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

This is traditionally known as Christ the King Sunday.

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

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

There are two options for the Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 100

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm — Option Two

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

Psalm 95:1-7a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

Ephesians 1:15-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Matthew 25:31-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

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

Judges 4:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 123

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

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

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

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

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

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

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

90:3 You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

90:5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;

90:6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

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

Matthew 25:14-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

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

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 78:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

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

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amos 5:18-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20

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

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

6:19 and immortality brings one near to God;

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

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

Psalm 70

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

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

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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

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

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

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

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

4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Gospel

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

Matthew 25:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are the readings for the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, November 1, 2020, which also happens to be All Saints Day.

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Last week’s reading documented the death of Moses. The Lord confers blessings upon Joshua, Moses’s successor.

Joshua 3:7-17

3:7 The LORD said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses.

3:8 You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.'”

3:9 Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the LORD your God.”

3:10 Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites:

3:11 the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan.

3:12 So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.

3:13 When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

3:14 When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people.

3:15 Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water,

3:16 the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

3:17 While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

The Psalm lists the many blessings that God bestowed upon His faithful people. It gives us cause to reflect on the many blessings He has given each of us. With regard to verse 8 and ‘humankind’, Matthew Henry’s commentary says that pagan societies prayed to an unknown god, a ‘supreme “Numen”‘. When they prayed to that unknown god, the Lord heard their prayers.

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble

107:3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

107:4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town;

107:5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.

107:6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress;

107:7 he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.

107:8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:9 For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

107:33 He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground,

107:34 a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

107:35 He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.

107:36 And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in;

107:37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

This is Micah’s stern warning to corrupt rulers of the house of Jacob and false prophets of the house of Israel.

Micah 3:5-12

3:5 Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths.

3:6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be black over them;

3:7 the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.

3:8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

3:9 Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity,

3:10 who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong!

3:11 Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, “Surely the LORD is with us! No harm shall come upon us.”

3:12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

David appeals to the Lord for deliverance from his enemies. Matthew Henry says this is a good Psalm to pray in times of trouble.

Psalm 43

43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me!

43:2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off? Why must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?

43:3 O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

43:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Thessalonians continue. Paul praises the Thessalonians for willingly accepting the word of God. They were well known for their Christian devotion and holiness.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

2:9 You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers.

2:11 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children,

2:12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

2:13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue. Jesus delivered this teaching a few days before the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23:1-12

23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,

23:2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;

23:3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

23:4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

23:5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.

23:6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues,

23:7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

23:8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.

23:9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father–the one in heaven.

23:10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.

23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant.

23:12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus berated the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and grandstanding. They treated the Jews of His era woefully, binding them in continuous legalism. They remained spiritually blind until the end. One cannot imagine what Jesus must have thought, having had to put up with their harassment for the duration of His ministry and knowing all along they wanted to put Him to death.

Below are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, October 25, 2020.

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

The Church of England calendar calls this the Last Sunday after Trinity. Advent does not start for five weeks, but the C of E begins a countdown with four Sundays before Advent beginning next week. This seems to be a recent development. Perhaps they think people will have too much trouble these days with words like ‘twenty-first’, ‘twenty-second’ and ‘twenty-third’. I do not know. I will continue with the traditional numbering.

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings from Exodus have finished for the year. We move to the final chapter of Deuteronomy this week for the story of Moses’s death. As Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible — the Pentateuch — he could not have written this chapter. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that either Joshua, Eleazar or Samuel wrote this account.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan,

34:2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea,

34:3 the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar.

34:4 The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”

34:5 Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.

34:6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.

34:7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated.

34:8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

34:9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

34:10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.

34:11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land,

34:12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Moses wrote the following Psalm. It is called ‘A Prayer of Moses the man of God’.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

90:3 You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

90:5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;

90:6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

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

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

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

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

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

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

This reading, which also features Moses, summarises God’s moral law and paraphrases the Ten Commandments.

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

19:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

19:15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.

19:16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

19:17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.

19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

The Psalm is called ‘The Happy Man’. It is appropriately placed first among the Psalms.

Psalm 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

Readings from 1 Thessalonians continue. Last week’s described how holy they were. Here Paul recalls how he, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy planted their church.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

2:1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain,

2:2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.

