Sunday, October 17, 2021

22 Pentecost 2021, Proper 25B Readings with Commentary

The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 42:1-6, 10-17

The Book of Job ends with a capitulation on Job’s part:  he admits that he has been talking without the deeper knowledge of God.  He repents, which he had resisted doing through all the long speeches of his friend.  There is a disconnect here, because earlier God had rebuked his friends.  Some scholars believe this last chapter is an attempt by a later editor to “tidy things up,” or that the original story included only chapters 1-2 and 42, since they seem to come out of a worldview that is different from the chapters in-between.

42:1 Job answered the Lord:  2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” 10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.

Psalm 34:1-8, [19-22] (Track 1)

Psalm 34 is an acrostic poem in the wisdom tradition.  It begins with the praise of God, rejoicing in God’s role as deliverer from fear and evil.  The optional verses sing the praise of God who can be trusted to deliver the righteous and punish the evil.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times; *
        his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the Lord; *
        let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; *
        let us exalt his Name together.

4 I sought the Lord and he answered me *
        and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant, *
        and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
        and saved me from all my troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
        and he will deliver them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
        happy are they who trust in him!

[19 Many are the troubles of the righteous, *
        but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.

20 He will keep safe all his bones; *
        not one of them shall be broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked, *
        and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

22 The Lord ransoms the life of his servants, *
        and none will be punished who trust in him.]

1st Reading (Track2):  Jeremiah 31:7-9

Our first reading is a vision of the return from exile.  It comes from the brief section of Jeremiah called “the Book of Consolations.”  Unlike the rest of Jeremiah, which is predominantly gloomy and judgmental, chapters 30-33 speak words of hope to the people.  The return will be inclusive: those who live in struggle and those who live in joy; they will make “a great company.”

31:7 Thus says the Lord:  Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.” 8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Psalm 126 (Track 2)

Psalm 126 is one of “Songs of Ascents,” pilgrim songs for the journey to Jerusalem for the major festivals (Psalms 120-134 have this title in the Hebrew text).  Psalm 126 is a prayer for deliverance for the nation.  It begins with a glad memory of Israel’s restoration from exile.  The image of weeping at sowing time, and joyfully bringing home the harvest seems to come from an ancient proverb:  “You must not laugh when you sow, lest you weep when you harvest.”

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *
        then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *    
        and our tongues with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations, *
        “the Lord has done great things for them.”

4 The Lord has done great things for us, *
        and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, *
        like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears *
        will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
        will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 7:23-28

In our second reading, the writer makes two arguments as to why Jesus’ priesthood is superior to that of the priesthood of Aaron or the Levites.  First, Jesus’ priesthood is permanent, eternal. Second, it is better given Jesus’ character and his status as the Son of God.  Jesus’ ministry of constant intercession for us is a significant theme of Hebrews.  The phrase “separated from sinners” is problematic, given Jesus continued statements that he came to call not the righteous but sinners (see, for example, Mark 2:17).

7:23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:46-52

Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem.  The incident in this story is the last time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus performs a healing.  It must be significant that the subject of the healing is named.  That has not been true in any of the prior stories.  Perhaps it is because Bartimaeus becomes a disciple, following Jesus “on the way.”  This following by one who is healed is unique in Mark’s Gospel as well.  There is a contrast with Jesus’ previous healing of a blind man (8:22-26) where Jesus makes mud from spittle and rubs it on the man’s eyes.  Here there is a simple word.

10:46 Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the 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.  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, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

21 Pentecost 2021 Proper 24B Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations:  Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 38:1-7, [35-41]

After 35 chapters of back-and-forth dialogue between Job and his friends, and a stranger named Elihu, Job gets his answer from God.  It is not an answer about the cause of his suffering, but a reminder that the world God has created is bigger than any one individual life.  Some see this response as being directly related to Job’s curse of his birth in chapter 3.  Others see it as God defending the mystery of life.  If the latter is correct, there is no answer to Job’s question, just the freedom of creation and the God who made it.

38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:  2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

[34 Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? 37 Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, 38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? 39 Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 40 when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? 41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?]

Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b (Track 1)

Psalm 104 is a hymn of creation, praising God as its sole creator.  There is a sense of a storm in these opening verses of the psalm, similar to the opening of our reading from Job today.  Verses 5-9 extol God’s mastery of the waters of chaos, with an echo of the story of the Flood from Genesis.

