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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 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.

The Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is December 13, 2020.

Gaudete is the Latin word for ‘rejoice’. Until the ninth century, Advent began on St Martin’s feast day, November 11. The season was one of self-denial and penitence, just as Lent is. Therefore, Gaudete Sunday offered a welcome reprieve from various spiritual disciplines before Christmas. The equivalent Sunday in Lent is Laetare Sunday. Traditionally, the priest wears a rose coloured vestment on both Sundays.

You can read more about Gaudete Sunday below:

Gaudete Sunday: readings for the Third Sunday of Advent — Year B

Having posted most, though not all, of the readings for the three Lectionary years, it is now time to delve into the readings.

The Gospel reading for this day is John 1:6-8, 19-28 (emphases mine):

John 1:6-8, 19-28

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.

1:19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

1:20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”

1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”

1:22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

1:23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.

1:24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

1:25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”

1:26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know,

1:27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

1:28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

If certain verses are familiar, that is because they also feature in Mark’s Gospel account of John the Baptist, which I discussed last week:

Second Sunday of Advent — Year B — Mark 1:1-8

Note how John describes John the Baptist as a ‘man sent from God’ (verse 6).

Although he appears in the New Testament, he was the final prophet of the Old Testament, that long era before Christ’s ministry.

In fact, John the Baptist was the first prophet God’s people had had in 400 years.

John the Baptist came to announce the coming of Christ, ‘the light’, and to prepare people for His ministry (verse 7).

Students of John’s Gospel know that he made much use of the words ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ throughout his account.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

“That all men through him–that is through John the Baptist–might believe in that light.” In other words, he came to draw people to him that through his testimony they might believe in that light. He was not that light but was sent to give testimony of that light. And John the Apostle is saying He is the eternal one proven by creation, He is the revealed one proven by light in the midst of darkness, He is the promised one proven by the fact that the greatest of all prophets said He is the one. That’s verification. And the gospel of John is loaded with that. John calls the testimony of the Father on behalf of the incarnation, the testimony of the words and works of the Lord, the testimony of Old Testament Scripture, the testimony of people who met Him, the testimony of the disciples and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. And then here begins that whole string of testimony with the testimony of John the Baptist…the first witness listed in the gospel of John. He testifies that the logos [the Word] has come and is the true light in the world.

John the Gospel writer makes it clear that John the Baptist knew that his purpose was to announce Christ, the light (verse 9). He had always said that he himself was not the light.

The Lectionary reading then skips to verse 19 and the first mention of ‘the Jews’ in John’s account.

John MacArthur explains that whenever John used ‘the Jews’, he meant those of the hierarchy, the Sanhedrin, who refused to believe that Christ is the Messiah:

You’re going to meet in this opening section the people who rejected the Lord, the people who were disinterested in Christ. They’re a delegation that you first meet in verse 19, it says, “The Jews sent to Him priests and Levites from Jerusalem.” So Jerusalem is a sort of a religion central. The Sanhedrin runs the religious system. The Sanhedrin is the Jewish council of seventy elders plus the high priests, and they call the shots religiously in that apostate religion. The term “the Jews,” that is a term you will see seventy times in the gospel of John. It is never used ethnically. It is never used racially. It is always used in one sense: it is used to identify the enemies of Jesus. It’s John’s choice term. You don’t find it in the other gospels. You find it here in the gospel of John. It is the term that John uses for the religious establishment, the religious elite from the high priest all the way down to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, priests—everybody else who were the duly constituted leaders of apostate Judaism who resented, hated Christ and ultimately were responsible for handing Him over to the Romans to be executed. So you meet in this passage right away, right at the beginning in the first verse of the historical account of the gospel of John, the faithless people. And you’re going to see them all the way through. You’re going to see these people…I said…seventy times this term is used, and it always refers to the enemies of Jesus.

The priests and Levites asked John the Baptist who he was.

He ‘confessed and did not deny’ that he was not the Messiah (verse 20).

MacArthur says that those words are difficult to translate from Greek into English. In Greek, the inference is that John the Baptist was angry at the question:

In verse 20 “he confessed and didn’t deny,” but confessed. And by the way, that’s an English way of trying to translate the Greek, which is very, very strong. He was outraged. He was livid at that question. “He confessed and didn’t deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am not the Christ.’”

