Monday, May 20, 2019

Easter 6C Readings & Commentaries



1st Reading:  Acts 16:9-15
In our first reading, the Gospel is brought for the first time to Europe, and we have the story of the first convert there, Lydia. This has all been in response to a vision. Notice Paul begins his efforts by looking for devout Jews. Despite the Gospel having been opened to Gentiles, this is still Paul’s preferred mode of operation. This is one of those sections in Acts where the storyteller’s pronouns change to “we” and “us.” Apparently Luke, the writer of Acts, is a traveling companion of Paul at this point. The Philippians will come to be one of Paul’s favorite communities.

16:9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. 11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm 67
Psalm 67 is a song of thanksgiving for a good harvest (this purpose is revealed in vv. 6-7).  As a response to the first reading, it emphasizes the spread of God’s ways and the praise of God to all nations.

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
7 May God give us his blessing, *
              and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

2nd Reading:  Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5
Our reading from the Revelation to John is a detail of the new Jerusalem.  (The skipped over portion of the text describes the physical makeup of the city in great detail).  Throughout there is a sense of extravagance.  This language and imagery would not have been startling or strange to the first audience of these words.  The author is drawing on everything from Genesis 2 to Zechariah 14:11 to Tobit 14:4-7 and various passages from 1 and 2 Enoch.  Notice the emphasis that this will be a place of security and healing.  The greatest gift, however, will be the constant worship of God, and the ability, finally, to see God’s face.

21:10 In the spirit [the angel] carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Gospel Reading:  John 5:1-9
Today we have a miracle story from near the beginning of John’s Gospel. What particular festival is referenced is unknown. Jesus has come to Jerusalem from Cana in Galilee.  The place of the pool of Bethesda is well-known at the northern corner of Jerusalem. It held healing properties both for Jews and pagans. Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath was a great bone of contention and probably reflects a different understanding of Sabbath that had grown between the Johannine Christians and the neighbor Jews of the synagogue. The remainder of chapter five will continue this controversy.

5:1 After [Jesus healed the son of the royal official.] there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

Or this

Gospel Reading:  John 14:23-29
Today we hear one of Jesus’ promises to give his followers the Advocate (Paraclete/Helper/Counselor), the Holy Spirit.  By the Spirit we will be taught “everything.”  Jesus then also promises his peace, his own peace, which will keep our hearts from being troubled.  Throughout chapters 14-17, Jesus tries to give his disciples comfort and courage for the trial that is to follow. “And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”  Jesus makes good on his promise at Easter, when he delivers his peace, and the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23).

23 Jesus [said to Judas (not Iscariot)], “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.”

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. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2019 EpiphanyESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy for group study with attribution.  Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Easter 5C Readings & Commentaries



Our first reading is the culmination of the story of the original acceptance of Gentiles into the community of those who followed Jesus. 

1st Reading:  Acts 11:1-18
Our first reading is the culmination of the story of the original acceptance of Gentiles into the community of those who followed Jesus.  The story began at the beginning of chapter 10, when it was revealed to Cornelius (a Gentile) and Peter, in separate visions, that they were to meet. Peter’s vision also included the directive, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  The two do meet and travel to Cornelius’ house where, when Peter begins to tell them the good news, the Holy Spirit falls on them as it had on Jewish disciples.  Peter says he now understands that God shows no partiality.  Now in our reading this morning he takes all this to the leadership of the church, with his resounding concluding words, “Who was I that I could hinder God?”

11:1 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3 saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4 Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11 At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Psalm 148
One of the concluding hymns of praise to the psalter, psalm 148 is a hymn calling upon all creation to sing God’s praises.

1 Hallelujah! Praise the Lord from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.
2 Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.
3 Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.
5 Let them praise the Name of the Lord; *
for he commanded, and they were created.
6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
9 Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;
10 Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and wingèd birds;
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
12 Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.
13 Let them praise the Name of the Lord, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up strength for his people
     and praise for all his loyal servants, *
              the children of Israel, a people who are near him.  Hallelujah!

