Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Brief Introduction to the Gospel of Luke

A Short Introduction to Luke’s Gospel
The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins

The First Sunday of Advent begins a new church year, and that means a change in our Sunday morning readings.  This Advent we begin Year C, the year of Luke’s Gospel.

People often remark about the great difference between John’s Gospel and the other three (Matthew, Mark & Luke, the so-called “synoptic “Gospels), but Luke has a distinctiveness as well.  There is so much unique material in Luke, that Christianity would be very different without it.

Imagine Christianity without the birth stories of both John and Jesus, and the rich material about Jesus’ mother, Mary, in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel.  Imagine it also without the great parables of the Good Samaritan (10:29-37), the Prodigal Son, (15:11-32), the Dishonest Manager (16:1-13), and the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31).  Then there is the story of the two thieves crucified with Jesus and the post-Easter story of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus (24:13-35).

Luke is also distinct in that it was not written to a community and its circumstances, as Matthew, Mark, and John all seem to be.  Luke writes to an individual, “Theophilus,” although the name, meaning “friend of God” may be a stand-in for the generic audience to which he writes.  If the latter is the case, Luke seems to be written to the community of Christians dispersed throughout the Roman Empire, and part of his agenda seems to be both helping those people find their place in the Empire, and as an apology for the Christian movement to the Empire itself.

Luke is also distinct because he writes a second volume, which we know as the Acts of the Apostles.

Five other characteristics to watch for in Luke:

   Luke is sometimes called the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit,” because the Spirit shows up many times, especially in the first two chapters.  The Holy Spirit is mentioned more times in Luke’s Gospel than the other three Gospels combined.

   Women have a special place in Luke’s Gospel.  Both Elizabeth and Mary have major roles in the first two chapters, and then Luke has a habit of telling parallel parables, one with a male and one with a female character.  Luke is also the only Gospel writer to speak of the women who followed Jesus and who helped fund his mission (8:1-3).

   Luke believes that Jesus is the one who interprets the Scriptures for us, from the story of the young Jesus in the Temple (2:41-52) to his “inaugural sermon” (4:14-30) to the Road to Emmaus story.

     There is a universalism in Luke’s Gospel, certainly more so than the others.  Jesus is the savior of the whole world.  His emphasis is on the mercy of God, and he downplays the notion of Jesus’ death as a “sacrifice.”  Jesus is rather the defeater of death who continues his presence with us in the breaking of the bread.

     The message of Jesus is one that “turns the world upside down,” explicitly at Acts 17:6, but this fundamental characteristic can be found in such places as Mary’s Song (1:46-55), his version of the beatitudes (6:20-26), and many of the parables.  This aspect of the message of Jesus is sometimes called “The Great Reversal.”

Who was Luke?  He was not one of the twelve disciples, nor an “eyewitness.” He says he is writing an “orderly account” of what eyewitnesses have handed down (1:1-4).  He was a companion of St. Paul’s, testified to in the Acts of the Apostles (although he is not actually named), and mentioned by name by St. Paul in three of his letters: Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 1:24.  In the Colossian reference, Paul calls him “the beloved physician.”

There is longstanding debate as to whether Luke was a Gentile or a Jew.  Argument for the latter revolves around his concern that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish Scripture, although he quotes the Hebrew Scriptures far less than, say, Matthew.  Yet he writes in a kind of universalism that makes one believe he is a Greek.  Perhaps he was both, i.e., a “Hellenized Jew,” either a convert or a Jew raised in the diaspora.

The Eastern Church holds Luke to be the originator of the icon, although mention of this dates only from the 8th century.

Luke does seem to have known Mark’s Gospel and uses it as a source. He also has some content in common with Matthew (from an unknown source often referred to simply as “Q”).  Most scholars date the writing of the Gospel to the latter decades of the first century.

