Sunday, July 14, 2019

6 Pentecost 2019 (Proper 11C) Readings & Commentaries

 This well-known story is only told by Luke. The Gospel of John knows Mary and Martha of Bethany (and their brother Lazarus), and there is a meal scene with them in that Gospel (12:1-3), but it is lacking the details in this story.

1st Reading (Track 1): Amos 8:1-12
Today’s reading from near the end of the book of Amos, is the fourth vision/image given to the prophet regarding Israel’s end. Ripe summer fruit (which will quickly spoil) speaks to the immediacy of Israel’s situation. As in last week’s reading from Amos, God’s judgment is that in a time of “prosperity,” fraudulent business practices oppress the poor. Amos announces that it is too late.  When the crisis comes (the invasion of the Assyrians), people will seek a word from God and there will be none.

8:1 This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2 He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. 3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” 4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, 6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” 7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? 9 On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. 11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Psalm 52 (Track 1)
Psalm 52 is testimony against wickedness. The Hebrew word translated “tyrant” is literally “Mighty One.” There is sarcasm at use here.  The introduction to the psalm put in in the context of “When Doeg the Edomite came to Saul and said to him, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech” (1 Samuel 21 & 22). If that is the case than the object of scorn here is the treacherous Doeg, whose tongue has indeed “plotted ruin” and caused many deaths.

1 You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness *
              against the godly all day long?
2 You plot ruin; your tongue is like a sharpened razor, *
              O worker of deception.
3 You love evil more than good *
              and lying more than speaking the truth.
4 You love all words that hurt, *
              O you deceitful tongue.
5 Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, *
              topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
              and root you out of the land of the living!
6 The righteous shall see and tremble, *
and they shall laugh at him, saying,
7 “This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, *
              but trusted in great wealth and relied upon wickedness.”
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; *
              I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9 I will give you thanks for what you have done *
              and declare the goodness of your Name
                            in the presence of the godly.

1st Reading (Track 2): Genesis 18:1-10a
God promised Abraham and Sarah a son (and that his heirs would become a great nation) in Genesis 12:1-4. Much has happened since that promise. The two have journeyed from their homeland to the land of Canaan, taken a side trip to Egypt, divided the land between themselves and their nephew Lot, defeated several kings, received a second iteration of the promise (ch. 15), tried having a surrogate son through Sarah’s slave-girl Hagar, and received a third iteration of the promise (ch. 17) during which they received a change to their names and received the commandment of male circumcision.  Now comes the promise again—a fourth time.  This story is a fine example of Middle Eastern hospitality. It will be chapter 21 before Sarah bears a child. There are many odd things about this reading. Are the three indeed “men” or are they angels? Why are they referred to sometimes as “they” and sometimes as “he”? Because of this inconsistency, Christians have tended to read back into the story an appearance of the Trinity.

18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”

Psalm 15 (Track 2)
Psalm 15 sets forth the characteristics of a righteous person, especially as he approaches worship in the Temple.  In the time of the psalm’s writing, access to the Temple was restricted.  Certain people were not admitted (see, for example, Deuteronomy 23:1-8).  The Babylonian Talmud claims that David summarized the 613 laws of the Torah into the ten found here in verses 2—5. The structure of ten is certainly meant to tie directly to the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) tradition.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
who may abide upon your holy hill?
2 Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *
who speaks truth from his heart.
3 There is no guile upon his tongues;
    he does no evil to his friend; *
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4 In his sight the wicked is rejected, *
but he honors those who fear the Lord.
5 He has sworn to do no wrong *
and does not take back his word.
6 He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7 Whoever does these things *
shall never be overthrown.

2nd Reading:  Colossians 1:15-28
The first portion of today’s reading is most likely an early hymn to Christ as “firstborn of all creation.” The reading then continues to speak of the effect of this “cosmic” Christ on the ministry of the Colossians and of Paul himself. The Christ who holds all things together, has done so with the Colossians. They are reconciled in him. Paul understands himself to be continuing Christ’s work, offering himself for the sake of the church, revealing the mystery:  Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1:15 Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. 24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25 I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 10:38-42
This well-known story is only told by Luke. The Gospel of John knows Mary and Martha of Bethany (and their brother Lazarus), and there is a meal scene with them in that Gospel (12:1-3), but it is lacking the details in this story. This story highlights Jesus’ willingness to push the social and religious boundaries between men and women (particularly for a rabbi). It is easy to be critical of Martha and her busy-ness, but that is not necessarily Jesus’ point.  He has just said to the lawyer in the Good Samaritan story, “Go and do likewise.” Here he commends Mary’s passivity. The point is, perhaps, that in the life of Jesus’ followers there is a time for both ways of being. Perhaps another point centers around the words “distraction” and “worry.” It is not so much that Martha should not be about her tasks, but distracted and worried living are not helpful among Jesus’ disciples, partially because they typically lead to resentment, as they do here.

