Sunday, August 23, 2020

13 Pentecost 2020, Proper 17A Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:  Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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):  Exodus 3:1-15

The story of the call of Moses is a rich one.  It occurs at Mt. Horeb (which is also called Mt. Sinai—see 19:11), which may well have been a sacred site for the Midianites. Many have tried to explain the nature of the burning bush, but that is unimportant to the story.  It is a theophany, a manifestation of God.  God’s message is that he has heard the cry of his people and intends to rescue them.  Moses will be his messenger.  Moses asks why he is to be the one.  God’s answer is not an answer but a directive: you will go and bring them here.  Moses then asks just who this God who is directing them, and so we are given the divine Name.  In Hebrew it is four letters “yhwh,” probably pronounced “Yahweh,” but Jewish tradition has always held it to be unpronounceable, therefore wherever it appears in the text it is rendered in Hebrew “Adonai,” translated “lord” in English, and rendered in capital letters to signify that it is actually the divine Name.  It’s meaning is something like “I am who I am,” or, perhaps, “I will be who I will be.”


3:1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:  This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.


Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (Track 1)

Psalm 105 is one of the “historical psalms” which tells the story of Israel in lines of poetry (the others are 78, 106, 135, and 136). In Psalm 105, the first six verses are a general introduction, encouraging the people to give thanks and praise as they “remember the marvels he has done.” We then have the verses that apply to the call of Moses, with the concluding “Hallelujah” (which in Hebrew literally means “Praise the Lord”).


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.

23    Israel came into Egypt, *

                 and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

24    The Lord made his people exceedingly fruitful; *

                 he made them stronger than their enemies;

25   Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people, *

              and dealt unjustly with his servants.

26   He sent Moses his servant, *

              and Aaron whom he had chosen. [45c] Hallelujah!

 1st Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 15:15-21

This passage is a poem of lament, not unlike many of the psalms (including today’s).  The background is the reluctance of the prophet, particularly given the message he knows will be received with hostility. It begins with something of a retort, a kind of “listen up!” The prophet then proclaims his innocence and his desire to do God’s work.  The metaphor of eating the words of God are also found in Ezekiel, chapter 3.  Verse 18 is pivotal: the prophet goes so far as to accuse God of deceit.  Unlike the psalms of lament, however, God does not reply with reassurance and the promise of faithfulness.  He tells Jeremiah to do the work he has given him to do. This is not a time for reassurance, neither for Jeremiah, nor Israel.  This is a time of adhering to the rigorous demands of God.


15:15 O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult. 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. 17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. 20 And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. 21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Psalm 26:1-8 (Track 2)

Psalm 26 is typical of many of the psalms in that there is a triangle of relationships:  the speaker, his or her enemies, and Israel’s God.  The plea on the part of the speaker is for judgment.  In verses 1-3, the speaker gives his initial petition and reminds God of his or her faithfulness.  Verses 4-5 make clear the two sides being presented.  Verses 6-8 are a testimony to the power and safety of the Temple sanctuary.  The psalm goes on to reiterate the case against the enemies, and repeats the plea for justice.


1      Give judgment for me, O Lord,

         for I have lived with integrity; *

                 I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.

2      Test me, O Lord, and try me; *

                 examine my heart and my mind.

3      For your love is before my eyes; *

                 I have walked faithfully with you.

4      I have not sat with the worthless, *

                 nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5      I have hated the company of evildoers; *

                 I will not sit down with the wicked.

6      I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, *

                 that I may go in procession round your altar,

7      Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving *

                 and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8      Lord, I love the house in which you dwell *

                 and the place where your glory abides.

 2nd Reading:  Romans 12:9-21

Paul continues in chapter 12 his encouragement to Christian living. He begins with “genuine love” which produces “mutual affection,” shown primarily in generosity, hospitality, compassion (in its literal meaning, “to suffer with”), and humility.  He ends this passage with a warning not to seek revenge when wronged, but instead to respond with kindness which will bring shame on one’s enemies.  The quote in verse 19 is from Deuteronomy 32:35, and in verse 20, Proverbs 25:21-22.


12:9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 Gospel Reading:  Matthew 16:21-28

Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, but immediately this produces a misunderstanding.  Jesus tells how he must suffer, die, and be raised.  This does not jive with Peter’s understanding of “Messiah.”  He expects triumph, not suffering.  Jesus’ rebuke is strong, using the word “Satan” (“adversary” or “tempter”), and he goes further in that not only he will suffer, but it will be the cost of discipleship as well.  The last verse raises the expectation of a swift return, and perhaps that was Jesus’ expectation, but he also confesses in other places that the timing is in God’s hands, and so it has been.

 16:21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27 For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 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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