It is possible that John the Baptist was angry because he knew the hierarchy were not interested in salvation. They wanted the Messiah to be a temporal king:

They weren’t looking for a lamb; they weren’t looking for a sacrifice; they weren’t looking for someone to take the wrath of God. They were looking for a King because they thought they were okay. That was a modest commitment to repentance for the sake of John and for the sake of being ready for the Messiah. But there was no sense in which they were looking for a Savior.

They goaded John the Baptist with more questions about his identity (verses 21, 22).

They asked if he was Elijah because that prophet was supposed to return to announce the Messiah:

Before the arrival of Messiah will come Elijah. But it is before Messiah’s coming to judge. So we can say this, just for our understanding, that Elijah will come before the Lord’s Second Coming in judgment. Some would equate him with one of the witnesses of Revelation 11, verse 3, the two witnesses that come at the end. Elijah never died. Is that not true? He went to heaven. What? Yeah, he went to heaven in a chariot. So Elijah will come before the return of the Lord in the great and terrible day. So they say, “Are you Elijah?” Does this mean this is the coming of the King? And, of course, they thought the judgment would be upon the ungodly nations and they would be given the kingdom. And he says to them, “No, I’m not. I’m not.”

You say, “Well wait a minute, wait a minute. Why would he say I’m not?” Because he wasn’t. He was John the Baptist. He didn’t exist before he was born. He’s not recycled Elijah. However—and here’s what you have to understand—the angel said he will come “in the spirit and power of Elijah”; with that kind of prophetic power and effect, turning people’s hearts back to God.

So understand it this way: two comings of Christ. The first coming he is preceded by one in the spirit and power of Elijah. Second Coming, he’s preceded by Elijah. So John is not the Elijah, but he is the one who comes in the spirit and power of Elijah. And it’s pretty clear throughout the testimony of Matthew and Luke that they understood that—that John was not Elijah but he was the one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. You remember the great prophet who spoke the Word of God.

John the Baptist quoted Isaiah in his response: the voice in the wilderness crying out to ‘make straight the way of the Lord’ (verse 23).

He could have answered the priests and Levites differently, because he was conceived and born under special circumstances, but he didn’t. He showed humility:

“I’m the son of Zacharias, the esteemed priest. I’m the greatest man who ever lived, by the way. I’m a man who was, just for your information, filled with the Holy Spirit when I was still in my mother’s womb. He doesn’t say any of that, he just says, “I’m a voice.” “I’m a voice.” Just a voice. It reminds me of Luke 17:10 where it says that when we’ve done everything we ought to have done, we ought to say we’re only an unprofitable servant, I’m a slave—just a voice, just a voice. But I am a voice that is unique. “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” I am a voice, but I am a voice fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 40, verses 3 to 5. I am the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 through 5.

And what did Isaiah mean when he said “The voice of one crying in the wilderness?” Isaiah was talking about the coming of Messiah, and that before the Messiah would come He would be preceded by a voice crying in the wilderness: “Make the way of the Lord clear; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, every mountain and hill be made low; let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” That’s a prophecy of John the Baptist. He says, “I’m that voice.”

As I discussed last week, John the Baptist lived in ‘the wilderness’ — the desert. Therefore, he lived in a literal wilderness. However, there is also the connotation of a spiritual wilderness in which others lived.

MacArthur interprets Isaiah for us in light of John the Baptist’s purpose:

So in what way was he lowering mountains and elevating valleys and straightening out crooked roads and clearing obstacles off the path spiritually? Spiritually; the truth preacher of righteousness, a voice not attracting people to himself but to one of higher rank whose sandals He wasn’t worthy to untie. And He was saying, “Make straight,” He says in verse 23, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Create a highway in your heart is what he’s after

The low places are the base things in life that need to be…that need to be brought up. The high things are the elevated self-righteous, prideful, hypocritical things that need to be brought low. The crooked things, the deviant things need to be straightened out. The clutter of life needs to be cleared off so that the road is clean. This is all a part of the message of repentance. Deal with the issues of the heart, which is both wretched in its self-elevation and it’s self-debasing.

John tells us that the Pharisees sent the priests and Levites to John the Baptist (verse 24). It could be that John the Baptist surmised that and why he was angry at the nature of their questions. He and his parents were devout Jews and were no doubt aware of the corrupt nature of the Sanhedrin.

