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What follows are the readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity — the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost — October 13, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Readings from Jeremiah continue. False teachers who had denounced the prophet had been taken into exile in Babylon. Jeremiah was still in Jerusalem. Others had also been taken captive, including the rulers, carpenters and blacksmiths. Jeremiah sends them a message from the Lord, advising them to make the best of a very bad situation, which would last 70 years.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

29:1 These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

29:4 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

29:5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.

29:6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.

29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Psalm

This is a general Psalm of thanksgiving. We have much for which to be grateful in this life, therefore, God deserves our praise.

Psalm 66:1-12

66:1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

66:2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.

66:3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

66:4 All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah

66:5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

66:6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,

66:7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah

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.

First reading – alternate

Reluctantly following Elisha’s instructions, the mighty warrior Naaman is cured of leprosy. God’s ways are not always our ways. We had this reading previously on the Third Sunday after Trinity this year.

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.

5:2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.

5:3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

5:7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

5:8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.

5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

5:11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!

5:12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.

5:13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

5:14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

5:15c Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

Psalm – alternate

This Psalm, which David wrote, is another that is full of praise for the Lord, to whom we owe our obedience and thanksgiving.

Psalm 111

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

Readings from Paul’s letter to Timothy continue. The Apostle advises him to focus on endurance in the faith and to quell petty quarrels among the believers.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David–that is my gospel,

2:9 for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.

2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

2:11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us;

2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself.

2:14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.

2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Gospel

Luke tells us of another time when Jesus encountered a grateful Gentile, signalling that He also came to save those who were not Jewish.

Luke 17:11-19

17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.

17:12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,

17:13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

17:14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.

17:15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

17:16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

17:17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?

17:18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

17:19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

That Gospel story always amazes me. Lepers were the ultimate outcasts. Our Lord healed ten of them, fully and instantly. Yet, only one returned to give Him thanks.

The Psalms tie in particularly well with this reading. May we always remember to thank the Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — for our many blessings, great and small.

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What follows are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity — the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost — October 6, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

One of the following readings from Lamentations may be read.

Jeremiah wrote Lamentations as a poetic description of what happened during the Chaldeans’ destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The Babylonian exile followed. Jeremiah, in the eponymous book, prophesied this. Lamentations lays out what happened, as Jeremiah and his fellow Jews experienced it. The prophet intended for this five-chapter book to be memorised, and it is still read today during the Jewish Festivals of the Lord.

In the first selection, Jeremiah’s description of an empty Jerusalem shows that what God increases, He can also devastate.

Lamentations 1:1-6

1:1 How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.

1:2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.

1:3 Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.

1:4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.

1:5 Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.

1:6 From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.

By the third chapter, Jeremiah has hope that the Lord will show mercy to His people. This passage can also be seen as analogous to Christ weeping over Jerusalem.

Lamentations 3:19-26

3:19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!

3:20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

3:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;

3:23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

3:24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

3:26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Psalm

Jeremiah wrote this Psalm, one of the ones written near the end of the days of the Old Covenant, recalling Babylonian captivity. It, too, is a lamentation. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this Psalm is also suitable for the Church in times of persecution. Verse 1 is very familiar to us, recalling a famous 1970s Jamaican song.

Psalm 137

137:1 By the rivers of Babylon– there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

137:2 On the willows there we hung up our harps.

137:3 For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

137:4 How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

137:5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!

137:6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

137:7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall, how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!”

137:8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us!

137:9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

First reading – alternate

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah’s. He, too, warned that the Chaldeans, God’s chosen instruments of judgement, would conquer Jerusalem. Habakkuk’s prophecy dates from 600 BC. In the first part of today’s reading, the prophet laments what he sees as evil winning over good, but, in the second half, the Lord answers Habakkuk by saying that He ends trials at the appointed time, therefore, we are not to lose heart in our suffering.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

1:1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.

1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

1:3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

1:4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous– therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

2:2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

2:3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Psalm – alternate

This Psalm of David’s — a maschil, or teaching Psalm — tells us we must learn the ways of Providence and be patient in waiting for the end of our trials and tribulations.

