Monday, August 7, 2017

Danger and Fear Meet Salvation – 13 August 2017 – 10th Sunday after Pentecost/ Lectionary 19

Matthew 14:22-33

 Still seeking solitude (cf. 14:13), Jesus went up the mountain alone to pray; the narrator repeats that he was still there alone when evening came. Two forces came down the mountain toward the disciples in the boat: first the wind, and they battled it fiercely. . . But when they saw a man walking through that storm toward them, they were convinced they were really in trouble. . .  They cried out in fear, but Jesus identified himself and said, “do not be afraid.”

. . . Peter was at once doubtful and confident: “If it is you,” he said. . .  Jesus did not chastise him for the test, but invited him to come, and so Peter did…until a strong blast of the wind slapped him in the face and brought him back. Perfect fear drives out faith, but not entirely: Peter cried out for salvation and Jesus' hand found him.

For the second time Jesus questioned a disciple's “little faith,” this time asking, “why did you doubt?” Once again the wind stopped, but this time the disciples do not ask who it might be, rather they worshipped the “Son of God.” –– Paul E. Koptak

1 Kings 19:9-18

Alone on the mountain and afraid of political and religious forces that are out to get him, Elijah waits for the Lord to come. He looks in all the wrong places for God’s presence: wind, earthquake, and fire. But the Lord was not in the powerful and destructive energies that visit Earth regularly. Instead, the Lord was in the silence which Elijah could “hear” and it caused him to recoil by covering his face.

Prof. Robert E. Bornemann, who taught Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia held that the literal translation of the Hebrew for “sound of sheer silence” is “the sound of silence pulverized.” That is, God’s presence came to Elijah in less than silence, in crushed silence, in sound––even sound!––that was broken.

In the broken “voices” of this world, we find the presence of God. And from out of that brokenness, the voice of the Lord spoke to Elijah with assurance that his people would remain and survive.

The voice at the mouth of the cave gives Elijah the command to appoint new leaders with the assurance that he is not alone: a remnant of seven thousand remain and will survive judgment (1 Kgs 19:13–18). –– Paul E. Koptak

Romans 10:5-15

Paul draws from Hebrew scripture to support his claim that “Christ is the end of the law [telos can mean the termination or the goal. . . ] so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (v 10:4).

Each half of that claim is taken in turn; the “righteousness of faith” marks the telos of the law in the righteous life of Christ, and so it is offered to all. Paul quotes Moses from Leviticus 18:5, “the person who does these things will live by them,” thought by many to refer to Christ, the fulfillment of the “righteousness that comes from the law.” He then draws from Deuteronomy 30:11–14 to show that the “righteousness that comes by faith” neither brings Christ down from heaven nor up from the grave. Those works belong to God. . .  

In a mirror repetition of verse 9, Paul adds that one believes with the heart and is justified. . . and one confesses with the mouth and is saved (v 10). The righteousness of faith is for everyone, Paul says three times: he quotes Isaiah 28:16 in verse 11, affirms one Lord of Jew and Greek in verse 12, and quotes Joel 2:32 in verse 13.

. . . Isaiah thought messengers of good news ran on beautiful feet (Isa 52:7), even though he knew that not everyone would believe. So the church finds its great commission in evangelism and worship: “O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples” (Ps. 105:1). –– Paul E. Koptak

Paul E. Koptak is professor of communication and biblical interpretation at North Park University Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Homily Service 41, no. 3 (2008): 145-154.

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