The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8 - 26 June 2011

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

BACKGROUND: Ordinary Time
When last in “ordinary time” we were in the Sundays following The Epiphany of Our Lord, a brief pause in the festival half of the Church’s Year.  Now we enter it again.  From the First Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) until The Last Sunday after Pentecost (Christ the King) we shall be in Ordinary Time.  In the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) there are options during this period.  The Lectionary provides for a continuing reading from the Hebrew Scriptures with it’s own responsorial psalm.  This is the option to the regular reading from the Hebrew Scriptures that reflects the themes of the Gospel for the day.  Each Sunday is named for the number after Pentecost, and is assigned a proper.  The length of Ordinary Time depends on the date when Easter falls, a date in the lunar, rather than solar calendar.  During the period of time we shall begin with proper 8, and continuing on until Christ the King.  The color for the season is green.

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."

Chagall - The Prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah is in the midst of perilous times.  Institutions are being challenged by the great powers that are putting pressure on the Kingdom of Judah, and people are looking to the prophets for answers.  The question is one of discernment.  Who is speaking the right prophecy?  Jeremiah has in his mind a quotation from the Deuteronomist (18:21-22) “If you say to yourselves, 'How can we recognize an oracle which the LORD has spoken?’ know that, even though a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if his oracle is not fulfilled or verified, it is an oracle which the LORD did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuous-ly, and you shall have no fear of him.”  Jeremiah comments on the hopefulness of Hananiah, who proclaims what the people and the powers that be want to hear.  Babylon will be broken, and the exiles will return.  Jeremiah however sees a continuing struggle and exile.  He suspects that Hananiah’s prophecy has a political impetus, unlike his own which speaks the real situation.  This speaking out against a political settlement for the Kingdom of Judah forms the backbone of Jeremiah’s prophetic work.

Breaking open Genesis:
  1. What do you understand prophecy to be?
  2. What do you think of Jeremiah’s standard?
  3. What did you think of Hananiah’s prophecy?

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.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

"I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

'I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'"

Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
they walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

They rejoice daily in your Name; *
they are jubilant in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength, *
and by your favor our might is exalted.

Truly, the LORD is our ruler; *
the Holy One of Israel is our King.

David and Solomon
There is a superscription to this psalm, which dedicates it to Ethan the Ezrahite, the brother of Heyman the Ezrahite, to whom psalm 88 is dedicated.  The choice of this psalm is related to the first reading, in which Jeremiah comments on the prophecies which surround the Davidid kings in a time of disaster, revolt, and on-going war.  The initial verses (1-5) comment on God’s choice of David both as king and as a founder of a dynasty that God will bless.  The second collection of verses, in our reading for today, comment on the essential roles of justice and the law.  The concluding verses, not in our reading, offer comment on how far the “sons of David” have fallen from the ideas of their father.

Breaking open Psalm 89:
1.     In what ways was David a righteous man?
2.     In what ways was David unrighteous?
3.     What do we do when our leaders are unrighteous?

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.

The Baptism of Clovis
With this Sunday, we begin a continuing reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  In next Sunday’s “Background”, I shall comment on the book as a whole.  This reading follows an examination of Baptism and its power in the Christian’s life.  Indeed, some of the sections read as if from either a Baptismal sermon or liturgy.  The motif is one of slavery, or better for our understanding “service”.  There is always payment for slavery or service.  Paul uses this common knowledge to allow his readers to see the consequences of sin.  “The waters of sin is death,” states it succinctly.  Why this long speech after a lecture on baptism?  Paul wants the Christian to still be on guard, for anything is still possible in spite of our baptism.  Paul presents his usual dichotomy: slavery to sin, or slavery to righteousness, death, or life.  Choosing Christ in Baptism then becomes for us a constant choice, and a constant watchfulness.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. Does Baptism bring you freedom?
  2. How do you make decisions in that freedom?
  3. Does Baptism restrain you from anything?

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."

The Prophet Jesus

Just as in the second lesson, the Gospel forms a continuing reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  This reading forms the end of a long discourse in which Jesus instructs the disciples in the art of being in mission.  The discourse is formed around both positives and negatives, such as entering a house and receiving its peace, or its rejection.  The disciple is instructed to act accordingly.  Actually, and here we have to look back at the first lesson, Jesus, like Jeremiah, is pondering on the role of the prophet – the prophets that he hopes his disciples will be.  It is a continuum of relationship, the Father, the Son, the prophet, the disciple, the hearer; these are all bound together in a relationship of service and recognition.  Out of that relationship comes the prophetic voice – the Word that God wants us to hear now.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. How would you describe your relationship with God?
  2. If you are Jesus’ disciple, and thus God’s prophet, what does God want you to proclaim?
  3. What kind of prophetic work do you do?

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

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.


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