Monday, November 29, 2021

Advent 2C Readings with Commentaries


On the Second and Third Sundays of Advent, we turn to the figure of John the Baptist.  We celebrate that the new world for which we work and pray is one of humility and justice.  We accept this not only as a future hope, but as a present challenge.  The acceptance of this hope and challenge requires in us the practice of repentance.


The Collect of the Day

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 1st Reading:  Baruch 5:1-9

Baruch is a book of The Apocrypha, a set of books which are not a part of the Jewish canon of Scripture, but some Christians regard either as Scripture or as (for Anglicans) “read for example of life and instruction of manners” (Bookof Common Prayer, p. 868).  Baruch was probably written sometime between 200 and 60 b.c.e., although its setting is during the exile in Babylon in the sixth century b.c.e.  Baruch was the name of the prophet Jeremiah’s trusted friend and secretary.  Our reading this morning is part of a longer poem of consolation for Jerusalem and her captive children. Jerusalem in exile is to look to the east for her liberation. (It will come, ironically, with the Persians).

5:1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. 2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; 3 for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven. 4 For God will give you evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.” 5 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. 6 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. 7 For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. 8 The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command. 9 For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

Or this

1st Reading:  Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi (the final book of the Hebrew Scriptures) was a prophet devoted to the restored Temple.  He is  dealing with the crushed idealism of those who rebuilt the Temple (completed by 515 bce) and expected a new golden age to dawn for Judah (see Haggai 8:1-5, for example).  Malachi points out that the covenant must still be followed, and the exercise of the priesthood be pure.  The messenger cited in this passage was the returned Elijah (4:5), although in the New Testament this passage is used to describe the ministry of John the Baptist.

3:1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Canticle:  The Song of Zechariah

In place of a psalm, we have a biblical canticle from the Book of Common Prayer (#16).  The text is Luke 1:68-79.  It is the song Zechariah sings at the circumcision and naming of his son John, his lips having been freed from the silence imposed on him since the announcement of the child’s conception by the archangel Gabriel (1:20).  The first part of the song praises God’s mighty works in history. The second half prophesizes about the child.  He will be a prophet.  He will prepare the way.



Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
    he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
    born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
    from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
    and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
    to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear, *
    holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation *
    by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God *
    the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
    and to guide our feet into the way of peace

2nd Reading:  Philippians 1:3-11

These verses are a prayer of thanksgiving, a version of which Paul uses at the beginning of most of his letters.  Right away he uses an important word in this letter: koinonia, which is translated “fellowship,” “partnership,” “sharing,” or “communion.”  Two mentions of “the day of Jesus Christ” make this an Advent reading.  They tell us that the promised day is never far from Paul’s thoughts.  All he does is a preparation for that day, and he urges his listeners to take on the same attitude and practice.

1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 3:1-6

One characteristic of Luke’s Gospel is that he carefully sets it in the context of the world situation.  This is true especially at the beginning of his Gospel.  Here there is a long introduction to John’s appearance, running down the list of the powerful of the region.  John comes as a prophet and calls for reform of life, with immersion in water as a symbol.  Luke quotes Isaiah 40:3-5 to describe John’s ministry.

3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

The Scripture quotations (except for the canticle) 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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Canticle translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

 


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Advent 1C Readings with Commentary


Happy New Church Year! Today in our lectionary (cycle of readings) we begin “Year C,” the year of Luke’s Gospel.  On the first Sunday of Advent we reflect on questions about where history is headed.  The early Christians believed Jesus would return again quickly and bring God’s reign to fruition.  The timing was clearly wrong, yet the expectation remains.  Perhaps in our day of climate crisis and ongoing human conflict and violence, it would do us well to reflect with these texts about the future we are creating and the future of faith that belongs to God.

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 33:14-16

“The days are surely coming…” signifies talk of a frequent topic of the Jewish prophets:  the day of God’s judgment.  But here, Jeremiah (otherwise nicknamed “the gloomy prophet”) speaks a word of future hope:  “he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Christians have always seen this “righteous branch” which has “sprung up for David” as Jesus.

33:14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.  And this is the name by which it will be called:  “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Psalm 25:1–9

Our psalm is an acrostic poem (each line beginning with the successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet) that is a prayer for deliverance from enemies.  The psalmist recognizes that such deliverance depends on the gifts of wisdom and repentance.

