Pentecost 15 – September 17, 2017

Texts for the Day

Commentary and Reflection

God and Violence – The crossing of the Red Sea is an inspiring story of the power of God to rescue his people from any situation, no matter how desperate.  But then the bodies of the Egyptians wash up on the shore and we realize that God has killed people to make this happen.  What are we to do with these situations?  How does a violent God coexist with our belief that God is love?

In fact, Exodus 14 is relatively tame.  If you dare, read Joshua 8, Isaiah 34, and Revelation 19.  Questions for reflection:

  • How do you react to these texts? Is there anything to be learned from them?  Do you feel comfortable disagreeing with the Bible?
  • What other Biblical texts would you suggest to challenge this violence? The Bible is in dialogue with itself, challenging and reinterpreting ideas about God through the centuries.  How must we view Biblical authority and inspiration in light of this dialogue?

Eating Meat – Romans 14 requires a bit of explanation.  One of the debates in the early church was whether eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols was allowed.  Some argued that since the pagan gods were not real, there was no problem.  Others, particularly those who still followed the Mosaic Law, regarded eating such meat as idolatry.  The lectionary omits Paul’s suggested solution, so finish his thought by reading though 15:13.  He blends his own belief that such acts are permissible with a desire to not cause offense and show contempt toward those who choose not partake.  Do you think the Romans took his advice?

If all this talk of first century paganism has you wondering how this text applies to today, try these two possible angles.

  • What does this tell us about our relationship to food? How does our culture view food and what can the Romans’ struggles teach us about it?
  • What issues does the church argue about today? In what ways can Paul challenge us to, “please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor, for Christ did not please himself.” (Romans 15:2-3)

Forgiveness – The conclusion to the Joseph story in the thematic text and the parable of the unforgiving servant both raise the issue of forgiveness.  The examples they propose are steep.  We say, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  What about being fooled seventy-seven times?  Ten thousand talents are an absurd amount of money, billions of today’s dollars and well in excess of any possible private debt.

This suggests some natural homework for this week.  Who in your life to do you need to forgive?  What is holding you back?

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