Monday, November 13, 2017

Pentecost 24, 2017: Proper 28A



And then he uses the same phrase he used at the end of the previous section:  “encourage one another.” This is his theme for the letter, and it is a communal one. Encouragement cannot come from myself; it takes a community for encouragement to flourish.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Judges 4:1-7
This is our only reading in the lectionary from the Book of Judges. It covers the time between the death of Joshua (the successor of Moses) until the birth of Samuel the prophet, the last judge of Israel. Those who served as “judge” were, in essence, the earthly rulers of Israel, who had only one King, the Lord. The overall story told in Judges is the gradual decline of Israel into civil and religious chaos. Today we have mention of a woman serving as Judge, Deborah. She was one of six major judges, the others being Othniel, Ehud, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Women played a significant role in the early stories, but their role declines over time and mostly disappears by the time of Samson.

4:1 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after [the judge] Ehud died. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years. 4 At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. 5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. 6 She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. 7 I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’”

Psalm 123 (Track 1)
Psalm 123 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” pilgrim songs, sung while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for major festival celebrations in the Temple.  This brief song is a plea for mercy, which in this case is as much “favor” or “blessing” as forgiveness. It is a psalm that easily echoes down from the past: “God, show us the way to a better place.”

1     To you I lift up my eyes, *
                  to you enthroned in the heavens.
2     As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
                  and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
3     So our eyes look to the Lord our God, *
                  until he show us his mercy.
4     Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy, *
                  for we have had more than enough of contempt,
5     Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
              and of the derision of the proud.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Zephaniah was active as a prophet in the 7th century b.c.e., during the reign of Josiah (640-609). He appears to have been a native of Jerusalem and perhaps of royal blood. Zephaniah preached about the coming “Day of the Lord,” brought on by the worship of other gods. His preaching may have led to the reforms of Josiah in 621 b.c.e. (2 Kings 23). The Day of the Lord will be disaster for all, for Israel and all the nations. Late in the book (3:9-20) the possibility of repentance and salvation soften somewhat this otherwise harsh prophet.

1:7 Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. 12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.” 13 Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them. 14 The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there. 15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. 17 I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12 (Track 2)
Psalm 90 is a wisdom hymn comparing the everlasting nature of God and the brevity of human life. There are echoes of Genesis in the psalm, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 2:7, 3:19).

1     Lord, you have been our refuge *
              from one generation to another.
2     Before the mountains were brought forth,
       or the land and the earth were born, *
                  from age to age you are God.
3     You turn us back to the dust and say, *
                  “Go back, O child of earth.”
4     For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday
                                          when it is past *
       and like a watch in the night.
5     You sweep us away like a dream; *
                  we fade away suddenly like the grass.
6     In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
                  in the evening it is dried up and withered.
7     For we consume away in your displeasure; *
                  we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
8     Our iniquities you have set before you, *
                  and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
[9    When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
                  we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10   The span of our life is seventy years,
       perhaps in strength even eighty; *
                  yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
                  for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
11   Who regards the power of your wrath? *
                  who rightly fears your indignation?]
12   So teach us to number our days *
              that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

2nd Reading:  1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
The chief concern of the Christians in Thessalonica seems to have been the promised coming again of the Lord Jesus. Even Jesus himself seems to have thought it would be quickly, but the Thessalonians are beginning to question whether or not this is true. In the previous chapter he has assured them that those who have died will be taken care of. Now he speaks of how they should live, i.e., always in anticipation, never allowing one’s senses to dull. We may not know “the times and the seasons,” but we can always be ready.  And then he uses the same phrase he used at the end of the previous section:  “encourage one another.” This is his theme for the letter, and it is a communal one. Encouragement cannot come from myself; it takes a community for encouragement to flourish.

