Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for October 20, 2019
Jer. 31:27–34 • Ps. 119:97–104 • 2 Tim 3:14 – 4:5 • Lk. 18:1–8
A theme of today’s Gospel is perseverance at prayer, as in the parable of the importunate widow. Today’s collect, composed originally for use on Good Friday, prays that we may “persevere with steadfast faith....”
The final reading in our series from Jeremiah is the prophet’s promise that God will restore Judah from exile and reunite her with Israel. Indeed, God will cut a new covenant with them, and seal an agreement within their hearts, not just on stone tablets as the earlier covenant at Moses’ time. A feature of that new relationship with God will be a more individual responsibility for wrong-doings, rather than a corporate or tribal responsibility, as heretofore: the children’s teeth will not be set on edge because the fathers have eaten sour grapes. This move toward individualism in religion was promoted also by Ezekiel preaching at the time of the exile. Christians believe that the new covenant envisioned by Jeremiah came to be in Jesus’ New Testament. (Covenant and testament are the same word). That Covenant was declared in his Last Supper and achieved by his death, resurrection, and ascension.
God’s law put within believers was understood by the rabbis as the devout study and observance of the Torah, as presented by Psalm 119. As Jeremiah and other prophets had promised, the exiles had returned to Judah, which was then a province of the Persian Empire. Jerusalem had been repaired, a second temple built, and the Torah codified. After this reconstitution, temple and Torah were Judaism’s chief institutions. From that era, Ps 119, the longest psalm, is an extended meditation on the Torah, with 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Every verse contains the term law, or a synonym such as ordinance, precept, word, or teaching.
As diligent as the author of Psalm 119, Timothy and others in training are advised to persevere in study, teaching, and preaching. When a New Testament book refers to “Scripture,” it means what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, because the books of what would come to be called the New Testament were just then in the process of being written. Next Sunday’s epistle will salute Paul’s perseverance: he has “fought the good fight … finished the race … kept the faith.”
The point of the Gospel parable is not that God is unjust, like the judge who will accede only to get a nagger off his back; rather, if even an uncaring judge, who is evil, will give to someone who persists whatever she desires, will not God, who is good, give whatever they desire to those who persevere “with steadfast faith” [as today’s collect says] in prayer? October 18 was the feast of the author of this Gospel, St. Luke, Paul’s colleague.
—Rev. Stephen Weissmann | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
October 20, 2019 — Proper 24