Category: Stephen Reid

Isaiah 43:16-21

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on March 13, 2016.

By the Water - Saryan
By the Water – Saryan

George Lakoff described the importance of linguistic framing in his book, Don’t Think of an Elephant. He describes an experiment. He recorded that when someone tells a listener not to think about an object, it frames the issue so that the listener now cannot avoid thinking about what you asked them not to think about. So whenever he asked people not to think of an elephant they were unable to not think about an elephant. Isaiah 43:16-21 invites the reader to disregard previous salvation history.

The passage (vv. 16-21) reframes the historical perception concerning the anticipated fall of the Babylonian Empire to Cyrus. The first section of this unit contains a description of God in history (vv. 16-17). The second section instructs and challenges the community to eschew remembrance of the past. The third section describes the “new age”(vv. 18-21).

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Joshua 5:9-12

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on March 6, 2016.

Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall

In the lectionary, Joshua 5:9-12 is linked with Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. If you are following the lectionary this would be the fourth Sunday in Lent. As such, it leans into transitions.  The Joshua and 2 Corinthians texts also reflect the theme of transitions.

It is easy to focus on the dramatic battles of the Book of Joshua and miss the liturgical or ritual elements embedded in the book. The Book of Joshua is about transitions. The first chapter of the Book of Joshua announces Moses is dead (Jos 1:2). The story that began with the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 14) closes or transitions at the crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3:1-17). The story that began with the gift of manna (Exodus 16:4-30) comes to an end in the book of Joshua (5:12).

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Isaiah 55:1-9

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on February 28, 2016.

Still Life - Cezanne
Still Life – Cezanne

The “gold standard,” among other things, refers to a type of economy. Every economy rests on some foundation. The bold promise of a new economic order can be underwritten only through the very distinctive nature of God. Only God could give rise to a new economy of redemption for the community of want. The other texts for the third Sunday in Lent are Psalm 63:1-8, which picks up on themes of thirst and satisfaction similar to Isaiah 55:1-9, and Luke 13:1-9, where the themes of repentance echoes Isaiah 55:1-9.

The passage contains a five part argument: First part (verse one); Second part (verses 2-3); Third part, the behold section (verses four and five); fourth section, a call to repentance (verses six through nine); and fifth section the statement of God’s otherness (verses eight and nine).

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Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on February 21, 2016.

God's Promises to Abram - Tissot
God’s Promises to Abram – Tissot

Genesis 15 is a conversation between God and Abram with three sections, first 1-6, and second a ritual act of making a covenant 7-12 and finally a conclusion of the covenant ritual. The opening verse of the chapter uses a formula found in prophetic literature. The passage begins with a “After these things the Word of the LORD came to Abram.“ The narrative connector “after these things” introduces the prophetic formula “the Word of the LORD was to…” which occurs in 2 Chronicles, here in Genesis, but mostly in prophetic literature.

Prior to this chapter the reader finds only divine monologues (12:1ff. 7; 13:14ff) but here we find a conversation. Abram chides God about the unfulfilled promise. The divine speech begins with the formula “do not be afraid.” This reassurance is part of the Genesis tradition (26:24 and 46:3). But it is a staple of the Books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. This makes sense when one considers the prophetic element. This assurance or imperative to fear not occurs absent a clear and present danger. The formula occurs often in the Hebrew Bible but also in Luke 1:12. In both this passage and Luke 1:12 the addressee is a childless man who would be a father.  “The word of the LORD came to…”  The divine speech continues “I am your… shield”  as in many translation such as AV, RSVC, and NIV, but a slight emendation of the Hebrew text would render this as “benefactor.” Shield is a metaphor that we know from the cult (see Psalms 3:3; 28:7; 33:20).

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