Monday, August 2, 2021

11 Pentecost 2021 (Proper 14B) Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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):  2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Chapters 13-18 of 2 Samuel report on internal strife within the family of King David.  Chapters 13 & 14 tell of David’s eldest son Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar.  Tamar’s full-brother Absalom takes his revenge by killing his brother.  Absalom flees and lives in exile for three years, after which David’s general, Joab, attempts a reconciliation between king and son. Absalom returns to Jerusalem but David refuses to see him. Chapters 15-17 tell of Absalom’s revolt against his father and for a time he rules in Jerusalem.  Eventually a battle ensues.  David strictly instructs that his son not be killed, and the story continues below.

18:5 The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. 6 So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword. 9 Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. 31 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” 32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.” 33  The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Psalm 130 (Track 1)

Psalm 130 is a psalm of lament. The writer cries out to God from the depths of distress, begging God to hear the cry and provide relief.


1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice; *
        let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
        O Lord, who could stand?

3 For there is forgiveness with you; *
        therefore you shall be feared.

4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
        in his word is my hope.

5 My soul waits for the Lord,
    more than watchmen for the morning, *
        more than watchmen for the morning.

6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
        for with the Lord there is mercy;

7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *
        and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

 2nd Reading:  Ephesians 4:25—5:2

As we continue reading through Ephesians, the writer describes what it means to live a Christian life.  All this flows from Baptism (“with which you were marked with a seal”).  Just as in Baptism we died and rose in imitation of Christ, so our lives ought to be a constant imitation of his life of love.  The final verse is one of the options in The Book of Common Prayer for the offertory sentence at the Eucharist (p. 343 & p. 376).

4:25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:35, 41-51

As we continue our read through John 6, we get to the heart of the matter:  “I am the bread of life” and then “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  John’s Gospel lacks the story of the bread and cup at the last supper, but, given these words from Jesus, John’s community clearly knows the Eucharist.  Yet his words are troubling for many because he seems to be crossing a line, the line of divinity.  This is precisely the line John wants his readers to cross, the belief that this man is “the Word made flesh.”

6:35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalms) 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 translations 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, July 25, 2021

10 Pentecost 2021 Proper 13B Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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):  2 Samuel 11:26—12:13a

King David has exercised royal power in taking Bathsheba as his wife, after arranging for the death of her husband, Uriah.  God has pledged his steadfast love for David, nevertheless David’s sin must be known.  The prophet Nathan tells a parable to trap David into acknowledgement of what he has done.  God remains faithful to David, but there will be consequences—public family strife that will now dominate David’s story through the time of his death.

11:26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. 12:1 But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord:  I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

Psalm 51:1-13 (Track 1)

Psalm 51 is perhaps the most well known of the psalms of lament and repentance.  It begins with an acknowledgement that all men and women are sinners, who neither seek God nor remain faithful to his ways.  The Hebrew introduction to this psalm is, “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”


1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
        in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
        and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, *
        and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *
        and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak *
        and upright in your judgment.

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
        a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
        and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
        wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
        that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins *
        and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
        and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence *
        and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *
        and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Exodus 16:1-4, 9-15

The Israelites have begun their journey to the promised land, but are already experiencing a crisis of “life support.” The grumbling begins!  God provides for their need with a fine bread, manna, in the morning, and quail in the evening.

16:2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” 13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

Psalm 78:23-29 (Track 2)

Psalm 78 is one of the historical psalms; this section recalls the gift of manna and quails in the wilderness.


23 So God commanded the clouds above *
        and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat *
        and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels; *
        he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens *
        and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust *
        and wing├ęd birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp *
        and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled, *
        for he gave them what they craved.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 4:1-16

Here is perhaps the primary purpose of this letter:  the commitment to unity among all those called by God.  The poetic verses 4-6 may have been part of an early baptismal liturgy, and, indeed, they are part of our rite of baptism (BCP, p. 299).  Then comes the consequence of this unity, that all God’s people share in the gift of Christ and of his continuing ministry.  All the saints are to be equipped for the “work of ministry,” whose ultimate purpose is to build up the body of Christ for its work on earth.

4:1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:24-35

The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 has taken place and Jesus has tried to take the disciples away for some rest.  The crowds follow and press in on him.  He chides them for being satisfied with food rather than the work of God.  They ask for a sign, something as clear as the manna received by the Israelites during their sojourn in the desert.  Jesus speaks of the true bread that is the gift of God.  When they press him to give them this bread, he makes the stunning statement:  “I am the bread of life.”

