Monday, February 22, 2021

Lent 2B Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:  Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Our first reading is the third promise of children to Abram and Sarai, who are now in advanced age. At this point there has been much “water under the bridge” in the story and God has failed to deliver. The promise remains, however, and God ups the ante by changing their names—a sign of their radical dependence on God. Our names represent who we are at the deepest level. The change of name by God (which is frequent in the Bible) shows that God knows us and has the power to form us at this deep level.

17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you:  You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Psalm 22:22-30

Our psalm is a psalm of lament, a cry for God to make things the way they ought to be.  It is framed by statements of trust that, at the end of the psalm, God is implored not to forget.

22 Praise the Lord, you that fear him; *
        stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
        all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
    neither does he hide his face from them; *
        but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
        I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
    and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: *
        “May your heart live for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *
        and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
        he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
        all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;
    my descendants shall serve him; *
        they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
        the saving deeds that he has done.

2nd Reading:  Romans 4:13-25

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome (a place he had never been), in part, to lessen the tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Here he uses the story of Abraham to preach a radical equality. All are equal inheritors of Abraham’s promise through their faith. He is using here a method of interpretation of the Scriptures called “midrash,” which allows for re-interpretation of any original meaning to fit current circumstances.

4:13 The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 8:31-38

Jesus has just asked the disciples who they believe he is and Peter has replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah).” But now it is clear that at least Peter and Jesus have very different understandings of what that means. Jesus’ rebuke is strong. “Satan” means “the adversary.” Jesus will die and his followers must be prepared to do the same. After two more predictions of his death, Jesus will give them images of what he means by their “death”—they must be as children and servants.

8:31 Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

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.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Lent 1B Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Genesis 9:8-17

Our first reading is the end of the story of the Flood.  Once the flood is over, and Noah and his family and their animal companions are back on dry land, God makes a covenant with them (note the covenant is with “all flesh that is on the earth”).  God will never again destroy the earth.  The sign of this covenant will be the rainbow.  It is significant that among Israel’s primordial stories is not only a flood story (which parallels stories in other ancient cultures), but the promise of God:  “never again.”

9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Psalm 25:1-10

Our psalm is a psalm of lament, a cry for God to make things the way they ought to be.  It is framed by statements of trust that, at the end of the psalm, God is implored not to forget.

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.

10 For your Name’s sake, O Lord, *
        forgive my sin, for it is great.

2nd Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22

In our second reading, Peter uses the story of the flood to make a point about the depths to which God has gone to save us.  Many were concerned in the early Church about the status of those who had died prior to the cross and resurrection.  Were they also saved by Jesus’ action?  Peter replies that this was precisely the work Jesus did while he was in death.  He “descended to the dead” (as we say in the Apostles’ Creed) to bring the good news “to the spirits in prison.” Orthodox icons of the resurrection reflect this belief. Jesus is seen atop the gates of Hell, which have been broken.  With one arm he lifts Adam and the other Eve to new life.  If this is the depth to which Jesus has gone, the writer of this letter is saying, how much more are we saved through our Baptism, which the Flood prefigured.

3:18 Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:9-15

The account of Jesus’ forty days of trial and temptation in the wilderness is our Gospel reading always on the first Sunday in Lent.  Mark’s version is short and without the details of Matthew and Luke (the familiar description of the temptations).  Mark tells the story in a single sentence, begun with one of his favorite words, “immediately” and then the strong word “drove.”  Jesus’ message of repentance strikes a familiar Lenten theme.  The Greek word is metanoia, which means literally “to turn around” or “to change one’s mind.”

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

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, February 7, 2021

Last Epiphany B Readings with Commentaries

 


The Collect of the Day

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain:  Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

1st Reading:  2 Kings 2:1-12

Our first reading is the story of the prophet Elijah’s ascent into heaven and the testing and succession of his protégé, Elisha. The lead-up to Elijah’s ascension is somewhat comical, showing the persistence of Elisha, and his boldness in asking for a double share. The story makes Elijah the greatest of Israel’s prophets—he does not die but is bodily assumed.  Because of this story, there was an expectation in Israel that he would one-day return.  The same was thought by some of Moses, hence their appearance in our Gospel reading.

2:1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.” 4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.” 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Psalm 50:1-6

Our psalm is a vision of God’s glory.  In these beginning verses, God summons the earth to reveal himself “out of Zion.”  The scene set is reminiscent of the summons in Isaiah 25:6ff.



