29 June 2020

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, 5 July 2020

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, 5 July 2020


Track 1


Track 2

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45: 11-18
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


The Collect


O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Background: Marriage in the Ancient Near East


There was a definite pattern of steps in arranging and celebrating marriage in the ancient near east. There was the deliberative stage during which a family would search for a suitable bride for their son. That was followed by a prenuptial stage during which choices were made by parents, the lead being taken by the father, or the mother or brother in certain circumstances. This might be celebrated by an anointing, or sometimes the bride moved to the house of the father-in-law. She was called a “wife” during this period, and presents would have been given, gold, a ring, or clothing. Men were usually aged from 26 to 32, although the Mishna allows for the age of 18 for men, while the women were aged from 14 to 20. The nuptial stage involved the bride dressed with a band around her head or a veil. The wedding lasted seven days and began with the bride opening the door of her parent’s house. A special room or tent (huppa) was reserved for the first intercourse and the consummation of the wedding. Often the best man witnessed the consummation so that he might attest to its completion. Following the festivities, the couple would begin living together, the Connubial stage, and would look forward to the birth of the first child, the Familial stage.



Track One:


First Reading: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67


The servant said to Laban, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” —let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.


We continue with the Patriarchal History, here the search for a wife for Isaac by the major domo of Abraham’s household. The pericope is quite long, all of chapter twenty-four. The elided verses are: a) (24:1-33) the introduction of the major domo and his journey to Nahor, his meeting Rebekah at the well and her hospitality, and the meeting of the family, b) (24:39-41) the major domo’s concern that his offer will be rejected, and YHWH’s promise of success, and c) (24:50-58) the conclusion of the betrothal negotiations. The material of this pericope is from the J (Yahwist) strain.

This story comes at the end of Abraham and Sarah’s history, and uses Isaac and his marriage as a link to the Jacob history. In his demand from the major domo we see two significant points that mark the unique history of Israel. First, Isaac is not to be married to a Canaanite woman. The Covenant that has been made between Abraham and Sarah, and their line, must be pure, and not adulterated by people of another god. Secondly, Isaac must not go back to Mesopotamia, because the Covenant with YHWH is linked to the Promised Land. The person that is tasked with these delicate negotiations is the head of the household, whose name might be Eliezer, (cf. Genesis 15:2), however the real active entity in the story is none other than YHWH, who directs and intercedes often in the text. 

 What are we to learn from this text with its intricate pacing and details? As historians of marriage we might learn a great deal about social practices and attitudes in the Ancient Near East. As theologians, however, we need to be struck by Abraham’s tenacious grasp of the meaning of the Covenant, and by his arrangements to make it so beyond his own life and the life of Sarah. YHWH’s presence in the background underscores this viewpoint, and the major domo’s faithfulness to Abraham’s bidding is a lesson in itself. The personal history of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah will be quickly expanding to include a whole people in their relationship to YHWH.

Breaking open Genesis:

  1.   Do you see intents and purposes in your family’s history?
  2. 2What are your personal understandings about your relationship with God?
  3. 3.     In what parts of your life have you experienced guidance from your faith?


Psalm 45:11-18 Eructavit cor meum


11    "Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely; * 
forget your people and your father's house.

12    The king will have pleasure in your beauty; * 
he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13    The people of Tyre are here with a gift; * 
the rich among the people seek your favor."

14    All glorious is the princess as she enters; * 
her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15    In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king; * 
after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

16    With joy and gladness they are brought, * 
and enter into the palace of the king.

17    "In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons; * 
you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18    I will make your name to be remembered 
from one generation to another; * 
therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever."


Artur Weiser in his commentary on the Psalms entitles Psalm 45 as “The Royal Wedding Psalm.” The attributions that precede the psalm seem almost elegant: “To the conductor, According to ‘Lilies.’” “To the Sons of Korah, a Maskil, a love song.” Royal indeed. The first verses, 1-10, are a celebration of a particular kingship, describing the might and marital prowess of the king who is to marry a woman from a foreign land. Our reading proceeds from verse 11 on, describing her beauty and her duties to the king. The verses describe the royal procession into the king’s palace, and, apropos of the First Reading, the heritage and legacy that her children will represent.

Breaking open Psalm 45:

  1.    What “marriages” have you experienced in your lifetime?
  2.    How would you describe your current relationship?
  3.  If you are alone, who is your companion in life?  


