The Collect for the 13th Sunday after Trinity
ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer are on pp. xl-xli.
Part 1. The First Lesson of Morning Prayer
The first lesson of Morning Prayer continues our reading of 2 Samuel, chapters 17-23. These chapters chronicle the domestic violence breaking out in war between David and his favorite son Absalom. Absalom was a handsome man, and carefully positioned himself as a confidant of the masses. He encouraged anyone who had a dispute or was seeking justice to come to him instead of his father. It was only a matter of time before a struggle for the throne would break out in war. In the first days Absalom and his supporters gained the upper hand and David and his household and army was forced to flee Jerusalem. But the fortunes of war turned against him, and Absalom fled the field on his royal mule. It was then that he was caught by his luxuriant hair in the low hanging branches of a tree. There he was killed by Joab, David’s commander in chief. Our readings conclude with the account of David’s mercy to his enemies and last words of David. It is remarkable that the man after God’s own heart, flawed as he was, showed such devotion to the Lord, and such charity toward his enemies. It is no wonder that the Jews hoped that one day another man from David’s line would come to rule over Israel in justice, peace and mercy.
Part 2. The Second Lesson of Morning Prayer
The second lesson of Morning Prayer continues our reading of Acts, chapters 3-5. Peter’s sermon in the temple sounds a good deal like his Pentecost sermon – Israel’s God had fulfilled his promises to Israel by sending them Jesus, whom they had rejected, but God raised him from the dead to show that he is now king over heaven and earth. The chief priests arrested Peter and John, and they testified before the Sanhedrin to Jesus’ resurrection. After they were released they rejoined the fledgling church and praised God for Jesus’ reign that he has now begun. This early Christian community was remarkable for holding all things in common. Barnabas sold a field he owned and gave the proceeds to the apostles. A man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira propose to do the same, but hold some of the proceeds back and are struck dead. In a move to quell the rising numbers of the Church, the Jewish leaders had Peter arrested again. When he refused to refrain from preaching about Jesus’ resurrection, the high priest Gamaliel advises that they resist the urge to persecute Christians on the chance that they might actually be opposing God!
Part 3. The First Lesson of Evening Prayer
The first lesson of Evening Prayer continues our reading of Job, 14-19. Job meditates on the human condition: like a flower, not like a tree because when cut down we are dead, more like a river or pond, our suffering is our own and cannot be shared; Eliphaz speaks again: Jobs confidence is impious (rejects the fear of God), Job’s speech shows his pride; common sense and tradition testify against Job; everyone makes mistakes and is a debtor before God; the wicked are fruitless, waiting destruction; Job replies saying he doesn’t understand why they keep talking; recounts how much he has suffered from God and his friends; he restates his confidence in God’s justice; but the grave awaits; Bildad replies with the threat of death for the wicked; Job replies that his friends should leave off their tormenting him, because his case does not involve them, but God; he says the ‘vindicator’ will take up his case, even if he dies, and that God will finally judge in his favor, if not now, then at the end.
Part 4. The Second Lesson of Evening Prayer
The second lesson of Evening Prayer continues our reading of the Gospel of Mark, chapters 3-5. When Jesus heals the sick in Galilee, crowds come to see Jesus from all over the Galilee, the Decapolis and Tyre and Sidon. Jesus called the 12 apostles to follow him, evidently a sign that Jesus believed that his ministry was to reconstitute the 12 tribes of Israel. This kind of behavior draws the attention and condemnation of the religious leaders from Jerusalem. Jesus hadn’t received their approval, so he must be doing all these things by the power of evil (Beelzebul). Jesus said that he was driving evil out of Israel, so he couldn’t be using the forces of evil. He was the agent of God’s spirit, not the Devil. To say that Jesus was evil would be to confuse the Holy Spirit with the Devil. Such a mistake (confusing God with the Devil) would cut someone off from the very life of God. So Jesus continues his ministry, this time in parables, by telling the crowds and the disciples that he has come to plant the Kingdom of God in their midst. Is. 55 foreshadowed the day when God would sow his people back from exile into their land. He would water and care for them. They would bring forth good fruit. Where are we in this parable?