The priests and Levites continued to ask him about what he was doing and why he was baptising people (verse 25). It was their way of asking how he dared do that without their authority.

John gave them a spiritual response about Jesus, who was among them but whom they did not yet know (verse 26). John stated his unworthiness to even undo His sandal (verse 27).

MacArthur explains:

In other words, why are you focused on me? Why are you so caught up with me? I baptize in water. He just deflects this thing completely away. I baptize in water. What’s the big deal? This is water. This is just putting people in water—just an external symbol …

So John does what he always did, turns everybody’s attention toward Christ. And there you have his first message in verse 26, “Among you stands One whom you do not know; He is here.” That’s his first message. He’s here. Why are you caught up with me? You see me, you know me, but One stands already here that you don’t know. He’s the One you need to know. He’s the One you need to know. He’s the One, he later says, who baptizes in the Holy Spirit. In other words, He’s the One who deals with the heart, with the heart. The Messiah is present. He’s here. He doesn’t mean He’s standing there by the water that day. He means He’s in the land; He has arrived.

This is the chronological timeline:

At the very moment he says this, Jesus is walking toward where John is and will arrive the next day. It was forty-plus days ago that John baptized Jesus. And then Jesus went, carried by the Holy Spirit, up into the wilderness for forty days of temptation. The forty days of temptation is ended. Jesus is on His way back, back to John. And what John is saying is not that He’s here on the spot, but that He’s here—He has been identified and He’s present. That’s the first great message that John gives. That’s where all gospel preaching starts, doesn’t it? He’s here; He’s come; He’s come; He’s come.

Incidentally, the Bethany referred to in verse 28 is not the one where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. It is a different Bethany:

Day two picks up the story in verse 29. All of this, of course, verse 28 says, was happening in a place called Bethany beyond the Jordan. Not the Bethany on the eastside of Jerusalem there, but another Bethany. We don’t know where exactly it was; out beyond the Jordan River into the wilderness. It all happened there. But verse 29 then takes us to day two, the next day. He saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This is day two; this is group two. Group two, all the people that are gathered, all the crowd, and the message: “Look at Him.” “Look at Him.” “Look at Him.”

This is such a brilliant episode in the Gospel story. One can understand why it is included in the readings for Gaudete Sunday, a day of rejoicing.

Below are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020.

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

This particular Sunday is also known traditionally as Exaudi Sunday, so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’. It is said to be the saddest Sunday of the church year, because the disciples were at a loose end after Jesus ascended to Heaven. They missed Him and were unsure as to what the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost would mean.

You can read more about it in this post:

Exaudi Sunday: between the Ascension and Pentecost

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

On Ascension Day, we had the reading from Luke’s Gospel about our Lord’s return to His Father. Here we have Luke’s other version — as he was the author of Acts — from Acts 1. Note that, even at this stage, the Apostles still expected a temporal return of Israel to glory.

Acts 1:6-14

1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

1:7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.

1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

1:11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.

1:13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

1:14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Psalm

It is probable that David wrote this Psalm after he was no longer besieged by enemies. It is a Psalm of praise and thanks to God for His goodness and mercy.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

68:1 Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him.

68:2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, let the wicked perish before God.

68:3 But let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy.

68:4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds–his name is the LORD– be exultant before him.

68:5 Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

68:6 God gives the desolate a home to live in; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious live in a parched land.

68:7 O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, Selah

68:8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

68:9 Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad; you restored your heritage when it languished;

68:10 your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

68:32 Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord, Selah

68:33 O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens; listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.

68:34 Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel; and whose power is in the skies.

68:35 Awesome is God in his sanctuary, the God of Israel; he gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

Epistle

Readings from 1 Peter conclude. Peter exhorted his converts to be Christlike in everything, despite their persecution. He also encouraged them to avoid temptation at all costs.

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

4:13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.

4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

5:8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

5:9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.

5:10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

5:11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel

Jesus said these words, The High Priestly Prayer, at the Last Supper. John’s Gospel is the only one that carries the full complement of Jesus’s final messages to the Apostles, from John 14John 17: four stunning chapters. Note verse 9 below, in particular: not all will be saved, only those whom God has given to Jesus.

John 17:1-11

17:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,

17:2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

17:4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

17:5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.

