Sunday, June 27, 2021

6 Pentecost 2021, Proper 9B Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor:  Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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):  2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

The first five chapters of 2 Samuel tell the story of David consolidating his power, and finally being accepted as king by the elders of Israel.  At the time of this acceptance, Hebron was Israel’s capitol. (Hebron is about 20 miles south of Jerusalem).  Jerusalem was still held by a Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites.  David conquered it and claimed it as his capitol.  This was strategic in that it was neutral territory, not previously held by the Israelites, and stood between the two groups of tribes that had emerged, Judah and Israel.

5:1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2 For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 9 David occupied the stronghold [of Jerusalem], and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm 48 (Track 1)

Psalm 48 is a hymn of praise to the God who dwells in Zion (Jerusalem).  Mount Zion is one of the hills on which Jerusalem is built.  The heathen may attack God’s city, but it will not be overthrown.  The psalm ends with the call for a procession around the great city.

1 Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised; *
        in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion, *
        the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

3 God is in her citadels; *
        he is known to be her sure refuge.

4 Behold, the kings of the earth assembled *
        and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astounded; *
        they retreated and fled in terror.

6 Trembling seized them there; *
        they writhed like a woman in childbirth,
        like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

7 As we have heard, so have we seen,
    in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God; *
        God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God, *
        in the midst of your temple.

9 Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end; *
        your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad and the cities of Judah rejoice, *
        because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;
    walk round about her; *
        count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;
    examine her strongholds; *
        that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever; *
        he shall be our guide for evermore.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Ezekiel 2:1-5

This is one of the few readings from Ezekiel in the lectionary.  It is a portion of his call story which includes all of chapters one, two, and three.  Ezekiel was a prophet during the exile. He was probably in the first wave of exiles in 597 b.c.e. (There were three waves, the other two in 586 and 581). Here Ezekiel is given the prophetic credentials:  to speak on behalf of God. “Mortal” in Hebrew is ben ‘adam, literally “Son of Man,” which would be Jesus’ favorite title for himself, especially in Mark’s Gospel.

2:1 The Lord said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

 Psalm 123 (Track 2)

Psalm 123 is one of the Songs of Ascents (Pss. 120-134), which may have been sung by pilgrims on their way to celebrate a festival in Jerusalem. In this short psalm, the plea for mercy occurs three times. Verse two contains one of the few female images of God in the Old Testament (see Isaiah 49:14-16) 

1 To you I lift up my eyes, *
        to you enthroned in the heavens.

2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
        and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the Lord our God, *
        until he show us his mercy.

4 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy, *
        for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much the scorn of the indolent rich, *
        and of the derision of the proud.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 12:2-10

In much of Second Corinthians Paul deals with the Corinthians having been taken in by a group of rival missionaries who are very critical of Paul, calling him weak and ineffective.  Paul defends himself vigorously, especially in chapters 11 and 12.  As this passage begins, Paul refers to someone who had an incredible spiritual experience.  Is Paul is speaking of himself?  In Paul’s day there were thought to be three “levels” of heaven, the third being the highest, the experience of pure ecstasy.  But it is not this experience in which he will boast. He boasts only in his weakness because it is this very weakness that is his sharing in the power of Christ.  This passage includes his well-known comment on the “thorn” in his flesh, an ailment about which there has been much speculation, although there is no way of knowing what it was.

12:2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

 The Holy Gospel:  Mark 6:1-13

In our Gospel reading Jesus returns home to Nazareth and is not well received. He is too well known to be taken seriously.  He then teaches in nearby villages and, for the first time, sends the twelve disciples out on their own.  Given his own experience in Nazareth, he warns them to expect rejection, but to simply move on when they do.  They are successful in exercising his authority to heal. Note the ancient use of oil in prayers for healing, a practice we continue to this day. 

6:1 Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

 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.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

5 Pentecost 2021 (Proper 8B) Readings with Commentaries

The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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):  2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

At the end of 1 Samuel, King Saul and his sons, including David’s beloved Jonathan, lie dead at the hand of the Philistines.  The way is open for David to become king (although he must still overcome some obstacles).  Despite Saul’s mistrust of David and his attempts to kill him, David leads the public grief for Saul and Jonathan.  Perhaps this is mostly for Jonathan’s sake, but David has shown respect for Saul as God’s anointed king, despite their tangled relationship.

