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What follows are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity — Tenth Sunday after Pentecost — August 18, 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 a parable about the judgement of God’s people to come in Isaiah’s time. These verses are about the blessings that God gave them. They rejected those blessings by falling into sin.

Isaiah 5:1-7

5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

5:2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

5:3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.

5:4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

5:5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

5:6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

The next few verses, not part of this reading, are as follows:

Woe to the Wicked

Woe to those who join house to house,
    who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
    and you are made to dwell alone
    in the midst of the land.
The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
    large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres[d] of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
    and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”[e]

11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
    that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
    as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
    tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
    or see the work of his hands.

Psalm

The Psalm also has the imagery of a vineyard and a request for God’s mercy. There is also a prophecy of Jesus Christ, the ‘Shepherd of Israel’.

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19

80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

80:2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

80:8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

80:9 You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.

80:10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches;

80:11 it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.

80:12 Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?

80:13 The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.

80:14 Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,

80:15 the stock that your right hand planted.

80:16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.

80:17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.

80:18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

80:19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

First reading – alternative

Jeremiah prophesies that the Lord is angry with false prophets turning the people away from Him. This ties in well with the Gospel reading.

Jeremiah 23:23-29

23:23 Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?

23:24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.

23:25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!”

23:26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back–those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart?

23:27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal.

23:28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD.

23:29 Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Psalm – alternative

This Psalm instructs magistrates and the Sanhedrin on how they should govern.

Psalm 82

82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

82:2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

82:3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.

82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

82:5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

82:6 I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;

82:7 nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”

82:8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

Epistle

Here we have an exhortation to faith even in the face of persecution, especially as Christ Jesus reigns forever and ever.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.

11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.

11:31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

11:32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–

11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

11:34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

11:35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

11:36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.

11:37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented–

11:38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

11:39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,

11:40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Gospel

This reading concludes Luke 12. Jesus foretells the division and persecution to come as a warning to prepare oneself spiritually by making peace with God now.

Luke 12:49-56

12:49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

12:50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!

12:51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

12:52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;

12:53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

12:54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens.

12:55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.

12:56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Christ’s words are just as true today. We think we know so much. Yet, of God’s ways, we know so very little unless we have faith in His Son, our only Mediator and Advocate.

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We are now three Sundays away from the beginning of Lent.

Centuries ago, the names of these Sundays referred to their distance from Easter in the number of days. If those Sundays were being observed now, February 16, 2019 would have been Septuagesima Sunday. In the early Church, no Gloria was sung nor was the Alleluia in the early Church. This is because it was the first Sunday of the call to Lenten discipline.

Although the word ‘septuagesima’ means ‘seventieth’, it occurs only 63 days before Easter. Early Christians began observing Lent the day after Septuagesima Sunday. This is because Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays were not days of fasting in the early Church. So, if the faithful wished to fast for 40 days before Easter, following the example of Jesus, they would have had to start the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

You can read more about Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays in the following post:

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

This period of time was known as Shrovetide, which ended on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past participle of ‘shrive’, which meant to present oneself for confession, penance and absolution. You can find out more in the post below:

Shrovetide — a history

Even in modern times, the Lectionary readings turn from the themes of rejoicing and thanks that our Saviour came to Earth to redeem us. The themes of sin and repentance predominate.

What follow are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany in Year C of the three-year Lectionary commonly used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The verses from Jeremiah read so much better in the King James Version, especially verse 9. I have included verse 11 for its poetic truth:

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

What follows is what millions of churchgoers will hear. To put it into context, the Lord wanted repentance, and Jeremiah was His messenger. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this chapter provides timeless lessons for all of us.

Jeremiah 17:5-10

17:5 Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.

17:6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

17:8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it?

17:10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm

The first Psalm briefly explains the ways of those who are good versus those who are evil. Verse 3 ties in nicely with Jeremiah 17:8.

Psalm 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

Paul continued his proof of the Resurrection. Last week’s reading was the introduction to this expository; Paul needed to settle a dispute running in Corinth at the time as to whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. This is the continuation.

It is also important to note that the resurrection of the dead is also mentioned in the Old Testament. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on God’s command as a test of faith was an important illustration of that. Seeing that Abraham believed that he would see his son again one day, God was satisfied, and He relented.