An Outline of Luke’s Gospel

        I.           Prologue (1:1-4)
      II.           Birth of John and Jesus (1:5—4:13)
     III.           Public Ministry of Jesus in Galilee (4:14—9:50)
     IV.           The Journey to Jerusalem (9:51—19:27)
      V.           Ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem (19:28—21:38)
     VI.           Jesus’ Passion & Death (22:1—23:56)
   VII.           Resurrection & Appearances (24:1-53)

The Gospel of Luke in the Lectionary

        I.           Advent & Christmas
a.       1st Sun: The “Little Apocalypse (21:25-31)
b.      2nd/3rd Sun: John the Baptist & Jesus (3:1-18)
c.       4th Sun: Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (1:39-56)
d.      Christmas Eve: Luke’s birth story (2:1-20)
e.      2nd Sun: Option of Jesus in the Temple (2:41-52)

      II.           Season after the Epiphany:
a.       1st Sun: Jesus’ Baptism (3:15-22)
b.      3rd to 8th Sun:  Jesus inaugural ministry (from Luke 4:14 to 6:49)
c.       Last Sun: Transfiguration story (9:28-36)

     III.           Lent, Holy Week & Easter
a.       1st Sun: Temptation of Jesus (4:1-3)
b.      2nd/3rd Sun: 13:1-9 & 31-35
c.       4th Sun: Prodigal Son (15:11-32)
d.      Palm/Passion Sunday:  19:28-40 & 22:14—23:56
e.      Easter Vigil or Day:  Luke 24:1-12
f.        Rest of Easter Year C from John’s Gospel. Note: We read Luke 24:13-35 on 3rd Sun Year A & 24:36-48 on 3rd Sun Year B.
g.       Ascension Day: 24:44-53

     IV.           Season after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)
a.       Passages from Luke 7:1—21:19 (chapter 7 may be left out if Easter is late)

Copyright © 2018, Epiphany ESources,, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843.  Permission to copy for congregational use, or to include portions of the above in newsletters or bulletins, so long as this reference remains.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Proper 28B (26 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews continues to use the image of the high priesthood to speak of the work of Christ.  The contrast is made between the priest who stands day after day before God and Christ who is seated at God’s right hand, who has made the permanent offering.  

1st Reading (Track 1):  1 Samuel 1:4-20
This passage is the story of the miraculous birth of the prophet Samuel.  The Book of Judges (in time, the book prior to this) has ended in chaos.  “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (21:25).  Here a hopeful note sounds.  God intervenes in a hopeless situation, and Samuel is born, who will lead his people to the re-establishment of order and a kingdom.  Note the boldness of Hannah, despite the scorn she undergoes from both her co-wife and the priest.  In 1:21-22, she returns with her weaned son to the priest and gives him into the service of the Lord.  The song she sings then follows, as below.

1:4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5 but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. 19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

Canticle (Track 1): The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
Hannahs’ song is the praise of one who is lifted up by God, who is a reverser of fortunes.  Mary will dip into her ancestor Hannah’s song to sing her own in Luke 1.

My heart exults in you, O God; *
       my triumph song is lifted in you.
My mouth derides my enemies, *
       for I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like you, *
       nor any rock to be compared to you, our God.
Do not heap up prideful words or speak in arrogance; *
       only God is knowing and weighs all actions.
The weapons of the mighty are broken, *
       but the weak are clothed in strength.
Those once full now labor for bread; *
       those who hungered now are well fed.
The childless woman finds her life fruitful, *
       and the mother of many sits forlorn.
God destroys and brings to life, casts down and raises up; *
       gives wealth or takes it away, humbles and dignifies.
God raises the poor from the dust; *
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with rulers *
       and inherit a place of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are God’s *
       on which the whole earth is founded.
God will guide the path of the faithful, *
       but the wicked will languish in darkness.
For it is not by human might *
       that any mortal will prevail.
The foes of God will be shattered; *
       the Most High will thunder through the heavens.
The Almighty will judge the earth to its ends *
       and will give strength to the ruler of God’s own choosing.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Daniel 12:1-3
Daniel 12:1-4 is the concluding paragraph of a long apocalyptic vision that begins at Daniel 10:1.  It is a vision of the future struggle of the righteous versus the faithless (a common theme of apocalyptic writing).  The background is the Maccabean revolt against the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV, 167-164 b.c.e.  This passage is unique in that it is only one of three Old Testament texts that directly express belief in the resurrection of the dead.  Michael is one of the biblical archangels, whose name means “who is like God.”  He also appears in the Book of Revelation. (The other biblical archangels are Gabriel and Raphael).

