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Below are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, July 5, 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/Psalm Alternative — Option One

Readings about Abraham and his household continue. In this passage, Abraham’s eldest servant goes off in search of a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

24:34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant.

24:35 The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys.

24:36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has.

24:37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live;

24:38 but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

24:42 “I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!

24:43 I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,”

24:44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” –let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

24:45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’

24:46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels.

24:47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms.

24:48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.

24:49 Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

24:58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.”

24:59 So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.

24:60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.”

24:61 Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

24:62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb.

24:63 Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming.

24:64 And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel,

24:65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.

24:66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.

24:67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

The following Psalm may be read or, alternatively, the passage from the Song of Solomon, which follows.

Matthew Henry says that this Psalm refers only to Jesus Christ and the Church, not to an earthly marriage.

Psalm 45:10-17

45:10 Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house,

45:11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;

45:12 the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people

45:13 with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;

45:14 in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions, follow.

45:15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.

45:16 In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.

45:17 I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.

As with Psalm 45, the Song of Solomon is also about Christ’s loving relationship with the Church. This may be read instead of the Psalm.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

2:8 The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.

2:9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.

2:10 My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;

2:11 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

2:12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

2:13 The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Zechariah gives the Jews a hopeful prophecy of the Messiah to come.

Zechariah 9:9-12

9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

9:10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9:11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

9:12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Psalm 145 is the first of the last six Psalms, which are songs of praise to God.

Psalm 145:8-14

145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

145:9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

145:10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.

145:11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,

145:12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

145:13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

145:14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.

Epistle

Paul discusses the conflict that sin and temptation bring. Under the New Covenant, God grants us His infinite grace. Paul gives thanks that Jesus has rescued us from eternal death and reconciled us with God.

Romans 7:15-25a

7:15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

7:16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.

7:17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.

7:19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

7:20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.

7:22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,

7:23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

7:25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel

Jesus discusses the parallels between John the Baptist’s ministry and His own. He then invites all sinners to follow Him. The last three verses will be familiar to most of us.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;

11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;

11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What a gracious invitation! Pray that more people in this world accept it.

In closing, I hope that my American readers are enjoying a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

Below are the readings for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 28, 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

Readings about Abraham’s life continue. God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his only child, Isaac. God relented when He saw how obedient Abraham was.

Genesis 22:1-14

22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

22:9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

22:13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

22:14 So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

This six-verse lament of David expressing his desire for God’s deliverance ends in praise.

Psalm 13

13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Readings from Jeremiah continue. This reading concerns the false prophet Hananiah, who, like Pashur in last week’s reading, came from a family of priests.

Jeremiah 28:5-9

28:5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD;

28:6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.

28:7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.

28:8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.

28:9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

It would have been a good idea for the Lectionary editors to include the second half of the chapter. God spoke through Jeremiah, who prophesied Hananiah’s death, which came true.

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

It is possible that the following Psalm was written during the captivity in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

89:1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

89:2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

89:3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

89:4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah

89:15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

89:16 they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.

89:17 For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.

89:18 For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Epistle

Readings from Romans continue. Paul explains the doctrine of grace to the Jewish converts in Rome. They were once under law only, but the law cannot save. With Jesus Christ, believers have saving faith through divine grace. Verse 23 is another personal favourite of mine.

Romans 6:12-23

6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

6:13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

6:15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

6:21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.

6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel

These verses conclude Matthew 10, Christ’s instructions to the Apostles for their ministries, read over the preceding two weeks.

Matthew 10:40-42

10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

May you be blessed in the week ahead.

Below are the readings for the Second Sunday after Trinity, June 21, 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

Readings from Genesis about Abraham’s life continue. Abraham desperately wanted an heir, so he slept with his bondservant Hagar because Sarah could not have children until God intervened. Hagar and Abraham’s son was called Ishmael, and God made him the father of the Arab nations.

Genesis 21:8-21

21:8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

21:9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.

21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

21:11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.

21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.

21:13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”

21:14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.

21:16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

21:18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”

21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

21:20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.

21:21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The following Psalm is called ‘A Prayer of David’, as he sang it often in times of trouble. Note how verse 16 ties in with the above reading about Hagar and Ishmael.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

86:2 Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;

86:3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long.

86:4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.

86:6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.

86:7 In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.

86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.

86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

86:10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

86:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.

86:17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Pashur, the chief governor of the temple at the time, was angry with Jeremiah for preaching the truth. The hierarchy and the people rejected all of the prophets, not just Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 20:7-13

20:7 O LORD, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

20:8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.

