Sunday, July 5, 2020

6 Pentecost 2020, Proper 10A Readings & Commentaries

 The parable of the sower is a story about how God sows the word, or, we might say, plants the kingdom. 

The Collect of the Day
O Lord, mercifully hear the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 25:19-34
The next generation is born, although not without God’s intervention. The priority of God’s mysterious purposes dominates this reading. The inheritance right of the first-born son was an established practice in ancient Near Eastern society (and continued, until quite recently, the dominant worldwide practice). But the God of Abraham is no respecter of our social conventions. We are not told why God preferred Jacob, and, as far as the text goes, we do not need to know. Yet this choice of “the younger” will be a frequent occurrence throughout the Bible.

25:19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” 24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Psalm 119:105-112 (Track 1)
Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms at 176 total verses. It is an acrostic poem with every eight verses beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet It is a psalm from the wisdom tradition, extolling wise obedience to the law (which is named in some way in every verse).

105    Your word is a lantern to my feet *
                 and a light upon my path.
106    I have sworn and am determined *
                 to keep your righteous judgments.
107    I am deeply troubled; *
                 preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.
108    Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips, *
                 and teach me your judgments.
109    My life is always in my hand, *
                 yet I do not forget your law.
110    The wicked have set a trap for me, *
                 but I have not strayed from your commandments.
111    Your decrees are my inheritance for ever; *
                 truly, they are the joy of my heart.
112    I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes *
                 for ever and to the end.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 55:10-13
This passage from Isaiah places “the word” in the extravagance of creation. The first part of this chapter has made the claim that the purposes of God are both free from and sovereign over the purposes of humankind. Now the whole creation testifies to the wondrous purposes and promises of God. The promise is a joyous homecoming to those who seem stuck in exile.

55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-14 (Track 2)
Psalm 65 extols God as both creator and redeemer, here in reverse order. Verses 1-5 praise God as redeemer, and 6-14 as creator. It is God alone who provides both so extravagantly, which is so evident in this psalm.

[1   You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; *
              to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.
2     To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come, *
              because of their transgressions.
3     Our sins are stronger than we are, *
       but you will blot them out.
4     Happy are they whom you choose
       and draw to your courts to dwell there! *
              they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,
              by the holiness of your temple.
5     Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,
       O God of our salvation, *
              O Hope of all the ends of the earth
              and of the seas that are far away.
6     You make fast the mountains by your power; *
              they are girded about with might.
7     You still the roaring of the seas, *
              the roaring of their waves,
              and the clamor of the peoples.
8     Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your
                                         marvelous signs; *
              you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.]
9     You visit the earth and water it abundantly;
       you make it very plenteous; *
              the river of God is full of water.
10   You prepare the grain, *
              for so you provide for the earth.
11   I You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; *
              with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
12   You crown the year with your goodness, *
              and your paths overflow with plenty.
13   May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, *
              and the hills be clothed with joy.
14   May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,
       and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; *
              let them shout for joy and sing.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:1-11
The first verse of this chapter is a climax to Paul’s argument in the first seven chapters. The “therefore” looms large; it is a proclamation of freedom for those who embrace the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Chapter 8 is Paul’s most significant proclamation of the life of the Spirit. “The flesh” for Paul is not so much our literal bodies as it is a metaphor of our tendency to sin. One way of understanding “flesh vs. Spirit” in this passage is to equate it with “slavery vs. freedom.”

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The parable of the sower seems easy to understand (particularly since Jesus explains it), but we are probably too quick to see it as instruction on how we are to sow the seed of the Gospel. Rather, it is a story about how God sows the word, or, we might say, plants the kingdom. Our job is not so much to do the sowing as it is to find the seed that has already been sown with the following realities: the seed is sown everywhere, indiscriminately; the seed is, well, seed, in that it is not easy to find; yet it also does its work, even in difficult situations; it requires our response in order to bear fruit.

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen! 18 Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalms) 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 of the Day and the translation of the Psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2020 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution.  Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

5 Pentecost 2020, Proper 9A Readings & Commentaries

The Matthean community, in severe opposition to Pharisaic religion and the stress that opposition brings, can rest in the knowledge of Jesus’ “easy yoke” and “light burden."

