Scripture Commentary January 21st (Year B)

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THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY FIRST READING First Samuel  3: 1-20   Our reading is from the central book of the “Deuteronomic History,” which includes Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings.  The standards of history for these writers was loose compared to those of modern historians.  They used court documents and legal records, but the facts gleaned from documents were mixed indiscriminately with legends and traditions.  The narrative, written somewhere between 600-500 BCE, includes many parts that are much more ancient.   Our reading is about the commissioning of the boy Samuel to be God’s …

Scripture Commentary for January 14th (Year B)

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  SECOND READING First Corinthians 6: 12-20   Paul’s major doctrine was that one is saved by faith, not by good works or good behavior, yet he sternly scolds the Corinthians for their sexual misbehavior.  Corinth was notoriously licentious, and Paul was confronted with Christian converts whose behavior was wicked according to his Jewish standards.  Yes, they might be saved by faith, but in the meantime their behavior was unacceptable.  I would have to undertake a long study to be certain, but I think Paul never threatens his people with damnation.  He says, rather, that their behavior is inappropriate and …

Scripture Commentary for Epiphany January 7th (Year B)

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SECOND READING Ephesians 3: 1-12 At first glance, it appears that the meaning of the mystery that Paul says was revealed to him is hardly a mystery at all—that Gentiles and Jews both share in God’s grace.  (The word Gentile, of course, means any non-Jewish person.)  But Paul means more,  he means that the Church as an institution will consist of Jews and Gentiles.  Christianity may have begun as a movement within Judaism, but the opened mystery reveals that Christianity has become something new, the Church, and the Church is unlimited, universal.  Elsewhere Paul calls it, “the body of Christ.” …

Scripture Commentary for December 31st (Year B)

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FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY   FIRST READING Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3   Here we have a poem from “Third Isaiah” prophesying the rise of Jerusalem after the Exile.  In a bold metaphor, the City itself speaks, comparing itself first to a bride of God, and then to God’s garden.  Then the voice of the prophet takes over to sing his vision of rebuilt Jerusalem as a splendid testimony of God’s glory.  The name Zion was originally that of the spike of mountain jutting out above the Kidron Valley where David built his fort; It is often called the City …

Scripture Commentary for December 24th (Year B)

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FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT FIRST READING Second Samuel 7: 1-11, 16 David has supplanted Saul as king of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern, Judah. He has captured Jerusalem, an independent city between the two Jewish states, worked out a peace with its inhabitants, and made it his capital. He has built a fortress and a palace for himself, and brought the Ark into the city. He has yet to begin building a temple. The Lord speaks to David through the prophet Nathan, allaying David’s doubts and promising that his kingdom and his “house” (his family, his …

Scripture Commentary for December 17th (Year B)

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THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT FIRST READING Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11 Most of “Third Isaiah” is about the Jews who have returned from the Babylonian exile.  So much has changed.  Thousands of foreign gentiles whom the Babylonians had forced into the area are now settled there.  The numerous rural Jews that the Babylonians had been left behind are now practicing a splinter Judaism—the Samaritans.  The walls of Jerusalem are down, the Temple reduced to rubble.  In this passage, the poet imagines God’s response to the troubled prayer of the returnees. SECOND READING 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24 Our lesson is taken from …

Scripture Commentary for December 10th (Year B)

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SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT   FIRST READING Isaiah 40: 1-11 In 539 BC, Babylon, where the Jews had been held in slavery for fifty years, was captured by the Persians.  The Persians had set about establishing a more stable empire than Assyria or Babylon had been able to effect.  A key policy was tolerance of local customs, governments, and religions so long as the vassal states gave them money and soldiers.  Accordingly, as Second Isaiah has just learned, the Jews are to be released from their captivity and allowed to return to their homeland.  You will hear one of the …

Scripture Commentary for December 3rd (Year B)

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FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT FIRST READING Isaiah 64: 1 – 9 The three parts of the book of Isaiah were written by at least two authors, and probably more. “First Isaiah” (Chapters 1-39) was the advisor to kings before the loss of Judah and subsequent exile to Babylon (see II Kings 18-20). “Second Isaiah” (Chapters 40-55) was a poet living among the Babylon exiles who sang joyfully about the coming return to Judea. “Third Isaiah” (Chapters 56-66) written in Jerusalem after the return, is probably by several authors, though some scholars think it is a continuation of “Second Isaiah.” Advent …

Scripture Commentary for November 20, 2016

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PROPER 29 Nov. 20 – 26   FIRST READING Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6 The prophet disclaims false or delinquent priests and prophets.  In time, he says, God will send a descendant of David who will rule wisely and bring justice.  A historian probably would say Jeremiah is predicting the rise of a worldly king.  But Christians treasure this passage, for to them, he prophecies the coming of Christ. NO ALTERNATIVE READING SECOND READING Colossians 1: 11 – 20 In this passage, Paul reaches high for an understanding of Christ.  The Christ he envisions uses his glory and power to …