Sunday, August 2, 2020

10 Pentecost 2020, Proper 14A Readings with Commentaries



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): Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Jacob ends up with 12 sons and 1 daughter by his four wives. Because of his deep love for Rachel, he holds a special love for her two children, Joseph and Benjamin (who happened also to be his last two sons). The “long robe with sleeves” is a more direct translation than the more well-known “coat of many colors.” We skip the portion of this story in which Joseph interprets dreams in which he always happens to come out on top of his older brothers. His brothers thus resolve to be rid of him, although Reuben and Judah, conspire against killing him. He is sold into slavery. The story ends in pointing us to Egypt, which will loom large in the continuing story.

 

37:1 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2 This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. 12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, 15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

 Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (Track 1)

Psalm 105 is one of the historical psalms, which recite Israel’s past (the others are 78, 106, 135, and 136). They seek to portray the history of Israel as the history of the Lord’s relationship with his chosen people. This portion of Psalm 105 includes commentary on the story of Joseph.

 

1      Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *

                 make known his deeds among the peoples.

2      Sing to him, sing praises to him, *

                 and speak of all his marvelous works.

3      Glory in his holy Name; *

                 let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

4      Search for the Lord and his strength; *

                 continually seek his face.

5      Remember the marvels he has done, *

                 his wonders and the judgments of his mouth.

6      O offspring of Abraham his servant, *

                 O children of Jacob his chosen.

16    The Lord called for a famine in the land *

                 and destroyed the supply of bread.

17    He sent a man before them, *

                 Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18    They bruised his feet in fetters; *

                 his neck they put in an iron collar.

19    Until his prediction came to pass, *

                 the word of the Lord tested him.

20    The king sent and released him; *

                 the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21    He set him as a master over his household, *

                 as a ruler over all his possessions,

22    To instruct his princes according to his will *

                 and to teach his elders wisdom. [45c] Hallelujah!

 1st Reading (Track 2):  1 Kings 19:9-18

The prophet Elijah has just defeated and destroyed the prophets of Baal, the god whom King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel, his queen, worship. Jezebel promises revenge, so Elijah flees into the wilderness and is miraculously fed, the Lord ignoring his fear and his plea for death. Next Elijah takes refuge in a cave. What happens to Elijah in the wilderness and on the mountain is meant to parallel things that happen to Moses, raising Elijah’s status among the prophets of the Lord (see the Transfiguration story in the gospels, such as Luke 9:28-26). The Hebrew in verse 12 is very difficult, hence some translations read “still small voice.” Silence is probably more correct. Elijah reiterates his despair, which the Lord again ignores, saying only, “Go back.” Mission trumps fear.

 

19:9 Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

 Psalm 85:8-13 (Track 2)

“Restore us again,” is the plea at the beginning of this psalm, and in glorious language and imagery the restoration is spoken into being. The nouns used in verse ten are among the most significant in biblical thought, and in Hebrew their meaning is rich:  ḥesed (mercy, steadfast love) and ‘emet (truth), ṣedāqâ (righteousness, justice) and shālôm (peace, well-being).

 

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:  Romans 10:5-15

In this passage, Paul uses the interpretive technique of “midrash,” a creative use of scriptural texts to elucidate one another and arrive at fresh meaning.  He begins with Leviticus 18:5, which he interprets by use of Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Verse 11 quotes Isaiah 28:16, verse 13 Joel 2:32, and finally Isaiah 52:17.  All of this in the service of his understanding of the Gospel: without distinction all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved.

 

10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)”. 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 Gospel Reading:  Matthew 14:22-33

This familiar story of Jesus walking on the water follows upon the death of John the Baptist (14:1-12), after which Jesus withdraws by boat to a “deserted place” that quickly is overrun by people seeking him out, who the disciples are challenged to feed (14:13-21). The episode clearly asserts Jesus’ authority even over nature and speaks of his divine identity: he says what God says (“I am he”) and does what God does. There is rich biblical background for this story, including Psalm 107:23-32. The story also raises questions about faith and fear.  Only Matthew tells the story of Peter’s attempt to imitate Jesus and the definitive reaction of the disciples, a confession Peter will not make for a couple chapters.

 14:22 Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

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 are from The Book of Common Prayer.   Commentaries are copyright © 2020 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution.


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

9 Pentecost 2020, Proper 13A Readings & Commentaries

The feeding of the 5,000 is unusual among Gospel stories in that it appears in all four Gospels (see Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17 & John 6:1-15).


