Hear the Spirit: Proper 21A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 21A in the RCL

September 27, 2020 | Pentecost ++17

From the Letter to the Philippians appointed for Proper 21A

Collect for Proper 21

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 234

Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32 NRSV

In the Hebrew scripture lesson the Lord insists that individuals are responsible for their own sins and that the people must now repent, no longer blaming their troubles on the sins of their parents

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 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”? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 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.

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

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.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? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Philippians 2:1-13 NRSV

Paul bids the new disciples to be of one mind in love, knowing how Christ Jesus accepted the condition of a servant and was obedient to the point of death. We now confess him as Lord and are called to an obedient working out of our faith.

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

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

Matthew 21:23-32 NRSV

In a response to a question about authority, Jesus tells a parable of two sons who obeyed their father differently, and he indicates that it is the same with those who are apparently obedient and disobedient in this age.

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

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.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 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. 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.”

Psalm 25:1-8BCP 614

Our Psalm Response is a prayer for forgiveness and guidance and an expression of trust in the Lord.

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O Lord, * and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, * for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.

5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.

6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; * remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.

7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.

Supplemental Material

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:6 NRSV

Two Prayer Responses to the text of Philippians

Eternal God, the light of the minds that know thee, the joy of the hearts that love thee, the strength of the wills that serve thee; grant us, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, so to love thee that we may freely serve thee, whose service is perfect freedom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Gelasian Sacramentary (7th century)

O gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive thee, intelligence to understand thee, diligence to seek thee, patience to wait for thee, eyes to behold thee, a heart to meditate upon thee and a life to proclaim thee: through the power of the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Attributed to St Benedict (480–543)

Source: Christopher Herbert, Pocket Prayers: The Classic Collection
(Pocket Prayers Series). Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Commentary on Philippians2:1-13. A Pastoral Perspective.

By Gilberto Collazo, Vice President for Missional Development and Operations, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Indianapolis, Indiana

The celebrated pacifist Mohandas Gandhi is reported to have said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He made this observation in the midst of his struggle for justice for a people in the face of the occupation of his native India.

We are called to be imitators of Christ, to live in a way that allows other people to see Christ in us. What is an imitator? There is a great difference between an impersonator and an imitator. Impersonators take great pains to make people believe they are who they are not. On the other hand, imitators are clearly aware that they strive to live up to the challenge of being a reflection of the person they look up to. It is so hard to walk in the footsteps of others. Many younger siblings for years wither in the shadow of an overachieving older sibling, who sets the standard so high that it is a constant frustration to try to be like him or her. We look up to those people in church whom we consider spiritual giants and wonder if we will ever be as spiritual as they appear. At work there is always that coworker who is the top salesperson, who makes us wonder if we really have what it takes to live up to those high standards, no matter how hard we try.

Deep down inside, many of us have the clear understanding that we will fall short of a perfect imitation. That is all right. Ultimately Paul’s admonition is not about impersonating Christ, but about adopting Christlike attitudes in all aspects of our life. When we try to live up to God’s standards on our own, we become impersonators. That is a tall order and an unrealistic expectation on our part, and it is not what God expects of us.

So then, what does it mean to be called a reflection of Christ? This is not a call to perfection but, rather, an invitation to be honest with ourselves and to understand that God is doing something unique and special in each and every one of us. This is God’s challenge for us to live in a manner that is counter-cultural. For example, when we face a national crisis such as a severe economic downturn, do we run around like Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling,” or do we reflect Christ by remaining calm and believing God’s promises of provision for our lives? When bad news reaches our ears, do we respond like those who live without faith, or do we reflect Christ by our reactions to the bad news?

For years as a pastor I accompanied many people through their death processes and then helped their families deal with grief and loss. Then it was my turn. I had just turned forty when I suffered my first significant loss. My father had terminal cancer and less than two months to live. The time for my test had come. Would I be a reflection of Christ and face this crisis with faith and peace, or would I give into the ranting, raving accusations against God that I had seen in so many of the individuals that I had accompanied through the loss process?

I did rant and rave. It is one thing to be on the outside looking in, and a completely different experience to find yourself directly impacted by the situation. In the midst of it all, I was able to recognize that God understood that I was human and was losing a father. Through the two final months of my father’s life, God worked in my life, as I allowed the divine presence to do so.

People saw my struggle. Even the members of my church understood I was working through something that was new and painful for me. I could have put on a happy face and hidden my sorrow, but that would have made me an impersonator of Christ. Rather, I admitted that I needed God’s presence in my life in a way I had not known before. I sought God’s presence in ways I had never done before. Some days, like Job, I sparred with God. Other days, I held a negotiation session. There were days when I had nothing to say, because I was so angry at a God who was taking my father, when there were so many others who really should have been called from this world. In the end, I was able to give my father over to God’s presence with tears in my eyes, but with peace in my heart. People would later comment on how I had been a source of comfort to them as they came to support my family and me.

Christian living is a process. God’s timeline for each one of us is unique, and only God knows what the final product is going to look like. We do not expect an instantaneous transformation of our life’s attitudes and actions, but rather an ongoing process of change that results from the ever-growing awareness of our need to be at a different place if we are to be true Christ followers. The process begins with our conscious decision to become reflections of Christ in our actions and reactions to life.

Can the world see Christ in us? Our imitation of him is not about being complacent and well behaved. As the United States deals with immigration issues, many churches have once again declared themselves to be sanctuaries for all who need a safe place. I see Christ in the actions of these faith communities. Allowing the world to see Christ in us means that we are willing to step up to our prophetic role in the world. Can people see Christ in you?

When times get difficult, when injustices are prevalent among the people, when a word of hope is needed, let us pray that all can see Christ in us—for that is our calling: to be imitators, and not impersonators, of Christ.

Source: Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).

Imitators, not Impersonators

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5)

From our Outline of the Faith

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?

A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

Q. What is the ministry of the laity?

A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.

Prayer for Vocation in Daily Work

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ~BCP 261

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 21A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Image: Communications Resources

Hear the Spirit: Proper 20A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 20A in the RCL

September 20, 2020 | Pentecost +16

From the Gospel appointed for Proper 20A

Collect for Proper 20

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 234

Jonah 3:10–4:11 NRSV

The Lord teaches Jonah a lesson when the prophet is angry because God is merciful to the repentant pagan city that Jonah has gone to great trouble to denounce.

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. 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. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 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.

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

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.” 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. 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?”

Philippians 1:21-30 NRSV

In this reading Paul tells the Philippians that he would prefer to be with Christ beyond death, but he recognizes that he still has good work to do in his earthly life.

21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 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, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

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, 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. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Matthew 20:1-16 NRSV

Our gospel is the story of the laborers in the vineyard, who are all paid the same wage despite their different hours of work.

