Lectionary Commentaries for August 7, 2011
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 14:22-33

Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman

Stay in the boat!

I’ve heard quite a few sermons on this text that basically come down to a commendation of Peter’s faith for getting out of the boat and walking on the water. The problem, as it is usually put, is that he takes his eye off Jesus, and his faith falters, but Jesus is there to save him. So, the sermon concludes, be courageous, get out of the boat, but keep your focus on Jesus.

Okay, that may be good encouragement for some people to put their faith into action, but it kind of misses the point of the story. After all, when they get back in the boat, the other disciples don’t congratulate Peter for doing pretty well and wish him better luck next time! The real hero in the story is Jesus whom the disciples worship (for the first time in Matthew) as the Son of God.

Matthew 14:22-33 needs to be read in parallel with the Stilling of the Storm account in 8:23-27, but we want to keep the two stories straight. In the first story, there is a great storm, waves swamp the boat, and the disciples fear for their lives while Jesus sleeps. Waking him up with the plea, “Lord, save us!” Jesus calls them cowardly “ones of little faith,” rebukes the winds and sea, and brings about the calm. In response, the disciples are amazed and can only wonder what sort of person Jesus is that “even the winds and sea obey him.”

In contrast, in the 14:22-33 lesson, there is again wind and waves, but no storm, and the disciples are not fearing for their lives. What does cause them to be afraid is seeing someone walking on the water and thinking it’s a ghost. Jesus reassures them without scolding as before, and then Peter poses his challenge to Jesus. He starts to sink because he “sees the wind,” becomes afraid, and cries out “Lord, save me!” (Note the similar wording to the previous time.) Jesus grabs hold of him, and this time only Peter is called “one of little faith” and questioned for doubting. The wind simply ceases once Jesus gets into the boat, and this time the disciples worship him as the Son of God.

In terms of Matthew’s narrative intent, we want to see what has developed between the two stories. The disciples’ fear is more reasonable the second time: Jesus is not with them, and the phantasm they see is beyond anything they have experienced. The main difference, of course, is Peter’s request for Jesus to identify himself by allowing him to walk on the water. I don’t think we are to commend him.

Jesus has clearly identified himself by telling the disciples to “Take heart,” something he also says in 9:2 and 22, and the people do so. He declares, “I am,” with its divine overtones. He says, “Don’t be afraid,” which he regularly declares in Matthew. (10:26, 28, 31; 17:7; 28:10) So when Peter says, “If it is you…” (ei su ei in the Greek), then he is joining the company of Satan (4:3, 6), the high priest (26:63), and the mockers at the cross (27:40) who all put the same challenge to Jesus. In each case, just like Peter, they want Jesus to do something in order to verify his identity. This is not a good thing…

Unlike the other times, however, Jesus does grant the request to Peter, but there should be no surprise that matters are not going to end well for him. So, is Matthew intending the reader to realize that no disciple is totally worthless, because he can always serve as a bad example? Not quite. First, it’s an enactment of the truth that we are not intended to walk on water, and if we try, we will find ourselves in deep over our heads and unable to save ourselves. Second, Peter does rightly know what we all need to do when caught in situations like this and sinking like a rock: “Lord, save me!”

In both accounts, Jesus demonstrates that he is Lord of the wind, waves, water, and sea, all of which are characteristic of chaotic elements in nature. Quite appropriately then, we also notice that at the end of the second account, instead of just wondering what sort of person Jesus is, the disciples worship him as Son of God. The next time Matthew records that the disciples worship Jesus is when he fantastically appears after his resurrection (28:17). It seems, then, that Peter’s question is not whether one who walks on the sea is the Son of God but whether that person is Jesus. This incident does not necessarily ‘prove’ that Jesus is the Son of God. After all, the disciples first thought it was a ghost, and Peter himself momentarily accomplished the feat. When you start adding all the pieces together, however, it is a part of the picture that confirms Jesus’ identity. It also confirms that Peter is not the Son of God!