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):  Genesis 32:22-31

Jacob fled his home alone with nothing but meager provisions for his journey to his Uncle Laban’s (ch. 27). There he has prospered, and, after 14 years, the Lord commands that he return home.  There he must face his brother Esau, from whose wrath he fled in the first place.  There is tension in the narrative. Can there be reconciliation between the brothers? In chapter 32:3-8, Jacob sends messengers and gifts to Esau and receives the news that his brother is coming to meet him “with 400 men.”  He prays (9-12) and prepares further gifts for his brother.  In his anxiety the following encounter occurs with an ominous stranger, said only to be “a man.”  Much ink has been spilled about the identity of this stranger, but the text will not say.  Jacob wrestles for a blessing and receives a new name:  Israel. He receives his blessing (and also a wound!) but the stranger will not tell Jacob his name.  If the stranger is indeed God, we will have to wait until the Moses story to learn God’s name.

 

32:22 The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

 

Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (Track 1)

Psalm 17 is a prayer for vindication.  The speaker proclaims his own innocence and asks for justice.  He or she is willing to be tested, confident in his or her own righteousness and loyalty. Verse 7 begins the petition for protection against adversaries.  The psalm ends with a statement of assurance that the prayer will be answered.

 

1      Hear my prayer of innocence, O Lord;

         give heed to my cry; *

                 listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

2      Let my vindication come forth from your presence; *

                 let your eyes be fixed on justice.

3      Weigh my heart; summon me by night, *

                 melt me down; you will find no impurity within me.

4      I give no offense with my mouth as others do; *

                 I have needed the words of your lips.

5      My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law; *

                 in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

6      I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; *

                 incline your ear to me and hear my words.

7      Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, *

                 O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

                 from those who rise up against them.

16    But at my vindication I shall see your face; *

                 when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

 

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 55:1-5

The prophet Isaiah uses the metaphors of hunger and thirst to invite us to join the life that God offers.  Chapter 55 of Isaiah begins a third section of the book (chs. 55-66) which most scholars date to after the return from exile in Babylon. Thus the three section of Isaiah are pre-exile (chs. 1-39), leaving exile (chs. 40-54) and post-exile (chs. 55-66).  Our passage this morning begins Isaiah’s prophetic call to form a new community, lived in the steadfast love of God, which God now has for the people as he once had for King David.  This new community will draw all the nations together.  There were two competing visions after the exile:  Isaiah’s drawing of the nations together and the books of Ezra & Nehemiah which stress the uniqueness of Israel and its exclusive relationship with God.

 

55:1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

 

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (Track 2)

Psalm 145 is a song of praise for the good ness of God.  In its entirety (and in Hebrew) it is an acrostic poem.  It shares the vision of God and the inclusive of God’s call in the third section of Isaiah.

 

8      The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, *

                  slow to anger and of great kindness.

9      The Lord is loving to everyone *

                 and his compassion is over all his works.

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.

20    He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; *

                 he hears their cry and helps them.

21    The Lord preserves all those who love him, *

                 but he destroys the wicked.

22    My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; *

                 let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

 

2nd Reading:  Romans 9:1-5

Chapter 9 begins a new section of Romans that comprises chapters 9-11.  The entirety is Paul’s consideration of Israel and its relationship to the Christian gospel.  If chapters 1-8 are a sustained argument for the inclusion of the Gentiles, 9-11 do the same work for the Jewish people.  But if the inclusion of the Gentiles is true, if they are to be elevated, as it were, to the same status of Israel before God, does not that mean the exclusion of Israel?  What follows is Paul’s opening statement.  He makes it clear that this is personal for him, and that he does not believe God has rejected Israel, for the promises of God to the Jews cannot be undone and followers of Jesus must remember always that the Messiah himself was an observant Jew.

 

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 14:13-21

The feeding of the 5,000 is unusual among Gospel stories in that it appears in all four Gospels (see Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17 & John 6:1-15).  Both Matthew and Mark have a second account of feeding 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10 & Matt. 15:32-39). Clearly this was a critically important story in the early church.  There is biblical precedence for these stories also in 2 Kings 4:42-44.  There are eucharistic overtones here:  “he took the loaves, looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke.”  The story is also part of the banquet-story tradition in both Old and New Testaments, which anticipate the heavenly banquet in God’s fulfilled kingdom.  Matthew’s account also follows the story of the death of John the Baptist, the tragic result of a banquet held by King Herod Antipas (14:1-2). The contrast could not be more stunning.

 

14:13 Now when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 

The Scripture quotations (except for the Psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the translation of the Psalm are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2020 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

8 Pentecost 2020, Proper 12A Readings & Commentaries


 Five short parables of the kingdom make up our Gospel reading. In each one the kingdom is something hidden and mysterious which becomes known and after which one must seek. 