Among the ancient Jews, only the theological intellectuals, the Sadducees, disregarded the resurrection of the dead.

At the end of his ministry, Paul suffered greatly for speaking boldly about the resurrection of the dead, including during his time in Jerusalem and surrounds. See my exposition on Acts 24:10-21 for more details.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;

15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

15:15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

15:16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.

15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

15:18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.

15:19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Gospel

This week’s reading is the Sermon on the Mount, featuring the Beatitudes. Jesus came down from the mountain, where He had been praying alone. At this point in His ministry, the twelve Apostles were with Him.

Luke 6:17-26

6:17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

6:18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.

6:19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

6:26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

I have highlighted certain verses from the Beatitudes on purpose, because those are not emphasised much in today’s discourses on this reading. Early on, Jesus warned His followers of persecution, but that they should focus on the life to come and rejoice in their salvation.

Most sermons today emphasise verse 24, however, as Matthew Henry’s powerful commentary states, Jesus’s warning is directed at those who are materialists with no faith. They trust in riches, but not in God. Where that is the case, they have received their earthly reward (see the aforementioned reading from Jeremiah). There will be no heavenly reward for them:

Here is a woe to them that are rich, that is, that trust in riches, that have abundance of this world’s wealth, and, instead of serving God with it, serve their lusts with it; woe to them, for they have received their consolation, that which they placed their happiness in, and were willing to take up with for a portion, Luke 6:24. They in their life-time received their good things, which, in their account, were the best things, and all the good things they are ever likely to receive from God. “You that are rich are in temptation to set your hearts upon a smiling world, and to say, Soul, take thine ease in the embraces of it, This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; and then woe unto you.” (1.) It is the folly of carnal worldlings that they make the things of this world their consolation, which were intended only for their convenience. They please themselves with them, pride themselves in them, and make them their heaven upon earth; and to them the consolations of God are small, and of no account. (2.) It is their misery that they are put off with them as their consolation. Let them know it, to their terror, when they are parted from these things, there is an end of all their comfort, a final end of it, and nothing remains to them but everlasting misery and torment.

Therefore, it is wrong for clergy to shame middle class churchgoers into giving more when they are already being squeezed through taxes to support a bloated welfare state and through ever increasing tuition costs for their children. Neither of those was around in our Lord’s era.

One must also consider the type of church one is being shamed into donating to. Clergy from corrupt churches (including those in major denominations) are the ones asking for the most money. A false church, one seeking the world and not the Kingdom of God, deserves to die on the vine. A false church is not one that exemplifies the purity and holiness of the early congregation in Jerusalem of Acts 4:32-37.

In closing, I would also ask readers who are uncertain about the resurrection to please read Paul’s explanation about it. Parents and elder family members should make sure the children in their family understand it, too.

I say that because I know of small children in Britain over a decade ago (one was the offspring of a then-colleague) who learned at crèche that Jesus died and that Easter commemorates His death. NO! Easter celebrates Jesus’s victory over death. On the third day, He rose from the dead — according to the Scriptures!

It is essential that we understand what the Bible teaches and pass that knowledge along to younger family members.

Without sound, scripturally based doctrine, there may be no life to come for some.

February 2 and 3, 2019 is a rather busy weekend in the Church calendar.

Candlemas

Today, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, traditionally known as Candlemas, the day on which church candles are blessed. Some countries, especially France, serve crêpes and cidre on Candlemas.

Theologically, Candlemas is 40 days after Christmas and the date when Jewish ceremonies for mother and male child are performed. February 2 recalls two events: a) Jesus’s formal Presentation in the Temple and b) Mary’s return to the Temple after childbirth, which carried over into Christianity as a ceremony called the Churching of Women.

