Monday, June 19, 2017

Proper 7A: The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost 201

First Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 21:8-21
After the birth of Isaac comes the dilemma. What of Ishmael, the son of Abraham born to the slave Hagar? In despair over her own barrenness, Sarah had encouraged Abraham to have the child (16:1-2), but now sees him as a threat to the child of the promise. Hagar is sent away with another promise of God, that he will also make Ishmael a great nation. He will return in chapter 25 to help bury his father, and his descendants shall be named—12 sons, just as the 12 grandsons of Isaac. The Ishmaelites will be mentioned again—it is they who sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Muslims claim Ishmael as their ancestor, meaning that Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a common ancestor: Abraham. Hence they are sometimes referred to as the “Abrahamic faiths.”

21:8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 (Track 1)
Psalm 86 is a song of lament, from the lips of one who has no resources for life. It could easily have come from the lips of Hagar, as she despaired for the life of her son, directly addressing God (note the repeated “you” and “your.” Verse 9 is especially poignant given the history of Ishmael (as noted above).

1    Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, *
                for I am poor and in misery.
2    Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; *
                save your servant who puts his trust in you.
3    Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; *
                I call upon you all the day long.
4    Gladden the soul of your servant, *
                for to you, O Lord, I life up my soul.
5    For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, *
                and great is your love to all who call upon you.
6    Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, *
                and attend to the voice of my supplications.
7    In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, *
                For you will answer me.
8    Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, *
                nor anything like your works.
9    All nations you have made will come and
                                                worship you, O Lord, *
                and glorify your Name.
10 For you are great; you do wondrous things; *
                and you alone are God.
16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
                give your strength to your servant;
                and save the child of your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
      so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
                Because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

First Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 20:7-13
In chapter 19, Jeremiah’s witness against the religious establishment reaches its peak when he cries the word of the Lord with the temple precincts, “I am now bringing upon this city…all the disaster that I have pronounced… (19:15). Jeremiah is then arrested by Pashur, the chief priest and put in stocks, but even in confinement he continues to predict disaster and even exile (20:1-6). In our passage today, having heard this harsh truth, we are given a glimpse of Jeremiah’s conversation with God and the personal cost he has paid. God has put him in a “no-win” situation. He believes his life is seriously threatened. Then v. 12 abruptly returns to trust. He cannot prevail, but God can, and then, like many of the complaint psalms, there is a final resolve into praise. Yet the lament is not over. In vv.14-18, Jeremiah cries out that he wishes he had never been born.

20:7 O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10 For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” 11 But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. 13 Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

Psalm 69:8-11, (12-17), 18-20 (Track 2)
This portion of Psalm 69 could easily have been on the lips of the prophet Jeremiah. It is the lament of a righteous person who has suffered for it. Christians from the very beginning have identified its words with the suffering of Jesus, and, indeed, parts of it are used eight times, including v. 21 (not included here) referencing vinegar as a “gift” to the sufferer.

8    Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, *
                and shame has covered my face.
9    I have become a stranger to my own kindred, *
                an alien to my mother’s children.
10 Zeal for your house has eaten me up; *
          the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.
11 I humbled myself with fasting, *
                but that was turned to my reproach.
[12          I put on sack-cloth also, *
                and became a byword among them.
13 Those who sit at the gate murmur against me, *
                and the drunkards make songs about me.
14 But as for me, this is my prayer to you, *
                at the time you have set, O Lord:
15 In your great mercy, O God, *
                answer me with your unfailing help.
16 Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; *
                let me be rescued from those who hate me
                and out of the deep waters.
17 Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,
      neither let the deep swallow me up; *
                do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.]
18 Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; *
                in your great compassion, turn to me.
19 “Hide not your face from your servant; *
                be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.
20 Draw near to me and redeem me; *
                because of my enemies deliver me.

Second Reading:  Romans 6:1b-11
This passage is perhaps Paul’s clearest in proclaiming what we call “the paschal mystery.” Through our Baptism we participate in this mystery, and it becomes the pattern of our life. This assertion makes this passage the epistle reading at the Great Vigil of Easter. Although Paul speaks here as if we should never sin, he knows personally that is not the case (see 7:21-25). Our life in Christ, however, means that as many times as we fall into sin, we are set free by Christ’s death to live in his resurrection.

1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 10:24-39
We continue Jesus’ preparation of the disciples to be sent out to extend his work. He prepares them for difficult work. This passage contains several of Jesus’ harder sayings. They are, however, permeated with the encouragement not to fear (vv. 26, 28, 31), except in the ultimate judgment of God. “I have not come to bring peace but a sword,” is not a call to bloodshed, but a recognition that following Jesus is likely to cause divisions, as vv. 35-36 say. Luke, in fact, changes the word “sword” to “division” so as not to bring misunderstanding.

