Lectionary Commentary

Proper 18

September 7, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 12.1-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 149
Reading 3: 
Romans 13.8-14
Reading 4: 
Matthew 18.15-20
Alt Reading 2: 
Psalm 119.33-40
Alt Reading 1: 
Ezekiel 33.7-11
By David J. Lull

Unless otherwise noted, the biblical quotations are from the NRSV.

 

In your preparation for preaching on today’s readings, you might consider their different approaches and solutions to sin.

  • The Exodus reading and today’s psalm focus on God’s liberation of those who have been sinned against, and God’s fierce judgment against those who sin against others that leaves no room for repentance.

Proper 17

August 31, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 3:1-15
Reading 2: 
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
Reading 3: 
Romans 12:9-21
Reading 4: 
Matthew 16:21-28
By Russell Pregeant

The gospel lesson expresses the ultimate paradox that lies at the heart of the New Testament message: we must lose our lives in order to find them. This paradox is essential to Christian faith, but it must be treated with the utmost care; for it can be, and too often is, interpreted in a destructive way. Directed to persons with control over their own destinies, it is a legitimate call to self-sacrifice on behalf of others and the common good.

Proper 16

August 24, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 124
Reading 3: 
Romans 12:1-8
Reading 4: 
Matthew 16:13-20
By Russell Pregeant

The gospel lesson is a focal point for two key Matthean themes, one of which is the identity of Jesus. The reader, of course, knows who Jesus is from the beginning. In chapter 1, the narrator identifies him as “the Messiah, son of David, and son of Abraham” (1:1), whose mission is to “save the people from their sins.” (1:21) Actual divine sonship, however, is disclosed in steps.

Proper 15

August 17, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 45:1-15
Reading 2: 
Psalm 133
Reading 3: 
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-31
Reading 4: 
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28
By Russell Pregeant

In Matthew 13:53-16:12, the reader encounters a spectrum of responses to Jesus. In 13:53-58, he is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth, and in 15:1-19 and 16:1-12 we find scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in bitter disputes with him. On the positive side, the people of Gennesaret (14:34-36) show seemingly unqualified faith in him as healer, as do the crowds along the Sea of Galilee (15:29-31). And, once again, we find the disciples in an ambiguous position.

Proper 14

August 10, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 37:1-4
Reading 2: 
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Reading 3: 
Romans 10:5-15
Reading 4: 
Matthew 14:22-33
By Russell Pregeant

The “little faith” of the disciples is thematic in Matthew. In this gospel, Jesus uses the adjective oligopistos (of little faith) four times (6:30, 8:26, 14:31, and 16:8) and the noun oligopistia (littleness of faith) once (17:20), always in relation to the disciples. Clearly, however, littleness of faith does not mean utter lack of faith; the disciples waver back and forth throughout the gospel. And the specific nature of the inadequacy varies from passage to passage.

Proper 13

August 3, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
August 3, 2014
Reading 2: 
Genesis 32:22-31
Reading 3: 
Psalm 17:1-7, 15
Reading 4: 
Romans 9:1-5
Alt Reading 1: 
Matthew 14:13-21
By Russell Pregeant

The Genesis reading is one of the most process-friendly texts in the Bible. To begin with, it presents God as interacting with humanity in a way that actually suggests divine vulnerability. For the wrestling match is no mere charade in which God intentionally withholds power in order to guide Jacob through a process of transformation. When “the man” (=God) pleads for Jacob to let him go in v. 27, we must take the request at face value—that is, as an indication that the divine combatant cannot break Jacob’s grip. The beginning of v.

Proper 12

July 27, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 29:15-28
Reading 2: 
Psalm 105:1-11,45b
Reading 3: 
Romans 8:26-39
Reading 4: 
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
By Marti J. Steussy

Today’s Genesis reading continues a focus on Israel’s ancestors. This story, written before the idea of “Bible” was invented, probably wasn’t intended as religious instruction. It doesn’t mention God, doesn’t present us with good role models, and doesn’t have a lesson beyond “what goes around, comes around.” It’s a family story: “Remember old Jake? He was a real scrapper! Why, he’d even wrassle with God if he had the chance! But Uncle Laban took him down a notch…”

Proper 11

July 20, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 28:10-19a
Reading 2: 
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
Reading 3: 
Romans 8:12-25
Reading 4: 
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
By Marti J. Steussy

It has been said that hope, in the theological sense, is “refusing to despair when optimism isn’t warranted.” Such hope isn’t just wanting something (“I hope I’ll get a red sweater for Christmas”) or having obvious grounds to expect it (“Looks like we can hope for good weather on Saturday”). Theological hope applies in situations where the odds seemed stacked against us and all indicators point the wrong way. In different ways, Romans, Matthew, and Genesis speak from and to such situations.

Proper 10

July 13, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 25:19-34
Reading 2: 
Psalm 119:105-112
Reading 3: 
Romans 8:1-11
Reading 4: 
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Alt Reading 2: 
Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13
Alt Reading 1: 
Isaiah 55:10-13
By Marti J. Steussy

Both of today’s New Testament lections invite us to ponder the mysterious interaction of divine power and human choice.  Romans has been developing the theme of life/death “force fields” (see commentaries for recent weeks), often using the term sarkos (NRSV “flesh”) for the sin/decay field. This terminology reflects the Greek sound byte soma sema, “the body is a tomb.” We should not conclude that human bodies are detestable.

