Monday, July 17, 2017

Proper 11A: 7 Pentecost 2017

1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 28:10-19a
Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebecca, has tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright and with duplicity maneuvered his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that should have gone to the eldest Esau. Jacob is now fleeing the wrath of his brother. He is a fugitive on the run. He dreams, and the dream serves to reveal that God has been a part of all this trickery and deceit. He himself wishes to bless Jacob, and he delivers the same promise to him that he gave to his grandfather Abraham, with an addition (v. 15) that Jacob will be safe “wherever he goes,” and he will bring him home, which at the present moment must seem an impossibility to Jacob. “Beth-el” means literally, “House of God,” and will long be seen as Israel’s second most sacred city.

28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel.

Canticle (Track 1): A Song of God’s Strength in Mercy (Wisdom 12:13, 16-19)
The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books not considered Scripture, but nevertheless are useful “for instruction” (BCP, p. 868). Wisdom is attributed to King Solomon but dates from much later. This canticle extols the restraint and mercy of God as the source of God’s true strength.

Your care, O God, encompasses all creation! *
      Nor is there any god besides you.
To whom do you need to prove *
      that your judgments are just?
For your righteousness comes from your strength, *
      and your dominion makes way for your mercy;
for you show your might when mortals doubt your sovereignty; *
      you rebuke those who treat it with contempt.
Although you rule in boundless power, *
      you administer justice with mildness;
you govern us with great forbearance *
      though you are free to act without constraint.
You have taught your people by such deeds *
      that all who would be righteous must be kind.
You have filled your children with good hope *
      by stirring them to repent for their sins.

Or this

Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Psalm 139 as a whole includes some harsh words about enemies (vv. 18-21), such that the first portion of the psalm is a reminder to God of the petitioner’s innocence and steadfast devotion to God. Such innocence should result in justice against one’s enemies. The writer experiences God’s complete presence. There is nowhere one can avoid it. The writer prays that this truth will be as much for his enemies as it is for himself.

1    Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
            you know my sitting down and my rising up;
            you discern my thoughts from afar.
2    You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
            and are acquainted with all my ways.
3    Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
            but you, O Lord, know it altogether.
4    You press upon me behind and before *
            and lay your hand upon me.
5    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
            it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
6    Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
            where can I flee from your presence?
7    If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
            if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
8    If I take the wings of the morning *
            and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
9    Even there your hand will lead me *
            and your right hand hold me fast.
10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, *
            and the light around me turn to night,”
11 Darkness is not dark to you;
      the night is as bright as the day; *
          darkness and light to you are both alike.
22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
            try me and know my restless thoughts.
23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
          and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 44:6-8
“Second Isaiah” (which begins with chapter 40) is written in exile in Babylon, but prophesying the return of the people to Jerusalem and Judea. Several passages in its early chapters proclaim the preeminence of Israel’s God, who, to many, had seemed to have abandoned his people or even been defeated. The image of God as “the first and the last” originates with Second Isaiah. Its first occurrence was at 41:4, and it will be repeated at 48:12.

44:6 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. 8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

Psalm 86:11-17 (Track 2)
Psalm 86 skillfully weaves metaphors and language from elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to form what overall is a prayer for deliverance from enemies. Two examples from our passage today are in verse 15 (Exodus 34:6, et al) and verse 16 (Numbers 6:25).  “The Pit” (sometimes left as the Hebrew Sheol) was simply the realm of the dead.  Belief in an afterlife came late to Judaism, not long before the time of Jesus (and even then not accepted by all).

11  Teach me your way, O Lord,
      and I will walk in your truth; *
            knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.
12  I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, *
            and glorify your Name for evermore.
13  For great is your love toward me; *
            you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.
14  The arrogant rise up against me, O God,
      and a band of violent men seeks my life; *
            they have not set you before their eyes.
15  But you, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, *
            slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
16  Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
            give your strength to your servant;
            and save the child of your handmaid.
17  Show me a sign of your favor,
      so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
            because you, O Lord , have helped me and
                                    comforted me.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:12-25
This reading continues Paul’s juxtaposition of the Spirit and “the flesh.” The latter is more than physicality. “the flesh” is anything that draws us away from the love of God. He then switches metaphors: “live by the flesh” becomes “a spirit of slavery to fear,” while life in the Spirit becomes “a spirit of adoption,” in which we are literally made one of the divine family. Paul then goes on the speak very important words about the whole creation, implying that its salvation is wrapped up with our own. Whatever heaven is, Paul understands it to be a renewed creation as well as a renewed humanity.

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. 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 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.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Jesus follows the more familiar parable of the sower (13:3-9, 18-23) with another sowing parable, usually referred to as the parable of the weeds among the wheat (which s unique to Matthew’s Gospel). There was, apparently, in Matthew’s community, the very human inclination to judge between the good and the evil and to take action to cleanse the group. Here Jesus clearly teaches not to engage in such behavior. Note the farmer outwits the “enemies” who have sown the weeds, by finding a positive use for them.