 

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
    my God, I put my trust in you; *
        let me not be humiliated,
        nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
        let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O Lord, *
        and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
        for you are the God of my salvation;
        in you have I trusted all the day long.

5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
        for they are from everlasting.

6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
        remember me according to your love
        and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.

7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
        therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right *
        and teaches his way to the lowly.

9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
        to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. 

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Paul has written to the Thessalonians based on a report he has received about them from his protégé Timothy.  Here he expresses his desire to visit them and bolster their faith.  This desire, as well as the faith of the Thessalonians, is in the context of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Both Paul and the Thessalonians would have believed that this was to be soon, although some Thessalonians were beginning to wonder—see 4:13—5:11.  Paul never talks about the coming of Jesus as a threat, but rather a time of revelation and fulfillment of God’s promises.

3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Gospel Reading  Luke 21:25-36

On this First Sunday of Advent, we read from one of the “apocalyptic” chapters of Matthew, Mark or Luke.  Apocalyptic is writing about the end times, the time of revelation, the time of justice and judgment, the consummation of the Kingdom of God.  The threatening signs of the end are actually a patchwork of Old Testament sayings and phrases.  In one sense there is nothing new here that the prophets haven’t already said before.  In the face of a world in crisis, Jesus’ advice is to “stand up and raise your heads,” and pray for strength.

21:25 Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 Then he told them a parable:  “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”



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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Last Sunday after Pentecost B Readings with Commentary

 Commonly called “Christ the King” or “The Reign of Christ”

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Samuel 23:1-7

The last words of King David before his death (at 1 Kings 2:10) are in the form of a psalm praising God for his faithfulness to David’s house.  It is significant that David claims that God speaks directly to and through him.  Among his descendants this claim will gradually disappear. 

23:1 Now these are the last words of David:  The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:  2 The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue. 3 The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, 4 is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. 5 Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? 6 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; 7 to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

Psalm 132:1-13 [14-19] (Track 1)

Psalm 132 is a hymn celebrating God’s founding of the Davidic dynasty and the choice of Zion/Jerusalem as the center of Jewish life and government.  It may have been part of a liturgy, re-enacting the discovery of the ark of the covenant by David and the grand procession he made in bringing it to Jerusalem.


1 Lord, remember David, *
        and all the hardships she endured;

2 How we swore an oath to the Lord *
        and vowed a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:

3 “I will not come under the roof of my house, *
        nor climb up into my bed;

4 I will not allow my eyes to sleep, *
        nor let my eyelids slumber;

5 Until I find a place for the Lord, *
        a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

6 “The ark! We heard it was in Ephratah; *
        we found it in the fields of Jearim.

7 Let us go to God’s dwelling place; *
        let us fall upon our knees before his footstool.”

8 Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place, *
        you and the ark of your strength.

9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness; *
        let your faithful people sing with joy.

10 For your servant David’s sake, *
        do not turn away the face of your Anointed.

11 The Lord has sworn an oath to David; *
        in truth, he will not break it:

12 “A son, the fruit of your body, *
        will I set upon your throne.

13 If your children keep my covenant
    and my testimonies that I shall teach them, *
        their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

[14 For the Lord has chosen Zion; *
        he has desired her for his habitation:

15 “This shall be my resting-place for ever; *
        here will I dwell for I delight in her.

16 I will surely bless her provisions, *
        and satisfy her poor with bread.

17 I will clothe her priests with salvation, *
        and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18 There will I make the horn of David flourish; *
        I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19 As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame; *
        but as for him, his crown will shine.”]

 1st Reading (Track 2):  Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

The Book of Daniel was most likely written during the Maccabean revolt against the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV (167-164 b.c.e.).  This was a time of enormous stress for the Jewish community, a time ripe for apocalyptic writing like Daniel.  Our passage this morning is a portion of one of the visions of Daniel.  The parts missing envision a great and terrible judgment on “the beast,” which is clearly symbolic of the Greek empire.  The portion we do read clearly foretells that God will ultimately reign in justice.  The identity of “one like a human being” has long been debated. Christians have tended to identify him as Jesus.

7:9 As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 13 As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. 14 To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

Psalm 93 (Track 2)

Psalm 93 begins a section of the psalter devoted to the kingly rule of God in Israel.  Recall that it was God’s intention from the beginning to be Israel’s King. It was the people who demanded an earthly king “like the other nations.” In this psalm God’s rule is based upon God’s control over the powers of chaos, symbolized by the sea.



