July Commentaries

 

Sunday on July 3 - 9 (Proper 9)

 

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 66: 10-14

 

In Old Testament times, Jerusalem was known as “The City of Our God.” Well, that was true for a while, but slowly, with ups and downs, the kings of Judah led the people of Judah into apostasy. As we learned two weeks ago, God sent Isaiah to the Southern Kingdom, hoping that they would repent of their rebellion against God. In today’s reading, God pictures Jerusalem, the place where he was dwelling, as a mother providing comfort, nourishment, and peace to her child, in effect calling out to the citizens of Judah, “Come back to me so that I can bless you.” What God is saying, in effect, is that the people of Jerusalem, as well as those who love her, should rejoice in what God is offering to them: peace, the glory of the nations, comfort, prosperity. Could God be speaking of His Messiah? Could He be speaking to us today? ————————————————————————————————

 

Epistle Lesson: Galatians 6: 1-10 and 14-18

 

As St. Paul continues his discussion from last week, he now turns to examples of how we can express our love to one another. He first addresses the issue of when someone sins or makes a mistake, and you are right there to correct him/ her. St. Paul advises that you do it with gentleness, because next time it may be you who will need the correction. And how will you respond to that correction?

Next, St. Paul addresses the issue of support (financial or otherwise) for those who share the word of God. If we are stingy with our support because we spend it on our desires, God warns that we will reap what we sow. But then he also encourages us to continue to do good, even though we are wearied from lack of support or recognition; God does not want us to give up doing good because eventually he will provide and be our reward. He then notes that it is especially important to do good for those in our household of faith—those in our own church.

Finally, St. Paul notes that he speaks from experience since the persecution that he has suffered for Christ has left its marks on his body just as the persecution that Christ suffered left marks on his body. ————————————————————————————————

 

Gospel Lesson: Luke 10: 1-20

 

In chapter 9 of St. Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus sent out his 12 apostles to cast out demons, heal diseases, and proclaim the kingdom of God. In our lesson for today, Jesus sends out 72 others with the same instructions—in preparation for Jesus who is to follow. After providing additional instructions on how to conduct themselves, Jesus sadly notes that many will reject their ministry, but in doing so, those who reject their message will receive greater punishment than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus then identifies cities in Israel that had already rejected his ministry, including Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even Jesus’ home town Capernaum, and states flatly that they are doomed to hell. The bottom line is that, since Jesus was sent by his Father, those who reject whom Jesus has sent reject not only Jesus but also God the Father himself.

The lesson ends with the joy that the 72 had as they returned from a very successful mission, noting that even demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name. Recognizing the authority that Jesus had given to his followers, Jesus remarks that he saw Satan thrown out of heaven, probably indicating that with the completion of his mission, Satan would have no basis to appear in heaven to accuse the brethren (Revelation 12: 10); and no power on earth to deal with the believer who resists him (see James 4:7). Nevertheless, Jesus says that, rather than rejoicing over demons being subject to a believer, the believer should rejoice in having their name written in heaven. 

 

 

Sunday on July 10 - 16 (Proper 10)

 

As you all have probably surmised, the three lessons that are read each Sunday morning, generally have a common theme. You are all in for a treat today because, not only do we have an obvious common theme, we also get insight into God’s very nature, a nature that he desires would be the characteristic of every person who calls himself/herself a Christian. So how does this all begin?

 

Old Testament Lesson: Leviticus (18: 1-5) 19: 9-18

Epistle lesson: Colossians 1: 1-14
Gospel Lesson: Luke 10: 25-37

 

Within months after leading the Children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, Moses found himself facing God on Mt. Sinai in Arabia, where God gave to the Jews the Ten Commandments. But to ensure that everyone understood the meaning of the Ten Commandments (sometimes referred to as “The Law,” or as “Moses’ Teachings”), God gave hundreds of examples of what one should or should not do. Have you ever thought about why God found it necessary to do this? (pause) The Children of Israel had just been taken out of abusive slavery in Egypt, where they were taken advantage of at every opportunity. It would not be surprising to find that the Jews found this to be a normal way of life. But this was not God’s idea of an appropriate and pleasing way of life. So laws had to be laid down on how they interacted with others.

For example, in the first part of the Old Testament Lesson, God makes it clear that an owner does not reap his fields to the very corners, or gather up anything that has dropped. We see the value of this idea in the Book of Ruth. You remember this story: Naomi and her husband Elimelech migrate to Moab to escape a drought, where their two sons marry Moabite women. Then Elimelech dies, and shortly thereafter the two sons die. Since Naomi was not eligible for Social Security benefits yet, and life insurance had not been available, the three widows are left destitute. Ruth decides to accompany Naomi back to Judah at the end of the drought, where she sustains their lives by gleaning grain during the harvest. Thus the value of God’s wisdom.

Then God notes that we should never try to get revenge because that is His prerogative (Romans 12: 17-21). And God emphasizes that we should not even hold a grudge against someone (see also James 5:9). Why? God concludes this section of the Old Testament lesson with the words, “ . . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But what does love have to do with laws and rules? That is illustrated in the Gospel Lesson, where we find that the Law states that we will inherit eternal life if we love our neighbor as yourself. Furthermore, in our Epistle Lesson, St. Paul compliments the Colossians for demonstrating their faith through their love. But all of this becomes most clear when we remember St. Paul’s words to the Romans (13:9-10), where he states, “For the commandments . . . are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.”

This thought is incorporated into Jesus’s response to an expert in the law who challenged Jesus with the question, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ( Matt. 22:34-40) In other words, the entire Old Testament is an illustration of these two commandments, and how they are or are not observed.

What a different perspective of the Ten Commandments! So today’s lessons can be summarized in two words:

“love” and “compassion” 

 

 

Sunday on July 17 - 23 (Proper 11)

 

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 18: 1-10a (10b-14)

 

Let’s set the scene: When Abraham was 75-years old, God called him out of idolatry in Haran (now near the Turkish border with Iraq) to a land he was going to show him, the Promised Land. In that call were some promises, including

—he would become a great nation, and
—through him, 
every nation on the earth would be blessed,

the former referring to the nation of Israel, and the latter referring to the coming Christ. And Abraham chose to obey God, even though he did not know God. But it is now 24 years later, and there still is no son in sight (excluding, of course, the episode in which Sarah decided that God needed help in keeping his promises, and offered her slave Hagar to Abraham in order to produce a son). In the meantime, Abraham and his entourage have been moving from place to place in the Promised Land, to feed his growing flocks and herds, and living in tents because he had no permanent city here.

