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What follows are the readings for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, October 21, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings and Psalms. I have given the second selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

Readings from Job continue. God speaks to Job to reveal his ignorance. Matthew Henry has a good commentary on this chapter for those of us, myself included (who actually took a university course on the book), who still find it difficult to understand.

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

38:3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

38:5 Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

38:6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone

38:7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

38:34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you?

38:35 Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

38:36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?

38:37 Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

38:38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together?

38:39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

38:40 when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert?

38:41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?

Psalm

The Psalm is an apt accompaniment to the reading from Job, describing God’s everlasting glory and majesty.

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c

104:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty,

104:2 wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent,

104:3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind,

104:4 you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.

104:5 You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken.

104:6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.

104:7 At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.

104:8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them.

104:9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.

104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

104:35c Praise the LORD!

First reading

In this reading, Isaiah prophesies Jesus Christ. This is one of the most moving readings in the Old Testament, describing His brutal suffering and death for our sake. Matthew Henry says this could reasonably be called the Gospel of Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:4-12

53:4 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.

53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

53:8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.

53:9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.

53:11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

53:12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm

The accompanying Psalm describes the enduring love God has for His faithful people.

Psalm 91:9-16

91:9 Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place,

91:10 no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.

91:11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

91:12 On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

91:13 You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

91:14 Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.

91:15 When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.

91:16 With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

Epistle

Readings continue from the Book of Hebrews. Here the author discusses Christ as High Priest and refers to examples in the Old Testament to show the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.

Hebrews 5:1-10

5:1 Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

5:2 He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness;

5:3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.

5:4 And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

5:5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;

5:6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

5:8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;

5:9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

5:10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Here brothers James and John boldly impose themselves on Jesus. However, Jesus says that they do not understand what they are asking and that their request is not His to grant. Furthermore, He says that in His service, no one lords leadership positions over other people, true of Jesus in His humiliating death on the Cross.

Mark 10:35-45

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

10:36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

10:37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

10:39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;

10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

10:41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

I hope the clergy who choose Job are able to tie it in with the Epistle and Gospel in the sermon. Personally, I would choose Isaiah 53, a much more compelling reading and one that truly fits with the others, focussing on Christ’s humiliating crucifixion as the one and sufficient sacrifice, the redemption for our sins.

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What follows are the readings for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, October 14, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings and Psalms. I have given the second selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

Readings from Job continue. Here Job discusses his perceived isolation from God.

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

23:1 Then Job answered:

23:2 “Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

23:3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!

23:4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

23:5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.

23:6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me.

23:7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.

23:8 “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him;

23:9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

23:16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me;

23:17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the same theme of isolation but also the hope that God will hear David’s plea for deliverance. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that David’s verses below can also be applied to Christ’s suffering.

Psalm 22:1-15

22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

22:4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

22:5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

22:6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.

22:7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

22:8 “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver– let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

22:9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

22:10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

22:11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

22:12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

22:13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

22:15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

First reading

Amos appeals to the people of Israel to foresake idolatry and return to the Lord God.

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

5:6 Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.

5:7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!

5:10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.

5:11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.

5:12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.

5:13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.

5:14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.

5:15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Psalm

The Psalm similarly urges faith that the Lord hears our prayers for deliverance. Moses wrote this Psalm, the heading of which is ‘A prayer of Moses the man of God’, which he intended for the Israelites to recite during their time in the wilderness.

Psalm 90:12-17

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

90:13 Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants!

90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

90:15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.

90:16 Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.

90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands– O prosper the work of our hands!

Epistle

Readings continue from Hebrews. This passage concludes a chapter in which the author explains why the ancient Hebrews did not always benefit from God’s blessings, then outlines the blessings which those who believe in Christ will receive. This conclusion exhorts the converts to continue with their faith in Christ.

Hebrews 4:12-16

4:12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

4:13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

4:14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.

4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

4:16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Today’s verses are about the rich man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. At least three verses will be familiar, even to those who are not well acquainted with Scripture — Mark 10:25, 27, 31.

Mark 10:17-31

10:17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

10:19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'”

10:20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”

10:21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

10:22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

10:23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

10:24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

10:26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”

10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

10:28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”

10:29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news,

10:30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life.

10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

When we have it easy — good salaries and material comforts — we often forget about matters spiritual. How many of the wealthiest men and women truly believe in God? Not many. They believe in themselves and their notional self-sufficiency. Hence, Jesus’s words in Mark 10:25. True then, true now.

What follows are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, October 7, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings and Psalms. I have given the second selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

Outside of the first reading and Psalm with the green subheads, today’s themes are largely about God’s creation, women and marriage.

First reading

Here is the introduction to Job and God’s wager with Satan. In the end, God turned Satan’s purposes to His own good purposes.

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

1:1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

2:1 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.

2:2 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

2:3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.”

2:4 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives.

2:5 But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”

2:6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

2:7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

2:8 Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

2:9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.”

