10 October 2017

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23, 15 October 2017

Track One:
Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Track Two:
Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23

Philippians 4:1-9
St. Matthew 22:1-14

Background: Ancient Wedding Feasts

Unlike contemporary weddings, where the banquet follows the ceremony and the consummation of the wedding is a private affair, often totally unassociated with the legalities of the wedding, ancient wedding feasts followed the legal or contractural rites and the consummation of the wedding. Of course, these ceremonies and rituals occupied several days. The wedding feast was in the home of the groom, to which the bride and groom, accompanied by their companions, moved in procession following the consummation of the marriage in the chuppah room. Both the feast and the consummation were celebrated by those invited to the marriage ceremonies. It was the end of the rites, not the center of the rites.

Track One:

First Reading: Exodus 32:1-14

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!< The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

There is a difficult situation that lurks just below the surface of the experience expressed in this pericope. One is the absence of the leader, Moses, and the perceived absence of the God who made for the spectacular miracle at the Sea of Reeds. What becomes evident beyond this is the persistence of the polytheistic culture in which these people have lived for a long period of time, Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us.” God’s appointed, Moses, is absent as well as God’s own presence. There is need for a leader in this wilderness, and neither seems evident, and so other options are sought. The calf that Aaron fashions is not the god itself that Israel sought. As was the manner in most ancient near eastern religions, the calf (or bull) represented the throne of the diety, not the god itself. We will see this again when the ark of the covenant is crafted, with the cherubim serving as the throne of YHWH. What is clear, however, is that the people have moved away from the God who brought them out of Egypt. Aaron thinks that he has made a throne for YHWH and we hear this in his proclamation, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.”  The people, however, have a much different idea, an idea that incurs God’s wrath. Moses argues against their destruction, for it would diminish God’s glory seen at the Sea of Reeds. He furthers the argument by citing the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God relents.

Breaking open Exodus:
1.      When have you experienced an absent leadership?
2.      What did you do about that?
3.      What were your options?

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 Confitemini Domino, Et fecerunt vitulum

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
for his mercy endures for ever.
2      Who can declare the mighty acts of the Lord *
or show forth all his praise?
3      Happy are those who act with justice *
and always do what is right!
4      Remember me, O Lord, with the favor you have for your people, *
and visit me with your saving help;
5      That I may see the prosperity of your elect
and be glad with the gladness of your people, *
that I may glory with your inheritance.
6      We have sinned as our forebears did; *
we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
19    Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb *
and worshiped a molten image;
20    And so they exchanged their Glory *
for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.
21    They forgot God their Savior, *
who had done great things in Egypt,
22    Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham, *
and fearful things at the Red Sea.
23    So he would have destroyed them,
had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, *
to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

The psalm is a rehearsal of events that follow on the experience at the Sea of Reeds. However it is really more than that, the elided verses reviewing history well beyond that of the golden calf and into the history of Israel’s dalliance with the ba’alim. You might want to read the entire psalm so as to see how often Israel went down the path of forgetting the Lord.

Breaking open Psalm 106:
1.     What have been your golden calves?
2.     Who called you back to God?
3.    How did you make your return?


Track Two:

First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9

Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Once again we see God active in human history. Here Isaiah sees God as a protector of the poor and needy, but also a God challenging and putting down the power of Israel’s enemies. Beginning at verse six we see a heartening vision – a banquet “for all peoples.” The full extent of the prophet’s meaning in citing “all peoples” is not easily discerned. At the least it is for the believers, both Jewish and not, who have come to accept and to worship the God of Israel.  Perhaps others who have been discouraged by the power of Israel’s enemies are included here as well. What will be gone is the pall of sorrow and disappointment that comes with a world in upheaval. Isaiah urges the people to “be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Breaking open Isaiah
1.     What words of despair do you hear in Isaiah’s message?
2.     What words of hope?
3.    How is our world like Isaiah’s world?

Psalm 23 Dominus regit me

     The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2      He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3      He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
4      Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5      You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6      Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The popularity of this psalm makes it difficult for the person praying with it or meditating on it to wrest new meaning from its familiar verses. It is comforting, and that is perhaps why the framers of the lectionary chose it to accompany the reading from Isaiah. It shares some of the same elements, God as a guide and leader, God as a protector from enemies, and God as the provider of a magnificent feast. If there is a concept of time in the Hebrew Scriptures, it can often be one that looks at the entire scope of God’s care for and relationship with humankind, the created. So it is here as well, “dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Breaking open the Psalm 25:
1.     How do you use the 23rd psalm?
2.     What new insights have you gained?
3.    What understandings do you rely on?

Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

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

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The readings in both tracks that have preceded this one have anticipated Paul’s themes here – themes of relationship and reconciliation. It the earlier readings focused on our relationship with God, and God’s good things given to us, this pericope from Paul extends that relationship of kindness and well-doing beyond the relationship with God to the relationship we have with one another as well. Two names, of which we know little, Euodia, and Syntyche, remind us the very human aspect of this reading and the relationships that Paul encourages. It is the peace of Christ that informs these relationships so both heart and mind are formed in Christ. How we treat one another is modeled in how we have been treated in Christ.

Breaking open Philippians:
1.     What treasured relationships do you have?
2.     What threatened relationships do you have?
3.    What would God have you do?

The Gospel: St. Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

In this parable, as in last Sunday’s Gospel, we have a model of God’s activity with us in Christ Jesus. It is a parable of the Kingdom of Heaven, and its symbolic device is the wedding banquet. At such banquets which could involve more than the entire family, perhaps even an entire town or village, a sense of the good and righteous community was to be seen in action. The banquet was known in two stages: the invitation stage – sort of penciling it in on a social calendar, and finally the announcement that the banquet was actually going to be celebrated. We see in these two stages the role of the prophets, and the role of the bridegroom present at the banquet. The reaction to this announcement allows Jesus to address how he had been received, and to foresee all who would eventually be invited into the banquet. Regardless of when the individual was invited (and here we have a glimpse of St. John Chrysostom’s magnificent Easter sermon) or when they actually attended there was yet an expection of righteousness. Washed and clearn, or in filthy clothes, the guests were expected to make themselves ready for the visitation.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     How have you been invited by God?
2.     What has been your response?
3.    What is the condition of your preparation?

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

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller

04 October 2017

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22, 8 October 2017

Please click here: http://breakopenword.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-seventeenth-sunday-after-pentecost.html

26 September 2017

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21, 1 October 2017

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

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

Philippians 2:1-13
St. Matthew 21:23-32

Background: Authority

If there is one issue that troubled Israel from its release from servitude in Egypt to the first century CE (although it surely extends beyond that time), it is the issue of authority. The initial story of Moses at the burning bush wrestles with this issue. Who is it that sends Moses to Pharaoh? What is the name of the authority that sends him? In the stories that follow, Moses has his own troubles with authority. The Hebrew Scriptures see authority certainly in the David kingship, but also with judges, prophets, and foreign kings and suzerains. It is the issue that bedevils the Palestine at the time of Jesus’ ministry, as people wrestle with Roman collaboration, and with the authority of the Jewish elders. Indeed, in our own time religious authority has become an issue of contention.

Track One:

First Reading: 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?”

This pericope is an excellent example of the question of authority when it comes up against human need. It describes a “dispute” (Hebrew = riv) between the people and Moses. The reality of the riv will become a model for the later prophets who will describe a dispute between God and God’s people. Here it is not a theological dispute, but rather one of need. Moses sees this dispute from two viewpoints. The first is against him and his authority, questioning his motives in bringing them into the wilderness. The second is a testing of God’s motives and support.  In verse three, the collective dispute gives way to a more personal expression of the dispute. Moses is in distress and fears for his own life. God urges him to stand in front of the people as demonstration of God’s care for him. The staff and the water become signs of God’s true intent. The staff, which struck the Nile, now provides clear water to assuage the thirst of a troubled people.

Breaking open Exodus:
1.      What are your disappointments with God or with the Church?
2.      How do you deal with these?
3.      When has God given you “water from the rock”?

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

     Hear my teaching, O my people; *
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2      I will open my mouth in a parable; *
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3      That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us, *
we will not hide from their children.
4      We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, *
and the wonderful works he has done.
12    He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers, *
in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13    He split open the sea and let them pass through; *
he made the waters stand up like walls.
14    He led them with a cloud by day, *
and all the night through with a glow of fire.
15    He split the hard rocks in the wilderness *
and gave them drink as from the great deep.
16    He brought streams out of the cliff, *
and the waters gushed out like rivers.

