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Below are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, July 5, 2020.

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

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm/Psalm Alternative — Option One

Readings about Abraham and his household continue. In this passage, Abraham’s eldest servant goes off in search of a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

24:34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant.

24:35 The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys.

24:36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has.

24:37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live;

24:38 but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

24:42 “I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!

24:43 I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,”

24:44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” –let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

24:45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’

24:46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels.

24:47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms.

24:48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.

24:49 Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

24:58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.”

24:59 So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.

24:60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.”

24:61 Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

24:62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb.

24:63 Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming.

24:64 And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel,

24:65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.

24:66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.

24:67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

The following Psalm may be read or, alternatively, the passage from the Song of Solomon, which follows.

Matthew Henry says that this Psalm refers only to Jesus Christ and the Church, not to an earthly marriage.

Psalm 45:10-17

45:10 Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house,

45:11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;

45:12 the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people

45:13 with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;

45:14 in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions, follow.

45:15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.

45:16 In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.

45:17 I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.

As with Psalm 45, the Song of Solomon is also about Christ’s loving relationship with the Church. This may be read instead of the Psalm.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Zechariah gives the Jews a hopeful prophecy of the Messiah to come.

Zechariah 9:9-12

9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

9:10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9:11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

9:12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Psalm 145 is the first of the last six Psalms, which are songs of praise to God.

Psalm 145:8-14

145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

145:9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

145:10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.

145:11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,

145:12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

145:13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

145:14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.

Epistle

Paul discusses the conflict that sin and temptation bring. Under the New Covenant, God grants us His infinite grace. Paul gives thanks that Jesus has rescued us from eternal death and reconciled us with God.

Romans 7:15-25a

7:15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

7:16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.

7:17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.

7:19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

7:20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.

7:22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,

7:23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

7:25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Gospel

Jesus discusses the parallels between John the Baptist’s ministry and His own. He then invites all sinners to follow Him. The last three verses will be familiar to most of us.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;

11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;

11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What a gracious invitation! Pray that more people in this world accept it.

In closing, I hope that my American readers are enjoying a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

Below are the readings for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 28, 2020.

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

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings about Abraham’s life continue. God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his only child, Isaac. God relented when He saw how obedient Abraham was.

Genesis 22:1-14

22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

22:9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

22:13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

22:14 So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

This six-verse lament of David expressing his desire for God’s deliverance ends in praise.

Psalm 13

13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Readings from Jeremiah continue. This reading concerns the false prophet Hananiah, who, like Pashur in last week’s reading, came from a family of priests.

Jeremiah 28:5-9

28:5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD;

28:6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.

28:7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.

28:8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.

28:9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

It would have been a good idea for the Lectionary editors to include the second half of the chapter. God spoke through Jeremiah, who prophesied Hananiah’s death, which came true.

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

It is possible that the following Psalm was written during the captivity in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

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

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

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

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

89:15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

89:16 they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.

89:17 For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.

89:18 For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Epistle

Readings from Romans continue. Paul explains the doctrine of grace to the Jewish converts in Rome. They were once under law only, but the law cannot save. With Jesus Christ, believers have saving faith through divine grace. Verse 23 is another personal favourite of mine.

Romans 6:12-23

6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

6:13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

6:15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

6:21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.

6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel

These verses conclude Matthew 10, Christ’s instructions to the Apostles for their ministries, read over the preceding two weeks.

Matthew 10:40-42

10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

May you be blessed in the week ahead.

Below are the readings for the Second Sunday after Trinity, June 21, 2020.

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

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings from Genesis about Abraham’s life continue. Abraham desperately wanted an heir, so he slept with his bondservant Hagar because Sarah could not have children until God intervened. Hagar and Abraham’s son was called Ishmael, and God made him the father of the Arab nations.

Genesis 21:8-21

21:8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

21:9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.

21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

21:11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.

21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.

21:13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”

21:14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.

21:16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

21:18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”

21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

21:20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.

21:21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The following Psalm is called ‘A Prayer of David’, as he sang it often in times of trouble. Note how verse 16 ties in with the above reading about Hagar and Ishmael.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

86:2 Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;

86:3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long.