Song of Solomon 2:8-13

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.

Look, there he stands
behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

"Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;

for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom; 
they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away."


The verses here, again link to the marriage of Isaac. This, however, is a clever love song in which metaphor guides us to see the linking of two lovers. We are to think of the young lover in the guise of a deer bounding down the hillside to peer inside the windows of a house, protecting the young woman. She is invited away by the springtime, the flowers, and the song of the turtledove. This poem was designated to be sung at the Passover, celebrating the relationship (marriage) of YHWH and Israel. 

Breaking open Song of Solomon:

  1.   In what ways is God your lover?
  2.  How might you describe that relationship poetically?
  3.  Does it have all the drama of a marriage?


 Track Two:

First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-12

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;

his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.


The book of Zechariah has two parts, Chapters 1-8, “The Prophetic Mission”, and Chapters 9-14, “A Messianic Panorama”. This second half, often attributed to a “Deutero-Zechariah”, has the following characteristics: a) obscure or no historical allusions, b) no dates, c) no mention of rebuilding the Temple, Joshua, or Zerubbabel, d) poetic, direct, and simple, e) quotes from Hosea, Isaiah, and other prophets, f) messianism centered in Judah – no references to Jerusalem, or to the Davidic family. Some commentators think that the book originated during the Maccabean era (167-134 BCE).

Christians will see the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in these verses, but we must get that image out of our minds. Here the image is of a messianic king entering the city on a donkey (horses = war, donkeys = peace). And the scene is expansive from Ephraim (Northern Kingdom) to Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom). It is more extensive than that, for this realm shall go “from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Our vision here is from the Mediterranean Sea to the Tigris/Euphrates, or the Persian Gulf. Finally there is the Covenant that sets the relationship still existing between Israel and God. The final line looks back to the post-exilic period, or perhaps a return to the traditions following the horrors of the Seleucid (Hellenistic) period.


Breaking open Zechariah

  1. What does “Messiah” mean to you?
  2. Whom do you see as “anointed” to do God’s will?
  3. You were anointed at your Baptism – what does that mean to you?


Psalm 145:8-15 Exaltabo te, Deus

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

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

10    All your works praise you, O Lord, *
and your faithful servants bless you.

11    They make known the glory of your kingdom *
and speak of your power;

12    That the peoples may know of your power *
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13    Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14    The Lord is faithful in all his words *
and merciful in all his deeds.

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


This is an acrostic psalm, but our reading is only a sample of the verses. Our reading begins at verse eight which is a quotation from Exodus 34:5 (verse 6 in the hypertext).  Some commentators see this as a “cult hymn”, almost like a creedal statement that outlines for those participating the attributes of the God whom they praise. If we look closely we will see the repetition of the words “kingdom” followed by “dominion” and “power”. These are good links to the Track Two First Reading that celebrates the coming of a messianic king. The theme of the psalm can be seen in verses ten through thirteen. It is the reason for the thanksgivings given in the initial verses of the psalm (145:1-7). The perspective of the psalm, like the reading that precedes it is one of universalism; there is no national aspect to the reasoning behind the psalm. In a sense, it looks forward to the same hopes that are evident in Deutero-Zechariah.


Breaking open Psalm 45:

  1.  Where do you see God’s kingdom?
  2.  How is where you live evidence of God’s kingdom?
  3.  How is it not?


Second Reading: Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Paul wrestles here with the Law and with sin. In this reading we see evidence of Paul’s inability to use punctuation (although that didn’t even exist at the time). Here we have a complicated confession, if you will. Paul is treading lightly here, for he sees a distinct connection between Law and sin. In chapter 3:20, Paul sees law as bringing “knowledge or awareness of sin.” In our reading for today Paul makes the argument quite personal, “for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul has a personal vision of sin being a very part of him, “but sin that dwells within me.” There seem to be two laws. The one is the Law of God, which he, Paul, delights in. However, there is also the law that is “at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin.” Is this a personal look backward to a prior time, or is it Paul squarely in the middle of a personal struggle in the present? 


Breaking open Romans:

1.     Do you have a personal struggle with sin?

2.     What are its particulars?

3.     How are you rescued from this struggle?


The Gospel: St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,


‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’


For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”


At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.


