Sunday, May 30, 2021

2 Pentecost 2021 Proper 5B Readings with Commentaries

 

The Collect of the Day

O God, from whom all good proceeds:  Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; 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): 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20 (11:14-15)

Our passage today is a turning point in the story of biblical Israel.  The people have had no other king but God.  A series of “judges” have ruled Israel in the name of God.  They people see no successor to Samuel as judge, and so they ask for a king.  Their reasoning is significant:  they want to be like other nations.  Samuel knows this is disaster, and so does God, but God says to give them what they want, just make sure they know the consequences.  “Damn the consequences,” is the reply.  So Saul becomes the first anointed king of Israel.

8:4 All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7 and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 10 So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots.

[12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.]

16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’

[11:14 Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.]

Psalm 138 (Track 1)

Psalm 138 is an individual’s prayer of confidence in God.  This confidence rests on the promise of God’s steadfast love, which is for the lowly as well as the mighty.



1 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; *
        before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and praise your Name, *
        because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name *
        and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me; *
        you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord; *
        when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the Lord, *
        that great is the glory of the Lord.

7 Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; *
        he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; *
        you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
        your right hand shall save me.

9 The Lord will make good his purpose for me; *
        O Lord, your love endures for ever;
        do not abandon the works of your hands.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Genesis 3:8-15

What follows is the second half of the temptation story (sometimes called “the fall”).  The crafty serpent has revealed that the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden (of which God has commanded they shall not eat) will not cause them to die, but to be like God, that is, wise, “knowing good and evil.”  They ate, but their first knowledge is of shame. They “knew that they were naked.”  Shame distorts their relationship with God, as the second part of the story tells us.  The tragedy of the whole of the Bible can be summarized in Adam’s response to God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid…”  The “original sin” may be disobedience of God’s command, or is it the refusal to take responsibility for one’s own actions?

3:8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, :The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Psalm 130 (Track 2)

Psalm 130 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” pilgrim songs sung on the way to Jerusalem.  This psalm is a prayer for deliverance from personal trouble.  The psalmist knows the “depths,” but also trusts the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.



1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice; *
        let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
        O Lord, who could stand?

3 For there is forgiveness with you; *
        therefore you shall be feared.

4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
        in his word is my hope.

5 My soul waits for the Lord,
    more than watchmen for the morning, *
        more than watchmen for the morning.

6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
        for with the Lord there is mercy;

7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *
        and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

 2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Paul begins this paragraph by referencing the faith of the psalmist in the midst of trouble.  The exact reference is to Psalm 116:10.  He has been talking about the experience of suffering, both by himself and the Christian community in general.  He encourages the Corinthians to experience it as “a slight momentary affliction.”  It is not God’s ultimate plan for us.

4:13 Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 3:20-35

Jesus has just called his twelve disciples.  Now there is a troubling encounter with his family, who attempt to restrain him because there is a rumor that he is insane.  The religious authorities also claim that he is in league with Satan.  (“Beelzebul” is a form of Baal-zebub, a widely known pagan God, see 2 Kings 1:2).  He responds with his well-known saying about sins against the Holy Spirit being “eternal,” i.e., unforgivable.  Bible interpreters have spent two millennia trying to figure out exactly what constitutes a “sin against the Holy Spirit.”  More importantly, as the story moves on, his family attempts to intervene again and he more or less turns his back on them.  He has created a new family.

3:20 The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28 Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Trinity Sunday B Readings with Commentary

The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 1st Reading:  Isaiah 6:1-8

Our first reading is the call of Isaiah to prophesy to the people of Judah.  The scene is the throne room of God and the mood is one of sheer awe.  In the face of God’s holiness, Isaiah can only shrink back.  Yet the mercy of God shines through and Isaiah is then able confidently to answer the call.  This reading is chosen for Trinity Sunday because of the curious, “Who will go for us?”  Why the use of the plural?  Christians have seen it as a foreshadowing of the Trinity (see a similar use at Genesis 1:26).

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Canticle: A Song of Praise (Benedictus es, Domine)

The text of this canticle is The Prayer of Azariah & the Song of the Three, 29-34.  It is found in The Book of Common Prayer as Canticle 13 (p. 90). It is taken from the apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel (inserted between 3:23 and 3:24).  This text is a portion of the song the three young men sing in the fiery furnace.  The entire song is 40 verses long.  The final verse below is a Christian addition.



Glory to you, Lord God of our forebears; *
    you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
    we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
    on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
    we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
    in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
    we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

 Or this

 Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is an obvious psalm in response to our first reading, especially due to verse 9.  The heavens open and the voice of God rings through the whole creation, over whom the Lord is sovereign.  One thing that distinguishes this psalm is its use of the divine name “Yahweh” (translated, “the Lord”) 18 times.  In addition, the term “voice” is heard seven times.  It’s a reminder that the psalms are poetry!


