Saturday, October 31, 2020

Household Devotions for Advent to Epiphany

 Click here to download Household Devotions for the Seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. These

are modeled after the Household Devotions found in The Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 136.  Only morning and evening devotions are included.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

All Saints' Day (Year A) Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:  Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

 1st Reading:  Revelation to John 7:9-17

The context of this reading is the opening of the scroll with seven seals which had been given to the Lamb to open. There is great anticipation and fear about the opening of the last seal.  Chapter six ends, “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  In chapter seven, before the opening of the last seal (8:1), that question is answered:  God’s people will be rescued.  Revelation 7:9-17 is a vision of that rescue, and it is true even for those who have been martyred.  The end of the scene borrows from visions of the prophet Isaiah (see especially Isaiah 25:8).  Note as well the paradox of the Lamb who is also the Shepherd.

7:9 I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”


Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Psalm 34 is a hymn of praise for deliverance from troubles. We are told twice to “fear” the Lord, a common sentiment in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew word translated “fear” does not denote terror. It is more akin to respect and reverence, particularly when combined with a commitment to the sovereignty of God (God as the one and only “Higher Power”). Verse nine is the only use of the English word “saint” in most translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. In Hebrew it is literally “holy ones” (of course, the New Testament word translated “saint” is also literally “holy ones”).

1 I will bless the Lord at all times; *
        his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the Lord; *
        let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord;
        let us exalt his Name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me *
        and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant, *
        and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
        and saved me from all my troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
        and he will deliver them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
        happy are they who trust in him!

9 Fear the Lord, you that are his saints, *
        for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *
        but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

22 The Lord ransoms the life of his servants, *
        and none will be punished who trust in him.

2nd Reading:  1 John 3:1-3

The writer of the First Letter of John has a strong sense of God’s steadfast love for his people, so much so that he will say, “God is love” (4:16). He is also convinced that it is our greatest desire to be like Christ, who has revealed this love to us. All our hope is in our relationship with him, and so we seek to be holy/pure as he is holy/pure. This does not mean that we never fall short. No, forgiveness is always available to those who recognize and acknowledge it (1:9).

3:1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 5:1-12

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the well-known “Beatitudes.”  The sermon covers three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel (5-7).  It is the first of several extended bodies of teaching by Jesus in Matthew.  The sermon begins with blessings.  They are not commandments, but statements: “Blessed are those who…”  The most remarkable thing about these blessings is that they completely reverse the values of most societies. Jesus is claiming as his kingdom people those whom society rejects.

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

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 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 or insert digitally into an order of Service for congregational use with this attribution.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

21 Pentecost 2020, Proper 25A Readings with Commentaries

 The 21st Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25A)

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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):  Deuteronomy 34:1-12

We have skipped to the end of the Torah—the five books of the Law (also known as “The Five Books of Moses”). After forty years of trial in the wilderness, the promised land is now in sight. Moses is allowed to see it, but not to cross over into it. The lack of a burial site serves two purposes. First, it precludes any attempt to set up a shrine to the great prophet and deliverer. Second, it leaves the Torah, the Law, as Moses’ bequest to his people. Later tradition would take it that Moses was, in fact, not buried, but bodily assumed into heaven. This would happen also to the prophet Elijah. This tradition pops up in the Gospels in the story of the Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah appear to speak with Jesus.

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4 The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. 9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (Track 1)

Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses. Its introduction in the Hebrew text says, “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” (These introductory ascriptions are not found in the translation of the Psalms in The Book of Common Prayer, but are included in biblical translations). It is a reflection on the fragility of human life (“like the grass,” v. 6) and the eternity of God, (“from age to age,” vv. 1-2).

1 Lord, you have been our refuge * 
        from one generation to another.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or the land and the earth were born, *
        from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say, *
        “Go back, O child of earth.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
        and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream; *
        we fade away suddenly like the grass.

6 In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
        in the evening it is dried up and withered.

13 Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry? *
        be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
        so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
        and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works *
        and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; *
        prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

The God of Israel is not only holy, he asks for holiness from his people. This comes in the form of their faithful obedience to his commandments. In this passage from the Torah (the five books of Moses), many of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5) are repeated, but in different articulations. The point of the whole is that Israel obeys God in relation to the neighbor. There is no holiness without right relationship with the neighbor.

19:1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:  2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great:  with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Psalm 1 (Track 2)

The first psalm is a Wisdom psalm which acts as a kind of preface to the collection.  One characteristic of wisdom literature is the assertion that the righteous are happy and the wicked unhappy, or, at least, doomed.  This assertion will appear again and again in the psalms, although there will also be a counter-voice asking, “Why am I righteous but not happy?” and “Why do the wicked prosper?”

