Sunday, October 24, 2021

23 Pentecost 2021, Proper 26B Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service:  Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Ruth 1:1-18

Ruth is a story about two valiant women, Naomi and her servant Ruth, who make a life for themselves after the death of all the males in the family.  Widows were without social power in the ancient Near East, but their commitment to each other (which is the climax of the following passage) carries them through and Ruth eventually makes a good marriage to Boaz, and is celebrated in history as the great-grandmother of King David.

1:1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. 10 They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” 14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” 18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Psalm 146 (Track 1)

The last five psalms are hymns of praise to God, each beginning and ending with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” (English: “Praise the Lord”).  Psalm 146 praises the faithfulness of God and exhorts us to put our trust in that faithfulness rather than any earthly ruler.  It is only the God of Israel who will reign for ever.


1 Hallelujah!
    Praise the Lord, O my soul! *
        I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
        I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, *
        for there is no help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, *
        and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! *
        whose hope is in the Lord their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; *
        who keeps his promise for ever;

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, *
        and food to those who hunger.

7 The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; *
        the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The Lord loves the righteous;
    the Lord cares for the stranger; *
        he sustains the orphan and widow,
        but frustrates the way of the wicked.

9 The Lord shall reign for ever, *
        your God, O Zion, throughout all generations

1st Reading (Track 2):  Deuteronomy 6:1-9

In this passage, Moses summarizes the law for the people (the summary sometimes called the Shema) and promises them that their days will go well if they heed the commandments and teach them to their children. The final two verses are the basis for the Jewish prayer practice of wearing a “phylactery” (a box containing the commandments worn on the forehead, affixed with leather bands that also wrap around the left arm) and the “mezuzah,” a small receptacle also containing the commandments which is affixed on the right side of the doorway. (These practices, however, did not develop until much later in Israel’s history).

6:1 Moses convened all Israel and said to them:  Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel:  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Psalm 119:1-8 (Track 2)

Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms at 176 verses, is a long acrostic poem celebrating the Law.  Each succeeding eight verses begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet (vv. 1-8, with Aleph, which begins the Hebrew alphabet).  In addition, every verse of this poem contains a word that is a synonym for the law.  It is written in the Wisdom tradition, i.e., the promise is made over and over that if one follows the law, one will be blessed.


1 Happy are they whose way is blameless, *
        who walk in the law of the Lord!

2 Happy are they who observe his decrees *
        and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong, *
        but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments, *
        that we should fully keep them.

5 Oh, that my ways were made so direct *
        that I might keep your statutes!

6 Then I should not be put to shame, *
        when I regard all your commandments.

7 I will thank you with an unfeigned heart, *
        when I have learned your righteous judgments.

8 I will keep your statutes; *
        do not utterly forsake me.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 9:11-14

Our passage from the Letter to the Hebrews today continues the use of the image of the high priest for Jesus.  Here the Day of Atonement is referenced, the one day when the high priest enters the inner sanctuary to plead for the people.  Jesus has done this once and for all, offering his own self so that we may worship the living God with confidence.

9:11 When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

Gospel Reading:  Mark 12:28-34

In Mark 12:13-37, Jesus is asked four questions about the Torah and the teaching of Moses.  The first was the question about paying taxes, the second about the resurrection, the third (below) the greatest commandment, and the fourth the sonship of the Messiah.  In this passage Jesus weaves together Moses’ summary of the law from Deuteronomy (6:4-5), and the commandment to love the neighbor from Leviticus (19:2).  Note Jesus adds “and with all your mind” to the Deuteronomy quote.  One aspect of this passage that is often overlooked is the fact that there is agreement between Jesus and this scribe.  Not all of Israel’s teachers and religious leaders were at odds with Jesus.

12:28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

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, October 17, 2021

22 Pentecost 2021, Proper 25B Readings with Commentary

The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 42:1-6, 10-17

The Book of Job ends with a capitulation on Job’s part:  he admits that he has been talking without the deeper knowledge of God.  He repents, which he had resisted doing through all the long speeches of his friend.  There is a disconnect here, because earlier God had rebuked his friends.  Some scholars believe this last chapter is an attempt by a later editor to “tidy things up,” or that the original story included only chapters 1-2 and 42, since they seem to come out of a worldview that is different from the chapters in-between.

42:1 Job answered the Lord:  2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” 10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.

Psalm 34:1-8, [19-22] (Track 1)

Psalm 34 is an acrostic poem in the wisdom tradition.  It begins with the praise of God, rejoicing in God’s role as deliverer from fear and evil.  The optional verses sing the praise of God who can be trusted to deliver the righteous and punish the evil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[19 Many are the troubles of the righteous, *
        but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.