Proper 9

July 6, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Reading 2: 
Psalm 45:10-17
Reading 3: 
Romans 7:15-25a
Reading 4: 
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Alt Reading 2: 
Song of Sol. 2:8-13
By Marti J. Steussy

Genesis 24 was likely written more than 1400 years after Abraham’s time (in which camels weren’t yet domesticated). In it, Isaac has even less say than Rebekah about their arranged marriage (we see her consent asked, but not his). Abraham’s aged servant (the one once slated to inherit the estate, 15:2-3 / 24:2-3?) shows little enthusiasm when told to go to the old country to find a wife for Isaac. Perhaps to avoid issue, he asks for a very unlikely sign (24:12-14).

Proper 8

June 29, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 22:1-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 13
Reading 3: 
Romans 6:12-23
Reading 4: 
Matthew 10:40-42
By Ron Allen

The Priestly theologians gave Genesis 22:1-14 its present shape in the shadow of the exile. Two themes are especially important. First, the text rejects child sacrifice. Some of Israel’s neighbors followed this practice (e.g. Deut 12:31; 2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6; 23;10; Isa 57:5; Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35), but according to Genesis 21:1-14, God never intended child sacrifice (cf. Lev 18:21; 20:2-5).

Proper 7

June 22, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 21:8-21
Reading 2: 
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Reading 3: 
Romans 6:1b-11
Reading 4: 
Matthew 10:24-39
By Ron Allen

The Priestly theologians gave the book of Genesis its present form shortly after the exile. The Priests believed that God sought to bless the entire world and that Israel had a particular mission within that purpose, namely, to alert the other nations to blessing.

Trinity Sunday

June 15, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Reading 2: 
Psalm 8
Reading 3: 
2 Cor 13:11-13
Reading 4: 
Matthew 28:16-20
By Ron Allen

Because Trinity Sunday explores the doctrine of the Trinity, I begin with a disclaimer. With a small stream in the Stone-Campbell Movement, I do not believe in the Trinity. I regard God as singularly One, with Jesus and the Spirit as God’s close agents. But, in the ecumenical spirit of my tradition, the comments that follow offer preaching possibilities friendly to Trinitarianism.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

June 1, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 1:6-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
Reading 3: 
I Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Reading 4: 
John 17:1-11
By Bruce Epperly

This Sunday, often celebrated as Ascension Sunday, invites us to be both heavenly minded and earthly good. The Acts passage sets the tone. Jesus promises the disciples that they will receive the power of the Spirit, and then departs into the heavens. Jesus’ ascension is a puzzling event that is more problematic than helpful, if we take it literally. Jesus is no longer with us, and we have to explain his absence.

Pentecost

June 8, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Numbers 11:24-30
Reading 2: 
Psalm 104:24-34, 35v
Reading 3: 
Acts 2:1-21
Reading 4: 
John 20:19-23 or 7:37-39
Alt Reading 2: 
1 Cor 12:3-13
Alt Reading 1: 
Acts 2:1-21
By Ron Allen

On the Sundays after Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary turns its back on the Torah, Prophets and Writings by replacing that reading with one from Acts. This displacement is regrettable as it reinforces anti-Jewish instincts buried deep within the church. Consequently, in my view, on Pentecost Day the church should read from Numbers when the lectionary gives the choice between Numbers and Acts.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 25, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 17:22-31
Reading 2: 
Psalm 66:8-20
Reading 3: 
I Peter 3:13-22
Reading 4: 
John 15:14-21
By Bruce Epperly

Today’s readings invite us to think theologically, and try to mediate Christian spirituality and theology with the unique challenges of our 21st century spiritual landscape.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 18, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 7:55-60
Reading 2: 
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Reading 3: 
I Peter 2:2-10
Reading 4: 
John 14:1-14
By Bruce Epperly

Today’s readings portray mystical and unitive experiences that issue in changed perspectives on the challenges of life. Mysticism often provides us with a greater perspective that liberates us from self-centeredness and defensiveness, thus enabling us to live compassionately.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 11, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 2:42-47
Reading 2: 
Psalm 23
Reading 3: 
I Peter 2:19-25
Reading 4: 
John 10:1-10
By Bruce G. Epperly

Healthy spirituality is all-season: it embraces mind, body, spirit, and relationships; individual and community; sickness and health; contemplation and action; and abundance and scarcity. It promotes individual transformation, and points individuals toward God’s larger global missions.

Third Sunday of Easter

May 4, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 2:1-4a. 36-41
Reading 2: 
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
Reading 3: 
I Peter 1:17-23
Reading 4: 
Luke 24:13-25
By Bruce G. Epperly

Salvation or wholeness comes in many ways. If God has a truly personal relationship with each of us, then there is no “one size that fits all” approach to salvation on the pathway to wholeness. Rather, there are many ways to experience God’s empowering and transforming presence.

Second Sunday of Easter

April 27, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Reading 2: 
Psalm 16
Reading 3: 
I Peter 1:3-9
Reading 4: 
John 20:19-31
By Bruce G. Epperly

We can experience resurrection power in miraculous ways. We can experience divine resuscitations, breathing with Jesus, restoring spirits and communities in ways we never would have expected.

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