You can read more about Candlemas in the following post:

February 2 is Candlemas

The Gospel reading is Luke 2:22:40, which I wrote about at length in the following posts:

Jesus presented at the temple (Part 1)

Jesus presented at the temple (Part 2)

Candlemas: the prophetess Anna

St Blaise Day

February 3 is the feast day of St Blaise, traditionally when Catholics have their throats blessed by their priest during or after Mass. The priest crosses two beeswax candles and places them close to the congregant’s throat, reciting a blessing against an ailment of the throat. St Blaise was born in an ancient part of Armenia. That part of Armenia is now in Turkey. Blaise was also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers who was said to have performed many miracles. His last miracle, prior to martyrdom, was dislodging a fish bone from a child’s throat. The lad’s mother simply placed the choking boy at Blaise’s feet and the bone troubled him no more. You can read more about St Blaise in the following post. I promise you will not be bored:

St Blaise’s feast day and the blessing of throats

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

What follows are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, February 3, 2019.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The reading from Jeremiah is apposite, considering that three American states are looking at infanticide laws. New York State’s passed on January 22. Virginia’s failed in the state legislature this week, and Rhode Island will soon be considering a bill approving very late term abortion. California, incidentally, has had laws for several years that are very similar to New York’s.

Essentially, such late term abortions amount to infanticide.

One of the verses that caused me to change my mind about abortion is Jeremiah 1:5. God had a purpose for Jeremiah. Similarly, He has a purpose for each of us. What does He think about His developing humans who die in the womb — each one with a divine purpose? How will He judge those who abort and those who perform abortions, particularly those amounting to infanticide?

Jeremiah 1:4-10

1:4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,

1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

1:6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”

1:7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you,

1:8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

1:9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.

1:10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Psalm

David wrote this Psalm in his dotage. May we likewise share his praise of and trust in the Lord.

Psalm 71:1-6

71:1 In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

71:2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

71:4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

71:6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

Epistle

St Paul wrote of the essential nature of love in being a follower of Christ. This must be one of his most well-known letters. It reads much better in the King James Version:

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Here is the Lectionary version, taken from the New Revised Standard Version:

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

13:3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant

13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

13:6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

13:9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;

13:10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13:13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Gospel

This reading is a continuation of last week’s, with Jesus preaching to the Nazarenes in their synagogue, wanting to cure their unbelief and warning them that God sometimes chose Gentiles to receive His favour, not His Chosen. His fellow townsmen were outraged. This is quite shocking.

Luke 4:21-30

4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

4:23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'”

4:24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

4:25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;

4:26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.

4:27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

4:28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.

4:29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

4:30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

There is a rich seam of material here for Sunday sermons from an excellent choice of readings.

We are now entering a new Church year and, with that, a new Lectionary year: Year C.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018.

Advent readings remind us how many times Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This can be understood as the coming release from captivity, but also about the joy to be experienced when the Messiah comes.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

33:14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

33:16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm

The Psalm alludes to the comfort and assurance we have in staying close to the Lord.

Psalm 25:1-10

25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Epistle

These verses from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians are beautiful. Notice the emphasis on prayer and love.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?

3:10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

3:11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.

3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

3:13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Gospel

St Luke records the words of Jesus about His Second Coming.

Luke 21:25-36

21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

21:27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

21:30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

21:31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

21:34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

21:36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

There is a lot of great sermon material here. It is unfortunate that most clergy today are ill-equipped to expound on it appropriately and accurately.

What follows are the readings for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, October 28, 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 the Book of Job conclude. Here the Lord restores Job’s fortunes and reunites him with his loved ones. The Lord blessed him for the rest of his life.

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

42:1 Then Job answered the LORD:

42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

42:3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

42:4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’

42:5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;

42:6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

42:10 And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

42:11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.

42:12 The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.

42:13 He also had seven sons and three daughters.

42:14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.

42:15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.

42:16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations.

42:17 And Job died, old and full of days.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the joy the faithful have in the Lord’s blessings and protection.

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

34:2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

34:3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

34:5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

34:6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.

34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all.

34:20 He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.

34:21 Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

34:22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

First reading

Jeremiah prophesies that deliverance from captivity in Babylon is coming soon. The Lord will enable those who are unable to walk to freedom to do so comfortably. The house of Ephraim, which turned away from God, will be restored to His favour and be exalted.

Jeremiah 31:7-9

31:7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”

31:8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.

31:9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Psalm

The Psalm describes the immense joy that God’s people experienced when liberated from Babylon in Ezra’s time. The first verse expresses so much; it is one of my favourites.

Psalm 126

126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

126:3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

126:4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

126:5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

126:6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Epistle

Readings continue from the Book of Hebrews on the subject of Christ Jesus as the ultimate, perfect High Priest, now and forever.

Hebrews 7:23-28

7:23 Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office;

7:24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.

7:25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

7:26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.

7:28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Gospel

Readings continue from Mark’s Gospel. Jesus restores the sight of the blind beggar Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, who followed Him afterwards. Parallel readings are in Matthew 19 and 20.

Mark 10:46-52

10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

10:51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”

10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

There is also a spiritual aspect to Bartimaeus’s healing. Not only can he now physically see, but his spiritual health has been made whole as well, evidenced by his following Jesus.

What follows are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 23, 2018.

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

There are three sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second and third selections blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

Two out of the three first readings continue with the wisdom of Solomon — Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom (Catholic Bible).

First reading

This reading from Proverbs will be very familiar. Solomon lays out the qualities of a godly wife. Even then, it was permissible for a married woman to work for a living. Verse 19 probably also gave rise to the once-used term for a wife: the ‘distaff half’.

Proverbs 31:10-31

31:10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

31:11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

31:12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

31:13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

31:14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away.

31:15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant girls.

31:16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

31:17 She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.

31:18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

31:19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.

31:20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.

31:21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson.

31:22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.

31:23 Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.

31:24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes.

31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

31:28 Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her:

31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31:31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Psalm

The Psalm reinforces the characteristics of the reading from Proverbs. Those who delight in the Lord will never perish.

Psalm 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

Solomon warns evildoers against summoning death in opposition to God’s faithful people.

Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22

1:16 But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company.

2:1 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades.

2:12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

2:13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.

2:14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

2:15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.

2:16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.

2:17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;

2:18 for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

2:19 Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.

2:20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

2:21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them,

2:22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls.

First reading — third choice

Here Jeremiah speaks of his ignorance of evil schemes against him until God revealed the truth. Another well known expression is in verse 19: ‘a lamb led to the slaughter’.

Jeremiah 11:18-20

11:18 It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds.

11:19 But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!”

11:20 But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the theme of the preceding readings: God is our help and our strength in times of trouble. ‘Selah’ means to pay attention to the message given.

Psalm 54

54:1 Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.

54:2 Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

54:3 For the insolent have risen against me, the ruthless seek my life; they do not set God before them. Selah

54:4 But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

54:5 He will repay my enemies for their evil. In your faithfulness, put an end to them.

54:6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.

54:7 For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Epistle

Readings from the letter of James continue. He exhorts his flock to approach life in a holy way and rebukes them for their sins. Here again we see another commonly used expression: ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’ in James 4:2.

James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a

3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

3:14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.

3:15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.

3:16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

3:18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

4:1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

4:2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.

4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Gospel

Readings from Mark’s Gospel continue. Jesus told His disciples He would die and rise again on the third day. The disciples did not understand His words. They were afraid to ask Him what He meant. Then they proceeded to argue about who among them was the greatest. Jesus used the little child in their midst as an example, because, in that era, children were largely ignored by adults until they reached the age of reason.

Mark 9:30-37

9:30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;

9:31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

9:32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

9:33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”

9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

9:35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

9:36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,

9:37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Wisdom is the overarching theme of this week’s readings. May we heed the wisdom of the triune God instead of the world’s falsehoods.

What follows are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 22, 2018.

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

There are two sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second selection blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

Passages from 2 Samuel continue, documenting David’s kingship. Here, David, now at peace since the Ark of the Covenant is with him, wishes to build a house for God. God, however, has other plans and sends the prophet Nathan to deliver His message to David. David will not be the one to build a house for Him. This alludes in context to both Solomon (the temple) and to Jesus (the Church).

2 Samuel 7:1-14a

7:1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him,

7:2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”

7:3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.”

7:4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

7:5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?

7:6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.

7:7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

7:8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel;

7:9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

7:10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly,

7:11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

7:13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

7:14a I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

Psalm

The Psalm evokes the blessings God will give to David.

Psalm 89:20-37

89:20 I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him;

89:21 my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.

89:22 The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him.

89:23 I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.

89:24 My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted.

89:25 I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.

89:26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’

89:27 I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.

89:28 Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm.

89:29 I will establish his line forever, and his throne as long as the heavens endure.

89:30 If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances,

89:31 if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,

89:32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges;

89:33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness.

89:34 I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips.

89:35 Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David.

89:36 His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun.

89:37 It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.” Selah

First reading

This reading from Jeremiah foretells the coming of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who will gather up His flock away from bad shepherds — negligent religious leaders.

Jeremiah 23:1-6

23:1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.

23:2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.

23:3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.

23:4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.

23:5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

23:6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm

The Psalm will be familiar to most people, even the unchurched.

Psalm 23

23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Epistle

Readings continue from Ephesians. Paul tells the Christians from Ephesus that there is no longer a need for blood sacrifice via circumcision because Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins because of His death on the Cross. Furthermore, they are no longer ‘Gentiles’ or ‘strangers’, but citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

Ephesians 2:11-22

2:11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” –a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands–

2:12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

2:14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

2:15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,

2:16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

2:17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;

2:18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,

2:20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

2:21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;

2:22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue in chronological order. The Apostles had returned from a short time preaching and healing. Jesus tells them to rest. However, the crowds continued to follow them. The first few verses precede the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the last set are about what happened afterwards, with the crowds still following Jesus.

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.

6:31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

6:32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

6:33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.

6:34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

6:53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.

6:54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him,

6:55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.

6:56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

The Epistle presents a gold mine for a sermon from any clergyman who loves the Good News. I have never heard anyone discuss that passage from Ephesians before in church. I hope that at least a few clergy preach about it on Sunday.

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.

My reader undergroundpewster — an Episcopal layman — wrote about Jeremiah 23:1-6, one of the readings for the last Sunday of the Church year on November 20, 2016.

‘Did You Preach on Jeremiah’s Prophecy Today?’ is a short and particularly powerful post about bad shepherds of the flock. Please read it in full. Excerpts and a summary follow. Emphases in the original.

These are the relevant verses:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

The Gospel reading for that day was about the thieves on the Cross (Luke 23:35-43) which includes this important verse. Jesus told the thief who recognised Him as the Son of God:

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Undergroundpewster says that it is much easier to preach on that verse than on Jeremiah’s. The message is positive and redemptive.

However, bad shepherds ignore Jeremiah at their peril. The post explains how and why. Ultimately:

I pray that the false teachers among us will come to the realization that there are some criminal acts, such as driving away God’s flock, which put them in jeopardy of God’s punishment and that they repent before they wind up like the less fortunate criminal who derided our Lord as he hung beside Jesus.

It is up to laypeople to know how to discuss and explain Scripture when clergy do not. We have many bad shepherds in varying degrees, especially in the Episcopal/Anglican Church. I know. That’s my denomination.

This is partly the fault of seminaries, but also of those men and women themselves who rarely look beyond what they are taught. Unfortunately, their bishops encourage spiritual blindness, which extends to their congregations, not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’s time towards their faithful.

Pray regularly and study the Bible.

Most churches will be using readings for Epiphany this Sunday, as January 6 falls on a Wednesday.

For this reason, the readings for Christmas 2 — the second Sunday after Christmas — will be used by few congregations that follow the three-year Lectionary readings from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The Vanderbilt Divinity Library is a useful resource for Lectionary readings. I highly recommend it. Catholic readings are included.

The Gospel reading is John 1:18, used on Christmas Day, about which you can read more here:

Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)

Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)

This is verse 18, another to remember:

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The first reading is Jeremiah 31:7-14:

7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”

8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.

9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”

11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.

13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

Jeremiah, John MacArthur explains, prophesied during a horrible period in the history of the Jews, the Babylonian captivity and slaughter:

Jeremiah was 80 to 100 years later than Isaiah. Everything that Isaiah said was going to happen did happen at the end of Jeremiah’s time. Isaiah, you remember, had said that judgment was coming and Jeremiah says it’s here. Jeremiah says the Babylonians are going to arrive and the Babylonians are going to slaughter you. And the Babylonians are going to take you into captivity and that is exactly what happened. Jeremiah stood on the edge of the holocaust. Jeremiah was the prophet of the end of the glory days of Israel.