1 The Lord is King;
    he has put on splendid apparel; *
        the Lord has put on his apparel
        and girded himself with strength.

2 He has made the whole world so sure *
        that it cannot be moved;

3 Ever since the world began, your throne has been established; *
        you are from everlasting.

4 The waters have lifted up, O Lord,
    the waters have lifted up their voice; *
        the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

5 Mightier than the sound of many waters,
    mightier than the breakers of the sea, *
        mightier is the Lord who dwells on high.

6 Your testimonies are very sure, *
        and holiness adorns your house, O Lord,
        for ever and for evermore.

2nd Reading:  Revelation to John 1:4b-8

As in all apocalyptic writing, the Revelation to John was written during a time of great stress—most likely one of the waves of persecution of the early Christians by the Romans (“Babylon” throughout the book is clearly symbolic of Rome).  Our passage this morning is from the introduction to the book and begins with a prayer.  Jesus is at the center of the prayer, accompanied by three powerful images. To name Jesus as “ruler of the kings of the earth” is to tell the end of the story at its beginning.  That is the significance of Jesus being “Alpha and Omega” (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).  Jesus is in time but stands out of time.  If it sounds like Revelation begins as a letter it is because that is its basic form.

1:4b 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 18:33-37

We close our liturgical year with Pilate’s encounter with Jesus in the Gospel of John.  Pilate questions Jesus as if he were a threat to the order of the Roman Empire.  Does this man claim to be a king?  Jesus never answers directly but talks about a kingdom not from this world.  It is a kingdom unlike the kingdoms of this world in that Jesus’ followers do not fight for him.  Theirs is a non-violent movement.  Jesus’ kingdom is about truth, something about which Pilate can only be cynical, as in verse 38 he asks, “What is truth?”

18:33 Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the translation of the Psalm are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

25 Pentecost 2021 Proper 28B Readings with Commentary

 

The 25th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28B)

 The Collect of the Day

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:  Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  1 Samuel 1:4-20

This passage is the story of the miraculous birth of the prophet Samuel.  The Book of Judges (the book prior to this) has ended in chaos.  “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (21:25).  Here a hopeful note sounds.  God intervenes in a hopeless situation, and Samuel is born, who will lead his people to the re-establishment of order and a kingdom.  Note the boldness of Hannah, despite the scorn she undergoes from both her co-wife and the priest.  In 1:21-22, she returns with her weaned son to the priest and gives him into the service of the Lord.  The song she sings then follows, as our canticle for today.

1:4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5 but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. 19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

Canticle (Track 1): The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Hannah’s song is the praise of one who is lifted up by the God who is a reverser of fortunes.  Mary will dip into her ancestor Hannah’s song to sing her own in Luke 1.

 

My heart exults in you, O God; *
    my triumph song is lifted in you.

My mouth derides my enemies, *
    for I rejoice in your salvation.

There is none holy like you, *
    nor any rock to be compared to you, our God.

Do not heap up prideful words or speak in arrogance; *
    only God is knowing and weighs all actions.

The weapons of the mighty are broken, *
    but the weak are clothed in strength.

Those once full now labor for bread; *
    those who hungered now are well fed.

The childless woman finds her life fruitful, *
    and the mother of many sits forlorn.

God destroys and brings to life, casts down and raises up; *
    gives wealth or takes it away, humbles and dignifies.

God raises the poor from the dust; *
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap

To make them sit with rulers *
    and inherit a place of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are God’s *
    on which the whole earth is founded.

God will guide the path of the faithful, *
    but the wicked will languish in darkness.

For it is not by human might *
    that any mortal will prevail.

The foes of God will be shattered; *
    the Most High will thunder through the heavens.

The Almighty will judge the earth to its ends *
    and will give strength to the ruler of God’s own choosing.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Daniel 12:1-3

Daniel 12:1-4 is the concluding paragraph of a long apocalyptic vision that begins at Daniel 10:1. It is a vision of the future struggle of the righteous versus the faithless (a common theme of apocalyptic writing). The background is the Maccabean revolt against the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV, 167-164 b.c.e. This passage is unique in that it is only one of three Old Testament texts that directly express belief in the resurrection of the dead. Michael is one of the biblical archangels, whose name means “who is like God.”  He also appears in the Book of Revelation. (The other biblical archangels are Gabriel and Raphael). 

