Sunday, March 14, 2021

Lent 5B Readings with Commentaries


The Collect of the Day

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah is known as the gloomy prophet of the exile, but in chapters 30—33 his tone changes, and he prophesies about the restoration of Israel. These chapters are often known as the “Book of Consulation,” since hope enters the picture where it has not been before. This passage speaks of a new covenant; it announces the good news that God will bring his people out of exile and back home.  Two important aspects of this new covenant:  there will be no distinction between the people, neither in terms of relationship with God or knowledge of the Law; and forgiveness will be the predominant stance of God toward the people.  God goes so far as to promise to forget sin.

31:31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 51:1-13

Psalm 51 is the longest of the seven traditional penitential psalms (the others being, Pss. 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, 143). In the first portion of Psalm 51, there is a cry for mercy from one who knows his or her own sins, which have become a heavy burden.  There is also great trust in this psalm, that God can indeed make a “clean heart,” a “renewed spirit,” and joy in the saving grace of God.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
        in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
        and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgression, *
        and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *
        and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak *
        and upright in your judgment.

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
        a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
        and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
        wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
        that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins *
        and blot out my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
        and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence *
        and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *
        and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

or this

Psalm 119:9-16

Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms by far.  It is an acrostic poem, with each succeeding eight verses beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The verses below, for example, begin with the second letter, Beth.  As a whole, the psalm is a long meditation on the Law.  Every verse contains some reference to the Law.

9 How shall a young man cleanse his way? *
        by keeping your words.

10 With my whole hear I seek you; *
        let me not stray from your commandments.

11 I treasure your promise in my heart, *
        that I may not sin against you.

12 Blessed are you, O Lord; *
        instruct me in your statutes.

13 With my lips will I recite *
        all the judgments of your mouth.

14 I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees *
        than in all manner of riches.

15 I will meditate on your commandments *
        and give attention to your ways.

16 My delight is in your statutes; *
        I will not forget your word.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 5:5-10

The Letter to the Hebrews (whose author is unknown) continually uses the image of the “high priest” for Jesus.  The high priest of the Jerusalem temple would, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, enter the heart of the temple and make offerings.  Jesus is now our high priest who has made this offering once for all.  He is our sole mediator with God.  Jesus’ priesthood is eternal, the writer says, after the “Order of Melchizedek,” which he picks up from Psalm 110 (the second of the quotes below, the first being from Psalm 2).  Melchizedek is a shadowy figure encountered by Abraham in Genesis 14:18.  The implication is that the priest Melchizedek comes from a different, permanent, order than the priest of the temple, whose priesthood (especially the high priesthood) was temporary.

5:5 Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you;” 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel Reading:  John 12:20-33

Jesus and the disciples have entered Jerusalem for the final time.  Somehow the request of some non-Jews to see Jesus is important to him and sets off the speech that follows.  We do not actually know if those Greeks ever got to see Jesus.  Jesus now knows that the “hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  Understanding the death of Jesus as “glorification” is essential for John’s Gospel.  As part of his speech, he utters a principle found in all four Gospels, that those who seek to save their life will lose it (see also, Mark 8:35, Matthew 10:39/16:26 and Luke 9:24/17:33).  Translated into contemporary language, Jesus is saying that letting go of life rather than being in a constant state of anxious grabbing for it is essential in order to follow Jesus.

12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

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 Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for congregational use or to insert digitally into a Service Leaflet.

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