Category: Lent

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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Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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

Return of the Prodigal Son - Rembrandt
Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt

The narrative of the prodigal son is certainly one of the most well-known parables in the gospels. We may be tempted to begin the reading in verse eleven, but there is good reason to commence with verse one. The passage opens by stating that tax collectors and sinners were coming to listen to Jesus. According to the Pharisees and scribes, he welcomed them and even shared meals with them. Collecting taxes and tariffs was considered dishonorable work, and those employed in this profession were known to take more than the mandated fees.

The sinners described in the passage were probably apostate Jews who were regularly breaking religious laws. We do not learn the specific nature of their sins, but those tasked with religious leadership were evidently appalled by Jesus’ willingness to mix with this class of people. They grumbled about Jesus’ actions, something that they had done before (Luke 5:29-30). Pharisees and scribes worked diligently to maintain their religious and cultural status. In contrast, Jesus had a history of upending the religious system by associating with outcasts and inviting them to repent (Luke 5:31-32). Jesus’ compassion continues to raise questions today about the identities of religious outcasts and the hospitality they ought to receive.

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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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Luke 13:1-9

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

Vine Dresser & Fig Tree - Tissot
Vine Dresser & Fig Tree – Tissot

In last week’s lectionary text (Luke 13:31-35), the narrative began with a group of Pharisees bringing frightening news to Jesus about a threat upon his life. We begin this week’s text with another troubling political report. Jesus is informed that Pilate has killed a group of Galileans. The events described in this passage cannot be located in Jewish resources from this period, but the historian, Josephus, acknowledges that Pilate was known to act with brutal force to maintain the balance of power. We are not given a reason for Pilate’s actions. It is possible that the Galileans were accused of insurgency and then executed. Their blood flowed together with the blood of sacrifices at the temple which suggests that they were likely in the vicinity of the temple when they were killed. This fact makes the report seem even more horrific.

Luke’s account does not provide insight into the intent of those who bring this report to Jesus. Perhaps they expected him to speak to the relative injustice of the situation as many of us might do. Perhaps they wanted him to be outraged and come to the Galileans defense, pronouncing God’s judgement against Roman perpetrators. Instead, Jesus responds in an unexpected manner by raising questions about judgement and suffering. There are references in scripture pointing to the fact that some Jews wondered if tragic events occurred as punishment for personal sins (for example, John 9:2-3). Why did these Galileans have to suffer so greatly, and what about the eighteen souls killed because the tower of Siloam fell upon them? We continue to ask difficult questions of theodicy today about why bad things happen to seemingly good people.

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