Engaging the Word: Readings for 5/2916 (The Second Sunday after Pentecost)

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 By Barbara Klugh

1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 96; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.  In this week’s readings, Elijah and the prophets of Baal meet in a dramatic confrontation, Paul is dismayed at the behavior of the Galatians, and Jesus heals the slave of the Centurion.

The fire of the Lord consumed the burnt offering. Folio c.1510. Public domain via The Work of God’s Children.

The fire of the Lord consumed the burnt offering. Folio c.1510. Public domain via The Work of God’s Children.

1 Kings 18:20-39: For the next six weeks, our Old Testament lessons will be about two great prophets—Elijah and Elisha. In this week’s reading, Elijah instructs King Ahab to assemble all the people, especially the 450 prophets of Baal, on the top of Mount Carmel. Elijah has a dual purpose. He wants the people of Israel to make up their minds and decide whether they will follow God or Baal. He also wants to expose Baal as a worthless idol. Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a test. The god who sends lightning down from heaven to consume a sacrifice is the true God, worthy of worship. This is a very funny story; Elijah is quite the showman and enjoys teasing and mocking the prophets of Baal. After the prophets of Baal are unsuccessful, Elijah offers a simple prayer, asking God to act, so that the people will return to Him with all their heart. God answers with a consuming fire, and the people fall on their faces, saying, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”

Psalm 96: is a hymn of praise that calls on the whole earth to sing a new song to the King of all creation.

St. Paul Church Window. Public domain via The Work of God’s Children.

St. Paul Church Window. Public domain via The Work of God’s Children.

Galatians 1:1-12: We will hear most of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in the next six weeks. It has a sense of frustration and urgency as Paul defends himself from attacks against his authority, and defends the gospel against the false teachings of a group of Jewish-Christians, known as Judaizers. They were teaching that the followers of Jesus needed to be circumcised and observe the rules and regulations of the Law of Moses. In this week’s passage, Paul defends the divine origins of his authority and of the gospel. He also expresses dismay that the Galatians deserted the gospel as he had proclaimed it—that salvation for all is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. But from antiquity onward, churches have added religious rules and regulations as a way of controlling people. Paul just wants us to clear away the debris and live in the freedom of God’s love.

Jesus and the Centurion by Paolo Veronese, c.1571. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus and the Centurion by Paolo Veronese, c.1571. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 7:1-10: The reading from Luke’s Gospel takes place just after Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, and Jesus entered Capernaum. A Roman centurion (a Gentile) had heard about Jesus and asked some Jewish elders to have Jesus come and heal his slave. The elders tell Jesus that the centurion is a worthy person, “for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” Jesus went with them, but before they reached the house, the centurion sent some friends with the message that Jesus didn’t really need to come to the house, “but only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.” Jesus is amazed at his faith, and said to the crowd, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” The slave was healed. It’s interesting to me that the centurion, a man of civil authority, was willing to place himself under Jesus’ spiritual authority because of his compassion for his slave. Moreover, Jesus, in his compassion, had no problem crossing religious boundaries in order to heal the slave.

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