20:9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

20:10 For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”

20:11 But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

20:12 O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

20:13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers

This Psalm, about David’s afflictions, ties in well with Jeremiah’s own.

Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

69:7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

69:8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

69:9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

69:10 When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

69:11 When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

69:12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help

69:14 rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

69:15 Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

69:16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

69:17 Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

69:18 Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.

Epistle

Readings from Romans continue. Paul explains that, because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, believers are dead to sin and alive with Him.

Romans 6:1b-11

6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.

6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

Matthew Henry calls Matthew 10 an ‘ordination sermon’. In last week’s Gospel reading, we read how Jesus sent the Apostles out to preach and heal. This week’s is the continuation of the chapter, wherein Jesus gives them a powerful lesson about their ministries and the effect that the Christian faith will have on people. He begins with the criticism of the Jewish hierarchy of His preaching (verse 25)

Matthew 10:24-39

10:24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;

10:25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

10:26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

10:27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

10:30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

10:31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

10:32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;

10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

10:36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

10:38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

10:39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Christianity is not easy at times. It requires endurance and patience. It might also mean losing one’s friends, just as the prophets of old did. We are to keep the faith and fight the good fight.

Have a blessed Sunday and a satisfying week ahead.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday after Trinity, June 14, 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

Readings from Genesis continue. Here we have the account of the Lord appearing to Abraham, who was, at the time, pagan (as was his family). Incredibly, he followed the Lord and did whatever He asked of him. The Lord blessed Abraham with many good things and gave him a son, even though his wife Sarah was barren and beyond childbearing age.

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.

18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

18:3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.

18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”

18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

18:9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”

18:10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.

18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”

18:13 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’

18:14 Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

18:15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

21:1 The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.

21:2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.

21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.

21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

21:6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”

21:7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The Psalm ties in perfectly with Abraham’s story. David wrote in thanksgiving for all the blessings the Lord had given him.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.

116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

This is the first part of the story of the covenant that God made with the Israelites.

Exodus 19:2-8a

19:2 They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

19:3 Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:

19:4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

19:5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine,

19:6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

19:7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.

19:8a The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

This is a beautiful Psalm of general thanksgiving for God’s goodness towards us.

Psalm 100

100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.

100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

100:3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.

100:5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Epistle

We begin a series of readings from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul succinctly lays out the New Covenant that God made with us through His Son Jesus Christ. Endurance is part of our Christian journey, as Paul knew only too well in his own ministry.

Romans 5:1-8

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel

Jesus gave the Apostles the power to preach and to heal early in His ministry along with the following instructions on how to conduct themselves. Matthew 10:16 is a personal favourite of mine.

Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

9:38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

10:2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

10:3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

10:4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,

10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

10:7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

10:8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,

10:10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

10:11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.

10:12 As you enter the house, greet it.

10:13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

10:16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

10:17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;

10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;

10:20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

10:22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Note that Jesus sent the Apostles to the Jews, ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. He also warned of persecution, which befell most of them once they began their own ministries after the first Pentecost. Also note that Jesus spoke of endurance — ‘to the end’.

Below are the readings for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020.

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

This particular Sunday honours the Triune God. These posts explain more about it:

On Trinity Sunday

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

This next post offers an excellent way to explain the Holy Trinity to someone, particularly a child. It comes from a Lutheran pastor:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This is the story of Creation. It is difficult to comprehend how people cannot believe that God did not create the universe and all of nature.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

1:2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

1:6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

1:7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.

1:8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

1:9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.

1:12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.

1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,

1:15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

1:16 God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

1:17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,

1:18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

1:19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

1:20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”

1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

1:22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

1:23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

1:24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

1:25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

1:27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

1:28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

1:29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.

1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.

2:2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.

2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

2:4a These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Psalm

This Psalm ties in beautifully with the reading from Genesis.

Psalm 8

8:1 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

8:2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

8:3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

8:4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

8:5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

8:6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

8:7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8:8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

8:9 O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Epistle

This is Paul’s valediction (farewell) and benediction (blessing) to the Corinthians. ‘Saints’ refers to those who ministered along with him. What a perfect blessing we have in verse 13.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13:13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Gospel

This is the Great Commission: our Lord’s instruction to spread the Good News to all the ends of the Earth. This is the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 28:16-20

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Have a blessed Sunday contemplating the holy mystery of the Triune God.

