The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, who declarest thine almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The lesson for the week are found on pages xl-xli.
Part 1. The First Lesson for Morning Prayer
The First Lesson for Morning Prayer continues our reading of the
early kings, now in the book 2 Samuel. Though we might imagine that
David would have rejoiced at the opportunity to become king, instead we
find that David mourns the death of Saul and Jonathan who had died at
the hands of the pagan Philistines. But David was
crowned king of Judah but still waited to rule over a unified kingdom. This divided kingdom results in a series of battles between the men of Saul and the men of David that are reminiscent of scenes from Homer. It is only once this civil war is concluded that the whole nation can embrace David as their anointed king. Once he has become king he moves to his newly conquered city, Jerusalem, and brings the Ark of God into his capitol. David’s devotion leads him to propose to build a temple for the Lord, but Nathan the prophet says that God will be the one who builds a ‘house’ for David that will never end, and that the rule will be over all the Earth for eternity. To whom does he refer?
Part 2. The Second Lesson for Morning Prayer
We continue in our reading of Luke’s Gospel, chapters 23 and 24. These concluding chapters bring the drama of Jesus’ earthly ministry to their astonishing fulfillment. Jesus the King of Israel is brought before the cheap counterfeit, Herod, but refuses to play the part of court magician. Pilate gives the crowd the man of their own choosing to crucify on the hillside outside the city gate, while the insurgent, Barabbas, goes free. Luke wants us to consider how Jesus is dying the death of a murder and terrorist, hanging upon the cross, while the city that had rejected his call to peace and repentance continues to spoil for war against their Roman occupiers. But it is only thru the pain of death and the darkness of the tomb, that the Kingdom of God can come to rule on the earth. We are as amazed by this mysterious truth as the first disciples were as Jesus revealed it to them on the road to Emmaus.
Part 3. The First Lesson for Evening Prayer
The First Lesson for Evening Prayer invites us into the sufferings of Job. Some scholars believe that Job is the most ancient book in the Bible. And the source of the book is just as puzzling and obscure. Job is evidently not a Hebrew, yet he knows and worships the Most High. He is the most righteous man on Earth. And God allows Satan, ‘the accuser’, to destroy his family, his wealth and his health, to prove that he is faithful above all things. This book of wisdom literature seeks to understand one of the most difficult questions that men and women have ever asked: why do the righteous suffer?
Once this great suffering has befallen him, Job curses the day that he was ever born. The whole of human life is wrapped up into this conundrum: God gives life, but that gift must be lived in suffering, and even those who wish to die cannot. The first of Job’s friends to speak to him is Eliphaz. His opening statement is that wisdom is knowing that no human can be innocent before God. Humility before divine providence must be the rule of life for the faithful. God sends all good and evil into the world; the wise know this and thank God for it. But Job is not convinced of any guilt. Perhaps he has committed some error, but nothing in his life could possibly deserve the wholesale destruction that has fallen upon him. The suffering of life seems to overwhelm the few joys we experience in the mean time. Nonetheless, Job commits himself to God’s justice.
Part 4. The Second Lesson for Evening Prayer
The Second Lesson for Evening Prayer continues our reading of Paul’s
letter to the Ephesians, chapters four through six. Because God has now
revealed his mysterious plan in the death and resurrection of Israel’s
Messiah he calls the Christians in Ephesus to live in unity. What God
has done thru the Messiah must be lived out in each of them individually
and corporately. Because God is one, his family must be one. Baptism
brings us into the life of that one family, the Church, Jesus’ own body.
It lives in the power of his Spirit, bearing fruit from the gifts
imparted to it. Jews along with Gentiles must live in harmony with one
another. There cannot be any lying or corrupt living among them, because
these are characteristics of the life they
had once lived in the power of darkness. But now they are living in the light of eternity. So Paul concludes with a series of specific rules, commonly called ‘household codes’, that must characterize the Christian community. It is remarkable how our own society has rejected these. Servants must obey masters. Wives must obey husbands. Children must obey parents. Why? Because each in their own way must reflect the sacrificial love of Christ to the rest of the world. Instead of reducing every human association to power, Paul asks us to consider how each moment is an opportunity to show love and forgiveness.