- 1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a & Psalm 5:1-8
- Galatians 2:15-21
- Luke 7:36-8:3
First Reading: Ahab and the vineyard of Naboth
While Ahab seems to have been one of the most successful kings in the northern kingdom of Israel, he is depicted as a deeply flawed and evil character by the Bible’s narrative:
Omri slept with his ancestors, and was buried in Samaria; his son Ahab succeeded him.
In the thirty-eighth year of King Asa of Judah, Ahab son of Omri began to reign over Israel; Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.
And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made a sacred pole. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1Kings 16:28-33 NRSV)
This week’s story of the expropriation of a vineyard from its traditional owner, Naboth, represents Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, as self-serving tyrants with no regard for the covenant obligations of Israel.
Further information about Ahab and the Omride dynasty is available at:
Second Reading: The faith of Jesus saves
The doctrine of justification by faith has been central to Christian theology, at least in the West, since the European Reformation.
In popular thought this is usually expressed as being “saved through faith in Jesus Christ” and we find three such phrases in this week’s passage from Galatians:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Gal 2:15-21 NRSV)
The underlying Greek phrases can be translated as we see here in the NRSV, but it has also been observed that the more natural meaning in the original Greek is better expressed by phrases such as:
- through the faith (faithfulness) of Jesus
- justified by the faith (faithfulness) of Christ
- by the faith (faithfulness) of the Son of God
There is continuing debate about the best way to translate these terms, but it is clear that two very different emphases are involved. In the traditional translation since the Reformation, the emphasis falls on the faith (trust) which the Christian directs towards Jesus. In the alternative translation (which seems to reflect the meaning of the original Greek in its ancient context), the emphasis falls on the faith that Jesus practiced, or the faithfulness of Jesus, as the ground of salvation.
(It is important to note in passing that the phrase “And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus” (v 16) is an entirely different concept. The Greek text is kai hemeis eis Christo Iesoun episteusamen – and the phrase is intended to describe the belief in Jesus that Paul and his readers share.)
The case for the less familiar translation is strengthened when we notice that in Romans 4, where we find similar ideas and terms used by Paul, the salvation flowing to the Jews on the basis of Abraham’s faithfulness is contrasted with the faithfulness flowing to all people on the basis of Jesus’ faithfulness.
Gospel: A slippery scene at Simon’s home
There are four versions of this story in the NT:
- They are available in a horizontal line synopsis at Lent 5C.
Lüdemann comments on the Mark passage: “The historical yield of the tradition is nil. But it does reflect the closeness of Jesus to a probably notorious woman of Galilee (cf. on Luke 7:36-50).” [Jesus, 94]
In his comments on the Lucan version, Lüdemann suggests that Luke knew the Mark story yet deviated from his usual practice of following Mark closely in the passion account in order to bring this story (in an amended form) to an earlier location in his Gospel. He notes the addition of explicit mention of the sinner status of the woman in vss 37 and 39 (and the forgiveness of her many sins in vss 47, 48, 49). He then concludes:
If the story of the woman who was a sinner must be regarded as a mere development of Mark 14:3-9 it is unhistorical. But as the encounter of Jesus with a prostitute comes from the Lucan special tradition, this may be historical. For the contact of Jesus with shady people is a fact. The historicity of the encounter of Jesus with a prostitute is supported by the criterion of offensiveness. (p. 308)
The judgement of the Jesus Seminar is summarised in The Five Gospels:
This story has been recounted by all four narrative gospels. There are significant variations in the four versions, yet there is also remarkable agreement on the basic ingredients of the tale. The setting of all versions is a meal, or symposium, at which the owner of the house is present. A woman anoints Jesus during the meal (not before or after it) with a jar of perfume. Members of the party object to the woman’s action and Jesus defends her. The similarities in the setting and plot suggest that one incident or story lies behind all four versions. Yet because of the variations in other details, the Fellows of the Seminar decided that the original version of the incident is irretrievable.
Gene Stecher’s poetic reflection on this episode explores the keyword, kalon (beautiful/good thing).
Liturgies and Prayers
For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt’s web site
Other recommended sites include:
- Alleluia No 1
- Amazing Grace – AHB 556
- He is Lord
- My song is love unknown – AHB 257
- O worship the king, all-glorious above – AHB 67
- Shout for joy
- The Summons
See David MacGregor’s Together to Celebrate site for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre.