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What follows are the readings for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 30, 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

The Lectionary readings move from the wisdom of Solomon — Proverbs — to the Book of Esther, which chronicles divine deliverance to Queen Esther’s people through a set of occasionally humorous circumstances. These are events which the Jewish people celebrate on the feast of Purim. In this passage, Esther petitions for the liberation of her subjects.

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

7:1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.

7:2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

7:3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me — that is my petition — and the lives of my people — that is my request.

7:4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.”

7:5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?”

7:6 Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

7:9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.”

7:10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

9:20 Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far,

9:21 enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year,

9:22 as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the gratitude for deliverance, thanks to divine providence.

Psalm 124

124:1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side — let Israel now say —

124:2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us,

124:3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

124:4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

124:5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.

124:6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.

124:7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

124:8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

First reading

This reading from the Book of Numbers describes the prophesying that two of the 70 elders did in the desert when the Israelites were complaining. When Joshua complains to Moses about the two elders, Eldad and Medad, Moses responds that he wished more would prophesy.

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

11:4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat!

11:5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;

11:6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

11:10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased.

11:11 So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me?

11:12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors?

11:13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’

11:14 I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me.

11:15 If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery.”

11:16 So the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

11:24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent.

11:25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

11:26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.

11:27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

11:28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”

11:29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”

Psalm

The Psalm writer petitions the Lord to keep him close and to direct him away from faults and insolence, for the ways and laws of the Lord are perfect. Verse 14 will be familiar to many. The clergy at my former Episcopal church recited it before giving their Sunday sermons.

Psalm 19:7-14

19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;

19:8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;

19:9 the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

19:11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

19:12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

19:13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Epistle

Readings continue from James. His converts are being persecuted continuously. James urges them to maintain their faith, via prayer and praise. Note that he does not say to protest the powers that be, but to focus on living a godly life.

James 5:13-20

5:13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.

5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.

5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

5:17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

5:18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

5:19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another,

5:20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Here Jesus cautions against sin. He also speaks of salt; verse 50 is particularly noteworthy. Also note other familiar verses: 40 and 42.

Mark 9:38-50

9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.

9:40 Whoever is not against us is for us.

9:41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

9:42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

9:45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.

9:47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,

9:48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

9:49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.

9:50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

We are not meant to amputate ourselves, however, the message here is to turn away from sin. Our bodies are mortal and will one day perish. Jesus’s point is that the soul lives on in the life to come. Therefore, we are meant to pursue Christlike living in order to gain eternal life with Him.

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The Fourth Sunday in Lent is Laetare Sunday, which is Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom.

Mothering Sunday relates not only to mothers but to the Church:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

My posts explain that Laetare Sunday is when clergy used to wear rose coloured vestments instead of purple. (Some still do.) It is traditionally the happy Sunday in Lent, as laetare means ‘rejoice’. The name comes from the opening words of the traditional Latin Introit, which in English translate to ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem’. Salvation is coming.

This week’s readings from the Vanderbilt Divinity Library express the themes of liberation, forgiveness and salvation.

The following are readings for Year B in the three-year Lectionary for public worship. Emphases mine below.

The Old Testament reading has to do with the complaints of the Israelites in the desert, God’s punishment of such complaints in light of their liberation from Egypt, followed by His loving forgiveness:

Numbers 21:4-9

21:4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way.

21:5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”

21:6 Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.

21:7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

21:8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”

21:9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

The Psalm follows this theme of God’s loving forgiveness — His healing and deliverance from death and destruction:

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble

107:3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

107:17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

107:18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

107:19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress;

107:20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.

107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

Paul’s Epistle discusses the deliverance from sin thanks to God’s grace and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 2:1-10

2:1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins

2:2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

2:3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us

2:5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved

2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

2:7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

2:9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John’s Gospel mentions the serpent of the Israelites and, just as that healed them, faith in Jesus Christ brings us to salvation:

John 3:14-21

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

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

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

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

3:18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

3:19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.

3:20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.

3:21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

In closing, I wish all my British readers who are mothers a very happy Mothering Sunday.

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