2nd Reading:  Revelation to John 21:1-6
As the Revelation to John has proceeded, God has won the decisive victory. The final two chapters of the book describe its aftermath.  This vision draws on that of Isaiah 65:17-25, as well as 2 Esdras 7:26 (from the Apocrypha).  It is important to notice that in this vision and subsequent ones in chapter 22, it is the whole creation that is redeemed.  The “first things” that have passed away are pain and death.  “See the home of God is among mortals” recalls the beginning of John’s Gospel: “the Word was made flesh and lived among us.”

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. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 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; 4 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.” 5 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.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

Gospel Reading:  John 13:31-35
For our Gospel reading on this 5th Sunday of Easter, we return to the ending of the Gospel reading for Maundy Thursday.  It may seem odd to be directed during Eastertide to a text which comes from just prior to Jesus’ passion.  But in these chapters before the passion in John’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about living after the resurrection.  He knows that nothing will be more important than community among the disciples, community whose sole reason for being is love.

15:31 When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

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. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. For more information go to our website.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Easter 4C Readings & Commentaries


 The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because we always read from the tenth chapter of John in which Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. 

1st Reading:  Acts 9:36-43
The story of Dorcas (or “Tabitha”—an Aramaic name; both meaning “gazelle”) is our next reading from the Acts of the Apostles this Eastertide.  That Peter raises her from the dead shows that Jesus’ power has been handed on to his disciples.  Dorcas appears to have been part of a guild of widows known for their works of charity. Joppa was a Palestinian harbor town near present-day Tel Aviv.

9:36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm 23
The most familiar of psalms is ascribed to King David.  It is a song of ultimate trust in God.  “The valley of the shadow of death” is literally, “the darkest valley,” so can apply to any situation of danger or encounter with evil.  God can be trusted to be with us actively in all circumstances.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul, *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those
                                          who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me
                                          all the days of my life;
              and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

2nd Reading:  Revelation 7:9-17
The scroll which in last week’s reading had been given to the Lamb to open, has had six of its seven seals opened.  There is great anticipation and fear about the opening of the last seal.  Chapter six ends, “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  In chapter seven, before the opening of the last seal (8:1), that question is answered:  God’s people will be rescued.  Revelation 7:9-17 is a vision of that rescue, and it is true even for those who have been martyred.  The end of the scene borrows from visions of the prophet Isaiah (see especially Isaiah 25:8).  Note as well the paradox of the Lamb who is also the Shepherd.

7:9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Gospel Reading:  John 10:22-30
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because we always read from the tenth chapter of John in which Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd.  Our passage this morning tells us we are at the Feast of the Dedication (modern-day Hanukkah).  Jesus, like many of his fellow Jews, was in Jerusalem and in the Temple.  The authorities try to goad Jesus.  “Why do you keep us in suspense” is literally, “why do you keep annoying us.”  Jesus speaks around the question as usual, although ends in a bald-faced statement—“the Father and I are one.”  This was blasphemy without question.

10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

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. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2016 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. For more information visit our website.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Easter 3C Readings & Commentaries

Saul, a zealous Jew, a member of the Pharisees, is charged with hunting down Christians, breaking up their groups and arresting them.

1st Reading: Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
The story prior to today’s reading was the stoning of Stephen, with a man named Saul said to be watching (7:58 & 8:1), and who then went on “ravaging the church” (8:3).  Then come the stories of the Samaritans accepting Jesus (8:14) and of Philip the Deacon and the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, a non-Jew (8:26). Saul, a zealous Jew, a member of the Pharisees, is charged with hunting down Christians, breaking up their groups and arresting them.  Yet he becomes the latest installment of the biblical story of God choosing unlikely people to carry out his mission.  His turnaround is dramatic, although the one thing that never changes for him is his zealousness.

9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”]

Psalm 30
Psalm 30 is identified in its title as being for “the dedication of the Temple.”  That means not only the original dedication but the yearly Festival of Dedication (the roots of modern-day Hanukkah).  The psalm never actually mentions the Temple, but is a psalm of thanksgiving by an individual. Perhaps its place was as a defining summary of the Jewish relationship with God.  The psalm follows a typical pattern of expressions of need, followed by petition, then rescue, then gratitude.

