Lectionary Commentaries for November 6, 2016
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 20:27-38

David Lose

This passage, quite frankly, most likely will sound odd, archaic, and even irrelevant to most of our hearers.1

But opening up its narrative, historical, and contemporary implications may assist those who want to preach it, even — and perhaps especially — on All Saints’ Sunday, on which it happens to fall this year.

Narrative Elements
While giving significant time in recent weeks to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, the lectionary has skipped several important passages that frame the narrative setting of this passage. Namely, Jesus’ journey has drawn near its conclusion. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, multitudes of “disciples” (“many people” in Mark, “crowds” in Matthew) greeted him with the royal acclamation, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” As he drew within sight of the city, Jesus weeps for sorrow over Jerusalem’s lack of recognition of him and for its imminent future. Upon entering the city, Jesus goes to the Temple, not to worship or pay homage but to drive those selling sacrifices from its premises. Jesus then takes up residence there, teaching in the Temple, as Luke says, everyday, while his opponents seek the opportunity and means by which to kill him.

This compact series of events constitute a palpable intensification of the tension and opposition that has characterized the relationships between Jesus and the religious authorities of the day. Nor does this tension abate in the scenes immediately preceding today’s passage, as Jesus’ authority is first questioned (20:1-8), he then tells a provocative — some might say incendiary — parable (of the wicked tenants) (20:9-19), he evades a rhetorical trap about paying taxes (20:20-26), and now is invited into a similar snare with a question about the resurrection. Jesus again avoids the traps of his interlocutors, answering so well that his opponents are silenced by the astuteness of his answer. Placing this scene in its proper narrative context as part of the drama and contest that leads to the crucifixion is essential to reading and preaching it well.

Historical Elements
The primary historical element that will demand some attention is the role of the Sadducees, who though in some ways the rivals to the Pharisees, were united with them in their opposition to Jesus. The Sadducees had primary authority over the Temple. They recognized only the original five “books of Moses” as fully authoritative, and for this reason did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (as that is not referenced in the Pentateuch). Because Jesus had so recently attacked the sacrificial practices of the Temple, it is easy to understand that they would put away their differences with the Pharisees in order to discredit Jesus (though by cornering him on the question of the resurrection they may also seek to embarrass the Pharisees who similarly believe in the resurrection). The law they referenced — called levirate marriage from the Latin levir (“brother in law”) comes from Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and sought to insure the preservation of one’s family name by stipulating that a man should marry the childless widow of his brother. The question is hypothetical, meant to take an ancient practice to the extreme in order to show that the whole idea of resurrection was foolish.

Jesus avoids their trap by making two moves. First, he demonstrates their failure to understand the resurrection — resurrection life, contrary to the assumption betrayed by their question, is qualitatively different from life here and now. Second, he demonstrates their failure to understand Scriptures by using another passage from the Pentateuch — the crucial Exodus 3 story of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush and the revelation of God’s holy name — that he takes to establish the validity, indeed certainty, of life after death. (The passage, Jesus points out, declares that God is — present tense — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not that God was their God. Therefore, Jesus concludes, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must in some sense still be alive; hence, the necessity of resurrection.)

Because the Sadducees fall largely off the scene as figures to be contended with after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (notice that the Evangelists need to explain to their hearers that Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection), it is perhaps curious that Luke, following Mark, would include this story. Perhaps there were questions in his community about resurrection; certainly other communities wrestled with similar concerns (see I Corinthians 15). Or perhaps it was a legacy of the controversy between Jesus and the religious authorities, as Luke references the disagreement between Sadducees and Pharisees again in Acts (23:6-10).

Contemporary Elements
Whatever the historical concerns that caused Luke to retain this story, and paying attention to the narrative role it plays, this passage may certainly address some of the questions and concerns contemporary Christians have about resurrection. Two questions in particular might well occupy the preacher.

