to love even our enemies. In the first lesson, Joseph is an example of one who showed love toward those who sought to injure him, his own brothers. He understood that when his brothers sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:22-28), Yahweh was able to use him to save his family in a time of drought and famine. "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…" (Genesis 50:20). The Psalm tells us not to "fret" because of the wicked. Instead we should put our trust in God, for he is our refuge, and we will find delight in him.
     In the Gospel we are admonished, no, commanded to love our enemies, to do to others, even those who cannot or will not repay us, as we would have them do to us. To love those who love us is not meritorious, even sinners do that. Instead, we are to love, expecting nothing in return. Then our reward will be from God, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over."
     Lutherans should be aware that February 18 is also the observance of Martin Luther, renewer of the church, 1546.

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

317 --E--To God the
419 --D--Lord of All
340 --II--Jesus Christ, My

133 --II--Jesus Lives! The
470 --II--Praise and Thanks
126, 364, 377, 783s, 767s

Prayers of the People [12]
     God of authority over all, as you forgave his sins and healed the paralytic brought to Jesus, so heal us of all that truly hinders the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. Heal the wounds of old conflicts, the pain of current life struggles, the fear of defeat, loneliness, rejection, disease and even death. Enable us to rise from the mats to which we are bound and renew our desire for life and give us strength to live. You alone can help us. God of surprising light, C. heal us.
     Strengthen, Gracious God, the ministry of prison, military and hospital chaplains. Give them grace to proclaim the Gospel and care for people in difficult circumstances. Make the harbingers of hope and agents of healing. Let them experience hope themselves. God of surprising light , C. heal us.

[1] Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary. London: SCM Press Ltd., 1961, p. 433.
[2] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 405.
[3] Ibid., p. 406.
[4] Bruce Malina & Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 57.
[5] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (i-xi): Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1981, p. 638.
[6] Ibid., p. 637.
[7] Ibid., p. 638.
[8] Ibid., p. 640.
[9] Ibid., p. 641.
[10] Loc. cit.
[11] http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rclc0001.txt
[12] http://www.worship.on.ca/text/pray_b1.txt