[Jesus said to his disciples],1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 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?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 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.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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.’ 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? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Psalm 145:1-8 BCP 801

Our Psalm Response is a hymn of praise to the Lord, who is mighty in deeds yet tender and compassionate.

1 I will exalt you, O God my King, *
and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you * and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another *
and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty *
and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts, *
and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness; *
they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

Supplemental Material

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

MATTHEW 20:15-16

Commentary on Matthew 20:1-16. A theological perspective.

By Kathryn D. Blanchard, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Alma College, Alma, Michigan

Ancient theologians have read this passage allegorically, viewing those hired at different times of the day as representative of different generations of Israel, such as Adam, Moses, Abraham, and in the last hour, Gentiles. Others have interpreted the early workers as Christ’s original disciples (“Look, we have left everything and followed you,” Matt. 19:27) and the late comers as recent converts to Matthew’s congregation.1 In either case, what is primarily at issue is whether God behaves justly, particularly toward Israel and the (Gentile) church. Another theological question has to do with human potential to earn merit, typically addressed in terms of faith and works.

Matthew writes for a mixed congregation that includes both longtime Jewish Christians (who may have known Jesus personally) and others who have joined only recently, many of whom are Gentile converts. Regardless of the particularities of Matthew’s own congregation, he speaks to the abiding question of God’s relationship to Israel, as well as the perennial struggle between religious people who see themselves as doing the lion’s share of God’s work and those who do not seem to carry their weight. (The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–32 expresses a similar conflict.) Hard-working, “good” people have always asked: what kind of God would offer the same reward to those have earned it and those who have not?

The tradition has consistently answered: a just God. For this to be true, however, the workers must recognize the opportunity to work in the vineyard (whether it represents Israel, individual virtue, the church, or the cause of justice in the world) as a gift in itself. There is no room for human pride, since one’s only choice is either to answer the call to work in God’s kingdom, or to stand idle and waste one’s life altogether. God does not will that anyone’s life should be wasted, so God extends the invitation indiscriminately and repeatedly, in order to gather as many as possible into the vineyard. God shows no partiality among persons (Rom. 2:11; Acts 10:34); all are equally deserving—or undeserving—of the opportunity to work, so the reward for all workers is equal as well.

Despite earthly appearances of inequality with regard to who has “earned” a greater or lesser reward (Jews/Gentiles, longtime workers/latecomers), this parable makes clear that there is radical equality before God. Reward comes not from each worker’s individual merit, not from the quantity or even quality of their labor, but rather from the gracious covenant offered by the one doing the hiring. God promises and delivers but one reward for all—represented by a single denarius (basically enough for one’s “daily bread,” Matt. 6:11).

The upshot is that God’s people are (ideally) those who work in God’s vineyard simply because it is the good thing to do, rather than because they hope to earn merit. The other lectionary texts designated for this week reveal that grumbling against God has been the pastime of God’s people from the beginning (Exod., Jonah), but the Scriptures have consistently called God’s people to readjust their lenses and view God’s mercy as a gift (Pss.) of which they should strive to be worthy (Phil.).

Calvin’s discussion of the second part of Christian freedom can shed some light here. Those who serve God only because they wish to avoid punishment or obtain payment do so in the manner of a servant; whereas those who see working in God’s vineyard as a gift labor without coercion, in the manner of offspring who love and wish to please the parent, and are dedicated to the parent’s work.2 Those workers who feel they deserve better must be reminded of the master’s generosity in letting them work at all.

The conclusion to this parable, that “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (v. 16), echoes other parables (e.g., Luke 18:9–14) and foreshadows Jesus’ upcoming rant against holier-than-thou religious leaders in Matthew 23. The call here is to humility; it is an attempt to remind “those who now know the Gospel … who imagine they can teach and govern the whole world, and therefore imagine they are the nearest to God and have devoured the Holy Spirit, bones and feathers,” that their greatness is relative.3 Those who are first in the world’s eyes are not first in the eyes of God. Those who see themselves as the lowliest of all are the ones God will exalt on the last day (Matt. 23:12). Moreover, it is a reminder that all good things come from God, regardless of humans’ ability to earn them (God “sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous,” Matt. 5:45).

God’s people—both Israel and the new Israel—are those who work in the vineyards of justice from the moment they are called until the time for reward arrives. Some are specially blessed to hear the call early on; but if they experience this labor as a burden, the gift is lost on them. Others are blessed to hear the call just before it is too late; for them, the burden seems light and the reward comes before they grow weary. God’s standards of justice and value are consistently presented in both the OT and NT as alien to human standards, but God’s people are expected to behave according to these alien standards, neither demanding their rights nor begrudging others’ good fortunes. There is of course potential for abuse of such teachings, perhaps to uphold an unjust status quo in which oppressed persons are admonished to wait patiently for their reward, while those in power maintain their “first” status. It is clear that a responsible theological reading of this parable tends toward radical equality in the church, in which all are equally near to receiving God’s gracious reward.

SOURCE: Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 92–96.

1 Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 14–28, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament 1b (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 106–12.

2 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 837 (3.19.5).

3 Martin Luther, “Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday,” in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 1.1–2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 111.

Assumptions

How easily we can relate to the grumbling of the laborers who assumed that because they went into the vineyard early in the day, they would be paid more. Such dangerous assumptions can be in our closest relationships, within our work settings, within our congregations, within our national thinking. There is a saying, “Assumptions are planned resentments.” Whenever we assume anything, we set ourselves up for possible disappointment or even worse, as we set the other person, place, or thing up as the object of our disappointment, anger, or resentment. …It would be wonderful if these were the only assumptions we made:

—God loves me and all of creation deeply and profoundly.

—I and all others are made in the image of God.

—God’s generosity is beyond our wildest imagination.

—There is nothing I can do to earn or deserve God’s generosity.

How different our lives would be if we lived from those assumptions.

SOURCE: Charlotte Dudley Cleghorn, (Retired Executive Director, The Centers for Christian Studies, Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville, North Carolina) in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 94

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 20A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Image: Communications Resources

Hear the Spirit: Proper 19A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 19A in the RCL

September 13, 2020 | Pentecost +15

A generous forgiveness from the heart.

Collect for Proper 19

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.~BCP 233

Genesis 50:15-21 NRSV

In our Hebrew scripture lesson Joseph’s brothers fear his wrath upon learning of the death of their father Jacob.

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’ 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ 19 But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Romans 14:1-12 NRSV

In this reading Paul calls upon the Roman disciples to live with tolerance for one another’s scruples, recognizing that everything can be done to honor the Lord with whom each Christian has a relationship.