10:24 Jesus said to the twelve apostles, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, June 12, 2017

2 Pentecost, Proper 6A, Readings & Commentaries

The Twelve Disciples
First Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
This story is rich in biblical fundamentals. The tendency is to focus on confusion regarding the “visitors.” Is it the Lord (v.1, vv. 13-15) or is “three men (vv. 2-12). Christians have wanted to see the Trinity at work here, but that is surely not the agenda of the text. More important are two crucial matters:  First of all, the biblical mandate of hospitality, a mandate of the highest priority. Second of all is the question, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Abraham and Sarah are not ready to believe this in their advanced old age. They are “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:12). Yet as we skip to chapter 21, the Lord defies their doubt and they laugh not in doubt but in joy. The birth of Isaac is a critical moment in the biblical story. Without the possibility that God can shatter our impossibilities and make them new, there is, in fact, no biblical story at all.

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.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh;” for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
[21:1 The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. 2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”]

Psalm 116:1, 10-17 (Track 1)
Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from something that has threatened life itself. Part of the psalm’s vision is that fulfilling one’s vows to the Lord (a sacrifice of thanksgiving) brings salvation and freedom.

1      I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of
                                                my supplication, *
                because he has inclined his ear to me whenever
                                                I called upon him.
10   How shall I repay the Lord *
                for all the good things he has done for me?.
11   I will lift up the cup of salvation *
                and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12   I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
                in the presence of all his people.
13   Precious in the sight of the Lord *
                is the death of his servants.
14   O Lord, I am your servant; *
                I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
                you have freed me from my bonds.
15   I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
                and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16   I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
                in the presence of all his people,
17   In the courts of the Lord’s house, *
                in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!

Or this
First Reading (Track 2):  Exodus 19:2-8a
After having escaped from Egypt, the Israelites camped at Rephidim for a time. As chapter 19 begins, they are ready to start their journey through the wilderness. They had travelled until they reached “the mountain” (sometimes called Sinai, sometimes Horeb). Moses’ first trip up the mountain results in what we might call the “vision statement” for Israel:  They will be God’s special people, a holy nation (belonging to God) and a priestly kingdom (in God’s service). The commandments are yet to come, the means by which Israel will live (or not) into this vision.

19:2 When the people of Israel had journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:  4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Psalm 100 (Track 2)
Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from something that has threatened life itself. Part of the psalm’s vision is that fulfilling one’s vows to the Lord (a sacrifice of thanksgiving) brings salvation and freedom.

1    Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
          serve the Lord with gladness
                and come before his presence with a song.
2    Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
                he himself has made us, and we are his;
                we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3    Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
                go into his courts with praise; *
                give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4    For the Lord is good;
      his mercy is everlasting; *
                and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Second Reading:  Romans 5:1-8
Paul has spent the first four chapters of Romans arguing the point that we are justified by faith and not by any works of the law. So, he says, here are the consequences of this truth.  It is peace with God and the hope of sharing glory with God. This hope cannot disappoint, even in the face of suffering, because no matter our state, Christ died for us, proving God’s love.

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 9:35—10:8 (9-23)
We pick up Matthew’s Gospel after the Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7) and a number of healing stories. The end of chapter 9 serves as a summary of what has happened with a transition sentence:  Jesus longs for laborers to go out as he has done. Matthew begins chapter 10 with a “summoning” of the 12, who are named. They are then sent with specific instructions and a warning about potential suffering. The good news they are called to spread will not be good news for everyone.

9:35 Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
[10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.]

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trinity Sunday A Readings & Commentaries

The First Reading:  Genesis 1:1—2:4a

The Bible begins with a faith statement: “In the beginning, God…” The final form in Hebrew may very well have been met for use in worship. The main point is that God and God’s creation are deeply entertwined. It is not only a story meant to help us understand God’s past action in creation, it is a claim on the present and on the future for this faithful God. This would have been especially important to those living in exile in Babylon, when most scholars believe this text took its final form. The Lord controls the future as he has created the past, not the gods of Babylon and its empire.

1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 4a These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Song of the Three 29-34 (BCP Canticle 13)
This canticle (known as the Benedictus es, Domine) is from an addition to the book of Daniel found in the Apocrypha (The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews).  It is from a longer piece, said to be the song of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace. The last verse is an added doxology.

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
                we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Or this

Psalm 8
Psalm 8 is a creation hymn, and the first song of praise in the collection of the Psalms. The psalm begins and ends with praise, enveloping a poem about God’s gift to humankind of our place and responsibility in the creation.