86:4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.

86:6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.

86:7 In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.

86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.

86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

86:10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

86:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.

86:17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Pashur, the chief governor of the temple at the time, was angry with Jeremiah for preaching the truth. The hierarchy and the people rejected all of the prophets, not just Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 20:7-13

20:7 O LORD, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

20:8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.

20:9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

20:10 For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”

20:11 But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

20:12 O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

20:13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers

This Psalm, about David’s afflictions, ties in well with Jeremiah’s own.

Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

69:7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

69:8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

69:9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

69:10 When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

69:11 When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

69:12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help

69:14 rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

69:15 Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

69:16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

69:17 Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

69:18 Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.

Epistle

Readings from Romans continue. Paul explains that, because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, believers are dead to sin and alive with Him.

Romans 6:1b-11

6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.

6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

Matthew Henry calls Matthew 10 an ‘ordination sermon’. In last week’s Gospel reading, we read how Jesus sent the Apostles out to preach and heal. This week’s is the continuation of the chapter, wherein Jesus gives them a powerful lesson about their ministries and the effect that the Christian faith will have on people. He begins with the criticism of the Jewish hierarchy of His preaching (verse 25)

Matthew 10:24-39

10:24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;

10:25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

10:26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

10:27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

10:30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

10:31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

10:32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;

10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

10:36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

10:38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

10:39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Christianity is not easy at times. It requires endurance and patience. It might also mean losing one’s friends, just as the prophets of old did. We are to keep the faith and fight the good fight.

Have a blessed Sunday and a satisfying week ahead.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday after Trinity, June 14, 2020.

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

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings from Genesis continue. Here we have the account of the Lord appearing to Abraham, who was, at the time, pagan (as was his family). Incredibly, he followed the Lord and did whatever He asked of him. The Lord blessed Abraham with many good things and gave him a son, even though his wife Sarah was barren and beyond childbearing age.

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.

18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

18:3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.

18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”

18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

18:9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”

18:10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.

18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”

18:13 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’

18:14 Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

18:15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

21:1 The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.

21:2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.

21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.

21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

21:6 Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”

21:7 And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The Psalm ties in perfectly with Abraham’s story. David wrote in thanksgiving for all the blessings the Lord had given him.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.

116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

This is the first part of the story of the covenant that God made with the Israelites.

Exodus 19:2-8a

19:2 They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

19:3 Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:

19:4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

19:5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine,

19:6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

19:7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.

19:8a The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

This is a beautiful Psalm of general thanksgiving for God’s goodness towards us.

Psalm 100

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

We begin a series of readings from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul succinctly lays out the New Covenant that God made with us through His Son Jesus Christ. Endurance is part of our Christian journey, as Paul knew only too well in his own ministry.

Romans 5:1-8

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel

Jesus gave the Apostles the power to preach and to heal early in His ministry along with the following instructions on how to conduct themselves. Matthew 10:16 is a personal favourite of mine.

Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

9:38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

10:2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

10:3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

10:4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,

10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

10:7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

10:8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,

10:10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

10:11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.

10:12 As you enter the house, greet it.

10:13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

10:16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

10:17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;

10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;

10:20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

10:22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Note that Jesus sent the Apostles to the Jews, ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. He also warned of persecution, which befell most of them once they began their own ministries after the first Pentecost. Also note that Jesus spoke of endurance — ‘to the end’.

Below are the readings for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020.

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

This particular Sunday honours the Triune God. These posts explain more about it:

On Trinity Sunday

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

This next post offers an excellent way to explain the Holy Trinity to someone, particularly a child. It comes from a Lutheran pastor:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This is the story of Creation. It is difficult to comprehend how people cannot believe that God did not create the universe and all of nature.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

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

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

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

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

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

1:6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

1:7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.

1:8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

1:9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.

1:12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.

1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,

1:15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

1:16 God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

1:17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,

1:18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

1:19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

1:20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”

1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

1:22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

1:23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

1:24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

1:25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

1:27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

1:28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

1:29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.

1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.

2:2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.

2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

2:4a These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Psalm

This Psalm ties in beautifully with the reading from Genesis.