But one day, three travelers show up. Middle Eastern custom, to this day, demands that when travelers show up at a tent, they are to be offered the owners best hospitality. After all, they need shade, rest, food, and water. And since travelers were not common in those days, they could always be counted on to provide some news of the outside world. Besides, who knows who you might be entertaining? Perhaps this is why the writer of Hebrews penned the following:

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality
to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 
—Hebrews 13:1-2

Well, surprise! These were not just angels! They included the Lord himself, probably as the pre-incarnate Christ. But even at age 99, Abraham is up to the challenge, organizing a banquet for the three visitors now resting under a tree. Then Abraham waited on them as they ate. His reward came quickly: God told him that he would have a son within a year. Now, it would not be surprising if Sarah were eavesdropping behind her tent door, which she was. And when she heard God’s promise, she laughed to herself. At least that is what she thought. But God could hear even her thoughts, questioned why Sarah was laughing, and then asked, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Indeed, not!

 

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Epistle Lesson: Colossians 1: 21-29

 

As we continue reading St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we find him encouraging the Colossians to continue to make the right choices, choosing to obey God and to continue growing and maturing in the faith. He then notes that, as a witnessing member of the body of Christ, he continues to suffer for Christ’s sake but nevertheless rejoices that he is able to convey the message of the mystery of God. And what is this mystery? That Gentiles have the same inheritance as Jewish people do. Not only that, but they belong to the same body and share the same promise (Ephesians 3:6)!

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Gospel Lesson: Luke 10: 38-42

 

Jesus has just finished his discussion with a lawyer by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (the Gospel Lesson of last week), and is now on his way out of Jerusalem. Upon entering a nearby village, he is invited into the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha, who incidentally have a brother named Lazarus. Jesus takes the opportunity afforded him by these circumstances to teach to those in the house, and Mary listens raptly with the others. Martha, however, the consummate hostess, is focused on preparing food and drink to serve to the group, and she becomes frustrated because Mary is just sitting there, doing nothing. So she appeals to Jesus to have him instruct Mary to help with the serving. Now we all know that one of the characteristics of every Christian should be servanthood, serving others. Obviously, Martha has made the right choice. Or has she? Obviously, Jesus did not think so, because he chides Martha for being so concerned about earthly things when the right choice is being concerned about spiritual things. In this case, Martha was ignoring a rare opportunity to hear the Son of God himself teach in her own home. The circumstances called for a better choice. 

 

Sunday on July 24 - 30 (Proper 12)

 

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 18: (17-19) 20-33

 

Today’s Old Testament Lesson continues the story of last week, where we find the Lord and two angels—seeming to be three men—arriving at Abraham’s tent while on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah. Following Middle Eastern custom, Abraham has extended to them his best hospitality by means of water to wash their feet, a shade tree, and a sumptuous banquet. As the three men leave for Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham tags along for a while to be sure that they are headed in the right direction. It is then that the Lord decides to reveal to Abraham what his intent is. Abraham immediately recognizes with whom he is now talking, and also realizes what the consequences will be for his nephew, Lot, and his family, who are living there. And so Abraham begins to intercede by appealing to God’s mercy not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Little did Abraham know that Lot—at the same time—was interceding for the people among whom he lived:

. . . and if he (the Lord) rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard) . . . . 2 Peter 2:7-8

It would appear, then, that the lesson for today is that believers should be aware of their environment, looking for opportunities to intercede for their nation as well as other believers.

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Epistle Lesson: Colossians 2: 6-15 (16-19)

 

As St. Paul continues his letter to the Colossians, we find him encouraging the believers to be firmly rooted in the faith, warning them that the world would love to corrupt their understanding of the faith through politically correct thinking and tolerance. But then he explains the significance of two covenant acts: circumcision in the Old Testament, and baptism in the New Testament era. Circumcision is not just a removal of flesh, but a sign of the removal of the Old Nature. And in the New Testament era, water baptism is the process by which this circumcision takes place. Baptism spiritually buries us with Christ and then raises us from the dead with Christ. At the same time, God forgives us all our sins and wipes our record of sin (debt) clean by nailing them to Christ’s cross. Meaning that Christ bore our sins on the tree as well. Consequently, Christ has triumphed over Satan and his cohorts (“rulers and authorities”) for all time.

Then St. Paul clarifies the significance of some of the laws, rules, and procedures that characterized the Old Testament spiritual life, including passing on certain foods and drinks, or celebrating festivals or new moons, or denying oneself earthly needs or pleasures, or worshipping of angels, or claiming to have had certain visions. These now appeal to a sensuous mind but no longer are a part of one’s life in Christ. The former things were only a shadow of that which was to come; once the real thing has come, the shadow has no significance.

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Gospel Lesson: Luke 11: 1-13

 

Today’s reading finds Jesus praying. And when he finishes, one of his disciples asks him to teach them how to pray. This may come as a surprise to us since most of us assume that everybody who frequents a church knows how to pray. But the disciples are not talking about reading the prayers in the hymnal or the bulletin. They are talking about having a heart-to-heart talk with God himself. So Jesus takes advantage of this request to teach his disciples how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that can be used anytime, anywhere, because it covers in a general sense the things that we need to pray for. But then Jesus goes on to illustrate that God is even more interested in our specific needs—whether physical or spiritual—than any earthly being might be. He concludes this discussion by encouraging all believers to ask the Father to give the Holy Spirit to them. The lesson here is that we, as a congregation, among other things, could be interceding for our pastor, that God would pour out his Holy Spirit on him as he prepares to lead the congregation in worship. And also pray for the congregation, that it would have open minds and open hearts. 

 

 

St. Mary Magdalene (22 July)

 

Old Testament Lesson: Proverbs 31: 10-31

 

The Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, the wisest man that lived at that time. God had asked King Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, what he wanted most of all. When King Solomon responded with “discernment,” God was so pleased that he not only granted that request, but also added honor, power, fame, and wealth. That discernment gave rise to a wisdom that is staggering even today. The book of Proverbs was his way of passing on that wisdom to today’s readers.

The topic for this proverb is the characteristics of an excellent wife. What makes her a jewel? Solomon says a wife that can be trusted by her husband, who is there when she is needed and who supports and protects him throughout their marriage. In addition, she works diligently for her household, is astute in business matters, is responsive to the truly poor and needy, provides clothes and coverings for her entire family, and runs a business from home. As a consequence, she is respected by her children and husband, allowing him to achieve God’s plan for him and to be respected by friends, neighbors, and business associates.

