Monday, March 28, 2022

Lent 5C Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, who alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners:  Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joy are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 1st Reading:  Isaiah 43:16-21

Among the Jews in exile in Babylon there is a startling announcement:  God is going to do a new thing. It will be just like the Exodus, only in a kind of reversal.  This time water will spring up in the desert.  “Do not remember the former things,” God says, “I am about to do a new thing.”  As we approach Good Friday and Easter we are aware of this renewing energy of God and are about to tell the tale of what we believe to be its greatest work.

 43:16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

 Psalm 126

Psalm 126 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” songs sung as pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem for various festivals.  Psalm 126 is a great song of hope.  Better days in Zion are remembered, but there is a break between verse 4 and verse 5.  There has been an intervening time when fortunes were not good (perhaps it is the time of exile that is being referred to). Weeping (a penitential act) is required for joy to return. The Negev is the arid southern portion of the land of Israel, dependent on winter rains.  It is used as a metaphor for Israel’s restoration.

 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 tongue 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:  Philippians 3:4b-14

In the beginning of this letter, Paul has been speaking in highly critical terms of his “enemies,” those who are teaching a different gospel to the Philippians, one that insists on the requirement of circumcision for males.  After his initial sense of outrage, he tells a part of his story.  He, of all people, has “confidence in the flesh,” i.e., his righteousness under the law. Yet Jesus has given him a new lens with which to see life.  That lens is Jesus himself and it has replaced the lens of the law. 

3:4b Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading:  John 12:1-8

All four Gospels share a story of a woman anointing Jesus.  John’s is a bit more detailed and is specifically tied to the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Jesus has, in fact, just raised Lazarus from the dead (ch. 11).  They now share a meal as good friends would (it has earlier been made clear that there is a special relationship between Jesus and this household).  The tale contrasts Mary and Judas, the faithful one and the unfaithful one.  Anointing Jesus’ feet may be a foreshadow of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet in ch. 13.  Jesus indicates that she is anointing him for burial.  The saying about the poor at the end of the passage does not mean that we should not care about them. Rather, it is Jesus contrasting their presence with his impending absence.  The perfume called “nard” comes from a plant native to India (the word itself is Sanskrit in origin).  It was extravagantly expensive and was most often saved for weddings and burials.  Three hundred denarii (a Roman coin) was about a year’s pay for the average worker of Jesus’ day.

12:1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

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 © 2022 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Lent 4C Readings with Commentary


The Collect of the Day

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world:  Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading:  Joshua 5:9-12

The book of Joshua picks up the story of the Israelite tribes’ entrance into the promised land after the death of Moses. Once they have arrived, they celebrate the Passover.  After this celebration, the food that had sustained them in the wilderness ceases and the promise is fulfilled as they eat the produce of the land.  All of these are signs that Israel’s disgrace in Egypt has become grace in Canaan.

5:9 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. 10 While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11 On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm 32

Psalm 32 is a song of thanksgiving for the forgiveness of sins.  The psalm testifies that confession of sin leads to happiness (or blessedness) in an immediate sense. This psalm is connected by some scholars to David’s confession after the Uriah-Bathsheba incident, where, in the space of one verse (2 Samuel 12:13), David confesses his guilt and the prophet Nathan says, “Now the Lord has put away all your sin.”


1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
        and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, *
        and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
        because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
        my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
        and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” *
        Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *
        when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;
    you preserve me from trouble; *
        you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *
        I will guide you with my eye.

10 Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
        who must be fitted with bit and bridle,
        or else they will not stay near you.”

11 Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
        but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.

12 Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; *
        shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

2nd Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:16-21

The word “therefore” at the beginning of this reading begs the question of what has come before it.  In chapter five, Paul speaks of the hardships he has endured, and that he expects all followers of Jesus will endure. These hardships, though very real, do not cause him to lose faith. He remains confident in God’s purposes for him and us.  Verse 14 begins, “For the love of Christ urges us on,” because of the conviction that one has died and is risen so that we might live, and not only live, but live for others. This leads into the following verses which emphasize the ministry of reconciliation to which all of us are called.  Thus, the Catechism of The Book of Common Prayer teaches that it is the church’s primary mission “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (p. 855).

5:16 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! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

The “Parable of the Prodigal Son” might just as easily be called “The Parable of the Forgiving Father,” for it is the action of the father in the story that Jesus is emphasizing.  That the father’s easy acceptance of the younger son’s return was a scandal to the older brother is what we are called upon to consider. The company that Jesus kept was a scandal to the pious of his day. The Gospel is not a morality play, but the record of a God who cannot help loving his children, even those at whom the world looks askance.  The skipped verses are two shorter parables with the same message.

1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 11b “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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 © 2022 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Lent 3C Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves:  Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thought which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Exodus 3:1-15

Our first reading is the well-known story of the burning bush.  It catches Moses’ eye while he is tending his father-in-law’s flock.  God calls to him out of the bush and identifies himself as the Hebrews’ God.  He has heard the cry of his people and has determined to deliver them!  Moses is to go back to Egypt.  He protests like all good prophets, but God has made up his mind.  Who is this God?  Scholars have never quite known how to translate what is said.  The name of this God is mystery, four Hebrew characters:  YHWH.  Jews traditionally have never attempted to pronounce this “name.”  It appears in the English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures as Lord.

