Sunday, November 24, 2019

Advent 1A Readings & Commentaries

It’s Advent and a new Church Year begins. Today in our lectionary (cycle of readings) we begin “Year A,” the year of Matthew’s Gospel.  The First Sunday of Advent focuses on Jesus’ sayings about the end times. This is the Sunday when that line from the Creed “and he will come again” is to the fore.  Most often this has been understood as a scary time, even as a time to be dreaded: the Great Judgment Day. And yet there has always been a minority voice, often the voice of the oppressed, that has declared in word and song that this day is to be welcomed, because the Day of Judgment is also the Day of Justice, for which, in the meantime, we dream and act.

The Collect of the Day
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The First Reading:  Isaiah 2:1-5
The prophet Isaiah is our first reading every Sunday of Advent this Year A of our lectionary. Each one is from the first portion of the book (chs. 1-39) commonly attributed to Isaiah of Jerusalem, a prophet of Judah prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire. Our reading this week is a vision of Jerusalem beyond its present dismay (spelled out in chapter one). It shall be a city of peace to which people will stream from all the nations. This passage may have been a popular poem or hymn, as it also appears in Micah 4:2-4. Our Advent begins with a hopeful vision of peace, and an invitation, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

2:1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Psalm 122
Psalm 122 is one of the “songs of ascent,” which are thought to have been pilgrim songs sung on the road to Jerusalem for one of the great festivals. This particular song shares the same spirit as our first reading in that it sees Jerusalem (“the city of peace”) at the center of the world.

1 I was glad when they said to me, *
       “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Now our feet are standing *
       within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built as a city *
       that is at unity with itself;
4 To which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, *
       the assembly of Israel, to praise the Name of the Lord.
5 For there are the thrones of judgment, *
       the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
       “May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls *
       and quietness within your towers.
8 For my brethren and companions’ sake, *
       I pray for your prosperity.
9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, *
       I will seek to do you good.”

The Second Reading:  Romans 13:11-14
Our second reading today comes from a section of Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which he has been exhorting his readers to right ethical behavior. “Now,” he says is the time to seize God’s call.  Salvation, the day the Lord, is at hand. Right action is an imperative for us. In Paul’s writing “flesh” can never simply be equated with the physical body.  It is a metaphor for anything that would draw us from the love of God. Verse 12 was an inspiration for today’s Collect of the Day (a prayer written for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer).

13:11 You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 24:36-44
In the New Testament, apocalyptic imagery is present in each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) as well as in the Book of Revelation. Apocalyptic writing is about the end of time. It is usually heavily symbolic and coded, and it often depicts a very simplistic picture of good vs. evil.  It typically comes out of communities that are under great stress, whose identity and existence is uncertain.  Its ultimate intention is to give such communities hope.  Given all these things, its interpretation is complex and it is easy to dismiss it.  In our passage this morning Jesus speaks about the return of “the Son of Man.” He emphasizes the suddenness of this return. No one will know when it is to happen except the Father (an admonition many Christians even today ignore as they try to predict when Jesus will return).  They only thing we can do is be ready.

24:36 Jesus said to the disciples, “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect and Psalm translations are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, , copyright © 2019.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. Go to ur website for more information.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Reign of Christ, Proper 29C Readings & Commentaries

On this day when we celebrate Christ as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” we are reminded that it was the cross that was and is his throne.

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 23:1-6
Our passage today begins with an indictment of Israel’s kings (“shepherds”). The sheep have been scattered (into exile) because the shepherds have failed to lead and protect them. Then two promises follow. The first is that God will intervene to gather the sheep (end the exile) and raise up new shepherds. The second promise is that this new shepherd will be like David, whom God has never abandoned. Unlike the shepherds under whom Judah failed, this Davidic king will rule in righteousness. Christians experience this new rule in Jesus.

23:1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people:  It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. 5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."

Canticle: Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79)
The psalm is replaced today by a canticle from The Book of Common Prayer (#16, p. 92).  Luke 1:68-79 is the song which Zechariah sings at the naming of his son John (the Baptist). The song articulates the tradition of Israel, the promises upon which the faith of Israel is founded. It then proclaims that these promises of old will find their fulfillment in the testimony of this child. In Luke’s Gospel, John is very much the symbol of the old covenant looking forward to the new.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
              he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
              born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
              from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
              and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
              to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
              holy and righteous in his sight
              all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
              for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
              by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
              the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the
                            shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Or this

Psalm 46
Psalm 46 is a song extolling God as king over Jerusalem, the bringer of peace and the source of the people’s strength.

