Lectionary 28 C

Hey, look! Someone will have the opportunity on Sunday to announce the eleventy-first psalm! Also, if you're one who likes to raise up the Jewish-Samaritan divide and what that might mean for the ten who didn't return, there's a path into the proper distinction of law and gospel as well.

Psalm 111

Verses 4 and 5 are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 24: The Mass (AP 24.72) in the section on "Sacrifice and the Use of the Sacrament." Melanchthon quotes these verses  as a reminder that what happens in Communion is by "the will and mercy of God" as we remember what Jesus has done for us and are given life through reception of this gift. This is not to say that Communion is only a memorial meal, but the remembering does matter.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

The last half of verse 13 is cited through editorial insert in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.75) as a reminder that our election to salvation is entirely dependent on God's faithfulness, which is sure.

Verse 15 is cited three times. First, it is partly quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.188) as scriptural evidence that we are called to attend to the difference between God's law and God's promises, and that this distinction matters.

Such an approach--distinguishing law and promise rather than law and gospel--allows for a clearer communication. The gospel can then be thought of as both law and promise, avoiding the need to talk about the gospel in the general sense (law and promise) or the gospel in the specific sense (promise). And lest you think this is just one opinion...

Verse 15 also cited in a footnote to Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 5: Law and Gospel, Affirmative Thesis 1 (Ep 5.2, n. 39). The footnote explains that Luther's translation of the words "rightly explaining" is "rightly dividing." This lead to the Lutheran reformers after Luther's death to parse out the different ways the Bible and Luther used the word "gospel," and indeed as this Affirmative Thesis 1 lifts up, to pay particular attention to the difference between law and gospel.

Finally, verse 15 is cited through editorial insert in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 5: Law and Gospel (SD 5.1), again as a reference to the proper division or distinction between law and gospel.

An entire article in both the Epitome and the Solid Declaration are about making sense of different uses of "gospel." It is a bit of a shame that Melanchthon's insight into this linguistic challenge didn't catch on early. It would be somewhat easier to talk clearly about the gospel as both God's law and promises.

If this catches your imagination, check out the Lutheran Promising Tradition.

TheoThru

I know there's a tendency to look askance at the ten lepers who didn't return, but for those caught up in the righteousness of following God's law, it can be easy to overlook one of God's promises coming true. For all we know, those ten lepers went to the priest, were judged clean, and offered thanksgiving as was appropriate following the law. We don't know, and I have some trouble giving them too much grief over following the law.

What I notice here is how those who are separated by the law but connected by infirmity have different reactions to God's promise being fulfilled (here, the healing of the sick). Once the infirmity is removed, those who were used to following the law return, we might assume--in order to follow the commandment about not bearing false witness--to following the law as a way back into relationship. But the one who was excluded from relationship by the law is the first to see how God has restored relationship by fulfilling a promise, which completes the law but also supersedes it.

  • How do we make room for those we would otherwise be separated from in order to see God's activity in their lives?
  • How might we see Jesus in those who are separated from us because of race, class, sex, gender, music or liturgical taste, culture...?