Lectionary Commentary

Proper 25

October 26, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Reading 2: 
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
Reading 3: 
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Reading 4: 
Matthew 22:34-46
By Ignacio Castuera

Holiness and finitude are the twin topics for this collection of texts. Even the great first Prophet, Moses, dies without accomplishing all he wished to do. He cannot enter the Promised Land. Like Martin Luther King centuries later he can only say I see it from afar. Reinhold Niebuhr left us with a great statement about finitude and, in some ways, about holiness: Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope.

Proper 24

October 19, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 33:12-23
Reading 2: 
Psalm 99
Reading 3: 
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Reading 4: 
Matthew 22:15-22
By Ignacio Castuera

The self-exclusion of idolatry continues to be contrasted with the true worship of the One who loves all in the texts for our Sunday. In addition a kind of “explanation” for the tendencies toward idolatry is given in the Exodus passage. Even a prophet like Moses has doubts and wants to “see.” Not content with hearing the voice of God now he wants to see the face of God.

Proper 23

October 12, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 32:1-14
Reading 2: 
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
Reading 3: 
Philippians 4:1-9
Reading 4: 
Matthew 22:1-14
By Ignacio Castuera

October 12 is a most important day to remember. Preachers should not ignore the fullness of the meaning of this day for world history. Above all, pastors must not forget the pain of the conquered. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue AND Spain expelled Muslim and Jew. 1492 brought to an end almost eight centuries of Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula and the universal dimensions of Andalusian Islam were shattered by the tribalistic perspectives of medieval Christianity.

Proper 22

October 5, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Reading 2: 
Psalm 19
Reading 3: 
Philippians 3:4b-14
Reading 4: 
Matthew 21:33-46
By Ignacio Castuera

I strongly suggest checking back to 2002, when Marjorie Suchocki wrote on these texts, to 2005 for Dr. Cobb’s specific take, to 2008 to see what Episcopal Priest Paul Nancarrow shared and to 2011 when Rick Marshall introduces Process thought in a focused way.* These scholars and preachers did a very good job and should inspire preachers for the task ahead this October.

Proper 21

September 28, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 17.1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 78.1-4, 12-16
Reading 3: 
Philippians 2.1-13
Reading 4: 
Matthew 21.23-32
By David J. Lull

Unless otherwise noted, biblical quotations are from the NRSV.
 

Today’s readings have a common theme: obedience, fidelity, faithfulness to God. 

Exodus 17.1-7

Proper 20

September 21, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 16.2-15
Reading 2: 
Psalm 105.1-6, 37-45
Reading 3: 
Philippians 1.21-30
Reading 4: 
Matthew 20.1-16
By David J. Lull

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

Exodus 16.2-15 (and Psalm 105.1-6, 37-45)

See Walter Brueggemann, “Exodus,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, edited by Leander E. Keck (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), vol. 1:812-16.

Proper 19

September 14, 2014
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Exodus 14.19-31
Reading 2: 
Psalm 114
Reading 3: 
Romans 14.1-12
Reading 4: 
Matthew 18.21-35
By David J. Lull

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

 

Exodus 14.19-31 and Psalm 114

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.

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