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Readings follow for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity — the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 8, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Readings from Jeremiah continue. The Lord tells the prophet that Israel is like clay in His — the potter’s — hands and risks judgement for disobedience, unless the people repent.

Jeremiah 18:1-11

18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

18:2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”

18:3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.

18:4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

18:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:

18:6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

18:7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,

18:8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.

18:9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,

18:10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.

18:11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

Psalm

This Psalm, considered by many Bible scholars to be David’s finest, points out God’s omniscience. He knows our ways, for better or worse. We can conceal nothing from Him, for He created us.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

139:13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

139:15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

139:16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

139:17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

139:18 I try to count them — they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.

First reading – alternate

Moses exhorts the Israelites to obey God’s commandments and to stay away from false idols or suffer the consequences. Re verse 19, I remember tee shirts in the 1980s with the slogan ‘Choose Life’, made popular by Wham! as part of a safe-sex campaign about avoiding AIDS. It is a pity that the first part of verse 20, which continues the verse was forgotten then — and now — by so many people.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

30:15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.

30:16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

30:17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,

30:18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

30:20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm – alternate

In my humble opinion, this is the greatest Psalm of all, as it tells us how to live a godly life, delighting in the Lord. No wonder the probable Psalm compiler Ezra placed it before the others.

Psalm 1

1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Epistle

Writing from prison, Paul exhorts Philemon, a leader of the early Church (probably Colosse), to forgive his slave Onesimus his theft and subsequent escape, as he had since converted to become a faithful believer in Jesus Christ. This is the whole letter, minus the final greeting from others serving with Paul (all of whom are mentioned in the Book of Acts, which Luke wrote):

22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

This is a book about divine grace and human forgiveness.

Philemon 1:1-21

1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker,

1:2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:

1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God

1:5 because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus.

1:6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.

1:7 I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

1:8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty,

1:9 yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love–and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.

1:10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.

1:11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me.

1:12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.

1:13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel;

1:14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.

1:15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever,

1:16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother–especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

1:17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

1:18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

1:19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.

1:20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.

1:21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Gospel

Jesus lays out the terms of discipleship. Following Jesus means putting Him above all earthly comforts, including family, possessions — and our own lives. Being a Christian is a serious undertaking.

Luke 14:25-33

14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,

14:26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

14:27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?

14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him,

14:30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

14:31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?

14:32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

No doubt, verse 33 will be at the centre of many Sunday sermons. However, verse 26 should come in for an equally strong mention.

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