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; *
        O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
        you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

2 You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak *
        and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay the beams of your chambers in the waters above; *
        you make the clouds your chariot;
        you ride on the wings of the wind.

4 You make the winds your messengers *
        and flames of fire your servants.

5 You have set the earth upon its foundations; *
        so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle; *
        the waters stood higher than the mountains.

7 At your rebuke they fled; *
        at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath, *
        to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass; *
        they shall not again cover the earth.

25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
        in wisdom you have made them all;
        the earth is full of your creatures.

37b Hallelujah!

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 53:4-12

Our first reading is from one of the Songs of the Suffering Servant from the latter portion of the Book of Isaiah.  The last line of today’s Gospel is more or less a quote of 53:11. Without the necessity of taking this passage as a word-for-word understanding of how the death and resurrection of Jesus saves us, Mark is saying that Jesus’ witness can be understood through the lens of the Suffering Servant, who offers his life as an atonement for the sins of others and is exalted by God.

53:4 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. 9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. 11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16 (Track 2)

Psalm 91 is a prayer of great confidence by one who has faith in God.  It promises ultimate security for one who trusts in “the Most High.”  Like many of the psalms it is idealistic.  God’s people do suffer, and Christians follow One who suffered in solidarity with us, as both the Old Testament reading and Gospel reading for today testify.


9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, *
        and the Most High your habitation,

10 There shall no evil happen to you *
        neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge of you, *
        to keep you in all your ways.

12 They shall bear you in their hands, *
        lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13 You shall tread upon the lion and the adder; *
        you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,
    therefore will I deliver him; *
        I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I shall answer him; *
        I am with him in trouble;
        I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
        and show him my salvation.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 5:1-10

Hebrews 5 continues the image of Jesus as our eternal high priest, designated by God, who is able to relate to us because he shared our life and our death.  Verses 5 and 6 first quote Psalm 2:7 and then Psalm 110:4.  Melchizedek is a mysterious figure who appears in Genesis 14:17-20.  The author of Hebrews uses this figure, who comes out of nowhere in the Abraham story, and who is given no story, i.e., no beginning and no end, to pre-figure the priesthood of Christ, which is greater than the priesthood of Aaron because it is eternal.

5:1 Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you;” 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

 Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:35-45

Jesus has just taught the disciples that “the first will be last and the last will be first.” Clearly James and John did not understand him, as they ask rather brazenly for the right to sit at his right and left hand.  Despite their bravado that they “are able” to bear what Jesus will bear, they still do not understand that he is talking about his suffering and death.  The rest of the disciples are angry at their presumption, but Jesus uses the occasion to make even plainer his understanding that in the Kingdom of God the rules of power are upside down.

 10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

20 Pentecost 2021, Proper 23B Readings with Commentary

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Job has been in a dialogue with three friends—Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz—since the beginning of chapter 3.  They have tried to convince him that he has done something wrong, something to deserve the disaster that has come upon him.  Job continues his lament. In today’s passage, Job brings his complaint to God, whom he knows he cannot see.  But he trusts that if he could bring his case to God, he would be vindicated.  Yet God remains hidden, and in despair Job wishes he could disappear also.

23:1 Job answered: 2 Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! 4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. 6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. 7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. 8 If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; 9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. 16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; 17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm 22:1-15 (Track 1)

Psalm 22 is the quintessential psalm of lament.  The writer is blunt:  God, you have forgotten me.  He cites reasons why he should trust, but finally declares himself “a worm and no man,” forgotten, despised.  The psalms of lament and/or complaint are important because they speak to the human experience of a God hidden in mystery.  They validate being honest with God; God can take our complaints.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
        and are so far from my cry
        and from the words of my distress?

2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
        by night as well, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are the Holy One, *
        enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4 Our forebears put their trust in you; *
        they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 They cried out to you and were delivered; *
        they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

6 But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
        scorned by all and despised by the people.

7 All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
        they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

8 “He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; *
        let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”

9 Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, *
        and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.

10 I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
        you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
        and there is none to help.

12 Many young bulls encircle me; *
        strong bulls of Bashan surround me.

13 They open wide their jaws at me, *
        like a ravening and a roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water;
    all my bones are out of joint; *
        my heart within my breast is melting wax.