The late Dr. Morehead said it was Jeremiah[‘s] lot to prophe[s]y at time when all things in Judah were rushing down to the final and mournful catastrophe. When political confusion was at its height, when the worst passions swayed the people’s hearts and the most fatal counsels prevailed to see his own people whom he loved with the tenderness of a woman plunge over the presuppose into the wide weltering ruin, that was Jeremiah’s lot.

Jeremiah was the prophet of Judah’s midnight hour. Isaiah prophesied at 11 o’clock and Jeremiah prophesied at midnight. Jeremiah preached for 42 years, 42 years. During the reign of five kings Jeremiah preached.

Jeremiah might as well have been talking to a wall, because practically no one paid him the blindest bit of attention. Those few who did, loathed his warnings. In fact, MacArthur says:

tradition says Jeremiah died in Egypt killed by his own countrymen. 

Despite this, during his lifetime Jeremiah had God-given hope:

God said the captivity of the people is only gonna last 70 years.  It’s gonna be brief and I’m gonna bring them back.  I’m gonna bring them back.  And there was hope.  And so Jeremiah preached with hope.  There would be a remnant.  There would be some who would believe.  There would be a recovery in the future.  God was not permanently through with Judah.  God had not alienated Judah ultimately.  God had not violated his covenants.  He would bring them back and there would be restoration. 

In Chapter 31, Jeremiah receives God’s message of the covenant to come:

The time when God writes the law in the hearts.  Chapter 31.  Not on stone.  The coming of the new covenant in the Messiah.  The Redeemer … Jeremiah didn’t know how far ahead that was.  He couldn’t see into the chronology of the future.  But that hope compelled his heart. 

Matthew Henry makes these points:

God shall have the glory and the church both the honour and comfort of this blessed change (Jeremiah 31:7): Sing with gladness for Jacob, that is, let all her friends and well-wishers rejoice with her, Deuteronomy 32:43. Rejoice, you Gentiles with his people, Romans 15:10. The restoration of Jacob will be taken notice of by all the neighbours, it will be matter of joy to them all, and they shall all join with Jacob in his joys, and thereby pay him respect and put a reputation upon him …

… in order to a happy settlement in their own land, they shall have a joyful return out of the land of their captivity and a very comfortable passage homeward (Jeremiah 31:8,9), and this beginning of mercy shall be to them a pledge of all the other blessings here promised …

… here is a reason given why God will take all this care of his people: For I am a Father to Israel, a Father that begat him, and therefore will maintain him, that have the care and compassion of a father for him (Psalm 103:13) and Ephraim is my first-born even Ephraim, who, having gone astray from God, was no more worthy to be called a son, shall yet be owned as a first-born, particularly dear, and heir of a double portion of blessings. The same reason that was given for their release out of Egypt is given for their release out of Babylon they are free-born and therefore must not be enslaved, are born to God and therefore must not be the servants of men. Exodus 4:22,23, Israel is my son, even my first-born let my son go that he may serve me. If we take God for our Father, and join ourselves to the church of the first-born, we may be assured that we shall want [for] nothing …

He summarises the remaining verses as:

publishing to the world, as well as to the church, the purposes of God’s love concerning his people. This is a word of the Lord which the nations must hear, for it is a prophecy of a work of the Lord which the nations cannot but take notice of. Let them hear the prophecy, that they may the better understand and improve the performance and let those that hear it themselves declare it to others, declare it in the isles afar off. It will be a piece of news that will spread all the world over. It will look very great in history …

The Epistle is Ephesians 1:3-14:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight

9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ,

10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

I want you to look at verses 3-14 and understand here the idea of the church and what it says about us as the church. Now, remember the word church needs to be replaced in your mind by the word called. We are the called ones. And there are a series of propositions from verse 3 to 14 that define this calling … Starting in verse 3 we’re going to understand our calling and that is synonymous with being a church. We have been called by God. We’ve been summoned by God. We are a gathering of people that have been brought together by divine supernatural power through the work of God in salvation …

In verse 3 blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who’s blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. We were called before. This association of believing people was called by God initially chosen by God before the foundation of the world

The passage literally tells us, verse 4, he chose us. He picked us out for himself. In eternity pas[t], God chose his church. Here is the first cause of our existence … The first cause of the existence of this church, the first cause of the blessing of this church, the first cause of everything that’s happened in this church is God’s sovereign, independent, unaffected choice.