5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 25:14-30
The middle of the three great parables of Matthew 25, unlike the first and third, also appears in Luke’s Gospel (19:12-27). It has a harsh tone; one can easily imagine being the slave with one talent who dared not lose it and there be nothing left. You can hear an echo of the story of “the fall” from Genesis 3:8-13, when the first man and woman hide themselves from God because they are afraid. As that story goes, it is that fear that is as much the cause of the breakdown in relationship with God than the sin of eating the fruit. This parable has a simple message and it is not about investing wisely. It is that fear is the great enemy of the Gospel and live in the Kingdom of God.

25:14 Jesus said, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”


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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pentecost 23, 2017: Proper 27A



This story of the bridesmaids has a simple message: be ready or you will miss me, not only at the end of time, but in your daily living (represented by the oil, which was such an important substance in Jesus’ day, both for giving light and for eating).

1st Reading (Track 1):  Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
The book of Joshua has been the story of Israel’s conquering of the promised land. The question now remains, will Israel remain faithful as God has been faithful to them. Shechem was an important early center of Israelite life. There he rehearses the story, and warns the people that they must choose which God they will serve. Joshua knows their fickleness. He senses that they will not be able to serve only God, but the people insist and the covenant is renewed. As the story continues, Israel will continue to wrestle with this decision and its consequences.

24:1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:  Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3a Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.
14 Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey." 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

Psalm 78:1-7 (Track 1)
Psalm 78 is one of the historical psalms that rehearse God’s relationship with God’s people.  Psalm 78 has a total of 72 verses. Today we have just the introduction, which sets up the importance of passing the story on to future generations.

1   Hear my teaching, O my people; *
              incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2   I will open my mouth in a parable; *
              I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3   That which we have heard and known,
     and what our forefathers have told us, *
              we will not hide from their children.
4   We will recount to generations to come
     the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, *
              and the wonderful works he has done.
5   He gave his decrees to Jacob
     and established a law for Israel, *
              which he commanded them to teach their children;
6   That the generations to come might know,
     and the children yet unborn; *
              that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
7   So that they might put their trust in God, *
              and not forget the deeds of God,
              but keep his commandments;

1st Reading (Track 2):  Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
The Book of Wisdom is ascribed to King Solomon, but is actually from a much later date, closer to the time of Jesus. The writer takes many aspects of Greek culture and appropriates them for Jewish use. The figure of Sophia/Wisdom developed as the personification of God’s creative and sustaining power. She is found mostly in the apocryphal books (such as this one), but also in Proverbs (in chapters 3 and 8). Her diligence matches well Jesus’ desire for his followers to always be prepared.

6:12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. 13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. 14 One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate. 15 To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, 16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.

Or this

1st Reading (Track 2):  Amos 5:18-24
The prophet Amos was active in the Northern Kingdom (Israel) during the reign of Jeroboam II (788-747 b.c.e.), even though he was a native of Tekoa in the Southern Kingdom (Judah). It was a time of peace and prosperity for Israel, but only for some, and Amos prophesied against a society where the “haves” lived on the backs of the “have-nots). In particular, he despised worship that had no effect on people’s living. Worship in the Temple that does not lead to justice on the Streets is an abomination.

5:18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; 19 as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. 20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? 21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


Canticle (Track 2): A Song of the Love of Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20)

The beginning of wisdom *
     is the true desire to receive teaching,
and a longing to be taught *
     comes from a love of her;
the one who loves her *
     will keep her laws.
Observing the laws of wisdom *
     assures immortality,
and immortality brings one *
     nearer still to God.
So the desire for wisdom *
     leads to the authority of one who rules.

Or this

Psalm 70 (Track 2)
Psalm 70 is a short prayer for deliverance from enemies. It’s first verse is the source for the opening versicle and response at Evening Prayer and Compline (BCP, pp. 117 & 128).

1   Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; *
              O Lord, make haste to help me.
2   Let those who seek my life be ashamed
     and altogether dismayed; *
              let those who take pleasure in my misfortune
              draw back and be disgraced.
3   Let those who say to me “Aha!” and gloat
                                          over me turn back, *
              because they are ashamed.
4   Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; *
              let those who love your salvation say for ever,
              “Great is the Lord!”
5   But as for me, I am poor and needy; *
              come to me speedily, O God.
6   You are my helper and my deliverer; *
              O Lord, do not tarry.