1:1 After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. 17 David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18 (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:  19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! 20 Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult. 21 You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. 22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty. 23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25 How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. 26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27 How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 130 (Track 1)

Psalm 130 is the lament of an individual whose situation appears to have been dire.  Out of the author’s deepest suffering, he pleads for forgiveness in confidence that he will be heard, even if he must wait patiently.

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.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24

The Wisdom of Solomon is a book of the Apocrypha, a collection of books not included in the official Hebrew canon of Scripture, but which the early Church included in its Scripture.  Anglicans set the books into a separate section called “The Apocrypha” and say they are helpful but not necessary.  The Wisdom of Solomon is a collection of wise sayings attributed to King Solomon (although probably from much later).  Our passage this morning is a reflection on the origin of death.

1:13 God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. 14 For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive power in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. 15 For righteousness is immortal. 2:23 God created us for incorruption and made us in the image of his own eternity, 24 but through the devil’s envy death entered into the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

Canticle (Track 2): A Song of God’s Mercy (Lamentations 3:21-33)

Lamentations is a group of communal laments over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 b.c.e.  They have traditionally been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah, hence their position in the Old Testament following his book.  Chapter 3 of Lamentations is an individual’s reflection on the meaning of the disaster, including some words of hope. This text is a liturgical adaptation of the above verses.


When I remember this, I have hope: *
        by God’s kindness, we are not destroyed,

For God’s mercies are never-ending *
        and are new every morning.

How great is your faithfulness, O God! *
        “You are my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in you.”

You are good to those who wait with patience, *
        to every soul that seeks you.

It is good to wait, even in silence *
        for the salvation of the Lord.

It is good to bear in youth *
        the yoke God imposes,

To sit silent and alone, *
        clinging to hope, even when tasting the dust.

It is good to turn one’s cheek to those who hit it *
        and to bear up under insults.

The Lord does not reject for ever,
        but after sending grief, relents

In compassion and loving-kindness, *
        not desiring to torment anyone.

 Or this


Psalm 30 (Track 2)

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, this psalm is entitled, “A song at the dedication of the temple.”  It is a psalm of thanksgiving for healing.  The one healed invites the whole congregation to join him or her in giving thanks.  Verses 6-12 tell the story, beginning with the psalmist’s haughtiness in prosperity prior to illness.


1 I will exalt you, O Lord;
    because you have lifted me up *
        and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
        and you restored me to health.

3 You brought me up O Lord, from the dead; *
        you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

4 Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; *
        give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

5 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
        his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night, *
        but joy comes in the morning.

7 While I felt secure, I said,
    “I shall never be disturbed. *
        You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

8 Then you hid your face, *
        and I was filled with fear.

9 I cried to you, O Lord; *
        I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

10 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
        will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
        O Lord, be my helper.”

12 You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
        you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
        O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

 2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 8:7-15

In our second reading, Paul speaks of a collection he is taking for the Church in Jerusalem and the surrounding region that is undergoing a time of famine.  It contains some important stewardship guidelines.  First of all, the gift must be a free choice out of what one has.  Second, it follows Jesus’ own example.  Third, it is a striving for a fair balance between one’s own needs and the needs of others.  Above all, he says, make the gift with eagerness. The quote at the end of the passage is Exodus 16:18.

8:7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Gospel Reading:  Mark 5:21-43

Our Gospel reading is two stories skillfully woven together: the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage and the raising of the daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue in Capernaum.  Both are situations were thought beyond help.  Both characters come to Jesus in faith and Jesus commends their faith.  One important aspect of the story is Jesus’ taking time with the woman with the hemorrhage even though he is in a hurry to the home of the synagogue leader.  The marginalized are of no less importance than the powerful to Jesus.