Psalm 37:1-9

37:1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,

37:2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.

37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

37:4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

37:5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

37:6 He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

37:7 Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.

37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret–it leads only to evil.

37:9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

Epistle

Paul advises young Timothy, the son of Eunice and grandson of Lois (Acts 16), on his ministry by describing his own.

2 Timothy 1:1-14

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1:3 I am grateful to God–whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did–when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.

1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

1:6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;

1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

1:8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,

1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

1:11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher,

1:12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

1:13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1:14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Gospel

Another famous saying of Jesus follows (verse 6). May we pray for divine grace that increases our faith.

Luke 17:5-10

17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

17:6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

17:7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?

17:8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?

17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?

17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

What an excellent lesson in humility. As Matthew Henry’s commentary points out:

God is happy without us, but we are undone without him.

Something to ponder in the week ahead, unpopular though it might be in our egotistical world.

What follows are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity — the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 29, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Readings from Jeremiah continue. The Lord intervenes for Jeremiah via the prophet’s cousin. Although judgement would fall, it would not be permanent.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

32:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.

32:2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah,

32:3a where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

32:6 Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came to me:

32:7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.”

32:8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

32:9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver.

32:10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales.

32:11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy;

32:12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard.

32:13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying,

32:14 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time.

32:15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Psalm

This beautiful Psalm reflects the mercy and protection God gives to His faithful.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

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

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

91:3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;

91:4 he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

91:5 You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day,

91:6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

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

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

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

First reading – alternate

Readings from Amos continue. Here the prophet warns that those who blithely ignore warnings of the judgement to come will have a rude awakening indeed.

Amos 6:1a, 4-7

6:1a Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.

6:4 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall;

6:5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music;

6:6 who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

6:7 Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

Psalm – alternate

This Psalm has one of my favourite verses. We can trust only God, not mankind, in this life.

Psalm 146

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

Paul writes to young Timothy about his ministry. Note the context surrounding verse 10.

1 Timothy 6:6-19

6:6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;

6:7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;

6:8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

6:9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

6:11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

6:13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you

6:14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

6:15 which he will bring about at the right time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

6:16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

6:17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

6:18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,

6:19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Gospel

The parable of Dives (i.e. ‘rich man’) and Lazarus is unique to Luke’s Gospel. The Lazarus here is not Mary and Martha’s brother from Bethany, incidentally. The feast day of this Lazarus is June 21 and that of Lazarus of Bethany is December 17.

Luke 16:19-31

16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

16:20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

16:21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

16:22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

16:23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

16:24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

16:26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

16:27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house–

16:28 for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’

16:29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

16:30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

16:31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

How true!

Pray for those who mock Scripture; may they come to believe it or suffer eternal judgement.

What follows are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity — the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 22, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

We return to Jeremiah. Although the prophet knows that God’s judgement on His people is righteous, he is deeply saddened. Matthew Henry’s commentary says, ‘Mercies abused are forfeited, and it is just with God to take the forfeiture’. Gilead was a place not far from them, but even its balm could not heal their spiritual wantonness. Henry says that Christ is our spiritual physician and His blood our balm of Gilead. He came to save sinners, not bring about temporal rescue.

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

8:18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.

8:19 Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”)

8:20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

8:21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?

9:1 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!

Psalm

This Psalm was likely written by Asaph or one of his sons. Interestingly, Matthew Henry says that Jeremiah borrowed verses 6 and 7 (Jeremiah 10). We do not know the exact circumstances surrounding the Psalm other than to pray it in times of desperation which call for repentance.

Psalm 79:1-9

79:1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

79:2 They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.

79:3 They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.

79:4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.

79:5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?

79:6 Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name.

79:7 For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.

79:8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.

79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.

First reading – alternate

The Lord was angry with His people for their idolatry and for cheating the poor.

Amos 8:4-7

8:4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

8:5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,

8:6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Psalm – alternate

May we always remember to praise and glorify God, our Maker and giver of all good things in this transitory life.

Psalm 113

113:1 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD.

113:2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore.

113:3 From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised.

113:4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.