1      O Lord our Governor, *
                how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2      Out of the mouths of infants and children *
                your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3      You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
                to quell the enemy and the avenger.
4      When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
                the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
5      What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
                the son of man that you should seek him out?
6      You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
                you adorn him with glory and honor;
7      You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
                you put all things under his feet:
8      All sheep and oxen, *
                even the wild beasts of the field,
9      The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
                and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10   O Lord our Governor, *
        how exalted is your Name in all the world!

The Second Reading2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Paul ends his second letter to the church in Corinth with a final exhortation that sums up the themes of the letter. There is a greeting with what we would call today “the kiss of peace,” and a blessing with a Trinitarian structure. The doctrine of the Trinity is not directly defined in Scripture, but is implied by passages such as this one.

13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 28:16-20
The theme of discipleship is strong in Matthew’s Gospel, so at its end Jesus gives a final commission to the disciples (and us) to go out into the world spreading this discipleship, with no regard to human divisions. His final words echo the title given him at his birth (Matt 1:23), “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” will be with us always. The reference to baptism with a Trinitarian formula may be a later addition, but it is also possible that the formula was in use in Matthew’s community at the time of this Gospel’s composition.

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and Canticle 13 are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Day of Pentecost A Readings & Commentaries

First ReadingActs 2:1-21
Our first reading is the story of the Spirit’s manifestation on the Day of Pentecost.  Pentecost was a major Jewish festival which occurred 50 days after Passover.  It is also known as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. The Holy Spirit’s falling on everyone is a different phenomenon than the Spirit’s falling on individuals in the Hebrew Scriptures (and usually for a set period of time). Peter’s speech includes an extended quote from the prophet Joel (2:28-32).

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Or this

First Reading:  Numbers 11:24-30
Wandering in the wilderness after the escape from Egypt, the people begin to complain. They are given the gift of manna, but it is not enough. They want meat, and Moses complains to God about the burden of leadership, which he alone bears. God’s answer is to create a larger circle of responsibility, seventy elders who are given a share of the spirit that rests on Moses.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s Spirit is given only to certain people and for certain tasks. The prophesying by the two in the camp is troubling to Moses’ aides, but he is simply relieved to have help and utters the desire that all God’s people shared this spirit.

11:24 Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Psalm 104 as a whole is a hymn to God as creator and sustainer of all life. Our portion today concludes the psalm with a reference to God’s taming of the sea (seen by ancient peoples as the source of chaos represented here by the sea monster “Leviathan,” which is God’s plaything). It also includes a reference to the Spirit of God.  “Breath” in verse 30 and “Spirit” in verse 31 are the same Hebrew word ruaḥ.

25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
                in wisdom you have made them all;
                the earth is full of your creatures.
26 Yonder is the great and wide sea
      with its living things too many to number, *
                creatures both small and great.
27 There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, *
                which you have made for the sport of it.
28 All of them look to you *
                to give them their food in due season.
29 You give it to them; they gather it; *
                you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
30 You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
                you take away their breath,
                and they die and return to their dust.
31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
                and so you renew the face of the earth.
32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
                may the Lord rejoice in all his works.
33 He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
                he touches the mountains and they smoke.
34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
                I will praise my God while I have my being.
35 May these words of mine please him; *
                I will rejoice in the Lord.  [37b] Hallelujah!

Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
Paul has begun chapter 12 introducing some teaching about “spiritual gifts.” There clearly was a problem with the Corinthian community about the nature of these gifts, and whether or not there was a hierarchy of gifts (and, therefore, of the people who had them). Paul is adamant that all are given gifts by the same Spirit and for the purpose of building up the church, which is one body. He recalls their baptisms, which erased the distinctions between them.

12:3b No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 \ To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Second ReadingActs 2:1-21 (see above)

Gospel Reading:  John 7:37-39
Jesus is in Jerusalem with his disciples for the autumn Feast of Booths (Sukkot), commemorating the wandering in the wilderness. Part of this week-long festival was the carrying of water from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple, a remembrance of the water that flowed from the rock (Numbers 20:2-13). Jesus uses that image to proclaim himself as that very water, living and giving life. The quote in verse 38 has an unknown origin (there is a general sense of it in Isaiah 44:3, 58:11, and Proverbs 18:4).

7:37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Or this

Gospel Reading:  John 20:19-23
John’s version of the gift of the Holy Spirit is very different from Luke’s in the Acts of the Apostles. It happens on Easter evening, in the context of Jesus’ first appearance to his disciples. He comes in peace to those who had abandoned him, and gives them a gift in a way that is supposed to remind us of Genesis 1:1-2 when God’s breath first calls the creation into being (remembering that “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are the same word in Hebrew). He also leaves them with the power of forgiveness. The power to “retain” may not be so much a power as a warning. Withholding forgiveness is a serious matter given the imperative of the Gospel to forgive.

20:19 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.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.