6:24 On the next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

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 Collects of the Day and the Psalm translations 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, July 18, 2021

9 Pentecost 2021 (Proper 12B) Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:  Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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):  2 Samuel 11:1-15

This story (the first half of which we have this week, and the second half next week) is of the abuse of power and the corruption power can bring. David chooses not to go out to war with his army, itself a very strange thing.  He spies a woman on a nearby rooftop and takes her.  She is given no agency because she has none.  David takes her even though she is “unclean.”  She must do the king’s bidding.  David sends for her husband Uriah and at first attempts to create a situation where Uriah can believe he is the father (“wash your feet” here is a euphemism for sexual intercourse).  But Uriah refuses as he is “on duty.”  The king then conspires to murder him, one of his faithful soldiers.

11:1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

Psalm 14 (Track 1)

Psalm 14 laments the condition of the human race; all of God’s people fall short (even King David, as above).  Yet God’s concern remains.  He seeks the wise and the just and provides refuge for those in need.  And God will in the end be found in Jerusalem, on Mount Zion, and restore his people.

 

1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
        All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
        there is none who is good, not one.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
        to see if there is any who is wise,
        if there is one who seeks after God.

3 Everyone has proved faithless;
    all alike have turned bad; *
        there is none who does good; no, not one.

4 Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
        who eat up my people like bread
        and do not call upon the Lord?

5 See how they tremble with fear, *
        because God is in the company of the righteous.

6 Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
        but the Lord is their refuge.

7 Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! *
        When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
        Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

1st Reading (Track 2):  2 Kings 4:42-44

The section of 2 Kings from 4:1—8:6 tells the story of the prophet Elisha’s many miracles.  The first of them occur in the context of a great famine.  Elisha provides oil and meal to a Shunammite woman and raises her son from death (4:8-37).  Immediately prior to the following reading, the company of prophets sits down for a pot of stew, but discovers it is poison.  Some flour from Elisha makes it edible again (4:38-41).  Today’s reading is clearly the ancestor of this morning’s Gospel reading.

4:42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God:  twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

Psalm 145:10-19 (Track 2)

Psalm 145 is a psalm extolling the character of the God of Israel.  In Hebrew it is an acrostic poem, each new verse beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The portion of the psalm we are using this morning emphasizes God’s reign over all creation and his care for all his creatures.


10 All your works praise you, O Lord, *
        and your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom *
        and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power *
        and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
        your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The Lord is faithful in all his words *
        and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
        he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
        and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand *
        and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The Lord is righteous in all his ways *
        and loving in all his works.

19 The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
        to all who call upon him faithfully.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 3:14-21

The writer of this letter breaks into prayer that the saints (i.e., all God’s people) should be strengthened in the Spirit and have a heart where Christ dwells, producing the love that cannot be measured.  The final two verses are a doxology (a verse of praise), which in our Prayer Book is one of the options for ending Morning or Evening Prayer (see p. 10 & p. 126).

3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:1-21

We begin five weeks of reading through chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, whose predominant image is bread.  It begins with the familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand.  This story is one of the few that exist in all four gospels, stressing its importance to the early followers of Jesus.  The Gospel writer John has his own spin on this story.  Jesus is concerned about the disciples underestimating his power.  The crowd is overly practical. They seem to say, “What’s in it for me?”  Jesus flees this kind of thinking.  The passage ends with the storm at sea and Jesus’ walking on the water with the message, “Do not be afraid.”

6:1 Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

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, July 11, 2021

8 Pentecost 2021 (Proper 11B) Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking:  Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, or for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Samuel 7:1-14a

At this point in the biblical story, the promise made to Abraham has been fulfilled in many ways. They are a people and they have settled in a land, including a capital, and a royal palace. Now King David wishes to “settle” God as well. It is time, he thinks, to put the tent away that has housed the Ark of the Covenant.  The prophet Nathan agrees, but God does not. God neither wants nor needs a house. David and his descendants are all the house God intends on establishing. It will fall to David’s son Solomon to build the Temple.

7:1 Now when [King David] was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.” 4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan:  5 Go and tell my servant David:  Thus says the Lord:  Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David:  Thus says the Lord of hosts:  I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

Psalm 89:20-37 (Track 1)

Psalm 89 begins with a royal hymn of praise (vv. 1-18). Verses 19-37 are a poetic version of the Lord’s covenant with David found at 2 Samuel 7:11-17.  It emphasizes the eternal and unalterable nature of that covenant.

 

20 I have found David my servant; *
        with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21 My hand will hold him fast *
        and my arm will make him strong.

22 No enemy shall deceive him, *
        nor any wicked man bring him down.

23 I will crush his foes before him *
        and strike down those who hate him.

24 My faithfulness and love shall be with him, *
        and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25 I shall make his dominion extend *
        from the Great Sea to the River.