113:5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high,

113:6 who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

113:7 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

113:8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

113:9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!

Epistle

Paul explains to Timothy that God desires our prayers for those in authority over us.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,

2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

2:3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,

2:4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2:5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,

2:6 who gave himself a ransom for all–this was attested at the right time.

2:7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Gospel

We return to Luke’s Gospel. This parable is much better in the older translations, e.g.:

13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Everything we have in this life is on loan; we are but stewards of it. We cannot rely on them and God. God should always be foremost in our hearts and minds. Matthew Henry has an excellent explanation of the finer details of this parable.

Luke 16:1-13

16:1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.

16:2 So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’

16:3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.

16:4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’

16:5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

16:6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’

16:7 Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’

16:8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.

16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

16:10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.

16:11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?

16:12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

16:13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

I hope that everyone reading this has a blessed Sunday.

Readings follow for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity — the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 8, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

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

Jeremiah 18:1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading – alternate

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

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm – alternate

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

Psalm 1

1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Epistle

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

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

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

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

This is a book about divine grace and human forgiveness.

Philemon 1:1-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Luke 14:25-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readings follow for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity — Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost — September 1, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Last week’s reading described how the Lord called Jeremiah, a boy, to prophesy. This was probably Jeremiah’s first sermon. Even in faraway lands, no people had changed their gods as God’s people had changed theirs. They had wilfully rejected the true God, for which He would place a severe judgement upon them.

Jeremiah 2:4-13

2:4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel.

2:5 Thus says the LORD: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?

2:6 They did not say, “Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?”

2:7 I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.

2:8 The priests did not say, “Where is the LORD?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.

2:9 Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD, and I accuse your children’s children.

2:10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing.

2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.

2:12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD,

2:13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

Psalm

The Psalm ties in well with the reading from Jeremiah. Those who reject God will find He leaves them to their own devices.

Psalm 81:1, 10-16

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

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

81:11 “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.

81:12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.

81:13 O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!

81:14 Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes.

81:15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever.

81:16 I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

First reading – alternate

Sirach is one of the books in the Catholic canon. The theme of pride and sin is akin to the deliberate rejection of God in the First Reading and Psalm.

Sirach 10:12-18

10:12 The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.

10:13 For the beginning of pride is sin, and the one who clings to it pours out abominations. Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities, and destroys them completely.

10:14 The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place.

10:15 The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations, and plants the humble in their place.

10:16 The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations, and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.

10:17 He removes some of them and destroys them, and erases the memory of them from the earth.

10:18 Pride was not created for human beings, or violent anger for those born of women.

Proverbs – alternate

These two verses tie in well with the Gospel reading.

Proverbs 25:6-7

25:6 Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great;

25:7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

Psalm – alternate

The faithful have assurance in the Lord forever.

Psalm 112

112:1 Praise the LORD! Happy are those who fear the LORD, who greatly delight in his commandments.

112:2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

112:3 Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.

112:4 They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

112:5 It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

112:6 For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

112:7 They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.

112:8 Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

112:9 They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; their horn is exalted in honor.

112:10 The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

Epistle

Readings from Hebrews continue. It is a sublime book. Two of my favourite verses are here: 2 and 8.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

13:1 Let mutual love continue.

13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

13:4 Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

13:6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

13:15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Gospel

This parable ties in well with the two proverbs above and with the Epistle.

Luke 14:1, 7-14

14:1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

14:7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.

14:8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;

14:9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.

14:10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.

14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

14:12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.

14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

14:14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

We have much to consider in these readings. I hope they inspire great sermons on Sunday.

Below are readings for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity — the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost — August 25, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Jeremiah explains how God chose him as a boy to be a prophet, not only to his own nation but also to the neighbouring pagan nations. Jeremiah’s time came years after Isaiah’s. He prophesied for forty or fifty years. Whereas the Lord purged Isaiah’s mouth with a hot coal, He chose a gentler method for the young Jeremiah, possibly because, as a boy, Jeremiah had committed fewer sins. Matthew Henry’s commentary adds further insight to a dramatic and exciting account of the Lord equipping the notionally unqualified. Verse 5 is one of my favourites. God has a purpose for each of us. Therefore, let us not turn our backs on Him.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

1:4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,

1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

1:6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”

1:7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.

