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We are now three Sundays away from the beginning of Lent.

Centuries ago, the names of these Sundays referred to their distance from Easter in the number of days. If those Sundays were being observed now, February 16, 2019 would have been Septuagesima Sunday. In the early Church, no Gloria was sung nor was the Alleluia in the early Church. This is because it was the first Sunday of the call to Lenten discipline.

Although the word ‘septuagesima’ means ‘seventieth’, it occurs only 63 days before Easter. Early Christians began observing Lent the day after Septuagesima Sunday. This is because Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays were not days of fasting in the early Church. So, if the faithful wished to fast for 40 days before Easter, following the example of Jesus, they would have had to start the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

You can read more about Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays in the following post:

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

This period of time was known as Shrovetide, which ended on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past participle of ‘shrive’, which meant to present oneself for confession, penance and absolution. You can find out more in the post below:

Shrovetide — a history

Even in modern times, the Lectionary readings turn from the themes of rejoicing and thanks that our Saviour came to Earth to redeem us. The themes of sin and repentance predominate.

What follow are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany in Year C of the three-year Lectionary commonly used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The verses from Jeremiah read so much better in the King James Version, especially verse 9. I have included verse 11 for its poetic truth:

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

What follows is what millions of churchgoers will hear. To put it into context, the Lord wanted repentance, and Jeremiah was His messenger. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this chapter provides timeless lessons for all of us.

Jeremiah 17:5-10

17:5 Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.

17:6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

17:8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it?

17:10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm

The first Psalm briefly explains the ways of those who are good versus those who are evil. Verse 3 ties in nicely with Jeremiah 17:8.

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

Paul continued his proof of the Resurrection. Last week’s reading was the introduction to this expository; Paul needed to settle a dispute running in Corinth at the time as to whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. This is the continuation.

It is also important to note that the resurrection of the dead is also mentioned in the Old Testament. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on God’s command as a test of faith was an important illustration of that. Seeing that Abraham believed that he would see his son again one day, God was satisfied, and He relented.

Among the ancient Jews, only the theological intellectuals, the Sadducees, disregarded the resurrection of the dead.

At the end of his ministry, Paul suffered greatly for speaking boldly about the resurrection of the dead, including during his time in Jerusalem and surrounds. See my exposition on Acts 24:10-21 for more details.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;

15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

15:15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

15:16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.

15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

15:18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.

15:19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Gospel

This week’s reading is the Sermon on the Mount, featuring the Beatitudes. Jesus came down from the mountain, where He had been praying alone. At this point in His ministry, the twelve Apostles were with Him.

Luke 6:17-26

6:17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

6:18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.

6:19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

6:26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

I have highlighted certain verses from the Beatitudes on purpose, because those are not emphasised much in today’s discourses on this reading. Early on, Jesus warned His followers of persecution, but that they should focus on the life to come and rejoice in their salvation.

Most sermons today emphasise verse 24, however, as Matthew Henry’s powerful commentary states, Jesus’s warning is directed at those who are materialists with no faith. They trust in riches, but not in God. Where that is the case, they have received their earthly reward (see the aforementioned reading from Jeremiah). There will be no heavenly reward for them:

Here is a woe to them that are rich, that is, that trust in riches, that have abundance of this world’s wealth, and, instead of serving God with it, serve their lusts with it; woe to them, for they have received their consolation, that which they placed their happiness in, and were willing to take up with for a portion, Luke 6:24. They in their life-time received their good things, which, in their account, were the best things, and all the good things they are ever likely to receive from God. “You that are rich are in temptation to set your hearts upon a smiling world, and to say, Soul, take thine ease in the embraces of it, This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; and then woe unto you.” (1.) It is the folly of carnal worldlings that they make the things of this world their consolation, which were intended only for their convenience. They please themselves with them, pride themselves in them, and make them their heaven upon earth; and to them the consolations of God are small, and of no account. (2.) It is their misery that they are put off with them as their consolation. Let them know it, to their terror, when they are parted from these things, there is an end of all their comfort, a final end of it, and nothing remains to them but everlasting misery and torment.

