Lectionary Commentaries for November 11, 2012
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Mark 12:38-44 

Micah D. Kiel

Money. Every pastor’s favorite topic.

Two brief stories in Mark 12:38-44 deal with wealth issues in ways that are still challenging today. 

First are those who think they are more important than everyone else. In verses 38-40 Jesus specifically denounces the scribes. In Mark’s estimation they are self-important, arrogant, and self aggrandizing. This section of Mark’s gospel, since Jesus’ triumphal entry, has been dominated by controversy and antagonistic interaction between Jesus and various groups with leadership responsibilities in first-century Judaism. It is not surprising, then, that we find here a final nail in the coffin, a sweeping condemnation of the scribes.

This short text in Mark is replete with echoes and interesting interpretations of certain themes from Israel’s scriptures. Widows are often provided as the example par excellence as those to whom caring justice should be meted out. It is interesting that, in Deuteronomy 14:28-29, certain of the Jewish leaders (in this case, the Levites) are listed as among the aliens, orphans and widows who need support from the community because they have devoted themselves entirely to God.

The scribes here, with their ostentatious robes and prayers and their insistence on being first have lost their tether to the demands of God. Mark’s Jesus has already told us that whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all (10:35), so the basis on which the judgment rests in 12:38-40 has already been established. 

Mark paints these opponents of Jesus even more starkly, however, by saying that they “gobble up” or “devour” the house of the widow. Mark has a tendency to pair together technical words that help associate disparate passages in his gospel. He does this with the tearing of the heavens and the tearing of the veil of the temple. He also uses the same word to describe the young man who flees in the garden and who sits on the empty tomb in chapter 16.

Mark uses the word devour in a similar way. In 4:4 it refers to the birds who “gobble up” the seed that the sower has thrown on the ground in the parable of the sower. These birds are interpreted by Jesus as Satan. By using the same word to describe the Scribes, Mark intends to bring the demonic powers that oppose Jesus into close alignment with Jesus’ human opponents. The opposition to Jesus in Mark is all of a piece. 

The more problematic aspect of this text is trying to find relevance today. It would seem that Jesus’ judgment of the scribes is based, at least in part, on their inner motivation. How does one judge such a thing? More problematic is the reality that churches and communities need (or so they claim) money in order to carry out their mission in the world.

We have clear evidence that already by the time of Paul’s ministry (decades before Mark’s gospel was written), patronage was already an ensconced necessity. Paul names specific benefactors (e.g., Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2). He also makes frequent mention of churches that met in people’s homes, which could have set up awkward power dynamics and caused discord (as the abuses at the Lord’s supper described in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 indicates was the case). 

When it comes to applying this today, how do you judge someone’s intentions? How do you know a long prayer is for appearance rather than genuine piety? While these questions are not easy to answer, what seems clear is Mark’s intention to reevaluate value. In the Kingdom of God, what is valued and important is different from that of the human kingdom(s). 

Verses 41-44 pick up and confirm this same theme. In this short story, the offering of the rich people is rendered unimportant or insignificant. A poor widow, who gives everything she has, Jesus holds up as an example. Does this mean everyone should give everything they have? Maybe. This story could perhaps be interpreted in tandem with one earlier in the chapter, 12:13-17, a question about paying taxes. Here, after having the Pharisees point out that Caesar’s head is on the coin, that they should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.

At first, this sounds like Mark’s Jesus has abandoned the exposition of God’s kingdom that has consistently been challenging human institutions. Another way of reading this, however, is that Jesus is saying: where you put your money will show your allegiance. In other words, if you think it really belongs to Caesar, then go ahead and give it to him. 

This can help frame 12:41-44. This text isn’t necessarily saying that everyone needs always to give everything. Instead, the widow has decided that her money, what little of it she had, belonged to God. This text, then, consistent with Mark’s overall agenda, is about perspective and reevaluation. Those things that are valued in the kingdom of God differ from that in wider society. 

If we were to apply this principle, rather than the specifics, to economics, we might find a text that we find extremely challenging. Giving everything we own may not be the expectation. What this text testifies to, however, is that how economic situations are to be evaluated needs to be changed.