Bottom line: charm and beauty may be great among the people of the world, but a woman who fears the Lord, and shows it in what she says and does, is truly worthy of praise.

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Second Reading: Acts 13: 26-31

St. Paul is on his first missionary journey, accompanied by Barnabas. Our reading finds them in the city of Antioch in Asia Minor, where they head to the synagogue to worship and to share the Good News when they are invited to share some words of encouragement. St. Paul is only too happy to oblige and starts out with a very concise history of the Children of Israel, and finishing that history with a concise history of Jesus’ ministry. He then notes that the Jewish rulers did not understand that Jesus was their Messiah and had him killed but that God had raised Jesus from the dead. St. Paul concludes that he and Barnabas were now bringing this message of salvation to them.

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Gospel Lesson: John 20: 1-2, 10-18

 

Mary Magdalene is a follower of Jesus who, during Jesus’ ministry, had seven demons cast out of her. She consequently becomes one of Jesus’ devotees and supporters, even staying with him to the end at the foot of the cross. Today’s reading finds her returning to the tomb on Sunday morning, to complete the burial process that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had started Friday evening. Upon arriving, she sees that the stone covering the mouth of the tomb had been moved, so she turns around to report to Peter and John her assumption that Jesus’ body had been removed. Peter and John verify that Jesus’ body is no longer there, and return to their homes. But Mary tarries, crying. And when she stoops to look through the opening to the tomb, perhaps to convince herself that Jesus’ body is no longer there, she is startled to see two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had lain. In response to their question of why she is weeping, Mary expresses her puzzlement of where Jesus’ body has gone, turns, and seeing a supposed gardener, asks him where Jesus’ body is. The supposed gardener, Jesus, simply speaks Mary’s name and she immediately recognizes him as her teacher and clings to him in joy. Noting that he still needs to ascend to the Father, Jesus asks Mary not to cling to him but rather go to his disciples to tell them the Good News, which she does. 

 

 

Sunday on July 31 - August 6 (Proper 13)

 

Old Testament Lesson: Ecclesiastes 1: 2 and 12-14; and Ecclesiastes 2: 18-26

 

Don’t you just envy those folks who have a big house, or a luxury new car every year, or those who go on weeks-long vacations every season? It has been said that, for Americans, one never has enough income to do what you want to do, no matter what your income level is. Another wag said it slightly differently: expenses rise to exceed income.

The Preacher, the author of Ecclesiastes, comments on this from a different perspective: why should one work like crazy to earn enough income to do all the things you want to do or buy the things you want to have, when your life will be cut short by heart disease or stroke, and someone else will get to spend all that you have earned? After all, what does one get from all that work besides grief and stress? King Solomon, who is the “Preacher” in this case, was given incredible discernment and wisdom by God and accomplished much. But his conclusion, after all his labors, was that we should content ourselves with whatever God has blessed us, and forget about striving after the wind.

Then again, Jesus gives us still a different perspective when he relates the story of the talents: God rewards us according to what we have done with what he has given us, not what he hasn’t given us (Matthew 25: 14-30). The issue, in other words, is our attitude toward what we have or don’t have, and what we do with what we do have.

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Epistle Lesson: Colossians 3: 1-11

 

In our epistle lesson, St. Paul addresses our attitude toward earthly things in a rather blunt way. As Christians, we are to be focused on furthering God’s kingdom rather than seeking earthly pleasures and treasures, which St. Paul identifies as covetousness—in other words, idolatry! St. Paul even goes on to say that common human failures, like anger, slander, obscene talk, and even lying, must no longer be a part of our life because we are now being renewed into the image of our Creator.

So St. Paul is admonishing us to examine our attitudes much more carefully to ensure that we have indeed put off our old self and replaced it with our new self in Christ.

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Gospel Lesson: Luke 12: 13-21

Today’s Gospel lesson finds Jesus being asked to arbitrate an inheritance.

Jesus calls it as it is: covetousness, and warns that the bottom line for one’s life is not how many toys one has when he dies, but rather how much treasure he has stored away in heaven by focusing on the furthering of God’s kingdom while he is alive. To illustrate his message, Jesus then tells the parable of a rich man who prospered so much in his profession that he built a larger home, made more investments, arranged for a line of liquid assets, bought an island, built a magnificent beach house, and bought a gorgeous yacht. What else was there to do but eat, drink, and enjoy life with his many new friends. But God called him a fool. Why?

Because after all this planning and work, God was going to require his soul at the appointed time, which was now. He was not going to eat, drink and be merry for even a day

 

 

St. James the Elder, Apostle (25 July)

 

First Lesson: Acts 11: 27 - 12:5

 

It has been a busy year. St. Peter has experienced a revelation after the Holy Spirit arranged to have him witness to the household of the Roman army officer Cornelius in Caesarea, resulting in God baptizing the entire household with the Holy Spirit just as the disciples were on the day of Pentecost. After Peter was called to Jerusalem for entering the house of a Gentile and baptizing them with water, the early Christian church was beginning to realize that God meant to save all people, not just the Jews, after St. James drew it to their attention. Subsequently, we find the church in Antioch growing by leaps and bounds. And when the prophet Agabus appears in their midst to predict a forth-coming worldwide famine, the Antioch church starts a collection to help the persecuted saints in Judea.

But then King Herod Agrippa I (grandson of King Herod the Great) discovers that he can please the Jews by persecuting the Christian church when he arrested St. James (the brother of St. John) and had him executed. So he followed that up by having St. Peter arrested and thrown into prison, guarded 24/7 by four squads of four soldiers each. Since Peter’s trial was scheduled after the Passover, the Christian church made earnest prayer to God for Peter’s return.

A lesson to be learned from history: When individuals and church bodies in the Christian church are experiencing persecution, the church should be making continual prayer to God for His intervention on their behalf. We cannot sit by passively, just hoping for the best.

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Epistle Lesson: Romans 8: 28-39

 

St. Paul continues his treatise on the persecuted Christian by assuring us that, if we love God and are following His will, then He will make any circumstance we face turn out for our good. After all, God has determined from the beginning of time (Ephesian 1:4) that true believers would be called for His purpose, justified by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and destined for eternal glory. But we need to remember that God the Father allowed His only Son to die for us after being falsely accused, but raised him from the dead and elevated him to the highest position in Heaven after the Father. Likewise, even though God is for us, we can expect to be falsely accused because of our witness, and even condemned.

But it is God who ultimately judges, and Jesus is interceding for us. Consequently, no one or anything can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus, whether it be tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, war, demonic rulers or powers, or anything in all creation. Again, we need to love, trust and obey God, no matter the circumstances!

