1st Reading (Track 1): Genesis 28:10-19a
Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebecca, has tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright and with duplicity maneuvered his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that should have gone to the eldest Esau. Jacob is now fleeing the wrath of his brother. He is a fugitive on the run. He dreams, and the dream serves to reveal that God has been a part of all this trickery and deceit. He himself wishes to bless Jacob, and he delivers the same promise to him that he gave to his grandfather Abraham, with an addition (v. 15) that Jacob will be safe “wherever he goes,” and he will bring him home, which at the present moment must seem an impossibility to Jacob. “Beth-el” means literally, “House of God,” and will long be seen as Israel’s second most sacred city.
28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel.
Canticle (Track 1): A Song of God’s Strength in Mercy (Wisdom 12:13, 16-19)
The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books not considered Scripture, but nevertheless are useful “for instruction” (BCP, p. 868). Wisdom is attributed to King Solomon but dates from much later. This canticle extols the restraint and mercy of God as the source of God’s true strength.
Your care, O God, encompasses all creation! *
Nor is there any god besides you.
To whom do you need to prove *
that your judgments are just?
For your righteousness comes from your strength, *
and your dominion makes way for your mercy;
for you show your might when mortals doubt your sovereignty; *
you rebuke those who treat it with contempt.
Although you rule in boundless power, *
you administer justice with mildness;
you govern us with great forbearance *
though you are free to act without constraint.
You have taught your people by such deeds *
that all who would be righteous must be kind.
You have filled your children with good hope *
by stirring them to repent for their sins.
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Psalm 139 as a whole includes some harsh words about enemies (vv. 18-21), such that the first portion of the psalm is a reminder to God of the petitioner’s innocence and steadfast devotion to God. Such innocence should result in justice against one’s enemies. The writer experiences God’s complete presence. There is nowhere one can avoid it. The writer prays that this truth will be as much for his enemies as it is for himself.
1 Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O Lord, know it altogether.
4 You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.
5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
6 Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?
7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
8 If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
9 Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.
10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,”
11 Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.
22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
try me and know my restless thoughts.
23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.
1st Reading (Track 2): Isaiah 44:6-8
“Second Isaiah” (which begins with chapter 40) is written in exile in Babylon, but prophesying the return of the people to Jerusalem and Judea. Several passages in its early chapters proclaim the preeminence of Israel’s God, who, to many, had seemed to have abandoned his people or even been defeated. The image of God as “the first and the last” originates with Second Isaiah. Its first occurrence was at 41:4, and it will be repeated at 48:12.
44:6 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. 8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.
Psalm 86:11-17 (Track 2)
Psalm 86 skillfully weaves metaphors and language from elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to form what overall is a prayer for deliverance from enemies. Two examples from our passage today are in verse 15 (Exodus 34:6, et al) and verse 16 (Numbers 6:25). “The Pit” (sometimes left as the Hebrew Sheol) was simply the realm of the dead. Belief in an afterlife came late to Judaism, not long before the time of Jesus (and even then not accepted by all).
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth; *
knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.
12 I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, *
and glorify your Name for evermore.
13 For great is your love toward me; *
you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.
14 The arrogant rise up against me, O God,
and a band of violent men seeks my life; *
they have not set you before their eyes.
15 But you, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
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
2nd Reading: Romans 8:12-25
This reading continues Paul’s juxtaposition of the Spirit and “the flesh.” The latter is more than physicality. “the flesh” is anything that draws us away from the love of God. He then switches metaphors: “live by the flesh” becomes “a spirit of slavery to fear,” while life in the Spirit becomes “a spirit of adoption,” in which we are literally made one of the divine family. Paul then goes on the speak very important words about the whole creation, implying that its salvation is wrapped up with our own. Whatever heaven is, Paul understands it to be a renewed creation as well as a renewed humanity.
8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Jesus follows the more familiar parable of the sower (13:3-9, 18-23) with another sowing parable, usually referred to as the parable of the weeds among the wheat (which s unique to Matthew’s Gospel). There was, apparently, in Matthew’s community, the very human inclination to judge between the good and the evil and to take action to cleanse the group. Here Jesus clearly teaches not to engage in such behavior. Note the farmer outwits the “enemies” who have sown the weeds, by finding a positive use for them.
The Holy Gospel … according to Matthew. Glory to you, Lord Christ.
13:24 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
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 translations are from The Book of Common Prayer. The translation of the Canticle is copyright © 2007, Church Publishing, Inc. 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.