1:8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

1:9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.

1:10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Psalm

David probably penned this Psalm in his later years. He wrote it at a time of personal suffering caused by others, but it is intended for everyone in giving praise to the Lord.

Psalm 71:1-6

71:1 In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

71:2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

71:4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

71:6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

First reading – alternative

Isaiah tells the people what they must do in order to truly repent and find favour in God’s sight once more. Note that these concern loving one’s neighbour and loving the Lord.

Isaiah 58:9b-14

58:9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

58:13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;

58:14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm – alternative

This Psalm encourages us to praise the Lord, thanking Him for His many blessings and for His steadfast mercy.

Psalm 103:1-8

103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits

103:3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

103:4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

103:5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

103:6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.

103:7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Epistle

Readings from Hebrews continue. The author exhorts the Jews of his time not to ignore that Jesus is Messiah. Should they dismiss Him, they will come in for great judgement from the Lord, just as their ancestors did for wilful disobedience.

Hebrews 12:18-29

12:18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest,

12:19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

12:20 (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.”

12:21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”)

12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,

12:23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

12:25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!

12:26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”

12:27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;

12:29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Gospel

The hypocrisy from the Jewish leadership is once more on view as Jesus mercifully heals a disabled woman on the Sabbath.

Luke 13:10-17

13:10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?

13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”

13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

How merciful and loving is our Lord Jesus! I pray that many more souls will be converted in His Holy Name!

What follows are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity — Tenth Sunday after Pentecost — August 18, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is a parable about the judgement of God’s people to come in Isaiah’s time. These verses are about the blessings that God gave them. They rejected those blessings by falling into sin.

Isaiah 5:1-7

5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

5:2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

5:3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.

5:4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

5:5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

5:6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

The next few verses, not part of this reading, are as follows:

Woe to the Wicked

Woe to those who join house to house,
    who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
    and you are made to dwell alone
    in the midst of the land.
The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
    large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres[d] of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
    and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”[e]

11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
    that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
    as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
    tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
    or see the work of his hands.

Psalm

The Psalm also has the imagery of a vineyard and a request for God’s mercy. There is also a prophecy of Jesus Christ, the ‘Shepherd of Israel’.

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19

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!

80:8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

80:9 You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.

80:10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches;

80:11 it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.

80:12 Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?

80:13 The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.

80:14 Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,

80:15 the stock that your right hand planted.

80:16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.

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.

First reading – alternative

Jeremiah prophesies that the Lord is angry with false prophets turning the people away from Him. This ties in well with the Gospel reading.

Jeremiah 23:23-29

23:23 Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?

23:24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.

23:25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!”

23:26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back–those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart?

23:27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal.

23:28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD.

23:29 Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Psalm – alternative

This Psalm instructs magistrates and the Sanhedrin on how they should govern.

Psalm 82

82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

82:2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

82:3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.

82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

82:5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

82:6 I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;

82:7 nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”

82:8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

Epistle

Here we have an exhortation to faith even in the face of persecution, especially as Christ Jesus reigns forever and ever.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.

11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.

11:31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

11:32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–

11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

11:34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

11:35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

11:36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.

11:37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented–

11:38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

11:39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,

11:40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Gospel

This reading concludes Luke 12. Jesus foretells the division and persecution to come as a warning to prepare oneself spiritually by making peace with God now.

Luke 12:49-56

12:49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

12:50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!

12:51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

12:52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;

12:53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

12:54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens.

12:55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.

12:56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Christ’s words are just as true today. We think we know so much. Yet, of God’s ways, we know so very little unless we have faith in His Son, our only Mediator and Advocate.

What follows are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity — Ninth Sunday after Pentecost — August 11, 2019.

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

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the beginning of the Book of Isaiah. The Lord is angry with His people for offering sacrifices when they are not obeying His laws.

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

1:1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

1:11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

1:12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more;

1:13 bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation– I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

1:14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.

1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,

1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

1:18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

1:19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

1:20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm

The Lord blesses those who honour Him with all their hearts.