5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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.  The liturgical adaptation of the Lamentations Canticle is copyright © 2007 by Church Publishing Incorporated.  Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

4 Pentecost 2021 (Proper 7B) Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49

The story of David and Goliath serves to establish David as Israel’s true warrior-king, upstaging the still-reigning Saul. At the beginning of his kingship, Saul was set the task of defeating the Philistines, which he failed to do.  David (unlike Saul earlier in the story) defends not only Israel, but Israel’s God.  Israel’s warrior-king is a shepherd-king, driven by faith not by fear.

[17:1a Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. 19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” 38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. 41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9:9-20 (Track 1)

Psalm 9 extols in both thanksgiving and praise the power of God against all enemies.

9 The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, *
        a refuge in time of trouble.

10 Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, *
        for you never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.

11 Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; *
        proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12 The Avenger of blood will remember them; *
        he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Have pity on me, O Lord; *
        see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,
        O you who lift me up from the gate of death;

14 So that I may tell of your praises and rejoice in your salvation *
        in the gates of the city of Zion.

15 The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, *
        and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.

16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice; *
        the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.

17 The wicked shall be given over to the grave, *
        and also all the peoples who forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, *
        and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.

19 Rise up, O Lord, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; *
        let them be judged before you.

20 Put fear upon them, O Lord; *
        let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

Or this (Track 1 option)

1st Reading (Track 1): 1 Samuel 17:57—18:5, 10-16

Several things are going on in the following story. First there is the end of the story of David killing Goliath. Second, love for David builds among the people, and also in Saul’s own son, Jonathan.  He will become an important character in the next few chapters as Saul attempts to kill David. This is the third aspect of the story, Saul’s disintegration as David rises to power. Much has been written about the love of David and Jonathan. It is impossible to know its nature (which is perhaps a modern question). Yet it is an example of the possibility of deep intimacy between men.

17:57 On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” 18:1 When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. 10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. 12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. 14 David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Psalm 133 (Track 1)

Our psalm is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” pilgrim songs sung on the journey to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the pilgrim festivals.  It emphasizes the ideal of unity among us, using two images:  the anointing of a priest, and the “dew” of the great Mt. Hermon, which collects into streams that provide precious water for the land (it feeds the Sea of Galilee).

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *
        when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head *
        that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron, *
        and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

4 It is like the dew of Hermon *
        that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: *
        life for evermore.

 1st Reading (Track 2):  Job 38:1-11

The Book of Job is an ancient folktale which probes the keeping of faith in the midst of suffering.  This is a question as old as faith itself.  The story may originally have been 1:1—2:13 and 42:7-17, a simple tale.  Over time the tale was, perhaps, thought to be too simple, and so an extended conversation between Job and three friends was added (3:1—31:40), as well as a speech by the stranger Elihu (32:1—37:24) and a reply by God (38:1—42:6) that includes this morning’s passage.  God never answers Job’s question, yet he scolds Job’s friends and Elihu for their over-simplistic answers.  God’s only answer is that he is the Lord of creation.

38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:  2 Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? 8 Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?—9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?”

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Track 2)

Psalm 107 is one of the historical psalms.  It also seems to be intended for use by pilgrims as they travelled to Jerusalem for one of the festivals.  They were reminded by this psalm of the great thanks they owed God for their deliverance in times of danger.  The section we are using relates to our first reading and the Gospel in that it focuses on the sea and God’s power over it.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
        and his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
         that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3 He gathered them out of the lands; *
        from the east and from the west,
        from the north and from the south.

23 Some went down to the sea in ships *
        and plied their trade in deep waters;

24 They beheld the works of the Lord *
        and his wonders in the deep.

25 Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
        which tossed high the waves of the sea.

26 They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
        their hearts melted because of their peril.

27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
        and were at their wits’ end.

28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
        and he delivered them from their distress.

29 He stilled the storm to a whisper *
        and quieted the waves of the sea.

30 Then they were glad because of the calm, *
        and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
        and the wonders he does for his children.

32 Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people *
        and praise him in the council of the elders.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Paul has just proclaimed that everyone in Christ is a new creation, and thus our ministry is reconciliation. Now, Paul says, is the acceptable time for this ministry, using a quote from the prophet Isaiah (49:8).  This has been Paul’s approach to ministry, and it has produced great trials and sufferings. Yet even though he has been treated as having nothing, he knows he possesses everything.  He asks finally that those to whom he writes open their hearts to what he has to say.

