Sunday, June 17, 2018

Proper 7B (5 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries

They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

1st Reading (Track 1, Option 1): 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49
The story of David and Goliath serves to establish David as Israel’s true warrior-king, upstaging the still reigning Saul. At the beginning of his kingship, Saul was set the task of defeating the Philistines, which he failed to do.  David (unlike Saul earlier in the story) defends not only Israel, but Israel’s God.  Israel’s warrior-king is a shepherd-king, driven by faith not fear.

[17:1a Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. 19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” 38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. 41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9:9-20 (Track 1, Option 1)
Psalm 9 extols the power of God against all enemies in both thanksgiving and praise.

9   The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, *
           a refuge in time of trouble.
10 Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, *
           for you never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.
11 Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; *
           proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.
12 The Avenger of blood will remember them; *
           he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13 Have pity on me, O Lord; *
           see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,
           O you who lift me up from the gate of death;
14 So that I may tell of your praises and rejoice in your salvation *
           in the gates of the city of Zion.
15 The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, *
           and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice; *
           the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.
17 The wicked shall be given over to the grave, *
           and also all the peoples who forget God.
18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, *
           and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
19 Rise up, O Lord, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; *
           let them be judged before you.
20 Put fear upon them, O Lord; *
           let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

Or this

1st Reading (Track 1, Option 2): 1 Samuel 17:57—18:5, 10-16
Several things are going on in the following story. First there is the end of the story of David killing Goliath. Second, love for David builds among the people, and also in Saul’s own son, Jonathan.  He will become an important character in the next few chapters as Saul attempts to kill David. This is the third aspect of the story, Saul’s disintegration as David rises to power. Much has been written about the love of David and Jonathan. It is impossible to know its nature (which is a modern question). Yet it is an example of the possibility of intimacy (at a deep level) between men.

17:57 On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” 18:1 When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. 10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. 12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. 14 David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Psalm 133 (Track 1, Option 2)
Our psalm is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” pilgrim songs sung on the journey to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the pilgrim festivals.  It emphasizes the ideal of unity among us, using two images:  the anointing of a priest, and the “dew” of the great Mt. Hermon, which collects into streams that provide precious water for the land (it feeds the Sea of Galilee).

1  Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *
when brethren live together in unity!
2  It is like fine oil upon the head *
that runs down upon the beard,
3  Upon the beard of Aaron, *
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
4  It is like the dew of Hermon *
that falls upon the hills of Zion.
5  For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: *
           life for evermore.

Or this

1st Reading (Track 2):  Job 38:1-11
The Book of Job is an ancient folktale which probes the keeping of faith in the midst of suffering.  This is a question as old as faith itself.  The story may originally have been 1:1—2:13 and 42:7-17, a simple tale.  Over time the tale was, perhaps, thought to be too simple, and so an extended conversation between Job and three friends was added (3:1—31:40), as well as a speech by the stranger Elihu (32:1—37:24) and a reply by God (38:1—42:6) that includes this morning’s passage.  God never answers Job’s question and he scolds Job’s friends and Elihu for their over-simplistic answers.  God’s only answer is that he is the Lord of creation.

38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:  2 Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? 8 Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?—9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?”

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Track 2)
Psalm 107 is one of the historical psalms.  It also seems to be intended for use by pilgrims as they travelled to Jerusalem for one of the festivals.  They were reminded by this psalm of the great thanks they owed God for their deliverance in times of danger.  The section we are using relates to our first reading and the Gospel in that it focuses on the sea and God’s power over it.

1   Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
           and his mercy endures for ever.
2   Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
           that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
3   He gathered them out of the lands; *
           from the east and from the west,
           from the north and from the south.
23 Some went down to the sea in ships *
           and plied their trade in deep waters;
24 They beheld the works of the Lord *
           and his wonders in the deep.
25 Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
           which tossed high the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
           their hearts melted because of their peril.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
           and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
           and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper *
           and quieted the waves of the sea.
30 Then they were glad because of the calm, *
           and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
           And the wonders he does for his children.
32 Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people *
           and praise him in the council of the elders.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Paul has just proclaimed to the Corinthians that everyone in Christ is a new creation, and that this means our ministry is reconciliation.  Just as God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, so we are ambassadors of reconciliation to the world.  Now, Paul says, is the acceptable time for this ministry, using a quote from the prophet Isaiah (49:8).  This has been Paul’s approach to ministry and it has produced great trials and sufferings, and yet, even though he has been treated as having nothing, he knows he possesses everything.  He asks finally that those to whom he writes open their hearts to what he has to say.  This signifies that he has been in some conflict with them.