1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. 11 For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Matthew 18:21-35 NRSV

In the gospel lesson Jesus bids his disciples to offer a forgiveness which is, for all practical purposes, unlimited, and he tells a parable about a man who, although forgiven much, still himself had no mercy.

Note on Matthew 18:24
The servant owes roughly 150,000 years’ worth of wages—an absurdly insurmountable debt intended to shock Jesus’ listeners and pale in comparison to the much smaller amount demanded by the servant in v. 28. The Greek text’s reference to 10,000 talents represents the largest number used in ancient calculations and the highest monetary unit at that time (one talent was equivalent to 15 years’ worth of wages).

Source: John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 18:24.

Talent: a unit of silver equal to 6,000 Greek drachmae or Roman denarii. One talent was roughly equal to what a typical worker could make over a sixteen-year period. … In [Matthew 18:23–35], Jesus uses creative exaggeration to stress the incalculable difference between divine and human mercy. A servant owes his king (God) 10,000 talents (millions of dollars), a debt that is forgiven; but then the first servant does not forgive a fellow servant who owes him 100 denarii.

Denarius: a silver Roman coin that would have been the usual day’s wage for a typical laborer (plural, denarii). This is the most mentioned unit of currency in the NT. Jesus used a denarius as an object lesson for his teaching that one should give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor (Matt. 22:19); his disciples complained that 200 denarii would not buy enough bread for a hungry multitude (Mark 6:37).

Source: John W. Betlyon and Mark Allan Powell, “Money,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 651.

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Psalm 103:8-13 BCP 733

The Psalm Response is a hymn of blessing in thanksgiving for healing forgiveness and for all the Lord’s acts of compassion and justice.

8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us, * nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, *
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children, *
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.

Supplemental Material

“Forgive our sins as we forgive” Hymn 674 in Hymnal 1982

On Sunday, September 13th we’ll use the hymn “Forgive our sins as we forgive” after we’ve heard the reading from Romans and before we hear the Gospel passage. What follows is an essay by C. Michael Hawn, distinguished professor of church music at Perkins School of Theology. He is also director of the seminary’s sacred music program. Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church is a dependable online resource for study. I recommend the site. ~Fr. Dan

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Accepting and giving forgiveness may be one of the most important aspects of living. I believe that the Assurance of Pardon is one of the most significant parts of Christian worship: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!” These words may offer healing and hope for many in worship, even beyond anything else said or sung. Forgiveness is not only a personal way of living, but also an attribute of societies. How many times do we observe centuries of hate and hurt that, because of the inability to forgive, continue to fester and cause suffering, death, and destruction?

Portions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) have been cited in many hymns. For example, the militant missionary hymn, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” (United Methodist Hymnal, 569) echoes “Thy kingdom come on earth” in the refrain: “And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth.” Presbyterian hymnologist Louis Benson concludes his Communion hymn “For the Bread which You Have Broken” (United Methodist Hymnal, 614, 615) with the first petition, “let your kingdom come, O Lord.” Forgiveness has received less attention, however.

With “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” by Rosamond Herklots (1905-1987), we receive a full treatment of Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (KJV) Luke 11:4 states: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” “Trespasses” first appeared in William Tyndale’s translation in 1526 and was retained for use in the first Book of Common Prayer in English in 1549. The English Language Liturgical Consultation (1988), a group of ecumenical liturgists in the English-speaking world, proposed “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” A companion Scripture is Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (ESV).

The Companion to Hymns and Psalms (1988), the companion to the 1983 Methodist hymnal used in England, provides the origins of this hymn:

This hymn was written in June 1966 and printed soon afterward in the parish magazine of St. Mary’s Church, Bromley, Kent. The idea of the hymn had occurred to Miss Herklots when she was digging out weeds in her nephew’s garden; she reasoned that their deep roots, obstructing the growth of the flowers near them, resembled the bitterness and resentment that can become entrenched and hinder the Christian’s growth in grace.

Herklots’ language is potent in describing the blessings we miss when our “heart . . . broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart” (stanza two) In stanza three, she contrasts the “trivial debts [that] are owed to us” with “our great debt to [Christ]!”

The final stanza is a prayer of petition “cleanse . . . our souls” and “bid resentment cease.” Forgiveness leads to establishing “bonds of love” so that “our lives will spread [Christ’s] peace.”

Rosamund Eleanor Herklots was born in Masuri, India, in 1905 to missionary parents. She was educated at Leeds Girls’ High School and the University of Leeds in England. Working as a teacher and secretary, she began writing hymns in the early 1940s. She submitted hymns for the “Hymns for Britain” competition, two of which were selected to be sung on television. Her total corpus of hymns numbered more than seventy. Herklots died in Greenwich, London, in 1987.

British hymnologist J. R. Watson noted changes in the original text: “At some point after 1978, when an unauthorized inclusive language version was published in the USA, the author modified the third and fourth verses: ‘How small the debts men owe to us’ became ‘What trivial debts are owed to us,’ while ‘Then, reconciled to God and man’ was altered to ‘Then, bound to all in bonds of love.’” This is the version that appears in The United Methodist Hymnal.

I was in South Africa in 1998 during the presidency of Nelson Mandela. Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu presented President Mandela with the bound volumes containing the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I was sitting among a group of black and white Methodist ministers watching this historic occasion on television as Tutu referenced one of the many important revelations that took place during the process that the Commission hoped would lead to healing and hope for South Africa. At one point, Tutu recalled a black woman who asked him, “Who murdered my husband?” Tutu responded, “We do not know.” She was insistent, however, and continued, “I must know who killed my husband.” Again, the patient Tutu responded, “I’m sorry, but we may never know who killed your husband.” Still her question persisted. Finally, Tutu asked, “My dear lady, why must you know who killed your husband?” She responded simply and quietly, “So I can forgive him.”

There are many variations of this hymn on YouTube here are two:

Amazing Worship TV

drolas94

“Forgive our sins as we forgive” by Rosamund Herklots

1. ‘Forgive our sins as we forgive,
‘ You taught us, Lord, to pray,
But you alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say.

2. How can your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?

3. In blazing light your Cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew:
What trivial debts are owed to us,
How great our debt to you!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
And bid resentment cease.
Then, bound to all in bonds of love,
Our lives will spread your peace.

Text: Rosamund Herklots, b.1905, © Oxford University Press

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 19A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

“Forgive our sins as we forgive” on History of Hymns curated by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 18A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 18A in the RCL

September 6, 2020 | Pentecost +14

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10

Collect for Proper 18

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.~BCP 233

Ezekiel 33:7-11 NRSV

In our first lesson the prophet Ezekiel is like a watchman: it is his responsibility to warn the wicked, but it is the individual’s responsibility to stop sinning.