The things that are valued in the Kingdom of God differ from the human realm. Should we give our money to fund a new air-conditioning unit for the church? Should we give money so that our name goes on a plaque inside the door as a cornerstone giver? Are those the things valued in the kingdom? Or, should money be given to relief organization? Food pantries? Homeless shelters?

More challenging yet: Time is money. What if, for us today, it is our time that is analogous to the widow? Helping those in need, doing something constructive with all of our resources, not just our money, might be a better way to embody this text than simply filling out a direct-deposit slip.  

First Reading

Commentary on 1 Kings 17:8-16

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

“Do not be afraid.”

So say angels in Scripture when they encounter human beings, presumably because the immediate presence of an angel is a terrifying thing to experience.

“Do not be afraid.”
So also says Elijah today; Elijah, who is a crusty sort of angel, a messenger (which is the root meaning of mal’ak, the Hebrew word for “angel”) given to drama, depression, and doom-and-gloom pronouncements. Indeed, Elijah’s message to the sinful leaders of Israel is usually quite the opposite of what he says today: “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” (Therefore Ahab, in the next chapter, calls him, “you troubler of Israel.”) Elijah seeks above all to turn his people back to YHWH their God.

So it is all the more surprising that when Elijah says, “Do not be afraid,” it is not to the people of Israel, suffering from the drought that he prophesied, but to the unnamed widow of Zarephath, a non-Israelite, a woman who comes from the same land as the wicked Queen Jezebel.

“Do not be afraid.”
Easy for you to say, we might imagine her thinking. You’re not the one preparing to cook one last meal for yourself and your son before you die. You’re not the one who has watched your carefully-hoarded supply of flour and oil relentlessly dwindle day-by-day, week-by-week, as the sun bakes the seed in the hard, parched earth and the wadis run dry. You’re not the one who has watched your beloved son slowly grow thinner and more listless. Children are the first to suffer when the rains stop, but drought and famine know no pity.

What business has this man of God to ask her for bread, she who has so little? What business has he, asking her for bread before she feeds herself and her son? There is not enough to go around. There is not enough even for her and her son. The language she uses is the language of scarcity: “a handful of meal, “a little oil,” “a couple of sticks.” There is not enough. And Death waits at the door.

To quote another piece of Scripture: There is nothing new under the sun. You remember the images last year from the Horn of Africa. Drought and famine claimed tens of thousands of lives in southern Somalia, humanitarian efforts stymied by political instability. Or perhaps you, like me, still remember the terrible images from the drought of 1984-85 in Ethiopia that killed one million people. I remember leaving the room as my parents watched the news, sickened by the images of starving children with distended bellies and empty eyes. Those images galvanized a massive international response and eventually helped lead to movements like Jubilee 2000 and the One campaign, which work to address the root causes of poverty and hunger.1

I can’t help but think about those images again as I read this text. You see, I’m living this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and I am confronted daily by the specter of scarcity.

Don’t get me wrong. Things have vastly improved here in Ethiopia in the last 27 years. The government is stable and has made great strides (partly with the help of international donors) in the fight against poverty, but the threat of hunger and scarcity still stalks too many lives.

Ethiopia, like many sub-Saharan African countries, is plagued by poverty. Though things have gotten better in the last decade, according to the Global Hunger Index, 41% of Ethiopia’s population is undernourished and 35% of its children are underweight. Almost 30% of Ethiopians live on less than 60 cents a day. Everywhere I go in Addis Ababa, there are beggars, many of them children, or young mothers holding babies.

Even for those with jobs, life is not easy. The lovely young woman, Wengi, who sweeps our floors and washes our clothes lives in a one-bedroom house with her parents and her two adult siblings. They share a pit toilet with two other families. The three grown children cannot afford their own houses, especially in this city where affordable housing is scarce and unemployment is rampant. Wengi herself was out of work for two years before we offered her this part-time job. (And, yes, we are paying her more than the going rate for house help.)

