Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lent 3C Readings & Commentaries

Our first reading is the well-known story of the burning bush.  It catches Moses’ eye while he is tending his father-in-law’s flock.  God calls to him out of the bush and identifies himself as the Hebrews’ God. 

1st Reading:  Exodus 3:1-15
Our first reading is the well-known story of the burning bush.  It catches Moses’ eye while he is tending his father-in-law’s flock.  God calls to him out of the bush and identifies himself as the Hebrews’ God.  He has heard the cry of his people and has determined to deliver them!  Moses is to go back to Egypt.  He protests like all good prophets, but God has made up his mind.  Who is this God?  Scholars have never quite known how to translate what is said.  The name of this God is mystery, four Hebrew characters:  YHWH.  Jews traditionally have never attempted to pronounce this “name.”  It appears in the English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures as Lord.

3:1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am Who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

Psalm 63:1-8
This psalm is a prayer of deliverance from one’s enemies, recognizing God as the only true help. It is a practical psalm, but one that has mystical qualities. The love between God and the psalmist is intensely emotional, a love that rivals all other loves. The name YHWH does not appear in this psalm.
1 O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
2 Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *
that I might behold your power and your glory.
3 For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *
my lips shall give you praise.
4 So will I bless you as long as I live *
and lift up my hands in your Name.
5 My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, *
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
6 When I remember you upon my bed, *
and meditate on you in the night watches.
7 For you have been my helper, *
and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul clings to you; *
your right hand holds me fast.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 10:1-13
In this portion of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul uses incidents in the book of Numbers to teach about times of testing and the dangers of falling into idolatry.  Paul’s interpretation is consistent with Jewish midrash, a method that freely uses biblical texts to form new interpretations.  Passages from Numbers referred to include (in order), 11:6-9 &20:1-13 (v. 3-4); 26:65 & 14:19-20 (v.5); 11:4, 34-35 (v. 6); Exodus 32:6 (v.7); Numbers 25:1-2 (v.8), 21:5-6 (v.9); 14:2 (v.10).

10:1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. 6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 13:1-9
This passage (unique to Luke) foreshadows Jesus’ rejection in Jerusalem, to which he is traveling.  Jesus responds first to Pilate’s murder of Galileans in or near the Temple and then the collapse of a tower in Jerusalem killing eighteen people.  Both may be interpreted as punishment for sin.  Jesus says those killed were not more or less sinful they anybody else. But, he says, “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” He probably means to emphasize the necessity of repentance in the face of death which could come at any time.  The parable that follows softens this urgency of repentance, by suggesting the forbearance of God.

13:1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  The translation of the Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is copyright © 2019, Epiphany Esources, 67 E Main St, Hornell, NY 14843, All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

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