This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on June 18, 2017.
In Romans 1 and 2, Paul emphasizes the universality of human sin, claiming that both Jews and Gentiles fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3 and 4 show God’s response to humanity’s desperate condition. Because of Christ’s righteousness, we are now justified by God’s grace. Romans 4, however, is not the happily ever after ending of this letter. In chapters 5 to 8, Paul addresses the “now what?” of faith. What are we to do while we wait to stand before the throne of God, permitted access by the grace of Christ? We ask this because while our justification is indeed very good news, in this world, Christ has redeemed sin and suffering still remain. Romans 5:1-8 begins a section of the epistle that speaks into how we live faithfully in the present while putting our hope in the future.
Already the justified have peace with God and access to his grace because of Jesus Christ. Already, through faith in Christ, we are reconciled in our relationship with God. Already we are redeemed. Therefore, whatever comes our way is powerless to shake who we are and to whom we belong. With that comes the gift of peace today. And yet, we wait for the day we will share in the glory of God. We hope for a future day when we will see him, know him, and reflect his glory and goodness unhindered and undeterred. While we walk in a world still plagued by sin and suffering, we have peace that today we have access to God’s grace. And we have hope that one day we will be delivered from all sin, suffering, and shame, while we reflect his glory forever. Both this present peace and future hope give us what we need to put one foot in front of the other on the journey of faith.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.
My youngest daughter has me on a very high pedestal. Her trust in me is limitless. When something breaks, her response is, “Daddy can fix it.” When a comparison is drawn among her little friends, I am always the victor. When in fear she thinks, “Daddy will save me.”
The “servant of Yahweh” plays a central role in second Isaiah. It’s exegetically correct to note that nothing significant distinguishes who this servant is. However, Christians typically hold that this is a foretelling of Jesus. Jewish tradition holds that the servant is actually the community of Israel. In either case, the fact holds that the servant is faithful to Yahweh, in the midst of mistreatment.
This is one section of a more complete picture that second Isaiah is trying to paint of a singular “servant of Israel.” The entire narrative captured in Isaiah 49:1-50:11. The breakdown of the passage is as following:
The servant introduced 49:1-7
Reaffirmation of return and restoration 49:8-13
Israel’s statements of reluctance 49:14,24
Yahweh’s answers to their reluctance 49:15-23,25-26
Yahweh’s statements about exile 50:1-3
The obedient servant 50:4-9
Reprobation if they follow their own light 50:10-11
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 19, 2017.
This text contains an array of topics: peace with God, grace, hope, suffering, God’s love, and reconciliation. It consists of a 223-word passage that begins and ends asserting two facts: (1) justification by faith (5:1b) and (2) reconciliation with God (5:11b). It appears to be connected to a larger pericope (8:18-39) that ends with the avowal of victory and firm hope due to the assurance of “the love of God” (8:39).
Hitherto, Paul has addressed the topic of justification by faith, particularly, the need for it (1:18-3:20), and the ground of it in God’s work in Christ (3:21-4:25). Chapter 4 ends with the phrase “our justification” whereas chapter 5 begins with “Therefore, since we are justified.” It conveys that justification is an attained fact. In 5:1-11, Paul proceeds to examine its effects expressed in a new life of peace and hope, based on God’s love.
Paul asserts that the direct effect is “peace with God” (v.1b). What would “peace with God” mean to the countless voices worldwide suffering persecution and desperately crying out for peace? Does it mean the cessation of hostility and anguish? Is he alluding to Old Testament prophecies of God’s ultimate peace to be granted in the latter days as we read in Isaiah 52:7; 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25, 37:26? To be sure, the “peace” Paul speaks about cannot be threatened by suffering (5:3), not even the deadly persecution many Christians were experiencing under Nero’s reign. Paul seems to be focusing on the New Testament perspective of peace fulfilled “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1b).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 10, 2016.
Luke recorded Jesus’ telling of the story of the Good Samaritan. The title, Good Samaritan, is today synonymous with a person doing good deeds for another person. Jesus told the story to answer a question posed by a man regarding eternal life. Luke painted the scene for us this way: Jesus was sitting down teaching, a customary position of a Rabbi as he taught. Suddenly, an expert in the Law of God stood up, interrupted the lesson and asked Jesus a question. This man was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a 72 member group consisting of experts who studied, taught, and interpreted Hebrew Semitic law, and were typically antagonistic toward Jesus and his teachings. By standing, the man either showed respect or attempted to show authority over Jesus. The latter seems to best fit the context. He tried to examine Jesus intellectually, but with wrong motives, and test Jesus by asking a potent question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus exposed the man spiritually and reoriented the conversation by answering the man with a question of his own, “What is written in the Law?” The man would know the law, as it was his job. He quoted passages of the law found in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. Basically, he answered his own question. Jesus gave this same answer in Mark 12 when someone asked about the greatest commandment of all the 613 commandments found in the Torah.
The passage he quoted, “Love the Lord your God with all your strength and with all your mind” is known as the Great Shema. It was familiar to every faithful Jew. Devout Jews would write the Great Shema on parchment and secure it in wooden boxes called phylacteries, and wear them on their wrists and foreheads. They would also place the Great Shema in a case and nail it to the right side of every doorpost. It was a type of post-it note that said to everyone entering or leaving the home, that as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Jesus responded to the man by telling him he was right, and if he lived according to the law he would live. Jesus exposed the absurdity of thinking anyone could keep the perfect law. God gave us the law to show how we fall short, it was never designed to save us, but rather point us to God. Jesus used sarcasm to say, if there was something you could do to inherit eternal life, this is it.