3 November 2019; All Saints’ Day (observed); Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31.

We have, for years, connected All Saints’ Day with a reading of the Beatitudes — often the Matthean version. In year C, we get the Lukan version, which includes a mirror-image set of woes, as well as blessings. I think we tend to connect saints and the beatitudes as if to say, “It is these people who are holy.” But the woes challenge us, because if the above is true, then we are not particularly holy. We are full now; we are rich now. Should we be worried?

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Who is justified?

27 October 2019; Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 25C (RCL); Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14.

A few months ago, I read Amy Jill Levine’s book, Short Stories by Jesus. Her reading of this parable upended the way Christians have been reading it for centuries. It turns on the translation of a preposition, and at first I was quite skeptical of her reading, but the more I’ve looked at it, the more I like it.

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Nevertheless, she persisted

20 October 2019; Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24C (RCL); Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5; Luke 18:1-8

Luke’s use of this parable to reinforce the moral about persistence in prayer appears at first glance to compare God to the unjust judge. If God doesn’t answer at first, keep going back and back and back again, just like the widow, until God, out of shame, responds. Certainly, in the Old Testament, we have numerous examples of people reminding God of God’s own nature as a way of encouraging God to take action.

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This foreigner

13 October 2019; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23C (RCL); Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-11; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19.

This is one of those Gospel passages that makes me slightly uncomfortable. When the Samaritan leper returns and worships at Jesus’ feet, Jesus says, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God but this foreigner?” The word for foreigner is allogenes – literally, ‘other born.’ It occurs only here in the New Testament, and is not attested much outside the New Testament. One of the few other places the word occurred was on the gate between the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of Israel in the Jerusalem Temple – an inscription warning foreigners not to enter the Court of Israel on pain of death.

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