Proper 10A

July 07, 2014

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Genesis 25: 19-34

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 119: 105-112

    Author: Doug Bratt

    Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider

    Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible.  That means it’s nearly impossible to preach or teach it in one sitting.  As a result, the Lectionary “carves” it up into smaller, more manageable pieces such as the section it appoints for this Sunday.  But as we noted last week, preaching just one portion of any literary piece is fraught with danger.

    So those who preach and teach the verses appointed for this Sunday by the Lectionary must remember the entire psalm’s theme.  It’s what scholars generally call a “wisdom” or “torah” psalm.  That is to say, among Psalm 119’s functions is to help those who pray it to walk in God’s ways.

    Scholars, however, note that the section of the psalm appointed by the Lectionary for this Sunday is a lament.  In it the poet expresses her grief over her treatment by her enemies.  She is clearly under some kind of largely unexplained duress.  The poet has “suffered much” (107).  “The wicked” have “set a snare for” her (110).

    This offers those who preach and teach this psalm an opportunity to reflect on the nature of suffering.  We’re tempted to think that those who follow God’s ways are immune from any kind of hardship.  We’re also tempted to think of any kind of suffering as a sign that God is either uninterested in or unhappy with us.  So it’s good to remember that while the poet is deeply committed to following God’s ways, she suffers greatly anyway.

    The poet doesn’t identify the cause of the darkness to which she alludes in verse 105.  However, given the nature of the rest of the section’s verses, it’s fair to infer that it’s her mistreatment by her enemies.  The psalmist seems to be like someone who awakens in the middle of the night in pitch darkness and needs some kind of light to guide her to safety.  God’s Words, the torah, insists the psalmist is precisely that light.  It helps her to walk in darkness, perhaps that caused by her enemies.

    Yet it seems as if the poet thinks of God’s Word not just as the light that illumines our walk in God’s ways.  He also almost seems to think of that light-Word as the path itself.  The psalmist, after all, speaks of “following” God’s righteous laws (106).  What’s more, the poet talks about not “straying” from God’s “precepts” (110).  So it’s almost as if God’s Word isn’t just the flashlight that illumines our way back down the mountain in the dark.  It’s also the path that we follow down that mountain.

    The psalmist clings to that light and follows that path tenaciously.  “I have taken an oath,” he says in verse 106, “that I will follow your righteous law.”  “I will not forget your law,” he continues in verse 109.  “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end,” the poet adds in verse 112.  While people and circumstances try to divert him from the path that God’s Word illuminates, the psalmist is determined to stay on the way set forth by God’s Word.

    So the psalmist can say, in the heart of the section the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday, “teach me your laws.”  The psalmist is determined to follow God’s “righteous laws” (106).  Yet he also understands that he neither knows nor follows them perfectly.  So he pleads with God to teach him more and more of God’s ways.

    The New Testament Lesson the Lectionary appoints for this particular Sunday is Romans 8:1-10.  It speaks of the love of Christ that enables God’s children to have life in the Spirit.  In the light of Psalm 119, we might say those whom the Spirit controls are those who, with the psalmist, long to walk in God’s ways in response to God’s amazing grace.

    The Gospel Lesson appointed for this Sunday is Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23.  It’s both the parable of the sower who sows seed on a variety of ground and the parable’s interpretation.  It’s not a major leap to suggest that one sign that the seed that is God’s Word and Kingdom has taken root in someone’s life is a desire to respond by following God’s ways as they’re in part revealed in the Torah.

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    Romans 8: 1-11

    Author: Stan Mast