12:1 At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. 2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

 Psalm 16 (Track 2)

Traditionally this psalm is understood as King David speaking about himself.  The last three verses confess assurance that the writer will live and not die, a possible hint at resurrection.  “Sheol” and “the Pit” refer to the realm of the dead, where most Jews believed everyone ended up.


1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; *
        I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord,
        my good above all other.”.

2 All my delight is upon the godly who are in the land, *
        upon those who are noble among the people.

3 But those who run after other gods *
        shall have their troubles multiplied.

4 Their libations of blood I will not offer, *
        nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

5 O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; *
        it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; *
        indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; *
        my heart teaches me, night after night.

8 I have set the Lord always before me; *
        because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; *        
        my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave, *
        nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life; *
        in your presence there is fullness of joy,
        and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 10:11-14, [15-18], 19-25

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews continues to use the image of the high priesthood to speak of the work of Christ.  The contrast is made between the priest who stands day after day before God, and Christ who is seated at God’s right hand, a symbol of the permanence of his offering.  This offering should give us confidence to approach God with a clean conscience, a hope to which we should hold fast.  At the end there is an exhortation to keep the discipline of community 

10:11 Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” 13 and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

[15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” 17 he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.]

19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 Gospel Reading:  Mark 13:1-8

Mark 13 is sometimes called “the little apocalypse.” Its writing is very different from the rest of Mark. It reads more like Daniel or Revelation.  An apocalypse is a vision of the future, a glimpse behind reality to what is “really” going on.  Dramatic language and imagery are used to weave a symbolic picture.  As chapter 13 begins, Jesus is leaving the Temple for the last time and predicts its destruction (which will occur in 70 c.e.).  On the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple, the disciples ask him when this is to happen.  He responds enigmatically, speaking about a time of crisis.  The disciples, however, are not to despair. The crisis is also a birth.

13:1 As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Scripture quotations (except for the canticle and 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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer. The Canticle is copyright © 2007, Church Publishing, Inc. Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Friday, November 5, 2021

All Saints' B Readings with Commentary


Saints at Monaco Cathedral
 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:  Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

1st Reading:  Isaiah 25:6-9

This passage from Isaiah is one of a series of three visions of the last days (i.e., the eschaton), when all people will be drawn to “this mountain,” which is probably Mount Zion.  Compassion will be the order of the day, including the removal of all disgrace.  This vision will inspire Luke 14:15-24 and the reading from the Revelation to John, below.

25:6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Or this

1st Reading:  Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books that we do not consider Scripture, but still read as edifying. (Roman Catholics do consider them Scripture and most Protestants do not use them at all).  This text dates from the first century b.c.e., probably from the great Hellenistic center of learning, Alexandria, Egypt.  Our reading this morning is a reflection on death, the soul, and the afterlife.  It marks a development in Jewish thinking, which previously was dominated by the notion that all souls went to the same place, called “Sheol,” where they awaited judgment.  This writer clearly believes it is possible to bypass that process.

3:1 The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. 7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. 9 Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.

Psalm 24

Psalm 24 may have been a liturgy to enter the sanctuary, or for a procession of the ark of the covenant, complete with versicles and responses.  The Lord is praised as creator, and the temple as a place where only the clean are admitted.


1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
        the world and all who dwell therein.

2 For it is he who founded it upon the seas *
        and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

3 “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? *
        and can stand in his holy place?”

4 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *
        who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,
        nor sworn by what is a fraud.

5 They shall receive a blessing from the Lord *
        and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, *
        of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

7 Lift up your heads, O gates;
    lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
        and the King of glory shall come in.

8 “Who is this King of glory?” *
        “The Lord strong and mighty,
        the Lord, mighty in battle.”

9 Lift up your heads, O gates;
    lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
        and the King of glory shall come in.

10 “Who is this King of glory?” *
        “The Lord of hosts,
        he is the King of glory.

2nd Reading:  Revelation to John 21:1-6a

The last vision in the Book of Revelation is one of great hope.  The holy city comes from heaven; a new heaven and a new earth are created.  This vision echoes several passages from the prophet Isaiah, and uses imagery found throughout the Book of Revelation. The passage ends as the Book of Revelation began, with God’s declaration “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).