2:3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery,

2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.

2:5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed;

2:6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others,

2:7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.

2:8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew’s Gospel continue. Jesus gave the following lesson a few days before His death. He quoted Leviticus 19:18 (above) in verse 39. Verses 37 through 40 form part of an introductory prayer in the traditional Anglican liturgies which the priest may recite as an alternative to reading out each of the Ten Commandments.

Matthew 22:34-46

22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,

22:35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

22:37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.

22:39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:

22:42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”

22:43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

22:44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘?

22:45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”

22:46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Moses was what theologians call a ‘type of Christ’. He interceded on behalf of his sinful people, asking for God’s mercy on them by reminding Him of the covenant He made with them.

Below are readings for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 18, 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 Exodus continue. Last week’s was about the golden calf. Here Moses expresses his desire to know God better and asks for a glimpse of His glory.

Exodus 33:12-23

33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’

33:13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

33:14 He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

33:15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.

33:16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

33:17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

33:18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.”

33:19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

33:20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.”

33:21 And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock;

33:22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by;

33:23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

The Psalm extols God’s might and glory, mentioning Moses and His forgiveness of the Israelites’ sins.

Psalm 99

99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!

99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!

99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.

99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

Readings from Isaiah continue. Here the Lord introduces Himself to Cyrus, a pagan, whom he prepares to conquer Babylon so that His chosen can be liberated. He put Cyrus to work for His glory, promising him earthly rewards.

Isaiah 45:1-7

45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him– and the gates shall not be closed:

45:2 I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron,

45:3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

45:4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.

45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me,

45:6 so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things.

This Psalm calls all nations to worship the Lord, foretelling the kingdom of Christ and the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church.

Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)

96:1 O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.

96:2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

96:3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.

96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

96:6 Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

96:7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.

96:9 Worship the LORD in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

96:10 Say among the nations, “The LORD is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.”

96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

96:12 let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

96:13 before the LORD; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

Epistle

Last week’s reading was from the final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We now begin readings from 1 Thessalonians, which is the first letter Paul wrote to various churches, all of which he planted, except for the one in Rome. Paul probably wrote this letter in AD 51. Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy were with him at the time.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1:2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly

1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,

1:5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.

1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,

1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

1:8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.

1:9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,

1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue. This exchange followed the Parable of the Wedding Feast and took place a few days before the Crucifixion.

Matthew 22:15-22

22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.

22:16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.

22:17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

22:18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?

22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.

22:20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”

22:21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

I hope that everyone has a blessed Sunday, despite any lockdown restrictions.

Below are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 11, 2020.

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

There are two options for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Last week’s reading was about the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Sometime later, Moses went up Mount Sinai for 40 days to learn from God. Meanwhile, in the camp, the Israelites grew restless, not caring about Moses’s whereabouts. Instead, they coerced Aaron into creating an idol — the golden calf — which they worshipped. Matthew Henry has a fascinating commentary on this terrible episode in the story of the Israelites. Henry says that Jewish tradition teaches that Hur, who was left with Aaron as the other person in authority, was stoned to death because he would not make the idol. Aaron, possibly fearing for his own life, agreed to make it.

Exodus 32:1-14

32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

32:2 Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

32:3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron.

32:4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

32:5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.”

32:6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

32:7 The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;

32:8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'”

32:9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.

32:10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

32:12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.

32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

32:14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

This Psalm of David’s is a confession of Israel’s greatest sins, most of which are omitted in the verses below, as well as a reminder of God’s mercy.

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

106:1 Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

106:2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the LORD, or declare all his praise?

106:3 Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.

106:4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them;

106:5 that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory in your heritage.

106:6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.

106:19 They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image.

106:20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

106:21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,

106:22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

106:23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

Readings from Isaiah continue. This is a prophecy not only of God’s intended deliverance of the Jews from Babylon but also of the Church to come.

Isaiah 25:1-9

25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

25:2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt.

25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.

25:4 For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,

25:5 the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.

25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

25:7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

25:8 Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.

25:9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

The Psalm, one of my favourites, will be familiar to everyone.