1 God is our refuge and strength, *
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, *
and though the mountains be toppled into the
              depths of the sea;
3 Though its waters rage and foam, *
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
4 The Lord of hosts is with us; *
              the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
5 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, *
the holy habitation of the Most High.
6 God is in the midst of her;
   she shall not be overthrown; *
God shall help her at the break of day.
7 The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken; *
God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.
8 The Lord of hosts is with us; *
              the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
9 Come now and look upon the works of the Lord, *
what awesome things he has done on earth.
10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire.
11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”
12 The Lord of hosts is with us; *
              the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

2nd Reading:  Colossians 1:11-20
The Letter to the Colossians was written to counter “false teaching” (2:8-23) which seems to have been the insistence on a kind of “super piety.” Paul begins his letter, after the initial greeting (1:1-10), with a prayer for the community (vv. 11-14) in which he emphasizes the simplicity of the gospel and our response to it, centering on thanksgiving. He then quotes from what was most likely an early Christian hymn (vv. 15-20). The hymn has roots in the Hebrew Wisdom tradition (see Wisdom 7:22, 26 and Proverbs 8:22-30). It is a presentation of the “cosmic Christ,” whose death has reconciled all things to God.

1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 23:33-43
On this day when we celebrate Christ as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” we are reminded that it was the cross that was and is his throne. This is a very different king than humankind generally experiences or imagines. As Luke recounts Jesus’ death, he emphasizes the power he exercises from the cross—forgiveness, forgiveness for those who have betrayed and conspired against him, and forgiveness for the common thief who reaches out to him.  Traditionally, the “good thief’s” name was Didymus. Many prison chapels are dedicated to him.

23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Scripture quotations 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. The Psalm and the translation of the Canticle are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany Esources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Monday, November 11, 2019

23 Pentecost 2019, Proper 28C Readings & Commentaries

As we come to the end of the church year, the tone of our readings takes on the themes we associate with Advent.

1st Reading (Track 1); Isaiah 65:17-25
This reading comes near the end of Isaiah, echoing two passages from earlier in the book, Isaiah 25:6-10 and 11:6-9. It is a grand apocalyptic vision of a renewed creation living fully within the dream of God. This new creation hearkens back to Israel’s creation myth with people living extraordinarily long lives and all the curses of life accumulated over the years reversed (except for the serpent!) In Christian terms, this is the fully resurrected life both for humanity and the whole creation. Notice there is here no notion of “Heaven,” but instead a “new earth,” where just relations are practiced.

65:17 [Thus says the Lord God], I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Canticle (Track 1): First Song of Isaiah (12:2-6)
The psalm is replaced today by a canticle from The Book of Common Prayer (#9, p. 86).  Isaiah 12:2-6 (referred to as “The First Song of Isaiah”) is a song of praise that concludes the first major section of the book of Isaiah.  It is a song of awaited redemption.  This hope is one with our first reading this morning.

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you
is the Holy One of Israel.

2nd Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
It is important in reading this passage to remember the context of this letter. Some false teachers have convinced some of the Christians in Thessalonika that the “day of the Lord” has already come. This has meant to many that their responsibilities are over, and they have become idle, perhaps in a kind of “eat, drink and be merry” kind of philosophy. Paul exhorts them otherwise. How he does this is as important as what he does:  he appeals to the teaching of the apostles (the past), his own life in imitation (the present), and to the coming of the Lord (the future).

3:6 Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8 and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. 9 This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 11 For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

Gospel Reading: Luke 21:5-19
As we come to the end of the church year, the tone of our readings takes on the themes we associate with Advent.  In our Gospel passage this morning, Jesus speaks about the transitory nature of earthly things, even of something as grand as the Temple.  Luke is writing this passage knowing that the Temple is indeed gone (destroyed by the Romans in 70 c.e.).  In those times, Jesus says, beware of those who claim to be or say or know too much.  Our job will not be to predict or to choose up sides behind one or another leader.  Our job will be endurance—together, for the “you” in the last verses of this passage is plural.

21:5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9 “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.

The Scripture quotations 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. The translation of the Canticle is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany Esources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

22 Pentecost 2019, Proper 27C Readings & Commentaries

 The God of the living.

1st Reading (Track 1): Haggai 1:15b—2:9
The prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are all prophets of the period after the return from exile. Darius I, King of Persia (522-486 b.c.e.), allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland following the defeat of Babylon by his predecessor Cyrus II, who had first decreed that the Jews could return, and encouraged them to rebuild their temple. The first wave of return was in 586, but efforts at rebuilding stalled. A further wave followed in 522 at Darius’ urging and the temple was completed in 515. Haggai is referenced in Ezra at 5:1 and 6:14. In 520, Haggai criticized the slowness of the rebuilding (chapter 1) and urged on the work (chapter 2). He was also very concerned about the return to right worship practices. For Christians this text has always been associated with Advent, of which we are almost on the cusp.
1:15b In the second year of King Darius, 2:1 in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? 4 Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts:  Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; 7 and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

Psalm 98 (Track 1)
Psalm 98 continues a series of psalms (93-100) which praise the sovereignty of God. Psalm 98 foresees “the nations” gathered in this same praise (similar to Haggai’s vision, above), and then the entire creation.

