Monday, July 24, 2017

Proper 12A: 8 Pentecost 2017

MAFA: Search for Treasure
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 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 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 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
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 First Reading (Track 2):  1 Kings 3:5-12
Our first reading is the “origin story” of King Solomon’s storied 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, but 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 thing 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.

Gospel Reading:  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, mysterious, that becomes known and after which one must seek. The final parable of the net is also a parable of judgment, but note 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.”

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 translations of the Psalms 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.

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