What follows are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 9, 2018.
These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.
There are two sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second selection blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.
The first selection of readings now goes to the Book of Proverbs, which Solomon wrote in his God-given wisdom. Matthew Henry has excellent observations on each verse.
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
22:2 The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all.
22:8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.
22:9 Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the Poor.
22:22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;
22:23 for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.
The Psalm complements the reading from Proverbs.
125:1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
125:2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore.
125:3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, so that the righteous might not stretch out their hands to do wrong.
125:4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
125:5 But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways the LORD will lead away with evildoers. Peace be upon Israel!
Isaiah’s audience would have understood the following verses as a positive prophecy for Hezekiah’s kingdom. However, on a deeper level, the prophet speaks of the coming Messiah. The vengeance in verse 4 is against the wicked, not the believers who find refreshment and renewal through Christ Jesus. This ties in well with the Gospel reading.
35:4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”
35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
35:6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
35:7a the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.
The Psalm further reflects the joy that the passage from Isaiah foretells. Verse 3 is a personal favourite of mine.
146:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
146:2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
146:3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
146:4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
146:5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
146:6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
146:7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
146:8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
146:9 The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
146:10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!
Readings continue from the letters of James. Here James warns against viewing people of means more favourably than the poor, encouraging charity towards those who have little. Love your neighbour as yourself. Also, ‘works’ at the end means ‘exhibiting fruits of faith’. ‘Works’ was why Luther had such a problem with James being in the New Testament canon; people turn ‘works’ into legalism.
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
2:1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
2:2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,
2:3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,”
2:4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
2:6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court?
2:7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
2:8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
2:9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
2:11 For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
2:12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.
2:13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?
2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,
2:16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
2:17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Readings from Mark’s Gospel continue. Here Jesus miraculously answers a plea from a Gentile woman about her daughter’s demon. The exchange about crumbs and the table refer to Jesus’s coming to redeem the Jews first, then the Gentiles. Afterwards, He mercifully heals a deaf man. This ties in nicely with the verses from Isaiah above.
7:24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,
7:25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.
7:26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
7:27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
7:28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
7:29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter.”
7:30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
7:31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
7:32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
7:33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.
7:34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
7:35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
7:36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
7:37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
This is a straightforward selection of readings, rich in meditations for the week ahead. Let’s hope a decent sermon or two is preached on Sunday.