Life here is not easy. At the same time, this land, like much of Africa, is rich in natural resources and in human resources. Wengi told me of her family’s living situation without a trace of self-pity. In fact, I think she pitied me for living so far from my extended family, back home in the States. She is rich with family — parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles — and they gather regularly for celebrations: weddings, baptisms, holidays. She is also rich in faith, like so many Ethiopians. The churches here overflow with worshipers, many sitting outside the church and listening through open windows because they cannot all fit in the sanctuary.

Scarcity … and abundance. The widow of Zarephath speaks of the one — there is not enough. Elijah, that crusty messenger of YHWH, speaks of the other:

“Do not be afraid … For thus says YHWH, the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that YHWH sends rain on the earth” (17:13, 14).

Elijah, that harbinger of doom, speaks a word of promise, a word of abundance: There is enough, more than enough.

And here’s something else interesting to note: When God first tells Elijah to go to Zarephath, God says, “I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (verse 9). But the widow doesn’t seem to have gotten that message. She refuses at first to feed Elijah, operating out of her well-founded fear. So Elijah becomes the messenger, the angel, who speaks the word of YHWH to her: Do not be afraid. God will provide. There is enough. There is more than enough.

That word of God frees the widow from her fear and enables her to step out in faith, trusting the God of Israel who sent this strange messenger to her.

And what about us? We who live in material abundance, who have more than we need, so much more that our houses and the waistlines of our pants have to grow to accommodate it all. Will we be the unlikely angels who proclaim God’s abundance? There is enough for all. There is more than enough.

Will we be not only the messengers, but also the means by which God shares that abundance with our neighbors, those on the other side of town and those on the other side of the world?

Finally, will we be the ones who hear and take to heart this word of God? Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. No need to hoard. No need to fear the neighbor, to close the borders, to circle the wagons. There is enough. There is more than enough. Will we allow that word of God to free us from our fear and enable us to be the recipients of all the abundance (of faith, of experience) that our global neighbors have to share?

I pray that it will be so for you, for me, and for all who hear this word.

Do not be afraid. There is enough. In God’s abundant mercy, there is more than enough. Thanks be to God.

1For more information, go to one.org, jubileedebtcampaign.org, and jubileeusa.org

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Patricia Tull

This week’s reading concludes the book of Ruth, which was begun last week.  The prescribed passages appear to be representative of the book overall, and especially this week preachers must fill in the gaps.

For background and chapters 1 and 2, see last week’s lectionary comments.

Before returning to Bethlehem Naomi had expressed concern for Ruth’s economic security, telling her she had no other sons to offer in marriage and not even the wildest hope of offspring (1:11-13).  Behind Naomi’s words lies the levirate custom, which dictated that a childless widow’s brother-in-law must marry her, and that the first son of this union would become the deceased man’s heir (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).  The availability of food during the harvest has postponed the problem of economic security.  But the issue returns in Ruth 3:1.

As a more distant relative, Boaz is not under obligation to marry Ruth.  Though he and Ruth appear to respect and perhaps even feel attraction to each other, and though he is evidently available for marriage, two months of daily contact have not fanned the spark between them.  So Naomi, who began chapter 2 in passive despair and ended it with hope, initiates a plan.  She tells Ruth to bathe, perfume herself, and gussy up in her best attire to go find Boaz at his threshing floor, where he is winnowing the barley.  She is to wait till he has eaten, drunk, and gone to sleep, slip under the blanket with him, and do whatever he says.

Until now, both Boaz and Naomi have taken care to protect Ruth from male harassment (2:8-9, 21-22), but now Naomi’s plan gambles on Boaz’s honor, exposing her daughter-in-law to the danger of humiliation, if not rape.  Why doesn’t Naomi simply go talk to Boaz?  For one thing, this plot twist, dangling on the edge of morality and custom, makes a more interesting story.  Perhaps she perceives that Boaz needs his initiative jumpstarted.  It’s a gamble, but Ruth neither protests nor even raises questions. “All that you tell me I will do,” she replies (verse 5).

But when Boaz goes off script, Ruth is ready to improvise.  He is too soundly asleep to notice her approach, and then too startled to play the part Naomi had assigned him.  “Who are you?” he demands in surprise when he wakes at midnight.  Ruth identifies herself, but doesn’t wait for his initiative.  “Spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin,” she says, in probably one of the least romantic marriage proposals in human history, or at least in Scripture: take me to redeem my dead husband’s inheritance.