26 He will say to me, “You are my Father, *
        my God, and the rock of my salvation.”

27 I will make him my firstborn *
        and higher than the kings of the earth.

28 I will keep my love for him for ever, *
        and my covenant will stand firm for him.

29 I will establish his line for ever *
        and his throne as the days of heaven.

30 “If his children forsake my law *
        and do not walk according to my judgments;

31 If they break my statutes *
        and do not keep my commandments

32 I will punish their transgressions with a rod *
        and their iniquities with the lash;

33 But I will not take my love from him, *
        nor let my faithfulness prove false.

34 I will not break my covenant, *
        nor change what has gone out of my lips.

35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness: *
        “I will not lie to David.

36 His line shall endure for ever *
        and his throne as the sun before me;

37 It shall stand fast for evermore like the moon, *
        the abiding witness in the sky.”

1st Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 23:1-6

Jeremiah 23 begins with an indictment against the leaders of the nation, using the images of shepherds and sheep, which are found frequently in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The Lord promises to raise up faithful servant leaders, and, in particular, one ruler of the “righteous branch” of David.  “The Lord is our righteousness” could also be translated, “The Lord is our justice.”  Christians have often interpreted this righteous ruler to come to be Jesus, though Jesus did not seek to be a political leader.

23:1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people:  It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. 5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called:  “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Psalm 23 (Track 2)

This most beloved of psalms, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says, “invites us into a world of deep trust and lean desire.”  By “lean desire” he means that the trust we put in the Lord who is the shepherd is a trust that focuses and simplifies our needs.  This is a psalm not only of protection, but also of perspective.


1 The Lord is my shepherd; *
        I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
        and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul *
        and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,    
I shall fear no evil; *
        for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those
    who trouble me; *
        you have anointed my head with oil,
        and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
        and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 2:11-22

The writer of Ephesians (perhaps Paul, or someone from the next generation) makes an eloquent statement of the unity of peoples which Christ makes possible.  Alienation, hostility, and division are no more, reconciliation has been brought about by Christ and peace—well-being for all—is the result.  Two images for this new reality are used:  all are saints (“holy ones,” here meaning all united in Christ, not only some with special gifts), and all are members of the household of God—an image we use when we welcome the newly baptized (BCP, p. 308). 

2:11 Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands—12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The disciples have returned from their “mission trip,” and Jesus seeks to find them some well-deserved rest.  He is unsuccessful, for the crowds follow him wherever he goes (verses 35-44 tell of the feeding of the 5,000 and verses 45-52, Jesus’ walking on water).  They are received well in Gennesaret (in Gentile territory), far better than they were in Jesus’ hometown.

6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

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, July 4, 2021

7 Pentecost 2021, Proper 10B Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

David continues to enhance his prestige by bringing the sacred Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem  with great rejoicing.   David enters the city dressed with a priestly ephod, but apparently only that!  Perhaps his wife Michal is unhappy that David is making a spectacle of himself, or perhaps she is mourning the death of her father, who was also possessed by the Spirit (1 Sam. 10:5-6) in the same way that seems to be affecting David.

6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. 3 They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4 with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. 5 David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 12b So David went and brought up the ark of geGod from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. 17 They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts,19 and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

Psalm 24 (Track 1)

Psalm 24 is a hymn for use in worship. It begins with the claim of God’s sovereignty over the entire creation (1-2), then goes on to give criteria for accessing the Temple (3-6).  Verses 7-10 seem to be an entrance ritual.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 1st Reading (Track 2):  Amos 7:7-15

The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Kingdom of Israel to draw attention to injustice and warn of the Lord’s coming judgment.  More than once he reminds those to whom he speaks that he is no prophet, but a “dresser of sycamore trees.”  Nevertheless, he speaks what he is told.  Jeroboam II ruled Israel from 786 to 746 b.c.e.  He was the last king of the line of Jehu.  Twenty or so years after his death, the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire.

7:7 This is what the Lord God showed me:  the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”

Psalm 85:8-13 (Track 2)

Psalm 85 is a pray urging God to restore the people (v. 4: “Restore us again”).  This theme may date the psalm from the time of the exile in Babylon.  The portion of the psalm below praises God’s mercy and the assurance of the restoration of the covenant, characterized by love, truth, justice, and peace.


8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
        for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
        and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
        that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and Truth have met together; *
        righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
        and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
        and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
        and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 1:3-14

We will spend the next seven weeks reading through the Letter to the Ephesians.  Attributed to Paul, who spent much time in Ephesus, it may have been written a few decades after Paul’s death.  Our reading today is a blessing prayer, whose phrasing is hymn-like, using repetitions such as “in Christ” and “for the praise of his glory.”  There is also a strong reference to Baptism, i.e., that “you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” 

1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 6:14-29

Our Gospel reading begins with speculation about Jesus’ identity.  King Herod fears that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead.  We then get the story of John’s death.  Herod is shown as weak and easily manipulated, allowing for his illegitimate wife to exact her revenge.  The story foreshadows Jesus’ arrest and death, particularly in the weakness of Pilate (Mark 15:15).

6:14 King Herod heard of Jesus and his disciples, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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 translations 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.