Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts for the Day

Bible reading plan: Galatians through Revelation.

Commentary and Reflection

Call Narratives – The story from Exodus this week is what is sometimes referred to as a call narrative.  It is a story in which a prophet encounters God and is given a mission of some sort.  These narratives have a number of typical elements which are often, but not always, present.

  • Confrontation – God interrupts the life of the (soon-to-be) prophet.
  • Introductory Word – God, or God’s messenger, gives a personal greeting.
  • Commission – God sends the prophet on a mission.
  • Objection – The prophet objects that he or she does not have the ability.
  • Reassurance – God promises that God will be present with the prophet.
  • Sign – God provides a sign that God’s words are true.

This model of a call narrative was introduced by Norman Habel a few decades ago and is widely used.  See if you can identify these elements in Exodus 3.  Then read some other call narratives in the Bible:  Judges 6:11-24, Isaiah 6:1-13, Jeremiah 1:4-19, Luke 1:26-38, Acts 9:1-19.

What do you think of these call narratives?  Do you find the Habel framework a useful way to understand them?  How do they relate to your own sense of call?

Works – Over the last few weeks, we have heard about how we are saved by faith and not by the law.  And yet here we have a list of things that Paul is asking us to do.  Is this a contradiction?  None of these things look unreasonable, but they sure look like law.  As you ponder your answer, read last week’s selection (Romans 12:1-8) and see if you can discern Paul’s answer to this question.

Persecution – From our position of relative comfort as American Christians, it is tempting to read today’s Gospel as a piece of abstract theology, where Jesus and Peter teach us facts about Jesus’s identity as the Messiah.  But underlying this story are real flesh and blood people on a dangerous mission.  It didn’t take a prophetic vision to see that Jesus and his disciples might not make it out of Jerusalem alive.  The story reads very differently when read by believers who face some of the same choices.

The Gospel of Matthew was written at a time when Christianity was still technically illegal and faced persecution.  He surely had this in mind when relating this story.  Persecution continues to be a reality for the church today, with Christians in certain parts of the world facing arrest and even death for practicing their faith.  Sadly, some Christians are also perpetrators of religious persecution, even within the United States.

Reread the passage with these ideas in mind.  What do you notice that you didn’t before?  How does this change your ideas about what the passage means?

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