During Pentecost Season 2020, the Revised Common Lectionary offers two “tracks” of readings from the Hebrew Bible. Congregations may choose either track.
The first track of readings follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. The second track of readings thematically pairs the reading from the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel reading.
The readings from the Epistles are the same in both tracks.
7 This is what the LORD God showed me: the LORD was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the LORD said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, `Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”
12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
16 “Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. You say, `Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’
17 Therefore thus says the LORD: `Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”
After Solomon died in 930 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel split into two parts, the North (called Israel with 10 tribes) and the South (called Judea with two tribes). Each of the Kingdoms had its own king.
The reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 BCE) was very prosperous but was a time of great inequality between rich and poor in which large landowners gained control of the lands of small farmers. (A three-liter bottle of wine is called a “Jeroboam.”)
Amos was a cattle herder and cared for fig trees in Judea, but he was called by YHWH to go north to prophesy (speak for the LORD) against the evils in Israel from about 760 to 750 BCE. Amos is one of the 12 “minor” prophets whose works are shorter than the three “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was the first (chronologically) of the prophets whose words left an indelible stamp on later thought in Israel about God. He used vivid language and called for justice and righteousness, terms that deal with social equality and concern for the disadvantaged.
The writings included announcements that the “Day of the LORD” was imminent and urged that the special covenant with the LORD entailed special ethical responsibilities. Some of his presentations are indictments, some are exhortations, and others are visions.
In today’s reading, Amos told Israel/Isaac (the northern 10 tribes) that Israel’s religious and political institutions did not measure up to YHWH’s plumb line and that Israel and its “high places” (shrines) would be destroyed if it did not reform (vv.8-9).
Amos then disputed with the King’s appointed priest, Amaziah, who told Amos to stop prophesying in Israel because the people would be discouraged by (“not endure”) what Amos said (v.10) about Israel being exiled (v.11). He told Amos to go back to Judea (vv. 12-13).
Amos responded that he was not a “professional” prophet who could be “bought” but had been called by YHWH to prophesy to Israel (vv. 14-15) and had no choice — thus lending additional authority to what he was saying.
Amos said that YHWH would remember these misdeeds and punish the evildoers. In 722 BCE, Assyria conquered Israel and scattered its wealthy class.
Samaria was the capital of Israel, and because Assyrians intermarried with Samaritans, they were later looked down upon by Judeans and Galileans.
9 Moses said to the people of Israel, “The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
11 “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
Deuteronomy is the fifth (and last) book of the Torah and is presented as Moses’ final speech to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land. “Deuteronomy” comes from Greek words that mean “Second Law” and is structured as a “restatement” of the laws found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Parts of it were revised as late as 450 BCE, but the bulk of the book is generally dated to the reign of King Josiah of Judea (640-609 BCE).
It is also the first book of the didactic “Deuteronomic History” which consists of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. This “History” teaches that when the people and kings of Israel and Judea worshiped YHWH properly, they prospered, but when they worshiped false gods, other nations (the Assyrians in 722 BCE and Babylonians in 587) conquered them.
The first part of today’s reading expresses a theme found in all the Deuteronomic books (Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings): “if you do good, you will get good, but if you do bad, you will get bad.”
Scholars agree that verses 1 to 10 in Chapter 30 are an insertion as shown by the reference to the “book of the law” in verse 10. This is a later addition because the Torah itself did not exist until it was finalized and codified in the 5th Century BCE. Similarly, the word “again” shows that the text was directed at the returning exiles from Babylon in 500 BCE rather than the Israelites in the Wilderness in 1200 BCE.
Verses 11 to 14 challenged the assumption that divine wisdom was not knowable, and the reference to the “word” being “in your mouth” (v. 14) reflects the reality that oral transmission of texts was prevalent in non-literate societies. Scholars agree that the word “Surely” in verse 11 is better translated as “Because” and follows logically from the last verse of Chapter 29.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 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 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossae was a town in what is now western Turkey. A Jesus Follower community was founded there by Paul’s associate, Epaphras (1:7). The letter is short (three chapters) and expressed concerns about apocalyptic and mystical practices that were occurring in Colossae and were inconsistent with Paul’s understanding of being a Jesus Follower. The letter began with a complimentary description of the Colossians’ lives but then attacked unnamed teachers who observed Jewish rituals.
Scholars debate whether this letter was written by Paul or by his disciples in the decades after Paul’s death in 63 CE. It lacks many terms used in Paul’s authentic letters and its style is more liturgical than Paul’s other letters.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out that “the letter presents the idea that the believers’ lives are completely transformed by Christ’s death and resurrection instead of Paul’s usual tension between the only partially fulfilled present and the future resurrection and full enjoyment of Christ’s benefits.”
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that the authentic epistles speak of “justification” and “sanctification” in the present tense but reserve “salvation” for the future. In Colossians, salvation is a present reality and justification has no place at all.
In today’s reading, the author emphasized faith, love and hope as the key Christian virtues (vv. 4-5) and adopted an apocalyptic theme in contrasting light and darkness (vv. 12-13). He expressed the theme that believers are redeemed and receive forgiveness of sin in Christ (v. 14).
“Redemption” (apolutrosis in the Greek) (v.14) conveyed the sense of ransoming or being bought back, the way something already owned is redeemed from a pawn shop. As the JANT notes, “forgiveness” (v.15) never appears in Paul’s authentic letters but is found in Colossians and Ephesians.
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a “lawyer” (an expert in the law of Moses and likely a “scribe”) questioned Jesus. The lawyer’s response to Jesus’ question (v.27) tracked Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The phrase “justify himself” (v.29) is understood as the lawyer’s attempt to show that he was righteous and acceptable to God.
The trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was about 18 miles and involved a drop in elevation of about 1,700 feet. It was regarded as notoriously dangerous, so the situation in the story would have resonated with Jesus’ audience. The Greek word for “robbers” (v.30) is lestes, which connotes violent criminals.
To Jesus’ Jewish audience, the compassionate intervention by a Samaritan would have been shocking and thoroughly unexpected. Samaritans were looked down upon by Jews because they were seen as ethnically different as a result of the intermarriage of Assyrians with persons in Samaria after the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE. Samaritans had a different version of the Torah and worshiped at a different holy mountain.
The care provided by the Samaritan included oil (which worked as a salve) and wine which was used as an antiseptic for the wounds. According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, two denarii would have provided about two months of lodging at an ancient inn.