1 The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken; *
        he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

2 Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, *
        God reveals himself in glory.

3 Our God will come and will not keep silence; *
        before him there is a consuming flame,
        and round about him a raging storm.

4 He calls the heavens and the earth from above *
        to witness the judgment of his people.

5 “Gather before me my loyal followers, *
        those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice.”

6 Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause; *
        for God himself is judge.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Two references to “the glory of Christ” make this reading a good choice to pair with the story of the Transfiguration. Paul desires that the Corinthians “pierce the veil” to find the glory shining in their hearts—the glory of God as shone forth in Jesus Christ.

4:3 If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 9:2-9

As throughout his Gospel, Mark tells the story of Jesus’ transfiguration simply but vividly. “Such as no one on earth could bleach them,” is a detail that is his alone among the Gospel writers. The transfiguration culminates and affirms Jesus’ ministry. He is the prophet both like Moses and like the great Elijah.  But Jesus knows this moment is just for them for now—it will not be understood correctly without his subsequent death and resurrection.  It is those events from which his glory truly comes.

9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

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

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Epiphany 5B Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 1st Reading:  Isaiah 40:21-31

With chapter 40, “Second Isaiah” begins with a message of renewed trust and hope to the Jewish exiles in Babylon.  Our passage today seeks to stir up the memory of these exiles. Memory is essential for faith. It leads to the confidence proclaimed at the end of the passage. If they remember, the exiles can hope again. God has plans for them beyond exile.

40:21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:  Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?” 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c

Our psalm is a song of praise of the God who is creator and healer, the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Given verse 2, it is clear this psalm comes from the same period as Second Isaiah.



1 Hallelujah!
    How good it is to sing praises to our God! *
        how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; *
        he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted *
        and binds up their wounds.

4 He counts the number of the stars *
        and calls them all by their names.

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; *
        there is no limit to his wisdom.

6 The Lord lifts up the lowly, *
        but casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; *
        make music to our God upon the harp.

8 He covers the heavens with clouds *
        and prepares rain for the earth;

9 He makes grass to grow upon the mountains *
        and green plants to serve mankind.

10 He provides food for flocks and herds *
        and for the young ravens when they cry.

11 He is not impressed by the might of a horse; *
        he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12 But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him, *
        in those who await his gracious favor. [21c] Hallelujah!

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 9:16-23

In the beginning of chapter 9, Paul has agreed with the Corinthians that he is free, just as they are.  This truth even has the authority of Scripture (vv. 8-12). But in our passage, he declares that this freedom must not be used to the detriment of the spread of the gospel. We must be willing to set aside our freedom for the sake of others, particularly the weak in faith.  We are free, but we are also responsible to and for one another.

9:16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. 19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:29-39

Healing stories are central to Mark’s Gospel. His Gospel is the shortest, but he tells more healing stories than the others. For Mark, Jesus’ proclamation of the message of the Kingdom of God is enacted in healing. When the kingdom is at hand people are freed from the forces that oppress them.

1:29 When Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

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

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Epiphany 4B Readings with Commentaries

 


The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth:  Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in out time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 1st  Reading:  Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Our first reading is the authorization of prophets in the life of Israel.  They will be “like Moses” in that they will be intermediaries, for the people cannot bear to hear the word of God directly.  Also, like Moses, they will speak words from God and about the God of Israel, which is one way to tell whether they are authentic or not. It became an expectation among Jews that God would one day send “a prophet like Moses,” which some project onto John the Baptist, and others, Jesus.

18:15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said:  “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

Psalm 111

Our psalm is a song of praise to the God of the covenant who is gracious and merciful, faithful, and just.  In Hebrew it is an acrostic poem, with each succeeding line beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet.



1 Hallelujah!
    I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, *
i        n the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the Lord! *
        they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor, *
        and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered; *
        the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him; *
        he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works *
        in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; *
        all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever, *
        because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;
    he commanded his covenant for ever; *
        holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    those who act accordingly have a good understanding; *
        his praise endures for ever.

 2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Reading First Corinthians as a whole, it is clear some in that community believed they had attained a higher level of spiritual knowledge and, therefore, the right to instruct the community.  Paul quotes some of their frequent sayings.  He offers a mild rebuke and then uses the question of whether it is right for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols to teach about the responsibility of the individual to the community.  Freedom, yes, but it is freedom responsible in community. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.