10:38 Now as Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

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 © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

5 Pentecost 2019 (Proper 10C) Readings & Commentaries

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is well known and beloved. It begins with a dialogue between Jesus and a lawyer. 

5th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10C, Track One)

1st Reading (Track 1):  Amos 7:7-17
The prophet Amos functioned during the peaceful and prosperous reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the northern kingdom) although he himself was from Judah (the southern kingdom). Around the year 752 b.c.e., Amos witnessed to God’s displeasure that this prosperity was built on the backs of the poor. Our reading today is from the last section of the book, where the Lord’s judgment is brought to the fore and disaster predicted. Indeed, the northern kingdom was wiped from history by the Assyrians in 721 b.c.e. A “plumb line” is a simple device of a string with a weight on one end, to test true vertical for a wall, etc.

7:7 This is what he showed me:  the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 “Now therefore hear the word of the Lord. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’ 17 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

Psalm 82 (Track 1)
Psalm 82 is among the more ancient of the psalms, given its assumption of a polytheistic world. It puts forward a courtroom scene where “the Most High,” the God of Israel, disputes with “the gods.” The charge is a lack of justice.

1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
              he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly, *
              and show favor to the wicked?
3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
              defend the humble and needy;
4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
              deliver them from the power of the wicked.
5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
   they go about in darkness; *
              all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
              and all of you children of the Most High;
7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
              and fall like any prince.’”
8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
              for you shall take all nations for your own.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Today’s first reading is a portion of the end of a long speech of Moses “on the plains of Moab” (Dt. 29:1—30:20).  It is a curious reading in that it begins in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a sentence.  The first half of the reading emphasizes the blessing of obedience.  The second part answers the question, “Is not the law too difficult to obey in its entirety?”

30:9 [Moses said to the people of Israel,] “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”

Psalm 25:1-9 (Track 2)
Psalm 25, like a few other psalms (9/10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145) is an acrostic poem. Each verse begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are a total of 22 verses in Psalm 25. It is an individual’s lament, in dialogue with perhaps a worship leader of some sort (the divisions are individual 1-7, 16-22 and leader 8-10, 12-14). Psalm 25 testifies to the possibility of confession, repentance, and forgives, as does our first reading today.

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; *
              let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
              let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3 Show me your ways, O Lord, *
and teach me your paths.
4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.
5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.
6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.
9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

2nd Reading:  Colossians 1:1-14
We will read the Letter to the Colossians for the next four weeks.  Paul’s actual authorship is disputed, largely due to language and phrasing that are uncharacteristic of Paul. Putting the name of one’s teacher on a letter was not all that unusual in the Greek world of the time. This is a letter to a community that Paul neither founded nor visited.  Its apostle was Epaphras, of whom Paul speaks well.  The letter is written in response to the threat of false teaching, although it is not entirely clear what that false teaching was, although somehow the unique supremacy of Christ was being challenged.  The letter opens in the usual way, with a short greeting and a longer thanksgiving prayer for the community.

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 10:25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is well known and beloved. It begins with a dialogue between Jesus and a lawyer. The lawyer is stuck on “understanding” and Jesus tries to move him toward “doing.” The parable ultimately does that, with its finish, “Go and do likewise.”  The Kingdom of God is not a proposition but an action.  “Who is my neighbor,” the lawyer asks.  The answer is not in a category, but in an action.  Jesus, in essence, turns “neighbor” into a verb.

10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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 © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

4 Pentecost 2019 (Proper 9C) Readings & Commentaries

 This report is peculiar to Luke, especially in that a larger group of disciples is mentioned and given apostolic work.  Luke may have in mind one of several mentions of seventy in the Old Testament:

1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Kings 5:1-14
Elisha has taken the place of Elijah as the preeminent prophet in Israel (2 Kings 2). The prophet is involved with the regional political and military affairs (ch. 3), and personal healings (ch. 4). Now he finds himself involved not only in healing, but also in “international” affairs, with a commander from Syria, Israel’s greatest enemy. What follows is an amusing story, but also rich in scriptural themes. First of all, the Lord is implicated in Syria’s victory over Aram! Second, leprosy (which in biblical terms refers to any skin disease and results in social censure) is healed. Third, the prophet is not impressed with Naaman’s status; he is healed by what amounts to an Israelite folk remedy. Lastly, the great man must humble himself to the word of the Lord.

5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” 8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (Track 1)
Psalm 30 is identified in its title as being for “the dedication of the Temple.”  That means not only the original dedication but the yearly Festival of Dedication (the roots of modern-day Hanukkah).  Interestingly enough, the psalm never mentions the Temple, but is a psalm of thanksgiving by an individual. Perhaps its place was as a defining summary of the Jewish relationship with God.

