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Below are the readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 24, 2021.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

After having been in the belly of the whale for three days for refusing to preach to the Gentiles at Nineveh, Jonah was washed up on land. God gave him a second chance to carry out His command. A humbled Jonah obeyed this time. Matthew Henry’s commentary has an excellent exposition on Nineveh — it was the largest city in the Ancient World at that time, positively massive. It is unfortunate that the Lectionary editors left out the part where the king of the city helped greatly by declaring a royal decree to don not only sackcloth and ashes but also fast. He also abided by that decree. I have included the missing verses (highlighted in purple). The irony with this story is that God gave Israel many prophets, who were persecuted and ignored, yet, this pagan city and its king repented immediately with one visit from Jonah.

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

3:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

3:2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

3:3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.

3:4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

3:5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

The word reached[a] the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,

but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Psalm

In this Psalm, David confidently proclaims his trust in the Lord.

Psalm 62:5-12

62:5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.

62:6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

62:7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

62:8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah

62:9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.

62:10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

62:11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,

62:12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.

Epistle

1 Corinthians 7 is about Christian marriage. That said, Paul takes great pains to point out that marriage is but a temporal state and that we should always have our hearts and minds on the world to come, our home in Heaven.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

7:29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,

7:30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions,

7:31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Gospel

Last week’s reading from John described how Jesus called Philip and Nathanael to be His disciples. In today’s reading from Mark, Jesus calls two more sets of brothers to join him: Simon Peter and Andrew as well as John (the Gospel writer) and James, the sons of Zebedee. John in verse 14 is John the Baptist.

Mark 1:14-20

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,

1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

1:16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.

1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

1:18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

1:19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.

1:20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

I still prefer ‘fishers of men’ (verse 17), which actually includes both sexes, but we are not allowed that usage anymore.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Below are the readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, January 17, 2021.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

In an era without prophets, the Lord called upon young Samuel, Eli’s student. Eli’s sons had blasphemed the Lord, and Eli had not punished their iniquity. The Lord told Samuel of the judgement He would pass upon Eli and his sons. Matthew Henry wrote a moving commentary on these verses, well worth reading for its insights.

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.

Psalm

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that Jewish scholars consider this to be David’s finest Psalm. It is about God’s omniscience. It is also a celebration of human life (verses 13 and 16). Henry counsels that if we apply our hearts and our faith when we recite this Psalm, we will benefit our personal holiness and comfort, thanks to divine grace.

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.

Epistle

Here we have a rare occasion of the Lectionary editors allowing a reading warning against fornication. It is a rare occurrence, because it is apparent to those who know the Lectionary that no offensive verses should be included in church readings. Serendipitously, 1 Corinthians 6 appears in my Forbidden Bible Verses post for tomorrow, January 17, 2021.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

6:13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

6:16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”

6:17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

6:18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself.

6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

6:20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Gospel

Jesus chooses His disciples. Note Nathanael’s reaction (verse 46): ‘Can any good come out of Nazareth?’ Our Lord Jesus was born and lived in the world in the humblest of circumstances, including His home town.

John 1:43-51

1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

1:44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

1:48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

1:49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

1:50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”

1:51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Three of these readings are on the theme of ‘Call me, Lord’ and spiritual readiness, into which the Epistle from Paul ties nicely.

A good celebrant should be able to tie all four together into a cohesive and powerful sermon.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday after Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, January 10, 2021.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

We have Moses’s account of the beginning of the world. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that word Moses used for God was Elohim, meaning ‘the great God, the God of Creation’.

Genesis 1:1-5

1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

1:2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Psalm

Matthew Henry says that many Bible scholars think that David wrote this Psalm during a severe storm. While all around him were paralysed by fear, David wrote of his confidence that God, the ruler of nature, would let no harm come to them.

Psalm 29

29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

29:2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.

29:3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.

29:4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

29:5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

29:6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.

29:7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.

29:8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

29:9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

29:10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.

29:11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Epistle

I hope that celebrants giving sermons on Sunday explain to their congregations that John the Baptist had many followers. During his ministry, a good number of those baptised were passing through the region then returned home to a distant land. As such, they had not heard of Jesus. Paul taught them about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Ephesus was in Asia Minor, a very long way away from the River Jordan.