First, what is resurrection like? Further, and perhaps more to the point, how much will our resurrection life be like our life in this world? And what will our relationships be? This passage gives few specific answers to such questions, though it does stress that we should not limit our imagination — let alone God’s design — for life after death by our own experiences. Eternal life will be qualitatively different from what we know in our temporal existence. Time itself — and with time death — will have ceased. Because we are such creatures of time — ceaselessly aware of the fleeing present bound by past and future — this is hard for us to comprehend. For this reason, I’ve found it helpful to resist describing resurrection and heaven in temporal terms, sometimes favoring spatial and relational references which, while also limited, at least draw attention to the qualitative, rather than quantitative, differences. We might say, for instance, that in resurrection we will live in the “nearer presence” of God. Further, while we do not know what relationships will be like, we know that we will be related to each other in and through our relationship with God.

Second, how does resurrection compare with immortality? Though a Greek notion, many Christians today and, indeed, throughout the centuries, have confused immortality with resurrection. But whereas immortality of the soul promises that some spiritual element of a person persists beyond the physical death of the body, resurrection insists that the whole person will in some way be united with God (see I Corinthians 15, especially 35-49). It is the whole person, not some wispy essence, that God promises to redeem. We do, in fact, die — there is no escaping that. But because of the One who died on the cross and was raised again from death, we live and die with the promise that God will similarly raise us from death to new life where, in the words of Jesus today we “cannot die, because [we] are like angels and are children of God, being children of resurrection” (20:36).

This is, of course, only one passage, and so it should not be taken to be either the first or last word on resurrection. Yet given how much talk is going on in other circles about life after death, this might be a good occasion to insert a Christian voice into the ongoing dialogue.


1. This commentary first published on this site on Nov. 7, 2010.

First Reading

Commentary on Job 19:23-27a

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

“I know that my Redeemer lives!” Perhaps you, like me, can’t help but hear music when you read those words. The great Easter hymn by Samuel Medley begins and ends with this proclamation:

I know that my Redeemer lives!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
he lives, my ever-living head!

And, of course, Handel wrote a glorious soprano solo on these words. You can find one rendition here. It is the piece in “Messiah” that follows the “Hallelujah” chorus, carrying forward the joy of that chorus and expanding on the reason for the joy. The music soars, proclaiming hope in the face of everything that would deny it: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Then Handel follows this cry from Job with a proclamation from 1 Corinthians 15:20: “For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.”

“I know that my Redeemer lives!” cries Job out of the depths of despair. And Christians through the centuries, including Medley and Handel, have heard that cry as a witness to the resurrection of Jesus and thereby to their own resurrections.

Historically speaking, of course, the author of Job was probably not espousing belief in resurrection with this proclamation. In fact, just a few chapters earlier, Job explicitly refutes any idea of life after death.

For there is hope for a tree,
    if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
    and that its shoots will not cease …

But mortals die, and are laid low;
    humans expire, and where are they?
As waters fail from a lake,
    and a river wastes away and dries up,
so mortals lie down and do not rise again;
    until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
    or be roused out of their sleep. (Job 14:7, 10-12)

Judging from many Old Testament texts, including this one, belief in resurrection was not a part of the world of ancient Israel. It was a later doctrine, developed in the centuries after the exile. Indeed, as our Gospel lesson for today shows, it was still a controversial claim in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead; the Sadducees did not.

What, then, is this statement doing in the midst of the book of Job? “I know that my Redeemer lives.” It is a striking affirmation, particularly given what comes before it. Job, bereft of children and wealth, accused by his so-called “friends” and covered with boils, falls into the depths of despair, wishing first for death (Job 3) and then for justice (Job 9). His family and his close friends have failed him (Job 19:14). Worst of all, the God whom he has known and served his whole life has now turned against him.

“He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, he has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled his wrath against me, and counts me as his adversary” (Job 19:10-11).

Where is Job to turn? Abandoned by friends and family, he turns to the only source of help left – he turns to the God whom he has just accused of destroying him: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Clinging to the God whom he also at the same time accuses — this is the paradoxical stance of faith that Job takes. It is the posture of lament — holding on to God with one hand and shaking your fist at God with the other; not letting God off the hook for one minute, but staying in relationship with that God. Job exemplifies that posture of lament, and it is precisely that refusal to give up on God that leads to moments of inexplicable hope in the midst of his overwhelming despair, hope that God will “remember” Job and “long for” him (Job 14:13-15); hope that his Redeemer lives and that in the end, Job himself will see God (Job 19:25-26).

