Week of Proper 17: Monday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Graveyard and Church

Image in the Public Domain

Death Has No Dominion



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.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus:  God will bring them with him.  We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died.  At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.  So we shall stay with the Lord for ever.  With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

Psalm 96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;

proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations

and his wonders among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

5 As for the gods of the nations, they are but idols;

but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!

Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  “The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Luke 4:16-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,

for he has anointed me.

He has sent me bring the good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”  And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”  And he went on, “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.  There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.”

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.


The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


The spirit of the Lord Yahweh has been given to me,

for Yahweh has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,

to bind up hearts that are broken;

to proclaim liberty to captives,

freedom to those in prison;

to proclaim a year of favour from Yahweh,

a day of vengeance for our God,

to comfort all those who mourn and to give them

for ashes a garland;

for mourning robe the oil of gladness,

for despondency, praise.

–Isaiah 61:1-3a (The Jerusalem Bible)

The story of our Lord and Savior’s rejection in his hometown appears in all three synoptic gospels.  In Mark and Matthew, however, the rejection is immediate.  (Follow the links in “Some Related Posts” to read those texts.)  But Jesus finds immediate adulation in the Lukan account.  Only after he keeps talking about the extension of grace to Gentiles does he face rejection.

None of this bothers me, for I am not a Biblical literalist.  In these devotions I read the accounts in their literary context, not as a great, unified harmony of the gospels.  Minor differences exist among parallel readings, but so be it.  I have my eyes on more important matters.

With this post I follow the Canadian Anglican lectionary into the Gospel of Luke.  The story before this reading is simple:  Mary becomes pregnant.  So does her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.  Both women give birth.  Prophecies unfold.  Shepherds visit shortly after the birth of Jesus.  At age 12, Jesus astounds scholars of the Scriptures at the Jerusalem Temple.  Jesus grows up, and eighteen years pass.  John the Baptist announces the coming of the Messiah, baptizes Jesus, and speaks out against the tetrarch Herod, who sends John to prison.  Jesus then goes into the wilderness, passes the test of temptations, and begins to preach, to much acclaim.

So we come to this day’s reading from Luke.  The quote from Isaiah 61 matches one of the central concerns of the Lukan Gospel:  God’s care for the poor.  And let us remember another theme of the book:  The Jews are the chosen people, but God calls Gentiles, too.

Now, for 1 Thessalonians…

You and I, O reader, have an advantage that the Thessalonian Christians of circa 50-51 C.E. lacked.  We have the benefits of subsequent history and theological development.  Christian theology was in its infancy during the time of Paul.  A common expectation among followers of Jesus at the time was that the Lord would return very soon.  But people who had come to faith in Christ began to die.  There was some concern in the Thessalonian church that the deceased believers would be a great disadvantage upon the Second Coming.  This is where history comes in:  Those alive at the time of the writing of 1 Thessalonians died without seeing the Second Coming either.

Paul assured the members of the Thessalonian church that nobody who trusted in Jesus, whether he or she have a pulse or not, was at a disadvantage.  Death did not break the relationship of faith.  Those who have predeceased us are still alive in God.

And, as Luke reminds us, those who can come to this faith include Gentiles.  So God places no obstacles–not even death–in the way of a continued faith life.  Neither race nor ethnicity nor cultural background nor death have dominion.  Jesus came to preach a liberating message, the best news of all.  It is for you, and it is for me.  And Jesus keeps his promises.  Deo gratias!



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: