COLLECT FOR THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
GRANT to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The lessons for the Ninth Sunday After Trinity are found on pp. xxxviii-xxxix.
Part 1: The First Lesson for Morning Prayer
The FIRST LESSON for Morning Prayer comes from 1 Sam. 17-20 and here we are introduced to the greatest king of Israel until the arrival of his son, Jesus the Messiah. In one of the greatest of all Bible stories we read about David defeating the Philistine giant Goliath, not only gaining glory for himself, but relief for his people who had suffered so long under the persecution of their pagan neighbors. As the Lord’s beloved, David’s rise to the throne carries all along with him. Though Saul resists him, his own son Jonathan, and his sister, Michal, become his intimate friends. In the succeeding chapters they both save him from their father’s murderous plans. Throughout the ancient histories, the identity and role of the ‘sons of the prophets’ is quite an enigma. The early Church fathers saw in them the roots of the monastic movement that was so influential in their own day. Whether this is true or not, the scene relating to the ecstatic contagion breaking about among Saul’s henchman is quite astonishing. By the end of the chapter, Saul himself is drawn up into the power of the Spirit and is left lying alone, naked and unconscious, while David gets away again. Calvin simply observes, that “Saul ought indeed to have been strongly moved by these things, and to have discerned the impossibility of his accomplishing anything by fighting against the Lord; but he was so hardened that he did not perceive the hand of God.” May God give us grace that we may seek his Spirit, guided by his Spirit and avoid the sad end of the fallen king Saul.
Part 2: The Second Lesson for Morning Prayer
The SECOND LESSON for Morning Prayer continues our reading in the Gospel according to Luke. End 19-21. As we have made our way thru Luke’s gospel we should remember that he has been teaching on the way to his own crucifixion in Jerusalem. All along he has warned his own people that their commitment to violent nationalism centering on Torah and Temple will end with the Romans coming and destroying them all. Now he has arrived at the very heart of the nation, Jerusalem, with its temple offering the daily round of worship to Almighty God. And Jesus weeps. He wanted to gather all his brothers and sisters together, like a mother hen, and die so that they might live. But they wouldn’t have it that way. Their doom is unavoidable. With this as setting, think about why Jesus might ask his opponents what they think about John the Baptist. If John was the forerunner…. who does that mean Jesus is? The Parable of the Vineyard is the story of wayward Israel, called again and again by her covenant God to repentance, but it ends in destruction. The questions and counter questions all circulate around Jesus’ identity. If they can read the signs, why won’t they believe him? So there is nothing left but to foretell the temple’s destruction at the hands of the Romans. Jesus was the Father’s last messenger of peace. There wouldn’t be another. After him, and his crucifixion, there would only be disaster. While this most certainly fulfilled by Titus’ legions pulling the temple down in 70AD, we should be sure that God comes to us again and again. As Aquinas said, Jesus has come in judgment, he will come in glory, but he comes daily to us in mentis, in our hearts and minds. Let us be prepared to receive him.
Part 3: The First Lesson for Evening Prayer
The FIRST LESSON for Evening Prayer concludes our reading of Nehemiah, takes us quickly thru the prophet Haggai, and begins the prophet Zechariah. The concluding chapter of Nehemiah shows how Nehemiah continued to purify the worship of the Lord in the new built temple. Not only had the returning Jews intermarried with the gentiles, but the gentiles had even taken up positions in the priesthood. In a most outrageous example, one Tobiah had even taken up residence in one of the rooms set aside for the Levites. While we may balk at the idea of racial separation, even superiority, we should realize that the heart of this passage is concerned with the pure offering that God demands from his people. We cannot serve more than one god. Our desires cannot be divided. God wants all of us. He isn’t willing to share with anyone, or anything else. The prophet Haggai was specifically involved with the second, and finally successful, building of the temple after Cyrus’ edict of 538BC. It is likely that his prophecy of five addresses relate to the years 520-515BC in which he exhorted Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest to lead the effort to complete the temple. All this, the renewed temple and Israel’s renewed worship would bring in a new age: the Messianic Age. Handel included 2.6 in his great work ‘Messiah’, ‘In a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of the nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory.’ As far as we know, the Lord never returned to fill the temple with his presence as he had done before the exile. Yet, the Church has taught that in sending the Spirit, God’s promises have filled the whole earth. Finally, we begin the book Zechariah, contemporary with Haggai’s. While he shares Haggai’s commitment to the rebuilt temple and worship, his style is remarkable for night visions and apocalyptic revelation.
Part 4: The Second Lesson for Evening Prayer
The SECOND LESSON for Evening Prayer brings us to the end of Paul’s great letter to the Christians in Rome. In our own day, vegetarianism has become popular as a ‘life choice’, or perhaps even a vote against killing of animals that share the gift of life with humans. This is not Paul’s point here. In the ancient world, much of a city’s meat supply would come thru the pagan temples. These carcasses would have been offered to the pagan gods and then distributed throughout the city. Those with tender consciences, either Jews who refused to eat pork, or newly converted pagan gentiles who had just escaped the service of those old gods, might take offense at the meat served in a Christian brother’s home. Paul’s exhortation points us to the very heart of the Christian fellowship: the Messiah had not allowed anything to get in his way to restore fellowship with broken humanity; Christians must not let these human traditions break the precious unity of the Church. So the strong must bear with the weak, and the weak must not hold the strong hostage by guilt manipulation. The Messiah had welcomed them, so they must welcome each other. Finally, Paul get’s to his practical appeal. He has written this long letter to the Christians in Rome so that they can understand the mission that Jesus had given to him. He intended to go to Spain! He wanted them to support him financially as he proposed to head west to the very edge of the known world! Here is a passion for Messiah’s hospitality: taking the news of Jesus to the wild Gauls of Iberia. Tradition says that Paul made it, and even crossed over to England. Do you think he made it? I hope he did. But if he didn’t, God had others who were ready to go with the message of our inclusion in God’s family. Where is God calling you to show hospitality? Where are the wild men in the world today that need to hear about Jesus? May God give us grace to follow Paul and be ready with a gentle word, a cup of water, a meal, and the news that we have made free in Messiah.