2nd Reading:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In chapter four of this letter, Paul answers questions he must have received from the Christians in Thessalonica. As the first generation of Christians died, there was concern over their fate, and all the more so because it was becoming evident that Jesus’ return would not be as quick as had been anticipated. What follows is Paul’s pastoral response, with the operative word being “encourage,” literally “give courage to one another.”

4:13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 25:1-13
Matthew chapter 25 contains three parables, the first and third unique to Matthew, the middle one shared with Luke. Each of them has a note of judgment, and even harshness. The principle point of all three is the necessity of keeping alert, always being prepared to live the Gospel, to recognize what kingdom-living looks like. This story of the bridesmaids has a simple message: be ready or you will miss me, not only at the end of time, but in your daily living (represented by the oil, which was such an important substance in Jesus’ day, both for giving light and for eating).

25:1 Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


The Scripture quotations (except for the psalms and the canticle) 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 by Vhurch Publisging Incorporated.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, October 30, 2017

All Saints' Sunday, Year A


The most remarkable thing about these blessings is that they completely reverse the values of most societies.

1st Reading: Revelation to John 7:9-17
The context of this reading is the opening of the scroll with seven seals, which had been given to the Lamb to open. There is great anticipation and fear about the opening of the last seal.  Chapter six ends, “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  In chapter seven, before the opening of the last seal (8:1), that question is answered:  God’s people will be rescued.  Revelation 7:9-17 is a vision of that rescue, and it is true even for those who have been martyred.  The end of the scene borrows from visions of the prophet Isaiah (see especially Isaiah 25:8).  Note as well the paradox of the Lamb who is also the Shepherd.
7:9 I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Psalm 34:1-10, 22
Psalm 34 is a hymn of praise for deliverance from “troubles.” We are told twice to “fear” the Lord, a common sentiment in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew word translated “fear” does not denote terror. It is more akin to respect and reverence, particularly when combined with a commitment to the sovereignty of God (God as the one and only “Higher Power”). Verse nine is the only use of the English word “saint” in most translations. In Hebrew it is literally “holy ones” (of course, the New Testament word translated “saint” is also literally “holy ones”).

1    I will bless the Lord at all times; *
                his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2    I will glory in the Lord; *
                let the humble hear and rejoice.
3    Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord;
                let us exalt his Name together.
4    I sought the Lord, and he answered me *
                and delivered me out of all my terror.
5    Look upon him and be radiant, *
                and let not your faces be ashamed.
6    I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
                and saved me from all my troubles.
7    The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
                and he will deliver them.
8    Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
                happy are they who trust in him!
9    Fear the Lord, you that are his saints, *
                for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *
                but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
22 The Lord ransoms the life of his servants, *
                and none will be punished who trust in him.

2nd Reading:  1 John 3:1-3
The writer of the First Letter of John has a strong sense of God’s steadfast love for his people, so much so that he will say, “God is love” (4:16). He is also convinced that it is our greatest desire to be like Christ, who has revealed this love to us. All our hope is in our relationship with him, and so we seek to be holy/pure as he is holy/pure. This does not mean that we never fall short. No, forgiveness is always available to those who recognize and acknowledge it (1:9).

3:1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 5:1-12
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the well-known “beatitudes.”  The sermon covers three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel (5-7).  It is the first of several extended bodies of teaching by Jesus in Matthew.  The sermon begins with blessings.  They are not commandments, but statements: “Blessed are those who…”  The most remarkable thing about these blessings is that they completely reverse the values of most societies. Jesus is claiming those whom society rejects as his kingdom people.

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


The Scripture quotations 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. The translation of the Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany Esources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with attribution.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pentecost 21, 2017: Proper 25A

Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind...and your neighbor as yourself.