The opening line of this rather lengthy poem gives us a clue as to its probable use. The invitation to hear and to listen to teaching seems to indicate that this was a communal commemoration of national history. As such it traces the national history, highlighting the confrontation of Pharaoh with the plagues and in the scene at the Red Sea along with other events. The selection we are reading today telegraphs these emphases early on, and especially notes the first reading for this day, “He split the hard rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink from the great deep.”  

Breaking open Psalm 78:
1.     How has American history been described in theological terms?
2.     Has God been active in our history?
3.    What are the dangers here?


Track Two:

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.

This reading serves as an excellent sample of Ezekiel’s central theme and purpose. He has a dire view of the people and their relationship with God. It is not only broken but also seemingly damaged beyond repair. Nonetheless, the prophet sees hope for the people. It was written following the deportations of citizens from Jerusalem to Babylon. The trauma of the situation led to a profound study and meditation on the theological dilemma that the situation presented.

Other prophets saw the problem as communal – the people had failed God, and thus God’s judgment follows. Ezekiel, however, seems to talk from the viewpoint of the individual rather than the whole community. Despite the expressions in Exodus 34:7, and Leviticus 26:39-40, among others, Ezekiel does not see guilt accruing from generation to generation. Rather, he thinks, each generation is responsible for its own guilt and misdeeds. For all life is mine: the life of the parent is like the life of the child, both are mine. Only the one who sins shall die!He does hold out hope for repentance and renewal in verses 27 and 28. Indeed the final verse of the pericope offers the same hope, “Turn, then, and live.”

Breaking open Ezekiel:
1.     Do you feel any corporate guilt?
2.     How might you express that guilt?
3.    What individual sins trouble you.

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.
2      Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3      Show me your ways, O Lord, *
and teach me your paths.
4      Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.
5      Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.
6      Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
7      Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8      He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.

This is one of nine acrostic poems in the collection of psalms, used to enable memorization of the material and for translating it to others. It is a profound poem in that it expresses itself as the meditations of the essential life of the speaker. We lose that sense in the word “soul” from the first line of the poem. The author is looking at both sides of the notion of shame. In the first verse he pleads with God that he not be humiliated (shamed), and in the second verse he expands the notion to all – “let none be shamed.” He does remember his own failures, however. In verse seven he pleads with God not to remember the sins of his youth, and thus the poem has a sense of supplication about it. Rather he hopes for a guide and a teacher who will bring him to the right way.

Breaking open the Psalm 25:
1.     How have you been shamed in your life?
2.     Have you shamed others?
3.    How have you been released from your shame?

Second Reading: 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.

In his commentary on the Letter to the Philippians,[1] Gordon Fee describes the structure of this poem, which advocates for unity in the church. I have marked those sections, which fall, into our pericope with italic.

A)           Appeal to steadfastness and Unity (1:27-30)
B)            The appeal to unity in their common life in Christ (2:1-4)
C)           The appeal to Christ’s example (2:5-11)
B’)       The appeal again based on relationship (2:12-13)
A’)      Unity in the face of opposition (2:14-16)

What we can surmise is that the Philippians are being tested by those around them, and so Paul spends time talking about how to meet this trial, and at the same time be united with one another. The meat of this “sandwich” is part C in which Christ is the example of unity in suffering. This example then becomes a working model for people sharing unity with one another, just as they have with Paul, and just as they have in Christ. We have so often read the meat of this poem by itself, that we may have missed the purpose of Christ’s example as outlined by Paul.

Breaking open Philippians:
1.     Why is unity necessary for Christians?
2.     Where do you see that unity active today?
3.    What kind of unity is demonstrated in the verses from Philippians?

The Gospel: St. 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.

On the previous day, Jesus had acted with authority in the temple, driving out the moneychangers and merchants. Now the priestly caste and “the elders” challenge Jesus. They want to know by what authority Jesus does what he does.  There is no good answer for Jesus, for either he will admit to no authority, or will commit blasphemy by noting that his authority comes from God. Jesus doesn’t answer their question, but poses his own – pointing to John the Baptist and asking them about the Baptist’s authority. Their answer is an admission that they don’t know. Jesus responds with a parable. In this parable we have a perfect example of Ezekiel’s hope for the individual, for one of the sons, who in spite of his initial refusal, repents of that decision and goes to work. Jesus then radicalizes this understanding with his comments about tax collectors and prostitutes. They are the examples of repentance.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     What authority does Jesus have in your life?
2.     When have you been like the evil son?
3.    When like the good son?

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.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller

[1]  Fee, G. (1995) Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Kindle Edition, location 3864.