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

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

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

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

Jeremiah 33:14-16

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 25:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Luke 21:25-36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 25, 2018 is Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church year.

I know this particular day as Christ the King Sunday, but it seems that ‘king’ is a triggering word among left-wing churchgoers, including feminist clergy, so the name had to be changed.

The following readings are for Year B. Next Sunday, the first in Advent — the start of the Church year — readings from Year C begin.

Once again, there are two choices for First Reading and Psalm. I have highlighted the second choice in blue.

As one would expect, the emphasis is on Christ the King, as prophesied in the Old Testament and manifested in New Testament writings.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

In this last testament of King David, we are reminded of Jesus’s earthly lineage in Jesse’s family line. These verses can also be read as an anticipation of Christ Jesus.

2 Samuel 23:1-7

23:1 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:

23:2 The spirit of the LORD speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue.

23:3 The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God,

23:4 is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

23:5 Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?

23:6 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand;

23:7 to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

Psalm

It is likely that these are Solomon’s words at the time of the dedication of the first temple. They also suggest the coming of Christ — from the House of David. St Peter said that David understood that, in the fullness of time, Jesus would be his everlasting successor (Acts 2:30).

Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18)

132:1 O LORD, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured;

132:2 how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,

132:3 “I will not enter my house or get into my bed;

132:4 I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,

132:5 until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

132:6 We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.

132:7 “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.”

132:8 Rise up, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.

132:9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy.

132:10 For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

132:11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.

132:12 If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.”

132:13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation:

132:14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it.

132:15 I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread.

132:16 Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy.

132:17 There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.

132:18 His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.”

First reading

The passage from Daniel is a clear prophecy of the second coming of Christ and ensuing judgement. The Lectionary editors omitted the meatier verses (11 and 12) about judgement.

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

7:9 As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire.

7:10 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.

7:13 As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him.

7:14 To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

Psalm

The Psalm complements the verses from Daniel beautifully with the themes of majesty and awe.

Psalm 93

93:1 The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved;

93:2 your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.

93:3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.

93:4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD!

93:5 Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.

Epistle

The powerful Epistle from Revelation points to Christ, the King of Kings, who reigns and lives forevermore — and will one day return.

Revelation 1:4b-8

1:4b Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,

1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,

1:6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1:7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.

1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Gospel

John recorded the exchange about kingship between Jesus and Pontius Pilate at His mock trial.

John 18:33-37

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

What a powerful set of readings for a powerfully thought-provoking Sunday. I hope the ensuing sermons are just as stirring.

What follows are the readings for the Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost, November 18, 2018.

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

This Sunday’s Lectionary directives offer two choices for the first reading. The first two discuss Hannah’s yearning for a child and her joy at giving birth to Samuel. Those are to be read together. The alternate reading is from the Book of Daniel.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Hannah’s infertility caused her great despair. She went to pray. Her tears and prayers were so fervent that the high priest Eli thought she was drunk. He soon realised that she was not. The Lord then answered her prayer for a child. Note that in verse 11, she vowed to put Samuel under a Nazirite vow for a lifetime. Samuel, Samson and John the Baptist were the only lifetime Nazirites (nazir means ‘to separate’) in the Bible.

1 Samuel 1:4-20

1:4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters;

1:5 but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb.

1:6 Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb.

1:7 So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.

1:8 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

1:9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the LORD. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD.

1:10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly.

1:11 She made this vow: “O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

1:12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth.

1:13 Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk.

1:14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.”

1:15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD.

1:16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.”

1:17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.”

1:18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

1:19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her.

1:20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the LORD.”

First reading (continued)

Hannah praised the Lord for giving her a son, Samuel.

1 Samuel 2:1-10

2:1 Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

2:2 “There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

2:3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

2:4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.

2:5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.

2:6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

2:7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.

2:8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

2:9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail.

2:10 The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

First reading

This brief passage from Daniel describes a vision he had after a period of fasting and prayer. An angel appeared to him and talked about Michael the Archangel, defender of the people of Israel. This passage can be interpreted as a foretelling of the destruction of the temple centuries later in 70 AD and of the Last Judgement to come. The ‘book’ in verse 1 refers to the book of life, also mentioned in Revelation 13:8.

Daniel 12:1-3

12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.

12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

12:3 Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm

The Psalm praises God for His continuous protection and many blessings.

Psalm 16

16:1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

16:3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.

16:4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.

16:5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

16:6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

16:7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

16:8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.

16:10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.

16:11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Epistle

Readings continue from the Book of Hebrews. The author continues to expand on the role of Jesus Christ as the one, sufficient and everlasting High Priest.

Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25

10:11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.

10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,”

10:13 and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.”

10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

10:15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

Gospel readings from Mark continue. Jesus discussed the coming fall of the temple and the end of the world — as well as the present day.

Mark 13:1-8

13:1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”

13:2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

13:3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

13:4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

13:5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.

13:6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.

13:8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

The Gospel, Epistle and passage from Daniel point to the very real Last Judgement. I wonder how many clergy will preach on that? Alternatively, will they discuss Hannah’s desire for a lifetime Nazirite vow for her son Samuel? Sadly, I think we know the answers to both questions.

What follows are the readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, November 11, 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 themes are widows and obedience.

First reading

Readings from the Book of Ruth continue. Naomi and Ruth were both widows, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, respectively. Naomi arranged a new husband for Ruth. Ruth became the grandmother of Jesse — and great-grandmother of David, ancestors of Jesus.

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

3:1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you.

3:2 Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.

3:3 Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.

3:4 When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”

3:5 She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

4:13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son.

4:14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!

4:15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

4:16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.

4:17 The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Psalm

This is a famous Psalm about the bountiful blessings of parenthood. This is the origin of the name of the fundamentalist Quiver movement.

Psalm 127

127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.

127:2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

127:3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

127:4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.

127:5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

First reading

This reading from 1 Kings is about the prophet Elijah, whom the Lord shielded from his enemy Jezebel. It was a time of drought and famine. Here we read of another widow who received blessings when she obeyed the Lord.

1 Kings 17:8-16

17:8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

17:9 “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

17:10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.”

17:11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

17:12 But she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

17:13 Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.

17:14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth.”

17:15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days.

17:16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

Psalm

Interestingly, the Lectionary compilers scheduled Psalm 146 again, last week’s Psalm for one of the first readings.

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!

Epistle

The author of Hebrews continues his discourse on Jesus as the eternal High Priest, the Messiah.

Hebrews 9:24-28

9:24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

9:25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own;

9:26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.

9:27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,

9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Today’s concerns the widow’s mite.

Mark 12:38-44

12:38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,

12:39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!

12:40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

12:41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

12:42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.

12:43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.

12:44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

This passage is often misused. Jesus was condemning the scribes and felt pity for the widow who felt compelled to contribute her last coins. The Jewish leaders really did take advantage of widows in those days.

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 Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, October 28, 2018.

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

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

First reading

Readings from the Book of Job conclude. Here the Lord restores Job’s fortunes and reunites him with his loved ones. The Lord blessed him for the rest of his life.

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

42:1 Then Job answered the LORD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

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

Jeremiah 31:7-9

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 126

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

Hebrews 7:23-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Mark 10:46-52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

104:35c Praise the LORD!

First reading

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

Isaiah 53:4-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 91:9-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

Hebrews 5:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Mark 10:35-45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

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

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

23:1 Then Job answered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 22:1-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

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

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 90:12-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

Hebrews 4:12-16

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Mark 10:17-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

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

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading

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

Genesis 2:18-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Mark 10:2-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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