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

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