6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13 In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 4:35-41

Jesus has been teaching by means of parables and now wishes to cross the Sea of Galilee.  A great windstorm arises, and the disciples are terrified. However Jesus remains asleep!  Upon waking, he hushes the wind and the stormy sea with a word.  He asks them to examine their faith and understand that fear is its opposite.  They, however, focus on his power to command the creation.

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey 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, All rights reserved.  Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

3 Pentecost 2021 Proper 6 B Readings with Commentaries

 The Collect of the Day

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1): 1 Samuel 15:34—16:13

In last week’s reading Saul was chosen as king.  He is a disappointment to God, largely through his disobedience (see 15:4-9). Samuel must deliver God’s verdict, which he does regretfully. He has become attached to Saul.  But God orders Samuel to find the new chosen one.  Note the text makes much about not looking at the outward forms of Jesse’s sons, but then cannot help but brag about David’s handsomeness!  David will not become king until the beginning of 2 Samuel.  Until then Saul and he develop a relationship that is fraught with peril for both.

15:34 Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. 16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 20 (Track 1)

Psalm 20 was probably used as part of a royal liturgy.  It proclaims that God will respond to the king’s prayer and give him victory.  He will do so because of the king’s (and the peoples’) trust in God.

1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble, *
        the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;

2 Send you help from his holy place *
        and strengthen you out of Zion;

3 Remember all your offerings *
        and accept your burnt sacrifice;

4 Grant you your heart’s desire *
        and prosper all your plans.

5 We will shout for joy at your victory
    and triumph in the Name of our God; *
        may the Lord grant all your requests.

6 Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed; *
        he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
        with the victorious strength of his right hand.

7 Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, *
        but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.

8 They collapse and fall down, *
        but we will arise and stand upright.

9 O Lord, give victory to the king *
        and answer us when we call.

1st Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24

The prophet Ezekiel was a prophet of the exile, that period when the Jewish people had been completely overrun by the Babylonian Empire and many of them forced into exile in Babylon.  In our reading this morning Ezekiel foresees a return to the homeland using the image of a sprig that grows into a great tree on a “high and lofty mountain.”  The dry tree shall flourish—a word of hope for the exiles.

17:22 Thus says the Lord God:  I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out.  I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.  23 On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. 24 All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord.  I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.  I the LORD have spoken; I will accomplish it.

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (Track 2)

Psalm 92 is a song of thanksgiving for the deliverance from personal enemies.  In the Hebrew text it is entitled “A Song for the Sabbath Day.”  Christian emphasis on “thanksgiving” (the meaning of the word “Eucharist”) as the principal cause for weekly corporate worship has its root in the Hebrew Scriptures.

1 It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, *
        and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

2 To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning *
        and of your faithfulness in the night season;

3 On the psaltery, and on the lyre, *
        and to the melody of the harp.

4 For you have made me glad by your acts, O Lord; *
        and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

11 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, *
        and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

12 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord *
        shall flourish in the courts of our God;

13 They shall still bear fruit in old age; *
        they shall be green and succulent;

14 That they may show how upright the Lord is, *
        my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17

Paul wants the Corinthians to be confident as they face death. The gift of the Spirit to each one of us is a guarantee (the Baptismal rite calls it a “seal”) that God will never abandon us.  If we can let go of our fears about the future, then we can concentrate on our ministry of reconciliation in the present.  In fact, it makes that ministry of reconciliation all the more urgent and clear.  Everything has become new! This is our proclamation.  By this Paul does not mean that we should pretend everything is new, but believe that it is new despite all signs to the contrary.

5:6 We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

[11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.]

14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Gospel Reading:  Mark 4:26-34

Chapter four of Mark is a chapter of parables.  Mark contains far fewer parables than Matthew and Luke, and they are mostly found here.  The chapter opens with the well-known Parable of the Sower (we read it in Matthew’s year).  Here we have two short parables:  the seed growing secretly and the mustard seed.  (The former is found also in Matthew, the latter in both Matthew and Luke).  They both emphasize the mysteriousness of God’s kingdom/God’s grace.

4:26 Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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.