15 My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
    my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
        and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

The prophet Amos was active during the long and peaceful reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (i.e., the Northern Kingdom). The people were no doubt satisfied that they were pleasing God because of their military dominance and prosperity. Amos is sent from his little village, Tekoa, where he was a shepherd. He is sent to speak harsh words in this prosperous season. The prosperity is built on the backs of the poor. There is no justice. This message brought Amos into conflict with the religious authorities and he was expelled from the royal sanctuary at Bethel.

5:6 Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. 7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! 10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. 15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Psalm 90:12-17 (Track 2)

Psalm 90 is said to be a Prayer of Moses.  It is a prayer that Israel may be delivered out of its difficulties and that God would reveal himself as the One who makes Israel prosper.

12 So teach us to number our days *
        that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry? *
        be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
        so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days you afflicted us *
        and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works *
        and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; *
        prosper the work of our hands;
        prosper our handiwork.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 4:12-16

Our passage today begins with a reminder in vivid language that God sees all: “to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid.”  Given that we are “laid bare” it is significant that we have a great high priest who has been tested as we are tested, laid bare as we have been laid bare.  We can approach the throne of this high priest with confidence that we will receive mercy and grace in time of need. The image of Jesus as our eternal high priest is a major image in this letter.

4:12 The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. 14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:17-31

In our Gospel reading Jesus is asked a sincere question and gives a forthright answer.  If the questioner is to follow Jesus, he must give up control over his wealth.  He proves unable to do so.  The disciples are amazed because they assume wealth is a sign of God’s favor. On the contrary, Jesus is saying:  it is an obstacle to the Kingdom, as great as the obstacle of the eye of a needle to a camel.  Yet all things are possible for God.  It is also, however, a defining characteristic of the Kingdom of God that “the first will be last and the last will be first.”

10:17 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

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, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Monday, September 27, 2021

19 Pentecost 2021, Proper 22B Readings with Commentary

But we do see Jesus . . . 

The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve:  Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 1:1; 2:1-10

The Book of Job is a witness to human suffering and a debate about its causes.  The central questions of Job are whether or not God causes human suffering and what role humans play in bringing it on.  The missing verses from chapter 1 in the reading below first testify to Job’s uprightness.  Then Satan (literally, “the accuser”) is allowed to test Job, and disaster follows including the loss of his home and children.  Then the story picks up again below with a second bad deal between the Lord and Satan for a further test.  This passage ends with the declaration that Job did not sin with his lips.  But the question remains for the rest of the book, can he continue to do so, or will his suffering break him?

1:1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2:1 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. 5 But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Psalm 26 (Track 1)

Psalm 26 is a personal lament, a cry for justice.  It could easily have been on the lips of Job during his suffering (and indeed, the reading above and this psalm both contain the Hebrew word for “integrity”). Verses 6-8 may testify to some liturgical practices in ancient Israel.  The psalm ends with a plaintive cry to be spared the fate of sinners.

1 Give judgment for me, O Lord,
    for I have lived with integrity; *
        I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.

2 Test me, O Lord, and try me; *
        examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes; *
        I have walked faithfully with you.

4 I have not sat with the worthless, *
        nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers; *
        I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, *
        that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving *
        and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 Lord, I love the house in which you dwell *
        and the place where your glory abides.

9 Do not sweep me away with sinners, *
        nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots, *
        and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity; *
        redeem me, O Lord, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground; *
        in the full assembly I will bless the Lord.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Genesis 2:18-24

Our first reading is part of the second Creation Story (2:4b-25), focusing on the creation of humanity. The major premise is that the man is alone and needs a true partner. Nothing that has been made will suffice, so a rib of the man is built up into a woman.  This creation can be a partner.  Now the text goes on to give the theological justification for marriage, remembering that its primary purpose is for human beings not to be alone.

2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Psalm 8 (Track 2)

Psalm 8 is a celebration of God’s glory, particularly as found in the creation and in the dignity of human beings.  Unusually, it is not only a response to the first reading but is related to the passages below from Hebrews and Mark 

1 O Lord our Governor, *
        how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children *
        your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
        to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
        the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
        The son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
        you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
        you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen, *
        even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
        and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O Lord our Governor, *
        how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

We begin several weeks of reading through the first part of the Letter to the Hebrews.  It reads more like an extended sermon than a letter.  Who wrote it and to whom it was written remain a mystery.  The sermon begins with an exaltation of Jesus, to whom all things are subject.  But this one to whom all things are subject is also the one who suffered for all and so is not ashamed to call us “brothers and sisters.”  This theme will continue through the first chapters of the letter.

