May 29, 2016- Second Sunday after Pentecost
May 26, 2016 | by Leah Laird
|Reading 1 Alt
|Reading 2 Alt
|1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39
|Luke 7: 1-10
|1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
Biblical stories of divine intervention were written to act as witnesses to those hearing them. They proved that the deity in the story was bigger than things of the earth that can be explained. They are there to convince people to follow that deity, give up on another deity, support the temple of the deity, and offer hope to the powerless.
These stories are descriptive of a time, they not everlasting commands to the divine. As we read fantastic stories in the biblical text in contemporary times it is important to come with the same expectations – none of which include a miracle. 1 kings 18 (no word for miracle/sign/wonder).
1 Kings 18:20-39
Elijah sets the challenge between the deity of Israel (YHWH) and a deity of the foreign northern countries (Ba’al). Both are know for their power over fire/lightning and water. YHWH significantly displaying control over fire and water during the exodus from Egypt (a tale preserved and recounted by the Deuteronomist) and Ba’al being known among the northern countries as the storm and rain deity.
There had been a drought in the land, which sets the stage for the failure of Ba’al, and as punishment against the people of Israel for serving Ba’al and Asherah (as prescribed and described in the previous chapter).
Note that nowhere in the text does the word “sign” or “wonder” appear. This story is not meant to show the creator acting in a way contrary to creation or in an unexplained manner. Rather, the tale of Elijah and the failed prophets of Ba’al is a tale meant to display the reality that the creator works in and with creation for the benefit of both. The deity of Israel ends the drought and the people of Israel return to worship of the creator.
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
Here Solomon is dedicating the temple he has built. In vv 22-23 he offers the deity a proper invocation of praise. In the following verses Solomon reminds all of the past promises to David, the exodus from Egypt, and he calls upon the deity to be part of a relationship of perpetual protection (as long as the people continue to return to worship YHWH).
In the middle of this prayer, Solomon veers from praying for his own people to praying for the faithful foreigner. Solomon asks that the deity accept this prayer and maintain the cause of the foreigner for the sake of proving the authority in the new temple as the dwelling place of the powerful God of Israel, in the new temple as the dwelling place of the powerful God of Israel, YHWH.
In this prayer the Deuteronomist wants the reader to know the importance of recognizing the divine power and the successful outcomes that can produce.
In line the other texts from this lectionary the psalmist opens with praise, honor, and acknowledgment of the great power possessed by the deity. Though here this is no longer a deity confined to a location (the temple or a mountain). The audience is reminded that YHWH is over all the heavens and the earth.
The pivot point of the text is found in vv 7-8, when the call is changed from being called to offer recognition of the deity’s great works and moves to a call the audience to give everything to this divine creator.
Verse 9 returns to the call to worship. This is expanded to those beyond the human realm (vv. 11-12). The voices of all creation are brought into the jussive and called upon to be heard recognizing the greatness of the divine; this divine creator who will act as judge of all the people and creation.
In all the descriptions given to the deity here in Psalm 96, not one attribute would be considered other worldly, unnatural, or miraculous. The deity described here works within, with, and for creation; and the deity interacted right.
In Galatians Paul opens with praise to the deity, in the same tradition as Solomon and the Psalmist. He continues with confirmation that there is not a new revelation. Nor is there any other message to be heard and received as divine. The message deliverance is not one that was invented by Paul, rather, this revelation is divine, being received through Jesus.
The power of the divine, as described in the exodus, the lives and times of the kings, and in the writings, is seen in the life and stories of Jesus. Again, lacking here (as in all other stories in this lectionary) is the “miracle” language. Yes, there is divine strength, but it is not out of place from creation.
As is the case in with the stories above, the divine power displayed is in conjunction with creation and the interactions of the created. It is not reliant on geography, origin of birth, or even species determinant. The divine is power, creation is invited to be a part of this power.