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23

50:1 The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

50:3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.

50:4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:

50:5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”

50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

50:7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.

50:8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.

50:22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.

50:23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”

First reading — alternative

The aged Abram — before he became Abraham — has faith that God will give him and his barren wife Sarai a son. The Epistle below mentions their situation.

Genesis 15:1-6

15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

15:2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

15:3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”

15:4 But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.”

15:5 He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

15:6 And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Psalm — alternative

This expressive Psalm needs no explanation.

Psalm 33:12-22

33:12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

33:13 The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.

33:14 From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth

33:15 he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.

33:16 A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

33:17 The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.

33:18 Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,

33:19 to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield.

33:21 Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

33:22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Epistle

This beautiful passage recounts the blessings that faith brings to God’s people.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

11:2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.

11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.

11:9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

11:10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11:11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old–and Sarah herself was barren–because he considered him faithful who had promised.

11:12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

11:13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,

11:14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

11:15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.

11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Gospel

In this passage, Jesus summarises everything we need for life eternal. A personal favourite of mine is verse 34.

Luke 12:32-40

12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

12:35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;

12:36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.

12:37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.

12:38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

12:39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

It is difficult for many today to grasp the urgency of being ready at all times for the next life. Yet, prepare we must for the unexpected.

Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 28:30-31

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense,[a] and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

———————————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s discourse to the Jews of Rome.

Some translations of Acts 28 have a verse 29:

And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great disputing among themselves.

One can imagine that, verse 29 or not, they no doubt parsed Paul’s words and debated his message intensely.

Now we come to the end of St Luke’s Book of Acts, a tremendous Spirit-inspired account of the growth of the early Church after the first Pentecost. Those who have not followed the passages excluded from the three-year Lectionary can find the relevant entries and exegeses on my Essential Bible Verses page beginning with Acts 2:12-13, which is nearly three years old now. It’s amazing how time flies.

Returning to today’s verses, Luke tells us that Paul remained in Rome for two years, living at his own expense, even though he was a prisoner of Caesar’s, and welcomed all who came to him (verse 30).

It is possible that he did have his case heard before Nero, who, at that time, did not have a particular issue with Christians preaching. His prohibition on such preaching came later.

Our commentators have diverging views on what happened during these two years with regard to Paul’s case.

Matthew Henry offers the possibilities that the Roman justice system either forgot about him or that he was indeed tried more than once (emphases mine):

Two whole years of that good man’s life are here spent in confinement, and, for aught that appears, he was never enquired after, all that time, by those whose prisoner he was. He appealed to Cæsar, in hope of a speedy discharge from his imprisonment, the governors having signified to his imperial majesty concerning the prisoner that he had done nothing worthy of death or bonds, and yet he is detained a prisoner. So little reason have we to trust in men, especially despised prisoners in great men; witness the case of Joseph, whom the chief butler remembered not, but forgot, Genesis 40:23. Yet some think that though it be not mentioned here, yet it was in the former of these two years, and early too in that year, that he was first brought before Nero, and then his bonds in Christ were manifest in Cæsar’s court, as he says, Philippians 1:13. And at this first answer it was that no man stood by him, 2 Timothy 4:16. But it seems, instead of being set at liberty upon this appeal, as he expected, he hardly escaped out of the emperor’s hands with his life; he calls it a deliverance out of the mouth of the lion, 2 Timothy 4:17, and his speaking there of his first answer intimates that since that he had a second, in which he had come off better, and yet was not discharged.

John MacArthur thinks that the Roman justice system was merely slow:

So, I did a little research, and I found some interesting things. Historians note that long delays were very common in first-century trials in the Roman government, because of the tremendous backup of trials that they had. They had a court system something like ours, and people kept getting stacked up, and trials were put off; only they didn’t let them out, they kept them in jail. Also, isn’t it likely that the records of all of the information about him that must have been sent from the Roman governor in Judea had been lost in the shipwreck?