7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. 10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Romans 13:8-14 NRSV

In this reading Paul summarizes the heart of the law and urges a way of life in full awareness of the nearness of salvation

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. 11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 18:15-20 NRSV

Our gospel presents teaching about how to deal with sin and grievances within the Christian community.

15 Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Psalm 119:33-40 BCP 616

Our Psalm Response asks for the Lord’s guidance and promises to keep God’s commandments always.

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, *
and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *
I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments, *
for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees * and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *
give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, *
which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread, *
because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments; *
in your righteousness preserve my life.

Supplemental Material

Commentary on Romans 13:8-14.
A homiletical perspective.

By David Bartlett, Professor of New Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia

There is a great half truth that drives much of our theology and much of our preaching. The semi-truth is that gospel is one thing and law is something else entirely. Sometimes that is fair enough. Sometimes law drives us, harasses us, punishes us, and terrifies us. Grace accepts us, blesses us, redeems us, and encourages us. However, sometimes a more nuanced reading of Scripture suggests that law itself can be gospel, good news. Sometimes the biblical writer who affirms that most clearly is, of all people, the apostle Paul.

Here are three ways in which the law provides good news in this passage from Romans 13. First, these verses, like all the material in Romans 12–14, spell out the significance of the good news that Paul declares in Romans 1–11. The good news is that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory but that all are justified by grace (Rom. 3). The good news is that our faith will be reckoned to us as righteousness, just as Abraham’s was (Rom. 4). The good news is that in Christ humankind takes on a new identity and a new hope; Adam’s story is reversed, to the glory of God (Rom. 5). The good news is that, rightly understood, the law can be an invitation to daily faithfulness. Because of what God has done, is doing, and will do for us in Jesus Christ, we live with the possibility of genuine transformation.

There is a great line in Jean Anouilh’s play Becket where Henry II, entirely befuddled by Thomas à Becket’s new faith and by his new vocabulary, says to his friend: “Absurdly. That word isn’t like you!” Becket replies, “Perhaps; I am no longer like myself.”1

Romans 13:8–14 assures us that we no longer need be entirely like ourselves. It shows us a picture of the new persons we have become: loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. (A quick aside: a lot of contemporary therapeutic theory suggests that we need to love ourselves more, and no doubt there is something to that. Paul, being Paul, did not have much trouble with self-esteem; for him, the transformation was to be enabled to be as caring, enthusiastic, and proactive for other people as he quite easily was for himself.)

Second, in ways that we might not have imagined, Romans 13:8–14 shifts the burden of the law into a yoke that, if not exactly easy, is at least imaginable—almost within range. One reason law could be a burden in the first century, as in the twenty-first, is that law can multiply into laws—almost endlessly. On the days when we are even slightly scrupulous we can spend all day counting the ways our behavior might go wrong. In secular law something as relatively short as the U.S. Constitution gets interpreted and reinterpreted with reams of laws and reams of decisions on the meanings of the law.

Paul reverses the process: the multiplicity is transformed to unity. The law is condensed from its extended permutations to something quite solid, palpable, and near. See that neighbor? Love that person as you love yourself. Act out to the other the best intentions you would wish for yourself.

For further exploration

1 Corinthians 12:31–13:8

12:31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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. 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. 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. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends

From our Baptismal Covenant (BCP 305): Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? We will, with God’s help.

From our confession of sin (BCP 360) Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

This is one of the few places where Paul seems to echo the tradition that comes from Jesus himself, when Jesus gives the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31).

For further exploration

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34 NRSV

Remember that the Great Commandment is a twofold commandment—not really one, but not really two separable commandments either. One could suggest that Romans 1–11 spells out the first part of the commandment: “How do we love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength?” Clue: have faith in Jesus. Romans 12–14 shows the various ways in which we live out the second part: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

The summary is itself good news.

Finally, note how thoroughly the admonition to follow the law is shaped by Paul’s hope about what God is doing in history, about the last days. We live faithfully and lovingly in the present because God has promised faithfulness and love to us—beginning now, but consummated in the age to come.

This is hard stuff to preach because for most of us—whatever our other theological convictions—the hardships and blessings of the day seem sufficient to themselves. Yet Paul sounds again a great theme of the Christian tradition: the day of Christ has begun; the light is dawning. The law we now obey is the law that is appropriate to the new day in which we are about to live, to the new land we are about to inhabit.

When you preach these last verses, notice how the metaphors pile up: light/dark; day/night; drunkenness/sobriety. This would be a good Sunday to let metaphor carry some of the sermon. This text is not proposition but poetry—one picture of redemption after another, a collage foreshadowing the salvation that is to come, that impinges upon us even now.

“Dress appropriately,” says Paul, “for the great day coming”. “Put on the armor of God,” or in different words, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Quite likely the Roman Christians remember their baptisms, coming up from the baptismal waters wrapped in a white robe as a sign of their membership in a new commonwealth, a new family. Jesus Christ, in this passage, becomes God’s armor: his obedience enables our obedience. His mercy not only forgives our trespasses; it fortifies us against temptation.

Paul ends the passage a bit anticlimactically. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh,” he writes (v. 14). By “flesh” you will remember he does not simply mean the usual suspects: gluttony, drunkenness, and selfish sexuality. “Flesh” for Paul represents all the devices and desires by which we try to fortify ourselves—not with Jesus, but against Jesus and against our neighbor. “Make no provision for the flesh” means “By God’s grace turn from your self-absorption.” It paraphrases and sums up the whole law: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 39-43.

1 Jean Anouilh, Becket, trans. Lucienne Hill (New York: Riverhead Books, 1995), 102.

Source: Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). Proper 17A. Find this resource On Amazon.

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 18A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 17A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 17A in the RCL

August 30, 2020 | Pentecost +13

Jesus said, “…those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25. We have a choice to make.

Collect for Proper 17

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 233

Jeremiah 15:15-21 NRSV

In this first reading Jeremiah complains to the Lord about the pain and difficulties of his mission. He then receives God’s answer.

15 O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult. 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. 17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. 20 And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. 21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Romans 12:9-21 NRSV

In this lesson Paul exhorts the disciples in Rome to live lives full of Christian dedication and virtue, overcoming evil with good.

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 16:21-28 NRSV

In the gospel reading Jesus teaches Peter and the other disciples that the way of his ministry and theirs is the way of the cross.

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?:

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Psalm 26:1-8 BCP 616

The Psalm Response is a plea for justice by one who serves the Lord well.

1 Give judgment for me, O Lord, for I have lived with integrity; *
I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.

2 Test me, O Lord, and try me; *
examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes; *
I have walked faithfully with you.

4 I have not sat with the worthless, *
nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers; *
I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, *
that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving *
and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 Lord, I love the house in which you dwell *
and the place where your glory abides.