We also should note that in both the account in 8:23-27 and our text at hand, Jesus ends up in the boat with the disciples. A ship was one of the earliest symbols for Christianity, and this story indicates why it was attractive: when surrounded by adversity, safety and salvation are experienced in the church with Jesus in its midst. But remember that a ship is not a static symbol. It is a vehicle used to get somewhere. Ultimately, we may ask, “Why did Jesus and the disciples cross the sea?” The answer is given in 14:34-36. They wanted to get to the other side to minister to those people there. So, leave walking on water to Jesus. That ship which is the church is where we want to be, and it can provide the way for us to get to other places, so that disciples of the Son of God can be moving throughout the land!

First Reading

Commentary on 1 Kings 19:9-18

Wil Gafney

Elijah has had a good run, literally and figuratively.

He has decimated Queen Jezebel’s religious community by personally executing her four hundred prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:40. That he neither executed nor challenged her four hundred and fifty prophets of Asherah, (see verse 19ff), points to a broader acceptance of the Asherah tradition.

While the prophets uniformly condemn the worship of Baal, many are silent on the worship of Asherah regarded as complimentary to and not as competitive with the God of Israel. Isaiah only has two references to her, while Jeremiah and Micah have just one reference each. (Compare that to Jeremiah’s ten references against Baal worship.) Hosea and Zephaniah both mention Baal worship, but not Asherah worship. The prophets who do not condemn the worship of Asherah at all include Ezekiel, who condemns the worship of other deities in the temple, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

As a result Elijah’s actions, to mix metaphors, Jezebel has demanded Elijah’s head on a platter. Elijah has fled to where he imagines he will be beyond Jezebel’s grasp. He is safe for the moment, but he is anything but secure. God has provided him divine comfort and companionship along his journey and actual, edible food and potable water with supernatural benefits, (1 Kings 19:5-8). Elijah is sustained by his meal(s) for an unimaginably long time. (“Forty days and forty nights” is a euphemism for “a really long time.” It is no more a mathematical formula than is “a month of Sundays.”)

Passing through Beer-Sheba, as the crow flies, the Kishon wadi, (the site of the execution) is some 300 miles northwest of the mountain range home to the “mountain of God” called Sinai in some traditions and Horeb in this story. Traveling twenty miles or so a day (or night) and avoiding anyone who might have turned him in would have taken weeks — two at breakneck speed, likely more at his pace. Elijah’s pace would also have been affected by whether or not he was mounted for all or part of the journey; the text suggests but does not specify that he was not. No mount is mentioned.

Sometime after Elijah falls asleep, God speaks to him, questioning him. What is he doing here? God is not always omniscient in the bible; that is a later theological claim. (God asks Adam, where he is and who told him he was naked and had he been eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 2. In other places God knows what is in the human heart, see Genesis 6:5; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 44:21, etc.) As Elijah catches God up on recent events from his perspective, it is not immediately clear whether God’s questions are informational or rhetorical. What Elijah does not say is that he is hiding from Jezebel or that he has come to seek God’s help and protection.

God responds to Elijah’s self-assessment with self-revelation. First God displayed historic and traditional signs of God’s presence, a windstorm, an earthquake and fire (from heaven?). But God was not present among the usual suspects. Then there was a qol dammah daqah, a sound (or voice) of a fine silence. And that is where Elijah encountered God.

While Elijah encountered God-in-silence on a revered mountain, it strikes me that the setting was not necessary for the encounter. That was where Elijah was at the time. The divine appearance was not dependant on an indigenous feature, such as the bush that burned and was not consumed. Perhaps Elijah could have encountered God-in-silence at any point along his journey and even without taking a single step.

After his epiphany, God asks Elijah the same question that God asked him before. Now it is clear that this is a rhetorical question. Elijah gives essentially the same answer. His experience with God has not changed him. I think this is an important observation for contemporary readers and hearers of the scriptures who would like to imagine ourselves in the sacred stories. I know that I have thought how different my own faith story would have been had I been able to see, hear and experience what my spiritual ancestors saw, heard and experienced.

