Wednesday, July 29, 2020

9 Pentecost 2020, Proper 13A Readings & Commentaries

The feeding of the 5,000 is unusual among Gospel stories in that it appears in all four Gospels (see Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17 & John 6:1-15).

The Collect of the Day

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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 32:22-31

Jacob fled his home alone with nothing but meager provisions for his journey to his Uncle Laban’s (ch. 27). There he has prospered, and, after 14 years, the Lord commands that he return home.  There he must face his brother Esau, from whose wrath he fled in the first place.  There is tension in the narrative. Can there be reconciliation between the brothers? In chapter 32:3-8, Jacob sends messengers and gifts to Esau and receives the news that his brother is coming to meet him “with 400 men.”  He prays (9-12) and prepares further gifts for his brother.  In his anxiety the following encounter occurs with an ominous stranger, said only to be “a man.”  Much ink has been spilled about the identity of this stranger, but the text will not say.  Jacob wrestles for a blessing and receives a new name:  Israel. He receives his blessing (and also a wound!) but the stranger will not tell Jacob his name.  If the stranger is indeed God, we will have to wait until the Moses story to learn God’s name.


32:22 The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.


Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (Track 1)

Psalm 17 is a prayer for vindication.  The speaker proclaims his own innocence and asks for justice.  He or she is willing to be tested, confident in his or her own righteousness and loyalty. Verse 7 begins the petition for protection against adversaries.  The psalm ends with a statement of assurance that the prayer will be answered.


1      Hear my prayer 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 within me.

4      I give no offense with my mouth as others do; *

                 I have needed 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.

16    But at my vindication I shall see your face; *

                 when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.


1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 55:1-5

The prophet Isaiah uses the metaphors of hunger and thirst to invite us to join the life that God offers.  Chapter 55 of Isaiah begins a third section of the book (chs. 55-66) which most scholars date to after the return from exile in Babylon. Thus the three section of Isaiah are pre-exile (chs. 1-39), leaving exile (chs. 40-54) and post-exile (chs. 55-66).  Our passage this morning begins Isaiah’s prophetic call to form a new community, lived in the steadfast love of God, which God now has for the people as he once had for King David.  This new community will draw all the nations together.  There were two competing visions after the exile:  Isaiah’s drawing of the nations together and the books of Ezra & Nehemiah which stress the uniqueness of Israel and its exclusive relationship with God.


55:1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.


Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (Track 2)

Psalm 145 is a song of praise for the good ness of God.  In its entirety (and in Hebrew) it is an acrostic poem.  It shares the vision of God and the inclusive of God’s call in the third section of Isaiah.


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.

15    The Lord upholds all those who fall; *

                 he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16    The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *

                 and you give them their food in due season.

17    You open wide your hand *

                 and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

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 the wicked.

22    My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; *

                 let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.


2nd Reading:  Romans 9:1-5

Chapter 9 begins a new section of Romans that comprises chapters 9-11.  The entirety is Paul’s consideration of Israel and its relationship to the Christian gospel.  If chapters 1-8 are a sustained argument for the inclusion of the Gentiles, 9-11 do the same work for the Jewish people.  But if the inclusion of the Gentiles is true, if they are to be elevated, as it were, to the same status of Israel before God, does not that mean the exclusion of Israel?  What follows is Paul’s opening statement.  He makes it clear that this is personal for him, and that he does not believe God has rejected Israel, for the promises of God to the Jews cannot be undone and followers of Jesus must remember always that the Messiah himself was an observant Jew.


9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.


Gospel Reading:  Matthew 14:13-21

The feeding of the 5,000 is unusual among Gospel stories in that it appears in all four Gospels (see Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17 & John 6:1-15).  Both Matthew and Mark have a second account of feeding 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10 & Matt. 15:32-39). Clearly this was a critically important story in the early church.  There is biblical precedence for these stories also in 2 Kings 4:42-44.  There are eucharistic overtones here:  “he took the loaves, looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke.”  The story is also part of the banquet-story tradition in both Old and New Testaments, which anticipate the heavenly banquet in God’s fulfilled kingdom.  Matthew’s account also follows the story of the death of John the Baptist, the tragic result of a banquet held by King Herod Antipas (14:1-2). The contrast could not be more stunning.


14:13 Now when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


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 of the Day and the translation of the Psalm 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.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

8 Pentecost 2020, Proper 12A Readings & Commentaries

 Five short parables of the kingdom make up our Gospel reading. In each one the kingdom is something hidden and mysterious which becomes known and after which one must seek. 

The Collect of the Day
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 29:15-28
Jacob has fled his home due to the wrath of his brother brought on by his and his mother’s trickery. He settles with his uncle Laban (the brother of his mother Rebekkah). Chapter 29:1-14 is the story of their meeting. As the story continues, Jacob agrees to serve Laban seven years for the hand of his daughter Rachel. The trickster, however, is himself tricked. It is Leah who is his first wife! He agrees to serve another seven years for Rachel, and takes her as his second wife, although, the text goes on to say, his favorite.