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
        nor lingered in the way of sinners,
        nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
    and they meditate on his law day and night.

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,
    bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
        everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked; *
        they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
        nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
        but the way of the wicked is doomed.

2nd Reading:  1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Paul describes the circumstances under which he had originally come to Thessalonica. It was his second stop once he crossed for the first time into Europe, after Phillipi, where he had a most difficult time. There had been opposition in Thessalonica also, but Pauls’ commitment to the Gospel is stronger than any trials he suffers. There are, perhaps, some in this community who do not hold Paul in good repute, so he reminds him of his gentleness and the dearness to which he held and still holds them.

2:1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 22:34-46

Jesus has dealt with two attempts to entrap him. Pharisees had asked him about paying taxes to the Emperor (22:15-22) and the Sadducees (another sect of the Judaism of Jesus’ day) had asked him a question about the resurrection (in which they did not believe). The trap failed both times. The Pharisees try one more time, although it is not much of a test, since what we know as “The Summary of the Law” was widely taught. Jesus turns the tables and asks the religious authorities a question of his own. The answer is obvious to them, but Jesus complicates the matter using Psalm 110, suggesting that the Son of David could not be the Messiah since David (thought to be the author of the psalms) calls him not “son” but “Lord.” We might call it a question of semantics, but Jesus is shown to be a deft interpreter of the Scriptures, and the authorities realize that entrapment will not be how they will be rid of him.

22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

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 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.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

20 Pentecost 2020, Proper 24A Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations:  Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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 33:12-23

After many events around Mt. Sinai, at chapter 33:1 God says, “Go, leave this place…and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham…” Moses, however, has had a difficult time with the people, and he wants assurances that God will remain present with them. Perhaps he remembers the years of silence in Egypt before God heard the cry of his people.  At first Moses asks for help, but the conversation soon turns to Moses’ own need to feel God’s presence, and, even further, to see God’s glory. God acquiesces but maintains some control:  Moses will not see his face.

33:12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21 And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

 Psalm 99 (Track 1)

Psalm 99 is an enthronement hymn, complete with a refrain at verse 3b, 5b and 9b. This particular hymn emphasizes God’s justice, which is born in God’s mercy. This psalm comes near the end of a section of psalms proclaiming God’s rule over the whole creation (Pss. 95-100; Psalm 47 is one also). It is conjectured that these psalms were used as part of an annual enthronement liturgy in the Temple, celebrating God as true King of Israel.


1 The Lord is King;
    let the people tremble; *
        he is enthroned upon the cherubim;
        let the earth shake.

2 The Lord is great in Zion; *
        he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome; *
        he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice, 
    you have established equity; *
        you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

5 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
    and fall down before his footstool; *
        he is the Holy One.

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests,
    and Samuel among those who call upon his Name, *
        they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.

7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; *
        they kept his testimonies
        and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O Lord our God, you answered them indeed; *
        you were a God who forgave them,
        yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
    and worship him upon his holy hill; *
for the Lord our God is the Holy One.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 45:1-7

In this remarkable passage, God calls Cyrus, king of Persia, his “anointed.” The Hebrew word is Moshiach, “Messiah.” Cyrus is being appointed by God to defeat (with God’s aid) the Babylonians, who had destroyed Jerusalem and taken a large number of Jews to exile in Babylon. The stunning announcement is that Israel will be saved by a Gentile king, who is being led by Israel’s God.

45:1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him—and the gates shall not be closed:  2 I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. 5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, 6 so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things. 8 Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it.

Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13) (Track 2)

Psalm 96 is an enthronement hymn, proclaiming God’s sovereignty over the whole creation. This psalm is part of a section of enthronement psalms (Pss. 95-100; Psalm 47 is one also). It is conjectured that these psalms were used as part of an annual enthronement liturgy in the Temple, celebrating God as true King of Israel, whom even nature praises.

1 Sing to the Lord a new song; *
        sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *
        proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations *
        and his wonders among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
        he is more to be feared than all gods.

5 As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
        but it is the Lord who made the heavens.

6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
        Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; *
        ascribe to the Lord honor and power.

8 Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *
        bring offerings and come into his courts.

9 Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
        let the whole earth tremble before him.

[10 Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King! *
        he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
        he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
    let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
        let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
    before the Lord when he comes, *
        when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness *
        and the peoples with his truth.]