“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


In this reading we have two pericopes: a) 11:16-19, and b) 11: 25-30. For the first it might do you well to review the pericope that precedes it, The Messengers from John the Baptist, 11:2-6. Here we are introduced to the notion of doubt or disbelief, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” In our reading Jesus notes the skepticism of those who have observed both John and himself. They have seen the asceticism of John as demonic, and the life of Jesus, lived among Jews as a Jew, as gluttonous. Jesus notes, however, as Jeremiah did last Sunday, that the proof of the prophet is in the pudding. “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” The observers of both John and Jesus wanted to see something or hear something different. “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance.” 


In Luke the second pericope is placed after the return of the 72, where Jesus gives thanks to the Father. In Matthew, it is placed after the evident disappointment of the Jews and the pattern of disbelief over against John and Jesus. The comparison continues in this reading, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” It is the anawim, the little ones, who get it and who understand. That is the lesson here, to be childlike in our apprehension of Jesus and his words. 


Finally there is a message for our time – a time of hopelessness and desperation, “Come to me…” We are called here to be the little ones, meek and humble. If the coronaviris has taught us anything it is that we are often powerless in life – little ones in the scheme of things. It is to such a situation, that Jesus speaks – come to me, rest in me, take a light burden. In Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus[1]the composer uses a line from the apocryphal Acts of John. Jesus says, “I am a couch, rest on me.” It is a stunning revelation to age that is simply tired.


Breaking open the Gospel:

1.     Where and what are your doubts?

2.     What are your expectations of your faith?

3.     What kind of rest do you need?



Central Idea:               Peace


Example 1a:                The peace of marriage (First Reading and Track One Psalms)


Example 1b:                The peaceable kingdom (First Reading and Track Two)


Example 2:                  Finding peace in our personal struggle with sin (Second Reading)


Example 3:                  Jesus is struggle and Jesus is peace. (Gospel)



All questions and commentary copyright © 2020, Michael T. Hiller






[1]        This link will take you to YouTube, but it is only a partial recording of the Hymn of Jesus.

22 June 2020

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, 28 June 2020

Track 1
Track 2
Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4,15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

The Collect

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Background: Prophets

One of the problems we have with understanding the prophets is the very word that we use to describe them. Our word “prophet” comes from the Greek combination of pro (in advance of) and the verb phesein (to speak or tell), thus prophetes. The Hebrew, however, has a different aspect to it. The word is navi, or spokesperson. This understanding has not so much to do with the future as it does with what ever God wants communicated or expressed. It is best described in Deuteronomy 18:18, “and will put my words into the mouth of the prophet; the prophet shall tell them all that I command.” In order to communicate the divine messages that had been put upon them, the prophets often used more than words to communicate these messages. Isaiah used the names of his children, and Jeremiah used a pot, linen belt, or yoke bar, as in the Track Two First Reading. The message is not to the future or even about the future necessarily but rather God’s word to the here and now. Now, how can our preaching and witnessing be prophetic?

Track One:

First Reading: Genesis 22:1-14

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The Track One readings continue with a lectio continua from the Patriarchal History in Genesis. Von Rad sees this story, today’s reading, as an ancient tradition that is inserted at this point. He describes it as “the most perfectly formed and polished of all the patriarchal stories.”[1] It is from the E document, and most probably existed before its placement here in the narrative. Von Rad also warns us not to see this as an etiology describing Israel’s rejection of Canaanite child sacrifice. The theme is quite simply stated in the initial verse: “God tested Abraham.” Abraham does not see it, at least initially, as a test, but as a direct command from God. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” There is a dramatic pacing in the phraseology – son, only son, loved son. It drills down to reveal the relationship that Abraham has with Isaac. The details that are outlined in the narrative slow the narrative down, as in the “only son” phrase allowing us to be troubled with the proposed future. At the end it is the relationship with God that is explored. It is the angel that appears, but it is God who speaks, “Do not lay your hand on the boy…” Does God miraculously provide, or does God just give Abraham the gift of sight? “And Abraham looked up and saw a ram.” But that is not the only gift. God says to Abraham, “for now I know that you fear God,” the whole intent of the test. The final verses provide an etiology regarding the name, “the Lord will provide.”

Breaking open Genesis:

1.     How would you describe the love you have for a family member?
2.     How would you describe the relationship between Abraham and God?
3.     Have you ever been tested in your love for God?

Psalm 13 Usquequo, Domine?

