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Below are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, January 31, 2021.

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

This particular Sunday is also known traditionally as Septuagesima Sunday, marking 70 days before Easter. It is also the beginning of Shrovetide, which concludes on Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday.

Centuries ago, some Christians began their Lenten disciplines during Shrovetide. A number of traditionalists, not only in the Catholic Church but also the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church, also observe the pre-Lenten Sundays counting down to Easter: Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima.

My posts which follow discuss these Sundays and Shrovetide in more detail:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses relates what the Lord told him. From the midst of His people, the Lord promises His people a prophet above all others: Jesus Christ.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.

18:16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”

18:17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.

18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

18:19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.

18:20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”

Psalm

This short Psalm of David’s was likely used in communal worship, reflecting on God’s infinite glory, power and mercy. Verse 10 will be familiar to most readers.

Psalm 111

111:1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

111:2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.

111:3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.

111:4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.

111:5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.

111:6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.

111:7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

111:8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

111:9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name.

111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

Epistle

Paul discusses weaker and stronger brothers in faith, a topic that he wrote about extensively in Romans. If a weaker Christian is offended by something that a stronger Christian does, i.e. eating meat sacrificed to idols, then it is incumbent upon the stronger Christian not to do it in his presence or force him to do so. The weaker Christian, if forced to partake of an activity that he finds offensive, could suffer an interminable pang of conscience and could even leave the faith.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

8:1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

8:2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;

8:3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.

8:4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.”

8:5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–

8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

8:7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

8:8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

8:9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

8:10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?

8:11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.

8:12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

8:13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. This is what happened after Jesus began calling His disciples.

Mark 1:21-28

1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.

1:22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

1:23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,

1:24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

1:25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

1:26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

1:27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching–with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

1:28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

May all of my readers enjoy a blessed Sunday.

Below are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, October 25, 2020.

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

The Church of England calendar calls this the Last Sunday after Trinity. Advent does not start for five weeks, but the C of E begins a countdown with four Sundays before Advent beginning next week. This seems to be a recent development. Perhaps they think people will have too much trouble these days with words like ‘twenty-first’, ‘twenty-second’ and ‘twenty-third’. I do not know. I will continue with the traditional numbering.

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings from Exodus have finished for the year. We move to the final chapter of Deuteronomy this week for the story of Moses’s death. As Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible — the Pentateuch — he could not have written this chapter. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that either Joshua, Eleazar or Samuel wrote this account.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan,

34:2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea,

34:3 the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar.

34:4 The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”

34:5 Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.

34:6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.

34:7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated.

34:8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

34:9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

34:10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.

34:11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land,

34:12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Moses wrote the following Psalm. It is called ‘A Prayer of Moses the man of God’.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

This reading, which also features Moses, summarises God’s moral law and paraphrases the Ten Commandments.

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

19:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

19:15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.

19:16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

19:17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.

19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

The Psalm is called ‘The Happy Man’. It is appropriately placed first among the Psalms.

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

Readings from 1 Thessalonians continue. Last week’s described how holy they were. Here Paul recalls how he, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy planted their church.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

2:1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain,

2:2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.

2:3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery,

2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.

2:5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed;

2:6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others,

2:7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.

2:8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew’s Gospel continue. Jesus gave the following lesson a few days before His death. He quoted Leviticus 19:18 (above) in verse 39. Verses 37 through 40 form part of an introductory prayer in the traditional Anglican liturgies which the priest may recite as an alternative to reading out each of the Ten Commandments.

Matthew 22:34-46

22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,

22:35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

22:37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.

22:39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:

22:42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”

22:43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

22:44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘?

22:45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”

22:46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Moses was what theologians call a ‘type of Christ’. He interceded on behalf of his sinful people, asking for God’s mercy on them by reminding Him of the covenant He made with them.

What follows are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, February 16, 2020.

This particular day is also Sexagesima Sunday, 60 days before Easter. Centuries ago, Lent would have already begun a week earlier, the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses reveals God’s rewards and penalties with regard to the Ten Commandments. Matthew Henry calls our attention to the number of times Moses says ‘the Lord your God’, a clear indication that He had made a covenant with His people. One of my favourite verses is the second half of verse 19.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

30:15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.

30:16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

30:17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,

30:18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

30:20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

First reading – alternate (Catholic)

This alternate first reading about the Ten Commandments is from the Book of Sirach, found in the Catholic version of the Bible.

Sirach 15:15-20

15:15 If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

15:16 He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

15:17 Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.

15:18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything;

15:19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every human action.

15:20 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

Psalm

Matthew Henry says that David gathered all of his praises of the Lord that he had written during the course of his life and placed them in this magnificent Psalm. Henry describes Psalm 119 as a ‘chest of gold rings, not a chain of gold links’.

Psalm 119:1-8

119:1 Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.

119:2 Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,

119:3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.

119:4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

119:5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

119:6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.

119:8 I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Corinthians continue. We are now on 1 Corinthians 3. Paul explains that the converts of Corinth were still ‘infants in Christ’, needing spiritual milk rather than meat. They were dividing themselves up into factions, based on the church leader who baptised them. He wanted them to remember that they were all followers of Christ, therefore, all servants of God.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

3:1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

3:2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,

3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

3:4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.

3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

3:7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.

3:9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Gospel

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount continue. Jesus discusses reconciliation, temptation, divorce and idle oaths. N.B.: Jesus did not mean verses 29 and 30 literally; He means for us to walk in the Spirit and not be tempted by what we see. Walking in the Spirit will cut off our carnal appetites.

Matthew 5:21-37

5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’

5:22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

5:23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,

5:24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

5:25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.

5:26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

5:31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

5:32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’

5:34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,

5:35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

5:36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

5:37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Those were hard words for people to hear then. They are just as difficult these days.

Readings follow for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity — the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 8, 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

Readings from Jeremiah continue. The Lord tells the prophet that Israel is like clay in His — the potter’s — hands and risks judgement for disobedience, unless the people repent.

Jeremiah 18:1-11

18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

18:2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”

18:3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.

18:4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

18:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:

18:6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

18:7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,

18:8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.

18:9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,

18:10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.

18:11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

Psalm

This Psalm, considered by many Bible scholars to be David’s finest, points out God’s omniscience. He knows our ways, for better or worse. We can conceal nothing from Him, for He created us.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

139:13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

139:15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

139:16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

139:17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

139:18 I try to count them — they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.

First reading – alternate

Moses exhorts the Israelites to obey God’s commandments and to stay away from false idols or suffer the consequences. Re verse 19, I remember tee shirts in the 1980s with the slogan ‘Choose Life’, made popular by Wham! as part of a safe-sex campaign about avoiding AIDS. It is a pity that the first part of verse 20, which continues the verse was forgotten then — and now — by so many people.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

30:15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.

30:16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

30:17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,

30:18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

30:20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm – alternate

In my humble opinion, this is the greatest Psalm of all, as it tells us how to live a godly life, delighting in the Lord. No wonder the probable Psalm compiler Ezra placed it before the others.

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

Writing from prison, Paul exhorts Philemon, a leader of the early Church (probably Colosse), to forgive his slave Onesimus his theft and subsequent escape, as he had since converted to become a faithful believer in Jesus Christ. This is the whole letter, minus the final greeting from others serving with Paul (all of whom are mentioned in the Book of Acts, which Luke wrote):

22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

This is a book about divine grace and human forgiveness.

Philemon 1:1-21

1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker,

1:2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:

1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God

1:5 because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus.

1:6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.

1:7 I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

1:8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty,

1:9 yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love–and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.

1:10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.

1:11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me.

1:12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.

1:13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel;

1:14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.

1:15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever,

1:16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother–especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

1:17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

1:18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

1:19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.

1:20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.

1:21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Gospel

Jesus lays out the terms of discipleship. Following Jesus means putting Him above all earthly comforts, including family, possessions — and our own lives. Being a Christian is a serious undertaking.

Luke 14:25-33

14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,

14:26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

14:27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?

14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him,

14:30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

14:31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?

14:32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

No doubt, verse 33 will be at the centre of many Sunday sermons. However, verse 26 should come in for an equally strong mention.

What follows are readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity — Fifth Sunday after Pentecost — July 14, 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 second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — option one

Amos warns Israel’s priest Amaziah of God’s wrath to come for ignoring his prophecy and dismissing him.

Amos 7:7-17

7:7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.

7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

7:10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.