29:15 Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) 25 When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (Track 1)
Psalm 105 is one of the historical psalms, which recite Israel’s past (the others are 78, 106, 135, and 136). They portray the history of Israel as the history of the Lord’s relationship with his chosen people. This portion of Psalm 105 includes commentary on the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

1      Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
                 make known his deeds among the peoples.
2      Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
                 and speak of all his marvelous works.
3      Glory in his holy Name; *
                 let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4      Search for the Lord and his strength; *
                 continually seek his face.
5      Remember the marvels he has done, *
                 his wonders and the judgments of his mouth.
6      O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
                 O children of Jacob his chosen.
7      He is the Lord our God; *
                 his judgments prevail in all the world.
8      He has always been mindful of his covenant, *
                 the promise he made for a thousand generations:
9      The covenant he made with Abraham, *
                 the oath that he swore to Isaac,
10    Which he established as a statute for Jacob, *
                 an everlasting covenant for Israel,
11    Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan *
                 to be your allotted inheritance.”
45b  Hallelujah!

Or this

Psalm 128 (Track 1)
Psalm 128 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” most likely pilgrim songs for those traveling to the Temple for festivals. Each of the songs mentions Jerusalem (or “Zion”) and the blessing of peace. Psalm 128 connects the blessing of God to daily life. It is in patriarchal terms, no doubt. A note about “fear of the Lord:” biblical fear is not about being intimidated; it is about approaching God with awe, reverence, and humility.

1      Happy are they all who fear the Lord, *
                 and who follow in his ways!
2      You shall eat the fruit of your labor; *
                 happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
3      Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, *
                 your children like olive shoots round about your table.
4      The man who fears the Lord *
                 shall thus indeed be blessed.
5      The Lord bless you from Zion, *
                 and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all
                                         the days of your life..
6      May you live to see your children’s children; *
                 may peace be upon Israel.

1st Reading (Track 2):  1 Kings 3:5-12
Our first reading is the “origin story” of King Solomon’s famous wisdom, here given as “an understanding mind,” which could also be translated, “an obedient heart.” His desire is to follow his father David, both in David’s faithfulness to the Lord, and in the Lord’s faithfulness to David. Solomon begins his reign with significant acts of piety, although he will later become entangled with other religious traditions, and maintaining power will come to trump wisdom.

3:5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Psalm 119:129-136 (Track 2)
Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms at 176 verses and is a masterful acrostic poem with every eight verses beginning with subsequent letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Today, for instance, each verse in Hebrew begins with the letter “Pe”. The psalm is a hymn extolling the law, with some synonym of “law” appearing in almost every verse.

129  Your decrees are wonderful; *
                 therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130  When your word goes forth it gives light; *
                 it gives understanding to the simple.
131  I open my mouth and pant; *
                 I long for your commandments.
132  Turn to me in mercy, *
                 as you always do to those who love your Name.
133  Steady my footsteps in your word; *
                 let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134  Rescue me from those who would oppress me, *
                 and I will keep your commandments.
135  Let your countenance shine upon your servant *
                 and teach me your statutes.
136  My eyes shed streams of tears, *
                 because people do not keep your law.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:26-39
The end of the eighth chapter of Romans (particularly verses 38 & 39) is well known. There is an important progression of thought here. First (26 & 27), the Spirit’s intimacy with a human being is an intimacy to our very depths. Second (28-30), God’s intention for humankind is good, his purpose is to create a large family with Jesus as its first-born. Third (31-36), Paul asks a serious of rhetorical questions, proclaiming that the one who judges us is also the one who prays for us and has died for us. Finally (37-39), Paul exuberantly proclaims the love from which no one or nothing can separate us.

8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Five short parables of the kingdom make up our Gospel reading. In each one the kingdom is something hidden and mysterious which becomes known and after which one must seek. The final parable of the net is also a parable of judgment. Note, however, that “every kind” is brought in, and it is the fisherman (clearly Jesus) who does the sorting, not us. The sentence at the end of the passage is an important one in Matthew’s Gospel, a summary of one of his main points. In his predominantly Jewish community, discernment about the usefulness of things old and/or new is vitally important, as it ever has been and ever will be in the Church.

13:31 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. 44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

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 also available in digitized form. Go to our website for more information.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

7 Pentecost 2020, Proper 11A Readings & Commentaries

 In Paul's train of thought life in the Spirit becomes “a spirit of adoption,” in which we are literally made one of the divine family.

