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.

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