Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Easter 2C Readings & Commentaries


Throughout Eastertide this year we read from the Revelation to John.  The Revelation actually presents itself as a letter and our reading this morning is the salutation. 

1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32
During Eastertide our first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. Today’s reading is set in the context of the arrest of the apostles (5:17) by the high priest and the temple police.  During the night, however, they escaped, assisted by an angel.  They were found the next day in the temple precincts, teaching.  They were once again arrested, and the following scene occurs.  After this many wanted to kill them, but Gamaliel, a Pharisee on the council (the Sanhedrin), intervenes, arguing that if these men are of human origin they will fail, but if they are from God, nothing can stop them.  He prevailed and the apostles were let go after a flogging.  This passage has been used over the centuries to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. It is important to note here that Peter is speaking to the religious authorities here and not all Jews.

27 When [the temple police] had brought [the apostles], they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Psalm 118:14-29
As a whole, Psalm 118 is one of Israel’s greatest sons of thanksgiving and praise. Psalm 118 has long been associated with Holy Week and Easter.  The Book of Common Prayer uses it on Palm Sunday, Easter Day, throughout Easter Week and now on this Second Sunday.  In addition, Psalms 113—118 are traditionally used during Passover.  All four Gospel writers use this psalm in regards to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Matthew uses it again at 21:42.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
              and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
              in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
              the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
              the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
              and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
              but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
              I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
              he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
              and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
              has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
              and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
              we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! *
              Lord, send us now success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; *
              we bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; *
              form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.
28 “You are my God, and I will thank you; *
              you are my God, and I will exalt you.”
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
              his mercy endures for ever.

Or this
Psalm 150
The last of the psalms is a song of praise.  It is a fitting conclusion to the psalter.  Every line contains the Hebrew hll, “praise.” The “timbrel” (v. 4) was a hand-held percussion instrument similar to a tambourine.

1 Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy temple; *
Praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts; *
praise him for his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn; *
praise him with lyre and harp.
4 Praise him with timbrel and dance; *
praise him with strings and pipe.
5 Praise him with resounding cymbals; *
praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath *
              praise the Lord.  Hallelujah!

2nd Reading:  Revelation to John 1:4-8
Throughout Eastertide this year we read from the Revelation to John.  The Revelation actually presents itself as a letter and our reading this morning is the salutation.  As in many letter openings, several issues are identified that will be important for the work as a whole.  There are a number of descriptive titles for God and Jesus here, and they will be repeated and expanded upon later.  Jesus is described, for instance, as “the faithful witness,” and the theme of witnessing will come to the fore again and again in Revelation. Traditionally “John” is the same John the Evangelist and Apostle of the Gospel and the letters, but the potential date of Revelation’s initial writing and its location, point to some other writer.  This auther is often referred to as “John the Divine.” The beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet (Α and Ω) became a prominent early Christian symbol for Jesus (used twice more in Revelation at 21:6 and 22:13).

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Gospel Reading:  John 20:19-31
Our Gospel reading continues last week’s story in John’s Gospel of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after the resurrection. Mary Magdalene has seen the Lord and has told the others as much. Yet they still are hidden in fear.  Jesus comes among them with a message of peace. Despite their betrayal and abandonment of him, they are forgiven and are gifted with the Spirit (this is the Gospel of John’s “Pentecost”).  They are to practice this forgiveness with others; this is central to the message they are to proclaim.  Thomas is not with them for this appearance (perhaps he alone is not afraid?) and demands to see for himself.  Once he does he believes as well.  Jesus then speaks of us, those who do not see and yet believe.

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


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 © 2016 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. For more information, go to our website.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Easter Day C Readings & Commentaries




First Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
It is an ancient tradition to read from The Acts of the Apostles during Eastertide. Acts is the second volume of the evangelist Luke. At this point in the story, the apostle Peter has had a strange dream in which a voice had told him “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” At the same time, a Roman Centurion named Cornelius had a dream to seek out Peter and invite him to his home. When Peter arrives, Cornelius, a Gentile, welcomes him, and Peter begins to speak, which is today’s reading. Immediately after this, the Holy Spirit falls down on Cornelius and his family, and the Jesus movement makes a major advance—the Gentiles will be as welcome in this movement as Jews. The speech contains an accusation that “the people of Israel….put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” We know the story is more complicated than that. It was certain Jewish religious authorities who goaded Pilate to send Jesus to a Roman-executed death.