Acts 19:1-7

19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.

19:2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

19:3 Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.”

19:4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”

19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

19:6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied

19:7 altogether there were about twelve of them.

Gospel

This is Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus. Our Lord did not need baptism, but as He did with Jewish law, again unnecessary for Him, he obeyed. In other Gospel accounts, John was understandably reluctant to baptise his relative, Jesus, but He insisted. The Holy Spirit and God the Father’s voice came from heaven after our Lord’s baptism (verses 10, 11). Note that John did not preach his message in Jerusalem, but, as was prophesied, in the wilderness.

Mark 1:4-11

1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

1:5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

1:6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

1:7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.

1:8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

I read on a notionally Christian website around 15 years ago that Baptism was not necessary for salvation. Perhaps, in certain cases. However, throughout His life, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem, preached in the synagogue in Nazareth and obeyed the religious laws of His time.

He set the example for believers. Why would we not follow it by joining a good church and receiving the Sacraments?

Below are the readings for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day, January 3, 2021.

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

This is the last call for Christmas carols for the season.

There are Catholic alternatives in today’s readings, specified below.

Emphases are mine.

First reading

Jeremiah encourages God’s people to be hopeful in awaiting deliverance from captivity.

Jeremiah 31:7-14

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.

31:10 Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”

31:11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

31:12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.

31:13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

31:14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

First reading — Catholic alternative

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Sirach 24:1-12

24:1 Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory in the midst of her people.

24:2 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth, and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory:

24:3 “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.

24:4 I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.

24:5 Alone I compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss.

24:6 Over waves of the sea, over all the earth, and over every people and nation I have held sway.”

24:7 Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose territory should I abide?

24:8 “Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’

24:9 Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me, and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.

24:10 In the holy tent I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion.

24:11 Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my domain.

24:12 I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.

Psalm

This is another of the Praise Psalms (145-150). Matthew Henry’s commentary says that David could have written it after building and fortifying Jerusalem.

Psalm 147:12-20

147:12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!

147:13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.

147:14 He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.

147:15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.

147:16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.

147:17 He hurls down hail like crumbs– who can stand before his cold?

147:18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

147:19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.

147:20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the LORD!

Psalm — alternative Catholic reading

This passage from Wisdom recalls God’s mercy in releasing His people from captivity in Egypt and the wisdom that was with them.

Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21

10:15 A holy people and blameless race wisdom delivered from a nation of oppressors,

10:16 She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, and withstood dread kings with wonders and signs.

10:17 She gave to holy people the reward of their labors; she guided them along a marvelous way, and became a shelter to them by day, and a starry flame through the night.

10:18 She brought them over the Red Sea, and led them through deep waters;

10:19 but she drowned their enemies, and cast them up from the depth of the sea.

10:20 Therefore the righteous plundered the ungodly; they sang hymns, O Lord, to your holy name, and praised with one accord your defending hand;

20:21 for wisdom opened the mouths of those who were mute, and made the tongues of infants speak clearly.

Epistle

Paul reminds the Ephesians that, through Christ Jesus, they are the adopted sons of God. Note the importance of wisdom as a component of faith.

Ephesians 1:3-14

1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

1:4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

1:5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,

1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

1:8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight

1:9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ,

1:10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

1:11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

1:14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Gospel

We have a reprise of the Christmas Day reading from John 1. Note the mention of the New Covenant in verse 17, freeing us from ceremonial law. A commentary is in the following post:

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

John 1:(1-9), 10-18

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1:2 He was in the beginning with God.

1:3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being

1:4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

1:7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

1:10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

1:11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

1:13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

1:15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”)

1:16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

1:17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

1:18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

May we recall these moving, powerful verses throughout the year, when the anticipation and joy of the Christmas season are distant. Jesus, the Light of the world, is always with us, living and reigning forever-more.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas Day, December 27, 2020.