The Holy Gospel … according to Matthew.            Glory to you, Lord Christ.

13:24 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

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 translations are from The Book of Common Prayer.  The translation of the Canticle is copyright © 2007, Church Publishing, Inc. Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Proper 10A: 6th Sunday after Pentecost, 2017

The Sower (Van Gogh, 1888)
1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 25:19-34
The next generation is born, although not without God’s intervention. In actuality, the priority of God’s mysterious purposes dominates this reading. The inheritance right of the first-born son was an established practice in ancient Near Eastern society (and continued, until quite recently the dominant worldwide practice). But the God of Abraham is no respecter of our social conventions. We are not told why God preferred Jacob, and, as far as the text goes, we do not need to know. Yet this choice of “the younger” will be a frequent occurrence throughout the Bible.

25:19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” 24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Psalm 119:105-112 (Track 1)
Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms at 176 total verses. It is an acrostic poem with every eight verses beginning with subsequent letters of the Hebrew alphabet It is a psalm from the wisdom tradition, extolling wise obedience to the law (which is named in some way in every verse).

105   Your word is a lantern to my feet *
                    and a light upon my path.
106   I have sworn and am determined *
                    to keep your righteous judgments.
107   I am deeply troubled; *
                    preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.
108   Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips, *
                    and teach me your judgments.
109   My life is always in my hand, *
                    yet I do not forget your law.
110   The wicked have set a trap for me, *
                    but I have not strayed from your commandments.
111   Your decrees are my inheritance for ever; *
                    truly, they are the joy of my heart.
112   I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes *
                    for ever and to the end.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 55:10-13
This passage from Isaiah places “the word” in the extravagance of creation. The first part of this chapter has made the claim that the purposes of God are both free from and sovereign over the purposes of humankind. Now the whole creation testifies to the wondrous purposes and promises of God. The promise is a joyous homecoming to those who seem stuck in exile.

55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-14 (Track 2)
Psalm 65 extols God as both creator and redeemer, here in reverse order. Verses 1-5 praise God as redeemer, and 6-14 as creator. It is God alone who provides both so extravagantly, which is so evident in this psalm.

[1  You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; *
                to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.
2    To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come, *
                because of their transgressions.
3    Our sins are stronger than we are, *
      but you will blot them out.
4    Happy are they whom you choose
      and draw to your courts to dwell there! *
                they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,
                by the holiness of your temple.
5    Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,
      O God of our salvation, *
                O Hope of all the ends of the earth
                and of the seas that are far away.
6    You make fast the mountains by your power; *
                they are girded about with might.
7    You still the roaring of the seas, *
                the roaring of their waves,
                and the clamor of the peoples.
8    Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your
                                                marvelous signs; *
                you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.]
9    You visit the earth and water it abundantly;
      you make it very plenteous; *
                the river of God is full of water.
10 You prepare the grain, *
                for so you provide for the earth.
11 I You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; *
                with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
12 You crown the year with your goodness, *
                and your paths overflow with plenty.
13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, *
                and the hills be clothed with joy.
14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,
      and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; *
                let them shout for joy and sing.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:1-11
The first verse of this chapter is a climax to Paul’s argument in the first seven chapters. The “therefore” looms large; it is a proclamation of freedom for those who embrace the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Chapter 8 is Paul’s most significant proclamation of the life of the Spirit. “The flesh” for Paul is not so much our literal bodies as it is a metaphor of our tendency to sin. One way of understanding “flesh vs. Spirit” in this passage is to equate it with “slavery vs. freedom.”

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The parable of the sower seems easy to understand (particularly since Jesus “explains” it), but we are probably too quick to see it as instruction on how we are to sow the seed of the Gospel. Rather, it is a story about how God sows the word, or, we might say, plants the kingdom. Our job is not so much to do the sowing as it is to find the seed that has already been sown with the following realities: the seed is sown everywhere, indiscriminately; the seed is, well, seed, in that it is not easy to find; yet it also does its work, even in difficult situations; it requires our response in order to bear fruit.

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen! 18 Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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 © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Proper 9A: 5th Sunday after Pentecost 2017

1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Sarah has died (chapter 23), and it is now time for Abraham to secure a wife for his son Isaac. Isaac has not been mentioned since his near sacrifice in chapter 22, and he does not appear in this story until the very end. Abraham is determined to find a wife for Isaac “back home” in Haran. The story includes several Mid-eastern betrothel rituals, including the nose ring. We skip the negotiation of a dowry (vv. 50-57). The entire story continues several large themes of the Abraham story:  Abraham is blessed by God; God is loyal and faithful to Abraham and Abraham is loyal and faithful to God.  Abraham acts within the pruposes and provisions of his God.