17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

May God increase our faith through His grace daily. Jesus Christ will reign for ever and ever.

For those fortunate enough to be able to return to church this Sunday, please pray for the rest of us that our leaders will see fit to open our church doors, too. Thank you.

Below are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Readings from Acts continue. Early in his ministry, Paul spent a short time in Athens. The pagan Greeks believed in an unknown god, responsible for all creation. They were too intellectual to take Paul seriously, sadly. (The more things change, the more they remain the same.)

Acts 17:22-31

17:22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.

17:23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,

17:25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.

17:26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

17:27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him–though indeed he is not far from each one of us.

17:28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

17:29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

17:30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

17:31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Psalm

This is a Psalm of general thanksgiving for all of God’s blessings.

Psalm 66:8-20

66:8 Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,

66:9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

66:10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

66:11 You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;

66:12 you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

66:13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,

66:14 those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

66:15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

66:16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.

66:17 I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.

66:18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

66:19 But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

66:20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

Epistle

Readings from Peter’s letters continue. Here he discusses the importance of Christlike righteousness in our conduct, making use of the grace we received in Baptism. His audience of converts was severely persecuted, so he reminded them to set their minds on the higher path.

1 Peter 3:13-22

3:13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?

3:14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,

3:15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

3:16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.

3:17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,

3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel

Readings from John’s Gospel continue. Jesus spoke these words at the Last Supper, announcing that God would send the Holy Spirit (Advocate) to the Apostles.

John 14:15-21

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

14:18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

14:19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.

14:20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

14:21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

If you are able to return to church post-coronavirus, may you worship joyfully with a full heart.

I am most disappointed to have missed my favourite season in the church calendar. Worshipping together is not the same as evangelising to one’s neighbour. I would be happy to worship with others from my congregation outdoors but, that, too, is forbidden.

We have at least six weeks to go here in Britain until church doors open again.

Here are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2020.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the story of Stephen’s martyrdom. He was the Church’s first martyr (feast day December 26) and one of the first deacons. Saul of Tarsus — later, Paul the Apostle — had played a big role in persecuting the Christians of Jerusalem.

Acts 7:55-60

7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.

7:58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

Psalm

This Psalm ties in well with the first reading, especially verse 5.

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

31:1 In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.

31:2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

31:3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,

31:4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

31:5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

31:16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Peter continue. Peter exhorts his converts to holiness.

1 Peter 2:2-10

2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation

2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

2:4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and

2:5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

2:6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

2:7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,”

2:8 and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Gospel

John’s Gospel has the lengthiest account of the Last Supper recording Jesus’s final messages to the Apostles. This is but one sublime passage.

John 14:1-14

14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

14:4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Blessings to all, especially to those of us who cannot attend church because of coronavirus.

What follows are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2020.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Readings from Acts 2 continue, describing what happened after the first Pentecost.

Acts 2:42-47

2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

2:43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.

2:44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;

2:45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

2:46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,

2:47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm

Psalm 23 was read a few weeks ago; some passages from Scripture turn up more than once in the Lectionary in the same year. In any event, this is too beautiful not to repeat.

Psalm 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

Readings from 1 Peter continue. Peter counsels his converts on the proper conduct during a time of persecution: follow Christ’s example.

1 Peter 2:19-25

2:19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.

2:20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.

2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

2:22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

2:23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

2:25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel

The rest of the Eastertide Gospel readings alternate between John and Luke. Here we have John’s account of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, which ties in well with the Epistle.

John 10:1-10

10:1 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.

10:2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

10:3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

10:5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

10:6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

10:7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

10:8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.

10:9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

May God bless all who read this, especially those who are unable to worship in church at this unprecedented time.

What follows are the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2020.

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

This particular day was traditionally known as Quasimodo Sunday, because of the Latin Introit: ‘Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite’. This translates to: ‘As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile’ and is intended for those baptised the week before. Centuries ago, it was on this day that the recently baptised went without their white robes for the first time.

This day is also known as Low Sunday, because the return to regular Sunday observance resumes. The ceremonies of Easter Vigil and Easter Day are over.

That said, Eastertide continues until Pentecost Sunday.

You can read more about Quasimodo Sunday in the following post. The eponymous Victor Hugo character was found as an abandoned baby outside Notre-Dame Cathedral on this particular Sunday, hence his name:

Quasimodo Sunday — seriously

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is what Peter preached on the first Pentecost.