6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13 In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 4:35-41
Jesus has been teaching by means of parables and now wishes to cross the Sea of Galilee.  A great windstorm arises and the disciples are terrified, but Jesus remains asleep!  Upon waking, he hushes the wind and the stormy sea with a word.  He asks them to examine their faith, and understand that fear is its opposite.  They, however, focus on his power to command the creation.

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The Scripture readings (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 Psalm translation is 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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Proper 6B (4 Pentecost, 2018) Readings & Commentaries

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth...

1st Reading (Track 1): 1 Samuel 15:34—16:13
In last week’s reading Saul was chosen as king.  He is a disappointment to God, largely through his disobedience (see 15:4-9). Samuel must deliver God’s verdict, which he does regretfully. He has become attached to Saul.  But God orders Samuel to find the new chosen one.  Note the text makes much about not looking at the outward forms of Jesse’s sons, but then cannot help but brag about David’s handsomeness!  David will not become king until the beginning of 2 Samuel.  Until then Saul and he develop a relationship that is fraught with peril for both.

15:34 Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. 16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 20 (Track 1)
Psalm 20 was probably used as part of a royal liturgy.  It proclaims that God will respond to the king’s prayer and give him victory.  He will do so because of the king’s (and the people’s) trust in God.

1   May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble, *
           the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2   Send you help from his holy place *
           and strengthen you out of Zion;
3   Remember all your offerings *
           and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4   Grant you your heart’s desire *
           and prosper all your plans.
5   We will shout for joy at your victory
     and triumph in the Name of our God; *
           may the Lord grant all your requests.
6   Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed; *
           he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
           with the victorious strength of his right hand.
7   Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, *
           but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.
8   They collapse and fall down, *
           but we will arise and stand upright.
9   O Lord, give victory to the king *
           and answer us when we call.

Or this

1st Reading (Track 2): Ezekiel 17:22-24
The prophet Ezekiel was a prophet of the exile, that period when the Jewish people had been completely overrun by the Babylonian Empire and many of them forced into exile in Babylon.  In our reading this morning Ezekiel foresees a return to the homeland using the image of a sprig that grows into a great tree on a “high and lofty mountain.”  The dry tree shall flourish—a word of hope for the exiles.

17:22 Thus says the Lord God:  I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out.  I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.  23 On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. 24 All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord.  I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.  I the LORD have spoken; I will accomplish it.

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (Track 2)
Psalm 92 is a song of thanksgiving for the deliverance from personal enemies.  In the Hebrew text it is entitled “A Song for the Sabbath Day.”  Christian emphasis on “thanksgiving” (the meaning of the word “Eucharist”) as the principal cause for weekly corporate worship has its root in the Hebrew Scriptures.

1   It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, *
           and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;
2   To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning *
           and of your faithfulness in the night season;
3   On the psaltery, and on the lyre, *
           and to the melody of the harp.
4   For you have made me glad by your acts, O Lord; *
          and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.
11 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, *
           and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.
12 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord *
           shall flourish in the courts of our God;.
13 They shall still bear fruit in old age; *
           they shall be green and succulent;
14 That they may show how upright the Lord is, *
           my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17
Paul wants the Corinthians to be confident as they face death. The gift of the Spirit to each one of us is a guarantee (the Baptismal rite calls it a “seal”) that God will never abandon us.  If we can let go of our fears about the future, then we can concentrate on our ministry of reconciliation in the present.  In fact, it makes that ministry of reconciliation all the more urgent and clear.  Everything has become new? This is our proclamation.  By this Paul does not mean that we should pretend everything is new, but believe that it is new despite all signs to the contrary.

