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.
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, www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.