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):  Genesis 29:15-28
Jacob has fled his home due to the wrath of his brother brought on by his and his mother’s trickery. He settles with his uncle Laban (the brother of his mother Rebekkah). Chapter 29:1-14 is the story of their meeting. As the story continues, Jacob agrees to serve Laban seven years for the hand of his daughter Rachel. The trickster, however, is himself tricked. It is Leah who is his first wife! He agrees to serve another seven years for Rachel, and takes her as his second wife, although, the text goes on to say, his favorite.

29:15 Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) 25 When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (Track 1)
Psalm 105 is one of the historical psalms, which recite Israel’s past (the others are 78, 106, 135, and 136). They portray the history of Israel as the history of the Lord’s relationship with his chosen people. This portion of Psalm 105 includes commentary on the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

1      Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
                 make known his deeds among the peoples.
2      Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
                 and speak of all his marvelous works.
3      Glory in his holy Name; *
                 let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4      Search for the Lord and his strength; *
                 continually seek his face.
5      Remember the marvels he has done, *
                 his wonders and the judgments of his mouth.
6      O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
                 O children of Jacob his chosen.
7      He is the Lord our God; *
                 his judgments prevail in all the world.
8      He has always been mindful of his covenant, *
                 the promise he made for a thousand generations:
9      The covenant he made with Abraham, *
                 the oath that he swore to Isaac,
10    Which he established as a statute for Jacob, *
                 an everlasting covenant for Israel,
11    Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan *
                 to be your allotted inheritance.”
45b  Hallelujah!

Or this

Psalm 128 (Track 1)
Psalm 128 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” most likely pilgrim songs for those traveling to the Temple for festivals. Each of the songs mentions Jerusalem (or “Zion”) and the blessing of peace. Psalm 128 connects the blessing of God to daily life. It is in patriarchal terms, no doubt. A note about “fear of the Lord:” biblical fear is not about being intimidated; it is about approaching God with awe, reverence, and humility.

1      Happy are they all who fear the Lord, *
                 and who follow in his ways!
2      You shall eat the fruit of your labor; *
                 happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
3      Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, *
                 your children like olive shoots round about your table.
4      The man who fears the Lord *
                 shall thus indeed be blessed.
5      The Lord bless you from Zion, *
                 and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all
                                         the days of your life..
6      May you live to see your children’s children; *
                 may peace be upon Israel.

1st Reading (Track 2):  1 Kings 3:5-12
Our first reading is the “origin story” of King Solomon’s famous wisdom, here given as “an understanding mind,” which could also be translated, “an obedient heart.” His desire is to follow his father David, both in David’s faithfulness to the Lord, and in the Lord’s faithfulness to David. Solomon begins his reign with significant acts of piety, although he will later become entangled with other religious traditions, and maintaining power will come to trump wisdom.

3:5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Psalm 119:129-136 (Track 2)
Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms at 176 verses and is a masterful acrostic poem with every eight verses beginning with subsequent letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Today, for instance, each verse in Hebrew begins with the letter “Pe”. The psalm is a hymn extolling the law, with some synonym of “law” appearing in almost every verse.

129  Your decrees are wonderful; *
                 therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130  When your word goes forth it gives light; *
                 it gives understanding to the simple.
131  I open my mouth and pant; *
                 I long for your commandments.
132  Turn to me in mercy, *
                 as you always do to those who love your Name.
133  Steady my footsteps in your word; *
                 let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134  Rescue me from those who would oppress me, *
                 and I will keep your commandments.
135  Let your countenance shine upon your servant *
                 and teach me your statutes.
136  My eyes shed streams of tears, *
                 because people do not keep your law.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:26-39
The end of the eighth chapter of Romans (particularly verses 38 & 39) is well known. There is an important progression of thought here. First (26 & 27), the Spirit’s intimacy with a human being is an intimacy to our very depths. Second (28-30), God’s intention for humankind is good, his purpose is to create a large family with Jesus as its first-born. Third (31-36), Paul asks a serious of rhetorical questions, proclaiming that the one who judges us is also the one who prays for us and has died for us. Finally (37-39), Paul exuberantly proclaims the love from which no one or nothing can separate us.

8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Five short parables of the kingdom make up our Gospel reading. In each one the kingdom is something hidden and mysterious which becomes known and after which one must seek. The final parable of the net is also a parable of judgment. Note, however, that “every kind” is brought in, and it is the fisherman (clearly Jesus) who does the sorting, not us. The sentence at the end of the passage is an important one in Matthew’s Gospel, a summary of one of his main points. In his predominantly Jewish community, discernment about the usefulness of things old and/or new is vitally important, as it ever has been and ever will be in the Church.

13:31 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. 44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

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