The story of Elijah says, not so fast. Elijah saw, heard and experienced God in fantastic ways. The power of God flowed through him to work miracles that were unequalled by anyone before him. Yet Elijah was essentially unchanged by this incredible encounter with God. And so God fired him, or at least announced his retirement. It is hard to know how Elijah heard the command to anoint another prophet to take his place in verse 16. It may have been quite troubling because the monarchs whom God was firing/retiring/replacing, Ben-Hadad of Aram and Ahab of Israel (who are not named in the text) were to be killed. There was no other retirement plan for kings.

God’s last words to Elijah are that God does not need Elijah; God has untold thousands-upon-thousands (seven thousand is a figurative number) of faithful servants on whom God can depend. What is missing from the assigned lesson is Elijah’s response. He accepts his assignment from God, knowing that his time as God’s prophet is drawing to an end, not knowing what that end will be.

Elijah faithfully calls Elisha whom God has designated as his successor in the verses following the lesson. Hazael will assassinate Ben-Hadad in 2 Kings 8:15 and succeed him; it is not clear if Elijah (or Elisha) ever actually anointed him. And Elisha will complete Elijah’s work and anoint Jehu in 2 Kings 9. (Ahab dies in battle, 1 Kings 22:20ff.) And along the way, God reveals a spectacular retirement plan for Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11, towards which Elijah journeys faithfully, not knowing the outcome.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

In our text for today, sibling rivalry comes close to murder and sets in motion a chain of events that occupy the rest of the book of Genesis (chapters 37-50).

Indeed, the events of this text will impact the rest of the story of the Israelites, as they leave the Promised Land at the end of Genesis to settle in Egypt.

This text continues the saga of Jacob’s family and introduces us to the figure of Joseph. The lectionary divides the story in an odd way, so that the account of Joseph’s two dreams is omitted from the reading. The preacher should read (or summarize) that account to make sense of the later references to “that master of dreams” (37:19) and to the dreams themselves (37:20). Including the verses about the dreams will help to explain the brothers’ intense hatred of Joseph.

We are introduced to Joseph as a youth of seventeen. He is the favorite son of his father Jacob (who, from his own history, should know the danger of playing favorites). The first son of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, Joseph is “the son of his old age” (37:3). To show his love for Joseph, Jacob gives him a special robe. Traditionally translated, “coat of many colors,” the Hebrew term here probably refers to a coat with long sleeves or to an ornamented coat. (The only other place in the Bible such a garment is mentioned is in 2 Samuel 13:18, where it is the royal garment of King David’s daughter, Tamar.) In any case, the coat is an explicit sign that Jacob loves Joseph more than any of his other sons, and they hate Joseph because of it.

This motif of the younger son being the beloved son — and the resultant family strife such favor produces–has been prominent in Genesis. It begins with the murder of Abel by his older brother, Cain, and continues with the stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau. In each case, the younger son is shown favor by God and/or by a parent, but that favor, that election, leads to great hardship (and even death) for the younger son. The same will be true for Joseph.

Joseph himself is portrayed as a young man somewhat lacking in common sense, or perhaps simply a bit self-absorbed. He has two different dreams with the same message: He will become preeminent in his family. His brothers (and even his parents) will bow down to him! Seemingly unaware of his brothers’ feelings for him, he eagerly shares these dreams with them. They hate him both because of the dreams and because he insists on talking about them (37:8). Even his doting father rebukes him for his words (37:10).

Perhaps Jacob, too, is unaware of the feelings his other sons have for Joseph, because Jacob sends him to check on them while they pasture the flocks. Joseph, again showing a lack of common sense, wears his special robe — the sign of his father’s favor — as he goes in search of them (37:23). He goes first to Shechem, the setting of an earlier scene of violence (Gen 34), then, at the direction of a stranger, to Dothan. (The man who meets Joseph wandering in the fields has sometimes been understood in the historical interpretation to be an angel, on par with the “man” who wrestles with Jacob in Genesis 32. There is little warrant for this interpretation in the text.)