Psalm 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

This is Paul’s valediction (farewell) and benediction (blessing) to the Corinthians. ‘Saints’ refers to those who ministered along with him. What a perfect blessing we have in verse 13.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13:13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Gospel

This is the Great Commission: our Lord’s instruction to spread the Good News to all the ends of the Earth. This is the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 28:16-20

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Have a blessed Sunday contemplating the holy mystery of the Triune God.

Easter resurrection Karl Heinrich BlochEaster 2020 is like no other.

Pray this never happens again for centuries to come.

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

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

The Mirror interviewed Mrs Armstrong, a retired teacher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s hard to disagree with this:

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

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

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

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

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

First option

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

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

Acts 10:34-43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second option

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

Jeremiah 31:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

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

Psalm 118, Christ’s Passion and Eastertide

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

Colossians 3:1-4

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

This post discusses both accounts:

Happy Easter — He is risen!

First option

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

John 20:1-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second option

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

Matthew 28:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter poems from an inspired Anglican, the Revd George Herbert

George Herbert: 17th century poet and priest

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

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

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

Holy Week and Easter — the two-part story

The road to Emmaus — a great Easter story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

Swieconka basket annhetzelgunkelcomHoly Saturday is normally the time when some Christians around the world, especially those from Eastern Europe, take baskets of Easter food for their priest to bless.

These foods, particularly the basket of Polish items in the illustration, have a religious symbolism. You can find out more in this post:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Four years ago, Britain’s top home cook and culinary television presenter Mary Berry had a short series on food eaten around the world at Easter. It was a fascinating series, summarised below:

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

This next post has more about Easter food traditions, in France, Spain, Portugal, Austria and, until a few decades ago, Algeria:

Holy Saturday: preparing for an Easter feast (2017)

Of course, this year, Easter will be different. Because of coronavirus lockdowns, most of us are not allowed to visit with family members or friends outside of our own household.

I could not get lamb this year because of the lack of supermarket deliveries. We will have duck instead. Lamb will be delivered later in April. Oh, well.

Daytime Lectionary readings

jesus-laid-in-a-tomb-f5462516571Spiritually, most of Holy Saturday is mournful. Jesus was in the tomb, having been attended to by friends — but not the Apostles.

Here are the daytime readings:

Readings for Holy Saturday — daytime

This is the Gospel reading, which was read on Palm Sunday (Year A) in the Liturgy of the Passion. The burial of Jesus took place on Friday evening and the sealing of the tomb took place on Saturday (emphases mine):

Matthew 27:57-66

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Easter Vigil readings

On Saturday evening, the mood changes. Lent comes to an end and many Catholics and High Church Anglicans attend a lengthy but beautiful Easter vigil service, about which you can read more in this post. For centuries, this was the day when catechumens — those studying to be Christians — were baptised:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Although the body of Jesus was still in the tomb on Saturday, His spirit had gone to Sheol, or the place of the dead to free the souls of children and righteous adults.  Jesus descended into this ‘Hell’, although the limbo He went to is not like the Hell or Purgatory that we know today.  His presence illuminated all these righteous souls from the beginning of time — Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses — and Sheol became a paradise until Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven.  Upon His Ascension, Jesus opened the doors to Heaven for them, where they live with Him now and forever.

The Vigil service anticipates the Resurrection, and the Gospel reading is about what happened on Sunday morning.

This service has more readings than usual. Three readings from the Old Testament must be read; the passage from Exodus 14 is mandatory:

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21

14:10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD.

14:11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?

14:12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

14:13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.

14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

14:15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.

14:16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground.

14:17 Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.

14:18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

14:19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.

14:20 It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.

14:22 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

14:23 The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.

14:24 At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.

14:25 He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

14:26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.”

14:27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea.

14:28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.

14:29 But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

14:31 Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

15:20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.

15:21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Psalm

This is one of the Psalms, recalling the Exodus and God’s omnipotence. Verse 8 prophesies Christ as the water of life; Paul refers to it in 1 Corinthians 10:4:

Psalm 114

114:1 When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,

114:2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.

114:3 The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.

114:4 The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.

114:5 Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?

114:6 O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?