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

During this particular festive season, there are two Sundays after Christmas Day. That doesn’t happen very often. Therefore, if you enjoy Christmas carols, get to church, coronavirus restrictions permitting.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Isaiah prophesies God’s deliverance of His people but also the fulfilment of the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. Gentiles — ‘the nations’ — will also be saved. In the version of the Bible that Matthew Henry used, Isaiah 62:2 reads as follows:

And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

Now on to the reading:

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.

62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Psalm

This is one of the Praise Psalms (145-150). Matthew Henry’s exposition on it is nothing less than stunning and well worth reading, especially during the Christmas season.

Psalm 148

148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.

148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Epistle

Paul tells the Galatians that those who follow Jesus are no longer ‘slaves’ to Mosaic law but adopted children of God. Various judaizers beset the Galatians with worries about legalism, saying that they must obey Mosaic law even as Christians. Paul’s verses are a beautiful summary of the Christmas story.

Galatians 4:4-7

4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

4:5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.

4:6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Gospel

Perhaps I am getting old, but the more I read the account of Simeon and Anna seeing the Christ Child at the temple, the more moving it becomes. One cannot imagine what they must have experienced at that moment. Both were elderly. Both devoted their lives to God. The Holy Spirit told Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. When Simeon says ‘dismissing’ in verse 29, he means that he can now pass from this life ‘in peace’. This took place 40 days after Mary gave birth and had her ritual bath allowing her to resume public worship. The Anglican Communion has a similar ceremony, without the ritual bath, in the Churching of Women. My post makes reference to this chapter in Luke’s Gospel:

The Churching of Women — misogynist or not?

Luke 2:22-40

2:22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),

2:24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

2:27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,

2:28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

2:29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;

2:30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,

2:31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

2:32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

2:33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.

2:34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed

2:35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

2:36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

2:37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

2:38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

2:39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.

2:40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Contrast Simeon and Anna’s godly reactions to the judgemental bile and wilful hatred that the Sanhedrin — the notional spiritual shepherds of the Jews — heaped upon Jesus during His ministry. Jesus — all divine, all human — knew from the beginning everything that would happen. His inner experience amongst mankind is impossible to put into words.

Below are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2020.

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

Either the Psalm or its alternative below, The Magnificat, may be read.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

David desperately wants to build a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. However, God had other plans for David. Solomon would be the one to build the first temple. The Lord tells Nathan the prophet, David’s confidant, that His promises to David and his descendants are secure. I am disappointed that verse 12 is excluded, so I have included it in red. Verse 12 relates to Solomon, however, it also relates to Christ (see Matthew 1), as Matthew Henry’s commentary states, and introduces verse 16.

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.

7:16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Psalm

The Psalmist, whose identity is unclear, is hopeful for the covenant that God made with David, considered as a type of Christ, in theological terms. ‘Selah’ is an emphatic word, synonymous with ‘pay close attention’.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

89:1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

89:2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

89:3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

89:4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah

89:19 Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said: “I have set the crown on one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative to the Psalm

The Magnificat will be familiar to many. Indeed, the Song of Mary is included in Anglican and Lutheran Evening Prayer services and is often sung.

Luke 1:46b-55

1:46b “My soul magnifies the Lord,

1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

1:50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

1:51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Epistle

These are the closing verses of the Book of Romans, celebrating the glory of God.

Romans 16:25-27

16:25 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages

16:26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith

16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Gospel

The angel Gabriel announces that Mary will be giving birth to the Christ Child, conceived by the Holy Spirit. These verses from Luke’s Gospel precede The Magnificat, the Song of Mary (see above). Her relative Elizabeth, barren and past her childbearing years, was expecting John the Baptist at the time. Note that Joseph was descended from the house of David. Even more reason to have included 2 Samuel 7:12 (see above)!

Luke 1:26-38

1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

1:27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

1:28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

1:29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

1:30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

1:31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.

1:32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.

1:33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

1:34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

1:35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

1:36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

1:38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

These readings build us up for Christmas perfectly — and beautifully.

May you have a blessed week ahead.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship, meaning that we are now entering into a new calendar year, which always begins with Advent.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

In Isaiah’s time, God’s people finally repented. This was part of their prayer. However, Matthew Henry notes that it is equally applicable to today’s faithful in any ‘time of affliction’. Verse 6 will be familiar to many; our works are but a filthy rag in the Lord’s sight.

