The Posture and Content of Prayer

28 July 2019 –– Proper 12, Lectionary 17

Luke 11:1-13

This prayer became a mark of the followers of Jesus. Beginning by referring to God as “Father” (v 2), which in Aramaic would have carried the meaning “Daddy,” this is a term of endearment, which though not unheard of in the Second Temple period, was still a very rare usage (cf. 3 Maccabees 5:51, 6:3, 6:8). Jesus invites his disciples to view God in the same close and intimate way as Jesus himself does.

Next follows two hoped-for wishes—that God’s name be holy and that the kingdom come. Both of these wishes speak to the future and God’s vindication and great reversal of the evil in this world (v 2). “Be careful what you wish for” may well be a just caution for many who simply recite these words without understanding their earth-shaking meaning.

Three petitions follow, each of which asks for something—keep giving us each day our daily bread; forgive our sins as we forgive; and do not bring us into temptation (to fall away?) (vv 3–4). These requests appear to be for the here and now, which would suit well Luke’s community with its emphasis on forgiveness and personal responsibility. –– Jeffrey Galbraith

Genesis 18:20-32

The story of Abraham and YAHWEH discussing the fate of Sodom (18:16—19:29) explores the complicated and often confusing relationship between God’s justice and mercy. At first it seems like Abraham is bargaining with YAHWEH over the fate of the city. But . . . YAHWEH does not seem to be very good at it, since he easily concedes to Abraham. Abraham is not so good at it either since he gives up after reaching ten innocents.

. . . This dialogue is an exploration of “God’s righteousness and its power and authority in the face of wickedness” (Walter Brueggemann, Genesis [John Knox Press, 1982], 170). –– Jeffrey Galbraith

Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19]

The community is warned about [false teachers] and . . . the author seeks to refute their false teaching. The specific details of the false teaching must, however, be inferred from the rebuttal statements.

. . . They clearly held to strict observance of Jewish laws—circumcision (v 11) and dietary laws and festivals (v 16). They practiced some sort of asceticism (v 18); taught about various spiritual authorities (vv 8, 15), which reminds one of aspects of the gnostic myths; worshiped angels, had visions, and were . . . boastful of their status before God (v 18).

In the refutation, the author makes the following points: Christ is the head of all principalities and their power is no more (vv 9–10, 15); since you have a spiritual circumcision you do not need a physical one (v 11); you are already raised with God; there is nothing more to do (v 12); Jewish legal demands are no longer valid (v 14); there is no need to practice any form of asceticism, worship angels . . . or have visions (v 18). Christ alone is the head, sufficient for your salvation (v 19). –– Jeffrey Galbraith

Jeffrey Galbraith is pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Greenfield, MA, and a professor of business administration at Greenfield Community College.

Homily Service 40, no. 8 (2007): 39-47.

David Turnbloom