1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 2:5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6 But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? 7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, 8 subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:2-16

This account of Jesus’ opposition to divorce is found only in Mark and Matthew.  What is set down here was certainly meant in Mark’s community to be the final word on the matter. Our branch of the Church many years ago decided this law was too rigid to follow and began to allow re-marriage on compassionate grounds.  In doing so there was no intention to lessen the promise of life-long fidelity, only to recognize the reality that the promise is sometimes broken too much to repair.  The passage ends on a different note, with Jesus using a child as an example in how one should receive the kingdom of God.

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Monday, September 20, 2021

18 Pentecost 2021, Proper 21B Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity:  Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

The Book of Esther tells the story of a Jewish woman and her uncle, Mordecai, who deliver the Jews living in the Persian Empire from genocide. King Ahasuerus chooses Esther as his queen, although she hides her Jewish identity on the advice of her uncle.  Mordecai becomes an enemy of Haman when he refuses to bow down to him. Haman tricks the king into ordering death to all the Jews in the kingdom who will not bow down to the king. When Haman plans the execution of her uncle, Esther is moved to reveal her identity and plead with the king for the life of her people.  In our reading today, the tables are turned against Haman; he is executed and the Jews saved.  The final verses establish a yearly feast known as Purim.

7:1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” 6 Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. 9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated. 9:20 Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, 22 as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm 124 (Track 1)

Psalm 124 is one of the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) which were likely songs for pilgrims on their way to celebrate one of the major festivals in Jerusalem.  It is a song of thanksgiving for protection against enemies, using the images of a flood that does not drown and a snare that is broken and therefore useless.


1 If the Lord had not been on our side, *
        let Israel now say;

2 If the Lord had not been our side, *
        when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then would they have swallowed us up alive *
        in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *
        and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters *
        have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the Lord! *
        he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *
        the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the Lord, *
        the maker of heaven and earth.

 1st Reading (Track 2):  Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

In the wake of the people’s complaints about the food that is being provided for them, Moses himself complains to God about the burden of the people. God’s response to Moses’ histrionics is to give him help. Seventy elders will be given a share of his spirit.  This included two men who had not assembled at the Tent of Meeting but had remained in the camp. Their manifestation of the Spirit causes some controversy, but Moses declares that they are with them.  He is not overprotective of his office.  Would that all the Lord’s people were like him.

11:4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15 If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.” 16 So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you. 24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

Psalm 19:7-14 (Track 2)

Psalm 19 is a wisdom psalm in two parts. The first (1-6) praises the glory of God in creation. The second (7-14, today’s psalm) is a hymn in praise of the law.  The juxtaposition of creation and law is deliberate:  both have been provided for the well-being of humankind.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; *
        the testimony of the Lord is sure
        and gives wisdom to the innocents.

8 The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart: *
        the commandment of the Lord is clear
        and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; *
        the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, *
        sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened, *
        and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends? *
        Cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
     let them not get dominion over me; *
        then shall I be whole and sound,
        and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
    heart be acceptable in your sight, *
        O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

2nd Reading:  James 5:13-20

The end of the Letter of James describes some pastoral practices of this ancient community. Some of our own practices have roots in them.  Communal prayer by elders (presbyteroi) with the anointing of the sick with oil developed into the Sacrament of Unction, or the Anointing of the Sick.  Confession of Sin seems to have been tied up with this practice also, as it is in the rite for “Ministration to the Sick” in The Book of Common Prayer (pp. 453-461).

5:13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 9:38-50

Jesus, like Moses before him (see Numbers 11), does not want the disciples to be jealous of their authority.  “Whoever is not against us is for us.”  Jesus then goes on to use some difficult language trying to underscore the seriousness of treating “the little ones” rightly.  He is speaking in hyperbole and figuratively, yet he is speaking very seriously.  Who are “the little ones?” It is often assumed children, but more likely Jesus is referring to the average disciple and this is a special warning to those in leadership not to abuse their power.  Verses 44 and 46 are omitted in the New Revised Standard translation since they are not found in the best ancient sources for this Gospel (they simply repeat verse 48).

9:38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 42 If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with 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.  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, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.