Isaiah 64:1-9

64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence–

64:2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

64:3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

64:4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.

64:5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

64:7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

64:9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Psalm

Although it is unclear under what circumstance this Psalm was written, it is appropriate during times of trouble.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

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

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

80:3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

80:4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

80:5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.

80:6 You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

80:7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

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

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

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

Epistle

Paul’s greeting to the errant, divided Corinthians was a heartfelt one, reminding them of the spiritual strength only the Lord can provide through His Son Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

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

1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,

1:5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind

1:6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you

1:7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1:8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1:9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel

Jesus spoke of His Second Coming, for which we should all be prepared — as we should be for our own individual mortality. We know not when either will come.

Mark 13:24-37

13:24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

13:25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

13:26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.

13:27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

13:28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.

13:29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

13:32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

13:33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

13:34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

13:35 Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,

13:36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.

13:37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Advent reminds us to turn from sin and repent — turn over a new leaf in our lives.

In the days before Christ’s earthly ministry began, John the Baptist preached not only baptism but also repentance, so that we may be prepared for Him whose earthly birth we celebrate at Christmas.

May we use the time of Advent wisely.

Reign of Christ Sunday — November 22, 2020 — is the final Sunday in the Church year.

This is traditionally known as Christ the King Sunday.

Advent — and a new Church year — begin on November 29, 2020.

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

There are two options for the Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Ezekiel 34 contains the Lord’s reproof of the elders of Israel — both religious and secular — in their lack of leadership. The Lord also took issue with the spiritually stronger laymen who neglected their weaker brethren. These verses say that the Lord will look after His people. So, too, does Christ, the root and offspring of David, look after His flock.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

34:11 For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.

34:12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

34:13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.

34:14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

34:15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD.

34:16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

34:20 Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.

34:21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide,

34:22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

34:23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

34:24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

This Psalm is a marvellous song of praise and thanksgiving. These verses will be very familiar.

Psalm 100

100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.

100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

100:3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.

100:5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm — Option Two

This Psalm of David’s expresses his joy in and praise of the Lord. These verses will also be familiar to many.

Psalm 95:1-7a

95:1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

95:4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.

95:5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

95:7a For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Epistle

These verses of Paul’s to the believers in Ephesus are ideal for Christ the King Sunday.

Ephesians 1:15-23

1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel

This is the continuation and conclusion of Matthew 25, which Jesus preached in the days before the Crucifixion. Here He describes His Second Coming.

Matthew 25:31-46

25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.

25:32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

25:33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

25:34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

25:35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

25:36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

25:37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?

25:38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?

25:39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

25:40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

25:41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

25:42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,

25:43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

25:44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

25:45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I pray that all of us reading this are among the sheep.

Below are the readings for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, November 15, 2020.

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Some time after Joshua’s death — after Ehud died — the Israelites fell into serious sin once again. Joshua had defeated Jabin, but, over the years, Jabin was able to rebuild his kingdom. God judged the Israelites by putting Jabin over them. After two decades, the judge and prophetess Deborah received word from the Lord that it was time for His judgement to end with another battle. Lappidoth (verse 4) means ‘lamps’. Deborah was an extraordinary woman, brilliant — as bright as a lamp — in spiritual and intellectual discernment. As such, Matthew Henry says that ‘wife of Lappidoth’ may be considered a figurative expression.

Judges 4:1-7

4:1 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died.

4:2 So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim.

4:3 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

4:4 At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel.

4:5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment.

4:6 She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun.

4:7 I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'”

The Psalm was written at a time when God’s people were severely oppressed. However, it is a timeless plea for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Psalm 123

123:1 To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

123:2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until he has mercy upon us.

123:3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

123:4 Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

Zephaniah was the last minor prophet before the captivity at the hands of the Chaldeans. Zephaniah warned of the destruction of Jerusalem and enumerated the sins of Judah which formed the basis for God’s judgement. The prophet Jeremiah lived through that captivity.

