Monday, May 21, 2018

Trinity Sunday B Readings & Commentaries

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

1st Reading:  Isaiah 6:1-8
Our first reading is the call of Isaiah to prophesy to the people of Judah.  The scene is the throne room of God and the mood is one of sheer awe.  In the face of God’s holiness, Isaiah can only shrink back.  Yet the mercy of God shines through and Isaiah is then able confidently to answer the call.  This reading is chosen for Trinity Sunday because of the curious, “Who will go for us?”  Why the use of the plural?  Christians have seen it as a foreshadowing of the Trinity (see a similar use at Genesis 1:26).

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Canticle: A Song of Praise (Benedictus es, Domine)
The text of this canticle is The Prayer of Azariah & the Song of the Three, 29-34.  It is found in the Book of Common Prayer as Canticle 13 (p. 90). It is taken from the apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel (inserted between 3:23 and 3:24).  This text is a portion of the song the three young men sing in the fiery furnace.  The entire song is 40 verses long.  The final verse below is a Christian addition.

Glory to you, Lord God of our ancestors; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Or this

Psalm 29
Psalm 29 is an obvious psalm in response to our first reading, especially due to verse 9.  The heavens open and the voice of God rings through the whole creation, over whom the Lord is sovereign.  One thing that distinguishes this psalm is its use of the divine name “Yahweh” (translated, “the Lord”) 18 times.  In addition, the term “voice” is heard seven times.  It’s a reminder that the psalms are poetry!

1     Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
                  ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2     Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
                  worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
3     The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
       the God of glory thunders; *
                  the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4     The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
                  the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.
5     The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
                  the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6     He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
                  and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
7     The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
       the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
                  the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
8     The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
                  and strips the forests bare.
9     And in the temple of the Lord *
                  all are crying, “Glory!”
10   The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
                  the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.
11   The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
                  the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:12-17
In chapter 8 of Romans, Paul contrasts life “according to the flesh” with life “according to the Spirit.”  Here he indicates the contents of the life of the Spirit: adoption as children of God, as God’s Spirit is united to our own and we are able to cry to God as an intimate familiar (“Abba” is the Aramaic word for “father.”).  Our deep sharing with Christ in the Spirit means, however, a sharing in his suffering as well as his glorification.

8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel Reading:  John 3:1-17
In the context of Trinity Sunday, the story of Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus takes on particular meaning.  Although it cannot be used as a “proof text” for the doctrine of the Trinity, it does feed into it with all three persons of the Trinity present in the story.  In this context as well, “being born from above” takes on the need for and promise of our sharing in the divine life.  We are offered the opportunity to be caught up in the divine love that characterizes the relationship among the members of the Trinity.

3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission to copy and edit for church services and for group study is given, provided this attribution remains.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Day of Pentecost B Readings & Commentaries

The Day of Pentecost:  Whitsunday (B)

1st Reading:  Ezekiel 37:1-14
Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon.  He was known for his vivid dreams, one of which is our first reading today.  Ezekiel is taken in this dream to a valley littered with dry bones, a metaphor for Israel’s life under the oppressive Babylonian Empire.  “Can these bones live?” is the question of Israel’s reality in exile.  Do we have a future?  The story keeps us in suspense for a bit, but the definitive answer is, “Yes.”  God will provide a future, despite the present reality.  The “breath” is an important aspect on this day of what invigorates the dry bones.  The word for “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are the same word in Hebrew.

37:1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LordThus says the Lord God to these bones:  I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:  Thus says the Lord God Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Or this

1st Reading:  Acts 2:1-21
Our first reading is the story of the Spirit’s manifestation on the Day of Pentecost.  Pentecost was a major Jewish festival which occurred 50 days after Passover.  It is also known as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. The Holy Spirit’s falling on everyone is a different phenomenon than the Spirit’s falling on individuals in the Hebrew Scriptures (and usually for a set period of time). Peter’s speech includes an extended quote from the prophet Joel (2:28-32).