Time does not permit the recounting of how Job finally does see God.1 Suffice it to say that at the end of the book, after God shows up and takes Job on a whirlwind tour of creation, Job says this, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Job’s hope has been fulfilled, not perhaps in the way that he expected, but fulfilled nonetheless. And it is the fulfillment of that hope that leads Job to embrace life again.

At the end of the book, Job and his wife have more children. After the cataclysm, Job makes the choice to live again, bringing more children into a world that is both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly beautiful. Though the book of Job does not espouse an explicit belief in resurrection, then, it does participate in that biblical movement that eventually leads to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. According to the biblical witness, God leads God’s people, again and again, from slavery to freedom, from exile to homecoming, and from death to life.

Job’s story of new life after inexplicable suffering contributes to that trajectory in the Old Testament that culminates in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Jon Levenson writes of the restoration of Job as described by his friends; though not resurrection of the dead,

It is a reversal nonetheless, the replacement of despair with hope, of gloom with shining light. It was such a reversal in the same direction, a restoration in the same direction, that the rabbis (along with their Pharisaic antecedents and Christian contemporaries) expected in the future resurrection of the dead.2

Job’s movement from despair to hope, from death to life, is made explicit in the Septuagint translation of the book. The translators added this note to the end of the book: “And Job died, old and full of days. And it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up.

“I know that my Redeemer lives!” Job clings even in the midst of despair and grief to the God whom he also accuses. And in the end, against all odds, his hope is fulfilled. He sees God; and having seen God, he is drawn back into life again.

“I know that my Redeemer lives!” For millennia, through prayer and preaching and beautiful music, the Church has proclaimed that Redeemer to be Jesus the Christ. It is a word of hope in the face of despair, a word of life in the face of death. And so it is a word appropriate to this All Saints’ Sunday, when we remember and celebrate the saints who have gone before us, the saints (including Job) who clung in faith, against all odds, to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the living (Luke 20:38), who is faithful even until death, and beyond.


1 For a deeper discussion of the God speeches and the last chapter of the book of Job, see my commentary here.

2 Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel (Yale, 2006), p. 70.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Haggai 1:15b-2:9

Walter C. Bouzard

Haggai is dangerous.

The hazard stems from the fact that Haggai’s message is all too easily twisted into a message ripe for preachers of the so-called “prosperity gospel” and for those who have too long listened to them. A premise of that pseudo-gospel is that God wills financial and physical blessings for true believers. The Bible — and especially the Old Testament — serves as a contract between God and the disciple. Those who have a faith that evidences a positive confession, the will to visualize financial success, and the daring to donate generously to Christian ministries will be blessed by God.

Naturally, that theology has nothing to do with the Gospel of Christ. Neither Jesus nor his disciples prospered or were successful by those standards. How many Christians have had their faith shipwrecked by a message that deluded people into thinking that if they were not wealthy or healthy it was because they lacked sufficient faith?

Nevertheless, Haggai can be forced to speak for the prosperity preachers, a well-considered message might rescue the prophet, especially since Haggai speaks in other, more helpful ways about our work and prosperity.

We know nothing of the prophet himself, other than his ministry occupied mid-August to mid-December of the year 520 BCE, the second year of Darius I (the Great). The present oracle is dated in October of that year.

Nearly two decades earlier, in 539 BCE, the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon and repatriated the Babylonian exiles, including the Hebrews (Ezra 1:1-4). The Persian appointed governor, Sheshbazzar, seems to have started to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 5:14-16), but work stopped.

In Haggai’s day, the Temple remained “on the drawing boards.” Some insisted that the time was still not right to rebuild the LORD’s house (Haggai 1:2).

It is not hard to imagine their arguments. Doubtless they were the ancient version of why our contemporaries oppose spending that will benefit all: the market is down, future stocks are shaky, and the economy’s growth is stagnant, there is just so much money to go around, etcetera.