2nd Reading:  1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

If most scholars are correct, this letter is the earliest writing in all the New Testament (some believe it is Galatians). It dates from the mid to late 40’s c.e., some twenty years before the date of the first gospel. Earlier in the decade, Paul had founded the Christian community in Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia on the road to Corinth and Athens. It is, by and large, a friendly letter to a community with which Paul is pleased. In the opening thanksgiving below, Paul praises them for how their experience of the gospel has encouraged others beyond themselves.

1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 22:15-22

Jesus has just told a series of parables which the religious leaders took as aimed at them (they were right!). What is the easiest way to get rid of him? Get him to say something seditious and have the Romans take care of him. So they set this little trap. Jesus deftly avoids the trap and the authorities go away unhappy (although they are not yet finished with this tactic). This story is sometimes used as proof that Jesus wanted his followers to stay out of politics. It is nothing of the sort. Jesus is not teaching here. He is demonstrating what he meant when he told his followers to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

22:15 The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

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 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 iis given to copy for group study with this attribution.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

19 Pentecost 2020, Proper 23A Readings with Commentaries

 1st Reading (Track 1):  Exodus 32:1-14

Moses had gone up the mountain to receive instructions about worship within Israel’s covenant with God.  The people grow impatient and design some worship of their own, including a golden calf as an idol. When asked, Aaron seems not to hesitate; he knows what to do to appease the people. Yet later on in verse 24 he defends himself by saying, “I threw the gold into the fire and out jumped this calf!” The story would be comical if it were not so serious: the struggle to live within the covenant, God’s displeasure when the people fail, and pleas for forgiveness will be the pattern for Israel’s existence for centuries to come.

32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” 6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. 7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 (Track 1)

Psalm 106 is a companion to Psalm 105, which reviewed the history of God’s salvation of the people from Egypt. Psalm 106, in a penitential mode, tells the story of Israel’s disobedience in the desert. Verses 19-23 rehearse the golden calf story above, including Moses’ “standing in the breach” on behalf of the people.


1     Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *

                 for his mercy endures for ever.

2     Who can declare the mighty acts of the Lord *

         or show forth all his praise?

3     Happy are those who act with justice *

            and always do what is right!

4     Remember me, O Lord, with the favor you have for your people, *

                 and visit me with your saving help;

5     That I may see the prosperity of your elect

       and be glad with the gladness of your people, *

                 that I may glory with your inheritance.

6     We have sinned as our forebears did; *

                 we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

19   Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb *

                 and worshiped a molten image;

20   And so they exchanged their Glory *

                 for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21   They forgot God their Savior, *

                 who had done great things in Egypt,

22   Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham, *

                 and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23   So he would have destroyed them,

       had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, *

                 to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 25:1-9

In the midst of disaster (v. 2), when civilized human structures are ”a heap,” the prophet proclaims that God remains at the center of human existence.  God remains as good news for the poor and the oppressed (v. 4). They are not forgotten, and the “song” of their oppressors has been cut off (v. 5). Then comes the glorious vision of a world centered on God (vv. 6-9), to which all peoples will come, and where even death will be displaced by joy.

25:1 O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, 5 the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled. 6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm 23 (Track 2)

The well-known and beloved Psalm 23 is a psalm of profound orientation in the goodness and companionship of God.  God, like a good shepherd, intends the well-being of his people, the sheep, doing for them what they cannot do for themselves.

1  The Lord is my shepherd; *

          I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures *

          and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul *

          and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

     I shall fear no evil; *

          for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *

          you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *

          and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

2nd Reading:  Philippians 4:1-9

Paul finally gets to what probably was the reason for this letter. There has been quarreling between two women in the community, perhaps both the heads of house churches. The identity of “my loyal companion” is unknown, but is certainly the person whom Paul expected to mediate this conflict. Verses 4-9, summarize the principle messages of the letter:  life together following Christ.

4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 22:1-14

Having arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus is teaching using parables. The parable of the wedding feast is found in both Matthew and Luke (14:6-14), but Matthew’s has a distinctively harder edge. The parable is aimed at those who have resisted the message of the kingdom. Note the invitation, the inclusion, is first. Saying “no” is a possibility, but it has consequences. The detail of the man without a wedding garment has puzzled readers and scholars alike for generations.  It is probably a warning for being prepared (which is what the final two parables in chapter 25 are about). One possibility: is the man’s speechlessness a clue? Is he the final point of the parable, that we must claim relationship with the king (God)?

22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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 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.