26 September 2011

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22 - 2 October 2011


Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
or
Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:7-14

Philippians 3:4b-14
St. Matthew 21:33-46


                                                                                   
Background:  Baptism
None of the readings for today are in anyway related to baptism other than by inference, but I choose to comment on it due to the fact that we will be celebrating a Baptism at St. Mark’s on this particular Sunday.  Essential to this liturgy is the experience that the choir and I had while at Salisbury Cathedral in July of this year, where we participated in the baptism of several infants at the cathedral.  What struck me, and what ought to form the manner in which we baptize, was the stational nature of the liturgy that day, moving from the doors (where the candidates were signed and inducted into the catechumenate) to the lectern, where the Word was celebrated, to the Font, where the water was blessed and the children bathed and anointed, thence to the Altar for Eucharist and a first communion, and finally back to the Font for the gift of a lighted candle.  Journey.  How many of us think of baptism as movement, continuing movement through life, with moments to touch the water and remember.  Please pray for Greta Jane and her parents and godparents, as they begin a walk with us in Christ and the Spirit.

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

Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

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

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

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin."



The first reading from Exodus represents to us one of three different accounts of the Ten Commandments.  Deuteronomy 5:6-12 represents another version, and Exodus 34:11-26 represents a third form.  Not only are they represented differently in these accounts, but also we count them differently, depending on our tradition.  The Jews have their own enumeration, and the Greeks and the Reformed Churches (that includes us) have another.  The Lutherans and the Roman Catholics have a third. 

These “laws” come out of a long tradition of law making in the Ancient Near East, and we can remember earlier forms of these laws in the codes of Hammurabi, the Hittites, and Eshnuna.  The first three commandments, dealing largely with the relationship of God and the people, do not represent the earliest form of these codes, having been over-laid by later traditions.  The final seven are more representative of earlier writing.  They differ from the codes of the ancient world in that they are apodictic – “You shall not” rather than the usual casuistic form, “If you do this, then that will happen.”  The latter codes also represent a “natural law” (parents, property – adultery, good name, etc.) that is represented in older codes as well.

Breaking open Exodus:
  1. What are your feelings about the use of the Ten Commandments in civil religion?
  2. Which of the commandments is the most difficult?
  3. Which do you least understand?

Psalm 19 Caeli enarrant

The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,

Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.

In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.



If you have the time, compare this psalm with Psalm 8.  Both have similar beginnings, but then take different courses all together.  In this psalm we begin with the breathless beauty of creation, which renders the poet almost speechless.  It is a vision of images that suffice to tell the message, and yet “their voice goes out” to the end of the earth.  In verse 6 we seem to have either a borrowing or an imitation of an Egyptian hymn to the sun.  The words, “for the sun, he set up a tent,” still draws us back to the one God, but the succeeding verses are redolent of the Egyptian Aten, or the Greek Apollo.  At verse 8 we are off on a totally different track, so much so that some have suggested that Psalm 19 is really a compilation of two different psalms.  Here the theme is (ironically, especially in consideration of the “wordless” passages early on in the psalm) the word of God, and God’s teaching.  Perhaps this is a counter statement to the “sun god” of the previous verses, setting up YHWH as the one God, whose teaching is true.

Breaking open Psalm 19
  1. How does nature teach you?
  2. How does nature cause you to wonder?
  3. Does God either cause you to wonder, or to teach you?

Or

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
righteousness,
but heard a cry!



This reading is obviously chosen to match the themes of the Gospel, and does it well. In it First Isaiah takes a popular vineyard song, revealing the actual ancient viticultural techniques, and punches it up with a lesson for Israel.  The grapes that are planted are disappointing – they are wild and inedible.  They are Israel.  The focus now turns on what God will do and how God will discourage the bad growth.  There is a pun in the text that is difficult to understand in translation.  “…he expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness but hear a cry.”  “Justice” and “bloodshed” are words that sound similar in Hebrew, as are “righteousness” and “cry”.  One is expecting to hear the one, but experiences the other.

Breaking open Isaiah:
1.    How well does the image of Israel as a vineyard work for you?
2.    What are the patterns of mis-behavior in the life of Israel?
3.    What are the patterns of mis-behavior in your own life.

Psalm 80:7-14 Qui regis Israel

Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you cast out the nations and planted it.

You prepared the ground for it; *
it took root and filled the land.

The mountains were covered by its shadow *
and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
and its branches to the River.

Why have you broken down its wall, *
so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
behold and tend this vine; *
preserve what your right hand has planted.