34 Then Peter began to speak to [Cornelius and his household]: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Or this

First Reading:  Isaiah 65:17-25
This reading comes near the end of Isaiah, echoing two passages from earlier in the book, Isaiah 25:6-10 and 11:6-9. It is a grand apocalyptic vision of a renewed creation living fully within the dream of God. This new creation hearkens back to Israel’s creation myth with people living extraordinarily long lives and all the curses of life accumulated over the years reversed (except for the serpent!) In Christian terms, this is the fully resurrected life both for humanity and the whole creation.

17 [Thus says the Lord God], I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Psalm 118 has long been associated with Holy Week and Easter.  Verses 1-2, 19-29 were appointed for the procession of palms a week ago. Thanksgiving for God’s “steadfast love” is the overall theme.  The psalm then goes on to recount the deeds of steadfast love that call for gratitude. Verses 14-24 have so long been associated with Easter that it is hard to hear them in anything other than a Christian resurrection context.  The “cornerstone” verse is used by Jesus in Mark (12:10) and Matthew (21:42) and by the apostle Peter in Acts (4:11).

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
              his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
              “His mercy endures for ever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
              and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
              in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
              the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
              the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
              and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
              but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
              I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
              he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
              and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
              has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
              and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
              we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:19-26
In Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks more about his understanding of the resurrection than in any of his letters.  The Christians in Corinth were skeptical at some level.  Paul begins the chapter by reminding them of what he has taught (15:3-11).  In verses 12-19, he argues for the resurrection by use of logic.  Todays’ reading is his grand summary, putting the resurrection in the context of the whole story of God.  Even Paul, however, cannot escape the reality that believers still die, and so he declares, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The destruction of death was seen by many early Christians (as well as many still today) as the great purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Or this
Second Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
For commentary, see above.

Gospel Reading:  John 20:1-18
There is no actual story of the resurrection; there is only the empty tomb. In all four Gospels, it is women who are the first witnesses to the empty tomb, chief among them Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is accorded the title “apostle” because of this.  Another commonality of most post-resurrection stories of Jesus is his identification by the wounds he carries on his body. Did Mary not recognize Jesus because his resurrection body was quite different? Or is he “disguised as the gardener? Or is she still in shock? We do not know. What we do know is that the sound of his voice calling her name triggers her recognition.

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Or this
Gospel Reading:  Luke 24:1-12
There is no story of the resurrection available to us, only that of the discovery of the empty tomb.  The four Gospel writers all agree the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, chief among them Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is accorded the title “apostle” because of this. Luke adds the names of Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and “the other women,” presumably those identified at Luke 8:1 as having been among Jesus’ followers and who “provided for them out of their resources.” Only Luke adds the detail that the [male] disciples did not believe the women when they told of their discovery.

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that ‘the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  The Psalm is the translation of The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is Copyright © 2016, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Please see our website

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Sunday of the Passion:Palm Sunday C Readings & Commentaries


Luke’s version of the passion and death of Jesus is carefully crafted in several ways to emphasize several themes. First, Jesus’ innocence is clearly proclaimed, even by Herod and Pilate. Luke makes it clear that it was the religious leadership that was ultimately responsible for Jesus’ death

Liturgy of the Palms:  Luke 19:28-40
Luke’s story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem reads much like the same story in the other Gospels, although Luke has edited it to strengthen some of his favorite themes.  There are no palms or branches in Luke’s story, probably because they had a nationalistic implication, and Luke wants us to understand that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem as a king, but not solely as the king of the Jews.  He adds both the word “king” to the quote from Psalm 118:26 in verse 38 and the addition of words heard from the angels in the birth story (2:14). Jesus’ disciples will not be silenced; the stones would shout out, recalling John the Baptist’s saying in 3:8 that “God is able to from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

19:28 After he had said this, [Jesus] went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

1st Reading:  Isaiah 50:4-9a
What follows is a portion of the third of the “Servant Songs” in the latter portion of the Book of Isaiah. Christians have tended to associate the servant with Jesus, although originally it probably referred to a renewed Israel. The determination of the servant to move forward even in the face of violence and disgrace very much parallels the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel “setting his face to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).  All of this action is driven by “the Lord God.”

50:4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. 7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9a It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 31:9-16

9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; *
         my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.
10 For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; *
         my strength fails me because of affliction,
         and my bones are consumed.
11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies
                            and even to my neighbors,
     a dismay to those of my acquaintance; *
         when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; *
         I am as useless as a broken pot.
13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; *
         they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. *
         I have said, “You are my God.
15 My times are in your hand; *
         rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
         and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
         and in your loving-kindness save me.”