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Gospel Lesson: Mark 10: 35-45

 

Continuing the ministry of Jesus as recorded by St. Mark, we find in today’s reading some insight into the thinking of those first disciples. These were disciples, not of some itinerant preacher but of the Messiah Himself! Yet there was plenty of opportunities for pride and arrogance to creep in. This is shown in today’s reading by James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, asking Jesus to put the two in the most prominent positions to Him in heaven, one seated on His right and the other on His left. Jesus’ response? “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus notes that those positions are reserved for those for whom they were prepared by God the Father, and the requirements demand a sacrificial giving of oneself on behalf of the Kingdom of God.

The response of the two disciples? Oh sure, we’re good with that. Jesus observes that they will indeed sacrifice themselves for the Kingdom, but then points out that it is not He who makes that decision of who sits next to Him in the Kingdom. Of course, the rest of the disciples are incensed that James and John were making an early pitch for the most prominent seats in heaven. Jesus then lays things out for all of them. Honor in the Kingdom of Heaven is not dependent on who is the greatest, but who is the most humble servant (for example, Moses is described by God as the most humble man on earth—Numbers 12:3). One does not strive to get, but to give! 

 

 

 

 

June Commentaries            Series C

 

Nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June)

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 40: 1-5

Isaiah, one of God’s prophets to the Southern Kingdom, or Judah, during the time of the Northern Kingdom’s spiral into obscurity, generally was responsible for carrying a message of required repentance. In today’s reading, however, it appears that Isaiah has been given a vision some 200 or more years into the future where the people of Judah are lamenting their captivity in Babylon. The words of Isaiah are words of comfort to the people from God because God is having compassion on his repentant people; their sin has been forgiven, they have been punished for their wickedness. Furthermore, God encourages his people to prepare a pathway for the glory of the Lord to again be seen, this time by all peoples. In order to facilitate the appearance of God on this pathway, highways should be made straight, valleys should be lifted up, mountains and hills should be leveled, and rough and uneven ground should be smoothed.

But how is this done? By the people repenting! ————————————————————————————————

 

Second Lesson: Acts 13: 13-26

St. Paul and his companions, Barnabas, and John Mark, have just started out on St. Paul’s first missionary journey. For some reason, John Mark left the group and returned to Jerusalem after they arrived in Asia Minor. Paul and Barnabas subsequently arrive in Antioch of Pisidia, where on the Sabbath Day in the synagogue, they are invited to bring a message of encouragement to the attendees. St. Paul could not have asked for a better invitation, so he arises and recounts the history of the Children of Israel from their time of slavery in Egypt to the conquering of the Promised Land, to the period of the judges until the time of Samuel when they asked for a human king in place of God as their king. St Paul then notes that their first king, Saul, was followed by David, from whose offspring a Savior was promised by God. That Savior St. Paul identifies as Jesus, the one for whom John the Baptist prepared the way by preaching a message of repentance. St. Paul concludes: our salvation has arrived!

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Gospel Lesson: Luke 1: 57-80

Let’s recount St. Luke’s history up to this point. The birth of John the Baptist was foretold to his father, Zechariah the priest, as he was performing his duty of burning incense in the Temple at the hour of prayer. Suddenly an angel appears to Zechariah and announces that his barren wife, Elizabeth will give birth to a son whose name is to be John and who will turn many of the Children of Israel back to God. Amazingly, Zechariah questions the message of the angel, to which the angel states that Zechariah will be mute until the time of the fulfillment of his message.

Six months later, the same angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary to announce that she will be the mother of the Promised Messiah. Mary accepts her assignment humbly but then hurries to her relative, Elizabeth, who immediately recognizes Mary as the mother of the Messiah, and whose baby leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the appearance of Mary, now pregnant with Jesus. The joy in the house is verbalized with Mary’s song of praise to God, which we know as the Magnificat.

Mary’s visit with Elizabeth lasts for three months, just as Elizabeth is ready to give birth. When she does, the relatives arrive to share in the joy and to be a part of the naming of this boy at his circumcision. But when the relatives want to name the boy Zechariah after his father, Elizabeth insists that his name is to be John, despite there being no relative with that name. Unwilling to accept Elizabeth’s choice, the relatives turn to Zechariah, who writes that the boy’s name will be John. And as the angel predicted, Zechariah immediately regains his voice. But then the Holy Spirit intervenes, filling Zechariah and prophesying through him that through John’ ministry, God’s promises of deliverance from their enemies will be initiated as he prepares the way for the coming Messiah, who will bring salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and light, the deliverance that they need the most.

 

The Visitation (31 May)

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 11: 1-5

Although Isaiah’s message generally was one of a cry for repentance so that God could restore the Southern Kingdom, today we find him introducing the Messiah as the “root of Jesse,” that is to say, King David’s father. He then describes what it will be like when Jesus reigns in men’s hearts.

He will be characterized by
—the Spirit of
wisdom and understanding, —the Spirit of counsel and might, and
—the Spirit of
knowledge and fear of the Lord.

In addition,
—his delight will be in the fear of the Lord,
—he will not judge with what his eyes see or his ears hear, but

with righteousness and equity; and —he will render justice to the wicked.

Righteousness and faithfulness will be the key characteristics of this Messiah. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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Epistle Lesson: Romans 12: 9-16

St. Paul here gives multiple recommendations for the behavior of true Christians, including

—abhorring any kind of evil,
—genuinely loving one another with
brotherly affection,
—serving the Lord
fervently,
—being
patient during tribulation, being constantly in prayer,
—giving your charity to the
needy saints,
—showing
hospitality,
—blessing those who persecute you (how contrary is this to your nature?) —empathizing with others, whether they are rejoicing or weeping,
—living in
harmony with others (especially within your own family!), and —not being haughty or thinking you are superior.

55

Feasts & Festivals Visitation

Even though our reading ends here, St. Paul adds a few additional thoughts, including

—living in peace with others (as far as it depends on you),
—not taking
revenge on others, but leaving that to God, and finally, —not surrendering to evil intent, but instead overcoming evil

by doing good. ——————————————————————————————

 

Gospel Lesson: Luke 1: 39-45 (46-56)

In the first part of Luke, chapter one, we have the recounting of the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to the priest Zechariah to announce the coming pregnancy of Zechariah’s previously barren wife, Elizabeth, who would bear the forerunner of the Christ, John the Baptist. Then we have the recounting of the angel Gabriel, six months later, appearing to Mary to announce that she will be the bearer of the Messiah, which assignment she humbly and obediently accepts. As our reading begins today, we find Mary setting out into the mountains to share this good news with her relative Elizabeth. What is truly amazing is that, as soon as Mary enters the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist, as a six-month-old fetus, recognizes the presence of Jesus in the now pregnant Mary, and leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. Immediately Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling her to recognize that Mary is pregnant with the Messiah, the Son of God. Elizabeth then praises Mary for believing what the angel told her and notes that Mary will be blessed for participating in the fulfillment of a prophecy made at the time of Adam and Eve.

