1st Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9
This passage from Isaiah is one of a series of three visions of the last days (i.e., the eschaton), when all people will be drawn to “this mountain,” which is probably Mount Zion. Compassion will be the order of the day, including the removal of all disgrace. This vision will inspire Luke 14:15-24 and the reading from the Revelation to John, below.
25:6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
1st Reading: Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books that we do not consider Scripture, but still read as edifying. (Roman Catholics do consider them Scripture and most Protestants do not use them at all). This text dates from the first century b.c.e., probably from the great Hellenistic center of learning, Alexandria, Egypt. Our reading this morning is a reflection on death, the soul and the afterlife. It marks a development in Jewish thinking, which previously was dominated by the notion that all souls went to the same place, called “Sheol,” where they awaited judgment. This writer clearly believes it is possible to bypass that process.
3:1 The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. 7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. 9 Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.
Psalm 24 may have been a liturgy to enter the sanctuary, or for a procession of the ark of the covenant, complete with versicles and responses. The Lord is praised as creator, and the temple as a place where only the clean are admitted. The final verses may have been sung by a choir upon the re-entrance of the ark into the tent or the temple.
1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
the world and all who dwell therein.
2 For it is he who founded it upon the seas *
and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
3 “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? *
and can stand in his holy place?”
4 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *
who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,
nor sworn by what is a fraud.
5 They shall receive a blessing from the Lord *
and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, *
of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
8 “Who is this King of glory?” *
“The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
10 “Who is this King of glory?” *
“The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.
2nd Reading: Revelation to John 21:1-6a
The last vision in the Book of Revelation is one of great hope. The holy city comes from heaven; a new heaven and a new earth are created. This vision echoes several passages from the prophet Isaiah, and uses imagery found throughout the Book of Revelation. The passage ends as the Book of Revelation began, with God’s declaration “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).
21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Gospel Reading: John 11:32-44
Our Gospel reading is the latter portion of the story of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus has earlier received the news of Lazarus’ illness and chosen to wait before he leaves to investigate. His disciples warn him that traveling to the outskirts of Jerusalem will be dangerous for him and them. As he nears the town he encounters one of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha, who declares that her brother would not have died if Jesus had been there. As he arrives, Mary, Lazarus’ other sister, greets him and has a similar encounter as her sister. The story continues below.
11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
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 Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2018, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission to copy for group study with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available by subscription. Go to our website for further information.