Supplemental Material

Definitions

Christology. The theological study of the person and deeds of Jesus.

Ecclesiology. The branch of theology that is concerned with the nature, constitution, and functions of a church.

Soteriology. The branch of theology dealing with the nature and means of salvation.

Eschatology. The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind.

Ethics. A set of principles of right conduct.

Commentary on Romans 12:9-21.
A homiletical perspective.

By David Bartlett, Professor of New Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia

The first rule of preaching on a text from Paul is to decide what part of the text should serve as the sermon’s focus. Paul may have been able to pack Christology, ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, and ethics into one paragraph—but woe to the preacher who tries to pack all of that into one sermon.

Romans 12 is especially full. Paul has spent eleven chapters assuring the Romans that God’s justifying grace is extended to Jews and Gentiles alike. Now with Romans 12:1 begins the great “Therefore.” Here are the implications of God’s grace for the way in which we live our lives, as individuals and as communities of faith.

The injunctions simply pour forth. In the text for this Sunday a minimalist count discovers twenty-three separate imperatives. Even the most enthusiastic advocate of lectio continua would probably not dare spend twenty-three Sundays discussing the implications of Paul’s imprecations.

Here are some suggestions for focusing the sermon.

First, notice that all these injunctions are presented in the service of right worship. Romans 12:1 is the topic sentence for the chapters that follow. “Therefore … present your bodies as a living sacrifice … which is your spiritual [or “reasonable”] worship.” Our verses provide concrete applications of the call to right worship. In a time when we love the term “spirituality,” we note that for Paul right worship is both “reasonable” and “bodily.” Right worship is intellectually reflective and practically active. One way to preach the text would be to look at a few of Paul’s instructions and see the way in which they encourage ethical perspicacity and compassionate energy. “Hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (v. 9). Much as we might wish that the distinctions between evil and good were immediately and intuitively clear, we know that this is a call to us as individuals and as church communities to think together about the complicated ways in which good and evil are at work among us.

Then a few verses later Paul gives a closely related example of how we worship bodily, actively: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.… if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink” (vv. 17, 20). This is a tough injunction when we are dealing with enemies close at hand—that annoying person in the neighborhood, that recalcitrant elder at church. It is even harder to help the congregation think about how we embody love for the enemy when our whole political system seems to depend on identifying those whom we should fear and even those whom we should hate. What on earth would it mean to feed the Taliban or give Al-Qaeda something to drink? When can Christians think of public policy not just as prudential self-protection but as an expression of what we owe God—right worship?

Second, it would be possible to present Paul’s commands as a way of fleshing out Christ’s call in the Gospel text for today. In contrast to the purveyors of the “gospel” who tell us that God is in the business of handing out material rewards for our faithfulness, in Matthew Jesus reminds us: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). There is an honorable tradition of asceticism as Christian discipline: giving up the self in poverty and chastity. There is also an honorable tradition of giving up the self and taking on the cross in the concrete actions of the everyday world.

Paul’s instructions give us guidance for that kind of daily self-sacrifice: “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are” (v. 16). This is a model for a cross-shaped life and also for a cross-shaped church. In our churches there is a temptation to let the social structures of the larger world shape the social structures of the community. Notice how the welcome of new members in the service or in the church bulletin dwells in greater length on our delight in having the pillars of the community than on our delight in welcoming those who are barely making it. In your sermon, help your congregation think about the ways in which your church elections and church social events encourage or discourage that kind of harmony. Church fundraising dinners at the country club send a signal; the excited whispering when the president of the university shows up for worship sends a signal too.

A third option for a sermon would be to reflect on the complicated injunctions about the enemy in Romans 12:19–21. In part, Paul’s instructions are theocentric and eschatological. The reason we do not show our wrath is that wrath is God’s business. The reason we do not work vengeance now is that vengeance will come in its own good time. This kind of deeply theological advice can sound not very nice in a world and a church often loudly in favor of niceness. Yet Paul’s claim helps deliver us from the dilemma of saying that we are not to be vengeful because nothing really matters; after all, all of us mess up from time to time, so why pick on that particularly egregious offender? Our willingness to avoid vengeance is partly our trust that God is God, and if justice is due, justice will be done. God will overcome.

On the other hand, and practically in the same breath, Paul talks about our own overcoming of evil with good. Surely this was part of the deeply faithful strategies of Mohandas Gandhi and of the American civil rights movement. Positive nonresistance is not acquiescence; it is struggle on terms that we do not let the opposition define. We will overcome.

Of course, we are still left puzzling over how it might be that being kind to our enemies “heaps burning coals on their heads” (v. 20). Perhaps the congregation will not notice when we leave the exposition of that verse out of the sermon. If they ask why we avoid that tricky text, we can quote the other verse that best explains our strategy: “Do not claim to be wiser than you are” (v. 16).

Source: Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). Proper 17A. Find this resource On Amazon.

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 17A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 16A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 16A in the RCL

August 23, 2020 | Pentecost +12

Spirit with Sevenfold Gifts

Collect for Proper 16

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232

Isaiah 51:1-6 NRSV

Through the Prophet God bids his people to listen for his voice, pursue righteousness, and seek him.

1 Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. 3 For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. 4 Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. 5 I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.

Romans 12:1-8 NRSV

In this lesson Paul urges the Christians in Rome to devote themselves to God’s service and to recognize that with different functions they are all members of one body. Instead of dead animals, they are to offer themselves as living sacrifices. Their way of life is to be quite different from worldly standards. So will they know the will of God. All are to live in humility, realizing that they have their various gifts through God’s grace.

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV

In our gospel Peter realizes that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus then sees Peter as the rock foundation for his church and gives to him the keys of the kingdom. The passage helps us to recognize that during Jesus’ lifetime and afterward there was speculation about his role. Some saw the Son of Man as a kind of reembodiment of John the Baptist or another prophet. Simon is renamed Peter (which means rock), for on him and because of this revelation the church will be built, although Jesus’ messiahship must be kept secret for the present. To Peter are given the keys to open or shut the gates of the kingdom and so to make judgment.

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Psalm 138 BCP 793

A hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord on high, who has saved God’s servant and cares for the lowly.

1 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; *
before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your Name, * because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name * and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me; *
you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord, *
when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the Lord, *
that great is the glory of the Lord.

7 Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; *
he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; *
you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
your right hand shall save me.

9 The Lord will make good his purpose for me; *
O Lord, your love endures for ever;

Supplemental Material

Commentary on Romans 12:1-5

By N.T. Wright1

William was coming to the end of his first year as chairman of the company when I met him at a lunch.

‘How’s it been going?’ I asked.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it’s been wonderful in several ways. The company is doing well and I’m proud to be part of it.’