It is a shame that the entirety of this psalm is not appointed for this day, because its beginning verses are so lovely.  The later verses are chosen because of the reference to the “vine” brought out of Egypt in verse 9.  The owner of the vineyard takes extraordinary pains to bring this vine from the nether regions to plant it in this new place.  Space is cleared, and walls are built up, but like the vine in Isaiah, the vine soon rebels, if you will, against the place in which has been planted.  It leaves the protective barriers, and becomes the food of wild beasts.  The psalmist recognizes the condition of Israel, and then asks God to tend to the vine.

Breaking open Psalm 80
1.     Have you ever been transplanted?
2.     Who took care of you?
3.     Did you make any mistakes?

Philippians 3:4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.




Again, we miss some defining passages that precede this reading from Philippians.  Paul is focusing in on the problem of forming the Christian community of both Jews and Gentiles.  Jews had the understandable habit of wishing to keep some of the old laws, and Paul is trying to dissuade them from their practices.  He begins with circumcision, comparing it to the mutilations of other religions and mysteries.  That is where we meet him in verse 4b.  He argues that if one is to count these as worthy before God, then he is more worthy than any of them, and then lists all the ways in which he is an Über Jew.  What is of value to Paul, and he hopes, to his audience as well is their relationship to Christ, and knowing Christ.  Paul suffers things that he might know Christ.  Nor is he complete in the process, but rather moves on, pressing to the goal.  Righteousness for Paul is not a completed work, but a hoped-for attainment worked on in relationship with God.

Breaking open Philippians:
  1. In what ways are you the best?
  2. In what ways are you not so good?
  3. How does God help you in either situation?

Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus said, "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.' So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time."

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures:

`The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes'?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.



We are well into Jesus’ Journey and Entrance to Jerusalem, and like the hearers, we are already aware of the outcome.  This parable, which is also found in Mark, uses allegory to teach its lesson.  It also uses the model found in Isaiah 5, in which Israel is seen as the “vineyard”.  We can surmise who the “landlord” represents if we can equally surmise who the “son” is.  The tenants seem to represent the tension that was part and parcel between a landowner and tenants – one of strife.  The slaves are the prophets.  The son is not a figure from the Hebrew Scriptures, nor is he John the Baptist.  Matthew wants us to view him as Jesus, the son who is slain.  The quote is from Psalm 118:22-23, and seems to be a bit of an interloper.  Its context is the acceptance of Gentiles into the church (a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom) and the rejection of Jesus by Israel.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. Do you agree with the allegorical assignments?
  2. Whom would you place in these roles.
  3. How much do you know about Jewish ritual and worship?
  4. What of this seems attractive to you?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



21 September 2011

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 21, 25 September 2011


Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm 25:1-8

Philippians 2:1-13
Saint Matthew 21:23-32



Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." The Lord said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"



The murmuring pattern continues in this continuing reading from Exodus, and in this story we see Moses as wonder-worker providing water for the complaining people.  Of interest is his comment, “why do you test the Lord?” while the people themselves are being tested as they move from Egypt to the Promised Land.  Once again, as if in an early instance of the Stockholm syndrome, the Israelites recall their stay in Egypt with a sense of fondness and longing.  The staff, which Moses carries, and which wreaked havoc on the Nile in the story about the river being turned to blood, now becomes the instrument of their salvation.  Two place names are given to the locale of this event, “Massah” (Testing) and “Meribah” (Contention).  In another version of this story (Numbers 20:13) on the name “Meribah” appears, although both are named again in Deuteronomy 33:8.  Another later incident related to this story will show Moses in an entirely different light.

Breaking open Exodus:
  1. What do you think the significance of the water is in this story?
  2. How is it connected to the Nile, or to the Red Sea?
  3. How is baptism a “testing”?

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 Attendite, popule

Hear my teaching, O my people; *
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable; *
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us, *
we will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD, *
and the wonderful works he has done.

He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers, *
in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

He split open the sea and let them pass through; *
he made the waters stand up like walls.

He led them with a cloud by day, *
and all the night through with a glow of fire.

He split the hard rocks in the wilderness *
and gave them drink as from the great deep.

He brought streams out of the cliff, *
and the waters gushed out like rivers.




