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.

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