|Reading 1:||Reading 2:||Reading 3:||Reading 4:|
|Jeremiah 2:4-13||Psalm 81:1, 10-16||Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16||Luke 14:1, 7-14|
By David Lull
My wife and I have just moved from Iowa to California, and we have given first attention to moving in. I am now up against a last minute deadline to post the first commentary for September. Consequently, I can only offer questions and brief comments to think about. For later Sundays, I plan to offer more developed commentaries.
The lectionary stays with Jeremiah through September and October. Always the harsh critic of empires and imperial ways of thinking and living, Jeremiah challenges us to examine where, in our lives, churches, communities, and nations, we see the need to face up to the consequences of turning away from/against God and to “worthless things/idols.” I highly recommend Jorge Pixley’s commentary on Jeremiah in the Chalice Commentaries for Today series (Chalice Press: St. Louis, 2004). Pixley talks about Jeremiah’s problematic poetic, and prophetic, imagery of a marriage between God and Judah/Israel. What should we say about the particularity of this “marriage”? Who is (are) God’s “bride(s)” today? The modern state of Israel? The Christian church? The United States? What does Jeremiah say about the state of the “marriage” with any of these “brides,” or any others you might name? Be brave, and speak truth to power!
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
What should we say about the concept of “submitting” to God? What kind of relationship is that? Can it be one of mutual love, or is it in contrast to a loving relationship?
What is the tone of this psalm? Does it express God’s condemnation of Israel who did not “submit” to God? Or does it express God’s longing for Israel to “walk” in God’s “ways”?
What should we say about the particularity of this psalm? How does this psalm also speak to the modern state of Israel, the Christian church, and/or the United States?
In our lives, churches, communities, and nations, where do you see the need to confess the failure to “submit to God”?
What should we say about the psalmist’s claim that “God turned Israel over to their stubborn hearts”? This question has two parts: First, what should we say about its particularity? How does this psalm also speak to the modern state of Israel, the Christian church, and/or the United States? Second, what should we say about the idea that God “turns someone over to their stubborn heart”? What kind of response is that? It sounds as though the psalmist was saying that God let them stew in the consequences of their “stubborn hearts.” Is that an image of a spiteful, wrathful God? Or does it imply a longing that stewing in the consequences of a “stubborn heart” will bring about a willingness to turn one’s life around and the transformation of their “stubborn hearts”?
What can you say about the psalmist’s claim that God would “subdue” Israel’s enemies? Here also are two issues: First, how can we move beyond the psalmist’s particularity to speak about God’s concern for the “enemies” of all nations? What needs to be said about the dangers of limiting God’s care only for the modern state of Israel, or only for the Christian church, or only for the United States? Second, what should we say about the idea that God will “subdue” a nation’s “enemies”? From a “process theology” perspective, God cannot intervene unilaterally to “subdue” them. Rather, God can try to “subdue” them through the actions of people, nations, and institutions like the U.N. and the International Court of Justice. If people, nations, and institutions like the U.N. and the International Court of Justice fail to “subdue” them, God keeps on trying to find ways to bring about peace with justice among nations.
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
In our lives, churches, communities, and nations, where do you see active “mutual love”? Where do you see the need to help it “continue”?
What is wrong with “the love of money”? Think boldly about ways to keep our lives “free from the love of money”!
Think boldly about ways to “share what you have”! Or, better, think boldly about ways the dominant (capitalist, free-market) economic system needs to change, so that wealth, resources, and opportunities to enjoy them are more fairly accessible to everyone. Three of my favorite quotations are:
- “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld” (St. Augustine).
- “When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist” (Archbishop Dom Helder Câmara, Brazil).
- “Justice is what love looks like in public” (Cornel West).
What would you say about how the imperative to “share what you have” sets aside, or contrasts with, demands to offer other forms of “sacrifice” to God?
Luke 14:1, 7-14
The first part is a warning against asserting one’s privileged status. In our lives, churches, communities, and nations, where do you see evidence of people asserting of their privileged status in ways that create injustice?
The second part is about the imperative to extend hospitality to those who cannot reciprocate. What other forms, beyond table fellowship, does “hospitality” take today? For example, would you include the provision of housing and health care to everyone, not just to those who are able to pay for them?
In our lives, churches, communities, and nations, where do you see people extending “hospitality” only to those who can reciprocate? Who are the people left out? What can we do to include them—and/or to extend “hospitality” to them first of all?
How are these two—privilege and hospitality—related?
What are the limitations of “hospitality” as a social policy?
Underlying all the considerations above are the following questions:
- Is God wrathful or loving?
- How does God act in the world: unilaterally, or through people and other creatures?
- What is God’s word to those who sin against God and others?
- What is the good news to those who are sinned against (victims of economic injustice and other forms of violence)?
David J. Lull, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Wartburg Theological Seminary, (Dubuque, IA), is the incoming director of the Process and Faith program of the Center for Process Studies (Claremont, CA). He holds a B.A. degree from Iowa Wesleyan College (Mt. Pleasant, IA), a Master of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX), and a Ph.D. degree from Claremont Graduate University (Claremont, CA). An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Lull taught New Testament at Yale University Divinity School (New Haven, CT), and was the Executive Director of the Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta, GA). As the director of the Bible Translation and Utilization unit of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (New York City), he was the “creative consultant” for the documentary film The Bible Under Fire: The Story of the RSV Translations. His publications in the area of Pauline studies include Chalice Press Commentaries for Today on Romans (with John B. Cobb, Jr.) and 1 Corinthians (with William A. Beardslee); and The Spirit in Galatia, an interpretation of pneuma in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He also co-authored (with William A. Beardslee, John B. Cobb, Jr., and others) Biblical Preaching on the Death of Jesus. His most recent publication is a major review essay covering more than a dozen books on “Paul and Empire” in Religious Studies Review 36/4 (2010): 251-62.