1 I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
3 You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
4 Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.
6 Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
7 While I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be disturbed. *
You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
8 Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
9 I cried to you, O Lord; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
10 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
11 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
Lord, be my helper.”
12 You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
13 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
              Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

2nd Reading:  Revelation 5:11-14
Revelation 4 & 5 is John’s vision of worship in the heavenly court. Several elements are present here that will carry through this book:  the throne of God, around which God gathers the saints; the Lamb of God slain which is John’s symbol for the power of God, rightly used; the four living creatures (borrowed from the Book of Daniel) who come to represent the four Gospels; and the twenty-four elders, one for each of Israel’s tribes and the twelve apostles—a complete company of worshippers.

5:11 Then I, [John], looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

Gospel Reading:  John 21:1-19
The final chapter of John’s Gospel may have been a later appendage, as the Gospel seems to end nicely at the end of chapter 20.  There are three scenes to this story:  in the first, the disciples go fishing and the beloved disciple spots Jesus on the shore; in the second scene Jesus welcomes them and feeds them; and in the third scene, Peter is restored to leadership and Jesus tries to sort out his concern about the future of the beloved disciple (the latter is not read today).  The “beloved disciple” has long been associated with the apostle John.

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

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. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Easter 2C Readings & Commentaries


Throughout Eastertide this year we read from the Revelation to John.  The Revelation actually presents itself as a letter and our reading this morning is the salutation. 

1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32
During Eastertide our first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. Today’s reading is set in the context of the arrest of the apostles (5:17) by the high priest and the temple police.  During the night, however, they escaped, assisted by an angel.  They were found the next day in the temple precincts, teaching.  They were once again arrested, and the following scene occurs.  After this many wanted to kill them, but Gamaliel, a Pharisee on the council (the Sanhedrin), intervenes, arguing that if these men are of human origin they will fail, but if they are from God, nothing can stop them.  He prevailed and the apostles were let go after a flogging.  This passage has been used over the centuries to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. It is important to note here that Peter is speaking to the religious authorities here and not all Jews.

27 When [the temple police] had brought [the apostles], they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Psalm 118:14-29
As a whole, Psalm 118 is one of Israel’s greatest sons of thanksgiving and praise. Psalm 118 has long been associated with Holy Week and Easter.  The Book of Common Prayer uses it on Palm Sunday, Easter Day, throughout Easter Week and now on this Second Sunday.  In addition, Psalms 113—118 are traditionally used during Passover.  All four Gospel writers use this psalm in regards to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Matthew uses it again at 21:42.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
              and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
              in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
              the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
              the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
              and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
              but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
              I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
              he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
              and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
              has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
              and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
              we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! *
              Lord, send us now success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; *
              we bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; *
              form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.
28 “You are my God, and I will thank you; *
              you are my God, and I will exalt you.”
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
              his mercy endures for ever.

Or this
Psalm 150
The last of the psalms is a song of praise.  It is a fitting conclusion to the psalter.  Every line contains the Hebrew hll, “praise.” The “timbrel” (v. 4) was a hand-held percussion instrument similar to a tambourine.

1 Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy temple; *
Praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts; *
praise him for his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn; *
praise him with lyre and harp.
4 Praise him with timbrel and dance; *
praise him with strings and pipe.
5 Praise him with resounding cymbals; *
praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath *
              praise the Lord.  Hallelujah!

2nd Reading:  Revelation to John 1:4-8
Throughout Eastertide this year we read from the Revelation to John.  The Revelation actually presents itself as a letter and our reading this morning is the salutation.  As in many letter openings, several issues are identified that will be important for the work as a whole.  There are a number of descriptive titles for God and Jesus here, and they will be repeated and expanded upon later.  Jesus is described, for instance, as “the faithful witness,” and the theme of witnessing will come to the fore again and again in Revelation. Traditionally “John” is the same John the Evangelist and Apostle of the Gospel and the letters, but the potential date of Revelation’s initial writing and its location, point to some other writer.  This auther is often referred to as “John the Divine.” The beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet (Α and Ω) became a prominent early Christian symbol for Jesus (used twice more in Revelation at 21:6 and 22:13).