Therefore, it is wrong for clergy to shame middle class churchgoers into giving more when they are already being squeezed through taxes to support a bloated welfare state and through ever increasing tuition costs for their children. Neither of those was around in our Lord’s era.

One must also consider the type of church one is being shamed into donating to. Clergy from corrupt churches (including those in major denominations) are the ones asking for the most money. A false church, one seeking the world and not the Kingdom of God, deserves to die on the vine. A false church is not one that exemplifies the purity and holiness of the early congregation in Jerusalem of Acts 4:32-37.

In closing, I would also ask readers who are uncertain about the resurrection to please read Paul’s explanation about it. Parents and elder family members should make sure the children in their family understand it, too.

I say that because I know of small children in Britain over a decade ago (one was the offspring of a then-colleague) who learned at crèche that Jesus died and that Easter commemorates His death. NO! Easter celebrates Jesus’s victory over death. On the third day, He rose from the dead — according to the Scriptures!

It is essential that we understand what the Bible teaches and pass that knowledge along to younger family members.

Without sound, scripturally based doctrine, there may be no life to come for some.

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Below are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 10, 2019.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Isaiah receives his divine commission to be a prophet. There is much to study here. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage is powerful and well worth reading. The purpose of the coal placed on Isaiah’s lips during his vision of God’s dominion was not to inflict pain, but to cleanse him from sin so that he could go and preach to the people to persuade them to reject the world and return to Him.

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.

6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”

6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

6:9 And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’

6:10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”

6:11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate;

6:12 until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.

6:13 Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.

Psalm

In this Psalm, David looks back in gratitude for all that God has done for him. He looks forward to the future in faith, confident of His continuing guidance and love.

Psalm 138

138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;

138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

138:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

138:4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.

138:5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.

138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.

138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Epistle

When Paul wrote this letter, there was a dispute in Corinth about the truth of the resurrection of the dead. Paul reassures the Christians by discussing witnesses who saw Jesus after the Resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,

15:2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain.

15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,

15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

15:11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Gospel

This reading from Luke is the famous ‘fishers of men’ passage. It is unfortunate that the compilers of the New Revised Standard Version thought they had to change what was beautiful, and universally understood, wording.

Luke 5:1-11

5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,

5:2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.

5:3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

5:6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.

5:7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.

5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

5:9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;

5:10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”

5:11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

The readings from Isaiah and Luke tie together nicely. Both the prophet and Peter were so awestruck by their respective experiences that each proclaimed himself unworthy through sin to serve the Lord.

I suspect were we to have one of these divine encounters, we, too, would be seared with the awareness of our own iniquity and inadequacy. Yet, even without such experiences, the Lord lifts us up in love and encouragement. May we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, giving Him praise, just as David did.

February 2 and 3, 2019 is a rather busy weekend in the Church calendar.

Candlemas

Today, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, traditionally known as Candlemas, the day on which church candles are blessed. Some countries, especially France, serve crêpes and cidre on Candlemas.

Theologically, Candlemas is 40 days after Christmas and the date when Jewish ceremonies for mother and male child are performed. February 2 recalls two events: a) Jesus’s formal Presentation in the Temple and b) Mary’s return to the Temple after childbirth, which carried over into Christianity as a ceremony called the Churching of Women.

You can read more about Candlemas in the following post:

February 2 is Candlemas

The Gospel reading is Luke 2:22:40, which I wrote about at length in the following posts:

Jesus presented at the temple (Part 1)

Jesus presented at the temple (Part 2)

Candlemas: the prophetess Anna

St Blaise Day

February 3 is the feast day of St Blaise, traditionally when Catholics have their throats blessed by their priest during or after Mass. The priest crosses two beeswax candles and places them close to the congregant’s throat, reciting a blessing against an ailment of the throat. St Blaise was born in an ancient part of Armenia. That part of Armenia is now in Turkey. Blaise was also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers who was said to have performed many miracles. His last miracle, prior to martyrdom, was dislodging a fish bone from a child’s throat. The lad’s mother simply placed the choking boy at Blaise’s feet and the bone troubled him no more. You can read more about St Blaise in the following post. I promise you will not be bored:

St Blaise’s feast day and the blessing of throats

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

What follows are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, February 3, 2019.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The reading from Jeremiah is apposite, considering that three American states are looking at infanticide laws. New York State’s passed on January 22. Virginia’s failed in the state legislature this week, and Rhode Island will soon be considering a bill approving very late term abortion. California, incidentally, has had laws for several years that are very similar to New York’s.