Mary responds to these words with a song of praise which we know as the Magnificat, in which she praises and rejoices in God who chose her, a humble girl. She then continues to praise God by recognizing his holiness, his mercy, his strength, his justice in humbling the proud but exalting the humble, his providing for the poor and hungry but denying the rich, and his faithfulness in remembering the promise of a messiah that he had made to the fathers, including Abraham and his offspring.

What a glorious God we have! 

 

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (29 June)

First Lesson: Acts 15: 1-12 (13-21)

Paul and Barnabus just recently have returned from that first missionary journey to Asia minor. They are now in Antioch when some men from Judea arrive on the scene to straighten them out. No, they claim, faith is not enough. Every Christian (male) must also be circumcised—implying that the covenant that God made through Moses was still in effect. That is to say, the covenant that Jesus made with us through his blood sacrifice was not sufficient. One can almost imagine the fierce discussion that must have followed as Paul and Barnabas debated with them. Finally, the Antioch church decided to send a contingent to Jerusalem, where the issue could be decided by the apostles. And as they went through Phoenicia and Samaria, they shared the good news of salvation for the Gentiles as they went, bringing great joy to their hearers.

After their arrival in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas must have been shocked to discover that believers that still belonged to the Pharisees insisted that Christians not only must be circumcised but must keep all the laws of Moses. Then Peter got up and reminded them of what they had decided after Peter came back from that astounding episode in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10), where these Gentiles were baptized in the Holy Spirit just as the disciples were on the day of Pentecost. The assembly then became silent as Paul and Barnabas recounted all of the miracles and healings that Jesus had done through their hands during their missionary trip. Finally, James, the brother of Jesus and regarded as the head of the church in Jerusalem, got up and recounted a number of the passages in the Old Testament where God made it very clear that he, God, intended salvation for all peoples, not just Jews, right from the beginning. With that, the decision was clear that the old covenant had been replaced by the new covenant, but that the new Christians still needed to observe certain things, including

—staying away from anything polluted by idols,
—abstaining from sexual immorality, and
—not eating meat from strangulated animals (where the
blood was still present in the meat) or the blood itself.

It was a tremendous day where the freedom we have in Christ was confirmed.

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Epistle Lesson: Galatians 2: 1-10

Galatia was a large province in what is now central Turkey, through which Paul and Barnabas had preached during their first missionary journey. St. Paul now finds it necessary to write to them regarding what they now believe: that new Christians (males) have to be circumcised and must adhere to all the rules and customs laid out in Moses’ writings. Note that this letter was written before the meeting in Jerusalem that was described in our first lesson for this day. In the first chapter of Galatians, St. Paul establishes that he is an apostle called and instructed by Jesus himself, and it was only 14 years after his conversion that he went to Jerusalem to meet the other apostles. He took with him Titus, a Greek, who was not circumcised, and no objection was made to that until some false Christians came in to insist on circumcision. After further discussion, the apostles acknowledged that God had called St. Paul as a missionary to the Gentiles. Then Peter, James, and John offered St. Paul the right hand of fellowship, confirming his call to the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. They only asked St. Paul, to remember the poor, something that St. Paul had already been eager to do.

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Gospel Lesson: Matthew 16: 13-19

Jesus’ ministry has been plagued by two continuing obstacles:
—The
religious leaders fanatically oppose him because he doesn’t

accept their man-made rules and regulations.
—The
people are looking for a Messiah who will be a political and

military leader, overcoming the Romans and making the Jews the world’s superior people, which they are convinced they are.

In today’ reading, Jesus pauses with his disciples in order to find out directly from them what their perspective is on his ministry. This prompts Peter to blurt out his famous confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Jesus responds with the following statements:

—It is on this bedrock of faith and confession that He will be able to build His Church,

—The gates of hell will not be able to withstand the Church’s march to victory over the devil, the world, and even our own flesh.

—His disciples will be given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, keeping the doors locked for those who refuse to repent and believe (thus not having their sins forgiven), but opening the doors to those who repent and believe (thus having their sins forgiven).

The Bible text then adds, beyond our current reading, that, to the disciples’ amazement, he tells them not to tell others that he is the real Messiah, because the peoples’ expectation of the Messiah was for worldly gain, not for heavenly treasure. 

 

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

 

One way of looking at the lessons for today is to see that they all deal, in one way or another, with making choices.

First Lesson: Acts 1: 12-26

In our First Lesson, we find the disciples heading back to Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus. There they spend their time in prayer, waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which they would receive on the day of Pentecost. During this time of prayer, Peter is inspired to propose that a replacement for Judas be made. He then goes on to explain how Judas made his choices: after being selected by Jesus to participate in his ministry, he chose to be a traitor instead. And with the money that he received to betray Jesus, the chief priests bought a field to bury strangers. In the meantime, Judas had hanged himself, probably referring to an Old Testament method of hanging, that of impaling oneself on a sword.

But now the disciples make their choice, first of all selecting two candidates who had been with Jesus throughout his ministry. Then, casting lots (following an Old Testament procedure) for the one to be chosen, they choose Matthias. Much later, as you may recall, St. Paul gives different instructions to Timothy (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) on how to select pastors, a process that we use today.

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Epistle Lesson: Revelation 22: 1-6 (7-11) 12-20
The Epistle Lesson continues to describe St. John’s vision of Heaven, where we

find an angel initially pointing out

—the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month, —inhabitants of heaven will be able to see God’s face, and —God will provide the light, so no sun or moon will be needed.