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Psalm 104 as a whole is a hymn to God as creator and sustainer of all life. Our portion today concludes the psalm with a reference to God’s taming of the sea (seen by ancient peoples as the source of chaos represented here by the sea monster “Leviathan,” which is God’s plaything). It also includes a reference to the Spirit of God.  “Breath” in verse 30 and “Spirit” in verse 31 are the same Hebrew word ruaḥ.

25  Lord, how manifold are your works! *
                 in wisdom you have made them all;
                 the earth is full of your creatures.
26  Yonder is the great and wide sea
      with its living things too many to number, *
                 creatures both small and great.
27  There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, *
                 which you have made for the sport of it.
28  All of them look to you *
                 to give them their food in due season.
29  You give it to them; they gather it; *
                 you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
30  You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
                 you take away their breath,
                 and they die and return to their dust.
31  You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
                 and so you renew the face of the earth.
32  May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
                 may the Lord rejoice in all his works.
33  He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
                 he touches the mountains and they smoke.
34  I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
                 I will praise my God while I have my being.
35  May these words of mine please him; *
                 I will rejoice in the Lord.  [37b] Hallelujah!

2nd Reading:  Acts 2:1-21 (see above)

Or this

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:22-27
Romans chapter eight is Paul’s great proclamation of Life in the Spirit. Paul asserts what the story of Pentecost proclaims, that the Spirit of God dwells in all believers (8:9). That Spirit prays in us, even when we have no words. More than this, Paul says, in what is a stunning theology of the creation, the creation itself groans to be set free, as we do, who are part of that creation. The Spirit is, in one sense, a way of speaking about the intimacy we share with God, as God’s adopted daughters and sons rather than slaves (see also 8:15).

8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Gospel Reading:  John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Our Gospel reading today contains three out of the four predictions by Jesus of the coming of the Spirit in John’s Gospel.  Jesus calls the Spirit, “the Advocate,” a judicial term.  The Spirit will plead our cause, testify on our behalf.  And the Spirit will prove the world wrong “about sin and righteousness and judgment.”  The world only knows punishment for sin.  God has responded with forgiveness.  And finally, the Spirit will lead the followers of Jesus into all truth, a saying in which Jesus clearly teaches that there is more to be learned in every generation of believers.

15:26 Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 4b I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Easter 6B Readings & Commentaries

Christ the Friend

I do not call you servants any longer . . . but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 

1st Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:44-48
Our first reading is the end of a longer story that begins with the Apostle Peter having a dream in which he is commanded to eat unclean animals (10:9). He refuses, but a voice tells him that he should not call unclean what God has called clean.  He is then visited by some Gentiles who ask him to visit them and bring the gospel to them (10:17).  He takes the dream as a sign that he is to do so.  His visit results in the passage that follows, which is a major turning point for the followers of Jesus.  Gentiles are to be included in the new movement.  They, too, are the People of God.

10:44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Psalm 98
“Sing to the Lord a new song!”  This psalm celebrates God’s ability to do a “new thing” and the people’s expectation that such is the way of God.  We worship a God who is an active ruler of creation rather than a passive one.  In one sense, God never changes:  he remembers his “mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel.”  But he is also an expansive God who will judge the whole world and all its peoples with equity.

1   Sing to the Lord a new song, *
            for he has done marvelous things.
2   With his right hand and his holy arm *
            has he won for himself the victory.
3   The Lord has made known his victory; *
            his righteousness has he openly shown in
                            the sight of the nations..
4   He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to
                            the house of Israel, *
            and all of the ends of the earth have seen the
                            victory of our God.
5   Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
            lift up your voice, rejoice and sing.
6   Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
            with the harp and the voice of song.
7   With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
            shout with joy before the King, the Lord.
8   Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
            the lands and those who dwell therein.
9   Let the rivers clap their hands, *
            and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
            when he comes to judge the earth.
10 In righteousness shall he judge the world *
            and the peoples with equity.