12:1 At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. 2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16 (Track 2)
Traditionally this psalm is seen as King David speaking about himself.  The last three verses confess assurance that the writer will live and not die, a possible hint at resurrection.  “Sheol” and “the Pit” refer to the realm of the dead, where most Jews believed everyone ended up.

1     Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; *
              I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord,
              my good above all other.”.
2     All my delight is upon the godly who are in the land, *
              upon those who are noble among the people.
3     But those who run after other gods *
              shall have their troubles multiplied.
4     Their libations of blood I will not offer, *
              nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.
5     O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; *
              it is you who uphold my lot.
6     My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; *
              indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
7     I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; *
              my heart teaches me, night after night.
8     I have set the Lord always before me; *
              because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
9     My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; *
              my body also shall rest in hope.
10   For you will not abandon me to the grave, *
              nor let your holy one see the Pit.
11   You will show me the path of life; *
              in your presence there is fullness of joy,
              and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 10:11-14, [15-18], 19-25
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews continues to use the image of the high priesthood to speak of the work of Christ.  The contrast is made between the priest who stands day after day before God and Christ who is seated at God’s right hand, a symbol of the permanence of his offering.  This offering should give us confidence to approach God with a clean conscience, a hope to which we should hold fast.  At the end there is an exhortation to keep the discipline of community.

10:11 Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13 and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
[15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” 17 he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 13:1-8
Mark 13 is sometimes called “the little apocalypse.” Its writing is very different from the rest of Mark. It reads more like Daniel or Revelation.  An apocalypse is a vision of the future, a glimpse behind reality to what is “really” going on.  Dramatic language and imagery are used to weave a symbolic picture.  As chapter 13 begins, Jesus is leaving the Temple for the last time and predicts its destruction (which will occur in 70 c.e.).  On the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple, the disciples ask him when this is to happen.  He responds enigmatically, speaking about a time of crisis.  But the disciples are not to despair. The crisis is also a birth.

13:1 As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Canticle translation is copyright © 2007 Church Publishing, Inc.  The Collect of the Day is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Proper 27B (25 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries

Jesus is critical of the behavior of some of the scribes, who were teachers of the law.  He is highly critical of how they oppress the poor, even while they expect esteem.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Ruth is a story about two valiant women, Naomi and her servant Ruth, who make a life for themselves after the death of all the males in the family.  Widows were without social power in the ancient Near East, but their commitment to each other carries them through and Ruth eventually makes a good marriage to Boaz, and is celebrated in history as the great-grandmother of King David.

3:1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to Ruth, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. 2 Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” 5 She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.” 13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Psalm 127 (Track 1)
Psalm 127 is one of the Songs of Ascent (psalms 120-134), most likely songs for pilgrims making their way to the Temple to celebrate one of the major feasts.  Psalm 127 is a wisdom psalm; it reads much like a collection of proverbs.

1     Unless the Lord builds the house, *
              their labor is in vain who build it.
2     Unless the Lord watches over the city, *
              in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.
3     It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late; *
              vain, too, to eat the bread of toil,
              for he gives to his beloved sleep.
4     Children are a heritage from the Lord, *
              and the fruit of the womb is a gift.
5     Like arrows in the hand of a warrior *
              are the children of one’s youth.
6     Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! *
              he shall not be put to shame
              when he contends with his enemies in the gate.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 9:24-28
Our passage from the Letter to the Hebrews today continues the use of the image of the high priest for Jesus.  Here the Day of Atonement is again referenced (as it was in last week’s reading), the one day when the high priest enters the inner sanctuary to plead for the people.  Jesus has done this once and for all, offering his own self.  He will also come again at the time of judgment, not to condemn but to save.

