A turn in the citations that I didn't expect: it's all about trust. Not a new focus, but a different focus for this set of texts.
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
-- Psalm 147:9-11
Verses 9 thru 11 are cited in a footnote as part of the source text for Luther's prayer for after meals in The Small Catechism, Morning and Evening Blessings (SC 6.10, n. 109).
Verse 11 is quoted in The Large Catechism, First Part: The Ten Commandments, Conclusion of the Ten Commandments (LC 1.325), where Luther points out that this verse is a summary of the First Commandments.
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!
-- 1 Corinthians 9:16
Verse 16 is cited as the concluding thought in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 2: Free Will, Affirmative Thesis 3 (Ep 2.6) so that while we recognize that God, through the Holy Spirit, uses people as the means through which other people hear the gospel and, with the movement of the Spirit, believe the gospel, no one has the right or grounds to boast. The birth of faith in other people is the work of God alone, and while we strive to always proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, none of that work bears fruit without God.
There will be a temptation to focus on Jesus going off for solitary prayer, and while that's certainly something to dwell on in this weeks' gospel reading, these citations push that temptation to explore why Jesus did this with the answer being a centering of trust. Follow me on this: since Jesus was fully human and fully divine, he needed to take time to center his trust and reliance back on the will of God the Father and not in his own works or popularity.
Yes, I'm reading into the text, but the citations and quotes bring Luther's answer to the question of what a god is into this reading. If a god is anything or anyone on whom your heart relies or in whom you put your trust, then all of this week's readings could be read as consistent calls to stay focused on God's providence as we wait. This is a complicated idea because it could be focus this trust on God in exclusion to all else or it could be center your trust on God's faithfulness and love with an abundance of God's grace being shown.
Jesus could have become a very popular and successful faith hear and not the Messiah. To prevent this, he could have stopped teaching and healing and just focused on reconciling all creation to God through his death, resurrection, and ascension, but instead, Jesus keeps teaching and healing and gathering disciples as expressions of God's love and reconciling work.
In our own lives, we could eschew anything or anyone that might seek to become a god to us: family, friends, sports, the stock market, fame, popularity, having the right image, etc. Or we could center our trust on God and let that lead us to discover how God cares for us in many and various ways--in the gift of family, through the support of friends, in opportunity for physical health and exertion--while also helping us discern what might be trying to distract us from having a God-centered life.
Maybe this is why Jesus went off by himself to pray.
- Who or what seeks to become reliable and trustworthy in our lives that is not the God who has redeemed us in Christ?
- What else does an awareness of God's redeeming love demand that we do?