114:7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob,

114:8 who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

Epistle

Paul writes of the Resurrection beautifully. Our Lord conquered death and, thanks to Him, so will all believers.

Romans 6:3-11

6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.

6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

The Gospel reading describes an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone over the tomb where Jesus lay. The angel’s appearance was as bright as lightning. Note that the two Marys are the ones who check on the tomb — not the Apostles.

Matthew 28:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is impossible to imagine what the two women experienced at that moment in their extreme awe and boundless joy.

I hope we feel the same, knowing that Jesus came to bring us to life eternal.

Below are the Gospel readings for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.

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

I am posting only the Gospels, as the other readings are the same regardless of Lectionary year. They are in this post:

Readings for Palm Sunday — Year C

Here are my past posts on Palm Sunday:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

There are two liturgies on Palm Sunday: one of the Palms and one of Christ’s Passion, as designated below. Emphases mine.

Gospel — Liturgy of the Palms

Matthew 21:1-11

21:1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,

21:2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.

21:3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”

21:4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

21:5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

21:6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;

21:7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

21:10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

21:11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Gospel — Liturgy of the Passion

There are two options for this particular liturgy: Matthew 26:14-27-66 or Matthew 27:11-54. Note that only one blood sacrifice — Jesus’s death on the Cross — was sufficient to redeem our sins and reconcile us to God. See Hebrews 9:16-23 and Hebrews 10:1-3.

Matthew 26:14-27:66

26:14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

26:15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

26:16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

26:17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

26:18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'”

26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

26:20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;

26:21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

26:22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

26:23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

26:25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

26:27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;

26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

26:29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

26:30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

26:31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

26:32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

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

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

26:35 Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated.

26:38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26:47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

26:48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

26:49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

26:50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

26:51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

26:54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”

26:55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.

26:56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

26:57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered.

26:58 But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.

26:59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death,

26:60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward

26: 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”

26:62 The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”

26:63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

26:65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.

26:66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

26:67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him,

26:68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”

26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

26:70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

26:71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

26:72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

26:73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

26:74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.

26:75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death.

27:2 They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

27:3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.

27:4 He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

27:5 Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

27:6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.”

27:7 After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.

27:8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

27:9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price,

27:10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.”

27:12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer.

27:13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”

27:14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

27:15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.

27:16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.

27:17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

27:18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

27:19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

27:20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.

27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

27:22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

27:23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

27:24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

27:25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

27:26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.

27:28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,

27:29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

27:30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

27:31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

27:32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.

27:33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),

27:34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

27:35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;

27:36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him.

27:37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

27:38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

27:39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads

27:40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

27:41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,

27:42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.

27:43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.'”

27:44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

27:45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

27:46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

27:47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”

27:48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.

27:49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

27:50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

27:51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

27:52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

27:53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

27:54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

27:55 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.

27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

——————————————————————–

A few days ago, I learned something new about Palm Sunday.

At the same time as Jesus was entering Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate entered the city from the opposite side.

Dr Chris Perry has an excellent post on Palm Sunday, ‘Two Processions — Thoughts on Palm Sunday’, worth reading in full. I’ve never read anything like it, and it will give a new perspective on this bittersweet day in the earthly life of Jesus. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

On the entries of Jesus and of Pilate he writes:

Jesus entered the city from the east, riding down from the Mount of Olives out of Bethany (which is exactly how the Messiah was supposed to come, from the east and the Mount of Olives and into the city). But, on the western side of the city Pontius Pilate rode into the city in full procession, riding a horse at the head of Roman imperial cavalry and soldiers. Pilate entered the city proclaiming the power of the Empire. Jesus’ procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God. Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and imperial theology. It was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem during major festivals, not because they cared about their Jewish subjects, but to handle business in case of trouble. Pilate normally lived in Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea on the Sea) but he had brought his soldiers in to reinforce the Fortress Antonia.