9:24 Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 12:38-44
The larger unit of Mark’s Gospel, 11:1—13:37, in which this passage is found, tells of Jesus’ time in Jerusalem, particularly in the Temple, where he does some teaching.  Our reading today has two parts.  First, Jesus is critical of the behavior of some of the scribes, who were teachers of the law and the equivalent of lawyers.  He is highly critical of how they oppress the poor, even while they expect esteem.  In the second part, Jesus seems to praise a widow whom he observes placing her offering in the Temple treasury. But is he?  It is quite possible he is critiquing the Temple system itself, carrying on his denunciation of a religious system that exploits the weakest.  Indeed, he goes on to predict the destruction of the Temple (13:1-2).

12:38 As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

All Saints' B Readings & Commentaries

Who are these like stars appearing, these, before God's throne who stand?

1st Reading:  Isaiah 25:6-9
This passage from Isaiah is one of a series of three visions of the last days (i.e., the eschaton), when all people will be drawn to “this mountain,” which is probably Mount Zion.  Compassion will be the order of the day, including the removal of all disgrace.  This vision will inspire Luke 14:15-24 and the reading from the Revelation to John, below.

25:6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.


1st Reading:  Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books that we do not consider Scripture, but still read as edifying. (Roman Catholics do consider them Scripture and most Protestants do not use them at all).  This text dates from the first century b.c.e., probably from the great Hellenistic center of learning, Alexandria, Egypt.  Our reading this morning is a reflection on death, the soul and the afterlife.  It marks a development in Jewish thinking, which previously was dominated by the notion that all souls went to the same place, called “Sheol,” where they awaited judgment.  This writer clearly believes it is possible to bypass that process.

3:1 The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.

Psalm 24
Psalm 24 may have been a liturgy to enter the sanctuary, or for a procession of the ark of the covenant, complete with versicles and responses.  The Lord is praised as creator, and the temple as a place where only the clean are admitted.  The final verses may have been sung by a choir upon the re-entrance of the ark into the tent or the temple.

1     The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
                  the world and all who dwell therein.
2     For it is he who founded it upon the seas *
                  and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
3     “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? *
                  and can stand in his holy place?”
4     “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *
                  who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,
                  nor sworn by what is a fraud.
5     They shall receive a blessing from the Lord *
                  and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”
6     Such is the generation of those who seek him, *
                  of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7     Lift up your heads, O gates;
       lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
                  and the King of glory shall come in.
8     “Who is this King of glory?” *
                  “The Lord strong and mighty,
                  the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9     Lift up your heads, O gates;
       lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
                  and the King of glory shall come in.
10   “Who is this King of glory?” *
                  “The Lord of hosts,
                  he is the King of glory.

2nd Reading:  Revelation to John 21:1-6a
The last vision in the Book of Revelation is one of great hope.  The holy city comes from heaven; a new heaven and a new earth are created.  This vision echoes several passages from the prophet Isaiah, and uses imagery found throughout the Book of Revelation. The passage ends as the Book of Revelation began, with God’s declaration “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).

21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Gospel Reading:  John 11:32-44
Our Gospel reading is the latter portion of the story of the raising of Lazarus.  Jesus has earlier received the news of Lazarus’ illness and chosen to wait before he leaves to investigate.  His disciples warn him that traveling to the outskirts of Jerusalem will be dangerous for him and them. As he nears the town he encounters one of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha, who declares that her brother would not have died if Jesus had been there.  As he arrives, Mary, Lazarus’ other sister, greets him and has a similar encounter as her sister.  The story continues below.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

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