08 June 2020

The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6, 14 June 2020

Track 1
Track 2
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

The Collect

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Background: Icon of the Holy Trinity, Andrei Rublev.

The image that derives from the Track One First Reading, the visit to Abraham under the oaks at Mamre by three men, was later written by Andrei Rublev as an icon that honors the Holy Trinity. It was commissioned to honor St. Sergius of Radonezh of the Trinity, in the town of Sergiyev Posad near Moscow. There is disagreement as to when the icon was written, but the standard date is 1411.

Three angels sit at table, their bodies forming a circle. In the background there is a house, an oak tree, and Mount Moriah. On the table is a cup or bowl with the head of a calf. The cup is blessed with a hand gesture by the middle angel and the angel on the left. The visit of the three angels to Abraham and Sarah has been seen as a revelation of the Holy Trinity in Christian circles. Taking in the view of the three angels, the eye is drawn to the center of the circle that their forms describe – calling the viewer to meditate on the mystery of the Three-in-One. The house, tree, and mountain have suggested to various authors associations with the angels, and the aspect of the Godhead that they might represent: the house over the Father, the tree over the Son, and the mountain over the Holy Spirit. This, however, is not attested to by any indications by Rublev himself, and may be a bit specious.

Track One:

First Reading: Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

[The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”]

Today’s reading is comprised of two separate pericopes, the first from the Yahwist, and the second an amalgam of different traditions. With this reading Track One begins the Patriarchal History, which will continue in a lexio continua over the coming Sundays. The first part of the reading depicts the visit to Abraham and Sarah by three angels, although in the first verse we meet YHWH as a single entity and it is only until verse three that the three men appear. If we look at 18:22, and then later at 19:1, we see that Abraham is left before YHWH, and the other two continue on to Sodom. Van Rad, in his commentary, opts for the more traditional view and sees YHWH present in all three, judging from their common question in verse nine, “and they said to him…” What is really important here is the relationship of YHWH to both Abraham and Sarah. Their covenant with God sets in motion a great deal of Salvation History, and it is important to realize that God is seen is involving Godself in their family life and history, an intimate detail. This alone makes a preach able moment in this reading.

The optional second half gives evidence of the promise kept, and provides a link and commentary on the name “Isaac”. The name in full means, “may God smile on the child.” That has often been shortened to a focus on the “smile” or “laughter,” which links it to Sarah’s reaction in the first pericope. She is quoted in the second pericope, with a comment on how God has brought her laughter, and joy in her community. The lectionary has tied it all together.

Breaking open Genesis:

1.     Do you know what your name means?
2.     When have you entertained angels unaware?
3.     How do you feel about Sarah’s reaction?

Psalm 116:1, 10-17 Dilexi, quoniam

     I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, *
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
10      How shall I repay the Lord *
for all the good things he has done for me?
11      I will lift up the cup of salvation *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12      I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people.
13      Precious in the sight of the Lord *
is the death of his servants.
14      Lord, I am your servant; *
I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
15      I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16      I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people,
17      In the courts of the Lord'S house, *
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Lutherans will find this psalm very familiar in that it comprises on of the two ordinary offertory hymns in the Lutheran Liturgy. The scene is set in the temple, as the psalm says, “In the presence of all (God’s) people.” There the author sings a thanksgiving hymn, honoring the author’s relationship with God. The elided verses (116:2-9), give us cause for the thanksgiving. God has saved the author from death. The cup, which to Christians has depicted the Eucharist, may in this context refer to a votive offering. You may wish to look at Numbers 5:11ff., in order to understand the connection. This reference may help us to understand the nature of the vows that the author makes as well. Whatever may have happened, the author revives the relationship with YHWH, a fine example of the relationship expressed in the first reading.

Breaking open Psalm 116:

1.     When have you be threatened by death?
2.     When have you been given an extra measure of life?
3.     How do you give thanks?


Track Two:

First Reading: Exodus 19:2-8a

The Israelites had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

With this reading we are introduced to the Sinai Traditions, and it is here that we come to “the mountain”, namely Sinai. It is also here that we are introduced to the notion of the covenant. In Track One, that idea is provided for in the First Reading – the visit of YHWH to Abraham and Sarah. Here it is the beginning of the vision of YHWH at Sinai, first to Moses, then later to the people in the provisions of the Covenant. This will establish two important aspects of Salvation History, the covenant relationship of God with God’s people, and the leadership of Moses and his relationship with the Law. It is not a new relationship, for God rehearses the salvation offered to the people in their freedom from the Egyptians, “How I bore you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Even before the provisions of the Covenant have been either seen or agreed to, the people are of a mind to obey them. “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Breaking open Exodus:

1.     When do you feel as though you have stood before God?
2.     Who is the Moses in your life?
3.     What kind of agreement (covenant) do you have with God?