 8:1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him. 4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

 Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:21-28

We have been told a few verses earlier that Jesus’ principal message was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” After calling some disciples, Jesus continues this teaching, which people receive as having authority (or power) unlike anything they have heard from their usual teachers.  He then enacts this power in his first exorcism/healing. The demons of oppression cannot withstand the kingdom that is at hand.


 1:21 Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

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

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Epiphany 3B Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Jonah had resisted God’s first attempt to send him to Nineveh, in part because he knew God would show mercy to those who were Israel’s enemies, and he did not want to do it.  Nineveh was a great city of the Assyrian Empire.  Jonah relents the second time (after being saved from the belly of a great fish) and the city repents, and God forgives, just as Jonah had feared.  The story continues with Jonah’s bitter complaint against God.  But God’s mercy prevails, even over Jonah. 

3:1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Psalm 62:6-14

Psalm 62 is a personal testimony of trust in God.  As a response to the first reading, the last line is interesting since God decides not to repay the Ninevites “according to their deeds.”  Perhaps the ways of God are not as simple as either Jonah or the psalmist imagines! 



6 For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
        truly, my hope in in him.

7 He alone is my rock and my salvation, *
        my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8 In God is my safety and my honor; *
        God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9 Put your trust in him always, O people, *
        pour out your hearts before him,
        for God is our refuge.

10 Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, *
        even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11 On the scales they are lighter than a breath, *
        all of them together.

12 Put no trust in extortion;
    in robbery take no empty pride; *
        though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.

13 God has spoken once, twice I have heard it, *
        that power belongs to God.

14 Steadfast love is your, O Lord, *
        for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Paul, like most early Christians, believed that Jesus’ return in glory was imminent.  In this context, the following reading makes perfect sense. Paul exhorts the followers of Jesus to rid themselves of all distractions from focusing on the glory that is to come.  Jesus, however, would not come again soon, so what does this reading have to offer us?  There is a sense in which God calls us to a certain detachment from even those things and people we most cherish, lest we lose sight of the One who is always coming into our lives.

7:29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:14-20

As is typical for Mark, our short Gospel reading packs in a lot of information.  After John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus begins his public ministry with a message of (in Greek) metanoia (repent, turn around, change your mind).  The kingdom of heaven is at hand. He then calls his first disciples who all leave to follow him “immediately” (a favorite word of Mark).

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

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

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Epiphany 2B Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]

Our first reading is the call of the prophet Samuel while he was a boy serving under the priest Eli.  Samuel’s mother Hannah had dedicated him to the Lord’s service after his miraculous birth. His first prophetic act is to deliver a harsh message to his mentor, signaling the end of Eli’s priestly line.  God is about to do a new thing in raising up a king to rule over Israel.  Samuel will become God’s “kingmaker.”

3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

[11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” 15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” 19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.]

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17

Psalm 139 is an amazing reflection on the relationship between God and the individual.  God is shown to be as much seeking relationship with us as we are with God. God’s presence is shown as deep and lasting; it is the context for both our creation and our living.



1 Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
        you know my sitting down and my rising up;
        you discern my thoughts from afar.

2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
        and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
        but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before *
        and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
        it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
        you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
        your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you, *
        while I was being made in secret
        and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
    all of them were written in your book; *
        they were fashioned day by day,
        when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
        how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; *
        to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Paul begins this passage with a quote that may represent the understanding of some Corinthians. There was confusion about Paul’s message of salvation by grace and not by works. Some took that to mean, “All things are lawful.” All things may be lawful, Paul says, but not all things are helpful. One’s body is to be revered as a temple of God’s Spirit, and so should not be used for “fornication.” The context suggests that this word covers any sexual act that does not intend, or is not an expression of, the unity of the partners.

6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Gospel Reading:  John 1:43-51

The great tragedy in John’s Gospel is “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (1:11).  Here the facts about Jesus do not impress Nathanael. The Hebrew Scriptures do not even mention Nazareth, so how can the Messiah come from there?  Nathanael changes his mind when he meets Jesus and Jesus reaches through his bravado for relationship.  The invitation, “Come and see,” comes before the more imperative, “Follow me.”

1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon 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 and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2021.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution.