Sunday, August 7, 2022

10 Pentecost 2022, Proper 15C Readings with Commentary

 The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life:  Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

1st Reading (Track 1):  Isaiah 5:1-7

Our reading today from Isaiah is a love song that turns rather quickly into a pronouncement of judgment. God, the singer, is utterly devoted to Israel but also has expectations which have not been met. The true expectation of God was justice and righteousness, which is stated in two play on words in Hebrew:  God wanted mišpāḥ (justice) but received mišpāṭ (bloodshed) and ṣĕdaqâ (righteousness) but received ṣĕ‘āqâ (outcry). The covenant with God, which was a social contract of communal well-being, has been broken and the consequences will be severe.

5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard:  My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18 (Track 1)

Psalm 80 (especially verses 8-16) has much in common with the reading from Isaiah above. Both use the image of the vineyard as a metaphor for what has happened to Judah—the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying a large part of the population into exile in Babylon. If Isaiah 5 was the voice of God, Psalm 80 is the voice of the people asking “why?” and seeking restoration.  What is missing in Psalm 80 is any knowledge of the circumstances that caused the situation or sense of responsibility for the consequences.

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
        shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
        stir up your strength and come to help us.

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
        you cast out the nations and planted it.

9 You prepared the ground for it; *
        it took root and filled the land.

10 The mountains were covered by its shadow *
        and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11 You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
        and its branches to the River.

12 Why have you broken down its wall, *
        so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13 The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
        and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14 Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
    behold and tend this vine; *
        preserve what your right hand has planted.

15 They burn it with fire like rubbish; *
        at the rebuke of your countenance let them perish.

16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
        the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17 And so will we never turn away from you; *
        give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
        show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 23:23-29

This passage is part of a larger section critical of the rulers and prophets of Jeremiah’s day.  Most likely these prophets are affirming the status quo in the Kingdom of Judah, which is living in relative prosperity, but also, as Jeremiah sees, is on the brink of destruction by the Babylonian Empire.  The false prophets speak lies to the people as if God cannot hear them, but God reminds them that there is no such hiding place.  God’s people must be told the truth even if it is difficult. God’s word functions to break up the certainties we imagine. 

23:23 Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” 26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? 

Psalm 82 (Track 2)

Psalm 82 is a vision of a divine court.  Verse one introduces the scene.  It is not clear exactly who is on trial, but that hardly matters, for the judgment (verses 2-7) is a universal one.  Verse 8 is the author’s conclusion, asking God to rule alone in justice. The vision is also clear:  God’s just rule means our doing of justice.

 1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *

        he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:

2 “How long will you judge unjustly, *
        and show favor to the wicked?

3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
        defend the humble and needy;

4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
        deliver them from the power of the wicked.

5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
    they go about in darkness; *
        all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
        and all of you children of the Most High;

7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
        and fall like any prince.’”

8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
        for you shall take all nations for your own.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 11:29—12:2

Our reading from chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews continues from last week.  The author is outlining the biblical story as he knew it, showing that it has always been “by faith” that the People of God have lived out their relationship with God.  The story of Rahab is in Joshua 2, Gideon in Judges 6-8, Barak in Judges 4-5, Samson in Judges 13-16, Jephthah in Judges 11-12, David in 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Kings, and Samuel in 1 Samuel.  The tortures may refer to some of the stories told about the Jewish War in 1 & 2 Maccabees, but may also refer to persecutions occurring in the author’s day.  We are surrounded by the “cloud of witnesses,” with Jesus as the primary and perfect example. Here is the scriptural witness for what we call “the communion of saints” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 862). 

11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. 32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 12:49-56

These verses from Luke 12 are some of the most difficult in all of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus does not want us to follow him under the illusion that his way is simply the way of the healer, the reconciler, and the hero. It is very much that kind of way, but we should be acutely aware that acting in these ways will bring opposition, even, perhaps, from within our own households. It is ironic, but painfully true that our commitment to reconciliation as a way of life will be the cause of division.  The Gospel is not received as good news by everyone.

12:49 [Jesus said,] “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

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.