The second verse of the psalm gives us a clue as to what we are about to experience.  The comment about the “parable” and the note about “mysteries of ancient times” identifies this psalm as a wisdom psalm, with concise units of expression that are united in a stream of remembrance, and unlike most wisdom literature, linked to ancient stories, here the incident at Rephidim (see the first reading).  The verses in our reading display such remembrances of God’s looking out for the people as they wandered the wilderness.  Later verses will recall Israel’s rebellious acts in spite of God’s unwavering and guiding hand.  Thus the events are put into a theological context and are not just simply remembered for their own sake.

Breaking open Psalm 78
1.     Do you have “old stories” that tell about God’s goodness toward you?
2.     Have you ever shared these stories?
3.     If not, why not?

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

The word of the LORD came to me: 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"? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 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.

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? 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. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 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?
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. 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? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.



Oddly enough, this reading engages the reading and psalm in the alternative series (see above).  Ezekiel recounts a popular theology of the situation that is commented on by the author of II Kings, and by Jeremiah, namely, that the exiles from Jerusalem were suffering for the sins of their parents, committed during the reign of Manaseh (son of Hezekiah, died ca. 642 BCE).  Ezekiel, however breaks from this theological point of view to argue that individuals are accountable for their sins only, not for the sins of their parents.  In this oracle, Ezekiel has God say, “I will judge you according to your ways,”  What follows is a call to repentance, and for a new creation, “Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit”.  There was indeed a new world in which these peoples were living, a world of exile and remembrance.  It seems that Ezekiel wants to tell the people that although what was happening to them seemed like death, it was not indeed death.  Death, he points out, is not God’s desire, but rather a regeneration: “Turn, then, and live.”

Breaking open Ezekiel
1.     Do you have sins for which you will not forgive yourself?
2.     Do you perceive sins of your parents that you will not forgive?
3.     How can you get beyond these stances?

Psalm 25:1-8 Ad te, Domine, levavi

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.

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

Show me your ways, O LORD, *
and teach me your paths.

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.

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

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.

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

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



This psalm is an acrostic, however two letters are missing, and one is doubled.  Judging from its didactic nature it seems to be a “wisdom psalm” (see also psalm 78, above).  Three distinct elements appear in the psalm: a) frequent references to YHWH (the Lord), b) notions of shame and supplication, and c) wisdom elements: “the way” and “to learn”.  There is no logic or argument here, but rather a series of statements that ask the reader to reflect on their position over against God.  This is not a static relationship, however, for God takes on the role of teacher and guide. 

Breaking open Genesis 50:15-21
1.     What paths has God made known to you?
2.     Have you followed them?
3.     How has God been your guide?

Philippians 2:1-13
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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




After sharing a series of values that Paul expected the congregation at Philippi to emulate, Paul turns to a new model, Jesus himself.  By quoting an ancient Christian hymn that betrays influences from IInd Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant, or from the Jewish wisdom movement that inspired ascetic communities during the Inter-testamental Period, Paul wants us to view the life of Jesus as not just as a series of events, but rather an orbit or cycle of intentional behavior.  Thus he leads us to see Jesus in the guise of both humiliation and exaltation, or of enslavement and being the master.  The humiliation is a conscious choice rather than the result of unfortunate living or events outside of our control.  Jesus becomes obedient “even to the point of death.”  This is an interesting point of view especially for we who live in a culture that denies death.  In this lesson to the people of Philippi, Paul preaches about the usefulness of humility, and is not ashamed to mention his own weakness and humility.  That such moments in life should not be seen as shameful but rather of good effect is the point of Paul’s recommendation of citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, where all of life is celebrated and seen as a model for others.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. Have you ever been humiliated?
  2. What happened?
  3. Were you raised up?  How did that feel?

Saint Matthew 21:23-32

When Jesus 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?" 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. 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?' But if we say, `Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." 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.

"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. 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. 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."



Although the ostensible topic seems to be about “authority”, Jesus will drive it deeper to a lesson about personal responsibility and truth-telling.  In this reading we have a rabbinic interchange about “authority”, but Jesus will not enter into the dialogue – there is richer material to be mined here.  He makes his point by not arguing about the value and worth of John the Baptist’s ministry, for that seems to be a dead end street.  Rather, through the use of a parable about two sons, one seemingly dismissive, and yet obedient, and the other seemingly obedient, but later dismissive, Jesus pushes the discussion to a point where the participants have to see their own intellectual and theological dishonesty.  It is a denial of the righteousness of John, and of not seeing the time of visitation.  Jesus seems to be reflecting Ezekiel’s exhortation regarding a new heart and a new spirit.


Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What part of the Gospel do you refuse to recognize?
  2. How will you wrestle with that?
  3. What is Jesus saying to you in this reading?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

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.