The Collect of the Day
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor:  Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Sarah has died (chapter 23), and it is now time for Abraham to secure a wife for his son Isaac. Isaac has not been mentioned since his near sacrifice in chapter 22, and he does not appear in today’s story until the very end. Abraham is determined to find a wife for Isaac “back home” in Haran. The story includes several Mid-eastern betrothel rituals, including the nose ring. We skip the negotiation of a dowry (vv. 50-57). The entire story continues several large themes of the Abraham story:  Abraham is blessed by God; God is loyal and faithful to Abraham and Abraham is loyal and faithful to God.  Abraham acts within the purposes and provisions of his God.

24:34 The man said to Rebekah and her household, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; 38 but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’ 42 I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! 43 I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ 44 and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’ 45 Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49 Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.” 58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” 59 So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” 61 Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. 62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. 63 Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. 64 And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, 65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Canticle (Track 1): Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (A Song of My Beloved)
The Song of Solomon (or “The Song of Songs”) is a series of love poems attributed to King Solomon, but most likely written at a much later date. Today’s portion is from a longer poem (8-17) that opens and closes with the image of the beloved as a gazelle. Commentators from early times have seen these poems as an allegory of the love between God and Israel (or in Christian terms, Christ and the church).

Hear the voice of my belovéd! *
              Over the mountains he comes leaping,
bounding over the hills *
              like a young stag or a gazelle.
See where he stands behind our wall, *
              gazing in the windows,
              peeking through the lattice.
My belovéd says to me: *
              Rise up, my love, my beauty, come away;
for now the winter is past, *
              the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth *
              and the time of singing has come:
the voice of the turtle-dove *
              is heard throughout our land.
The fig trees bend with scented fruit; *
              and all the squash-vines blossom,
sending up their sweet perfume. *
              Rise up, my love, my beauty, and come away.

Or this

Psalm 45:11-18 (Track 1)
Psalm 45 is unique among the Psalms in that its use in ancient Israel was clearly for a royal wedding. In the opening verses of the psalm (1-10), the king is extolled and highly idealized. In verse 11, the queen enters. Because of the emphasis in verse 11, she may have been from a foreign land. The role of the queen betrays its ancient setting. The final two verses are a blessing on the king. The “I” is the writer, not God (see the opening verse of the psalm).

11   Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely; *
              forget your people and your father’s house.
12   The king will have pleasure in your beauty; *
              he is your master; therefore do him honor.
13   The people of Tyre are here with a gift; *
              the rich among your people seek your favor.
14   All glorious is the princess as she enters; *
              her gown is cloth-of-gold.
15   In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king; *
              after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.
16   With joy and gladness they are brought, *
              and enter into the palace of the king.
17   In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons; *
              you shall make them princes over all the earth.
18   I will make your name to be remembered
       from one generation to another; *
              therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Zechariah 9:9-12
Zechariah prophesied as the Babylonian exiles returned to rebuild Jewish society with those who had been left behind (around 520—518 b.c.e.), although the second half of the book (chapters 9-14) might have been from a later period, perhaps even after Alexander the Great had conquered the region (after 330 b.c.e.). Verses 9 & 10 of our reading seem to describe the return of a king to Jerusalem (Christians have generally seen the entrance of Jesus on “Palm Sunday” in these verses, which are quoted in Matthew 21:5-7). Verses 11 & 12 celebrate the return of the people with the moving image, “prisoners of hope.”

9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Psalm 145:8-15 (Track 2)
Psalm 145 as a whole is an acrostic poem, most likely intended for use in worship, as it sings the praises of God. Verse 8 repeats the creed of Exodus 34:6 (see also Psalm 86:5).

8     The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, *
              slow to anger and of great kindness.
9     The Lord is loving to everyone *
              and his compassion is over all his works.
10   All your works praise you, O Lord, *
              and your faithful servants bless you.
11   They make known the glory of your kingdom *
              and speak of your power;
12   That the peoples may know of your power *
              and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13   Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
              your dominion endures throughout all ages.
14   The Lord is faithful in all his words *
              and merciful in all his deeds.
15   The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
              he lifts up those who are bowed down.

