Lectionaries

Last Pentecost, Year C

Main Text

Gospel Anthropological Reading
Gospel Historical/Cultural Questions
Gospel So What?

Epistle Anthropological Reading
Epistle Historical/Cultural Questions
Epistle So What?


Main Text

Jer 23:1-6 or * Jer 23:1-6
Lk 1:68-79 (resp) * Ps 46

Col 1:11-20
Lk 23:33-43


(Jeremiah 23:1-6)
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD. The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

* (Jeremiah 23:1-6)
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD. The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."


(Colossians 1:11-20)
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.


(Luke 23:33-43)
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Gospel Anthropological Reading

Christ the King Sunday. Here we are, singing, "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name!" at the top of our lungs, and then we get this really, really depressing Gospel reading. Jesus, hanging on the cross, comforting some poor slob who feels bad about what he’s done, and about what’s happening to Jesus. We could’ve gotten somethng more fun. We could’ve listened to the crowds shout "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. We could’ve listened in on Pilate asking Jesus, "So, are you a king?" But no. We have Jesus in his least kingly moment. Or so it would seem.

In the whole of the Passion Narrative, there is only one human being who realizes what’s really happening prior to the events of the resurrection. There is only one person, looking at Jesus on the cross, who does not see disaster. Tradition calls him Dimas. Luke calls him a thief.

We would have no mimetic theory were it not for the events of this day. It is because God has exposed the Powers and Principalities of this world for what they are through the events on Calvary that we now have enough distance (barely) from the violence that we turn on the scapegoat to name it. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you and I will dwell with him in paradise today, too.

Did you notice?

Jesus didn’t say they’d dwell together in paradise, “but, Dimas, you’ll have to wait three days, till my father raises me from the dead.” He said, “today.”

Joining Jesus in paradise had nothing to do with dying. It had nothing to do with being raised from the dead. It had everything to do with seeing beyond the appearances to the truth, that God is victorious in the cross. It has everything to do with the thief’s realization that his own condemnation on the cross bore no relationship to his standing before God. In that moment, he became free. In that moment, he joined Jesus in paradise.

We are called to make that same paradise a reality in this present moment, as Jesus did for Dimas. We are called to point to the reality of Jesus’ kingship in the here and now, not to point to it as some oft-promised reward for our perseverance. We can see beyond the lies of this world to the one beyond because we see the meaning of the cross.

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Gospel Historical/Cultural Questions

We have mentioned several times the work of David Moessner on the travel narrative, “The Lord of the Banquet.” In it, Moessner points out the importance of the hospitality Jesus is offered as he makes his way toward Jerusalem, and, most interestingly in our consideration of this pericope, the way that Jesus assumes time and again the role of host in the houses that he visits. It is not difficult to see Jesus transcending the setting here, and becoming the host, saying that he will have the thief as his guest again that day.

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Gospel So What?

Preaching Peace does not mean defeating evil, or death, or violence. Jesus declares his victory in the midst of the violence visited upon him. The thief enters into that victory in the midst of the same violence.

Lest we be accused of escapism, or quietism, let me be clear. Our victory over the violence in this world does not call us to remain silent, or to do nothing. It does, however, affect the manner of our response.

Do we preach as those already victorious? Do we encourage our congregations to minister from the awareness of their victory?

Preaching is not about directing the actions of our congregations. It is about setting their feet on a foundation so firm and immovable that they can act out of confidence, not fear. Without that confidence, they will inevitably be deceived by the violence that surrounds them into believing that the violence is winning. They will be drawn into the despair that says, “There’s nothing left to do but return violence for violence.”

Preaching peace means preaching the victory of Christ. Preaching peace means declaring that we are invited to join Jesus in paradise now, today, and we are called to drag the rest of the world along with us.

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Epistle Anthropological Reading

This section of this particular page is not yet completed, but will be done a few weeks before the Sunday in question. It will be the heart of the discussion, offering an anthropological ("Girardian") reflection on the lectionary texts. It will be complemmented by the other sections, but this will be the primary material.Back to top


Epistle Historical/Cultural Questions

This section of this particular page is not yet complete. In it, there will be materials pertinent to the historical/cultural setting of the texts under consideration, to the extent that they contribute to a non-violent understanding of the text. (We won’t re-hash historical/cultural materials that are well known and add nothing to the "peace" discussion.)Back to top


Epistle So What?

The "so what" section for each week will go here. Less scholarly, more reflective. In this section, we’ll try to give our answer to the questions, "Okay, that anthropological stuff is nice, but "so what?" How do I use this in a sermon? How do I relate this to my congregation’s world?"Back to top