And sending back to get more records, and then sending the records back again, was a many-month problem. In addition to that, Roman law required that the accusers, or those that were prosecuting the case, be in Rome to accuse him. And I told you before that I have serious doubts whether any of those Jews would have come to Rome to persecute Paul, because of the fact that they knew they had no case. Now, it is most likely that there was eighteen-month or a twenty-four month statutory period in which the prosecution must state his case.

At the end of that time, if the case had not been stated, the prisoner would be released. It is my conviction, at the end of those two years Paul was released, and for a period of time, ministered yet. Then was made a prisoner again, for the final time, and that was the time in which he was beheaded. Roman law dealt very very, very harshly with unsuccessful prosecutions, and so, there just never was one. And so, for two years he was free to minister. Those were busy two years. You know what he did in these two years? Led a whole bunch of people to Christ.

Luke ends Acts by saying that Paul preached about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God boldly and without hindrance (verse 31).

Paul also wrote letters to the churches.

Henry tells us:

During these two years’ imprisonment he wrote his epistle to the Galatians, then his second epistle to Timothy, then those to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon, in which he mentions several things particularly concerning his imprisonment; and, lastly, his epistle to the Hebrews just after he was set at liberty, as Timothy also was, who, coming to visit him, was upon some account or other made his fellow-prisoner (with whom, writes Paul to the Hebrews, Hebrews 13:23, if he come shortly, I will see you), but how or by what means he obtained his liberty we are not told, only that two years he was a prisoner.

MacArthur does not think that Paul wrote Hebrews, which I will discuss more this week, as it is the next book I intend to write about.

However, MacArthur has a bit more, including the names of people who were with him at least some of that time:

He wrote the book of Colossians, he wrote the book of Philemon, he wrote the book of Ephesians, and he wrote the book of Philippians. Everybody came and went. In Colossians, he tells them that Aristarchus is with him, Luke is with him, Mark is with him, Jesus Justus is with him, Epaphras is with him, Demas is with him. He was having a terrific time. In Philippians, he tells about what was going on. Philippians 1, he tells about the salvation that’s going on, and he’s just having a great time.

He further talks about his blessing, and how the gospel is spreading. Chapter 2, verse 24, he says, “It’s not going to be long; then I’ll come and see you Philippians.” And he apparently is realizing that the imprisonment is kind of winding down. His bonds – verse 1 – chapter 1:13 – are being manifest in all the palace. Chapter 4, the saints of Caesar’s household greet you. So people were being saved, and great things were happening. He was then likely released, had a ministry of travel, came back as a prisoner.

In his final imprisonment, he wrote 1-2 Timothy and Titus. Probably about four years later, and outside, on the road to Ostia, he was finally beheaded.

Henry says that Paul might have realised his goal of evangelising in Spain, although we cannot be certain:

Tradition says that after his discharge he went from Italy to Spain, thence to Crete, and so with Timothy into Judea, and thence went to visit the churches in Asia, and at length came a second time to Rome, and there was beheaded in the last year of Nero. But Baronius himself owns that there is no certainty of any thing concerning him betwixt his release from this imprisonment and his martyrdom

As for Nero’s volte face, Henry tells us what two of the early Church fathers — Tertullian and Chrysostom — wrote. The latter gave an account of one of the emperor’s mistresses who became a Christian and renounced her wicked ways, which enraged Nero:

… it is said by some that Nero, having, when he began to play the tyrant, set himself against the Christians, and persecuted them (and he was the first of the emperors that made a law against them, as Tertullian says, Apol. cap. 5), the church at Rome was much weakened by that persecution, and this brought Paul the second time to Rome, to re-establish the church there, and to comfort the souls of the disciples that were left, and so he fell a second time into Nero’s hand. And Chrysostom relates that a young woman that was one of Nero’s misses (to speak modishly) being converted, by Paul’s preaching, to the Christian faith, and so brought off from the lewd course of life she had lived, Nero was incensed against Paul for it, and ordered him first to be imprisoned, and then put to death.

As for takeaways from Paul’s ministry in Rome — and elsewhere — MacArthur says:

Let me sum this up this way. What does this teach us about evangelism? Just note these things, will you, on your outline? Let me make a statement about. What do we learn about his effective evangelism? … Where did he preach? Anywhere.