2nd Reading:  Romans 7:15-25a
There has long been debate about just to whom the “I” refers in this passage. The obvious answer is Paul, but this does not jive with his claim in other places to be “blameless” under the law (for example, Philippians 3:5-6). Whichever is the case, Paul clearly intends here to show the desperation one experiences “under the law,” without the rescue of the grace available through relationship with Christ. Must we live as “wretched men [sic]”? No, there is another way:  “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then at the beginning of chapter 8 Paul will say a most stunning thing, especially considering the angst he has just dwelled upon.  He says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

7:10 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Jesus opens this passage with a strange parable about children in the marketplace. Essentially it means that despite Jesus and John being thought of entirely differently, both were equally rejected. The odd statement about wisdom being known by her deeds is more or less the equivalent of “you will know them by their fruits.” Verses 25-27 is a positive statement about the dignity of Jesus and his followers (which follows on the skipped-over verses about the cities who have rejected Jesus). Verses 28-30 are only found in Matthew, and, as such, are one of this Gospel’s keys to understanding. The Matthean community, in severe opposition to Pharisaic religion and the stress that opposition brings, can rest in the knowledge of Jesus’ “easy yoke” and “light burden,” a theme that will be carried into chapter 12 with its Sabbath observance controversies.

11:16 Jesus said, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the Psalms and the Canticle) 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 of the Day and the translation of the Psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer.  The translation of the Canticle is copyright © 2007, Church Publishing, Inc. Commentaries are copyright © 2020 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy with for group study with this attribution.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

4 Pentecost 2020, Proper 8A Readings & Commentaries

The Collect of the Day
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant us so to be joined in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Genesis 22:1-14
This story can only be described as terrifying and repulsive. What kind of God would ask such a thing, for a parent to murder a child? Is this any kind of reasonable test of one’s obedience to God? These are questions that come down through the centuries about this text, and perhaps they are the very reason it exists. There is something of a parallel with the Flood story, with the promise that God will not do such a thing again, meaning that Israel’s God is not like the gods of the nations. Yet something odd happens in the flow of the larger story. In verse 19 it is said that Abraham and his servants returned. There is no mention of Isaac, not even in the story of the death of his mother in chapter 24.  He does not speak in the text until after the death of his father.

22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Psalm 13 (Track 1)
Psalm 13 is an individual’s lament that God has forsaken him or her.  The question, “How long?” haunts the psalm, even though it resolves into praise. Anxiety giving way to trust is typical of the psalms of individual complaint.

1   How long, O Lord?
     will you forget me for ever? *
              how long will you hide your face from me?
2   How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
     and grief in my heart, day after day? *
              how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3   Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; *
              give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4   Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” *
              and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5   But I put my trust in your mercy; *
              my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6   I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; *
              I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 28:5-9
The prophet Jeremiah has spent chapter 27 prophesying the final exile of Israel into Babylon. He does so in such strong terms that at one point he refers to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, as “God’s servant.” The rise of the empire and the exile of the people is God’s own intent. The prophet Hananiah, at the beginning of chapter 28, disputes these claims, trusting in God’s dedication to the temple and the city. Jeremiah responds in our text today. He expresses a kind of wistfulness that Hananiah be right, although his opening word, “Amen!” could be heard dripping with sarcasm. He argues that Hananiah’s optimism is not in the line of the prophetic tradition, which is not to comfort, but to challenge. The proof will be, as they say, in the pudding. If there is peace, Hananiah will have been proved right (he was not).

28:5 The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (Track 2)
Our psalm today is a portion of a much longer psalm. The first half of the psalm (vv. 1-18) is a hymn of praise for God’s faithfulness to his covenant with David. Verses 19-37 rehearse this covenant in poetic terms. The end of the psalm turns into a lament, asking the question, “How long will you hide yourself, O Lord?” (v. 46). God seems to have broken his covenant.  As a response to our first reading, the portion we have sounds like something that would come from the lips of the ever-optimistic Hananiah, and it seems that Jeremiah’s pessimism is what ends the psalm.

1   Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; *
              from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
2   For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
              you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
3   “I have made a covenant with me chosen one; *
              I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4   I will establish your live for ever, *
              and preserve your throne for all generations.”
15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
              They walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence.
16 They rejoice daily in your Name; *
              they are jubilant in your righteousness.
17 For you are the glory of their strength, *
              and by your favor our might is exalted.
18 Truly, the Lord is our ruler; *
              the Holy One of Israel is our King.

2nd Reading:  Romans 6:12-23
In the first part of chapter six, Paul eloquently summed up his argument that we are saved by grace, buried in baptism into Christ’s death and raised with him to new life.  The question now is, what then of sin? Is it inconsequential because following the law cannot saves us?  No, Paul says. Obedience to God is natural to those who have renounced sin. He calls it an “obedience from the heart,” one that flows from love not from fear. In Paul’s overview of the Christian life, salvation is God’s free gift, and sanctification is the journey of obedience we walk toward eternal life.

6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 10:40-42

10:40 Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”