Psalm 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

Readings from Paul’s letter to the Philippians continue. Verse 4 below is a familiar one. Verse 7 is the standard blessing used at the end of Anglican services. Paul remembered many people who had worked with him for the Church in all locations. In Romans 16, he commends a long list of people to the Christians in Rome. Here he asks the Philippians to help two women Euodia and Syntyche, who perhaps had a disagreement (verse 2), by building them up in their continued work for the church in Philippi (verse 3).

Philippians 4:1-9

4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.

4:3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

4:9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew’s Gospel continue. The Parable of the Wedding Feast is another parable that Jesus delivered a few days before His death on the Cross. It points to His rejection by the Jewish hierarchy and the invitation of the Gentiles into the Church. God is the king giving a wedding banquet for His Son Jesus. The Church is Christ’s bride. The invited guests reject the king’s invitation. The king instructed his servants to find new guests, of a lowlier status, to attend. This refers to the biblical theme of the last being first. The rejection of the man with no wedding garment refers to the hypocrite who professes faith yet has none. Only the king notices his lack of attire. Only God knows what is truly in our hearts.

This parable fits well with last week’s, the Parable of the Vineyard.

Matthew 22:1-14

22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:

22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.

22:3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.

22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’

22:5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,

22:6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.

22:9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’

22:10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,

22:12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.

22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

For many years, the Parables made little sense to me. It was only when I started studying the Bible in depth that their meaning became clear.

I have rarely heard a good sermon on the Parables. Perhaps you have. If so, what a blessing.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that young Christians and those new to the faith understand their meaning. In many (not all), Jesus was warning His persecutors of the judgement to come because of their dereliction of duty as shepherds to their flock. They should have been telling the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. Instead, they worked at thwarting His ministry and plotted to kill Him. There is also a general message about persecution in the Parable of the Wedding Feast in verse 6.

This, together with the passage from Exodus, makes for sobering reading and serious consideration.

Below are the readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, October 4, 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 Exodus continue. The Lord gives the Ten Commandments to the Israelites via Moses.

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

20:1 Then God spoke all these words:

20:2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.

20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

20:7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.

20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

20:13 You shall not murder.

20:14 You shall not commit adultery.

20:15 You shall not steal.

20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

20:18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,

20:19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.”

20:20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”

The Psalm ties in beautifully with the Ten Commandments. Traditionally-minded Episcopal ministers recite verse 14 before giving a sermon.

Psalm 19

19:1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

19:2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

19:3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;

19:4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

19:5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

19:6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.

19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;

19:8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;

19:9 the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

19:11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

19:12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

19:13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

The Lord spoke through Isaiah, comparing the house of Israel to a wild, unproductive vineyard.

Isaiah 5:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Psalm also uses the vineyard allegory in a plea for mercy rather than continuing judgement.

Psalm 80:7-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

80:15 the stock that your right hand planted.

Epistle

Readings from Philippians continue. Paul eloquently expresses his love for Christ. The privileges he had in life before his conversion were nothing compared to his subsequent salvation and ministry.

Philippians 3:4b-14

3:4b If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:

3:5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;

3:6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

3:7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

3:8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

3:11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue, focussing on the parables of Jesus. Today’s is the Parable of the Vineyard, tying in well with the reading from Isaiah and Psalm 19 above. Verse 42 will be familiar to many.

Matthew 21:33-46

21:33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.

21:34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce.

21:35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

21:36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way.

21:37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

21:38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’

21:39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

21:40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

21:41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?

21:43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

21:44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

21:45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.

21:46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

What a powerful set of readings and allegorical use of the vineyard.

God gave His people every blessing, yet the house of Israel preferred serious sin instead, violating His commandments.

Generations later, the chief priests and the Pharisees were supposed to be the experts in Scripture and were to tend to their flock accordingly. Instead, they were like wild vines, wilfully denouncing Jesus, the Messiah. In His parable, Jesus foretold His death. The Jewish hierarchy were the evil tenants of the vineyard. God left them in unbelief and spiritual blindness: a judgement.

As such, He allowed Gentiles to share in His Kingdom (Matthew 21:43).

Below are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 27, 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 Exodus continue. Last week’s was the account of heavenly manna that God gave to the hungry Israelites. Today’s describes the Lord’s continuing mercy on them, as they were thirsty. They had just left the desert, or wilderness, of Sin (a place).

Exodus 17:1-7

17:1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”

17:4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

17:5 The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.