Boaz considers her request neither crass nor unseemly, but generous.  Like Naomi (2:2,22; 3:1), he has called Ruth “my daughter” before, hinting at his own age, but now we hear what he has been thinking: had she not been so loyal to Naomi, she would have sought out a younger man.  Now we understand why he has refrained from courting her: he did not wish to oblige the dutiful foreigner to a marriage she might not have wanted for herself.

Boaz offers another surprising detail — there is another relative, a nearer one.  Since this one has not stepped forward to help before, readers aren’t excited about him now.  His existence introduces another plot complication, another obstacle to the happy ending for which we are rooting.  Balancing honor and desire, Boaz promises to take steps to conclude the matter, and suggests she remain safe with him for the night.  Before dawn he sends her home, giving her yet more food to take with her and the assurance that everyone knows she is, like him, a person of worth (eshet hayil; cf. 2:1, ish gibbor hayil).

But he knows even more still.  Just as Ruth improved on Naomi’s instructions to her, now Boaz improves on Ruth’s request.  He stops the other relative in the city gate.  In front of witnesses, he invites the other man to buy a field he says Naomi is selling.  How he knows of this field, and even whether the field actually exists, is left unsaid.  Perhaps even Naomi didn’t know as much about Elimelech’s business affairs as his landowning relatives do.  But in asking, he smokes out the fact that the man has means but has not offered to help the widows improve their fortune.  This doesn’t help our estimation of him.

The man agrees to buy the land.  But the next revelation causes him to backpedal: Ruth comes with it.  This means that her first son will become Elimelech’s heir, and the land he paid for will no longer be his. Unwilling to take that risk, the man declines the offer.

For modern readers there is much to puzzle over here.  There are complexities in the story’s unfolding, and gaps in our historical knowledge, making it difficult to pin down what precisely is going on.  But we see the result clearly — publicly dismissing all other claims, Boaz has cleared the way to join his property and Naomi’s, free from impingements.  Like a Greek chorus, the witnesses bless Ruth, not as a Moabite, but as the spiritual successor of fruitful and formidable, if somewhat unorthodox, ancestors — Rachel, Leah, and Tamar.

Unlike her marriage to Mahlon (whose name meant “sickly”), this one immediately fulfills the promise of good seed that Boaz has come to symbolize.  Having given her all kinds of seed to eat, he now gives her human seed (the word is the same in Hebrew), and she bears a son who, in the story’s punch line, turns out to be the ancestor of all the Davidic kings.

Although the story, like all fine narratives, is filled with gaps that invite reader participation, one value that comes through distinctly is loyalty (1:8; 2:20; 3:10).  Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi leads her to leave her home behind, toil tirelessly for her welfare, and even to endanger both herself and her reputation.  Admiration of her character soon overshadowed any doubts about her nationality, as her loyalty is reciprocated by Naomi and Boaz.  The end result is security for two widows, an heir for Elimelech and a son for Boaz, delight for the whole community, and a dynasty that will rule Judah for four hundred years.


Commentary on Psalm 146

James Limburg

Each day began the same way in the elementary school where I grew up.

The bell rang, we stood up, put our right hands over hearts, and recited, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” There was a patriotic spirit in our Lutheran church, too. At the front were two flags: that of the US and also the Christian flag, symbolizing our loyalties to God and country. Nowadays I belong to the governing board of the lake association where we live. Each monthly meeting begins the same way. We stand, face the United States flag, put our right hands over our hearts, and recite, “I pledge allegiance…”            

Veteran’s Day, November 11, falls on a Sunday in 2012. The preacher will no doubt wish to say something recognizing and expressing appreciation to war veterans. This psalm fits with the spirit of the day since it speaks about allegiance and about trust. To whom do we owe our allegiance? And in whom do we trust?

A Closing Quintet: Psalms 146-50
Psalms 138-145 make up the final collection of psalms marked “Of David” in the Psalter. The collection concludes with the promise, “My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD…” (145:21).  Psalms 146-150 then express that praise, each psalm beginning and ending with “Praise the LORD!” (in Hebrew, “Hallelujah!” ). This quintet closes the entire Book of Psalms.