‘Why only several ways?’ I asked, picking up the implied hesitation in the way he had answered.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve only just realized what my problem has been. Everybody in the company has a clear idea of how they want the chairman to act, what sort of meetings they think they need, and so on. I’ve done my best to make my number with everyone. I’ve gone out of my way to learn the procedures they have in place. But I’ve figured out now that I’ve gone too far. I’ve let their expectations dictate the shape of my work, of how I spend my time. I now need to turn that inside out. I have my own ideas of what we should be doing, and from now on I’m going to set the pace.’

Now, of course, a wise executive will want to listen carefully to those who know more about the company than he or she does. To this extent the picture doesn’t quite fit what Paul is saying. But it does in the all-important point: his appeal now is that we should refuse to let ‘the present age’ squeeze us into its mould, dictate to us how we should think and indeed what we should think, and tell us how we can and can’t behave. Instead, we are to be transformed; our minds need to be renewed. We have to set the pace ourselves, and work out what sort of people we should be. The basis for this is not what the surrounding culture expects of us, but what God in his mercy has done for us.

One of the key phrases here is ‘the present age’ (verse 2). In Galatians 1:4 Paul calls this ‘the present evil age’. Like many first-century Jews, he believed that world history was divided into ‘the present age’, characterized by rebellion against God and the corruption and death which result, and ‘the age to come’, in which God would give new life to the world and humankind, bringing justice, joy and peace once and for all. Part of the point of Paul’s gospel is his belief that this ‘age to come’ had already begun in Jesus, and supremely in his death and resurrection.

Christians are therefore in the position, not (to be sure) of a new executive learning the job, but of someone who needs to stop letting the world around dictate its own terms and conditions, and who instead must figure out how to think, speak and act as is appropriate not for the present age but for the new age which is already breaking in. Christians are called to be counter-cultural—not in all respects, as though every single aspect of human society and culture were automatically and completely bad, but at least in being prepared to think through each aspect of life. We must be ready to challenge those parts where the present age shouts, or perhaps whispers seductively, that it would be easier and better to do things that way, while the age to come, already begun in Jesus, insists that belonging to the new creation means that we must live this way instead.

The key to it all is the transforming of the mind. Many Christians in today’s world never come to terms with this. They hope they will be able to live up to something like Christian standards while still thinking the way the rest of the world thinks. It can’t be done. Paul’s analysis of human rebellion against God in 1:18–32 included a fair amount of wrong thinking. Having the mind renewed by the persuasion of the spirit is the vital start of that true human living which is God’s loving will for all his children.

This, after all, is a way of growing up to maturity. People sometimes suggest that living a Christian life means a kind of immaturity, since you are guided not by thinking things through for yourself but by rules and regulations derived from elsewhere. That isn’t Paul’s vision of Christian living. Of course there are plenty of firm boundaries. He will have more to say about them presently. But at the centre of genuine Christianity is a mind awake, alert, not content to take a few guidelines off the peg but determined to understand why human life is meant to be lived in one way rather than another. In fact, it is the way of life of ‘the present age’ which often involves the real human immaturity, as people simply look at the surrounding culture, with all its shallow and silly patterns of behaviour, and copy it unthinkingly.

For Paul, the mind and the body are closely interconnected, and must work as a coherent team. Having one’s mind renewed and offering God one’s body (verse 1) are all part of the same complete event. Here Paul uses a vivid, indeed shocking, idea: one’s whole self (that’s what Paul means by ‘body’) must be laid on the altar like a sacrifice in the Temple. The big difference is that, whereas the sacrifice is there to be killed, the Christian’s self-offering is actually all about coming alive with the new life that bursts out in unexpected ways once the evil deeds of the self are put to death. (To get the full picture, we need to see the several ways in which this passage stands on the shoulders of others like 6:1–14 and 8:12–17.) Christian living never begins with a set of rules, though it contains them as it goes forwards. It begins in the glad self-offering of one’s whole self to the God whose mercy has come all the way to meet us in our rebellion, sin and death. Within that, it involves the renewal of the mind so that we are enabled both to think straight, instead of the twisted thinking that the world would force upon us, and to act accordingly.

One of the first things that Christians need to get their minds around—and one of the things that will have an immediate impact on the way we live—is the call to live as different members of a single family. Paul has already warned the Roman Christians against thinking too highly of themselves (11:25). Being loved unconditionally by the creator God makes you quite special enough without imagining that your family membership or civic background can make you any more so! Now he warns them again that they are to regard themselves, not as the ‘premier-league’ Christians while people in other places or from other backgrounds are in a kind of second rank, but as simply various limbs and organs of the one body which also possesses many others.

This is one of two famous passages (the other one being 1 Corinthians 12) in which Paul uses this image of the body with its limbs and organs in order to stress that the church is a unity made up of quite different members. ‘One body in the Messiah’; that is the way he puts it here, in verse 5. The Messiah is the truly human being, as well as being ‘God over all’ (9:5); those who are ‘in him’, members of his ‘body’, form God’s renewed humanity. In other words, the picture of ‘body and members’ isn’t simply an illustration at random. It is designed to speak of the new human life which the church is to live and model before the world.

This is one of those points where we begin to detect something of Paul’s wider purpose for the church, which will become more and more apparent as the next chapters go on. People sometimes suppose that the ‘theological’ part of Romans is finished with chapter 11, and that what we have from here on is simply ‘practical’ teaching. Paul is seldom as unsubtle as that. (In any case, there has been a lot of ‘practical’ or ‘ethical’ teaching already in the letter, as we have seen in chapters 6 and 8.) Rather, the appeal for church unity, which will be spelled out in more detail in chapters 14 and 15, grows directly out of everything Paul has been saying throughout the letter about the coming together of Jew and Gentile in the Messiah.

That unity is not simply based on a general belief that everyone matters. It is based, as we saw in chapter 3 and 4 (and in Galatians 2, 3 and 4), on the fact that Christians all have the same faith. God has given each Christian the same faith in Jesus as the risen Messiah and Lord. However different people may be, in temperament, background, calling and ability, all Christians share this faith, and it is the ground of their unity and co-operation.

This is a lesson the church of our own day needs to learn afresh. The world around us loves to force us into disunity. We must once more be transformed by having our minds renewed, not least through the self-offering of worship. That way, as we learn the lessons of unity, we may perhaps discover how to put them into effect.

Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2: Chapters 9-16 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 67-72

1 Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948), known as N. T. Wright or Tom Wright, is an English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian and Anglican bishop. He was the Bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland until 2019, when he became a senior research fellow at Oxford University. –Wikipedia entry N.T. Wright

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 16A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Wright, Tom. Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2: Chapters 9-16. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004.