And how did he preach? I’m going to give you three thoughts. Number one, he preached lovingly. Notice verses 17 to 20. Remember how conciliating he was to the Jews, how loving he was? How he said, “I have no accusation against my nation – in spite of all that’s been done to me?” He preached lovingly. Second, he preached biblically. He expounded and testified the kingdom of God, as it was recorded in the law of Moses and out of the prophets, verse 23. He preached biblically. It wasn’t his opinion; it was biblical truth applied and fulfilled in the Messiah.

He also preached doctrinally. That is, he taught the great doctrines of the kingdom – verse 31. The things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 23 indicates he taught concerning the kingdom of God. He preached lovingly, biblically and doctrinally. When did he preach? When? Number one – promptly. Give you four thoughts. He preached promptly; verse 17, after three days he began. Second thing, tirelessly; verse 23, he preached from morning till evening, tirelessly. Thirdly, he preached incessantly; for two whole years he preached, verse 30 and 31.

And I like it at the end of verse 31: “with all confidence” – he preached boldly. When did he preach? Promptly, tirelessly, incessantly, and with great boldness. That’s just kind of an addition. To whom did he preach? Verse 17, to the Jews; verse 28, to the Gentiles; to anybody. And what did he preach? What was Paul’s message? Verse 23, persuading them concerning Jesus. Verse 31, teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. He preached Jesus, that’s who he preached.

People, what does that say to us? Where are we to preach? Wherever we are. How are we to preach? Lovingly, biblically, doctrinally. When are we to preach? Promptly, tirelessly, incessantly, and with boldness. To whom are we to preach? Jew or Gentile; anybody. And what are we to preach? Jesus Christ. And what are the results? The results are exciting. Verse 24, some believed; some believed. Verse 29, some argued and went away. Some believe and some do not.

There is another important point. Rome then was not unlike some of the world’s great cities today. It was degenerate. It had a few rich people and a lot of poor people. The Romans also owned slaves. Yet, Paul never preached a social gospel.

MacArthur describes the city and Paul’s approach:

As Paul entered the city, he would have seen the temple of Jupiter, which stood out and dominated the city. There was no Coliseum in Rome at the time of Paul. He would have seen on the Palatine hill the three houses of Augustus Tiberius and Caligula, which now had been tied together to make one formidable and massive palace, the home of Nero. He would have seen the great temple of Mars.

And all of this would have spoken to him of the degeneracy, and the idolatry and paganism, of this great city. Rome had become the center of paganism, and the center of decadence, and it was on its way down. The population of Rome at the time when Paul arrived would be approximately two million people; two million people confined to a very small area. Historians tell us that one million of them were slaves, and the other million of them were known as citizens. That is, they were legitimate citizens.

The vast majority of them were absolutely penniless, paupers who slept in the street, and who slept upon the parapets, and whatever else they could find, outdoors in the city of Rome, because they had absolutely nothing. But they were citizens, and they had citizenship, and consequently, they lorded it over the slaves. But nearly all of the two million people were absolute paupers – both the slaves and the citizens – and all of the money resided in the hands of a very few. There were 700 senators – once there was a thousand, but that had begun to degenerate.

There were 10,000 knights, 15,000 soldiers, and then a handful or so of dignitaries, and that was pretty much it. And all of the finances, and all of the power, rested with those people, and the mass of the two-million people existed in abject poverty. This bred all kinds of decadence. The great mass of paupers, who were even proud of their citizenship, held the slaves in contempt beneath them, and of course, there were constant slave revolts. Thousands of these poor people had no homes, and their lives were totally amoral.

Into this melee of depraved and deprived humanity came the apostle Paul, the messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ. And his interest in Rome was not sociological, it was not economic, it was not cultural; it was purely evangelism. He desired to win them to Jesus Christ and to mature the Christians.

Paul’s example demonstrates why today’s focus on the social gospel is wrong.

Paul did not preach about revolt.

Paul did not advocate reparations.

Paul preached the Good News of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life to those who believe.

May we, therefore, learn from his ministry and do likewise ourselves.

Next time — Hebrews 1:13-14

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