The circle of those invited to praise in this closing quintet is continually expanding. First, the individual calls himself or herself to praise (“O my soul”) and resolves to do so (146:1-2). Then the call goes out to the people of Jerusalem (147:12) or Israel (149:2) to praise. Finally, the quintet closes with an invitation to “everything that breathes” to join in the praising (150:6).

The structure of Psalm 146 exhibits the usual two-part pattern of the hymn. Psalm 113 is a good example of that pattern, with a call to praise (1-4) followed by reasons for praising (5-9).  Psalm 146 begins with a call to praise (1-2) and supplies a number of reasons for praising (5-9). Verses 3 and 4 insert some words of instruction (3-4).  Verse 10 consists of a confession of faith and a final call to “Praise the LORD.”

Who Can I Trust? (146:1-4)
Verses 1 and 2 suggest a kind of allegiance that will never disappoint. Here is a trust in God that can be expressed in praise for a whole lifetime! The same resolve is expressed in Psalm 104:33.

While statements like the American “Pledge of Allegiance” are expressions of the loyalty persons owe to nations, verses 3 and 4 of this psalm warn against giving our ultimate allegiance to any human institution. Political leaders, even kings and princes are human, with all the faults and limitations that are common to humans. And these leaders won’t be around forever. They are mortals (the Hebrew word is adam) who will one day die and return to the earth (Hebrew: adamah). This Hebrew play on words could be reproduced in English by saying they are humans and will return to the humus.  One day the breath (one could translate the Hebrew as “wind”) of these politicians will stop blowing and the promises and platforms and plans of these windbags will disappear with them. 

Who Is Truly Happy? (146:5-9)
A few words of instruction are inserted into the middle of this psalm of praise. The Book of Psalms begins with a description of those who are happy (Hebrew: asherey, as in Psalm 1) and now concludes with the same “Happy” (asherey) promise. The reasons for happiness are stated clearly: such persons know that their help (for the present) and their hope (for the future) are with the Lord their God. The Lord is the creator of the heavens, the earth, and the sea. Note that the same ordering comes up in Psalm 104, which speaks of the heavens (104:1-9), the earth (10-24), and the sea (25-26).

Verse 6 offers some of the centrally important biblical words used in connection with God. God keeps faith (Hebrew: emet) forever and executes justice (Hebrew: mishpat) for the oppressed and the hungry. Happy is the person who has this God! In the tradition of the great prophets, the psalmist declares the Lord’s special concern for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the hungry and the stranger (146:7, 9). With the reference to the contrasting lifestyles of the righteous (verse 8) and the wicked (verse 9), this psalm in the concluding quintet again links up with the opening psalm in the Psalter (1:6).

Toward Preaching and Teaching
Since Veteran’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, and since this psalm is concerned about loyalty to God and loyalty to government (“princes,” verse 3) this may well be the occasion to deal with the theme of God and government or the relationship between God and Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22).

Other obvious texts will include Romans 13:1-7, though one must exercise care in noting that what is said is not to be applied to all government, but to good government (verse 3). Those of us who have spent the majority of our lives in the twentieth century know well the results of the sort of blind obedience to Romans 13:1 that marked some of those who followed the Nazi regime.

The preacher or teacher will be sensitive to these issues, especially on a national holiday or at the time of a national election, such as the one on November 6, 2012. Preaching and teaching will need to sail a course that avoids the extremes of mindless patriotism (“my country – right or wrong”) or irresponsible apathy (“the church should not meddle in politics” or “I’m not voting this year!”). The Christian life includes both pledging allegiance to country and confessing faith in God.

Second Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 9:24-28

Amy L.B. Peeler

The cycle of sin and atonement ends in Christ

Repetition can be a good thing.

Children thrive when they can expect the same order of events in their day. Most adults enjoy the feeling of an established rhythm to their weeks. Congregations, even those who would never describe themselves as liturgical, have a certain repeated structure to the weekly service that cannot change without attracting attention, or more likely, criticism. In other ways, however, doing the same thing over and over again can create a sense of boredom, or even worse, entrapment. Especially true when one is stuck in the rut of a bad habit, escape from the repetition, while greatly desired, at times feels impossible.