Psalm 100 Jubilate Deo

   Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
2    Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3    Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4    For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

The psalm consists of two parts, a liturgical exhortation (verses 1-2) and a hymn from the gathered assembly (verses 3-4). Some think that it was a thanksgiving that was sung as an entrance hymn while processing into the Temple precincts. Others see the alignment a bit differently, a call in verses 1f. and again in verse 3a, and then actual praise in verses three and again in verse five.  The key theme is having joy in the God who “has made us,” and because God has “mercy…everlasting.” Although this is a Temple hymn or liturgy, it has a universal aspect as well, inviting “all you lands” to be joyful and to come before “(God’s) presence.” These themes are played out in Psalm 95 as well. German peoples will know this psalm in the words of Nun jauchzt dem Herren, alle Welt that we know as “All people that on earth do dwell.”

Breaking open Psalm 100:

1.     When do you come into God’s presence?
2.     What allows you to do so?
3.     What gifts come from being in God’s presence?

Second Reading: Romans 5:1-8

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-- though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

If we have read the material that precedes this pericope, we will note the presuppositions that Paul takes for granted here. In the earlier chapters he has made us aware of God’ righteousness, judgment, and justification. Now he wants us to consider the consequences of such acts on God’s part. Because of our justification by God we now have peace, and access to God’s grace. Finally, we have hope as well. That gives us stature and stamina to face what the world will give us. Paul provides a list of what comes with our suffering for the Gospel: endurance, character, and hope. He holds up the cross here reminding us of the suffering and death of Jesus, and what came of that – our redemption. What will come of our suffering? We are being given a lesson about that in our time, as we see the many people who endure in spite of their suffering. Here I am thinking of people of color who are standing up to their discrimination and oppression by society. Their suffering is producing endurance, making us aware of their character, and give us all a glimpse of hope. Paul teaches us to look at suffering, and in it to see a road to God.

Breaking open Romans:

1.     Whom do you see suffering in our world?
2.     What have you learned from that?
3.     How have you been moved to alleviate the suffering of others?

The Gospel: St. Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”]

Our reading is the so-called “Missionary Sermon”, which consists of the following parts: 1) The Sending of the Twelve (9:35-10:4), The Discourse Proper (10:5-16), and Sayings on Discipleship (10:17-11:1). Over this and the next two Sundays, we will have the opportunity to explore this sermon that Jesus gives to his disciples. Matthew begins by describing the audience for this mission, and the shepherds who are to care for the people of this flock. He enumerates the Twelve, and gives us a description of what ails the people to whom they are being sent, curing and healing them both spiritually, mentally and physically.

With the tenth chapter we hear the charter that Jesus issues to the Twelve. Verse five may startle us with its prohibition of entry into “pagan territory, or Samaria.” Perhaps it’s not avoidance so much as having a priority for the “lost sheep of Israel.” Primary is the message about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. What follows is something that Christians of our time ought to heed as well: curing, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, driving out demons. All of this is to be done in a context of personal poverty. Like Paul, Jesus looks ahead to the consequence of these behaviors and acts. There will be suffering and persecution, and there will be promise as well, for there will be the gift of the “Spirit of you Father speaking through you.” Like Jesus they will be hated, but Jesus steals them up for endurance (see Paul, again.) Given the difficulties of our time and the neediness of so many in our society, this call to the disciples ought to mean something to us as well. The field, it seems, is ready for the harvesting. But it will take courage not outrage, compassion and love, not intolerance.

Breaking open the Gospel:

1.     How would you describe Jesus’ mission?
2.     Whom do you see as disciples in your life?
3.     What does it mean to you to be called to be hated?

General idea:          The Consequences

Instance 1:               Opening Oneself up to God (Abraham and Sarah in Genesis)

                                  Opening Oneself up to God’ Expectations (Moses and the People at Sinai in Exodus.

Instance 2:                Living in Thanksgiving after God’s Delivery (both Psalms)

Instance 3:                Learning from our Suffering (Second Lesson)

Instance 4:                What we need for the mission (Gospel)

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

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