Another important point is that the Roman emperor was deemed to be the son of (the) god (Apollo). Jesus is the Son of God. This produced tension and mockery at Jesus’s trial because they both made the same claims:

Other than Imperial power, Pilate was also making a show of Imperial theology. The emperor was not just viewed as the ruler of Rome, but also declared to be the son of god. It began with Augustus who ruled from 31 BC to 14 AD. His father was said to be the god Apollo. Inscriptions refer to him as son of god, lord, savior, and one who had “brought peace on earth.” His successors had continued to take on the divine titles

This procession was one of the primary pieces of evidence used against Jesus later in the week which forced Pilate to crucify Jesus. Without the procession, without the obvious references to kingship Jesus intentionally undertook, Pilate might not have gone through with it. Jesus chose the cross and maneuvered all of the pieces necessary to get him there. Jesus’ procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus brought an alternate vision of the Kingdom of God.

The people who cheered Jesus as He entered Jerusalem expected that He would be an earthly King of Israel who would save them from Roman rule. Jesus knew the people misunderstood the role of the Messiah:

Jesus knew everyone was completely missing the point. That’s why Luke 19:41-44 records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Here they have their Messiah in front of them, but they don’t recognize him for who he truly is.

Hence, the crowds turned on Him only a few days later and demanded that He be crucified.

Are we any better? We are Christians, however …

How often does God appear to us, speak to us, lead us, but we ignore it or turn away from him because it’s not what we want or expect God to do. We’re no better than the people of Jerusalem that day. God calls us to one thing but we want to do another and we get mad when God doesn’t act the way we want.

Finally, a note on the religious and political system in place in Jerusalem during that time. It was antithetical to God’s kingdom. Jesus came to prepare His fellow Jews to return to a sincere love and worship of God, but they refused to see it:

Jesus’ passion was not a protest against the Temple or animal sacrifice. Rather, his protest was against a domination system legitimated in the name of God, a system radically different from what the already present and coming Kingdom of God would be like. The domination system set up by the Temple priests and the Roman governors meant that rule was by a few, economic exploitation was commonplace, and there was religious legitimating of the system, basically saying if you’re against this you’re against God. So, it was not Jesus against Judaism, or vice-versa. It was a Jewish voice about what loyalty to God truly meant. And, as the Messiah, his is the decisive voice.

Most of us will be unable to attend church tomorrow because of coronavirus lockdowns around the world. I hope that Dr Perry’s historical insights help to explain the mystery of why so many people cheered Jesus on Sunday only to violently shout for His death on Friday.

May God bless everyone during Holy Week. As most of us are at home, let’s use the time wisely in contemplating our Lord’s Passion and death for our sins and our redemption.

The following are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent, March 1, 2020.

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

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the story of Original Sin, elaborated on in Paul’s letter to the Romans in the Epistle.

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;

2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”

3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;

3:5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm

It has been said that this Psalm might have been sung on the Day of Atonement. It sets forth how to repent and place one’s trust in the Lord.

Psalm 32

32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

32:8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

32:9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

32:10 Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Epistle

It would have been appropriate had the Lectionary compilers included the preceding three verses to Paul’s description of justification and salvation through the living Christ:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this rather complex chapter in Romans, particularly this sentence:

We are reconciled by Christ humbled, we are saved by Christ exalted.

In any event, this refers back to the first reading about Adam, Eve and Original Sin.

Romans 5:12-19

5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned

5:13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.

5:14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.

5:16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.

5:17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.

5:19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Gospel

This is Matthew’s account of the forty days that Jesus fasted and prayed. Those forty days are the reason Lent lasts this amount of time.

Matthew 4:1-11

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

4:3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,

4:6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;

4:9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

In the oldest denominations the celebrant will be wearing purple (or dark blue), as on Ash Wednesday. This continues until Easter Vigil Mass for Catholics or, for Protestants, Easter Day services. There are two exceptions: Laetare Sunday, when the celebrant may wear pink as Easter draws near, and on Palm Sunday, when celebrants wear red in remembrance of the coming Crucifixion which took place days later.

Ash Wednesday is February 26, 2020.

These are the readings for the first day in Lent:

Readings for Ash Wednesday

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us how to practice piety and self denial through fasting: keep it quiet and never boast about it. Verses 19 through 21 will also be familiar to many.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

6:2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;

6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Our Lord addressed these verses to the scribes and the Pharisees, who made much public display of their notional devotion to God.

Yet, they were so hard-hearted that they rejected Jesus to the end, with all their hearts and all their minds.