The Collect of the Day
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking:  Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son 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 28:10-19a
Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebecca, has tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright and with duplicity maneuvered his father Isaac into given him the blessing that should have gone to the eldest Esau. Jacob is now fleeing the wrath of his brother. He is a fugitive on the run. He dreams, and the dream serves to reveal that God has been a part of all this trickery and deceit. He himself wishes to bless Jacob, and he delivers the same promise to him that he gave to his grandfather Abraham, with an addition (v. 15) that Jacob will be safe “wherever he goes,” and he will bring him home, which at the present moment must seem an impossibility to Jacob. “Beth-el” means literally, “House of God.” It will long be seen as Israel’s second most sacred city.

28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel.

Canticle (Track 1): A Song of God’s Strength in Mercy
(Wisdom 12:13, 16-19)
The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books not considered Scripture, but nevertheless useful “for instruction” (see BCP, p. 868). Wisdom is attributed to King Solomon but dates from much later. This canticle extols the restraint and mercy of God as the source of God’s true strength.

Your care, O God, encompasses all creation! *
       Nor is there any god besides you.
To whom do you need to prove *
       that your judgments are just?
For your righteousness comes from your strength, *
       and your dominion makes way for your mercy;
for you show your might when mortals doubt your sovereignty; *
       you rebuke those who treat it with contempt.
Although you rule in boundless power, *
       you administer justice with mildness;
you govern us with great forbearance *
       though you are free to act without constraint.
You have taught your people by such deeds *
       that all who would be righteous must be kind.
You have filled your children with good hope *
       by stirring them to repent for their sins.

Or this

Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23 (Track 1)
Psalm 139 as a whole includes some harsh words about enemies (vv. 18-21), such that the first portion of the psalm is a reminder to God of the petitioner’s innocence and steadfast devotion to God. Such innocence should result in justice against one’s enemies. The writer experiences God’s complete presence. There is nowhere one can avoid it. The writer prays that this truth will be as much for his enemies as it is for himself.

1     Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
              you know my sitting down and my rising up;
              you discern my thoughts from afar.
2     You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
              and are acquainted with all my ways.
3     Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
              but you, O Lord, know it altogether.
4     You press upon me behind and before *
              and lay your hand upon me.
5     Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
              it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
6     Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
              where can I flee from your presence?
7     If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
              if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
8     If I take the wings of the morning *
              and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
9     Even there your hand will lead me *
              and your right hand hold me fast.
10   If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, *
              and the light around me turn to night,”
11   Darkness is not dark to you;
       the night is as bright as the day; *
         darkness and light to you are both alike.
22   Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
              try me and know my restless thoughts.
23   Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
              and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 44:6-8
“Second Isaiah” (which begins with chapter 40) is written in exile in Babylon, but prophesying the return of the people to Jerusalem and Judea. Several passages in its early chapters proclaim the preeminence of Israel’s God, who, to many, had seemed to have abandoned his people or even been defeated. The image of God as “the first and the last” originates with Second Isaiah. Its first occurrence was at 41:4, and it will be repeated at 48:12.  This attribution will be picked up in the Book of Revelation, which declares Christ to be the first and the last, Alpha and Omega.

44:6 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. 8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

Psalm 86:11-17 (Track 2)
Psalm 86 skillfully weaves metaphors and language from elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to form what overall is a prayer for deliverance from enemies. Two examples from our passage today are in verse 15 (Exodus 34:6, et al) and verse 16 (Numbers 6:25).  “The Pit” (sometimes left as the Hebrew Sheol) was simply the realm of the dead.  Belief in an afterlife came late to Judaism, not long before the time of Jesus (and even then not accepted by all).

11  Teach me your way, O Lord,
       and I will walk in your truth; *
              knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.
12  I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, *
              and glorify your Name for evermore.
13  For great is your love toward me; *
              you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.
14  The arrogant rise up against me, O God,
       and a band of violent men seeks my life; *
              they have not set you before their eyes.
15  But you, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, *
              slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.
16  Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
              give your strength to your servant;
              and save the child of your handmaid.
17  Show me a sign of your favor,
       so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
              because you, O Lord , have helped me and
                                         comforted me.

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:12-25
This reading continues Paul’s juxtaposition of the Spirit and “the flesh.” The latter is more than physicality. “The flesh” is anything that draws us away from the love of God. He then switches metaphors: “live by the flesh” becomes “a spirit of slavery to fear,” while life in the Spirit becomes “a spirit of adoption,” in which we are literally made one of the divine family. Paul then goes on the speak very important words about the whole creation, implying that its salvation is wrapped up with our own. Whatever heaven is, Paul understands it to be a renewed creation as well as a renewed humanity.

8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Jesus follows the more familiar parable of the sower (13:3-9, 18-23) with another sowing parable, usually referred to as the parable of the weeds among the wheat (which is unique to Matthew’s Gospel). There was, apparently, in Matthew’s community, the very human inclination to judge between the good and the evil and to take action to cleanse the group. Here Jesus teaches not to engage in such behavior. Note the farmer outwits the “enemies” who have sown the weeds by finding a positive use for them.

13:24 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

The Scripture quotations (except for the canticle and 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.  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 for group study with this attribution.