24:34 The man said to Rebekah and her household, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; 38 but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’ 42 I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! 43 I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ 44 and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’ 45 Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49 Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.” 58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” 59 So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” 61 Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. 62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. 63 Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. 64 And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, 65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Canticle (Track 1): Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (A Song of My Beloved)
The Song of Solomon (or “The Song of Songs”) is a series of love poems attributed to King Solomon, but most likely written at a much later date. Today’s portion is from a longer poem (8-17) that opens and closes with the image of the beloved as a gazelle. Commentators from early times have seen these poems as an allegory of the love between God and Israel (or in Christian terms, Christ and the church).

Hear the voice of my belovéd! *
                Over the mountains he comes leaping,
bounding over the hills *
                like a young stag or a gazelle.
See where he stands behind our wall, *
                gazing in the windows,
                peeking through the lattice.
My belovéd says to me: *
                Rise up, my love, my beauty, come away;
for now the winter is past, *
                the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth *
                and the time of singing has come:
the voice of the turtle-dove *
                is heard throughout our land.
The fig trees bend with scented fruit; *
                and all the squash-vines blossom,
sending up their sweet perfume. *
                Rise up, my love, my beauty, and come away.

Or this

Psalm 45:11-18 (Track 1)
Psalm 45 is unique among the Psalms in that its use in ancient Israel was clearly for a royal wedding. In the opening verses of the psalm (1-10), the king is extolled and highly idealized. In verse 11, the queen enters. Because of the emphasis in verse 11, she may have been from a foreign land. The role of the queen betrays its ancient setting. The final two verses are a blessing on the king. The “I” is the writer, not God (see the opening verse of the psalm).

11 Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely; *
                forget your people and your father’s house.
12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty; *
                he is your master; therefore do him honor.
13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift; *
                the rich among your people seek your favor.
14 All glorious is the princess as she enters; *
                her gown is cloth-of-gold.
15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king; *
                after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.
16 With joy and gladness they are brought, *
                and enter into the palace of the king.
17 In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons; *
                you shall make them princes over all the earth.
18 I will make your name to be remembered
      from one generation to another; *
                therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Zechariah 9:9-12
Zechariah prophesied as the Babylonian exiles returned to rebuild Jewish society with those who had been left behind (around 520—518 b.c.e.), although the second half of the book (chapters 9-14) might have been from a later period, perhaps even after Alexander the Great had conquered the region (after 330 b.c.e.). Verses 9 & 10 of our reading seem to describe the return of a king to Jerusalem (Christians have generally seen the entrance of Jesus on “Palm Sunday” in these verses, which are quoted in Matthew 21:5-7). Verses 11 & 12 celebrate the return of the people with the moving image, “prisoners of hope.”

9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Psalm 145:8-15 (Track 2)
Psalm 145 as a whole is an acrostic poem, most likely intended for use in worship, as it sings the praises of God. Verse 8 repeats the creed of Exodus 34:6 (see also Psalm 86:5).

8    The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, *
                slow to anger and of great kindness.
9    The Lord is loving to everyone *
                and his compassion is over all his works.
10 All your works praise you, O Lord, *
                and your faithful servants bless you.
11 They make known the glory of your kingdom *
                and speak of your power;
12 That the peoples may know of your power *
                and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
                your dominion endures throughout all ages.
14 The Lord is faithful in all his words *
                and merciful in all his deeds.
15 The Lord upholds all those who fall; *

2nd Reading:  Romans 7:15-25a
There has long been debate about just to whom the “I” refers in this passage. The obvious answer is Paul, but this does not jive with his claim in other places to be “blameless” under the law (for example, Philippians 3:5-6). Whichever is the case, Paul clearly intends here to show the desperation one experiences “under the law,” without the rescue of the grace available through relationship with Christ. Must we live as “wretched men [sic]”? No, there is another way, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then at the beginning of chapter 8 Paul will say a most stunning thing, especially considering the angst he has just dwelled upon.  He says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

7:10 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Jesus opens this passage with a strange parable about children in the marketplace. Essentially it means that despite Jesus and John being thought of entirely differently, both were equally rejected. The odd statement about wisdom being known by her deeds is more or less the equivalent of “you will know them by their fruits.” Verses 25-27 is a positive statement about the dignity of Jesus and his followers (which follows on the skipped-over verses about the cities who have rejected Jesus). Verses 28-30 are only found in Matthew, and, as such, are one of this Gospel’s keys to understanding. The Matthean community, in severe opposition to Pharisaic religion and the stress that brings, can rest in the knowledge of Jesus’ “easy yoke” and “light burden,” a theme that will be carried into chapter 12 with its Sabbath observance controversies.

11:16 Jesus said, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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 Collect of the Day is from The Book of Common Prayer.  The translation of the Canticle is copyright © 2007, Church Publishing Inc. The psalm translations are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.