Monday, June 26, 2017

Proper 8A: 4th Sunday after Pentecost 2017

Artwork by Abel Pann, The Sacrifice of Isaac,
1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 22:1-14
This story can only be described as terrifying and repulsive. What kind of God would ask such a thing, for a parent to murder a child? Is this any kind of reasonable test of one’s obedience to God? These are questions that come down through the centuries about this text, and perhaps they are the very reason it exists. There is something of a parallel with the Flood story, with the promise that God will not do such a thing again, meaning that Israel’s God is not like the gods of the nations. Yet something odd happens in the flow of the larger story. In verse 19 it is said that Abraham and his servants returned. There is no mention of Isaac, not even in the story of the death of his mother in chapter 24.  He does not speak in the text until after the death of his father.

22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Psalm 13 (Track 1)
Psalm 13 is an individual’s lament that God has seemed to forsaken him or her.  The question, “How long?” haunts the psalm, even though it resolves into praise.

1    How long, O Lord?
      will you forget me for ever? *
                how long will you hide your face from me?
2    How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
      and grief in my heart, day after day? *
                how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3    Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; *
                give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4    Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” *
                and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5    But I put my trust in your mercy; *
                my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6    I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; *
                I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 28:5-9
The prophet Jeremiah has spent chapter 27 prophesying the final exile of Israel into Babylon, in such strong terms that at one point he refers to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar as “God’s servant.” The rise of the empire and the exile of the people is God’s own intent. The prophet Hananiah, at the beginning of chapter 28, disputes these claims, trusting in God’s dedication to the temple and the city. Jeremiah responds in our text today. He expresses a kind of wistfulness that Hananiah be right, although his opening word, “Amen!” could be heard dripping with sarcasm. He argues that Hananiah’s optimism, however, is not in the line of the prophetic tradition, which is not to comfort, but to challenge. The proof will be, as they say, in the pudding. If there is peace, Hananiah will have been proved right (he was not).

28:5 The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Our psalm text this morning is from a much longer psalm. The first half of the psalm (vv. 1-18) is a hymn of praise for God’s faithfulness to his covenant with David. Verses 19-37 rehearse this covenant in poetic terms. The end of the psalm turns into a lament, asking the question, “How long will you hide yourself, O Lord?” (v. 46). God seems to have broken his covenant.  As a response to our first reading, the portion we have sounds like something that would come from the lips of the ever-optimistic Hananiah, and it seems that Jeremiah’s pessimism is what ends the psalm.

1    Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; *
                from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
2    For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
                you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
3    “I have made a covenant with me chosen one; *
                I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4    I will establish your live for ever, *
                and preserve your throne for all generations.”
15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
                They walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence.
16 They rejoice daily in your Name; *
                they are jubilant in your righteousness.
17 For you are the glory of their strength, *
                and by your favor our might is exalted.
18 Truly, the Lord is our ruler; *
                the Holy One of Israel is our King.

2nd Reading:  Romans 6:12-23
In the first part of chapter six, Paul has eloquently summed up his argument that we are saved by grace, buried in baptism into Christ’s death and raised with him to new life.  The question now is, what then of sin? Is it inconsequential because it is not following the law that saves us?  No. Obedience to God is natural to those who have renounced sin. He calls it an “obedience from the heart,” one that flows from love not from fear. In Paul’s overview of the Christian life, salvation is God’s free gift, and sanctification is the journey of obedience we walk toward eternal life.

6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 10:40-42
The whole of chapter ten has consisted of instructions for disciples sent forth to teach the things that Jesus has taught and do the things he has done. These final verses focus on hospitality. Mutual welcome and support are a defining characteristic of communities of disciples. A question long asked is, who are “these little ones?” Is Jesus talking about the disciples themselves, or, perhaps in the context of Matthew’s community, new disciples? Or is it a reference to the vulnerable who are often not welcomed easily in society, Matthew’s or ours?  They are good questions with which to wrestle. The important point is the juxtaposition of hospitality and righteousness.

10:40 Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

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., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Proper 7A: The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost 201

First Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 21:8-21
After the birth of Isaac comes the dilemma. What of Ishmael, the son of Abraham born to the slave Hagar? In despair over her own barrenness, Sarah had encouraged Abraham to have the child (16:1-2), but now sees him as a threat to the child of the promise. Hagar is sent away with another promise of God, that he will also make Ishmael a great nation. He will return in chapter 25 to help bury his father, and his descendants shall be named—12 sons, just as the 12 grandsons of Isaac. The Ishmaelites will be mentioned again—it is they who sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Muslims claim Ishmael as their ancestor, meaning that Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a common ancestor: Abraham. Hence they are sometimes referred to as the “Abrahamic faiths.”