Essentially, such late term abortions amount to infanticide.

One of the verses that caused me to change my mind about abortion is Jeremiah 1:5. God had a purpose for Jeremiah. Similarly, He has a purpose for each of us. What does He think about His developing humans who die in the womb — each one with a divine purpose? How will He judge those who abort and those who perform abortions, particularly those amounting to infanticide?

Jeremiah 1:4-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm

David wrote this Psalm in his dotage. May we likewise share his praise of and trust in the Lord.

Psalm 71:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

St Paul wrote of the essential nature of love in being a follower of Christ. This must be one of his most well-known letters. It reads much better in the King James Version:

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Here is the Lectionary version, taken from the New Revised Standard Version:

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

13:3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant

13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

13:6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

13:9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;

13:10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13:13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Gospel

This reading is a continuation of last week’s, with Jesus preaching to the Nazarenes in their synagogue, wanting to cure their unbelief and warning them that God sometimes chose Gentiles to receive His favour, not His Chosen. His fellow townsmen were outraged. This is quite shocking.

Luke 4:21-30

4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

4:23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'”

4:24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

4:25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;

4:26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.

4:27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

4:28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.

4:29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

4:30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

There is a rich seam of material here for Sunday sermons from an excellent choice of readings.

What follows are the readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 27, 2019.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The worship service of thanksgiving that Nehemiah wrote of was conducted after the Lord released His people from Babylon. In like manner, Christians are grateful that the Lord sent us Christ Jesus who freed us from sin by dying on the Cross.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

8:1 all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel.

8:2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month.

8:3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

8:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

8:6 Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

8:8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

8:9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.

8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Psalm

The Psalm is a jubilant one of rejoicing in the Lord. Verse 14 is what many Anglican — including Episcopal — clergy pray aloud before they give their sermons.

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.

Epistle

Paul explained the importance of a church community. This unity holds true both locally and globally.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

12:13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

12:14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

12:15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

12:16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

12:19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?

12:20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

12:22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

12:23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;

12:24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member,

12:25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.

12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.

12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

12:30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

12:31 But strive for the greater gifts.

Gospel

Jesus’s reading at the synagogue in Nazareth took place after his 40 days in the desert. Note that He told his hometown congregation that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled that very day. Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on the verses from Isaiah and Jesus’s fulfilment of that prophecy.

Luke 4:14-21

4:14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.

4:15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

4:16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,

4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

4:20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Anyone reading this looking for a good interpretation of Luke’s Gospel would do well to read the aforementioned commentary from Matthew Henry.

What follows are the readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, January 20, 2019.

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

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Although Isaiah prophesied the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from Babylon, he also prophesied of the Church to come, as he did in this passage. In verse 4, some older translations substitute Hephzibah for My Delight Is in Her and Beulah for Married.

Isaiah 62:1-5

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

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

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

62:4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.

62:5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Psalm

David reminds us of God’s steadfast love towards His faithful.

Psalm 36:5-10

36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

36:6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

36:10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

Epistle

Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were once idol worshippers, but now that they have received the Holy Spirit they must use His gifts for the glory of God and the Church, not for self-aggrandisement.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

12:2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.

12:3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Gospel

John recounts the story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle of transforming water into wine. Matthew Henry says that the wedding guests were so awed by Jesus that they did not drink to excess but rather viewed the excellent wine as a divine gift. Henry also says that Jesus had five of His Apostles at this time, not the full complement of twelve. Also, Joseph had likely died by this time.

John 2:1-11

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

2:2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

2:3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

2:6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

2:8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

2:9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom

2:10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

2:11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

I hope all my readers have a blessed Sunday.

We are now in the season of Epiphany, which takes us to Lent at the beginning of March.

The following readings are for the First Sunday after Epiphany — also known as the Baptism of the Lord — in Year C of the three-year Lectionary.