Image: Unidentified, may have been made by Hardman and Co.. Spirit with Sevenfold Gifts, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55828 [retrieved August 18, 2020]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/5827717752/.

A Service of Readings and Prayer 8.16.20 – Proper 15A

This is the online/on-demand service for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (August 16, 2020)

Please join us on the Way (any time and anywhere via the internet) as we hear what the Spirit is saying in the appointed scripture readings, offer prayers for others and for ourselves, and join in singing (at home) for spiritual nurture and for God’s glory.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.

View or download the Service Bulletin

More of the story is posted on the Wind in the Pines blog maintained by St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church in Idyllwild, CA. View the post.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 15A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 15A in the RCL

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

August 16, 2020 | Pentecost +11

Collect for Proper 15

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. ~BCP 232

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 NRSV

In our opening lesson the Lord exhorts the people to do what is just because the time of righteous salvation is close at hand. The temple will be a house of prayer for all nations. This vision of hope emphasizes the outgoing aspects of Israel’s faith. Historically it deals with the fact that after the exile certain non-Israelites had come to live in Jerusalem and serve in the temple. The passage sets the conditions for their participation, but also looks beyond to a day when many peoples will worship the God of Israel.

9 1 Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 NRSV

In this reading Paul sets forth his belief that God plans to bring Jews as well as Gentiles to salvation. This apostle to the Gentiles continues to wrestle with a difficult question: why is it that so many of Jesus’ own people have not accepted him as the Christ? God has not rejected the Jewish people who were foreknown, yet now Jews and Gentiles are equal in that all have been disobedient to God. In the next step the Jewish people will see the mercy shown to the Gentiles and want themselves to share in it in their own way.

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Matthew 15:[10-20], 21-28 NRSV

In our gospel Jesus teaches that the thoughts and intentions of the human heart are paramount. Jesus warns against such blind guides preoccupied with externals. He then travels beyond the boundaries of Israel to the territory of Tyre and Sidon and encounters a Canaanite woman who beseeches him to heal her daughter. The first Christians were unsure whether they were to offer the faith to non-Jews, and the give-and-take in this story may reflect that uncertainty. Jesus sees his own mission as confined to Israel, but the woman’s faith causes him to give her the bread she asks for. Symbolically it is the saving food of the gospel which heals her daughter.

[10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And her daughter was healed instantly.

Psalm 67 BCP 675

A prayer for God’s graciousness and saving power, and a bidding of praise by all people for God’s justice and bounty.

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, * show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth, * your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, * for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase; * may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing, * and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Supplemental Material

Music unquestionably heightens emotional experiences. Can one imagine watching an epic film without its sound-track? Spiritual experiences are similar: the music enhances the liturgical drama of a particular moment in the service or season. The worshipper is moved by what he or she hears, and—consequently—feels.

Matthew Hoch in Welcome to Church Music & The Hymnal 1982

When we can again worship in person we may not (for health and safety reasons) be able to sing together. In the quiet of the coronavirus, let us pay attention to the hymns we used to and one day will sing together. I invite you to sing at home. Sing when at work. Sing when at play (or even at rest). In our Service of Readings and Prayer this Sunday we’ll use 2 hymns celebrating and giving thanks for God’s inclusive grace and love—what we hear in our readings. Feel the words of scripture. ~Fr. Dan

IN CHRIST THERE IS NO EAST OR WEST

John Oxenham, 1852–1941

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

One of the clear teachings of the Bible is that the gospel does not presuppose the superiority of any race or culture. In the past, missionary endeavor has too frequently imposed “our” culture on others while spreading the gospel, often putting native believers in bondage to another culture rather than to Christ and the Scriptures alone.

Written in 1908 by the noted English writer, John Oxenham, this missionary hymn text was part of a script for a pageant at a giant missionary event sponsored by the London Missionary Society’s exhibition, The Orient in London. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people viewed this presentation. It was continued from 1908–1914 both in England and in the United States.

An interesting account of the impact of this hymn relates an incident during the closing days of World War II when two ships were anchored together, one containing Japanese aliens, and the other American soldiers, all waiting to be repatriated. For an entire day they lined the rails, glaring at one another. Suddenly someone began to sing “In Christ There Is No East Or West.” Then another on the opposite ship joined in. Soon there was an extraordinary chorus of former enemies unitedly praising God with these words:

In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love thru out the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts ev’rywhere their high communion find; His service is the golden cord close-binding all mankind.

Join hands then, brothers of the faith, whate’er your race may be; who serves my Father as a son is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West, in Him meet South and North; all Christly souls are one in Him throughout the whole wide earth.

Words from “Bees in Amber” by John Oxenham

Source: Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996) [January 25]

THERE’S A WIDENESS IN GOD’S MERCY

Frederick W. Faber, 1814–1863

But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15 KJV)

A wealth of truth about the depth of God’s love and mercy is expressed simply but eloquently in this choice two-line hymn text written by Frederick William Faber in the middle of the 19th century. In addition to being known as a man with unusual personal charm, persuasive preaching ability, and excellent writing skills, Faber made his most lasting contribution with the 150 hymn texts he composed during his brief life of 49 years.

Frederick Faber had an unusual spiritual journey. Raised as a strict Calvinist, he strongly opposed the Roman Catholic Church. After education at Oxford, he became an ordained Anglican minister. Gradually, however, he was influenced by the Oxford Movement, which stressed that Anglican churches had become too evangelical—with too little emphasis on formal and liturgical worship. Eventually Faber renounced the Anglican State Church, became a Catholic priest, and spent his remaining years as Superior of the Catholic Brompton Oratory in London.

Faber had always realized the great influence that hymn singing had in Protestant evangelical churches. Determined to provide material for Catholics to use in the same way, he worked tirelessly in writing hymns and publishing numerous collections of them. In 1854 the Pope honored Frederick Faber with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his many accomplishments. Today we are still grateful for this memorable declaration of the boundless love and mercy of our God to all mankind:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good; there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word; and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord.

Source: Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996) [June 9]

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 15A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Matthew Hoch. Welcome to Church Music & The Hymnal 1982. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2015.

Image: Limbourg, Herman de, approximately 1385-approximately 1416; Limbourg, Jean de, approximately 1385-approximately 1416; Limbourg, Pol de, approximately 1385-approximately 1416. The Canaanite Woman asks for healing for her daughter, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55920 [retrieved August 12, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Folio_164r_-_The_Canaanite_Woman.jpg.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 14A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 14A in the RCL

Peter’s rescue from the Lake Galilee, 1925
Mural in Cathedral of Maria Saal by Herbert Boecki (1894-1966)

August 9, 2020 | Pentecost +10

Collect for Proper 14

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232

1 Kings 19:9-18 NRSV

The reading from the Hebrew Bible tells how God is made known to Elijah—not in wind, earthquake, or fire—but in a still small voice. In a mood of depression the prophet retreats to Mount Horeb. But the Lord gives him a new mission and a promise that there will be a remnant in Israel who will not worship the false god Baal. Although God is known in a word of revelation rather than in the awesome events of nature, these happenings can also be seen as harbingers of God’s presence.