1 Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
        ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
        worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
    the God of glory thunders; *
        the Lord is upon the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
        the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
        the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
        and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
    the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
        the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

8 The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
        and strips the forests bare.

9 And in the temple of the Lord *
        all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
        the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
        the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.


2nd Reading:  Romans 8:12-17

In chapter 8 of Romans, Paul contrasts life “according to the flesh” with life “according to the Spirit.”  Here he indicates the contents of the life of the Spirit:  adoption as children of God as God’s Spirit is united to our own and we are able to cry to God as an intimate familiar (“Abba” is the Aramaic word for “father.”).  Our deep sharing with Christ in the Spirit means, however, a sharing in his suffering as well as his glorification.

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.

Gospel Reading:  John 3:1-17

In the context of Trinity Sunday, the story of Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus takes on particular meaning.  Although it cannot be used as a “proof text” for the doctrine of the Trinity, it does feed into it with all three persons of the Trinity present in the story.  In this context as well, “being born from above” takes on the need for and promise of our sharing in the divine life.  We are offered the opportunity to be caught up in the divine love that characterizes the relationship among the members of the Trinity.

3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Day of Pentecost B Readings with Commentaries

 The Day of Pentecost:  Whitsunday (B)

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit:  Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading:  Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon.  He was known for his vivid dreams, one of which is our first reading today.  Ezekiel is taken in this dream to a valley littered with dry bones, a metaphor for Israel’s life under the oppressive Babylonian Empire.  “Can these bones live?” is the question of Israel’s reality in exile.  Do we have a future?  The story keeps us in suspense for a bit, but the definitive answer is, “Yes.”  God will provide a future, despite the present reality.  The “breath” is an important aspect on this day of what invigorates the dry bones.  The word for “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are the same word in Hebrew, ruac.

37:1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones:  I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:  Thus says the Lord God:  Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Or this

1st Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21

Our first reading is the story of the Spirit’s manifestation on the Day of Pentecost.  Pentecost was a major Jewish festival which occurred 50 days after Passover.  It is also known as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. It was the festival of the spring harvest in Jesus’ day. It came to be the annual celebration of the gift of the Torah.  The Holy Spirit’s falling on everyone is a different phenomenon than the Spirit’s falling on individuals in the Hebrew Scriptures (and usually for a set period of time). This “falling” is universal and permanent.  Peter’s speech includes an extended quote from the prophet Joel (2:28-32). 

2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Psalm 104:25-35, 37b

Psalm 104 as a whole is a hymn to God as creator and sustainer of all life. Our portion today concludes the psalm with a reference to God’s taming of the sea (seen by ancient peoples as the source of chaos represented here by the sea monster “Leviathan,” which is God’s plaything). It also includes a reference to the Spirit of God.  “Breath” in verse 30 and “Spirit” in verse 31 are, as above, the same Hebrew word.


25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
        in wisdom you have made them all;
        the earth is full of your creatures.

26 Yonder is the great and wide sea
    with its living things too many to number, *
        creatures both small and great.

27 There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, *
        which you have made for the sport of it.

28 All of them look to you *
        to give them their food in due season.

29 You give it to them; they gather it; *
        you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.

30 You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
        you take away their breath,
        and they die and return to their dust.

31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
        and so you renew the face of the earth.

32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
        may the Lord rejoice in all his works.

33 He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
        he touches the mountains and they smoke.

34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
        I will praise my God while I have my being.

35 May these words of mine please him; *
        I will rejoice in the Lord. [37b] Hallelujah!

 2nd Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21

              See above. 

Or this

2nd Reading:  Romans 8:22-27

Romans chapter eight is Paul’s great proclamation of Life in the Spirit. Paul asserts what the story of Pentecost proclaims, that the Spirit of God dwells in all believers (8:9). That Spirit prays in us, even when we have no words. More than this, Paul says, in what is a stunning theology of the creation, the creation itself groans to be set free, as we do, who are part of that creation. The Spirit is, in one sense, a way of speaking about the intimacy we share with God, as God’s adopted daughters and sons rather than slaves (see also 8:15).

8:22 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. 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.

Gospel Reading:  John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Our Gospel reading today contains three out of the four predictions by Jesus of the coming of the Spirit in John’s Gospel.  Jesus calls the Spirit, “the Advocate,” a judicial term.  The Spirit will plead our cause, testify on our behalf.  And the Spirit will prove the world wrong “about sin and righteousness and judgment.”  The world only knows punishment for sin.  God has responded with forgiveness.  And finally, the Spirit will lead the followers of Jesus into all truth, a saying in which Jesus clearly teaches that there is more to be learned in every generation of believers.