21:8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. 13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 (Track 1)
Psalm 86 is a song of lament, from the lips of one who has no resources for life. It could easily have come from the lips of Hagar, as she despaired for the life of her son, directly addressing God (note the repeated “you” and “your.” Verse 9 is especially poignant given the history of Ishmael (as noted above).

1    Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, *
                for I am poor and in misery.
2    Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; *
                save your servant who puts his trust in you.
3    Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; *
                I call upon you all the day long.
4    Gladden the soul of your servant, *
                for to you, O Lord, I life up my soul.
5    For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, *
                and great is your love to all who call upon you.
6    Give ear, O Lord to my prayer, *
                and attend to the voice of my supplications.
7    In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, *
                For you will answer me.
8    Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, *
                nor anything like your works.
9    All nations you have made will come and
                                                worship you, O Lord, *
                and glorify your Name.
10 For you are great; you do wondrous things; *
                and you alone are God.
16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
                give your strength to your servant;
                and save the child of your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
      so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
                Because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

First Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 20:7-13
In chapter 19, Jeremiah’s witness against the religious establishment reaches its peak when he cries the word of the Lord with the temple precincts, “I am now bringing upon this city…all the disaster that I have pronounced… (19:15). Jeremiah is then arrested by Pashur, the chief priest and put in stocks, but even in confinement he continues to predict disaster and even exile (20:1-6). In our passage today, having heard this harsh truth, we are given a glimpse of Jeremiah’s conversation with God and the personal cost he has paid. God has put him in a “no-win” situation. He believes his life is seriously threatened. Then v. 12 abruptly returns to trust. He cannot prevail, but God can, and then, like many of the complaint psalms, there is a final resolve into praise. Yet the lament is not over. In vv.14-18, Jeremiah cries out that he wishes he had never been born.

20:7 O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10 For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” 11 But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. 13 Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

Psalm 69:8-11, (12-17), 18-20 (Track 2)
This portion of Psalm 69 could easily have been on the lips of the prophet Jeremiah. It is the lament of a righteous person who has suffered for it. Christians from the very beginning have identified its words with the suffering of Jesus, and, indeed, parts of it are used eight times, including v. 21 (not included here) referencing vinegar as a “gift” to the sufferer.

8    Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach, *
                and shame has covered my face.
9    I have become a stranger to my own kindred, *
                an alien to my mother’s children.
10 Zeal for your house has eaten me up; *
          the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.
11 I humbled myself with fasting, *
                but that was turned to my reproach.
[12          I put on sack-cloth also, *
                and became a byword among them.
13 Those who sit at the gate murmur against me, *
                and the drunkards make songs about me.
14 But as for me, this is my prayer to you, *
                at the time you have set, O Lord:
15 In your great mercy, O God, *
                answer me with your unfailing help.
16 Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; *
                let me be rescued from those who hate me
                and out of the deep waters.
17 Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,
      neither let the deep swallow me up; *
                do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.]
18 Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; *
                in your great compassion, turn to me.
19 “Hide not your face from your servant; *
                be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.
20 Draw near to me and redeem me; *
                because of my enemies deliver me.

Second Reading:  Romans 6:1b-11
This passage is perhaps Paul’s clearest in proclaiming what we call “the paschal mystery.” Through our Baptism we participate in this mystery, and it becomes the pattern of our life. This assertion makes this passage the epistle reading at the Great Vigil of Easter. Although Paul speaks here as if we should never sin, he knows personally that is not the case (see 7:21-25). Our life in Christ, however, means that as many times as we fall into sin, we are set free by Christ’s death to live in his resurrection.

1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 10:24-39
We continue Jesus’ preparation of the disciples to be sent out to extend his work. He prepares them for difficult work. This passage contains several of Jesus’ harder sayings. They are, however, permeated with the encouragement not to fear (vv. 26, 28, 31), except in the ultimate judgment of God. “I have not come to bring peace but a sword,” is not a call to bloodshed, but a recognition that following Jesus is likely to cause divisions, as vv. 35-36 say. Luke, in fact, changes the word “sword” to “division” so as not to bring misunderstanding.

10:24 Jesus said to the twelve apostles, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

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., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, June 12, 2017

2 Pentecost, Proper 6A, Readings & Commentaries

The Twelve Disciples
First Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
This story is rich in biblical fundamentals. The tendency is to focus on confusion regarding the “visitors.” Is it the Lord (v.1, vv. 13-15) or is “three men (vv. 2-12). Christians have wanted to see the Trinity at work here, but that is surely not the agenda of the text. More important are two crucial matters:  First of all, the biblical mandate of hospitality, a mandate of the highest priority. Second of all is the question, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Abraham and Sarah are not ready to believe this in their advanced old age. They are “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:12). Yet as we skip to chapter 21, the Lord defies their doubt and they laugh not in doubt but in joy. The birth of Isaac is a critical moment in the biblical story. Without the possibility that God can shatter our impossibilities and make them new, there is, in fact, no biblical story at all.