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

2:14a But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,

2:22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know-

2:23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.

2:24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

2:25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;

2:26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.

2:27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.

2:28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

2:29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

2:30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.

2:31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Psalm

Here David writes of himself but more appropriately of the Messiah to come: Jesus Christ. Peter refers to verse 10 in his preaching above (Acts 2:27).

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

Peter wrote of the everlasting life to come, thanks to the Resurrection. Therefore, let us be glad and rejoice, regardless of our trials and troubles. Verses 8 and 9 tie in well with the Gospel.

1 Peter 1:3-9

1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1:4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

1:5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1:6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,

1:7 so that the genuineness of your faith–being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1:8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,

1:9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Gospel

The Gospel for this day is always the story of Thomas, who doubted. Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed. Refer back to the Epistle, 1 Peter:8-9.

I have more on this reading below:

Doubting Thomas — John 20:19-31

Doubting Thomas: When seeing is believing

John 20:19-31

20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

20:31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

May everyone reading this be blessed with abundant faith through divine grace.

Easter resurrection Karl Heinrich BlochEaster 2020 is like no other.

Pray this never happens again for centuries to come.

In England, this is the first Easter without church services since 1213.

Because of the coronavirus lockdown, the Queen’s dispensing of Maundy money on Maundy Thursday could not take place. The Palace had to send this year’s Maundy money by post to worthy recipients such as Jane Armstrong, who has volunteered at her local church for over 50 years.

The Mirror interviewed Mrs Armstrong, a retired teacher:

Jane, 76, of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has run youth clubs, crisis support groups and food banks, at Woodhouse Close Church, since the late 1960s.

The Maundy Thursday service at Windsor would have been the third time she met the Queen.

Her package from the Queen contained a £5 coin commemorating William Wordsworth in a red pouch, a 50p coin for the 2020 Olympics in a silver pouch.

The 94 specially-minted silver pennies were in a white pouch.

The married mum-of-two and grandmother-of-one said: “In the letter she expressed her sadness that it couldn’t go ahead.

“I understand that she has never missed a service and that Maundy Thursday is very important to her as she has strong Christian
commitments.

“I think she is quite sad about it. It was way before Christmas I had the invitation.

“I was surprised but it’s quite an honour. I’m very committed to my work at the church and I felt it was important. I think it was for the
work I do at the church.

“All my life I’ve worked at the church. We are very involved in the community.

“It’s been a privilege to be part of that. I’m still in and out every day even at my age.

“We are still working during coronavirus and the food bank is open every day.

“It would have been the third time I had met the Queen after I received my MBE in 1996 and later a ceremony with the Queen for the Church Urban Fund …“

This churchless Easter and the coronavirus lockdown must have affected the Queen deeply, because she issued another message only six days after her televised message which reached audiences around the world. Her Easter message is audio only and revolves around the light in the Paschal candle which symbolises the hope that Christ’s Resurrection brings to all believers. This is subtitled, but the Daily Mail also has a transcript:

It’s hard to disagree with this:

Since childhood, Easter has always been my favourite holiday, for religious and secular reasons. Consequently, today, April 12, 2020, is bittersweet.

The main thing to remember about Easter is that, without Christ’s Resurrection, there would have been no Church.

Therefore, I was somewhat dismayed to see that our local Easter services leaflet which arrived a couple of weeks before lockdown showed an image of the Crucifixion rather than an image of the Resurrection. Sadly, many Britons today, unchurched as they are, believe that Christianity is stupid because Jesus died and that was the end of His story. We get very few lessons about the Resurrection in schools here. Questions will be asked on the Day of Judgement.

What follows are the readings for the Resurrection of the Lord, Year A, in the three-year Lectionary.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

There are two options for the first reading, Acts 10 or Jeremiah 31.

First option

I wrote about this passage from Acts 10 at length a few years ago:

Epistle for Easter in Year C — Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43

10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,

10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christhe is Lord of all.

10:37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:

10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;

10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,

10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.

10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Second option

The Lord promised His chosen that He would bring them out of captivity in Babylon.

Jeremiah 31:1-6

31:1 At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

31:2 Thus says the LORD: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest,

31:3 the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

31:4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

31:5 Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.