7:11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”

7:12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;

7:13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

7:14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees,

7:15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

7:16 “Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.”

7:17 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

Psalm — option one

This Psalm is a warning to those in responsibility to act in a godly way by showing mercy to those in need.

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!

First reading — option two

God promises His blessings to those who repent of their sins and return to His guidance.

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

30:9 and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors,

30:10 when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

30:11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.

30:12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”

30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”

30:14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Psalm — option two

This Psalm has all the necessary elements of a good prayer, including giving all glory to God.

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

This is the first part of Paul’s letter to the people of Colosse, which Epaphras founded and Paul nurtured as if it were his own. Paul begins with his general benediction, characteristic of all his letters. Note how he includes young Timothy and speaks highly of Epaphras. This is a prayer for the Colossians. The whole of the book is a warning against Judaizers, who wanted to distort Christianity.

Colossians 1:1-14

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

1:2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

1:3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

1:4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel

1:6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.

1:7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,

1:8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

1:10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully

1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,

1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Gospel

This is the enduring parable of the Good Samaritan, with the lesson that we should be merciful to all in need. The severely injured robbery victim was a Jew, yet the priest and the Levite ignored him. By contrast, the Samaritan — a Gentile — showed mercy on the man.

Luke 10:25-37

10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

10:27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

10:28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.

10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

10:35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Oh, the irony of pious, hypocritical clerics ignoring someone in dire need, leaving that to a layman — and someone who was not of their own belief system, either.

What follows are readings for the First Sunday in Lent, March 10, 2019.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses gives the instructions for observing the Feast of the First Fruits, an offering of the initial harvest of the season in thanksgiving to the Lord, who liberated the Israelites from Egypt. As Matthew Henry’s commentary points out, the first fruits are the ones people most wish to enjoy, hence, it was only fitting that one sacrificed those to God in an act of self-denial. Self-denial is appropriate for Lent, as is remembering that God gives us all good things, including the food we eat.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

26:1 When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it,

26:2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.

26:3 You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.”

26:4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God,

26:5 you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.

26:6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us,

26:7 we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

26:8 The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders;

26:9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

26:10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God.

26:11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

Psalm

This Psalm was written for encouragement during a time of pestilence, yet, it applies equally to all believers. The Lord is our refuge, our fortress and our salvation.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

91:1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,

91:2 will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the missing verses (ESV):

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.

Epistle

Paul tells the Romans that all who confess that Jesus is Lord will be saved.

Romans 10:8b-13

10:8b “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

10:11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.

10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Gospel

Luke recounts Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness, beset by temptation and encounters with the devil.

Luke 4:1-13

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,

4:2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.

4:3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

4:4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”

4:5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

4:6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.

4:7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

4:8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

4:9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,

4:10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’

4:11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

4:12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

4:13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The ‘opportune time’ refers to Judas’s betrayal (Luke 22:53). Jesus said to the Jewish hierarchy — led by Judas — at His arrest at the Mount of Olives:

53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

There is much to examine in Sunday’s readings. I have been finding it useful to read the Lectionary selections beforehand rather than just rely on hearing them in church.

I am certain that if more families got together before Sunday worship to read and discuss these Scripture passages, our young people would understand Christianity much better than they do at present.

Nothing saddens me more than to see teens and twenty-somethings gravitate to other world religions — or none! — for the simple reason that they know nothing about Christianity!

It is up to adults to show the way by teaching the Bible to their youngsters. Let’s make it a priority, beginning now, during Lent.

What follows are the readings for the Twenty-fourth Sunday of Pentecost, November 4, 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.

Today’s readings are uplifting, pointing to the knowledge and wisdom of faith.

First reading

This is the moving story of Naomi and Ruth, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, joined together in faith and love of the Lord.

Ruth 1:1-18

1:1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons.

1:2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.

1:3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.

1:4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years,

1:5 both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

1:6 Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had considered his people and given them food.

1:7 So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah.

1:8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.

1:9 The LORD grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.

1:10 They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”

1:11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?

1:12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons,

1:13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the LORD has turned against me.”

1:14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

1:15 So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

1:16 But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

1:17 Where you die, I will die– there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

1:18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Psalm

The Psalm lists the joy and blessings that God brings to those who follow Him. Verse 3 is another favourite of mine.