17:6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

17:7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

The Psalm recalls God’s many blessings to His people. It makes reference to that account from Exodus.

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

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

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

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

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

78:12 In the sight of their ancestors he worked marvels in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.

78:13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap.

78:14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all night long with a fiery light.

78:15 He split rocks open in the wilderness, and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.

78:16 He made streams come out of the rock, and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

Verse 2 in the reading below was an example of God’s people railing against His judgements upon them. Matthew Henry says that God continues judgement through the generations only when a particular serious sin persists. The subsequent verses from later in the chapter show that God is merciful to those who repent. A good priest or pastor could write a lengthy sermon on these verses.

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

18:1 The word of the LORD came to me:

18:2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?

18:3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.

18:4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

18:25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

18:26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.

18:27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life.

18:28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.

18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

18:30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin.

18:31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?

18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

The Psalm teaches us what we should pray for: protection, forgiveness, mercy and obedience.

Psalm 25:1-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

I wrote last week that Paul had a great deal of affection for the Philippians. Here he reminds them of their obligations to each other as Christians, following our Lord’s example. Verses 11 and 12 will be familiar to many.

Philippians 2:1-13

2:1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,

2:2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.

2:4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,

2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.

2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

2:12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue. Jesus rebukes the chief priests and elders by teaching the Parable of the Two Sons. This took place early in Passion Week in Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:23-32

21:23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

21:24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.

21:25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’

21:26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”

21:27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

21:29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.

21:30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.

21:31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

We have sermon-rich passages this week. One could preach on any of these for at least 20 minutes:

– the wilful unbelief of those who are supposed to serve God and do not (the Gospel);

– the humility we should be showing to each other in Christian love (the Epistle);

– the wrong-headedness of railing against God for our own selfish failings (the first readings).

There is much to contemplate here.

All blessings to you in the week ahead.

Below are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 20, 2020.

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

There are two choices for the first reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings about Moses continue. This is the account of manna from Heaven for the hungry Israelites.

Exodus 16:2-15

16:2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

16:3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

16:5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”

16:6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

16:7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?”

16:8 And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him–what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.”

16:9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'”

16:10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

16:11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

16:12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'”

16:13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.

16:14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.

16:15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

In calling upon all faithful to give thanks to the Lord, the Psalm makes reference to the reading above to other events in the exodus from Egypt.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

105:1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.

105:2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.

105:3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

105:4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.

105:5 Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,

105:6 O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

105:37 Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold, and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.

105:38 Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it.

105:39 He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.

105:40 They asked, and he brought quails, and gave them food from heaven in abundance.

105:41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river.

105:42 For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant.

105:43 So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing.

105:44 He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,

105:45 that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!

First reading and Psalm — Option Two

After releasing Jonah from the belly of the great fish, God pressed on with His continuing mission of getting Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, who were Gentiles. Jonah found this commission repulsive, which is why he resisted so strongly. The people of Nineveh were more repentant than the people of Israel at that time.

Jonah 3:10-4:11

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

4:1 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.

4:2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.

4:3 And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

4:4 And the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

4:5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

4:6 The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.

4:7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.

4:8 When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

4:9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.”

4:10 Then the LORD said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.

4:11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

We have another excerpt from the first of the Praise Psalms (145-150). David wrote this to encourage us to praise the Lord.

Psalm 145:1-8

145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

145:2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.

145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

145:4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

145:5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

145:6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.

145:7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

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

Epistle

Having finished with readings from the Book of Romans, we turn to the beginning of Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi in Macedonia, named for the great King Philip of Macedon. Paul had a great affection for the Philippians. He wrote this from prison in Rome, in AD 62.

Philippians 1:21-30

1:21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

1:22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.

1:23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better;

1:24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.

1:25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,

1:26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

1:27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,

1:28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing.

1:29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well

1:30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Gospel

Readings from Matthew continue. Last week’s reading was the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Today’s is the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, an analogy for those who come to the faith late in life. God treasures those souls as much as he does those who have obeyed Him since their childhood.

Matthew 20:1-16

20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

20:2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

20:3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;

20:4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

20:5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.

20:6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’

20:7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

20:8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’

20:9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.

20:10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.

20:11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,

20:12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

20:13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?

20:14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.

20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

20:16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday and a good week ahead.

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