Monday, September 18, 2017

16 Pentecost, 2017: Proper 20A

1st Reading (Track 1):  Exodus 16:2-15
The Israelites are not long in their journey when their life under oppression in Egypt seems to have been better than where they now find themselves. They complain against Moses and Aaron, but their complaint is actually against the Lord, as their leaders point out to them.  God hears their cry, however, and sends them food:  quail in the evening and bread (“manna”) in the morning. The gift of manna comes with a test concerning sabbath observance, which many of them fail (16:27-30). See also the description of manna in Numbers 11:7-9, which gave rise to the legend that the manna’s taste varied with the eater’s preference.

16:2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” 13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (Track 1)
Psalm 105 is one of the “historical psalms” which tells the story of Israel in lines of poetry (the others are 78, 106, 135, and 136). In Psalm 105, the first six verses are a general introduction, encouraging the people to give thanks and praise as they “remember the marvels he has done.” We then read the end of the psalm, re-calling the exit from Egypt, the manna and the quails, the water out of the rock, and the conquering of “the nations.”  A crucial line for these historical psalms is verse 42:  “God remembered his holy word and [the promise made to] Abraham.”

1        Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
                     make known his deeds among the peoples.
2        Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
                     and speak of all his marvelous works.
3        Glory in his holy Name; *
                     let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4        Search for the Lord and his strength *
                     continually seek his face.
5        Remember the marvels he has done, *
                     his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6        O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
                     O children of Jacob his chosen.
37      He led out his people with silver and gold; *
                     in all their tribes there was not one who stumbled.
38      Egypt was glad of their going, *
                     because they were afraid of them.
39      He spread out a cloud for a covering *
                     and a fire to give light in the night season.
40      They asked, and quails appeared, *
                     and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.
41      He opened the rock, and water flowed, *
                     so the river ran in the dry places.
42      For God remembered his word *
                     and Abraham his servant.
43      So he led forth his people with gladness, *
                     his chosen with shouts of joy.
44      He gave his people the lands of the nations, *
                     and they took the fruits of others’ toil.
45      That they might keep his statutes *
                     and observe his laws.  Hallelujah!           

1st Reading (Track 2):  Jonah 3:10—4:11
The story of Jonah is biblical comedy. Jonah does not believe in the “wideness of God’s mercy,” and does everything he can not to be the bearer of it. He would rather die than tell the good news to the Ninevites! As a story, Jonah calls Israel to repentance and proclaims God’s lavish mercy. The story is used in the Christian Testament at Matthew 12:38-41 and Luke 11:29-32, and it is the afternoon reading on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

3:10 When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. 4:1 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ 4 And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. 6 The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 10 Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Psalm 145:1-8 (Track 2)
Psalm 145 is a song of praise, and also, in I s entire 21 verses, and alphabet acrostic poem. In this beginning of the psalm, verses 1-3 offer praise, and 4-8 offer a portrayal of God, ending, here, with a phrase used to characterize God that appears many times (9) in the Hebrew Scriptures, beginning with the creedal statement of Exodus 34:6.

1       I will exalt you, O God my King, *
                  and bless your Name for ever and ever.
2       Every day will I bless you, *
                  and praise your Name for ever and ever.
3       Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
                  there is no end to his greatness.
4       One generation shall praise your works to another *
                  and shall declare your power.
5       I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty *
                  and all your marvelous works.
6       They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts, *
                  and I will tell of your greatness.
7       They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness; *
                  they shall sing of your righteous deeds.
8       The Lord is gracious and fill of compassion, *
                  slow to anger and of great kindness.

2nd Reading:  Philippians 1:21-30
Philippi was a major port city in Macedonia. Pauls’ establishment of the church there is told in Acts 16:11-40. Paul’s relationship with this community was a good one. There is no sense of conflict between them as there is in most of Paul’s letters. There is some opposition to the Christians in Philippi going on, but we are not told much about it. Paul is probably writing this letter from prison in Rome, sometime between 61 and 63 c.e. He is at the point in his life where he has developed an indifference to continued earthly life and the chance to be with Christ. Yet he remains purposeful in encouraging the Philippians to continue in joy of the gospel and to strengthen their unity.

1:21 To me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus’ parables are often meant to elicit a reaction from us that he then uses to bring home a point about the gospel. This is certainly true of this parable. We are meant to share in the indignation of those who have worked the entire day. It is not fair to give the same wage to those who worked only an hour, but that is the main point. The mercy of God is not fair by human standards. God stands ready to give indiscriminately, so that, indeed, it will seem as if the last are being put first and the first last. We are all on an equal footing with God.

20:1 [Jesus said,] “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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.  Com.mentaries 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

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