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October 30, 2022 - 21st Sunday after Pentecost
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 • Psalm 119:137-144
2nd Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 • Luke 19:1-10
By Rev. Bob Dean
If I’m in a hurry, a red traffic light can seem to last forever. If the car ahead of me doesn’t move when it turns green, I’m tempted to give voice (well, horn) to my irritation. Usually I don’t. Usually. I should practice patience during those times, because today’s passages all deal in some way with waiting – but in much more severe circumstances.
The prophet Habakkuk give voice to his frustration with God’s seeming inaction about suffering and evil. What’s taking so long? God is willing to dialogue, although God’s sense of timing is different. The prophet is told “For there is still a vision for the appointed … it will surely come.”(Hab. 2:3; cf. Ps. 90:4).
In this fast-paced world, reading the entire 119th Psalm in worship could give your congregation (or you!) a lesson in waiting. Iin lieu of that, consider noting verse 139: “My zeal consumes me because my foes forget your words.”
Jesus’ disciples remembered this verse when Jesus cleared the temple (Gospel of John 2:17). Occasionally someone argues that this verse means it’s okay to strike your opponents. The Gospel says Jesus drove out “them” out (the people selling animals are implied, but only the oxen and sheep are specified in the Greek). He disrupts the money-changers, but does not destroy them – a fact that will related closely to the Gospel lesson. It is always time to act for justice; at no time is it our job to destroy or condemn people.
In verse 143 the Psalmist says “Trouble and anguish have come upon me” (similar to Habakkuk), then “but your commandments are my delight.” What did Jesus say the two greatest commandments were?
In 2nd Thessalonians, it is the “steadfastness and faith” of the early Christians, especially “during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring...” that the Apostle celebrates, praying that God would empower them “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is their steadfastness and faith, not avenging themselves, that is worthy of praise.
Finally there is the familiar story of Zacchaeus. While many may remember that he was “a wee little man” from the children’s song, Luke points out “he was a chief tax collector and was rich,” much of his wealth (we learn by his later confession) obtained through fraud.
Zacchaeus’ practices were common among “publicans” (from a Latin noun meaning one who dealt with public revenue). The Roman Empire sometimes “sold” this job to native people. Thus, in Judea, tax collectors were viewed as lackeys for the Roman oppressors. (1) So low was the public opinion of them that the phrase “sinners and publicans (or tax collectors)” is frequently found in the Synoptic Gospels.
Jesus’ response, first to Zacchaeus and then to those who murmured their disapproval of his associating with the publican, was to show love and grace. Although it took time, Jesus announced “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
When we wait, we can become frustrated. When frustrated, we are often tempted to act in less-than-loving ways. Rather than viewing the “other” - whoever that may be in our lives - as an enemy, we should remember that our fight is not against them (“flesh and blood”), but against the “principalities and powers” that tempt all of us to sinfulness and self-centeredness (Ephesians 6:12).
This means fighting against evil, hatred, prejudice, greed, and aggression, rather than attacking people. The political commercials lately show what it looks like when the opposite is done.
All the passages affirm, each in their own way, that God is still working to bring about good, and ultimately God’s will SHALL be done.
Alternatives for this Sunday:
This is Reformation Sunday, not as highly or strongly observed in U.M. churches as in other denominations, although there is a connection from Martin Luther to John Wesley’s strangely warmed heart at the Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street.
The U.M. Book of Worship recommends that All Saints Day be celebrated on (November 1st) or on on the first Sunday of that month (pg. 236, which also gives the lectionary scriptures for the day). Depending on local church custom and calendar, some may use this Sunday to observe it. If so, suggestions for worship are found in section 413.
1. For more on tax collectors, see https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/tax-gatherers or the article on publicans The Oxford Companion to the Bible (ed. Metzger and Coogan), Oxford University Press (New York) c. 1993, p. 631f.
Rev. Bob Dean is a retired elder in the Iowa Annual Conference who still enjoys being involved in youth ministry as a volunteer.
20 octubre, 2022 – Domingo 21 después de Pentecostés
Habacuc 1:1-4, 2:1-4 • Salmos 119:137-144
2 Tesalonicenses 1:1-4, 11-12 • Lucas 19:1-10
Por Rvdo. Bob Dean