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. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.