1 Sing to the Lord a new song, *
       for he has done marvelous things.
2 With his right hand and his holy arm *
       has he won for himself the victory.
3 The Lord has made known his victory; *
       his righteousness has he openly shown in
                     the sight of the nations.
4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to
                     the house of Israel, *
       and all the ends of the earth have seen the
                     victory of our God.
5 Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
       lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.
6 Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
       with the harp and the voice of song.
7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
       shout with joy before the King, the Lord.
8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
       the lands and those who dwell therein.
9 Let the rivers clap their hands, *
       and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
       when he comes to judge the earth.
10 In righteousness shall he judge the world *
       and the peoples with equity.

Or this

Psalm 145:1-5, 18-22 (Track 1)
Psalm 145 in its entirety is an acrostic poem, a hymn of praise for worship. Its source is probably in the renewed worship in the Temple after its rebuilding following the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon.

1 I will exalt you, O God my King, *
       and bless your Name for ever and ever.
2 Every day will I bless you *
       and praise your Name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
       there is no end to his greatness.
4 One generation shall praise your works to another *
       and shall declare your power.
5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty *
       and all your marvelous works.
18 The Lord is righteous in all his ways *
       and loving in all his works.
19 The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
       to all who call upon him faithfully.
20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; *
       he hears their cry and helps them.
21 The Lord preserves all those who love him, *
       but he destroys all the wicked.
22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; *
       let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

1st Reading (Track 2): Job 19:23-27a
This well-known text from the Book of Job is an island of positivity in a sea of complaint, although the translation is disputed. It may be an example of Christian optimism influencing translation. This text seems to support the resurrection of the dead (see today’s Gospel), but Jewish translations are quite different. In the current Jewish Publication Society translation, verse 25-26 reads, “But I know that my Vindicator lives; in the end he will testify on earth—This, after my skin has been peeled off. But I would behold God while still in my flesh.” It is a cry for God to make himself known so that Job knows he has heard his complaint.
19:23 [Job said,] “O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! 24 O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; 26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Psalm 17:1-9 (Track 2)
Psalm 17 is an individual’s prayer for deliverance from enemies. The writer protests his innocence and calls upon God’s sense of justice. The writer also pleads for protection. Verse 8 is well known to Episcopalians from the office of Compline (p. 132). “The shadow of your wings” may indicate that this is a psalm of the Temple, since the ark of the covenant was “protected” by the wings of the cherubim.

1 Hear my plea of innocence,
   O Lord; give heed to my cry; *
       listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.
2 Let my vindication come forth from your presence; *
       let your eyes be fixed on justice.
3 Weigh my heart, summon me by night, *
       melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.
4 I give no offense with my mouth as others do; *
       I have heeded the words of your lips.
5 My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law; *
       in your paths my feet shall not stumble.
6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; *
       incline your ear to me and hear my words.
7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, *
       O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand
       from those who rise up against them.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; *
       hide me under the shadow of your wings,
9 From the wicked who assault me, *
       from my deadly enemies who surround me.

2nd Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Apparently, there has been some confusion about “the day of the Lord,” the return of Jesus. If this letter is relatively late (and written in Paul’s name), the confusion is understandable because a quick return is now out of the question. Some believed that it had already occurred. The writer is certain that is not true and expects that the return will not come until a time of “rebellion,” and “lawlessness” has taken place. It is possible that those to whom he was writing understand the specifics of his references. It is not possible for us to know. The church’s and the individual Christian’s job in the meantime is the work of “sanctification,” the Spirit’s ongoing work in us for right belief and right action.

2:1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? 13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:27-38
Jesus has now entered Jerusalem and, as chapter 20 begins, his teaching brings him into conflict with the religious authorities. After Jesus tells a parable clearly meant to turn the tables on them (20:9-19), they attempt to trip him up, first with a question about paying taxes and second with one about the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead was not a traditional Jewish belief, but the Pharisee party had come to believe in it. The Sadducees were a more conservative party, and it is they who present an absurd (to them) proposition regarding “levirate” marriage (see Deuteronomy 25:5, heavily interpreted). Jesus knows what the real question is and, for him, gives a straightforward answer. God is always the God of the living.

20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

The Scripture quotations 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. The translation of the Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany Esources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.  Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.