Haggai addressed Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the remnant of the people (Haggai 2:2). A few months before, he had successfully convinced that same audience that they fared poorly and suffered a draught because they had not rebuilt the Temple (1:5-11). So “they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (1:14).

Evidently, the work was discouraging. Haggai invites the senior citizens who remembered Solomon’s Temple, destroyed sixty-seven years before, to compare it to the present construction project. “Is it not it [the present Temple] in your sight as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3). Naturally, the present project could not measure up to Solomon’s Temple. Besides being underfinanced, the Second Temple did not contain the Ark of the Covenant protected by carved cherubim, the stone tablets, the molten sea, or any of the original artifacts of ancient Israel’s cult.

Nevertheless, Haggai says, Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the remnant people should “take courage” and continue to “work, for I am with you” (Haggai 2:4) and because, the LORD says, “My spirit abides among you; do not fear” (2:5b).

The latter assurance is based on “the word that I covenanted” when the Hebrews came out of Egypt (Haggai 2:5, Jewish Publication Society). The verse may allude to Exodus 34:10(-27) where the LORD covenants to do marvels theretofore unknown such that “all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the LORD” (Exodus 34:10).

In Haggai, the LORD promises to be near, this time in the believers’ work.

The assurance of divine presence is the gospel promise of this passage. Haggai assured his contemporaries that the LORD was present in their labor, blessing it with God’s own spirit. The positive results of their labor were assured even if, in the middle of their tasks, the building looked a little cockeyed and less than splendid.

Might we not make that bold claim for own labors? I believe so, yes. Whatever it is to which God has called us, whatever our projects and tasks, and no matter how less than splendid our efforts may look to our critical eye today, work done by the people of God is always done with the promise of glory. And sometimes — not always, but once in a graceful while — we get to see a glimmer of that glory. Sometimes we are permitted to see God at work through us, among us. The psalmist puts it this way:

16 Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands– O prosper the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:16-17)

Few of us build temples or churches. Perhaps our temple is feeding the hungry or advocating justice for the poor. Perhaps our temple construction has to do with caring for our families, or being as kind and loving as we can in our daily vocations, letting God’s work be seen through our own.

That Haggai’s new Temple would be filled with splendor is assured. “In a little while” the LORD would shake the creation, a sure theophanic sign (Haggai 2:6). Likewise, the LORD would shake loose the treasures of all the nations of the earth in order to fill the Temple with splendor (2:7; see Isaiah 60). The silver and gold of both the creation and of the nations are rightfully God’s (2:8) who would use it to make the new Temple even more splendid than the last (2:9).

Best of all, however, the Temple would be a place of peace (salom, often transliterated as shalom). The New Revised Standard Version, like the Revised Standard Version before it, suggests that the glorious Temple will be a place of “prosperity” (Haggai 2:9). Shalom, however, most often indicates wholeness, wellness, and security. The Temple’s splendor may derive in a transient, superficial way from silver and gold, but its well-being, its shalom, is the consequence of the LORD’s divine decision. So is our work and, for that matter, so are we all.


Commentary on Psalm 17:1-9

Karla Suomala

Praying with exclamation points!

Before entering into Psalm 17 to consider David’s prayer, we are going to take a detour through the Gospel of Luke to talk about how Jesus instructs his disciples to pray. In Luke 11 when one of the disciples says, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples,” Jesus has a ready answer, “When you pray, say: Father in heaven … ” What follows, of course, is what we now call The Lord’s Prayer. We are so accustomed to praying this prayer that sometimes it’s easy to overlook how edgy it is. This is not a polite please-and-thank-you prayer, an impartial prayer from a safe distance, or even a groveling I-promise-to-be good kind of prayer. It’s bold. It’s confident. And it’s packed with direct commands.

In Luke’s (as compared to Matthew’s) version, not just one or two, but seven imperatives roll off the tongue in quick succession, beginning with the disciple who uses an imperative to say “Lord, TEACH us to pray … ” Jesus’ response is just as direct: “When you pray, SAY … ” Grammatically, imperatives can be used when someone in a position of more power is speaking to someone of lesser power or status, or, as in the case of Luke 11, between those who know each other well and who have a relationship that allows for this kind of intimacy. In general, imperatives (rather than other forms of direct speech) are used to express urgency and the need for quick action or response while conveying a sense of clear and unwavering purpose. “Just do it!” the sweating athlete in Nike commercials tells you, as you sit on your couch. “Just do it!” I say to my teenage son when it’s his turn to do the dishes. Don’t think about it, don’t question it, don’t put it off: get it done, NOW!