31:6 For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.”

Psalm

Psalm 118 is a fitting one for Easter. This post explains more about it:

Psalm 118, Christ’s Passion and Eastertide

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

118:14 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

118:15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;

118:16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”

118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

118:18 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Epistle

There are two choices for the Epistle. One is the passage from Acts 10 above. The other is from Colossians 3.

Colossians 3:1-4

3:1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,

3:3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

3:4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Gospel

There are two choices for the Gospel: John’s account and Matthew’s.

This post discusses both accounts:

Happy Easter — He is risen!

First option

John recounts how he — ‘the other disciple’ — and Peter went to see the empty tomb after Mary Magdalene alerted them.

John 20:1-18

20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

20:2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

20:3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

20:5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

20:6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,

20:7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

20:8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

20:9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;

20:12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.

20:13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

20:15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

20:17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Second option

This was the Gospel reading for Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.

Matthew 28:1-10

28:1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

28:2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

28:3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

28:4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.

28:5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.

28:6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

28:7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

28:8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.

28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Newer readers might find these Easter posts of interest. The Easter poem by the Revd George Herbert is a good one to share with children:

The significance of Easter to the Church (various questions answered)

Easter poems from an inspired Anglican, the Revd George Herbert

George Herbert: 17th century poet and priest

Part I of a Martin Luther Easter sermon: the story of Christ’s Resurrection

Part II of a Martin Luther Easter sermon: the fruits and benefits of Christ’s Resurrection

Easter: the drama and glory of the Resurrection (John MacArthur explains Gospel accounts)

Holy Week and Easter — the two-part story

The road to Emmaus — a great Easter story

Happy Easter — yes, Jesus rose from the dead! (2018, with explanation of Resurrection accounts, Year B readings)

The Easter story: reflections on Mark 16:1-8 (Dr Gregory Jackson, Lutheran)

Judge Andrew Napolitano on the meaning of Easter (great, especially from a layman)

Easter, the egg and the hare (one of the fullest accounts of Easter symbolism)

Mary Magdalene and the legend of the egg (Christian — not pagan!)

Despite our restrictions, today is the day to keep the risen Christ in our minds and hearts.

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

This Maundy Thursday afternoon I spent time checking the Twitter accounts of the Anglican and Episcopal priests I have cited here in past posts.

Nearly everyone was concerned about coronavirus and, for the Americans, the state of play for the Democrats now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the presidential race.

I, too, have been distracted by coronavirus and British politics now that Boris Johnson is in intensive care.

These past posts of mine may help make spending a Maundy Thursday at home more meaningful:

Readings for Thursday of Holy Week — Maundy Thursday

What is the Triduum?

‘One of you will betray Me’ (John 13)

Passover, the Last Supper and the New Covenant

Why some Jews celebrated Passover on Thursday and others on Friday (here and here)

Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper: Jesus’s words of comfort (John 14, alludes to Holy Trinity)

John MacArthur on Passover as celebrated at the Last Supper

John 17 — the High Priestly Prayer: parts 1, 2 and 3

Jesus foretells Peter’s denial (Mark 14:26-31)

This year, throughout Lent I have been thinking about the unending obedience and service that Jesus practised (John 13:14-17, emphases mine):

13:14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

13:15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

13:16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

13:17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

He exhorted the Apostles — and us — to do the same: honouring God and honouring mankind (John 13:34):

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Jesus during His time on Earth. He knew why He was among us. He knew what was in everyone’s heart and mind.

He knew one of the Twelve would betray him (John 13:10-11):

13:10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”

13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

This particularly struck me when I read the Gospel for Palm Sunday for the Passion Liturgy.

He knew that Peter would deny Him three times before the cockerel crowed in the early hours of what we know as Good Friday (Matthew 26:33-34):

26:33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

He knew they would fall asleep during their final hour with Him before His arrest — a time when He really wanted them to be awake as a comfort before a day of unimaginable agony and death (Matthew 26:39-46):

26:39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

26:40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?

26:41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

26:42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

26:43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

26:44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

26:46: Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

How our Lord suffered for our sake. He obeyed His Father by making the one sufficient sacrifice of Himself as the oblation for our sins. That sacrifice also showed His unending love for us, even His enemies.

His is the true example to follow. I pray that I can follow it, especially when I do not wish to do so.

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