Psalm 146

146:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!

146:2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

146:3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.

146:4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.

146:5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,

146:6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;

146:7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;

146:8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

146:9 The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

146:10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

First reading

Verse 4 is the opening line to the Jewish prayer, the Shema, the first prayer that Jewish children learn. The Shema is comprised of Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It is said regularly in synagogue as well as at home. Verse 9 is the reason why observant Jews have on their front doorframes a mezuzah, a small container with two Scripture passages, those from the Shema and, another prayer, the Vehaya (Deuteronomy 11:13-21). Common among Orthodox Jewish men is the tefillin — phylacteries — commanded in verse 8. The tefillin, a small box with Scripture verses, is affixed to the forehead during prayer and a leather strap is bound to the hand and forearm.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

6:1 Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the ordinances–that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy,

6:2 so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long.

6:3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.

6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

6:6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.

6:7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.

6:8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,

6:9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Psalm

The Psalm discusses the happiness the faithful have in obeying God’s commandments.

Psalm 119:1-8

119:1 Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.

119:2 Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,

119:3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.

119:4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

119:5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

119:6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.

119:8 I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

Epistle

Readings continue from the Book of Hebrews, which John MacArthur says was written in 68 AD, two years before the destruction of the Temple. He says it was intended as a final warning to convert. It’s a beautiful book which perfectly explains why Jesus Christ is the eternal High Priest, the promised Messiah.

Hebrews 9:11-14

9:11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),

9:12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified,

9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

Gospel

This passage from Mark alludes to the aforementioned verses from Deuteronomy 6. The scribe written about below understood.

Mark 12:28-34

12:28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

12:29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;

12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

12:31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

12:32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;

12:33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ –this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

12:34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Verses 29 and 30 are in the short version of the Ten Commandments prayer at the beginning of the Anglican Holy Communion service.

What follows are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

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

Readings from 1 Kings ended with Solomon’s construction of the magnificent temple in accordance with God’s will, and this Sunday’s reading is from the Song of Solomon, one of many sets of songs that the wise king authored. Although some Song of Solomon passages are rightly used at weddings, the greater inference for Bible scholars past and present is the love that Christ — the Bridegroom — has for His Bride, the Church. In this passage, the Church expresses her love for Christ. It is a time of rejoicing.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

The Psalm further reflects the joy that the faithful have in the Lord.

Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

45:1 My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

45:2 You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.

45:6 Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;

45:7 you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

45:8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;

45:9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

First reading

This passage from Deuteronomy concerns God’s commandments. Note in particular the second verse.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

4:1 So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.

4:2 You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.

4:6 You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!”

4:7 For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him?

4:8 And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

4:9 But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children–

Psalm

The Psalm focusses on obedience to God’s precepts and love for one’s neighbour.

Psalm 15

15:1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

15:2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;

15:3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;

15:4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;

15:5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Epistle

Readings have now concluded from Paul’s letters to the Ephesians. The next set of Epistle readings comes from James. His instructions here are to love God and one’s neighbour, a continuation of those from Deuteronomy and Psalm 15.

James 1:17-27

1:17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

1:18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

1:19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;

1:20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

1:21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

1:22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

1:23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;

1:24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.

1:25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.

1:26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.

1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Gospel

Gospel readings return to Mark from John. When challenged by the Pharisees on ceremonial law, Jesus says that what defiles a man comes from within him.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

7:1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him,

7:2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.

7:3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders;

7:4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)

7:5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

7:6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;

7:7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

7:8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

7:14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:

7:15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

7:21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder,

7:22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.

7:23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

There is much sermon material to be mined here, especially from the Gospel reading.

What follows are Lectionary readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 3, 2018.

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

The first reading, which most churchgoers probably do not hear, as only an Epistle and Gospel are generally read, is about young Samuel, son of Hannah, whose song of thanksgiving featured on May 31 for the feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. As my post for that day explains, Hannah had been barren all her life. She regularly went to the temple to pray for a child. Eli, the High Priest, heard her last prayer and blessed her. She promised God she would put Samuel in His service.

The reading recounts young Samuel being under Eli’s tutelage when something dramatic happened. Emphases mine throughout:

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

3:2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room;

3:3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.

3:4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”

3:5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

3:6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”

3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

3:8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.

3:9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

3:10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

3:11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.