20 He will keep safe all his bones; *
        not one of them shall be broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked, *
        and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

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

1st Reading (Track2):  Jeremiah 31:7-9

Our first reading is a vision of the return from exile.  It comes from the brief section of Jeremiah called “the Book of Consolations.”  Unlike the rest of Jeremiah, which is predominantly gloomy and judgmental, chapters 30-33 speak words of hope to the people.  The return will be inclusive: those who live in struggle and those who live in joy; they will make “a great company.”

31:7 Thus says the Lord:  Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.” 8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Psalm 126 (Track 2)

Psalm 126 is one of “Songs of Ascents,” pilgrim songs for the journey to Jerusalem for the major festivals (Psalms 120-134 have this title in the Hebrew text).  Psalm 126 is a prayer for deliverance for the nation.  It begins with a glad memory of Israel’s restoration from exile.  The image of weeping at sowing time, and joyfully bringing home the harvest seems to come from an ancient proverb:  “You must not laugh when you sow, lest you weep when you harvest.”

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *
        then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *    
        and our tongues with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations, *
        “the Lord has done great things for them.”

4 The Lord has done great things for us, *
        and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, *
        like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears *
        will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
        will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 7:23-28

In our second reading, the writer makes two arguments as to why Jesus’ priesthood is superior to that of the priesthood of Aaron or the Levites.  First, Jesus’ priesthood is permanent, eternal. Second, it is better given Jesus’ character and his status as the Son of God.  Jesus’ ministry of constant intercession for us is a significant theme of Hebrews.  The phrase “separated from sinners” is problematic, given Jesus continued statements that he came to call not the righteous but sinners (see, for example, Mark 2:17).

7:23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:46-52

Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem.  The incident in this story is the last time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus performs a healing.  It must be significant that the subject of the healing is named.  That has not been true in any of the prior stories.  Perhaps it is because Bartimaeus becomes a disciple, following Jesus “on the way.”  This following by one who is healed is unique in Mark’s Gospel as well.  There is a contrast with Jesus’ previous healing of a blind man (8:22-26) where Jesus makes mud from spittle and rubs it on the man’s eyes.  Here there is a simple word.

10:46 Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

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, October 10, 2021

21 Pentecost 2021 Proper 24B Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations:  Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 38:1-7, [35-41]

After 35 chapters of back-and-forth dialogue between Job and his friends, and a stranger named Elihu, Job gets his answer from God.  It is not an answer about the cause of his suffering, but a reminder that the world God has created is bigger than any one individual life.  Some see this response as being directly related to Job’s curse of his birth in chapter 3.  Others see it as God defending the mystery of life.  If the latter is correct, there is no answer to Job’s question, just the freedom of creation and the God who made it.

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?

[34 Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? 37 Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, 38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? 39 Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 40 when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? 41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?]

Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b (Track 1)

Psalm 104 is a hymn of creation, praising God as its sole creator.  There is a sense of a storm in these opening verses of the psalm, similar to the opening of our reading from Job today.  Verses 5-9 extol God’s mastery of the waters of chaos, with an echo of the story of the Flood from Genesis.

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; *
        O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
        you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

2 You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak *
        and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay the beams of your chambers in the waters above; *
        you make the clouds your chariot;
        you ride on the wings of the wind.

4 You make the winds your messengers *
        and flames of fire your servants.

5 You have set the earth upon its foundations; *
        so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle; *
        the waters stood higher than the mountains.

7 At your rebuke they fled; *
        at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath, *
        to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass; *
        they shall not again cover the earth.

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

37b Hallelujah!

1st Reading (Track 2):  Isaiah 53:4-12

Our first reading is from one of the Songs of the Suffering Servant from the latter portion of the Book of Isaiah.  The last line of today’s Gospel is more or less a quote of 53:11. Without the necessity of taking this passage as a word-for-word understanding of how the death and resurrection of Jesus saves us, Mark is saying that Jesus’ witness can be understood through the lens of the Suffering Servant, who offers his life as an atonement for the sins of others and is exalted by God.

53:4 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. 9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. 11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16 (Track 2)

Psalm 91 is a prayer of great confidence by one who has faith in God.  It promises ultimate security for one who trusts in “the Most High.”  Like many of the psalms it is idealistic.  God’s people do suffer, and Christians follow One who suffered in solidarity with us, as both the Old Testament reading and Gospel reading for today testify.


9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, *
        and the Most High your habitation,

10 There shall no evil happen to you *
        neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge of you, *
        to keep you in all your ways.