2nd Reading:  Philippians 2:5-11
Paul quotes to the Philippians what was most likely an early Christian hymn.  Jesus shows us how to live in his own self-emptying (kenosis in Greek) in order to fulfill God’s purpose for him.  Jesus’ obedience was ultimate—the giving of his own life on behalf of others.  This weakness, however, is exalted by God.

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Passion Gospel:  Luke 22:14—23:56
Luke’s version of the passion and death of Jesus is carefully crafted in several ways to emphasize several themes. First, Jesus’ innocence is clearly proclaimed, even by Herod and Pilate. Luke makes it clear that it was the religious leadership that was ultimately responsible for Jesus’ death. Second, Luke is gentler on both the disciples and the crowd. Yes, there is betrayal, but there is also forgiveness and a portion of the crowd (and even the religious leadership) who remain sympathetic to Jesus. Third, the whole story is played out as the plan of God, following the prophecy of the suffering servant, as well as the paschal sacrifice. Luke’s most major change is in the scene on the cross, where Jesus remains calm and in control, accepting his fate and bestowing forgiveness.  Overall, verse 22:37 is a kind of summary of Luke’s understanding of what is going on here:  “For I tell you that this scripture must find its fulfillment in me, ‘He was reckoned among the lawless.’ For that which is written about me has a fulfillment” (translation of Luke Timothy Johnson).

22:14 When the hour [for the Passover meal] came, [Jesus] took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23 Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this. 24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” 35 He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” 36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.” 39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43 [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] 45 When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49 When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50 Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!” 54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55 When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. 63 Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; 64 they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 They kept heaping many other insults on him. 66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. 67 They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I question you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

23:1 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. 13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. 26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. 50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  The translation of the Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is by The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, © 2019, Epiphany Esources, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy for group study with attribution.  Bulletin inserts are available. Visit our website for more information.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Lent 5C Readings & Commentaries


All four Gospels share a story of a woman anointing Jesus.  John’s is a bit more detailed and is specifically tied to the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

1st Reading:  Isaiah 43:16-21
Among the Jews in exile in Babylon there is a startling announcement:  God is going to do a new thing. It will be just like the Exodus, only in a kind of reversal.  This time water will spring up in the desert.  “Do not remember the former things,” God says, “I am about to do a new thing.”  As we approach Good Friday and Easter we are aware of this renewing energy of God and are about to tell the tale of what we believe to be its greatest work.

43:16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Psalm 126
Psalm 126 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” songs sung as pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem for various festivals.  Psalm 126 is a great song of hope.  Better days in Zion are remembered, but there is a break between verse 4 and verse 5.  There has been an intervening time when fortunes were not good (perhaps it is the time of exile that is being referred to). Weeping (a penitential act) is required for joy to return. The Negev is the arid southern portion of the land of Israel, dependent on winter rains.  It is used as a metaphor for Israel’s restoration.

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *
              then were we like those who dream.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
              and our tongue with shouts of joy.
3 Then they said among the nations, *
              “The Lord has done great things for them.”
4 The Lord has done great things for us, *
                            and we are glad indeed.
5 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, *
              like the watercourses of the Negev.
6 Those who sowed with tears *
              will reap with songs of joy.
7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
              will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

2nd Reading:  Philippians 3:4b-14
In the beginning of this letter, Paul has been speaking in highly critical terms of his “enemies,” those who are teaching a different gospel to the Philippians, one that insists on the requirement of circumcision for males.  After his initial sense of outrage, he tells a part of his story.  He, of all people has “confidence in the flesh,” i.e., his righteousness under the law. Yet Jesus has given him a new lens with which to see life.  That lens is Jesus himself and it has replaced the lens of the law.

3:4b Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading:  John 12:1-8
All four Gospels share a story of a woman anointing Jesus.  John’s is a bit more detailed and is specifically tied to the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Jesus has, in fact, just raised Lazarus from the dead (ch. 11).  They now share a meal as good friends would (it has earlier been made clear that there is a special relationship between Jesus and this household).  The tale contrasts Mary and Judas, the faithful one and the unfaithful one.  Anointing Jesus’ feet may be a foreshadow of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet in ch. 13.  Jesus indicates that she is anointing him for burial.  The saying about the poor at the end of the passage does not mean that we should not care about them. Rather, it is Jesus contrasting their presence with his impending absence.  The perfume called “nard” comes from a plant native to India (the word itself is Sanskrit in origin).  It was extravagantly expensive and was most often saved for weddings and burials.  Three hundred denarii (a Roman coin) was about a year’s pay for the average worker of Jesus’ day.

12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  The translation of the Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is copyright © 2019, Epiphany Esources, 67 E Main St, Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy for group study with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Visit our website for more information.