The author of Hebrews, were he to use our parlance, might describe sin as being stuck in a rut. He would certainly, however, not view Israel’s sacrificial system as part of that sin. It was God’s gracious plan to address the reality of human impurity, but it did function as a reminder of the sin rut people lived in. The daily sacrifices culminated in the yearly presentation of an offering in the holiest place in the tabernacle system. Every year the people would mourn their sinfulness as the High Priest, with great trepidation, approached the ark of the covenant to secure God’s presence for another year.

The author of Hebrews interprets Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation in light of this model. The sacrificial system dealt with the people’s sin during the time of the Old Covenant, but it also pointed the way toward the ultimate answer to sin. In the same way, Jesus offered a sacrifice so that sins could be forgiven, but the chief difference is that he did so only once. The cycle came to an end with Jesus.

It seems a bit ironic that a letter so concerned with the end of the repetitive cycle of sin and atonement would be so repetitive in getting that point across. One of my professors often jokingly asked how I could stand working in Hebrews. “It says the same thing over and over again.” That charge, I’m afraid, cannot be denied. This week’s passage is hauntingly similar to the previous. Both discuss the differences in location, means, and timing between the sacrifice of Jesus and the other priests, a hint that repetition is not always a bad thing.

Granting him the benefit of a doubt, the author must have had a reason, and a plan, for expressing the same ideas repeatedly and a close examination shows that he adds something new to his argument in this exposition.

In between the last description of Jesus’ priestly offering and this one, the author presents an artful play on the word covenant. He presents the similarity of Jesus’ offering to the blood rituals used in the covenant God established with his people on Mount Sinai (9:18-22), and also its similarity to the death necessary for the enactment of another type of covenant, a will or testament (9:15-18). So, Jesus plays the role of a testator whose death makes the New Testament a reality, and he plays the role of the priest whose offering inaugurates the new covenant.

The author remains with the priestly associations of covenant to explain the ramifications of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation. Just as the earthly tabernacle had to be cleansed with sacrifices, so too does the heavenly tabernacle. This idea strikes us as incredibly odd if we imagine heaven tainted by human sin, but one of the best explanations is that Jesus’ offering inaugurates the heavenly tabernacle and prepares it for his eternal ministry as the priest who intercedes on our behalf. Hence, the author reminds his audience again that Jesus serves not in the tabernacle on earth, but in heaven itself, where he appears before the very face of God (9:24).

Next, he emphasizes the once-for-all quality of Jesus’ sacrifice. If Jesus were like other priests who presented their offering annually, he would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world — a subtle reminder that this author viewed the man Jesus, whom other Christians had seen and known in the flesh (2:4), as the bodily appearance (10:5) of the eternal Son of God (1:3). If his sacrifice wouldn’t have been singular, it would have had to happen as long as the world itself had existed in need of reconciliation with God. In reality, since he only came once and his suffering culminated in the one and only time he faced death, this showed that time itself had reached a stage of completion. The end of the ages had arrived (cf. 1:2).

Why repeat the point that Jesus presents his own blood, not that of animals, and once, not repeatedly, in heaven, not on earth? In addition to the fact that this was a sermon that most people would hear rather than read, and so repetition helped to solidify ideas in the minds of the audience, the implications of each presentation of the point highlight a different moment in one’s life with God. While the first ends with the proclamation that Jesus’ offering makes it possible to serve God right now (9:14) the second culminates with the promise that Jesus’ offering guarantees salvation in the future. As you serve God, you look forward to the ultimate, final, and permanent salvation Jesus’ sacrifice achieved (9:12).

Both the method and the content of this passage have something to say about repetition. The content asserts that Jesus’ sacrifice ends the repetition needed to take care of sin. Because he has offered himself blameless to God, there no longer remains any need for any offering for sin (10:18).

All we have to do is remember. Hence, we need to repeat the story of Jesus’ offering, in study, in prayer, in worship, in baptism, and in the Eucharist, because this repetition reminds us that we look back to the forgiveness of sin and look forward to the possession of salvation.