2nd Reading:  1 John 5:1-6
Our second reading continues a major theme of this letter which we have been reading this Eastertide: that the Love of God and love of one another is inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other.  The writer then goes on to talk about how this love “conquers the world.”  “The world” to John means everything that is hostile to God. Note the entrance of the Spirit, who Jesus promised in John’s Gospel, will lead us into all truth (16:13).

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

Gospel Reading:  John 15:9-17
Across the three-year cycle of readings, this Sixth Sunday of Easter presents the “new commandment” of Jesus:  “love one another as I have loved you.”  In today’s passage, Jesus begins by declaring the source of his love, the Father’s love for him.  Jesus “abides” in the Father’s love, so Jesus’ disciples “abide” in his love.  “Abide is an important word in John’s Gospel, signifying a deep unity which cannot be broken.  It is, therefore, utterly reliable, and it is that reliability that brings us joy in spite of what the world has to offer us.  This love manifests itself in two other ways.  First, it erases the master/slave relationship.  Jesus us calls us friends (and the implication is that we so ought to call one another).  Second, out of this unconditional love will grow fruit, “fruit that will last.”  The chief “fruit that will last” is an open and trusting relationship with God.

15:9 Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission to copy and edit for church services or for group study is given, provided this attribution remains.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Easter 5B Readings & Commentaries

1st Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40
The Philip in this story was one of the first seven deacons ordained by the apostles (6:1-6).  Today’s story shows that their ministry involved more than “waiting on tables,” as described in chapter 6.  It was also evangelism.  One of the significances about the story is that it involves not only someone who was a Gentile (albeit probably a “god-fearer”—someone interested in and friendly toward Judaism), but also a eunuch, cut off from the Law because of his deformity (Deuteronomy 23:1).  It is the first fulfillment in the Book of Acts of Jesus’ command that the Gospel be preached to “all nations.”  It also follows a prophecy of Isaiah (56:3).  The quote from Isaiah (53:7-8) is from the well-known Fourth Servant Song.

8:26 An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Psalm 22:24-30
As a whole, Psalm 22 is a prayer of one who has felt abandoned by God.  It is a psalm used much during Holy Week, and Jesus’ cry from the cross in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew come from its beginning, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Today we are reading the end of the psalm, in which the author experiences a reconciliation with God and a re-integration into the community of faith.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
            I will perform my vows in the presence of those who
                            worship him.
25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
     and those who seek the Lord shall praise him; *
            “May your heart live for ever!”
26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to
                            the Lord, *
            and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
            he rules over the nations.
28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down
                            in worship; *
            all who go down to the dust fall before him.
29 My soul shall live for him;
     my descendants will serve him; *
            they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.
30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
            the saving deeds that he has done.

2nd Reading:  1 John 4:7-21
God’s love and the command that we emulate that love is central to John’s writings.  John goes so far as to say simply but profoundly, “God is love.”  This is primarily revealed in the sending of the Son.  God’s love enables all other love, so that if we do not love another we cannot love God. God’s love is so strong it trumps the fear of God (the fear of judgment). We can have confidence to stand before God at the end of our earthly days. God loved and still loves us first, but our response is required:  the love of our sisters and brothers.

4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this:  those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Gospel Reading:  John 15:1-8
John’s Gospel contains several “I am” statements in which Jesus uses clear imagery to describe himself and his purpose.  They are John’s version of the parables found in the other Gospels.  These “I am” statements often use imagery from the Hebrew Scriptures. Israel as God’s chosen vine is a frequent image (see Isaiah 5:1-7 and Ezekiel 19:10-14).  “Abide” is an important word for John as well; it occurs eleven times in his Gospel.  It describes the mutuality of the love between Jesus and his followers.

15:1 Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission to copy and edit for church services and study is given, provided this attribution remains.