Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday 9 October 2016 - Ordinary 28

Theme(s): Gospel for everyone // God reaches to the outsider "Remember Jesus Christ

Sentence: "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel" 2 Timothy 2:8


God of compassion,
deepen and increase our love for you
so that we may leave behind the sins
from which you have redeemed us,
and serve you in perfect freedom,

in the power of the Spirit,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Readings, related:

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111
2 Tim 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19


2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

This story of God healing a non-Israelite fits well with the healing in Luke 17. In both cases leprosy is the problem. A common element between the two stories is that Naaman, like the Samaritan leper, understands that God has done this work and wishes to acknowledge it appropriately.

Psalm 111

This is an interesting psalm as it combines praise for God's law (v. 7) and affirmation of God's wisdom (v. 10). By setting out praise for God and God's works (vss. 2-9) the psalmist provides reason for praise and affirmation of God's word expressed in law and in wisdom: word and deed together have integrity. The God who acts faithfully and justly provides precepts and wisdom for our benefit.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Two matters stand out for me from this reading which has many dimensions and points of interest.

1. Paul's summary of the gospel he preaches may surprise us.

No mention of (say) forgiveness of sins, God's grace towards us, God's transforming power in our lives. Instead he gives three points, anchored into the historical circumstances of Jesus' life and death: "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David" (v. 8).

Clearly this is a summary, and the verb 'remember' invites Paul's readers to recall the larger story and extended version of his gospel of which 'raised from the dead, a descendant of David' are key notes. Thus one might go to Romans 1:1-6 where Paul sets out a (longer) summary of the gospel and its connection to his calling as an apostle, a summary which includes 'who was descended from David according to the flesh' and 'was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead.'

Further 'remembering Jesus Christ' must also include the immediately-to-hand things Paul has said about the gospel, e.g. 2 Timothy 1:8-10 which speaks of God's power to save us and to call us to holy living, according to God's gracious purpose, which includes abolition of death and bringing of immortal life.

Why then does Paul say at this point 'Remember Jesus Christ'? The context is an urging of Timothy and through Timothy, his congregation, to engage fully in the Christian life, which includes suffering for the gospel and earnest endeavour to 'obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus' (v. 10). To remember Jesus Christ is to recall that Jesus led the way (1) in suffering so that God's purpose might be fulfilled and (2) in endeavouring to be faithful to God in all circumstances.

(2) Paul himself endures many things as an apostle and herald of the gospel.

Why? 'For the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory' (v. 10). Sometimes Christians get caught up in a debate over whether God's choice of us overrides any real sense that we choose to put our faith in God. Here Paul appears to transcend such debate! Christians are 'the elect' (those chosen by God to have faith in him) yet Paul worries that they (we) might not 'make it' to the full inheritance of salvation (i.e. election does not override out choice to keep placing our faith in God). Such thinking is at one with Paul's thought in Philippians 2:12-13.

Luke 17:11-19

This is a popular and memorable story. Popular because it touches all who hear it about gratefulness. We all have memories of people who never show their gratitude for something we have done for them. We might even remember occasions when we have not thanked someone for a kindness. Memorable because (as with other gospel stories) the numbers mentioned by Luke are striking and simply to recall: 10 / 9 / 1.

A detail in the story might be overlooked but it is important. The returning thanker was a Samaritan and Jesus praises him for being the exceptional 'foreigner' who gives thanks when the others do not.

Thus the story is arguably less about the one out of ten who gives thanks (with lesson: and so must we) and more about the outsider who understands Jesus and responds to him (with lesson: and so the gospel is for all, for Samaritans as well as Jews, for Gentiles and for Jews, for outsider and for insiders).

If so, then this story is representative of the gospel Luke preaches through his Luke-Acts narrative: the gospel is God's inclusive love for all.

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