2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Psalm

The words of the Psalm no doubt are no doubt similar to what Job said and believed at the end of his trials.

Psalm 26

26:1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

26:2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind.

26:3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.

26:4 I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites;

26:5 I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.

26:6 I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD,

26:7 singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.

26:8 O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

26:9 Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty,

26:10 those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.

26:11 But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.

26:12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.

First reading

This is a beautiful description of God’s creation of woman and His plan for both sexes: a lifelong and faithful union between one man and one woman.

Genesis 2:18-24

2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

2:19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

2:20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.

2:21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

2:22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

2:23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”

2:24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Psalm

The Psalm discusses the wonder of God’s creation and how He meticulously cares for it — especially humans.

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

The Epistle comes from Hebrews, a letter that explains to the Jews that Christ is the Messiah. Here we find an explanation of Jesus’s role in coming to Earth as well as a reference to Psalm 8:4-5 above.

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,

1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

1:3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

1:4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

2:5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.

2:6 But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?

2:7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor,

2:8 subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,

2:9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

2:10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

2:11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,

2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Jesus delivers a discourse on marriage and divorce to the Pharisees. He points out that some people are too hard-hearted to sustain marriage and, so, must divorce. Remarriage, He says, constitutes adultery. This view of a lifelong, faithful union ties in nicely with the reading from Genesis, as He cites Genesis 2:24. Jesus then turns to bless the innocent, guileless children present.

Mark 10:2-16

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

10:3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”

10:4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.”

10:5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.

10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

10:7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

10:8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10:10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

10:11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;

10:12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

10:13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.

10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

10:15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

10:16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

There was a time, not so many decades ago, when even secular families frowned upon divorce. These days, no one thinks twice about it. The message of the readings from Genesis and Mark is to be careful about whom we marry.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Adam had it easy. Eve came out of his rib.

Below are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

As we have seen in the readings for the previous Sundays in Lent, the Old Testament theme is about God’s promises to Israel, principally their liberation from Egypt. The New Testament readings focus on the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.

God told Jeremiah that He will make a new covenant with His people, despite their iniquity (emphases mine):

Jeremiah 31:31-34

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.

There is a choice of Psalms. Whilst I like both, Psalm 51 is well known by devout Christians not only for its request of spiritual cleansing but also its evocative prose:

Psalm 51:1-12

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

51:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

51:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

51:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

51:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

51:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

The alternative Psalm is better for family services:

Psalm 119:9-16

119:9 How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

119:10 With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.

119:11 I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

119:12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes.

119:13 With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.

119:14 I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches.

119:15 I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.

119:16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

The author of Hebrews explained that God appointed Jesus to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek and our source of eternal salvation:

Hebrews 5:5-10

5:5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;

5:6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

5:8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;

5:9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

5:10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The reading from John’s Gospel is on the same theme of Jesus’s obedient suffering to come in order to save us:

John 12:20-33

12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.

12:21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

12:22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

12:23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

12:25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

12:27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

12:29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

12:30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

12:33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

These readings are apposite as the sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Passiontide — Holy Week.

CranachWeimarAltarCyberbrethren

The painting above is by the Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger, father and son. Lucas Cranach the Younger finished the painting in 1555. It is the centre altar painting in St Peter and Paul (Lutheran) Church in Weimar, Germany.

The Web Gallery of Art explains:

The crucified Christ is in the centre of the panel. His figure is repeated on the left side conquering an evil demon and death. In the background, a scene of the Expulsion from Eden reminds viewers of the presence of sin and the subsequent need for salvation. Immediately on the right of Christ, St John the Baptist points one of his fingers at the central figure and the index finger from his other hand to the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. Next to the Baptist stands Lucas Cranach the Elder. A stream of blood from Christ’s side flows directly upon his forehead, implying that no priest or saint is needed for intercession. On the far right, Luther points to a passage from his German translation of the Bible concerning Christ’s redemptive blood, which frees all believers from sin. In the background, the Old Testament tale of Moses and the Brazen Serpent and the New Testament story of the Annunciation to the Shepherds are depicted as examples of God’s grace.

Below is a back catalogue of posts I wrote about Good Friday, which readers might find useful:

The greatest reality show ends with a popular vote

Barabbas: an inspiration for liberation theology?

Meditations on the Cross

Reflections on the Crucifixion

Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the false views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the true views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the comfort

Holy Week and Easter — the two-part story

We are in Year C of the three-year Lectionary. One of the epistle choices for Good Friday 2016 is Hebrews 10:16-25:

10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,”

10:17 he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

10:18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

10:19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,

10:20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),

10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

10:22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

10:23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,

10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The Book of Hebrews is thought to have been written for Hellenistic (Greek) Jews, not those living in Palestine. Its authorship has been debated throughout Christian history. It was probably written after St Paul’s death in 65 AD but before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The Hebrew audience for these letters were converts to the Church. They had also been persecuted and the book contains a number of encouraging messages for them to focus on Christ and the life to come.

