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Daily Lectionary – July 1, 2020

 

Morning Psalms 65; 147:1-11

First Reading Numbers 22:41-23:12

Second Reading Romans 7:13-25

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:33-46

Evening Psalms 125; 91

 

Matthew 21:33-46

 

33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

 

42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

 

45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

 

Jesus criticizes the Pharisees, as he so often does, but it takes them a while to realize it. The Pharisees step right into Jesus’ trap, calling judgement down on themselves—they who have stoned the prophets and harmed the people and are plotting to away with God’s Son, just as the people in the story have, and will lose God’s promise to covenantal outsiders as a result. That self-awareness is a challenge, which is why we take such pains to confess in worship (and, hopefully, in our own lives). It’s easy to think we’re on the side of the angels—in matters of religion or life or politics. Jesus patiently reminds us that righteousness comes from God. The extent to which we ourselves will be righteous is the extent to which we are looking for God’s way instead of our own. The way into the vineyard is the life of the Son.

 

God, forgive our arrogance in thinking we have the world figured out without you. Help us to discover the wisdom of your way, in this creation you made and loved and, in Jesus Christ, redeemed. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – July 1, 20202020-09-08T16:04:31-05:00

Daily Lectionary – June 30, 2020

Morning Psalms 54; 146

First Reading Numbers 22:21-38

Second Reading Romans 7:1-12

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:23-32

Evening Psalms 28; 99

 

Numbers 22:21-38

 

21So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab. 22God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23The donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 24Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. 26Then the angel of the LORD went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”

 

31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. 32The angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me. 33The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” 34Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 35The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.

 

36When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at Ir-moab, on the boundary formed by the Arnon, at the farthest point of the boundary. 37Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38Balaam said to Balak, “I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.”

 

The story of Balaam’s donkey is one of those fantastical ones that makes it hard to take seriously. We can pass it by without a thought; but, if we do, we might miss the Word of God in our midst. The story suggests that even prophets have trouble noticing God’s presence—even, and especially, when they have somewhere to go or something to do. Then that one “thing” that doesn’t work, the thing that has worked in the past but is all of a sudden slowing us down, becomes an obstacle rather than a help. Rather than questioning our direction, we often question the utility of the thing holding us back. It could be a body, worn out from stress or work, telling you to slow down. It could be that comment from a friend or a loved one telling you they need you because you have been working too much. It could be that neighbor who stops you in your tracks and makes you pay attention to things around you. It could be that feeling you have buried that’s telling you that you have forgotten to even look in the presence of God is. Whatever it is, pay attention; it might be the one thing reminding you that the greatest obstacle to the presence of God in your life is your own restless self.

 

God, make us still in your presence: to see you and to know you in the fullness of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – June 30, 20202020-09-08T16:04:31-05:00

Daily Lectionary – June 29, 2020

Morning Psalms 57; 145

First Reading Numbers 22:1-21

Second Reading Romans 6:12-23

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:12-22

Evening Psalms 85; 47

 

Matthew 21:12-22

 

12Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

 

14The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 17He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

18In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

 

 By the end of the Gospel of Matthew the events are speeding up. Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers; he cures the sick in the temple; he argues with the priests and scribes (again); and he curses a fig tree. It seems like a strange place to end. Why does Jesus curse the tree? Ostensibly the story is about prayer: “if you ask for this in faith it will be done.” But I can’t help but think that Jesus is still thinking about the temple, even when he has gone out to Bethany. The temple was full of people making money, selling animals for sacrifice, teaching toothless theology. It was close enough to the blind and the lame that they made it to Jesus for healing there; but why didn’t the faith of Israel offer that healing in the first place? If the temple was where the people were to meet God, why wasn’t God there? It was like a dried-up fig tree, and the people went hungry. We always run this temptation in our lives—thinking that if we keep the sacrificial economy of work or parenthood or volunteering going we can make space for God. We do this at church, too, when we fill the calendar with commitments that you sometimes want to attend and sometimes feel like you have to attend. But are we really fed when this happens? I sometimes wonder—especially now that our sacrificial economy has been upended by events beyond our control. Maybe now is the time to recover something of the presence of Jesus, which is always what we need. If we don’t know how, Jesus offers a way.

 

God, be present to us, as you were to your disciples, in the love of Jesus Christ, your Son. Help us in our lives and in our church to bear the fruits of faith for a hungry world, as we enjoy your presence in all that we do. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – June 29, 20202020-09-08T16:04:31-05:00

Daily Lectionary – June 28, 2020

Morning Psalms 67; 150

First Reading Numbers 21:4-9, 21-35

Second Reading Acts (17:12-21) 17:23-24

Gospel Reading Luke 13:10-17

Evening Psalms 46; 93

 

Acts (17:12-21) 17:23-24

 

12Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing. 13But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. 14Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.

 

16While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.

 

22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.

 

Paul is led to the Areopagus to proclaim Jesus Christ. The Areopagus was the place Athenians went to argue philosophy or politics (named after Ares, the Greek god of war)—think modern-day Twitter but fewer memes. And, no doubt, there were likely plenty of experienced skeptics there to put Paul in his place. Paul doesn’t hold back but wades right into the fray, articulating his belief in light of the Athenians’ openness. They have an altar to an unknown God in their city, and Paul has come to tell them exactly who that God is. We know who that God is partly thanks to Paul. God is the creator. God is the one who calls and guides Israel. God is the one who becomes flesh in Jesus Christ and dies for us. Yet maybe, despite our acquaintance with the stories and tradition of our faith, part of us knows that we have an altar to the unknown God in our hearts. As much as we know about God, we know that God is always beyond us—beyond our arguments, beyond our comfort, beyond our certainty. We want to take Paul to the Areopagus to question him as if, putting God on our own turf, we can understand in our own way. Paul points out that this isn’t how God works: that, as much as we would like answers to our questions—when will COVID go away? When will God step in to right the injustices of our world? When will things get back to normal?—the unknowable God doesn’t live in our easily accessible answers. The fire to the unknown still burns, which is exactly the good news—because who would have expected God to save us through Jesus Christ? Who knows what God will do next?

 

God, we do not know the way, but we confess that it belongs to you. Help us to walk in faith, even if we cannot see ahead, leaning on your grace and love, in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – June 28, 20202020-09-08T16:04:32-05:00

Daily Lectionary – June 27, 2020

Morning Psalms 56; 149

First Reading Numbers 20:14-29

Second Reading Romans 6:1-11

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:1-11

Evening Psalms 118; 111

 

Romans 6:1-11

 

1What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

 

5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

Paul uses a lot of “if…then” statements (the “then” often implied). If we are united in Christ’s death, then we are united in his resurrection. If our lives of sin were crucified with them, then we are free from sin . . . and so on. Paul is careful about this order because we are so likely to misunderstand it, thinking that, since we are free from sin, we are free from having to worry about it. That can be a dangerous illusion, thinking that we are righteous because we are forgiven, and therefore we can be excused from the conduct in our own lives or our concern about our neighbor or hoping for a just society. Paul reminds us of the if: if God has done all of these things for you—living and dying as Jesus, incorporating you into God’s own life and mission—if God has done this for you, then you are forgiven, loved, and called to something else. What, then, are you going to do about it? We don’t get the “if” without the “then.”

 

God, lead us, help us, change us, so that we can become who you created and redeemed us to be, in the life of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – June 27, 20202020-09-08T16:04:32-05:00
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