Sunday Readings & Comments


Dear Church Sisters and Brothers,

This has been quite a week in our nation. Our deep divisions, anger, hatred and violence toward others is brought from just below the surface into the open. In the church our calendar moves us more deeply toward the church year’s end. Eschatology is the area of theology concerned with judgment, death and the future. As many are knee deep into Christmas before Thanksgiving, we prepare for Advent – awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, as we pray for the birth of Christ anew within us. Our readings the next two weeks set the stage – parables which point us toward living as we wait. In days of such division and hatred over politics and how to control an out-of-control disease, I imagine a different world – not just the future, but here. That is God’s vision for us, revealed in the teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our world can be different.

The Collect points us toward the Son who destroys the of evil, setting us free for life in the Father now. In such hope, take an inner inventory – to see areas you need to be purified, and take steps to become more open for Christ. “When he comes again” anticipates that mysterious future we await. Christ came and left this earth, but not alone. And Christ will come again. As you pray the Collect over these next days, focus on what you are asking of God – to be more like him in thought, words and action. Have hope as Christ will one day reign fully in us, and through us.

The text from Joshua is not eschatological in content, necessarily. Joshua insists on unwavering loyalty to Yahweh. Israel must have one God – Yahweh, not like tribes and nations around them. The hope that shapes the church as we listen to their confession of loyalty, draws us into our commitment to the demands of God. We continually heed such stories that call for our turning (returning) to the God revealed in Jesus when we stumble and fall. It’s God’s nature to forgive, love and form us into a people dedicated to Him, if we are obedient.

The reading from 1 Thessalonians addresses a concern of the early church – the fate of deceased parents. The language fits their understanding of a three-tiered world. Even though our understanding is so different, the truth is that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of all people. Paul reiterates the hope in Jesus’ return. It is a theme we soon meet in Advent – living between the two comings of our Lord.

Psalm 78 bridges us to the parable in Matthew 25. The speaker promises to “open my mouth in a parable;” declaring the mysteries of ancient times. Matthew writes to the church expecting the return of Jesus. Here we are – still waiting – just as people two thousand years ago. How do we live with DELAY – that apparently goes on and on? The maidens expecting the immediate arrival of the bridegroom were the ones in trouble. Calculation of “Jesus’ return” is not the issue. How to live while waiting is. In this parable, the arrival of bridegroom merely reveals who is wise and who is foolish. It’s to live prepared, as if Jesus is here now. Think about that one.

Read, reread aloud the Collect and texts. Take your time. Let them sink in. Meditate on their worlds, what captures you. We can awaken from distractions that pull us from giving our full attention to God. It’s one thing to speak the Divine Name. It’s another to live with such love and compassion that someone might notice, and ask, “What must I do to be saved?”

Blessings, peace and grace, Fr. Steve

23 Sunday After Pentecost – November 8

Proper 27 – Year A

The Collect

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.

“Now therefore revere the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore, we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” So, Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

Psalm 78:1-7

Attendite, popule

1 Hear my teaching, O my people; *
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; *
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3 That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us, *
we will not hide from their children.
4 We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, *
and the wonderful works he has done.
5 He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel, *
which he commanded them to teach their children;
6 That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn; *
that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
7 So that they might put their trust in God, *
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so, we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Gospel

Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

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