It’s a beautiful book, explaining why Mosaic Law and Jewish customs are no longer required as Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, was the ultimate, perfect, sufficient sacrifice for sin.

Hebrews is also a good book to use with atheists who continue to stubbornly insist that Christians follow Mosaic Law. It describes how the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant.

Hebrews 10 begins with an explanation of Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient, thereby ending the old requirement for ritual sacrifice (verses 12-14):

12 But when Christ[b] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The theme for our Good Friday reading is the full assurance of faith.

Verses 16 and 17 cite Jeremiah 31:33-34, which prophesy the New Covenant, the forgiveness of sin and the Church (emphases mine):

33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Therefore, as Christ gave Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, there is no longer any need for continuing animal sacrifices (verse 18).

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us:

… there shall be no more remembrance of sin against true believers, either to shame them now or to condemn them hereafter. This was much more than the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices could effect.

The author of Hebrews then discusses the temple and Jesus’s crucifixion (verses 19, 20). Through his sacrifice, He has opened the once forbidden Holy of Holies. As we know, after Jesus died, the curtain hiding the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem from the faithful was rent afterward. The author draws the comparison of Jesus’s pierced flesh to the torn temple curtain.

John MacArthur explains the staggering significance of this for a Jew — and those in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion:

… in the Old Testament, as we’ve been studying, there was a Tabernacle or a Temple, and inside of the totality of this outer courtyard there was what was called the holy places, the holy place, and inside, separated by a veil, was the Holy of Holies. And in the Holy of Holies, God dwelt. And no man could enter into that place except the high priest once a year to offer atonement for the sins of the nation Israel.

But now He is saying, “You all can enter into God’s presence. The veil has been torn down, and you can all enter in, and you can enter in boldly.” So we have this new entrance, you see, into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. And, of course, this is a fantastic statement to a Jew, because, to a Jew, entering into the holiest is absolutely forbidden. And if a Jew ever tried to do that under the old economy, he would’ve been instantly consumed in the flames of the fire of almighty wrath. And no Jew would ever conceive of going into the Holy of Holies.

In fact, it’s interesting. If you go to Jerusalem, you’ll find out that there’s a certain area of the Temple ground where it is forbidden to Jews to ever walk there, because it may be the area where the Holy of Holies once stood, and no Jew would ever put his foot on the Holy of Holies. Therefore, there are big signs outside the gates of the Temple that say, “Orthodox Jews have been forbidden by the rabbi to enter in this place lest they step on the Holy of Holies.”

They have a fear, still today, the Orthodox Jews, of ever going into the presence of God. But because of the new covenant, He says we can have boldness. We don’t even go in sheepishly, saying, “God, I’m coming, don’t step on me,” see. We can enter in boldly. It’s a fantastic concept for the Jewish mind to understand.

The ‘great priest’ in verse 20 refers to Christ Jesus. Therefore, the Hebrew audience may approach the tabernacle with true hearts as well as the full assurance and knowledge that their sins are forgiven (verse 21). Their sins have been forgiven and they should consider themselves washed clean (verse 22). Water refers to Baptism as well as their former ritual cleansing, still a part of Jewish life today. However, Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross has abolished the need for it. Instead, His blood was (figuratively) sprinkled on their hearts, making them clean.

Henry takes this a step further:

Our bodies washed with pure water, that is, with the water of baptism (by which we are recorded among the disciples of Christ, members of his mystical body), or with the sanctifying virtue of the Holy Spirit, reforming and regulating our outward conversation as well as our inward frame, cleansing from the filthiness of the flesh as well as of the spirit. The priests under the law were to wash, before they went into the presence of the Lord to offer before him. There must be a due preparation for making our approaches to God.

Therefore, the author says, the Hebrews should remain hopeful and not waver, because our Lord is faithful (verse 23). The author did not want to see his people go back to the Jewish faith, which is the reason for the next two verses (24, 25). The people were to meet together regularly so that no one fell away and returned to his original beliefs.

Henry goes on to apply this in another sense. God’s constant faithfulness is infinitely greater than ours, therefore, we owe Him our full devotion:

God has made great and precious promises to believers, and he is a faithful God, true to his word there is no falseness nor fickleness with him, and there should be none with us. His faithfulness should excite and encourage us to be faithful, and we must depend more upon his promises to us than upon our promises to him, and we must plead with him the promise of grace sufficient.

The rest of Hebrews 10 explains the divine judgement and eternal condemnation — ‘a fury of fire’ (verse 27) — that would result from going back to Jewish belief. However, it ends on a hopeful note, with a reminder of how they bore their persecution and imprisonment because they were contemplating Christ.

We, too, should share that same confidence and assurance in and through the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Good Friday is a time of sorrowful contemplation but also one for prayers of thanksgiving for our Lord Jesus Christ.

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