3:12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.

3:13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.

3:14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

3:15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.

3:16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.”

3:17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”

3:18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”

3:19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

3:20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.

The Psalm ties in nicely with the story of Samuel and points to the close personal relationship God has with us:

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

139:13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

139:15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

139:16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

139:17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

139:18 I try to count them — they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.

The third reading — where used — is about the Fourth Commandment:

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

5:12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.

5:13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.

5:14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.

5:15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Another Psalm — optional — follows, which fits in with the reading from Deuteronomy:

Psalm 81:1-10

81:1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.

81:2 Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.

81:3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.

81:4 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.

81:5 He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a voice I had not known:

81:6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.

81:7 In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah

81:8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

81:9 There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.

81:10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

In the Epistle, Paul explains the power of the Lord working through those who believe in His Son, no matter how dire the circumstance:

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.

4:6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

4:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

4:11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.

4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

The Gospel reading describes the Pharisees’ hate towards Jesus for allowing His disciples to satisfy their hunger on the Sabbath and His healing of the man with the withered hand:

Mark 2:23-3:6

2:23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.

2:24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”

2:25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?

2:26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”

2:27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;

2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.

3:2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.

3:3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”

3:4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.

3:5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Lectionary readings for the next several Sundays will include more from the books of Samuel, 2 Corinthians and Mark’s Gospel.

Like most presidential hopefuls throughout American history, Ron Paul, the US Congressman for Texas’s 14th District, has given us an indication of his Christian faith.

Paul recently celebrated his 76th birthday.  Whether that will qualify him as being too old to serve the Great Republic as its 45th President is unclear.  In 2008, a number of pundits thought so, but how much of this was media-driven into the public consciousness?

Paul’s statement of faith is remarkably — and refreshingly — old school.  What he says reflects how many of my generation were brought up to state religious belief. If you like Ron Paul, be sure to read the statement in its entirety (emphases mine below):

My faith is a deeply private issue to me, and I don’t speak on it in great detail during my speeches because I want to avoid any appearance of exploiting it for political gain.  Let me be very clear here:  I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I endeavor every day to follow Him in all I do and in every position I advocate.

It is God Who gave us life.  As He is free, so are those He created in His image.  Our rights to life and liberty are inalienable.

I’m running for President of the United States because I believe that our traditions and way of life are under attack from an out-of-control federal government and reckless politicians who show no regard for what our Founders entrusted to our protection.

America became the greatest nation in human history because a dedicated band of Patriots believed their God-given rights were worth fighting for, even if it meant challenging the world’s most powerful nation in what many deemed a “hopeless” cause.

Being free meant so much to our forefathers that they put everything on the line – and thousands sacrificed their lives – to give the promise of liberty to not only their children and grandchildren, but to generations they knew they would never even meet …

My parents raised my four brothers and me on a dairy near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they set clear examples for each of us about faith, honest living, and individual responsibilityTheir Christian values helped inspire two of my brothers to eventually enter the ministry, and provided me with the foundation I needed to practice medicine and one day become a U.S. Representative

I am running to Restore America Now, and by that I mean that it’s time to protect and promote the basic God-given rights inherent in the promise of America.

We must pass on our heritage of liberty to the next generation – not tens of trillions of dollars in debt and liabilities.

We must stand for life – not allow millions of innocent children to continue to be slaughtered with the government’s approval.

We must follow the Biblical mandate of using honest weights and measures – not printing money out of thin air in almost complete secrecy and then handing it over to oppressive dictators.

We must only send our men and women to fight for our country when the mission is clear, every necessary tool needed to win is provided, and we respect the Constitution by declaring war.

Once war is declared, it must be waged according to Just War principles …

For my stands and beliefs, I am told that my efforts are “hopeless.”  Like those who were proud to stand up for what they knew was right to create our nation, however, I firmly believe that now is a better time than ever before to reclaim our liberties. 

Many of Rep. Paul’s fans not only in the US but around the world would relish the opportunity of cheering him on to victory in 2012.  Will he finally get his chance?  As he himself says:

No situation is hopeless for those who receive their strength from their faith, family, and freedom

For those wondering about ‘honest weights and measures’, see Leviticus 19:36, Deuteronomy 25:15, Proverbs 11:1, Proverbs 20:10 and Proverbs 20:23.

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