This same sense of familiarity, urgency and clarity runs through the Lord’s prayer, the imperatives providing the quick, intense beat that holds the prayer together. Stripping the prayer down to its bones, you get something like this:

Your name, MAKE IT HOLY!
Your kingdom, BRING IT ON!

GIVE us bread TODAY!
FORGIVE us our sins,
      As we forgive those who sin against us.

[Matthew adds] And PROTECT us from evil.

This is the prayer of people who know the one to whom they are praying, who know who they are and what they need, and who know that God is the only one who can make it all happen.

This is the prayer of a people who stand looking toward heaven, with hands outstretched, and shouting the words at the top of their lungs. But this isn’t usually the way we pray. We bow our heads, close our eyes, and utter the words so softly and indistinctly that it’s hard to make them out.

We have tamed a wild prayer.

Now, returning to David’s prayer in Psalm 17, it becomes apparent that Jesus was teaching us to pray in his ancestral tradition which was filled with wild prayer. Psalm 17 is infused with the same sense of intimacy, confidence, boldness, purpose, and urgency that Jesus models for his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer. Robert Alter’s new translation of the psalm brings out these qualities in a fresh way, both visually and orally (emphasis mine).1

1 Hear, O Lord, a just thing.
            Listen well to my song.
to my guileless prayer.
2 From before You my judgment will come.
            Your eyes behold rightness.
3 You have probed my heart, come upon me by night,
            You have tried me, and found no wrong in me.
                        I have barred my mouth to let nothing pass.
4 As for human acts — by the word of Your lips!
            I have kept from the tracks of the brute.
5 Set firm my steps on Your pathways,
            so my feet will not stumble.
6 I called You, for You will answer me, God.
            Incline Your ear, O hear my utterance.
7 Make Your mercies abound, O rescuer of those who shelter
            from foes at Your right hand.
8 Guard me like apple of the eye,
            in the shadow of Your wings conceal me
9 from the wicked who have despoiled me,
            my deadly enemies drawn round me.

David does not begin with questions — “Lord? Are You there?” — or apologies — “Sorry to bother you, God, but…” No, he addresses God with a string of imperatives — “Hear!”, “Listen!”, and “Hearken!” He is convinced that what he has to say is worthwhile (“a just thing” and a “guileless prayer”) and insists that God should pay attention.

David is also confident that he is someone worth listening to, stating
            You have probed my heart, come upon me by night,
                        You have tried me, and found no wrong in me.
                                    I have barred my mouth to let nothing pass.

This might cross the line from confidence to arrogance, but David doesn’t take all the credit for his righteous behavior. Throughout the psalm he seems to clearly understand that God is ultimately the one to whom credit is due, noting that “From before you my judgment will come … ” and demanding ongoing assistance “Set firm my steps on Your pathways, so my feet will not stumble.”

After demanding God’s attention and making his case, David states that regardless of the circumstances, he calls on God because he knows with certainty that, “You will answer me, God.” And then he returns to where he began in vs. 1 by telling God, once again: “Incline your ear, and “hear my utterance!”

In the midst of crisis, having finally secured God’s ear, David’s imperatives transition to the very specific actions that he wants God to perform. This time, though, his demands are woven through with striking and memorable imagery: “Make Your mercies abound, O rescuer of those who shelter from foes,” “Guard me like the apple of the eye,” and “In the shadow of Your wings conceal me.”

In Psalm 17, David knows the one to whom he is praying, he knows who he is and what he needs, and he knows that God is the only one who can make it all happen.

How can we pray like David? How can we pray wild, untamed prayers with boldness, clarity, and with full confidence that God listens and acts?


1 Alter, Robert. The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.

Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Erick J. Thompson

Paul’s Second letter to the Thessalonians has an interesting history.