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

1:7 Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.

1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

1:13 Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.

1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.

1:15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

1:16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

1:17 I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

The Psalm, which Moses wrote, recognises God’s omnipotence, and asks Him for the human wisdom to acknowledge it.

Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12

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.

90:7 For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.

90:8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

90:9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh.

90:10 The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

90:11 Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

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

Epistle

Readings from 1 Thessalonians continue. Paul has no lectures to offer these holy Christians. He reminds them to continue being mindful of their mortality and to carry on building each other up in faith.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.

5:2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

5:3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!

5:4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;

5:5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

5:6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;

5:7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.

5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

5:9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue. Jesus taught these parables in the week of His death on the Cross. This is the Parable of the Talents. The conclusion seems harsh. However, the talents — worth quite a sum — were an analogy for the gifts that God gives each of us to increase for His praise and glory. Therefore, we should not waste the gifts He gives us. All good things come from Him alone and we should use them. He does not want us to bury — ignore — these gifts. Even with one gift, we can increase our use and value of it during our lifetimes, becoming holier people as we spread the Gospel according to our abilities.

Matthew 25:14-30

25:14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;

25:15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

25:16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.

25:17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.

25:18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

25:19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

25:20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’

25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

25:22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’

25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

25:24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;

25:25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

25:26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?

25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

25:28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.

25:29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

25:30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

Note that the tone of the readings for the past two Sundays have been more sombre. They have to do with the importance of wisdom, repentance, mortality and judgement. They prepare us for the approaching season of Advent, where we contemplate our failings and seek to do better in preparation for the feast of Christmas.

Below are the readings for the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, November 8, 2020.

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Last week’s reading was about the beginning of Joshua’s leadership of the Israelites. Today’s is about his recollections of that leadership during his final meeting with the heads of the congregation of Israel. He died shortly thereafter.

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

24:1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God.

24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors–Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor–lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.

24:3a Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.

24:14 “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

24:15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

24:16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;

24:17 for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed;

24:18 and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

24:19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.

24:20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”

24:21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the LORD!”

24:22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”

24:23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”

24:24 The people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”

24:25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

The Psalm ties in well with Joshua’s entreaties to the Israelites to love and obey the Lord.

Psalm 78:1-7

78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,

78:3 things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us.

78:4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

78:5 He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children;

78:6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children,

78:7 so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

One of the following four may be read. The Wisdom of Solomon is a book in the Catholic canon of the Bible.

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16

6:12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.

6:13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.

6:14 One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.

6:15 To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,

6:16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.

Amos delivers the word of the Lord: His people must put away their idols along with their insincere worship and devote themselves to Him alone. Incidentally, James Comey used to have verse 24 posted on his Twitter feed; it was an anti-Trump message.

Amos 5:18-24

5:18 Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD! Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light;

5:19 as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake.

5:20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

5:21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

5:22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon.

5:23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

5:24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

The next verses from the Wisdom of Solomon continue from the first.

Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20

6:17 The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her,

6:18 and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,

6:19 and immortality brings one near to God;

6:20 so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

This short Psalm of David’s is one we can pray in times of trouble or affliction.

Psalm 70

70:1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me!

70:2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.

70:3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.

70:4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

70:5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

Epistle

Readings from 1 Thessalonians continue. Paul discusses the afterlife and our Lord’s Second Coming.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

4:14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.

4:15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.

4:16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew’s Gospel continue. Jesus taught the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids — also known as the Parable of the Ten Virgins or the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins — in the final days before the Crucifixion.

Matthew 25:1-13

25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

25:2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.

25:3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;

25:4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

25:5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

25:6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

25:7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.

25:8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

25:9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

25:10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.

25:11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’

25:12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

25:13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The virgins, or bridesmaids, are allegories for the followers of Christ. The foolish ones have fallen away into spiritual weakness and sin. The wise have been prepared all along, expecting and waiting for the Bridegroom — Jesus — to appear.

Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this parable. He says the heart is the vessel; grace is the oil we must have in our vessel. We must use our time in this life profitably, to His honour and glory, so that we may be ready to meet Him one day.

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