3:1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am Who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

Psalm 63:1-8

This psalm is a prayer of deliverance from one’s enemies, recognizing God as the only true help. It is a practical psalm, but one that has mystical qualities. The love between God and the psalmist is intensely emotional, a love that rivals all other loves. The name YHWH does not appear in this psalm.

1 O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
        my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
        as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

2 Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *
        that I might behold your power and your glory.

3 For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *
        my lips shall give you praise.

4 So will I bless you as long as I live *
        and lift up my hands in your Name.

5 My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, *
        and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,

6 When I remember you upon my bed, *
        and meditate on you in the night watches.

7 For you have been my helper, *
        and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8 My soul clings to you; *
        your right hand holds me fast.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 10:1-13

In this portion of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul uses incidents in the book of Numbers to teach about times of testing and the dangers of falling into idolatry.  Paul’s interpretation is consistent with Jewish midrash, a method that freely uses biblical texts to form new interpretations.  Passages from Numbers referred to include (in order), 11:6-9 &20:1-13 (v. 3-4); 26:65 & 14:19-20 (v.5); 11:4, 34-35 (v. 6); Exodus 32:6 (v.7); Numbers 25:1-2 (v.8), 21:5-6 (v.9); 14:2 (v.10).

10:1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. 6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 13:1-9

This passage (unique to Luke) foreshadows Jesus’ rejection in Jerusalem, to which he is traveling.  Jesus responds first to Pilate’s murder of Galileans in or near the Temple and then the collapse of a tower in Jerusalem killing eighteen people.  Both may be interpreted as punishment for sin.  Jesus says those killed were not more or less sinful they anybody else. But, he says, “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” He probably means to emphasize the necessity of repentance in the face of death which could come at any time.  The parable that follows softens this urgency of repentance, by suggesting the forbearance of God.

13:1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

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 © 2022 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy or insert digitally into a bulletin for group study

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Lent 2C Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:  Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

 1st Reading:  Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

By now God’s promise to Abram has become old and stale.  God responds to Abram’s lament (vv.2-3) by reiterating the promise—and Abram believes (again)! Then there is a strange covenant ceremony, the origin of which we do not know.  It may have something to do with the fact that the Hebrew word for “make a covenant” literally means “cut a covenant.”  Verse 6, “He believed the Lord, and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness,” is a critical moment both in the Abraham story, but for biblical faith as a whole.

 15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4 But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5 He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

 Psalm 27

Psalm 27 (attributed to David) begins as a song of trust. In verse seven, however, it becomes a cry for help. Then by the end is another expression of confidence.  This echoes the reality dealt with in the first reading of our need to trust in the promise in spite of present circumstances.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? *
        the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh, *
        it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army should encamp against me, *
        yet my heart shall not be afraid;

4 And though war should rise up against me, *
        yet will I put my trust in him.

5 One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; *
        that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;

6 To behold the fair beauty of the Lord *
        and to seek him in his temple.

7 For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter; *
        he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling
        and set me high upon a rock.

8 Even now he lifts up my head *
        above my enemies round about me.

9 Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation
    with sounds of great gladness; *
        I will sing and make music to the Lord.

10 Hearken to my voice, O Lord, when I call; *
        have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.” *
        Your face, Lord, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me, *
        nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper; cast me not away; *
        do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

14 Though my father and my mother forsake me, *
        the Lord will sustain me.

15 Show me your way, O Lord; *
        lead me on a level path, because of my enemies.

16 Deliver me not into the hand of my adversaries, *
        for false witnesses have risen up against me,
        and also those who speak malice.

17 What if I had not believed
    that I should see the goodness of the Lord *
        in the land of the living!

18 O tarry and await the Lord’s pleasure;
    be strong, and he shall comfort your heart; *
        wait patiently for the Lord.

2nd Reading:  Philippians 3:17—4:1

Paul begins this passage by setting himself up against the “enemies of the cross of Christ.”  We do not know who these people are. “Their God is the belly” is too vague to tell us much.  Their minds, Paul says are “set on earthly things.”  The church’s identity is in heaven, i.e., it lives by a vision outside of itself.  This is not, however, to say only heaven matters. Quite the contrary, Paul is stating emphatically that it is our vision of the future that enables our lives in the present.

3:17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 13:31-35

Our Gospel reading begins with a helpful warning from some Pharisees, who are generally seen in a more positive light in Luke’s Gospel. Yet Jesus dismisses their warning, saying “I am headed for Jerusalem.” There, he implies, he will meet his death. He then laments over the city, citing Psalm 118:26, which the crowds will shout as he enters the city on Palm Sunday. Note Jesus’ use of feminine imagery in describing his work.

13:31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 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 © 2022 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.