Of these verses, Matthew Henry’s commentary counsels (emphases mine):

As we must do better than the scribes and Pharisees in avoiding heart-sins, heart-adultery, and heart-murder, so likewise in maintaining and keeping up heart-religion, doing what we do from an inward, vital principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be applauded of men; that is, we must watch against hypocrisy, which was the leaven of the Pharisees, as well as against their doctrine, Luke 12:1. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, are three great Christian duties–the three foundations of the law, say the Arabians: by them we do homage and service to God with our three principal interests; by prayer with our souls, by fasting with our bodies, by alms-giving with our estates. Thus we must not only depart from evil, but do good, and do it well, and so dwell for evermore …

Take heed of hypocrisy, for if it reign in you, it will ruin you. It is the dead fly that spoils the whole box of precious ointment.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving done openly, with ostentation and/or public announcement, has its own reward on Earth, in front of other sinful people. Those who do such things are not pleasing God. God will not honour such actions.

Henry explains, referring to the Greek in the original text:

they have their reward here, and have none to hope for hereafter. Apechousi ton misthon. It signifies a receipt in full. What rewards the godly have in this life are but in part of payment; there is more behind, much more; but hypocrites have their all in this world, so shall their doom be; themselves have decided it. The world is but for provision to the saints, it is their spending-money; but it is pay to hypocrites, it is their portion.

The reason for doing these things in very public places is to impress others. God, on the other hand, remains distinctly unimpressed with such open expressions. Henry gives us the reasons for the Jewish hierarchy’s seeking out the most public places for their most ostentatious prayer displays and why God disapproves. It is not entirely wrong to do these things in the open, but when we become prideful and seek out more of the same, it becomes sinful:

Their pride in choosing these public places, which is expressed in two things: [1.] They love to pray there. They did not love prayer for its own sake, but they loved it when it gave them an opportunity of making themselves noticed. Circumstances may be such, that our good deeds must needs be done openly, so as to fall under the observation of others, and be commended by them; but the sin and danger is when we love it, and are pleased with it, because it feeds the proud humour.

With regard to the scribes and Pharisees:

[2.] It is that they may be seen of men; not that God might accept them, but that men might admire and applaud them; and that they might easily get the estates of widows and orphans into their hands (who would not trust such devout, praying men?) and that, when they had them, they might devour them without being suspected (Matthew 23:14); and effectually carry on their public designs to enslave the people.

Henry says that the public forum is not the place for ostentatious devotion. Therefore, in church, we must be circumspect and not stand out. Furthermore, we make a mistake if the only time we pray is in church:

we must avoid every thing that tends to make our personal devotion remarkable, as they that caused their voice to be heard on high, Isaiah 58:4. Public places are not proper for private solemn prayer.

Furthermore:

Personal prayer is here supposed to be the duty and practice of all Christ’s disciples.

Henry has more on personal prayer:

Note, Secret prayer is to be performed in retirement, that we may be unobserved, and so may avoid ostentation; undisturbed, and so may avoid distraction; unheard, and so may use greater freedom; yet if the circumstances be such that we cannot possibly avoid being taken notice of, we must not therefore neglect the duty, lest the omission be a greater scandal than the observation of it …

Note, In secret prayer we must have an eye to God, as present in all places; he is there in thy closet when no one else is there; there especially nigh to thee in what thou callest upon him for. By secret prayer we give God the glory of his universal presence (Acts 17:24), and may take to ourselves the comfort of it.

Scripture cautions against repetition in prayer, yet, Henry explains that this is only when our minds wander as we repeat the same words over and over. Repetition, when done with reverence and thought, is acceptable:

It is not all repetition in prayer that is here condemned, but vain repetitions. Christ himself prayed, saying the same words (Matthew 26:44), out of more than ordinary fervour and zeal, Luke 22:44. So Daniel, Daniel 9:18,19. And there is a very elegant repetition of the same words, Psalms 136:1-26. It may be of use both to express our own affections, and to excite the affections of othersthe barren and dry going over of the same things again and again, merely to drill out the prayer to such a length, and to make a show of affection when really there is none; these are the vain repetitions here condemned. When we would fain say much, but cannot say much to the purpose; this is displeasing to God and all wise men.