15:26 Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 4b I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to 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 the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Easter 7B Readings with Commentaries

 The Sunday after Ascension Day 

The Collect of the Day

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

 1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 21-26

Immediately following the Ascension of Jesus, the apostles’ first task is the replacement of Judas.  We skip the portion of the text that relates the story of Judas’ death.  Two who have accompanied the disciples from the beginning are proposed, prayer is said, and lots are cast.  We know nothing of Matthias other than this story.  Tradition has it that he preached in Ethiopia.  His Feast Day is traditionally February 24.

1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16 Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus—17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 is about the (idealistic) contrasting fate of the righteous and the wicked.  As such it serves as a kind of preamble to the entire psalter, proclaiming one of the most basic themes of the psalms, that this is a moral universe that cannot be disregarded.  The final word is so striking, it should be considered carefully.  It is the way of the wicked that is doomed, i.e. the path on which they choose to walk will disappear, perish or be lost (all fair translations of the final Hebrew word ’âbad.



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 John 5:9-13

Our last reading from the First Letter of John this Eastertide focuses on how we can accept/believe human testimony as the truth. Primarily, there can be no indecision.  Anyone who does not absolutely believe God, calls God a liar.  There seems to be little room here for mercy or grace, but perhaps the author is leaving room by the words at the end of the passage:  those who believe already have eternal life.  (The “already” is justified by the Greek text, although translators frequently leave it out).

5:9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Gospel Reading: John 17:6-19

Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel is the end of a long section of Jesus speaking to the disciples after he has washed their feet (in chapter 13).  Chapter 17 is sometimes called “the high priestly prayer.”  Jesus prays for his disciples, whom he knows he is about to leave.  His principal prayer is for maintaining their unity (this is primarily how Jesus wants the Father to “protect them”).  He also prays for a fulfillment of the joy he wishes them.  “The Truth” is an important concept in John’s Gospel, although, for the Gospel writer, it is not a concept but a relationship.  This is why in chapter 18 (v. 37-38), Pilate does not understand what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of “the truth.”  Jesus says everyone who belongs to (not “understands”) the truth listens to him.

17:6 Jesus prayed for his disciples, saying, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Easter 6B Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding:  Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 1st Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:44-48

Our first reading is the end of a longer story that begins with the Apostle Peter having a dream in which he is commanded to eat unclean animals (10:9). He refuses, but a voice tells him that he should not call unclean what God has called clean.  He is then visited by some Gentiles who ask him to visit them and bring the gospel to them (10:17).  He takes the dream as a sign that he is to do so.  His visit results in the passage that follows, which is a major turning point for the followers of Jesus.  Gentiles are to be included in the new movement.  They, too, are the People of God 

10:44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Psalm 98

“Sing to the Lord a new song!”  This psalm celebrates God’s ability to do a “new thing” and the people’s expectation that such is the way of God.  We worship a God who is an active ruler of creation rather than a passive one.  In one sense, God never changes:  he remembers his “mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel.”  But he is also an expansive God who will judge the whole world and all its peoples with equity.

1 Sing to the Lord a new song, *
        for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm *
        has he won for himself the victory.

3 The Lord has made known his victory; *
        his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
        and all of the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
        lift up your voice, rejoice and sing.

6 Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
        with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
        shout with joy before the King, the Lord.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
        the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands, *
        and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
        when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world *
        and the peoples with equity.

 2nd Reading:  1 John 5:1-6

Our second reading continues a major theme of this letter which we have been reading this Eastertide:  Love of God and love of one another is inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other.  The writer then goes on to talk about how this love “conquers the world.”  “The world” to John means everything that is hostile to God. Note the entrance of the Spirit, who Jesus promised in John’s Gospel will lead us into all truth (16:13).

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

 Gospel Reading:  John 15:9-17

Across the three-year cycle of readings, this Sixth Sunday of Easter presents the “new commandment” of Jesus:  “love one another as I have loved you.”  In today’s passage, Jesus begins by declaring the source of his love, the Father’s love for him.  Jesus “abides” in the Father’s love, so Jesus’ disciples “abide” in his love.  “Abide” is an important word in John’s Gospel, signifying a deep unity which cannot be broken.  It is, therefore, utterly reliable, and it is that reliability that brings us joy in spite of what the world has to offer us.  This love manifests itself in two other ways.  First, it erases the master/slave relationship.  Jesus calls us friends (and the implication is that we so ought to call one another).  Second, out of this unconditional love will grow fruit, “fruit that will last.”  The chief “fruit that will last” is an open and trusting relationship with God.

15:9 Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

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, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.