12 They shall bear you in their hands, *
        lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13 You shall tread upon the lion and the adder; *
        you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,
    therefore will I deliver him; *
        I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I shall answer him; *
        I am with him in trouble;
        I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
        and show him my salvation.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 5:1-10

Hebrews 5 continues the image of Jesus as our eternal high priest, designated by God, who is able to relate to us because he shared our life and our death.  Verses 5 and 6 first quote Psalm 2:7 and then Psalm 110:4.  Melchizedek is a mysterious figure who appears in Genesis 14:17-20.  The author of Hebrews uses this figure, who comes out of nowhere in the Abraham story, and who is given no story, i.e., no beginning and no end, to pre-figure the priesthood of Christ, which is greater than the priesthood of Aaron because it is eternal.

5:1 Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you;” 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

 Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:35-45

Jesus has just taught the disciples that “the first will be last and the last will be first.” Clearly James and John did not understand him, as they ask rather brazenly for the right to sit at his right and left hand.  Despite their bravado that they “are able” to bear what Jesus will bear, they still do not understand that he is talking about his suffering and death.  The rest of the disciples are angry at their presumption, but Jesus uses the occasion to make even plainer his understanding that in the Kingdom of God the rules of power are upside down.

 10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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, October 3, 2021

20 Pentecost 2021, Proper 23B Readings with Commentary

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Job has been in a dialogue with three friends—Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz—since the beginning of chapter 3.  They have tried to convince him that he has done something wrong, something to deserve the disaster that has come upon him.  Job continues his lament. In today’s passage, Job brings his complaint to God, whom he knows he cannot see.  But he trusts that if he could bring his case to God, he would be vindicated.  Yet God remains hidden, and in despair Job wishes he could disappear also.

23:1 Job answered: 2 Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! 4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. 6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. 7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. 8 If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; 9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. 16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; 17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm 22:1-15 (Track 1)

Psalm 22 is the quintessential psalm of lament.  The writer is blunt:  God, you have forgotten me.  He cites reasons why he should trust, but finally declares himself “a worm and no man,” forgotten, despised.  The psalms of lament and/or complaint are important because they speak to the human experience of a God hidden in mystery.  They validate being honest with God; God can take our complaints.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
        and are so far from my cry
        and from the words of my distress?

2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
        by night as well, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are the Holy One, *
        enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4 Our forebears put their trust in you; *
        they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 They cried out to you and were delivered; *
        they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

6 But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
        scorned by all and despised by the people.

7 All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
        they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

8 “He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; *
        let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”

9 Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, *
        and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.

10 I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
        you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
        and there is none to help.

12 Many young bulls encircle me; *
        strong bulls of Bashan surround me.

13 They open wide their jaws at me, *
        like a ravening and a roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water;
    all my bones are out of joint; *
        my heart within my breast is melting wax.

15 My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
    my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
        and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

The prophet Amos was active during the long and peaceful reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (i.e., the Northern Kingdom). The people were no doubt satisfied that they were pleasing God because of their military dominance and prosperity. Amos is sent from his little village, Tekoa, where he was a shepherd. He is sent to speak harsh words in this prosperous season. The prosperity is built on the backs of the poor. There is no justice. This message brought Amos into conflict with the religious authorities and he was expelled from the royal sanctuary at Bethel.

5:6 Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. 7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! 10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. 15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Psalm 90:12-17 (Track 2)

Psalm 90 is said to be a Prayer of Moses.  It is a prayer that Israel may be delivered out of its difficulties and that God would reveal himself as the One who makes Israel prosper.

12 So teach us to number our days *
        that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

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

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

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

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

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

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 4:12-16

Our passage today begins with a reminder in vivid language that God sees all: “to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid.”  Given that we are “laid bare” it is significant that we have a great high priest who has been tested as we are tested, laid bare as we have been laid bare.  We can approach the throne of this high priest with confidence that we will receive mercy and grace in time of need. The image of Jesus as our eternal high priest is a major image in this letter.

4:12 The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. 14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:17-31

In our Gospel reading Jesus is asked a sincere question and gives a forthright answer.  If the questioner is to follow Jesus, he must give up control over his wealth.  He proves unable to do so.  The disciples are amazed because they assume wealth is a sign of God’s favor. On the contrary, Jesus is saying:  it is an obstacle to the Kingdom, as great as the obstacle of the eye of a needle to a camel.  Yet all things are possible for God.  It is also, however, a defining characteristic of the Kingdom of God that “the first will be last and the last will be first.”

10:17 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

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.