Themes are jubilation and rejoicing in God the Father for sending His Son to save us and bring us to life everlasting.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

We recall how God historically delivered His holy people from captivity, despite their many sins.

Isaiah 43:1-7

43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

43:3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

43:4 Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.

43:5 Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you;

43:6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth

43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Psalm

We rejoice in the Lord God, Creator of the universe and giver of life.

Psalm 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

The Apostles ministered to the Samaritans, half-Jews, whom the Jews of the time despised. St Luke wrote the Book of Acts, by the way. His Gospel account of Jesus’s baptism follows.

Acts 8:14-17

8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.

8:15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit

8:16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).

8:17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Gospel

John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Heaven opened, bringing the dramatic confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah.

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,

3:16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,

3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Several years ago, I read a Bible commentary that said that we are under no obligation to be baptised. It seems the author did not know his New Testament very well, because there are many references to baptism therein.

If Jesus was baptised, should we not follow His holy example?

In closing, a warning about baptism follows. Child baptism is very important. I know a number of people who returned to the Church in their later years. They raised families while they were not attending church.

Those who did not have their children baptised deeply regretted it.

Those unbaptised children did not want to be christened in their adulthood.

Not one is a believer, either.

I’m not saying that baptism is salvific in and of itself, but it is an important first step in belonging to a church community and, more importantly, is one of the two universally agreed upon Sacraments.

What follows are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas Day, December 30, 2018.

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

Emphases mine below.

The themes are priesthood and God’s rewarding His faithful.

First reading

This reading is about Hannah’s fulfilling her promise to the Lord of her son Samuel’s fulfilment of a life-long Nazirite vow. Only two others in the Bible did so: Samson and John the Baptist. Eli knew about Hannah’s profound desire for a child, which the Lord finally granted. Elkanah was Hannah’s husband.

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

2:18 Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy wearing a linen ephod.

2:19 His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

2:20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the LORD repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the LORD”; and then they would return to their home.

2:26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with the people.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the praise of those rejoicing in the Lord’s enduring love and mercy. The ‘horn’ in verse 14 is thought to refer to David, whom Matthew Henry wrote, was ‘a type of Christ’ for his people at that time.

Psalm 148

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epistle

St Paul exhorted the Colossians — and us — to be Christlike in all that we think and do. Even laypeople have a quiet ministry to accomplish for family, friends and neighbours.

Colossians 3:12-17

3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

3:13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

3:14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel

Here we have Luke’s description of our Lord’s visit to the temple as a 12-year-old, a good tie with the story of young Samuel’s ministry in the first reading.

Luke 2:41-52

2:41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.

2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.

2:43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

2:44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends.

2:45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

2:46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

2:47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

2:48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

2:49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

2:50 But they did not understand what he said to them.

2:51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

I am not sure why the Sunday after Christmas has ‘First’ before it, as the Feast of the Epiphany is on January 6. That said, some churches do commemorate the Second Sunday after Christmas, as happened in 2016, another Year C set of readings — and after Epiphany.

Of the Gospel reading, Matthew Henry’s commentary says that Mary and Joseph were confused by Jesus’s spending time in the temple. Henry says they understood him to be an earthly Messiah who would inherit his ancestor David’s throne. Interesting, to say the least.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauThe Fourth Sunday of Advent is on December 23.

Readings for Year C in the three-year Lectionary follow.

I am not sure how these are meant to be read, e.g. if Micah goes with the first reading from Luke and if the following three go together, so will just reproduce them as they are on the Vanderbilt Divinity Library. Emphases mine below.

The Old Testament readings prophesy Jesus.

The reading from Hebrews describes Jesus as the one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

The readings from Luke — Mary’s words — are known traditionally as the Magnificat, which used to be sung in the old Anglican (including Episcopal) liturgies. The longer version is at the end. Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was expecting John the Baptist at the time.

Micah 5:2-5a

5:2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

5:3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.

5:4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;

5:5 and he shall be the one of peace.

Luke 1:46b-55

1:46b “My soul magnifies the Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 80:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 10:5-10

10:5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me;

10:6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

10:7 Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”

10:8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),

10:9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

10:10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

1:39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,

1:40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit

1:42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

1:43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?

1:44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.