1st Reading (Track 1): Deuteronomy 34:1-12
We have skipped to the end of the Torah—the five books of the Law (also known as “The Five Books of Moses.” After forty years of trial in the wilderness, the promised land is now in sight. Moses is allowed to see it, but not to cross over into it. The lack of a burial site serves two purposes. First, it precludes any attempt to set up a shrine to the great prophet and deliverer. Second, it leaves the Torah, the Law, as Moses’ bequest to his people. Later tradition would take it that Moses was, in fact, not buried, but bodily assumed into heaven. This would happen also to the prophet Elijah. This tradition pops up in the Gospels in the story of the Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah appear to speak with Jesus.

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4 The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. 9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (Track 1)
Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses. Its introduction in the Hebrew text says, “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” (These introductory ascriptions are not found in the translation of the Psalms in The Book of Common Prayer, but are included in biblical translations). It is a reflection on the fragility of human life (“like the grass, verse 6) and the eternity of God, (“from age to age,” verses one and two).

1     Lord, you have been our refuge *
                  from one generation to another.
2     Before the mountains were brought forth,
       or the land and the earth were born, *
                  from age to age you are God.
3     You turn us back to the dust and say, *
                  “Go back, O child of earth.”
4     For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday
                                          when it is past *
                  and like a watch in the night.
5     You sweep us away like a dream; *
                  we fade away suddenly like the grass.
6     In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
                  in the evening it is dried up and withered.
13   Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry? *
                  be gracious to your servants.
14   Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
                  so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
15   Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
                  and the years in which we suffered adversity.
16   Show your servants your works *
                  and your splendor to their children.
17   May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; *
       prosper the work of our hands;
                  prosper our handiwork.

1st Reading (Track 2): Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
The God of Israel is not only holy, he asks for holiness from his people. This comes in the form of their faithful obedience to his commandments. In this passage from the Torah (the five books of Moses), many of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5) are repeated, but in different articulations. The point of the whole is that Israel obeys God in relation to the neighbor. As Walter Brueggeman says, “Holiness in heaven is enacted as justice on earth.” There is no holiness without right relationship with the neighbor.

19:1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:  2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great:  with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Psalm 1 (Track 2)
The first psalm is a Wisdom psalm which acts as a kind of preface to the collection.  One characteristic of wisdom literature (inspired by the theology of Deuteronomy—see above) is the assertion that the righteous are happy and the wicked unhappy, or, at least, doomed.  This assertion will appear again and again in the psalms, although there will also be a counter-voice asking, “Why am I righteous but not happy?” and “Why do the wicked prosper?”

1   Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of
                                          the wicked, *
     nor lingered in the way of sinners,
     nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
2   Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
            and they meditate on his law day and night.
3   They are like trees planted by streams of water,
     bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
            everything they do shall prosper.
4   It is not so with the wicked; *
            they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5   Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when
                                          judgment comes, *
            nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6   For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
              but the way of the wicked is doomed.

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Paul describes the circumstances under which he had originally come to Thessalonica. It was his second stop once he crossed for the first time into Europe, after Phillipi, where he had a most difficult time. There had been opposition in Thessalonica also, but Pauls’ commitment to the Gospel is stronger than any trials he suffers. There are, perhaps, some in this community who do not hold Paul in good repute, so he reminds him of his gentleness and the dearness to which he held and still holds them.

2:1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:34-46
Jesus has dealt with two attempts to entrap him. Pharisees had asked him about paying taxes to the Emperor (22:15-22) and the Sadducees (another sect of the Judaism of Jesus’ day) had asked him a question about the resurrection (in which they did not believe). The trap failed both times. The Pharisees try one more time, although it is not much of a test, since what we know as “The Summary of the Law” was widely taught. Jesus turns the tables and asks the religious authorities a question of his own. The answer is obvious to them, but Jesus complicates the matter using Psalm 110, suggesting that the Son of David could not be the Messiah since David (thought to be the author of the psalms) calls him not “son” but “Lord.” We might call it a question of semantics, but Jesus is shown to be a deft interpreter of the Scriptures, and the authorities realize that entrapment will not be how they will be rid of him.

22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


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