The brothers, when they see Joseph coming, refer to him scornfully as “this master of dreams” (37:19), and they conspire to kill him. Reuben, the oldest brother, persuades them otherwise. They instead strip Joseph of his beautiful robe and throw him into an empty well or cistern. This is the first of several literal and metaphorical descents (and ascents) Joseph will make in the story. Drawn out of the pit, he is taken “down” to Egypt (39:1) and sold into slavery. Nevertheless, blessed by God, he rises to a position of authority in Potiphar’s house (39:2-4). Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he is again cast down, this time into prison. Once again, God blesses him, and he rises to a position of authority (39:22-23). Forgotten by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer after he correctly interprets his dream, Joseph seems fated to spend the rest of his life in prison (40:23). Then the cupbearer remembers, and Joseph is raised once again from the “pit” of prison to the highest position possible: he becomes the second in command in Egypt.

Joseph’s brothers, meanwhile, have deceived their father. They have taken Joseph’s special coat and dipped it in the blood of a slaughtered goat, then sent the coat to Jacob (37:31). Their father, of course, draws the obvious conclusion that Joseph is dead, killed by a wild animal. It is worth noting that Jacob is deceived by his sons just as he deceived his own elderly father. And in both cases, a slaughtered goat and a garment are the instruments of deception (27:15-16). As we saw in the story of Jacob and Laban, Jacob’s actions come back to haunt him. Yet, God continues to be at work in the lives of Jacob and his family.

This story is the first of two about Joseph in the lectionary readings. The second one, next week, will reunite Joseph and his brothers and will provide the theological lens through which to read the whole Joseph narrative. It is important, therefore, that one preaches on both texts in the series, in order to get a full picture of the workings of God in and through (and in spite of) this strife-torn family.


Commentary on Psalm 85:8-13

W. H. Bellinger, Jr.

An interpretation of Psalm 85:8-13 needs first to find a context in the whole of Psalm 85.

The psalm is a prayer in the midst of crisis for the ancient faith community. They prayed for joy, joy that can come from God’s presence in the midst of the community. It is divided into three parts:

  • God’s previous restoration of the community (verses 1-3)
  • A plea for God to bring restoration in a new crisis (verses 4-7)
  • A message of assurance (verses 8-13)
    Most commentators understand the first three verses in terms of liberation from exile. Accordingly, they place the psalm in a post-exilic setting in which the community is struggling after the return. We could think of the era of Ezra and Nehemiah and understand that the psalm looks back to the return from exile.

The phrase “restored the fortunes” in verse 1 is at times used to describe ancient Israel’s return from exile (for example, cf. Jeremiah 30-33), but the phrase is not limited to that context. Rather, it can be adapted, so both this phrase and the psalm are applicable to a variety of settings of trouble and woe. The plea is for God to restore the worshiping community in the way verses 1-3 remember. Our focus is the concluding verses of the psalm that offer hope in the midst of the current trouble.

The opening section of the psalm brings to mind a fond memory of a time when God restored the fortunes of Jacob/Israel and forgave them. God turned from wrath to forgiveness. In verses 4-7, the praying community pleads that this same God with whom they have a salvation history will again act to restore so that the community can praise and thank God. “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation” (verse 7).

Verses 8-13

The third section of the psalm begins with a reference to the speaker who is revealing a word from God, a word of peace to the faithful. This word is not in the form of direct divine speech, but is in a style characteristic of the psalms and of announcements of salvation in the Old Testament.

Imagine the scene as the worship leader rises to proclaim a word of hope. The verses are filled with terms central to Old Testament faith. Verses 8-9 characterize the word as peace (wholeness or health) and salvation (wellness) for the community. God’s glory will again come to the land. In other words, God will again be present to bless the community and nurture it to fullness of life. And this gift is for the faithful, those whose lives are centered in relationship with God.

The images of God’s salvation delightfully pile up in verses 10-13. In verse 10, God’s unchanging love and trustworthiness come together to bring the community into right relationship with God and each other (i.e. righteousness). God’s righteousness brings peace. The personifications in verse 10 are worth quoting: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.”

In addition, faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will come down from the heavens. This exuberant poetic picture is clearly in excess of any possible human achievement, and so is focused on God’s presence and activity for the faithful.

This proclamation of salvation is a strong word of encouragement and assurance in a community crisis. It is a word of hope, and the worship setting seeks to call the community to trust and faithfulness in the God who will bring about this salvation.