21:1 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.”

Gospel Reading:  John 11:32-44

Our Gospel reading is the latter portion of the story of the raising of Lazarus.  Jesus has earlier received the news of Lazarus’ illness and chosen to wait before he leaves to investigate.  His disciples warn him that traveling to the outskirts of Jerusalem will be dangerous for him and them. As he nears the town, he encounters one of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha, who declares that her brother would not have died if Jesus had been there.  As he arrives, Mary, Lazarus’ other sister, greets him and has a similar encounter as her sister.  The story continues below.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the translation of the Psalm are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

23 Pentecost 2021, Proper 26B Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service:  Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


1st Reading (Track 1):  Ruth 1:1-18

Ruth is a story about two valiant women, Naomi and her servant Ruth, who make a life for themselves after the death of all the males in the family.  Widows were without social power in the ancient Near East, but their commitment to each other (which is the climax of the following passage) carries them through and Ruth eventually makes a good marriage to Boaz, and is celebrated in history as the great-grandmother of King David.

1:1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10 They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” 14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” 18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Psalm 146 (Track 1)

The last five psalms are hymns of praise to God, each beginning and ending with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” (English: “Praise the Lord”).  Psalm 146 praises the faithfulness of God and exhorts us to put our trust in that faithfulness rather than any earthly ruler.  It is only the God of Israel who will reign for ever.

 

1 Hallelujah!
    Praise the Lord, O my soul! *
        I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
        I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, *
        for there is no help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, *
        and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! *
        whose hope is in the Lord their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; *
        who keeps his promise for ever;

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, *
        and food to those who hunger.

7 The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; *
        the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The Lord loves the righteous;
    the Lord cares for the stranger; *
        he sustains the orphan and widow,
        but frustrates the way of the wicked.

9 The Lord shall reign for ever, *
        your God, O Zion, throughout all generations
        Hallelujah!

1st Reading (Track 2):  Deuteronomy 6:1-9

In this passage, Moses summarizes the law for the people (the summary sometimes called the Shema) and promises them that their days will go well if they heed the commandments and teach them to their children. The final two verses are the basis for the Jewish prayer practice of wearing a “phylactery” (a box containing the commandments worn on the forehead, affixed with leather bands that also wrap around the left arm) and the “mezuzah,” a small receptacle also containing the commandments which is affixed on the right side of the doorway. (These practices, however, did not develop until much later in Israel’s history).

6:1 Moses convened all Israel and said to them:  Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel:  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Psalm 119:1-8 (Track 2)

Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms at 176 verses, is a long acrostic poem celebrating the Law.  Each succeeding eight verses begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet (vv. 1-8, with Aleph, which begins the Hebrew alphabet).  In addition, every verse of this poem contains a word that is a synonym for the law.  It is written in the Wisdom tradition, i.e., the promise is made over and over that if one follows the law, one will be blessed.

 

1 Happy are they whose way is blameless, *
        who walk in the law of the Lord!

2 Happy are they who observe his decrees *
        and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong, *
        but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments, *
        that we should fully keep them.

5 Oh, that my ways were made so direct *
        that I might keep your statutes!

6 Then I should not be put to shame, *
        when I regard all your commandments.

7 I will thank you with an unfeigned heart, *
        when I have learned your righteous judgments.

8 I will keep your statutes; *
        do not utterly forsake me.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 9:11-14

Our passage from the Letter to the Hebrews today continues the use of the image of the high priest for Jesus.  Here the Day of Atonement is referenced, the one day when the high priest enters the inner sanctuary to plead for the people.  Jesus has done this once and for all, offering his own self so that we may worship the living God with confidence.

9:11 When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

Gospel Reading:  Mark 12:28-34

In Mark 12:13-37, Jesus is asked four questions about the Torah and the teaching of Moses.  The first was the question about paying taxes, the second about the resurrection, the third (below) the greatest commandment, and the fourth the sonship of the Messiah.  In this passage Jesus weaves together Moses’ summary of the law from Deuteronomy (6:4-5), and the commandment to love the neighbor from Leviticus (19:2).  Note Jesus adds “and with all your mind” to the Deuteronomy quote.  One aspect of this passage that is often overlooked is the fact that there is agreement between Jesus and this scribe.  Not all of Israel’s teachers and religious leaders were at odds with Jesus.

12:28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.