Readings for the Second Sunday in Lent — March 9, 2020 — follow.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading

Abraham receives the Lord’s instruction to leave his family homestead. He was thought to have been 75 at the time. Abraham’s extended family were pagans, so Abraham obeyed with a blind faith in God. His wife Sarah and his nephew Lot accompanied him. Abraham’s story is utterly amazing, as demonstrated by his unquestioning faith and his unwavering obedience to God.

Genesis 12:1-4a

12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

12:2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

12:4a So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.

Psalm

This is known as the Soldier’s Psalm or the Traveller’s Psalm. Regardless, its words are uplifting and should be prayed wherever one is, even at home.

Psalm 121

121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?

121:2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

121:3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

121:4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

121:5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

121:6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

121:7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

121:8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Epistle

Paul addresses Abraham’s righteous faith, an example for us all, as we are his spiritual descendants.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

4:1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?

4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

4:3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

4:4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.

4:5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

4:13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

4:14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.

4:15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

4:16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,

4:17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Gospel

There are two suggested Gospel readings for this Sunday. One is Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, which was read two weeks ago on Transfiguration Sunday. Therefore, I will only include the reading from John, which concerns Jesus’s encounter with Nicodemus.

John 3:1-17

3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.

3:2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

3:4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

3:7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’

3:8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

3:11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.

3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Nicodemus pops up two more times in John’s Gospel. The next time is in John 7:50-51, when he reminds his fellow Pharisees that they must hear Jesus out before condemning him. He appears a third time in John 19. We have reason to believe that Nicodemus became a follower of Jesus, because he helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare His body in the tomb. He brought with him 75 pounds of a myrrh and aloe mixture (John 19:39-40).

The following are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent, March 1, 2020.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the story of Original Sin, elaborated on in Paul’s letter to the Romans in the Epistle.

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;

2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”

3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;

3:5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm

It has been said that this Psalm might have been sung on the Day of Atonement. It sets forth how to repent and place one’s trust in the Lord.

Psalm 32

32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

32:8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

32:9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

32:10 Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Epistle

It would have been appropriate had the Lectionary compilers included the preceding three verses to Paul’s description of justification and salvation through the living Christ:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this rather complex chapter in Romans, particularly this sentence:

We are reconciled by Christ humbled, we are saved by Christ exalted.

In any event, this refers back to the first reading about Adam, Eve and Original Sin.

Romans 5:12-19

5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned

5:13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.

5:14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

5:16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.

5:17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.

5:19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Gospel

This is Matthew’s account of the forty days that Jesus fasted and prayed. Those forty days are the reason Lent lasts this amount of time.

Matthew 4:1-11

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

4:3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,

4:6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;

4:9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

In the oldest denominations the celebrant will be wearing purple (or dark blue), as on Ash Wednesday. This continues until Easter Vigil Mass for Catholics or, for Protestants, Easter Day services. There are two exceptions: Laetare Sunday, when the celebrant may wear pink as Easter draws near, and on Palm Sunday, when celebrants wear red in remembrance of the coming Crucifixion which took place days later.

Hello, everyone!

Christmas is nearly here, and I have a few items to share of both a secular and a religious nature.

O Antiphon for Christmas Eve

First, the final O Antiphon, the one for Christmas Eve, is Matthew 1:18-23, detailed in the following two posts:

Christmas Eve — Matthew 1:18-25 (with commentary from Albert Barnes)

The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

The Christmas 1968 Bible reading from space

On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 orbited the moon. Listen to the astronauts on board read from Genesis:

The Christmas message from Outer Space

‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ — a delightful reading

Children might need a distraction while grown-ups are preparing for Christmas.

What better than listening to a reading of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’?

Britain’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has done a cracking job of reading the story in his remarkable baritone:

Those who listened to it loved it. This is just one of the many compliments on his voice:

Christmas traditions — religious or not?

The trend over recent years, possibly a reactionary one, is that certain Christmas traditions that have evolved since the 19th century are either too secular or too pagan.

That said, some of these traditions can be said to have religious overtones.

The history of the candy cane is an intriguing one and one that could be used in Sunday School for its symbolism about Jesus:

Candy canes: useful for a Nativity lesson in Sunday School

There is a religious reason why we give each other gifts at this time of year. We recall John the Baptist’s ministry in preparing the way for our Lord:

John the Baptist, charity and Advent

He advocated giving as one way of preparing. Luke’s Gospel records John the Baptist’s words about charity (Luke 3:10-11):

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

This is how seasonal giving developed over time:

Christmas gifts — a history

As far as greenery is concerned, St Boniface transformed the fir tree into a Christian symbol in Germany during the early 8th century:

The Christmas tree — a history

Christmas cards were highly secular and of a facetious nature. They did not become religious until much later:

Bizarre Christmas cards from the 19th century

Louis Prang, a Prussian who emigrated to the United States, made Christmas cards popular there, beginning in 1873. Hallmark did not come along until 1910:

Louis Prang — father of the American Christmas card

I hope these give everyone a few spiritual talking points along with some fun during the countdown to Christmas!