The conclusion of the psalm proclaims that God will bring increase to the land, alluding to the beginning of the psalm that remembers a time when God was “favorable to the land.” Even more, God acts to bring the community into righteousness (right relationship), in turn making a path for God to walk with this community of faith.


Our attempts to interpret Psalm 85 and appropriate its faith for proclamation need to attend to the text’s poetic sequence.

The psalm begins by remembering a past when God restored the community. Now the community is struggling again and prays that God will once more bring renewal. The pivot comes in verses 6-7 with the plea for renewal and a demonstration of God’s unchanging love.

The remarkable poetic images in verses 8-13 promise just such a renewal. The terms used in those verses (peace, salvation, glory, steadfast love, faithfulness, and righteousness) are terms central to ancient Israel’s faith tradition. They characterize God’s involvement in the world to bring this faith community to wholeness in life.

The picture of life in these verses far exceeds what today would be a clinical definition of life as avoiding death.  Here, life is portrayed as a full, complete, and healthy life lived to the fullest in relationship with God as part of a community of faith.  It is another way of describing peace — the Hebrew word is shalom.

Shalom is much more than the absence of war or conflict. It is a sense of well being. That kind of wholeness is centered on a life in the presence of God with which the psalm concludes.

Psalm 85 thus models for the community the act of prayer in a time of crisis and the celebration of salvation articulated in the promises of verses 8-13. Such salvation can only come from the God who is present to bless and who comes to deliver.

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 10:5-15

Matt Skinner

A preacher might get at this very challenging text from one of two directions.

Each approach comes with its own difficulties.

You can ignore the wider context of Romans 9-11 and zero in on the pregnant statements in verse 9 (“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”), verse 13 (“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”), or verse 15 (“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”).

Or, you can treat this passage as part of Paul’s broader discussion about whether the reliability of God is imperiled by the gospel’s failure to attract the majority of Paul’s Jewish contemporaries.

The former approach will be utterly unhelpful for those who are working through a series on Romans or who are midway through the lectionary’s three-week tour of chapters 9-11. It also risks providing a shallow and unsatisfying engagement with scripture, which is prooftexting’s propensity.

The latter requires preachers to set this passage into the trajectory of Paul’s larger presentation, which is difficult since this is the lectionary’s only selection from Romans 9-11 between last week’s introductory text and next week’s conclusion.

Obviously (obvious to me, at least), the latter approach corresponds best with the lectionary’s function and is more likely to produce real “biblical preaching,” so that’s my angle in this commentary.

What Is Paul Saying?

Our passage follows directly on the heels of a bold statement: “For Christ is the end [Greek: telos] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). (Actually, a better translation is: “For the end of the law is Christ….”) Whether telos refers to the Mosaic law’s termination or to its consummation/goal occasions no small debate. The statement’s basic emphasis is much clearer, however: Christ is the agent through whom God’s righteousness is actualized. Even the law aimed toward Christ. Christ is the means of righteousness for everyone who has faith.

To unpack the claims of 10:4, Paul offers in 10:5-13 a series of references to scripture. Trying to follow his point can make our heads hurt.

As is usually the case when Paul refers to scripture, scholarship on verses 5-13 has generated deep debates about Paul’s method and purpose. What we discover in these verses is not a scriptural “proof” meant to convince us. Rather, Paul collects biblical voices to provide resonance for his theological assertions. As a skilled midrashic deejay, he remixes a scriptural conversation for the Roman churches to hear, a conversation in which — in Paul’s arrangement — Christ sits at the center of the voices. All the words gravitate around him, thus acquiring new meaning as they express God’s work through Christ. (The relevant texts are Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Isaiah 28:16; Joel 2:32.)

Paul finds in Moses’ discourse about the law (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) affirmation that God’s word (Greek: rhēma) — the life that the law promised — is very close to the people of God who received the law through Moses (see Romans 10:8). Just as near is Christ (the law’s telos), according to Paul’s christological rereading of Deuteronomy. Christ himself came “down” to humanity and enfleshed the law’s ultimate purpose (taking telos in Romans 10:4 as consummation), which is to give life. Christ accomplished what the law could not, hampered as it was by the power of sin (recall Romans 7:8-12). There’s no need, then, for us to go up to heaven to seek Christ; he already came to us. Nor do we descend into the grave to find him; he’s not there.

