Third Sunday of Lent; 15 March 2020; Lent 3A (RCL); Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42.
This is one of the most complex dialog scenes in John’s Gospel, and rather befuddling. By the time we arrive at the end of the scene, Jesus has not received his drink of water, and the woman has left her water jar there at the well. Clearly, John is pointing us beyond the initial exchange.
Continue reading “Living water”
First Sunday in Lent; March 1, 2020; Lent IA (RCL); Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.
I have been reading N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and I am convinced by his argument (summarized in his commentary on Romans in the New Interpreter’s Bible) that in the background of much of Second Temple Judaism lay the expectation of a completed return from Exile, or even a restoration of the cosmos.
Continue reading “To be like God”
Last Sunday after Epiphany; 23 February 2020; Last Epiphany A (RCL); Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9.
The church calendar always gives us an account of the transfiguration on the Sunday before Lent begins, as the collect says, so that we may be strengthened to bear our cross, and at Easter be changed into Christ’s likeness. And the account of the transfiguration does feel like a resurrection appearance retrojected back into the earthly life of Jesus. But it is about much more than nerving us up for Lent.
Continue reading “And now, for something completely different.”
16 February 2020; Sixth Sunday after Epiphany; Epiphany 6A (RCL); Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37.
Both the Deuteronomy and Sirach passages use a form of ethical instruction called ‘the two ways.’ The Psalms are replete with examples, beginning with Psalm 1. The Didache is a prime example. Matthew seems to use it for his own purposes. Rather than setting out a contrast between the way of life and the way of death (the usual pattern), Matthew sets out a contrast between the old way and the new way.
Continue reading “A greater righteousness”
16 February 2020; Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Epiphany 5A (RCL); Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20.
We’re reading in course from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. We missed the beatitudes last week, because the Feast of the Presentation preempted the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. And this week, the passage we hear opens with Jesus saying about salt, and ends with him saying that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a rather serious departure from the way Mark treats the Pharisees.
Continue reading “Righteousness as salt”
The Presentation of our Lord; Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 84; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40.
We don’t often get to observe the Feast of the Presentation on a Sunday, so we don’t often get to hear these readings. Luke is very careful to tell us that everything necessary under the law had been fulfilled for Jesus. In part, he does this in order to show that, as far as Gentiles are concerned, Jesus has set some aspects of the law aside. The order of the law has been fulfilled, and we now live under the order of the Spirit.
Continue reading “Flesh and blood”
26 January 2020; Third Sunday after Epiphany; Epiphany 3A (RCL); Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 5-13; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23.
I know it is an accident of the lectionary, but I am always struck by the juxtaposition of the passage from 1 Corinthians and the passage from Matthew’s Gospel. In Corinthians, Paul says, “I appeal to you . . . that there be no tears (schisms) among you, but that you be mended into the same mind and same purpose.” In Matthew, when Jesus encounters James and John, they are in their father’s boat, mending their nets. The verb for ‘to mend’ (katartizein) is the same in both instances. According to Liddell and Scott, it only means ‘to mend’ in the New Testament. It usually means ‘to restore, to adjust, to put in order.’
Continue reading “Mending nets”
19 January 2020; Second Sunday after Epiphany; Epiphany 2A (RCL); Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42.
This is really the first narrative unit of John’s Gospel. Everything up to now has been prologue. This unit sets up what we can expect from John’s narrative. The first words spoken by a character in the narrative belong to John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This is already stunning.
Continue reading “Come and see”
12 January 2020; The Baptism of our Lord; Epiphany IA (RCL); Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17
The voice from heaven speaks a phrase that is a conflation of Psalm 2:7 (You are my son; this day have I begotten you) and Isaiah 42:1 (Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased). This very combination is already asking the reader to make a profound theological move by combining the figure our the King with the figure of the servant.
Continue reading “Behold, my servant”
22 December 2019; Advent IVA (RCL); Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25
Ahaz was facing a military threat in the alliance of Israel and Syria, and scrambling to make alliances of his own. The prophet is trying to tell him that God will protect Judah without the help of a foreign alliance. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz responds that he will not put God to the test.
Continue reading “Ask a sign”