1:45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cannot imagine the jubilation that these two women shared at the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise not only to His chosen — but to the world.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauDecember 15, 2018 is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, because of its joyful themes in anticipating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

On Gaudete Sunday, a traditional celebrant will wear a rose vestment to symbolise joy.

I wrote about this particular Sunday at length last year. Readers might find the origin of Gaudete Sunday — and the earlier beginning of Advent centuries ago — useful:

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

This Advent, the beginning of the Church year, we are in Year C.

Most churches will probably only select one of the following readings — including the Epistle — followed by the Gospel.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Zephaniah foretells the deliverance of Israel and prophesies that salvation — via Jesus — is coming.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

3:16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.

3:17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

3:18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.

3:19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

3:20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

Second reading

The reading from Isaiah is similar to that of Zephaniah in that God will grant His faithful eternal salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 12:2-6

12:2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

12:4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

12:5 Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.

12:6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Epistle

Paul exhorted the Philippians to be joyful, as the Lord was with them. Verse 4 is the default recessional blessing in Anglican — including Episcopalian — services, a favourite of mine.

Philippians 4:4-7

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.

Gospel

The reading from Luke is about John the Baptist’s ministry in anticipation of Jesus, calling for repentance and charity, both of which characterise Advent.

Luke 3:7-18

3:7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

3:8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

3:9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

3:10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

3:11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”

3:12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

3:13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”

3:14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,

3:16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

3:18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Christmas nears. Joy increases in people’s hearts. The Christ Child is about to be born. The world will soon rejoice.

Below are the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018.

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

Last week’s readings were about the coming of Christ to Earth to save mankind and His Second Coming in judgement.

This week’s readings prophesy John the Baptist and Jesus.

There are two Gospel readings but the way they are arranged suggests two sets of readings. I am, therefore, just going to list everything as it appears at source, the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Emphases mine below.

First reading (Catholic)

Baruch is not in Protestant Bibles, therefore, this is for Catholic Mass. This imagery in this passage is so evocative that it is almost cinematic.

Baruch 5:1-9

5:1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.

5:2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;

5:3 for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.

5:4 For God will give you evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”

5:5 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them.

5:6 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.

5:7 For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.

5:8 The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command.

5:9 For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

First reading (Protestant)

This reading from Malachi prophesies John the Baptist and, above all, Jesus.

Malachi 3:1-4

3:1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

3:2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap;

3:3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.

3:4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Gospel (first choice)

This passage from Luke concerns the birth of John the Baptist and the prophecy of Christ Jesus. John’s father, Zechariah, spoke them after having been freed from a nine-month (at least) punishment of being deaf and mute for not believing the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child at an advanced age. (Up to then, she had been infertile.) At the child’s circumcision — also his naming ceremony — the judgement was lifted once Zechariah wrote the name ‘John’ on a slate. The choice of name for their baby was controversial, because others wanted him to be named Zechariah.

I do not understand why the Lectionary editors could not have included verse 67, which puts the rest into context. No wonder people don’t listen to Scripture readings:

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

Now on to the reading:

Luke 1:68-79

1:68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.

1:69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David,

1:70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

1:71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

1:72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,

1:73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us

1:74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear,

1:75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

1:77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.

1:78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,

1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Epistle

This is the beginning of a letter from Paul — who included Timothy in his greeting — to the Christians in Philippi. ‘The one’ in verse 3 refers to Jesus Christ.

As with the aforementioned passage from Luke, this reading would have been further enhanced if the Lectionary editors had included the first two verses to add context:

Paul and Timothy, servants[a] of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers[b] and deacons:[c]

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

On to the reading:

Philippians 1:3-11

1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you,

1:4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,

1:5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.

1:6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

1:7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

1:8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

1:9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight

1:10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,

1:11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Gospel

This is Luke’s account of the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry. Note that John repeats his father’s words, citing Isaiah (see above, Luke 1:76):

Luke 3:1-6

3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene,

3:2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

3:3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

3:4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

3:5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;

3:6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

These readings are beautiful in every way — the perfect inspiration for a great sermon.

Will you hear a great sermon tomorrow? I pray that you do.

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