June 12, 2016- Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 9, 2016 | by Benjamin Cowan
|Reading 1 Alt
|Reading 2 Alt
|1 Kings 21:1-21a
|Galatians 2: 15-21
|2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
1 Kings 21:1-21a
The text tells the story of how Ahab unjustly acquired Naboth’s property. Naboth’s objection to selling the land, despite a very generous offer, demonstrates his commitment to God. God, not the king, gave the land to his ancestors as their inheritance thus to give it up was to dishonor God. A plot is put in to motion for King Ahab to acquire the land. Naboth is given a seat of honor as a fast as called. Fasting was done to discern how a community had offended God. In this case, two liars provided false testimony against Naboth—the charge of blasphemy and disloyalty to the king. The punishment was death. This results in Elijah hearing from God and informing King Ahab because of what he had done and that he would be given eternal death. Ancient Hebrews believed that if a body was not properly buried, the afterlife would be lost; dogs licking his blood, would mean such.
This passage is reflective of the story of human history, people wanting something that was not their own and taking it through unjust means. The colonial system, how the United States was formed or how the US acquired the state that I’m writing from, California, centers on people wanting the possessions of others and taking it by murder. The text serves as a warning that there are consequences to our actions and to unjust acts. When we commit unjust actions to promote our own selfish games, God’s judgment will manifest, in this life or in the next.
In connecting to a previous text, we are reminded that the blood of Abel cried out to God for the wrong that was done against him (Genesis 4:10). The Psalmist here proclaims that God hears the cry of the just and will not ignore them. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, “the moral arc of the universe, bends towards justice.”
Alternate Reading 1: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
The text begins after the rape of Bathsheba, which resulted in a pregnancy and David’s covering of the pregnancy by having her husband, Uriah, killed. After Uriah’s death and the 7 days of mourning, David takes Bathsheba to be his wife. The actions broke the commands of God not to commit murder or to covet another man’s wife. God sends Nathan to David and Nathan uses a parable to confront the king about this issue indirectly. It probably would not have been wise to call the king out directly at first! The parable results in David discerning the injustice done to the poor man by the rich man. At that moment, Nathan reveals to him that the rich man in the parable is David and the poor man was Uriah. David realizes his sins, but his actions results in several consequences: the death of his soon to be child with Bathsheba, that there will be strife in Israel and his family, his own wives will be taken from him, but in all of this he will live. This text also emphasizes that actions have consequences and is a testament to human free will. David resisted the lure of God not to rape Bathsheba and to kill Uriah. Even the man who is described as being after God’s own heart, did not always yield to God’s persuasion. This in turn established that the king of Israel is not above the law and when he breaks it, he experiences the consequences of his actions. The consequences are severe and one might say equal to his crimes. God does not prevent these consequences but continues his commitment to lure David towards life.
Alternate Reading 2: Psalm 32
In this psalm, the psalmist describes the consequences of sin or ignoring the initial aim of God. This has resulted in the psalmist sense of being disconnected from the divine, which for the psalmist brings him closer to death. The psalmist rejoices that God forgives sin by his willingness to confess to God his actions. God speaks in the psalm exhorting one to listen to God’s lure, for there is life and possibilities within it. The psalmist observes that torment follows those who reject God’s lure but love surrounds those who accept it. The psalmist realizes the ability to choose and the choice that one makes can either expand one’s possibilities or severely limit them. The psalmist says listening to God results in love and for that the psalmist is grateful.
Galatians 2: 15-21
This text adds complexity to the Jewish understanding of God. Historically, Jews viewed themselves as righteous because of the Law and this could only be lost, if one was extremely disobedient to the Law. Jews, at least the Pharisees, thought Gentiles could become righteous if they converted to living a life like a Jew. Paul argues that both Gentiles and Jews are righteous not because of the law but because of Jesus the Christ. Jesus, the Christ is the one who listened and obeyed God’s lure absolutely. As such, he has become the model of something superior to the Law. Whereas the law gave commandments to live by, Jesus showed how to live life by the Spirit of God. True righteousness is found in listening to God and living out God’s initial aims, which one is free to reject.
In this text, Jesus is invented to have dinner with a Pharisee. During this time, a woman comes and kisses his feet and anoints them. The Pharisee was disgusted by these actions because the woman was a sinner and even more dumbfounded by the fact that Jesus tells her that her sins are forgiven and she may be it peace. The text demonstrates God’s love for the oppressed and how it is that those who are called “sinners” by the Pharisees often demonstrate what it means to live life as children of God. This woman has shown great hospitality to Jesus, something that the OT observes that failing to be hospitable is a great sin against God (Ezekiel 16:48-50). Thus, the one whom should rejoice at God, the Pharisee, cannot because he is convinced of his own righteousness and perfection in love. The one who understands the struggles of life, the sinner, is able to rejoice in God and discern God’s actions because rooted in her is love and a true desire to respond to the lure of God. Jesus is able to lure her to God’s cause by affirming her personhood. The text concludes with how Jesus continued to preach good news throughout the land and notes the prominent role of women. Once again, Jesus is transforming Jewish culture by bringing into his ministry those who would not be expected.