As for fasting, it should be accompanied by prayer. Otherwise, it has no spiritual value. It’s just a diet.

Fasting does not mean gorging at night, either.

Henry, very much an Anglican clergyman whose theology aligned with Calvinism, lamented the loss of the centuries-old godly practice of fasting. This would have been in the late 17th and early 18th century. Fasting, accompanied by prayer, curbs the urges of the flesh for more food and focusses our minds on higher things:

We are here cautioned against hypocrisy in fasting, as before in almsgiving, and in prayer.

I. It is here supposed that religious fasting is a duty required of the disciples of Christ, when God, in his providence, calls to it, and when the case of their own souls upon any account requires it; when the bridegroom is taken away, then shall they fast, Matthew 9:15. Fasting is here put last, because it is not so much a duty for its own sake, as a means to dispose us for other duties. Prayer comes in between almsgiving and fasting, as being the life and soul of both. Christ here speaks especially of private fasts, such as particular persons prescribe to themselves, as free-will offerings, commonly used among the pious Jews; some fasted one day, some two, every week; others seldomer, as they saw cause. On those days they did not eat till sun-set, and then very sparingly. It was not the Pharisee’s fasting twice in the week, but his boasting of it, that Christ condemned, Luke 18:12. It is a laudable practice, and we have reason to lament it, that is so generally neglected among Christians. Anna was much in fasting, Luke 2:37. Cornelius fasted and prayed, Acts 10:30. The primitive Christians were much in it, see Acts 13:3,14:23. Private fasting is supposed, 1 Corinthians 7:5. It is an act of self-denial, and mortification of the flesh, a holy revenge upon ourselves, and humiliation under the hand of God. The most grown Christians must hereby own, they are so far from having any thing to be proud of, that they are unworthy of their daily bread. It is a means to curb the flesh and the desires of it, and to make us more lively in religious exercises, as fulness of bread is apt to make us drowsy. Paul was in fastings often, and so he kept under this body, and brought it into subjection.

Henry summarises the biblical way to fast:

We are directed how to manage a private fast; we must keep it in private, Matthew 6:17,18. He does not tell us how often we must fast; circumstances vary, and wisdom is profitable therein to direct; the Spirit in the word has left that to the Spirit in the heart; but take this for a rule, whenever you undertake this duty, study therein to approve yourselves to God, and not to recommend yourselves to the good opinion of men; humility must evermore attend upon our humiliation. Christ does not direct to abate any thing of the reality of the fast; he does not say,”take a little meat, or a little drink, or a little cordial;” no, “let the body suffer, but lay aside the show and appearance of it; appear with thy ordinary countenance, guise, and dress; and while thou deniest thyself thy bodily refreshments, do it so as that it may not be taken notice of, no, not by those that are nearest to thee; look pleasant, anoint thine head and wash thy face, as thou dost on ordinary days, on purpose to conceal thy devotion; and thou shalt be no loser in the praise of it at last; for though it be not of men, it shall be of God. Fasting is the humbling of the soul (Psalms 35:13), that is the inside of the duty; let that therefore be thy principal care, and as to the outside of it, covet not to let it be seen. If we be sincere in our solemn fasts, and humble, and trust God’s omniscience for our witness, and his goodness for our reward, we shall find, both that he did see in secret, and will reward openly. Religious fasts, if rightly kept, will shortly be recompensed with an everlasting feast. Our acceptance with God in our private fasts should make us dead, both to the applause of men (we must not do the duty in hopes of this), and to the censures of men too (we must not decline the duty for fear of them). David’s fasting was turned to his reproach, Psalms 69:10; and yet, Matthew 6:13, As for me, let them say what they will of me, my prayer is unto thee in an acceptable time.

Certainly, some people have problems gaining weight. Therefore, fasting would not be recommended for them.

However, for the rest of us, some physical self-denial, accompanied by prayer, would not go amiss.

It is hard to think of a better Gospel to lead us into Lent. For anyone observing this season, I pray that you be abundantly blessed in all your undertakings, especially those further enabling the Christian journey.

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