While there is certainly debate about its authorship, there are certainly Pauline themes here. Reading through the other texts for this Sunday, there is a heavier theme of death and resurrection; questions about the afterlife. When I read through 2 Thessalonians 2, I get a different feel. This text has more to do with the here and now than the afterlife.

My own practice of lectio divina (divine reading) involves reading through the text first, and choosing one word or phrase to focus and meditate on. The phrase “first fruits” was lifted up for me initially. I was reminded of how wonderfully sweet fresh fruit can be, especially after a long and dreary winter. Perhaps this “sweetness” is exactly what Paul wants us to understand about life here on earth; that even though we may die, we shall live. And, in the meantime, we live under this promise, and life is hopefully not so sour, but rather sweet. Yet, this is not some gnostic “knowing,” but a life of faith, which begins because we were chosen as first fruits by God and given grace as a gift.

Whatever one might believe about how we come to faith, the event of being chosen as first fruits by God is fundamental to the Christian message. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, we find that concept tied not only to the event of the choosing, but also to the breaking in of salvation and the living out of life as God’s chosen. Salvation is so often considered to be a future reality, but there are certainly indicators for the author that this is a present reality. Inasmuch as we are able to understand God’s grace, i.e. the gift of faith, we live differently in a broken world because we have some experience or understanding of salvation.

This section starts by claiming our election as God’s Chosen, then moves quickly to that election’s purpose: salvation. It then proceeds to explain that we receive this salvation through sanctification by the Holy Spirit. This is nothing we have done, but rather is the work of the Spirit. The second result of this election and sanctification is belief in the truth. Verse 14 circles back to the themes of verse 13 quite quickly. We again hear about calling and glory, which, in addition to belief, have come about because of Paul and others’ proclamation of the good news.

How can this text add to your preaching? Given the other texts for this Sunday, the focus from 2 Thessalonians 2 might best come from verses 13-14 with their obvious connection to salvation and resurrection. One theme to highlight could be around the work of the Holy Spirit. Given your tradition, it might work well to talk of the Spirit’s work in and around the proclamation of the Gospel.

The other work of the Spirit from this section is sanctification. For some, hearing the announcement that they have been sanctified, made holy, not by their own works, but by the Spirit could be good news indeed. You might also find it helpful to focus on God’s electing power. All of this could be comforting to people who worry about whether they have done enough as they are reminded of the themes of death and resurrection from the other texts.

The other theme that might be interesting to explore is that of calling and first fruits. In Seminary, our worship professor talked about Pentecost being green because it was the “season of growth.” If God has chosen us as first fruits, and called us through the good news, there may be some room to talk about our callings. While there is much talk and anxiety about death and resurrection, what do we do in the mean-time?

God’s calling to us is not to sit and wait, but rather we are to be comforted by the gospel so that we are “strengthened in every good word and work” 2 Thess. 2. 17. Whatever our situation may be, we are all called as God’s children to be good news for all people. This calling doesn’t stop because we are dying, don’t have time, or are physically unable. And, vital to our own understanding of our vocations, we do not do our callings alone; the Holy Spirit is there, guiding us as we live out all our various vocations.

Finally, there is certainly room to explore the concept of heaven on earth given the nature of this text and its companions. Does Paul believe that even as we are living on earth, we can still experience some sort of salvation? I believe the answer is yes. While heaven on earth may not be what heaven of the Revelation might look like, we can still claim that God has dealt graciously with us, even now.

Assuredly, we live in a broken world, but if we can claim that Christ lived among us, and is with us even still, we can claim that we catch glimpses of salvation in our daily lives. Couple this notion with our sense of calling, and it might make it clearer to see what our mission field is. Might it be easier to see that our own abundance of grace (not possessions!) is God’s gift if we can claim that heaven might have broken into our realities through God’s choice and gift?

After realizing just how sweet life is because of God’s grace, can we try to reach out to others to share that good news and work toward peace and justice? These questions and others might help stir our imaginations about how we are God’s “first fruits.” From here, one can only imagine how wide our mission field might become, knowing that God has chosen us, sanctified us, and sent us out as good news for all people.