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Below are the readings for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, November 15, 2020.

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Some time after Joshua’s death — after Ehud died — the Israelites fell into serious sin once again. Joshua had defeated Jabin, but, over the years, Jabin was able to rebuild his kingdom. God judged the Israelites by putting Jabin over them. After two decades, the judge and prophetess Deborah received word from the Lord that it was time for His judgement to end with another battle. Lappidoth (verse 4) means ‘lamps’. Deborah was an extraordinary woman, brilliant — as bright as a lamp — in spiritual and intellectual discernment. As such, Matthew Henry says that ‘wife of Lappidoth’ may be considered a figurative expression.

Judges 4:1-7

4:1 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died.

4:2 So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim.

4:3 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

4:4 At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel.

4:5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment.

4:6 She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun.

4:7 I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'”

The Psalm was written at a time when God’s people were severely oppressed. However, it is a timeless plea for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Psalm 123

123:1 To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

123:2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until he has mercy upon us.

123:3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

123:4 Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

Zephaniah was the last minor prophet before the captivity at the hands of the Chaldeans. Zephaniah warned of the destruction of Jerusalem and enumerated the sins of Judah which formed the basis for God’s judgement. The prophet Jeremiah lived through that captivity.

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

1:7 Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.

1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

1:13 Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.

1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.

1:15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

1:16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

1:17 I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

The Psalm, which Moses wrote, recognises God’s omnipotence, and asks Him for the human wisdom to acknowledge it.

Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12

90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

90:3 You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

90:5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;

90:6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

90:7 For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.

90:8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

90:9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh.

90:10 The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

90:11 Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

90:12 So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Thessalonians continue. Paul has no lectures to offer these holy Christians. He reminds them to continue being mindful of their mortality and to carry on building each other up in faith.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.

5:2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

5:3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!

5:4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;

5:5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

5:6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;

5:7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.

5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

5:9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue. Jesus taught these parables in the week of His death on the Cross. This is the Parable of the Talents. The conclusion seems harsh. However, the talents — worth quite a sum — were an analogy for the gifts that God gives each of us to increase for His praise and glory. Therefore, we should not waste the gifts He gives us. All good things come from Him alone and we should use them. He does not want us to bury — ignore — these gifts. Even with one gift, we can increase our use and value of it during our lifetimes, becoming holier people as we spread the Gospel according to our abilities.

Matthew 25:14-30

25:14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;

25:15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

25:16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.

25:17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.

25:18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

25:19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

25:20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’

25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

25:22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’

25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

25:24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;

25:25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

25:26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?

25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

25:28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.

25:29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

25:30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

Note that the tone of the readings for the past two Sundays have been more sombre. They have to do with the importance of wisdom, repentance, mortality and judgement. They prepare us for the approaching season of Advent, where we contemplate our failings and seek to do better in preparation for the feast of Christmas.

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