9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Romans 10:5-15 NRSV

In this lesson Paul teaches that the word of faith is a gift; by it we make our saving confession that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Without God’s grace the way of righteousness would be impossibly distant. But the faith that leads to righteousness is in our hearts and the confession of salvation is on our lips. This is true for all people, no matter what their background, and so it is essential that the Good News be carried far and wide, that all may call upon the name of the Lord.

5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say?

“The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 becauseif you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV

The gospel is the story of Jesus’ walking on the water and his rescue of Peter after his faith fails him. The narrative has several levels of meaning. In legendary terms Jesus is like the Creator God who strides over the watery chaos monster. Matthew’s gospel stresses this revelation of Jesus’ close relationship with God, as God’s Son, and the importance of faith on the part of the disciples. A church beset by its own problems and lack of faith would be glad to perceive in this story the saving presence of its risen Lord.

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Psalm 85:8-13 BCP 709

The psalmist both celebrates and prays for the Lord’s gracious favor, forgiveness, deliverance, and justice.

8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Supplemental Material

when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. —Matthew 14:30-32

The Gospel story for this Sunday lends itself to reading the Bible as Jesus did. Intrigued? Read on. ~Fr. Dan

Midrash

The best way in which a Christian can interpret Scripture is to do so as Jesus did! It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Yet, ironically, this has not been the norm for most of Christianity. So, what does it mean to read the Bible as Jesus did?

Jesus approached the Hebrew Scriptures with the assumption that God had been dialoging with humanity since the beginning. He used the Jewish practice of midrash as a way of participating in this dialogue. Midrash is a method of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, by questioning and imagining a multitude of possible interpretations. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader to transformation, instead of resisting change by latching onto one final, closed, and certain interpretation. This open-horizon approach was common for most of the first 1300 years of Christianity, where as many as six levels of interpretation and numerous levels of truth were perceived in any one Scripture text.

The traditional forms of midrash demand both a prayerful approach and scholarly familiarity with the Bible and commentaries which have formed the tradition over the centuries. However, it is possible for someone who is not a biblical scholar or theologian to get a sense of the practice of midrash.

The following practice, drawn from Teresa Blythe’s book 50 Ways to Pray, offers an interactive experience with the Bible through openness, contemplative attitude, and critical thinking. This practice invites us to trust that God will meet us where we are and will take us where we need to go as we consider the meaning of the text. We could engage in this dialogue often, even with the same text, since there will always be more discoveries about the meaning(s) of sacred texts.

Dialoguing with Scripture:

Choose one of the following Scriptures for reflection:

Choose Matthew 14:22-33 (or one of Richard Rohr’s suggestions here)

  • Exodus 1:8-22 — The Hebrew midwives fear God
  • Exodus 18:13-27 — Jethro’s advice to Moses
  • 1 Samuel 3 — The call of Samuel
  • Mark 9:14-29 — Jesus heals the afflicted boy
  • Luke 8:22-25 — Jesus calms a storm (see p. 6 of handout)
  • Luke 10:29-37 — The good Samaritan

Read (or listen to) your selected Scripture passage slowly. You may want to read (or hear) it more than once.

Consider which character in the story you would like to interact with. It could be a person you find agreeable, or a person with whom you want to question or debate. Who are you drawn to? When you decide on a character, write the name at the top [of a piece of] paper.

Hold an imaginary conversation—on paper—with the character in the story. You may want to stick with the theme of the Scripture and talk about that, or you may want to discuss other topics. It is completely up to you. Let your imagination roll free and see what transpires. (20 minutes)

When you are finished, read your dialogue out loud.

What is it like to have a conversation with a biblical figure? Why did you choose the character you chose? Did anything in the conversation surprise you? Did anything in the conversation move you? Did you feel any inner blocks to doing this sort of exercise? Did you feel the presence and guidance of God in the dialogue? What did you learn about yourself as you engaged this biblical figure? How easy or difficult is it for you to have these kinds of imaginary conversations? How useful would you say such conversations are for you?

End your reflection time with a prayer of gratitude for what you experienced.

Tip—You don’t have to be an excellent writer to enjoy this exercise. No one but you has to read what you’ve written. Just write from the heart and imagination. [1]

Source: Daily Email Meditation from Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr Meditation: Church: Old and New: Weekly Summary on November 1, 2019.

[1] Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 17-18.

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 14A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

Image: Boeckl, Herbert, 1894-1966. Peter’s rescue from the Lake Galilee, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57448 [retrieved August 6, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maria_Saal_Herbert_Boeckl_Fresko_27102006_Ausschnitt.jpg.

Hear the Spirit: Proper 13A

The readings for Proper 13A Track 2 in the Revised Common Lectionary

Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Listen. What do YOU hear the Spirit saying in these readings?

Collect for Proper 13
(August 2, 2020)

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232

Isaiah 55:1-5 NRSV

In this reading we hear how the return from exile will be a time of prosperity and abundance when God’s covenant will be renewed. The prophet pictures the great day: for a people who have been near death there will be food and drink without cost. God’s covenant with David is to be extended to all Israel, and other nations will come to see her glory.

1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Romans 9:1-5 NRSV

In this reading Paul expresses his anguish and sorrow that so many of the children of Israel, the people especially favored by God, have not found the Lord’s promise. To them belong the covenants, the law, and so much else. From their nation Christ himself came. Paul would go to great lengths, even see himself an outcast, if such would help Israel to know its salvation. Later in this letter Paul tries to explain how this all may be part of God’s plan of redemption, which in the end will include Israel with the Gentiles.

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV

Our gospel is the story of Jesus’ feeding of over five thousand persons. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus seeks a time of retreat. The crowds, however, follow him, and he has compassion on them. The narrative suggests many levels of meaning. It recalls Old Testament stories, especially God’s feeding of the Israelites with manna in the wilderness, and points forward to the legendary banquet at the end of time where Christ the King will preside. The abundant miracle illustrates Jesus’ lordship; he is intimate with the powers of creation. Other themes associated with the Eucharist are close at hand.

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 BCP 802

A hymn of praise to the Lord, who is mighty in deeds yet tender and compassionate.

8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The Lord is loving to everyone *
and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The Lord is righteous in all his ways * and loving in all his works.

19 The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; *
he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The Lord preserves all those who love him, *
but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; *
let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

Resources

View or Download the Proper 13A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.