In verse 5, he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself according to the kind intention or good pleasure of his will. He proorizod us[,] in the Greek. He predetermined. He predestined us. This obviously speaks of the great doctrine of election. The doctrine of predestination. We were called before the foundation of the world in the purposes of God …

In verse 7 in him we have redemption. Through his blood the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace … Called out[,] that’s redemption. We have been called out of darkness. We have been called out of sin. We have been called out of death. We’ve been called out of hell. We’ve are the regenerate church …

Verse 8 talks about the riches of his grace in verse 7, which he lavished on us and then he says in verse 8 in all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his kind intention, which he purposed in him. Now let me ask you a question. You tell me, where has God made known the mystery of his will? Where? Scripture. Scripture. Our relationship to God is a relationship of authority. We are not the authority. We are under authority. We have been called under. All wisdom and all insight has been known to God and revealed to us according to his kind intention and of course it has been revealed to us in scripture. That is the only source of that revelation

Henry also has excellent insights, citing the King James Version:

Another privilege which the apostle here blesses God for is divine revelation–that God hath made known to us the mystery of his will (Ephesians 1:9), that is, so much of his good-will to men, which had been concealed for a long time, and is still concealed from so great a part of the world: this we owe to Christ, who, having lain in the bosom of the Father from eternity, came to declare his will to the children of men …

Union in and with Christ is a great privilege, a spiritual blessing, and the foundation of many others. He gathers together in one all things in Christ, Ephesians 1:10. All the lines of divine revelation meet in Christ all religion centres in him. Jews and Gentiles were united to each other by being both united to Christ. Things in heaven and things on earth are gathered together in him peace made, correspondence settled, between heaven and earth, through him …

… In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, Ephesians 1:11. Heaven is the inheritance, the happiness of which is a sufficient portion for a soul: it is conveyed in the way of an inheritance, being the gift of a Father to his children. If children, then heirs. All the blessings that we have in hand are but small if compared with the inheritance. What is laid out upon an heir in his minority is nothing to what is reserved for him when he comes to age. Christians are said to have obtained this inheritance, as they have a present right to it, and even actual possession of it, in Christ their head and representative

… In this revelation, and in his making known unto us the mystery of his will, the wisdom and the prudence of God do abundantly shine forth. It is described (Ephesians 1:13) as the word of truth, and the gospel of our salvation. Every word of it is true It is the gospel of our salvation: it publishes the glad tidings of salvation, and contains the offer of it: it points out the way that leads to it and the blessed Spirit renders the reading and the ministration of it effectual to the salvation of souls. O, how ought we to prize this glorious gospel and to bless God for it! … The seal and earnest of the Spirit are of the number of these blessings. We are said to be sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13. The blessed Spirit is holy himself, and he makes us holy. He is called the Spirit of promise, as he is the promised Spirit. By him believers are sealed that is, separated and set apart for God, and distinguished and marked as belonging to him.

The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, Ephesians 1:14. The earnest is part of payment, and it secures the full sum: so is the gift of the Holy Ghost all his influences and operations, both as a sanctifier and a comforter, are heaven begun, glory in the seed and bud. The Spirit’s illumination is an earnest of everlasting light sanctification is an earnest of perfect holiness and his comforts are earnests of everlasting joys. He is said to be the earnest, until the redemption of the purchased possession. It may be called here the possession, because this earnest makes it as sure to the heirs as though they were already possessed of it and it is purchased for them by the blood of Christ. The redemption of it is mentioned because it was mortgaged and forfeited by sin and Christ restores it to us, and so is said to redeem it, in allusion to the law of redemption. Observe, from all this, what a gracious promise that is which secures the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who ask him.

These readings really do resonate and make the meaning of Christmas come alive. May we remember this message throughout the year and reflect on it often.

I realise not everyone has the inclination to read the Bible. However, I hope that John MacArthur’s and Matthew Henry’s explanations give us a better idea of what Christianity and our life in Christ really mean.

As Christmastide closes, I pray that more Christians will read the Bible and use good commentaries in their private study. May the Holy Spirit bless them with wisdom and discernment.

Forbidden Bible Verses will return next week.

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