18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. 9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh;” for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
[21:1 The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. 2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”]

Psalm 116:1, 10-17 (Track 1)
Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from something that has threatened life itself. Part of the psalm’s vision is that fulfilling one’s vows to the Lord (a sacrifice of thanksgiving) brings salvation and freedom.

1      I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of
                                                my supplication, *
                because he has inclined his ear to me whenever
                                                I called upon him.
10   How shall I repay the Lord *
                for all the good things he has done for me?.
11   I will lift up the cup of salvation *
                and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12   I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
                in the presence of all his people.
13   Precious in the sight of the Lord *
                is the death of his servants.
14   O Lord, I am your servant; *
                I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
                you have freed me from my bonds.
15   I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
                and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16   I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
                in the presence of all his people,
17   In the courts of the Lord’s house, *
                in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!

Or this
First Reading (Track 2):  Exodus 19:2-8a
After having escaped from Egypt, the Israelites camped at Rephidim for a time. As chapter 19 begins, they are ready to start their journey through the wilderness. They had travelled until they reached “the mountain” (sometimes called Sinai, sometimes Horeb). Moses’ first trip up the mountain results in what we might call the “vision statement” for Israel:  They will be God’s special people, a holy nation (belonging to God) and a priestly kingdom (in God’s service). The commandments are yet to come, the means by which Israel will live (or not) into this vision.

19:2 When the people of Israel had journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:  4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Psalm 100 (Track 2)
Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from something that has threatened life itself. Part of the psalm’s vision is that fulfilling one’s vows to the Lord (a sacrifice of thanksgiving) brings salvation and freedom.

1    Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
          serve the Lord with gladness
                and come before his presence with a song.
2    Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
                he himself has made us, and we are his;
                we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3    Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
                go into his courts with praise; *
                give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4    For the Lord is good;
      his mercy is everlasting; *
                and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Second Reading:  Romans 5:1-8
Paul has spent the first four chapters of Romans arguing the point that we are justified by faith and not by any works of the law. So, he says, here are the consequences of this truth.  It is peace with God and the hope of sharing glory with God. This hope cannot disappoint, even in the face of suffering, because no matter our state, Christ died for us, proving God’s love.

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 9:35—10:8 (9-23)
We pick up Matthew’s Gospel after the Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7) and a number of healing stories. The end of chapter 9 serves as a summary of what has happened with a transition sentence:  Jesus longs for laborers to go out as he has done. Matthew begins chapter 10 with a “summoning” of the 12, who are named. They are then sent with specific instructions and a warning about potential suffering. The good news they are called to spread will not be good news for everyone.

9:35 Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
[10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.]

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., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trinity Sunday A Readings & Commentaries

The First Reading:  Genesis 1:1—2:4a

The Bible begins with a faith statement: “In the beginning, God…” The final form in Hebrew may very well have been met for use in worship. The main point is that God and God’s creation are deeply entertwined. It is not only a story meant to help us understand God’s past action in creation, it is a claim on the present and on the future for this faithful God. This would have been especially important to those living in exile in Babylon, when most scholars believe this text took its final form. The Lord controls the future as he has created the past, not the gods of Babylon and its empire.

1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 4a These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Song of the Three 29-34 (BCP Canticle 13)
This canticle (known as the Benedictus es, Domine) is from an addition to the book of Daniel found in the Apocrypha (The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews).  It is from a longer piece, said to be the song of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace. The last verse is an added doxology.

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
                we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Or this

Psalm 8
Psalm 8 is a creation hymn, and the first song of praise in the collection of the Psalms. The psalm begins and ends with praise, enveloping a poem about God’s gift to humankind of our place and responsibility in the creation.

1      O Lord our Governor, *
                how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2      Out of the mouths of infants and children *
                your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3      You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
                to quell the enemy and the avenger.
4      When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
                the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
5      What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
                the son of man that you should seek him out?
6      You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
                you adorn him with glory and honor;
7      You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
                you put all things under his feet:
8      All sheep and oxen, *
                even the wild beasts of the field,
9      The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
                and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10   O Lord our Governor, *
        how exalted is your Name in all the world!

The Second Reading2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Paul ends his second letter to the church in Corinth with a final exhortation that sums up the themes of the letter. There is a greeting with what we would call today “the kiss of peace,” and a blessing with a Trinitarian structure. The doctrine of the Trinity is not directly defined in Scripture, but is implied by passages such as this one.

13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 28:16-20
The theme of discipleship is strong in Matthew’s Gospel, so at its end Jesus gives a final commission to the disciples (and us) to go out into the world spreading this discipleship, with no regard to human divisions. His final words echo the title given him at his birth (Matt 1:23), “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” will be with us always. The reference to baptism with a Trinitarian formula may be a later addition, but it is also possible that the formula was in use in Matthew’s community at the time of this Gospel’s composition.

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and Canticle 13 are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.