Concerning the nearness of the law, Moses spoke of “the word” being in the “mouth” (NRSV: “lips”) and the “heart” of the people of Israel (Romans 10:8a). Paul rereads this in verse 8b as “the word (Greek: rhēma) about faith” that he now preaches as an apostle of Christ.

That is, Paul proclaims Christ, good news about Christ’s faithfulness and a message that in turn elicits faith in its hearers. In intimate ways, a believer interacts with Jesus: She confesses his Lordship in her “mouth” (NRSV: “lips”) and expresses faith in her “heart.” This way of confession and faith is the way of justification and salvation (verses 9-10).

At the end of the paragraph (verses 11-13), things get a little simpler. Here the emphasis falls on “everyone.” Recall that 10:4 spoke of everyone (Greek: pas) who has faith (“believes”). Four times Paul repeats the work pas:

  • Verse 11: “Everyone (pas) who believes in him will not be put to shame” (NET). That is, put positively, everyone will receive God’s approval.
  • Verse 12: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all (pas) and is generous to all (pas) who call on him.”
  • Verse 13: “Everyone (pas) who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

God’s salvation is available to all. This is a bold statement. We err if we hear it as anthropology, as a claim that all people are about the same, or as a maxim that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” (that’s not Paul, but Horton Hears a Who!). Rather, Paul makes a statement about God: God has made salvation near to all.

At this point, Paul takes the discussion forward another step. Verses 14-15 launch a different subunit within Romans 9-11, in which Paul will note that the message about Christ has gone out. It has indeed been proclaimed, and it has been heard, and so Paul must reckon with the perplexing reality of why it has not widely evoked a positive response among “Israel,” Paul’s Jewish contemporaries. Paul’s reflections on this matter extend far into Romans 11.

Why Is Paul Saying This?

How does Romans 10:5-15 serve Paul’s wider argument in Romans 9-11?

For one thing, Paul is ruminating on why it can be that so many of his fellow Jews have, in his words, “not submitted to God’s righteousness” (10:3). Why has the gospel apparently made no impact upon them? He contends in 10:5-13 that it has been made very available to them. This pushes the questions: Has something gone wrong? and What is God’s plan here? These questions drive much of the theological deliberation in Romans 9-11.

Paul is also moving to equate the lack of a response to the gospel with “disobedience.” The gospel has been proclaimed and “heard” (Greek: akouō; 10:14, 18). But not all have “obeyed” (Greek: hupakouō; 10:16) it. They have resisted its power, refusing God’s efforts to manifest righteousness. (Next Sunday’s text allows preachers an opportunity to revisit this aspect of Paul’s argument.)

The move here is similar to what Paul did in Romans 1-3, where he asserted that Jews and gentiles alike are estranged from God and under sin’s power (see 3:9). Paul dissolves some of the distance between Jews and gentiles; all suffer from disobedience to God, in some form (compare 6:16-17). But, for Paul, there is good news in this: God still saves people out of those conditions. In next week’s reading, Paul will contend earnestly that God remains faithful to save and shows mercy to all.

And so the word of salvation is still very near.

What Has Paul Told Us?

Beginning with last week’s reading from Romans 9:1-5, I’ve contended that Romans 9-11 is primarily about the character of God. This week’s reading is important for helping us get inside the argument Paul offers in these three chapters. But it’s also important for what it says about God and God’s relationship to us. What might a preacher emphasize, so a sermon does more than map the rhetorical flow of Romans 9-11?

First, this passage gets a place in the “greatest hits” list of Pauline passages that insist we must not presume we make our salvation happen. All people who are caught up in God’s righteousness do so because of God’s effort. None manufactures it on his own. Christ is the means by which God manifests God’s righteousness (see 1:17) and claims us within it.

Second, just as God’s instruction was very near to the people of Israel in the law Moses gave them, so too God’s word of life remains present among all people — ready to be encountered — through Christ. What does it mean that it’s near to us? It means it’s right here! Show it to your congregation. And remind them that none of us is any nearer to it than anyone else. It’s for everyone.