Then Jesus makes an appearance, saying that he is coming soon to reward everyone for what he has done! Note that it is by grace through faith that we

 

3-Year Lectionary/Series C 7th Sunday of Easter

are saved, but our reward is based on our works (see James; also 1 Corinthians 3). Then an angel apparently interjects with the invitation to make the right choices, saying that the right choice entitles one to eat from the tree of life and drink freely of the water of life, but those who make the wrong choices —the murderers, adulterers, idolaters, sexually immoral, and those who make a practice of lying—will not enter the kingdom of God. Jesus again warns that he is coming soon—which could be either by our death or in his glory. And St. John joyously exclaims, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

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Gospel Lesson: John 17: 20-26

Our Gospel Lesson is an excerpt from Jesus’ so-called “high priestly prayer,” part of his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to his betrayal and arrest. In this prayer, Jesus prays not only for his disciples but also for all those who believe in him, from every era. In particular, he prays that all believers may be as one in him as he is one in the Father. And he further prays that all believers may be with him so that they can see his glory, the same glory he had before he became a human being. Finally, he prays that the love with which the Father loved him (Jesus) would be in each of these believers. Left unsaid here is that we have a choice: either to let God’s love grow in us or to center our love on ourselves. 

 

Holy Trinity Sunday

 

Old Testament Lesson: Proverbs 8: 1-4 and 22-31

We are all familiar with our own solar system, which consists of a star, our sun, around which circle several planets, including Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and so on. But to expand our horizons a bit, recall that our solar system is part of the Milky Way, that milky-looking band of stars that we see overhead at night. Did you know that there are up to 400 billion stars in our Milky Way? Each one apparently is the center of its own solar system. And each of these solar systems is revolving around each other. But the Milky Way galaxy is just one of as many as 500 billion galaxies, all with a similar number of solar systems as our Milky Way Galaxy and all revolving around each other in a process that keeps them all apart but yet in this perpetual motion that could be likened to a fine Swiss watch. How do they do all this?

Our Old Testament Lesson for this day gives us the answer: Wisdom. Here wisdom is personified as a woman who calls out to humankind to listen to her. But then she states that she was there at the creation of the world; that is to say when God carried out his work of creation, he made use of wisdom to control every aspect of it. ————————————————————————————————

 

Second Lesson: Acts 2: 14a and 22-36

Our second reading finds us continuing the story that we began last Sunday: the events of the Day of Pentecost. Today’s lesson reveals more of the sermon that Peter preached that day, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter accuses the men of Israel as the ones who crucified and killed their own Messiah, even though his works, signs, and wonders attested to God’s approval of him. This approval was further demonstrated by God raising Jesus from the dead, to which the disciples standing before the crowd were all witnesses. And finally, Peter points out that this pouring out of the Holy Spirit that the crowd is seeing and hearing is further evidence that Jesus, the one identified by John the Baptist as the baptizer in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3: 16), is both Lord and Messiah.

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Gospel Lesson: John 8: 48-59

In our Gospel Lesson for today, we find Jesus in a heated discussion with the Jews about who he is. The Jews accuse Jesus of being possessed by a demon, which Jesus denies and then states that he honors only his Father. What isn’t recorded here but in Mark 3:28 - 30, is that this statement of the Jews could qualify as the single unforgivable sin. Here, however, Jesus further points out that, although the Jews claim Abraham as their father (and, by inference, the Father as their God), they, in fact, do NOT know God the Father. Then Jesus makes a statement that causes the Jews to pick up stones to kill him because of alleged blasphemy: Jesus states that before Abraham was, “I am,” thus identifying himself as the great “I am” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3: 1-14)

 

The Day of Pentecost

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 11: 1-9

The lessons for today present a series of contrasts. In our first lesson, we see contrasts in the answer to the question, “Where did languages come from?” If one subscribes to the evolutionary hypothesis, we would agree with Darwin, who said, “I cannot doubt that language owes its origin to the imitation and modification, aided by signs and gestures, of various natural sounds, the voices of other animals, and man’s own instinctive cries.” In other words, language evolved from the gestures of nonhuman primates. Consequently, early language would be simple.

In contrast, in our first lesson, God states that it was he who created languages. And I think it would be fair to say that those languages would consist of more than grunts and gestures, in fact, might be rather complex. So which is it? When we search the internet for the oldest languages in the world, we find that they are among the most complex. Apparently, God is right. And this is in response to the idea that man proposes but God disposes of. In this case, we find the people focused pridefully on themselves, wanting to do something because they wanted to make a name for themselves.

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Epistle Lesson: Acts 2: 1-21

Our second reading finds us answering another question: How do we go about solving a problem, especially a societal one? If one has kept up with how society addresses this problem, we see the answer to this one: fund a major study, and then fund a broad-scale educational program. This, of course, will cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. This approach was used to address perceived societal problems that resulted in educational programs in our schools. The question is, how effective was that approach? Can we, by our own reason or strength, solve all of society’s ills? Even some churches believe that the programs they develop will fulfill Christ’s great commission.

 

The second lesson for today offers us a different perspective. Recall that the disciples have been with Jesus virtually 24/7 for the last three years, where they learned by word and example. Surely that would mean that they are prepared to carry out the great commission! They can depend on their own reason or strength. But what do we find? We see them hiding behind locked doors. And we hear Jesus telling them (in Acts 1, just before his ascension) to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism in the Holy Spirit so that they can receive power to be Jesus’ witnesses. And that is exactly what we discover in our second lesson: The disciples are now fearless witnesses, proclaiming God’s mighty works with such power that 3000 people believe!

A word of caution: many people fixate on a single aspect of this baptism in the Holy Spirit—tongues. In so doing, tongues become a stumbling stone to them, causing them to fail to recognize the real purpose behind this event: becoming a fearless and powerful witness.

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Gospel Lesson: John 14: 23-31

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus draws a distinction between those who love him and those who do not: the former keep his words, the latter does not. But then he speaks of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit, and tells his disciples that this is important for them because the Holy Spirit will do two things for them:

teach them all things
—bring to their
remembrance all that Jesus has said to them.

This is in addition and closely related, to their becoming fearless and powerful witnesses, as seen in our epistle lesson for today.

 

Sunday on June 19 - 25 (Proper 7)

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 65: 1-9

When a young woman wants to get the attention of a young man, what techniques might she employ? She might place herself where he is. For example, if he is in the choir, she might join as well. If he teaches Sunday School, she could be a teacher, also. And if he is in the library, studying for an exam, she might find a chair across from him to do her studying there as well.

In today’s Old Testament lesson, we find Isaiah, God’s prophet to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, describing a similar situation. In this case, the “young woman” might be pictured as God trying to get the attention of the “young man” Judah. In fact, God is going out of his way to be seen by Judah, holding out his hands in welcome, calling out, “Hey, Judah, notice me!” But not only does Judah not pay any attention, it does all the things that are repulsive to the God who is trying to get Judah’s attention. Judah’s rebellion against God is characterized by the worshipping of idols, of breaking God’s laws, and even of telling God to butt out because, in their opinion, their righteous deeds are better than the righteousness that God offers to them. They are going their way, doing their own thing. They know better!