What follows are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity — the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost — October 20, 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

The Lord tells His people that He will release them from Babylonian captivity in due course, making a new covenant with them which involves sending His Son, the Messiah, to them. This is referenced in Hebrews 8:8-9. Verse 33 will be familiar to many of us.

Jeremiah 31:27-34

31:27 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.

31:28 And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD.

31:29 In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

31:30 But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

31:31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

31:32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.

31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm

David intended for this lengthy Psalm to be memorised. It is said that each verse of it can either warm or censure our hearts.

Psalm 119:97-104

119:97 Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.

119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me.

119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your decrees are my meditation.

119:100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

119:101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.

119:102 I do not turn away from your ordinances, for you have taught me.

119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

First reading – alternate

Jacob, wishing to be alone to pray, was interrupted. He wrestled with a ‘man’, believed to be an angel, possibly Michael the Archangel. Although the angel dislocated Jacob’s hip, the angel asked him to stop wrestling. Jacob received a great blessing at the end. Peniel, or Penuel, means ‘face of God’.

Genesis 32:22-31

32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

32:28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

32:29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”

32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm – alternate

This is known as the soldier’s or traveller’s Psalm, however, as Matthew Henry’s commentary points out, we do not need to be away from home in order to recite it, because it affirms beautifully God’s protection of the faithful. These verses will be familiar to many.

Psalm 121

121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?

121:2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

121:3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

121:4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

121:5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

121:6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

121:7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

121:8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Epistle

Readings of letters from Paul to Timothy continue. Paul advises the young evangelist — the son of Eunice and grandson of Lois (Acts 16) — to be persistent and serious in teaching the Good News, enduring any hardships that might befall him. Note verses 4:3-4.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,

3:15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

3:17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:

4:2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.

4:3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires,

4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.

4:5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

Gospel

Jesus tells this parable to encourage people to pray often and to not lose heart. The evil judge gives into the widow, whom he did not know. By contrast, God, our Creator, knows each of us intimately and will take care of our needs — as does Jesus with the faithful, no matter how few in number.

Luke 18:1-8

18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

18:2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.

18:3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’

18:4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,

18:5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'”

18:6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.

18:7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

18:8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Prayer is a conversation with the Triune God. It might take the form of the Lord’s Prayer or a lengthy private request. Similarly, it might also be part of a liturgical prayer or a Psalm. We encourage each other to keep lines of communication with friends and family. How much more valuable it is to keep those lines of communication open with the Holy Trinity.

What follows are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity — Ninth Sunday after Pentecost — August 11, 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

This is the beginning of the Book of Isaiah. The Lord is angry with His people for offering sacrifices when they are not obeying His laws.

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

1:1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

1:11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

1:12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more;

1:13 bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation– I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

1:14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.

1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,

1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

1:18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

1:19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

1:20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm

The Lord blesses those who honour Him with all their hearts.

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23

50:1 The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

50:3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.

50:4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:

50:5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”

50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

50:7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.

50:8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.

50:22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.

50:23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”

First reading — alternative

The aged Abram — before he became Abraham — has faith that God will give him and his barren wife Sarai a son. The Epistle below mentions their situation.

Genesis 15:1-6

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.”

15:2 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?”

15:3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”

15:4 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.”

15:5 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.”

15:6 And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Psalm — alternative

This expressive Psalm needs no explanation.

Psalm 33:12-22

33:12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

33:13 The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.

33:14 From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth

33:15 he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.

33:16 A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

33:17 The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.

33:18 Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,

33:19 to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield.

33:21 Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

33:22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Epistle

This beautiful passage recounts the blessings that faith brings to God’s people.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

11:2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.

11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.

11:9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

11:10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11:11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old–and Sarah herself was barren–because he considered him faithful who had promised.

11:12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

11:13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,

11:14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

11:15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.

11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Gospel

In this passage, Jesus summarises everything we need for life eternal. A personal favourite of mine is verse 34.

Luke 12:32-40

12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

12:35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;

12:36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.

12:37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.

12:38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

12:39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

It is difficult for many today to grasp the urgency of being ready at all times for the next life. Yet, prepare we must for the unexpected.

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