5:6 We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
[11  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.]
14  For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Gospel Reading:  Mark 4:26-34
Chapter four of Mark is the chapter of parables.  Mark contains far fewer parables than Matthew and Luke, and they are mostly found here.  The chapter opens with the well-known Parable of the Sower (we read it in Matthew’s year).  Here we have two short parables:  the seed growing secretly and the mustard seed.  (The former is found also in Matthew, the latter in both Matthew and Luke).  They both emphasize the mysteriousness of God’s kingdom/God’s grace.

4:26 Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

The Scripture readings (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 Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 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 4, 2018

Proper 5B (3 Pentecost, 2018) Readings & Commentaries

Jesus said, Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

1st Reading (Track 1): 1 Samuel 8:4-11(12-15)16-20(11:14-15)
Our passage today is something of a turning point in the story of biblical Israel.  The people have had no other king but God.  A series of “judges” have ruled Israel in the name of God.  They people see no successor to Samuel as judge, and so they ask for a king.  Their reasoning is significant:  they want to be like other nations.  Samuel knows this is disaster, and so does God, but God says to give them what they want, just make sure they know the consequences.  “Damn the consequences,” is the reply.  So Saul becomes the first anointed king of Israel.

8:4 All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7 and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 10 So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots.
[12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.]
16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’
[11:14 Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.]

Psalm 138 (Track 1)
Psalm 138 is an individual’s prayer of confidence in God.  This confidence rests on the promise of God’s steadfast love, which is for the lowly as well as the mighty.

1   I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; *
           before the gods I will sing your praise.
2   I will bow down toward your holy temple
     and praise your Name, *
           because of your love and faithfulness;
3   For you have glorified your Name *
           and your word above all things.
4   When I called, you answered me; *
           you increased my strength within me.
5   All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord; *
           when they have heard the words of your mouth.
6   They will sing of the ways of the Lord, *
           that great is the glory of the Lord.
7   Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; *
           he perceives the haughty from afar.
8   Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; *
           you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
           your right hand shall save me.
9   The Lord will make good his purpose for me; *
           O Lord, your love endures for ever;
           do not abandon the works of your hands.

Or this

1st Reading (Track 2):  Genesis 3:8-15
What follows is the second half of the temptation story (sometimes called “the fall.”  The crafty serpent has revealed that the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden (of which God has commanded they shall not eat) will not cause them to die, but to be like God, that is, wise, “knowing good and evil.”  They ate, but their first knowledge is actually of shame. They “knew that they were naked.”  Shame distorts their relationship with God, as the second part of the story tells us.  The tragedy of the whole of the Bible can be summarized in Adam’s response to God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid…”  The “original sin” may be disobedience of God’s command, or is it the refusal to take responsibility for one’s own actions?

3:8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, :The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Psalm 130 (Track 2)
Psalm 130 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” pilgrim songs sung on the way to Jerusalem.  This psalm is a prayer for deliverance from personal trouble.  The psalmist knows the “depths,” but also trusts the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.

1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
   Lord, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?
3 For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.
4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.
5 My soul waits for the Lord,
   more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
              for with the Lord there is mercy;
7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *
              and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1
Paul begins this paragraph by referencing the faith of the psalmist in the midst of trouble.  The exact reference is to Psalm 116:10, but the same sentiment is in Psalm 130, today’s psalm.  He has been talking about the experience of suffering, both by himself and the Christian community in general.  He encourages the Corinthians to experience it as “a slight momentary affliction.”  It is not God’s ultimate plan for us.

4:13 Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 3:20-35
Jesus has just called his twelve disciples.  Now there is a troubling encounter with his family, who attempt to restrain him because there is a rumor that he is insane.  The religious authorities also claim that he is in league with Satan.  (“Beelzebul” is a form of Baal-zebub, a widely known pagan God, see 2 Kings 1:2).  He responds with his well-known saying about sins against the Holy Spirit being “eternal,” i.e., unforgivable.  Bible interpreters have spent two millennia trying to figure out exactly what constitutes a “sin against the Holy Spirit.”  More importantly, as the story moves on, his family attempts to intervene again and he more or less turns his back on them.  He has created a new family.

3:20 The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28 Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The Scripture passages (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 Psalm translation is 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.