Finally, God says that he can no longer tolerate this rebellion, and he will judge them and punish them for their sin. But God is careful to sort out those who do follow him from those who do not. He will not destroy this latter, but rather they will inherit what is his, and they will dwell in peace.

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Epistle Lesson: Galatians 3: 23 - 4:7

As we continue reading St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we find him today making the need for the Law analogous to the need for young children to have effective parents or guardians. If we did not have the Law, or parents or guardians, we would have a free license, with no concept of what is right or wrong, and without self-control. The purpose of the Law, then, is to help us learn what is right and what is wrong, leading eventually to our becoming functioning, mature adults, which in this case is represented by our coming to faith in Christ and living accordingly. During the time that we are maturing under the Law, we—as future heirs of God—are not unlike slaves: we have to be told what to do and what not to do.

But then St. Paul slips in something extremely important that we cannot miss: if we have been baptized into Christ, we are already sons of God through faith. It makes no difference whether we are Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. But then he says, if we are Christ’s, we are Abraham’s offspring. (And if we are Abraham’s offspring, we are Jew’s! As St. Paul says in Romans 2, a real Jew is not someone who satisfies the physical (or genetic) requirements, but someone who is one spiritually, one who like Abraham is approved by God through faith.)

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Gospel Lesson: Luke 8: 26-39

In our Gospel lesson, we find Jesus sailing with his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to its eastern coast. In retrospect, it might seem that the specific intent of this mission is to encounter a man who lives in a graveyard, naked, and doing crazy things. Amazingly, his strength is superhuman, not surprising since we quickly find out that he has thousands of demons living inside him. These demons immediately recognize Jesus as the Son of God. But this does not benefit them since Jesus casts them out of the man so that the man can live as God intended him to do. In the few hours that it takes for this news to spread to the nearest towns, and the townsfolk to come out to see what has happened, the man has sat at Jesus’ feet, absorbing every word that comes out of his mouth. But the power of Jesus is too much for the townsfolk, who demand that he leave. The man wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him that he has to stay so that he can tell everyone in the area what God has done for him. And that, folks, is a witness. Notice how little it takes to be a witness for God: just a recognition of what he has done for you. 

 

Sunday on June 26 - July 2 (Proper 8)

Old Testament Lesson: 1 Kings 19: 9b-21

Israel, also known as the Northern Kingdom, had as its idols for almost 200 years the golden calves made by Jeroboam, Israel’s first king (1 Kings 12: 20-33)—much to the disgust of God. But, many years after Jereboam, King Ahab, the one who married Jezebel from Sidon, introduced (again) the two fertility gods Baal and Asherah, with whose worship prostitution was an integral part. As a consequence, God sent Elijah to knock heads with King Ahab, the first time resulting in Elijah pronouncing a drought on the Northern Kingdom—as we learned 3 weeks ago. Three-and-a-half years have passed, with no sign of repentance on the part of King Ahab—or, for that matter, the Northern Kingdom. So God has Elijah challenge the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a face-off, which takes place on the top of Mt. Carmel. The 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah plead all day to have their gods burn their sacrifice, without success. But at the time of the evening sacrifice, when Elijah prepared his sacrifice and had it drenched in water, God answered with a fire that consumed not only the sacrifice but also the water and the stones of the altar. For the moment, then, the people agreed that the Lord was God, and, following God’s (Deuteronomy 13: 12-18 and 17:2-7) and Elijah’s instructions, killed the 850 prophets. The problem was, these were Jezebel’s personal prophets who ate at her table—courtesy of course of the taxes paid by the people. Jezebel, now furious, puts out a contract on Elijah, to have him killed within 24 hours. Elijah flees for Judah and arrives at its most southern major city, Beersheba, where he asks God to let him die. God’s response is to send an angel, twice, who fed him with bread and water, whereupon he is strengthened to travel 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Sinai in Arabia, the same mountain top where Moses met God face-to-face 600 years earlier. Here God confronts Elijah and gives him some assignments, And so our Old Testament lesson begins.

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Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5: 1 and 13-25

In this continuation of last week’s lesson, St. Paul now deals with an important concept: although we as Christians have been freed from the yoke of slavery to sin and the devil, this does not give us the right to exercise that freedom by sinning even more. The freedom given us through Christ’s death and resurrection is not for us to indulge the desires of our human nature; rather, it is to be used to serve one another. And this is done by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, a concept repeated to the Romans (13:8-10) by St Paul, and a concept not only stated by Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) but also understood by the Children of Israel at the time that God gave the Ten Commandments to them through Moses (Ex. 20:1-17). That is to say, love is the means by which we fulfill the Law (the Ten Commandments). Just so we fully understand what love is and what love is not, St. Paul provides a representative list of the works of the flesh, and contrasts that with a representative list of the fruits of the Spirit (i.e., the works of love).

And just as a reminder: what kind of love is St. Paul talking about? It is godly love, meaning sacrificial love for the benefit of someone else.

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Gospel Lesson: Luke 9: 51-62

In our Gospel Lesson, we find Jesus already preparing himself for the task of dying for the souls of all mankind: he sets out for Jerusalem. But we have to remember that travel is by foot, and so Jesus sends some of his disciples ahead of him to make appropriate travel arrangements. But we quickly see here that, just as the Jews despised the Samaritans, so also the Samaritans would have nothing to do with Jews—or anyone else who is headed for Jerusalem. James and John consequently are smitten by road rage and want to call down fire from heaven to get even. But Jesus quickly ends that thought with a rebuke.

As Jesus continues toward Jerusalem, he encounters people who claim to want to be part of his team. But Jesus cautions them to count the cost and warns that wanting to be on his team but procrastinating for personal wants or desires does not meet the requirement of commitment to proclaiming the kingdom of God. 

 

 

Sunday on July 3 - 9 (Proper 9)

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 66: 10-14

In Old Testament times, Jerusalem was known as “The City of Our God.” Well, that was true for a while, but slowly, with ups and downs, the kings of Judah led the people of Judah into apostasy. As we learned two weeks ago, God sent Isaiah to the Southern Kingdom, hoping that they would repent of their rebellion against God. In today’s reading, God pictures Jerusalem, the place where he was dwelling, as a mother providing comfort, nourishment, and peace to her child, in effect calling out to the citizens of Judah, “Come back to me so that I can bless you.” What God is saying, in effect, is that the people of Jerusalem, as well as those who love her, should rejoice in what God is offering to them: peace, the glory of the nations, comfort, prosperity. Could God be speaking of His Messiah? Could He be speaking to us today? ————————————————————————————————

 

Epistle Lesson: Galatians 6: 1-10 and 14-18

As St. Paul continues his discussion from last week, he now turns to examples of how we can express our love to one another. He first addresses the issue of when someone sins or makes a mistake, and you are right there to correct him/ her. St. Paul advises that you do it with gentleness, because next time it may be you who will need the correction. And how will you respond to that correction?

