Sunday, February 17, 2019

Epiphany 7C Readings & Commentaries


The middle portion of Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” speaks primarily of love and its requirements in deed, such as the love of enemy, the treatment of those among us who are poor, and the love of the stranger.

1st Reading:  Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Joseph, the next to the youngest of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob, was sold into slavery by his older brothers, who grew tired of his dreams of predominance over them, and the special treatment he received from their father.  Joseph ends up in Egypt, and, despite many trials, he ends up as chief steward of the land. When famine comes to the region, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain, where they must deal with Joseph, who eventually reveals his identity in today’s passage. Joseph does not seek revenge but takes the long view (see today’s psalm), that God has meant all that has happened for good, or, we might say, has used all that has happened for good.

45:3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’” 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
Psalm 37, one of the longer in the collection is a wisdom psalm, directed, perhaps, at those troubled by the continued presence of injustice in the world.  Do not be discouraged, the psalmist says, the appearance of wealth and power in this world is an illusion.  Trust in God, the psalmist says, acknowledging that this will require patience (v. 7).

1     Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
            do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
2     For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
            and like the green grass fade away.
3     Put your trust in the Lord and do good; *
            dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
4     Take delight in the Lord, *
            and he shall give you your hearts’ desire.
5     Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, *
            and he will bring it to pass.
6     He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
            and your just dealing as the noonday.
7     Be still before the Lord *
            and wait patiently for him.
8     Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
            the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
9     Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
            do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
10   For evildoers shall be cut off, *
            but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land.
11   In a little while the wicked shall be no more; *
            you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
12   But the lowly shall possess the land; *
            they will delight in abundance of peace.
41   But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the Lord *
            he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
42   The Lord will help them and rescue them; *
            he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,
            because they seek refuge in him.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
As Paul continues his arguments regarding the resurrection, he tackles the difficult subject of, as we say in the creeds, “the resurrection of the body.”  Greek culture could grasp the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body was beyond the average Greek’s belief.  Paul’s argument is that there are many kinds of bodies, including spiritual bodies.  Earthly human flesh will be transformed.

15:35 Someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being;” the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Gospel Reading: Luke 6:27-38
The middle portion of Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” speaks primarily of love and its requirements in deed, such as the love of enemy, the treatment of those among us who are poor, and the love of the stranger.  When one practices this kind of love, judgment falls to the floor and forgiveness is raised as the highest of values.  Luke changes Matthew’s “Be perfect” to “Be merciful (v. 36). Perhaps they were simply using different collections of these sayings of Jesus, but it could also be that Luke understands the perfection of God to be shown most clear in the mercy of God.

6:27 Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

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 by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2019.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Epiphany 6C Readings & Commentaries


Our Gospel reading is the beginning of “The Sermon on the Plain” (as opposed to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew).

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 17:5-10
These words from Jeremiah are somewhat unique in the tradition of his book as they are more wisdom-like than prophetic.  The parallels to Psalm 1—itself in the wisdom tradition—are clear.  As is normal for wisdom literature, a simple choice is offered between the way of life with God or death trusting in one’s own strength.  Here the metaphors of a shrub in the desert and a tree flourishing by the water make the choice clear.

17:5 Thus says the Lord:  Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. 9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? 10 I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm 1
Psalm 1 is about the (idealistic) contrasting fate of the righteous and the wicked.  As such it serves as a kind of preamble to the entire psalter, proclaiming one of the most basic themes of the psalms, that this is a moral universe that cannot be disregarded.

1     Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of
                            the wicked, *
            nor lingered in the way of sinners,
            nor sat in the seats of the scornful.
2     Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
            and they meditate on his law day and night.
3     They are like trees planted by streams of water,
       bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
            everything they do shall prosper.
4     It is not so with the wicked; *
            they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5     Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when
                            judgment comes, *
            nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6     For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
            but the way of the wicked is doomed.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Paul’s argument for the truth of the resurrection of the dead continues.  His argument is simple (even if his syntax is not).  We cannot proclaim Christ’s resurrection without also proclaiming the general resurrection.  The “first fruits” is an ancient biblical notion.  We bring always our first fruits (i.e., not what is left over) to God (see, for example, Exodus 23).  Here Paul is saying that the risen life is Christ’s offering of “first fruits,” on behalf of all humankind.

15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 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.

Gospel Reading: Luke 6:17-26
Our Gospel reading is the beginning of “The Sermon on the Plain” (as opposed to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew).  Matthew’s sermon is 99 verses long; Luke’s only 37, with some of the material from Matthew moved to other settings.  Both start with beatitudes, but Luke’s are quite different.  They are more direct, not as spiritualized.  And they include “woes.” Both blessings and woes very much continue the theme of the Great Reversal from this Gospel.

6:17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. 20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

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 by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2018.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Got to our website for more details.