The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6, 17 June 2017

Track One:
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1, 10-17

Track Two:
Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100

Romans 5:1-8
St. Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

Background: Two Tracks?

During Ordinary Time we have the option of using one of two tracks in the Lectionary. The first track is a semi-continuous reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, and the second track follows the traditional connection of the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures to the Gospel. In his Introduction to the Revised Common Lectionary, Fred Kimball Graham explains the rationale of the two tracks:

“The task force reviewed the rationale for choosing Old Testament readings in Ordinary Time and recommended development of a two-track system. The semi continuous track would allow significant Old Testament passages to be read in sequence (a principle already observed in OLM[1] for New Testament readings), so that major portions of the Old Testament were heard over the three-year period." The other track would consist of a new list specifying readings from the Old Testament on Sundays after Pentecost that would not follow the principle of an extended sequence of readings from the Mosaic, Davidic, or prophetic narratives as proposed by the Common Lectionary in years A, B, and C, respectively, but rather align more directly with the gospel of the day.”[2]

The anniversary volume is an excellent resource for priests, lectors, and lay people who want to know more about the Lectionary.

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.”]

The Lectionary joins together two separate pericopes, already joined by the thread of the story. The elided material concerns the fate of Sodom, and Abraham’s shameful treatment of his wife with Abimelech. It is interesting that the first pericope, the visit of the Angels to Abraham, should follow our celebration of the Holy Trinity last Sunday, this story being Orthodoxy’s icon for the Three-in-One. The text clues us in immediately to what is about to happen here, and its divine aspect. Abraham operates out of the custom of hospitality and thus entertains angels unaware. The visitors are aware of Sarah’s name, which should indicate to Abraham the true status of his “visitors”. Here we meet a very human Sarah who wonders how at her advanced age she might be able to expect sexual pleasure, or a child. Abraham too was of an advanced age. What of his virility? So Sarah laughs.

In the first pericope one of the Angels announces a return visit, and in the second pericope we experience the reality of that second visitation. The promise is complete, “And the Lord singled out Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had spoken.”[3]

Breaking open Genesis:
1.          Where have you met an angel unaware?
2.          Why does Sarah laugh?
3.         What is the role of Abraham’s hospitality?

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.

We have had numerous encounters with the 116th Psalm over the last several weeks. Here the verses seem to be the voices of Sarah and of Abraham upon the gift of Isaac. It, however, is not just a voice of praise. Return vows and promises are offered – the cup of salvation and the sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Breaking open Psalm 116
  1. How do you give thanks to God?
  2. What does it mean to you to praise God?
  3. What sacrifices have you made?


Track 2:

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.”

Israel returns to the center of things, Sinai, and Moses returns to converse with the Lord. God has a message for the people God has chosen, and Moses is the chosen messenger of the words. Our rendition of the pericope omits some important information, “In the third month after the Israelites’ departure from the land of Egypt, on the first day.” Such time stamps indicate to us a cusp, the beginning of a new thing. God recognizes what has happened, and reminds the people of his gift of freedom and flight, “I bore you on eagles’ wings.” But it is more than this for now the people is a treasured, priestly, and holy lot.  Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the people accept what God has offered and commanded, “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Breaking open the Exodus:
1.         What is the difference between a wanderer and a pilgrim?
2.         How is Israel’s mission like that of the disciples?
3.        How has God born you up on eagles’ wings?

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.

A third voice seems to mirror what God might be saying to his people, as God did through Moses in the first reading. There is to be an act of thanksgiving. Like Moses, the people are invited to come into God’s presence – with a song. There is an affirmation of what God asserted in the first reading – “We are his!” Just as Israel crossed into a new and sacred relationship with God at the mountain, so here in the psalm at the gates of the temple there is an invitation to cross over – to enter in and give thanks. Once a wandering people, now a pilgrim people.

Breaking open the Psalm 100:
1.     Describe your relationship with God?
2.     Where is your temple?
3.    How do you enter thre?

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.

Before I begin my comments, I’d like to share Robert Jewett’s translation of verses 3- 5, they have a special power here.

“Not only in that, but let us also boast of our afflictions, knowing that this affliction produces fortitude, and this fortitude approbation, and this approbation hope, and this hope does not cause us shame.”[4]

Being in relationship with God (see the first reading and the psalm) might cause a bit of shame. Paul recognizes this when he reminds us, “For while we were still weak.” It is a glance at the past, and the cause for Christ’s offering. But now there is a different status and condition, for “God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Thus there is a procession from weakness and suffering to hope and glory. Paul, throughout his work, encourages us to recognize our weakness and to make something of it. Thus the sequence of affliction, fortitude, approval, and then hope. The reading closes with something really quite startling, that God would love us, be in relationship with us while we were yet sinners. For this Christ dies for us.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. In what ways are you weak?
  2. In what ways are you strong?
  3. What do you do with these gifts?

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.”]

Celia Deutsch in her chapter, “Jesus as Wisdom – A Feminist Reading of Mathew’s Wisdom Christology”[5] gives us a special means to what is happening in this pericope other than its logistical practicum. She urges us to see Jesus as not only a teacher of Wisdom, but Wisdom itself. “Jesus,… teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.” It seems that the kingdom is built of several parts, and some are given to messengers to not only dispense but to explain. There are gifts to accomplish this mission: Wisdom (authority), healing, granting of peace. In order to accomplish all of this Jesus gives them an intuition about the future, and indicates the promise of return. It is all of the ups and downs of mission – of the preaching of Wisdom in the Kingdom of God.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What is the Wisdom of God seen in your world?
  2. What does that wisdom lead you to do?
  3. How do you grant peace to others?

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

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.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Ordo Lectionum Missae
[2]Consultation on Common Texts (1992), The Revised Common Lectionary: 20th Anniversary Annotated Edition, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. Kindle Edition, Location 172f.
[3]Alter, R. (2008) The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, Kindle Edition, Location 2629.
[4]Jewett, R. (2007) Romans, A Commentary, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, page 344.
[5]Levine, A, ed. (2001) A Feminist Companion to Matthew, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, England, page 88.


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