1 I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
3 You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
4 Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.
6 Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
7 While I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be disturbed. *
You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong
                 as the mountains.”
8 Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
9 I cried to you, O Lord; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
10 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
11 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
O Lord, be my helper.”
12 You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
13 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
                 O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 66:10-14
The Book of Isaiah ends with words assuring salvation and comfort for Israel.  This remarkable passage uses female imagery both for Jerusalem and then for God.  This would have been an extraordinary thing in such a heavily patriarchal culture.  The Mother God promises care and comfort for her children.

66:10 Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her—11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom. 12 For thus says the Lord: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.

Psalm 66:1-8 (Track 2)
Psalm 66 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s mighty deeds.  The whole world (“all you lands”) is called to join Israel in this song of gratitude.

1 Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.
2 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!” *
because of your great strength your enemies
              cringe before you.
3 All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name.”
4 Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.
5 He turned the sea into dry land,
   so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.
6 In his might he rules for ever;
   his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.

2nd Reading:  Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Paul’s final words of the Letter to the Galatians include a series of instructions concerning life together as a Christian community.  Bear one another’s burdens (the message of vv. 1-6).  Beware of self-indulgence and pride.  Practice generosity.  And then he goes back to the controversy that had been the impetus for the letter. The summary line of the whole letter is:  For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” “See what large letters” reveals that Paul used a scribe.

[6:1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads. 6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.]
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. 11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 6 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
This report is peculiar to Luke, especially in that a larger group of disciples is mentioned and given apostolic work.  Luke may have in mind one of several mentions of seventy in the Old Testament:  Seventy nations reported in Genesis 10, Moses’ selection of seventy elders to be his helpers (Numbers 11:16-25), or the non-biblical story of the seventy translators who worked seventy days to translate the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint), the language of the Gentiles.  Note the message is the same to those who want to hear and those who do not:  “The Kingdom of God is near” (or “at hand”).

10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 16 Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

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 © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. For more information, go to our website.

Monday, June 24, 2019

3 Pentecost 2019 (Proper 8C) Readings & Commentaries

Paul continues his plea to the Galatians to embrace the freedom of the Gospel and reject the necessity of following the law (including being circumcised).

3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8C, Track One)

1st Reading (Track 1): 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Elijah’s struggle with King Ahab of Israel (the northern kingdom) has ended with Ahab’s death (1 Kings 22:29-40), which occurred as Elijah had prophesied. Elijah’s service is now done and we are told he is to be taken “up to heaven.” No other figure in the Hebrew Scriptures merits this kind of ascension, although tradition held that it had happened to Moses, since no one knew where his burial had taken place (Deuteronomy 34:1-8). Elijah had taken on Elisha as a protégé (1 Kings 19:19-21), and here the prophetic mantle is passed to him. Elisha asks for a double share of Elijah’s spirit (rûach), giving accreditation to this new mouthpiece of the Lord.

2:1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 (Track 1)
Psalm 77 begins as an individual complaint “in the day of my trouble.” The resolution of this trouble is first and foremost to remember the “mighty deeds” of God. The song of God’s mighty acts in the parting of the waters and in great, stormy, theophany recalls today’s first reading.

1 I will cry aloud to God; *
              I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; *
              my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire;
              I refused to be comforted.
11 I will remember the works of the Lord, *
              and call to mind your wonders of old time.
12 I will meditate on all your acts *
              and ponder your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy; *
              who is so great a god as our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders *
              and have declared your power among the peoples.
15 By your strength you have redeemed your people, *
              the children of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you and trembled; *
              the very depths were shaken.
17 The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; *
              your arrows flashed to and fro;
18 The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
     your lightnings lit up the world; *
              the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, *
              yet your footsteps were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock *
              by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

2nd Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Paul continues his plea to the Galatians to embrace the freedom of the Gospel and reject the necessity of following the law (including being circumcised).  His anger shows in the portion we skip.  “I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!”  He is careful to say, however, that freedom and self-indulgence are not the same thing.  For freedom to work for all, love must also be practiced, love that produces the “fruits of the Spirit.” Paul’s frequent use of “flesh” should not be taken literally. Paul is not an enemy of our bodies. “The flesh” for him is that impulse to self-indulgence with which all of us struggle.

5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-62
Verse 9:51 begins a new section of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus has been going about in Galilee, now he heads south to Jerusalem.  It is a good place to be reminded that the chapter and verse divisions of the Bible were not original to the writers.  They did not come about until the early 13th century, under the hand of Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton.  He did not always get the sense of the text right!  The mood of the text turns serious here as well, witnessed by Jesus insisting on total loyalty and devotion to the mission (the kingdom). The sayings at the end of the text are hard, but they are very much in line with others of Jesus’ sayings. For him, obligation to family does not take precedence over testimony to the kingdom.

9:51 When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

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 © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.