Next, St. Paul addresses the issue of support (financial or otherwise) for those who share the word of God. If we are stingy with our support because we spend it on our desires, God warns that we will reap what we sow. But then he also encourages us to continue to do good, even though we are wearied from lack of support or recognition; God does not want us to give up doing good because eventually he will provide and be our reward. He then notes that it is especially important to do good for those in our household of faith—those in our own church.

Finally, St. Paul notes that he speaks from experience since the persecution that he has suffered for Christ has left its marks on his body just as the

persecution that Christ suffered left marks on his body. ————————————————————————————————

 

Gospel Lesson: Luke 10: 1-20

In chapter 9 of St. Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus sent out his 12 apostles to cast out demons, heal diseases, and proclaim the kingdom of God. In our lesson for today, Jesus sends out 72 others with the same instructions—in preparation for Jesus who is to follow. After providing additional instructions on how to conduct themselves, Jesus sadly notes that many will reject their ministry, but in doing so, those who reject their message will receive greater punishment than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus then identifies cities in Israel that had already rejected his ministry, including Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even Jesus’ home town Capernaum, and states flatly that they are doomed to hell. The bottom line is that, since Jesus was sent by his Father, those who reject whom Jesus has sent reject not only Jesus but also God the Father himself.

The lesson ends with the joy that the 72 had as they returned from a very successful mission, noting that even demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name. Recognizing the authority that Jesus had given to his followers, Jesus remarks that he saw Satan thrown out of heaven, probably indicating that with the completion of his mission, Satan would have no basis to appear in heaven to accuse the brethren (Revelation 12: 10); and no power on earth to deal with the believer who resists him (see James 4:7). Nevertheless, Jesus says that, rather than rejoicing over demons being subject to a believer, the believer should rejoice in having their name written in heaven. 

 

St. Barnabas, Apostle (11 June)

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 42: 5-12

Isaiah was the prophet that God chose to speak to the peoples of the Southern Kingdom, or Judah, over the time period preceding and following the collapse and disappearance of the Northern Kingdom, from around 740 to 695 B.C. His ministry was to call the people to repentance and to assure them of God’s faithfulness in keeping His promise to give to them—and all mankind—a savior. Here is today’s lesson, God through Isaiah provides a description of that coming Messiah. Interestingly, in these first two verses, God delivers a prophecy about Jesus’ baptism: that the Holy Spirit will descend upon him. Thereafter follows a description of the nature of that Messiah: gentle, compassionate, righteous, bringer of justice, persevering.

But midway through the reading, God stops to give a description about himself: creator of the heavens and the earth, the giver of life to people. Then he lists what his purpose is in sending the Messiah: to call Jesus—to be the righteousness needed to redeem mankind, to give him as a new covenant for the people, to be a light for all nations, to heal the sick and disabled, to have compassion on prisoners. Then God concludes that he is now bringing new things, a new covenant, to life through that Messiah.

This prophecy, as we know, was indeed fulfilled with the arrival of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said just that when he returned to Nazareth on the Sabbath Day and, when he was given the scroll of Isaiah to read from, he turned to this passage, read it, and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. Luke 4:21.

Our reading for today ends with Isaiah calling for everyone and everything to praise the Lord and to give glory to God. Indeed!

 

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Second Reading: Acts 11: 19-30 and Acts 13:1-3

The church in Jerusalem has had a number of momentous years since Jesus’ ascension: Stephen was martyred, Saul was converted by the Lord on the road to Damascus, and Peter was sent to the household of Cornelius to preach to the Gentiles. And St. Paul (the former Saul) returned to his home town of Tarsus.

As was the case with Philip, who went to Samaria and brought that city to Christ, other believers scattered throughout the Middle East, sharing Christ as they went. As a result, the Lord brought many to faith, particularly in Antioch. So when the apostles in Jerusalem heard about Antioch, they sent Barnabas to them to encourage and teach the new saints. Who is Barnabas? Here he is described as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. But we hear of him earlier, in Acts 4, where the church was banding together to help one another. Here we find that Barnabas, a Levite and a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money to the apostles in order to help the needy saints.

However, getting back to our story, Barnabas is so effective in his teaching and exhortation that many are added to the church. So much so that he realizes that he needs help. Remembering that St. Paul is nearby in Tarsus, he goes there to bring him to Antioch to help with the teaching, which they do for a year. It was here that believers were called Christians for the first time. During this time, a prophet from Jerusalem, Agabus, came to Antioch and prophesied correctly of a coming worldwide famine. Consequently, the disciples in Antioch decided to send relief to the persecuted saints in Jerusalem, and Barnabas and Paul were selected to take it to Jerusalem to deliver it to the elders there.

Some time has now passed, and the church in Antioch has grown larger. In the middle of one of their worship services, the Holy Spirit calls Paul and Barnabas to go on a missionary journey. After fasting and praying, the church in Antioch sends them off with their blessing.

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Gospel Lesson: Mark 6: 7-13

Just prior to our reading for today, we find Jesus his home town. As was His custom, Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach. But remember, Jesus is now in his home town, where he grew up. People knew him as the carpenter’s son, Mary as his mother, and brothers James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, as well as sisters. So if Jesus grew up among them, how come He has such wisdom, and the power to do such miracles? In other words, why is He so special? They are certainly not going to be taught by this young whippersnapper! So what do you do when you don’t understand something or don’t want to understand something? You take offense at it. Prompting Jesus to note that a prophet is welcomed everywhere but in his hometown, among his relatives, and especially by his own household. As a consequence, only a few people had enough faith in Him to be healed of their illness, prompting Jesus to marvel at the extent of the unbelief present.

As our reading begins for today, we find Jesus using a different tactic: sending the inner twelve disciples, two by two, ahead of Him to more villages to prepare them for His arrival. Note that He gives them authority over demons, resulting in their casting out demons but also healing many diseases as they preached the coming of the Kingdom of God, calling people to repentance. Note also that Jesus’ instructions to His disciples included making their entire mission an act of faith—depending on God to provide through the generosity of others for their food and board.