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Gospel Reading:  John 20:19-31
Our Gospel reading continues last week’s story in John’s Gospel of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after the resurrection. Mary Magdalene has seen the Lord and has told the others as much. Yet they still are hidden in fear.  Jesus comes among them with a message of peace. Despite their betrayal and abandonment of him, they are forgiven and are gifted with the Spirit (this is the Gospel of John’s “Pentecost”).  They are to practice this forgiveness with others; this is central to the message they are to proclaim.  Thomas is not with them for this appearance (perhaps he alone is not afraid?) and demands to see for himself.  Once he does he believes as well.  Jesus then speaks of us, those who do not see and yet believe.

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.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


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 © 2016 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. For more information, go to our website.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Easter Day C Readings & Commentaries




First Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
It is an ancient tradition to read from The Acts of the Apostles during Eastertide. Acts is the second volume of the evangelist Luke. At this point in the story, the apostle Peter has had a strange dream in which a voice had told him “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” At the same time, a Roman Centurion named Cornelius had a dream to seek out Peter and invite him to his home. When Peter arrives, Cornelius, a Gentile, welcomes him, and Peter begins to speak, which is today’s reading. Immediately after this, the Holy Spirit falls down on Cornelius and his family, and the Jesus movement makes a major advance—the Gentiles will be as welcome in this movement as Jews. The speech contains an accusation that “the people of Israel….put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” We know the story is more complicated than that. It was certain Jewish religious authorities who goaded Pilate to send Jesus to a Roman-executed death.

34 Then Peter began to speak to [Cornelius and his household]: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Or this

First Reading:  Isaiah 65:17-25
This reading comes near the end of Isaiah, echoing two passages from earlier in the book, Isaiah 25:6-10 and 11:6-9. It is a grand apocalyptic vision of a renewed creation living fully within the dream of God. This new creation hearkens back to Israel’s creation myth with people living extraordinarily long lives and all the curses of life accumulated over the years reversed (except for the serpent!) In Christian terms, this is the fully resurrected life both for humanity and the whole creation.

17 [Thus says the Lord God], I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Psalm 118 has long been associated with Holy Week and Easter.  Verses 1-2, 19-29 were appointed for the procession of palms a week ago. Thanksgiving for God’s “steadfast love” is the overall theme.  The psalm then goes on to recount the deeds of steadfast love that call for gratitude. Verses 14-24 have so long been associated with Easter that it is hard to hear them in anything other than a Christian resurrection context.  The “cornerstone” verse is used by Jesus in Mark (12:10) and Matthew (21:42) and by the apostle Peter in Acts (4:11).

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
              his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
              “His mercy endures for ever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
              and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
              in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
              the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
              the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
              and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
              but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
              I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
              he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
              and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
              has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
              and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
              we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:19-26
In Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks more about his understanding of the resurrection than in any of his letters.  The Christians in Corinth were skeptical at some level.  Paul begins the chapter by reminding them of what he has taught (15:3-11).  In verses 12-19, he argues for the resurrection by use of logic.  Todays’ reading is his grand summary, putting the resurrection in the context of the whole story of God.  Even Paul, however, cannot escape the reality that believers still die, and so he declares, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The destruction of death was seen by many early Christians (as well as many still today) as the great purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Or this
Second Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
For commentary, see above.

Gospel Reading:  John 20:1-18
There is no actual story of the resurrection; there is only the empty tomb. In all four Gospels, it is women who are the first witnesses to the empty tomb, chief among them Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is accorded the title “apostle” because of this.  Another commonality of most post-resurrection stories of Jesus is his identification by the wounds he carries on his body. Did Mary not recognize Jesus because his resurrection body was quite different? Or is he “disguised as the gardener? Or is she still in shock? We do not know. What we do know is that the sound of his voice calling her name triggers her recognition.

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Or this
Gospel Reading:  Luke 24:1-12
There is no story of the resurrection available to us, only that of the discovery of the empty tomb.  The four Gospel writers all agree the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, chief among them Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is accorded the title “apostle” because of this. Luke adds the names of Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and “the other women,” presumably those identified at Luke 8:1 as having been among Jesus’ followers and who “provided for them out of their resources.” Only Luke adds the detail that the [male] disciples did not believe the women when they told of their discovery.

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that ‘the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  The Psalm is the translation of The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is Copyright © 2016, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Please see our website