     How long, O Lord?
will you forget me for ever? *
how long will you hide your face from me?
2      How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
and grief in my heart, day after day? *
how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3      Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; *
give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4      Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," *
and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5      But I put my trust in your mercy; *
my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6      I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; *
I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.

The psalm of lament has three parts. Verses 1-2 provide the lamentation, a hint at a hidden or absent God, and an enemy as well. Verses 3-4 compose a prayer in which the psalmist asks that God attend to him. The specifics are quite human, “look upon me and answer me.” The line that follows almost mirrors what the psalmist requests of God, in that he requests “light for his (own) eyes.”  The enemy appears again in the prayer. The final two verses conclude the psalm. There is mercy, trust, song, and praise that come in response to the request of the psalmist that must have been answered by God.

Breaking open Psalm 13:

1.     What is your lament in life?
2.     How do you talk to others, or to God about your lament?
3.     How will you respond to God’s answer?


Track Two:

First Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

It might prove helpful if you would read the verses preceding (Jeremiah 28:1-4) this reading to understand the context in which both Hananiah, and Jeremiah speak. They speak to Babylonian problem that the liturgical vessels from the Temple have been taken away from Jerusalem. The prophetic object used is here is a yoke bar. Hananiah is in disagreement with Jeremiah, and the two speak differently about the situation. Jeremiah wants to give some direction to people in discerning which of the prophets is truly speaking God’s word. Jeremiah does not see following in the ancient track of the prophets who have come before. In some respects Jeremiah is telling the people that the “proof is in the pudding.”

Breaking open Jeremiah:

1.     How do you discern the truth?
2.     What role does tradition play in your life?
3.     When do you move beyond that tradition?

Psalm 89:1-4,15-18 Misericordias Domini

     Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; *
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
2      For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
3      "I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4      'I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'"
15      Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
they walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence.
16      They rejoice daily in your Name; *
they are jubilant in your righteousness.
17      For you are the glory of their strength, *
and by your favor our might is exalted.
18      Truly, the Lord is our ruler; *
the Holy One of Israel is our King.

This psalm has three parts: 1) verses 1-18, a hymn that praises God, 2) verses 19-37, promises made to the Davidic king, and 3) a lament which notes that God has given up on the covenant made with “your servant”, that is the Davidic kings. Our rescission of the psalm displays only a rejoicing in the covenant that the latter verses repudiate. The psalm, therefore, represents the hope of the kingship; the vision of what life under a godly ruler might be like. The final line of the psalm betrays its true intent, namely that God is the ruler.

Breaking open Psalm 89:

1.     What is your vision of how this nation should be ruled?
2.     What do these times tell you about that?
3.     What role might God play in all of this?

Second Reading: Romans 6:12-23

Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, Paul uses the body as a way of getting at the message he wishes to convey to the church at Rome. The real subject is sin, and the model for seeing the consequence4s of sin is our very body. In our reading “the members”, in other words our limbs need to be used for righteousness sake, and not for sinful ends. He also uses the example of slavery or service. Do you want to serve sin, or do you want to serve God (obedience)? For Paul, sin leads to death, but he preaches that we have been freed from sin and death and are called to life.

Breaking open Romans:

1.     How has your body been used in service to sinful things?
2.     How has it been used to benefit others?
3.     How has it been used for life?

The Gospel: St. Matthew 10:40-42

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

I like the translation in the New American Bible – “Whoever receives you receives me.” Welcoming leaves the one coming to us still outside of us, but reception takes that one in – into our very selves. We might wonder how we might receive Jesus in our lives, and Jesus gives us the possibility of three sources: the prophet (a preacher?), the righteous one (a follower, a disciple?), and the surprising third, one of these little ones, showing how in our work of ministry, even the hearer can teach us and give us a vision of the Christ. What a message for our times, which call us to look at every man and every woman as a field “white unto harvest.”

General idea:          On Being Prophetic

Idea 1:                      Appreciating God’s tests (Track One, First Reading)

                                  Discerning God’s message (Track Two, First Reading)

Idea 2:                      Listening for God’s answer (Psalm 13)

                                  Understanding God’s promise (Psalm 89)

Idea 3:                      God’s message in our bodies (Second Reading)

Idea 4:                      God’s prophets to us (Gospel)

All questions and commentary copyright © 2020, Michael T. Hiller

[1]    Von Rad, G. (1961), Genesis, A Commentary, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, page 238.