Week of Proper 10: Saturday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  The Persian Empire Circa 500 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

God is the Hope of All People

JULY 22, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Exodus 12:37-42 (An American Translation):

So the Israelites set out from Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides the dependents; a great cloud went up with them, as well as very much live stock, both flocks and herds.  With the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, they baked unleavened cakes; for it was not leavened, because they had been driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

The length of time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years; and at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, on that very day all the hosts of the LORD left the land of Egypt.  Since that was a night of vigil on the part of the LORD to bring them out of the land of Egypt; this night must be one of vigil for the LORD on the part of the Israelites throughout their generations.

Psalm 136:1-3, 10-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his mercy endures for ever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his mercy endures for ever.

10 Who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,

for his mercy endures for ever;

11 And brought out Israel from among them,

for his mercy endures for ever;

12 With a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm,

for his mercy endures for ever;

13 Who divided the Red Sea in two,

for his mercy endures for ever;

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it,

for his mercy endures for ever;

15 But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea,

for his mercy endures for ever;

16 Who led his people through the wilderness,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Matthew 12:14-21 (An American Translation):

But the Pharisees left the synagogue and consulted about him, with a view to putting him to death.

But Jesus knew of this, and he left that place.  And numbers of people followed him about, and he cured them all, and warned them not to say anything about him–fulfilment of what was said by the prophet Isaiah,

Here is my servant whom I have selected,

My beloved, who delights my heart!

I will endow him with my Spirit,

And he will announce a judgment to the heathen.

He will not wrangle or make an outcry,

And no one will hear his voice in the streets;

He will not break off a bent reed,

And he will not put out a smoldering wick,

Until he carries his judgment to success.

The heathen will rest their hopes on his name!

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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God is the hope of all peoples, and the people who worship God (in the Judeo-Christian traditions) are called to be lights to the nations.  This is the deity whose “mercy endures for ever,” to quote Psalm 136.

The reading from Exodus is set immediately prior to the departure from Egypt.  The Canadian Anglican lectionary will cover that event during the Week of Proper 11, so I choose to hold off on certain comments until then.  For today, then, may we focus on the theme of an impending exodus–first from Egypt then from Mesopotamia.

The author of the Gospel of Matthew applies Isaiah 42:1-4 (the First Servant Song) to Jesus.  This text from Deutero-Isaiah is set shortly before the end of the Babylonian Exile and the return of exiles to their ancestral homeland.  This Exodus, like the one from Egypt, is God’s doing via direct actions and human agents.  The theology of much the Hebrew Bible, edited into its final form during the Post-Exilic period, is that the Israelite nations fell from greatness because they disobeyed God by condoning social injustice, practicing polytheism, and refusing to rely on God for strength.  So it makes sense that, prior to a Second Exodus, the Israelite people, identified as the servant of God, receive a charge to be a light to live justly and be a light to the nations.  (Read Isaiah 42:5-9.)

Yet a too-frequent feature of Post-Exilic Judaism was exclusivity.  Chevy Chase, when he was on Saturday Night Live, said

I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not

on the Weekend Update segment.  Likewise, there was a

I’m Jewish, and you’re not

quality about Post-Exilic Judaism.  During the time of Jesus, for example, there were many Gentiles who rejected polytheism and embraced the God of Judaism, but whom the Jewish religious establishment defined as marginal.  These Gentiles were still Gentiles, so there were places in the Jerusalem Temple complex they were not supposed to enter.

Jesus had great appeal to this population, from which came many of the first Christians.

I write these words on the Sixth Day of Christmas, so the thought of light in the darkness, applied to Jesus, is very much on my mind.  And I am exactly one week away from the Feast of the Epiphany, which is all about taking the news of the gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles.  This thought comforts me, for I am a Gentile.

Christianity, an offshoot of Judaism, is an overwhelmingly Gentile faith system, of course.  But we have our own metaphorical Gentiles, those we keep at the margins.  Our criteria vary, ranging from socio-economic status to sexual orientation.  But Jesus lived, died, and rose again for these people, too.  And, before that, God loved all the insiders and outsiders, as we humans define them.  May we learn an essential lesson:  That our definition of “insider” is much narrower than God’s.  Then may we act accordingly.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/god-is-the-hope-of-all-people/

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