Category Archives: Reading the Bible

Daily Office Series – Trinity 9 – Week of August 19, 2019 – Fr. Davidson Morse

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

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.

Daily Office Series – Trinity 8 – Week of August 12, 2019 – Fr. Davidson Morse

COLLECT FOR THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

 
O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lessons

The lessons are found on pp. xxxviii- xxxix.

Part 1: The First Lesson of Morning Prayer.

In the First Lesson of Morning Prayer this week we continue our reading of the book 1 Samuel chapters 12-16. These chapters chronicle the transition in Israel from a tribal to a monarchical system of government. Samuel describes the Israelites’ demand for a king as another in a long line of idolatries that have brought the invasion of various pagan powers upon them. The drama of Saul’s reign is associated with the Philistines who settled the region south and west of the Israelites down by the Mediterranean. By the time of Saul, these people had lived in the land for more than 200 years. Nevertheless, they were the descendants of sea-faring marauders from southern Europe. Were they Greeks? If so, they would fit with the same mass immigration from Europe into the  Mediterranean basin that included the war in the Levant that gave us the Trojan War. So among the Bronze Age heroes like Achilles we add Jonathan who led the Israelites to defeat the more numerous Philistines. Contrarily, Saul is represented as impetuous and inept, even to the point of jeopardizing the life of his own son and the success of the expedition. Saul fails the last test when he refused to destroy the Amalekites and their king. Samuel anoints David to succeed Saul. Samuel’s words to Saul should inspire us these thousands of years later, ‘Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.’

Part 2: The Second Lesson of Morning Prayer

In the Second Lesson of Morning Prayer we read Luke chapters 18 and 19. Jesus tells two parables in chapter 18. The setting for both is the courtroom, although that may not be immediately evident in the second parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. But these two, along with the widow in the first parable, all stand before the divine tribunal demanding to be vindicated, or judged to be in the right. The Jews had long hoped that God would keep his promises to them and relieve them from the oppression they suffered at the hands of their pagan overlords. But when God acted on behalf of Israel, who would be saved? The tax collector went away justified because he threw himself wholly upon the mercy of the judge. This attitude must be the fundamental characteristic of our faith. So the chapter ends, rightly, with the blind man crying out to Jesus, and his receiving Jesus’ merciful healing according to his faith. Chapter 19 falls into three sections: Zacchaeus, the parable of the talents, and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Each of these confirms the theme, ‘When divine justice comes, who will find themselves in the Kingdom?’ Zacchaeus, the short rich man, is astonished to find himself wrapped up into the messianic welcome that Jesus was extending to all, even the outcast.

Part 3: The First Lesson of Evening Prayer

In the First Lesson of Evening Prayer we continue our reading in Nehemiah. A famine has struck the people and the newly returned exiles are starving. Some have resorted to mortgaging their homes and farms to pay for food to keep from starving. This should remind us of how the people of Egypt had sold Joseph all their lands and possessions to avoid starvation. It was in this way that Egypt became the great power of the day. But the elders of Israel decide to outlaw the collection of interest on debts. All ancient civilizations had a very dim view of charging interest. It is only in the modern era that it has become not only accepted, but the bedrock of modern economic practice. But debt is rarely repaid. Instead, it continues to accumulate until it crushes individuals, families and even whole cultures. Once the city wall was complete, Ezra and the elders of the city, read Moses’ Law to the people, interpreting and exhorting the people to be faithful to the Lord. Reading the Law to the people brings them to the realization that they have not kept the festivals prescribed by God, and their hearts have fallen away from the Lord. This causes Ezra to lead them in a nationwide confession of sin. In what ways have our individual sins become national sins? Do you think that God is interested in nations, or only in individuals?

Part 4: The Second Lesson of Evening Prayer

In the Second Lesson in Evening Prayer we continue our reading of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. As we conclude chapter 11 Paul makes the controversial claim that ‘all Israel will be saved’. If we have been following Paul’s argument from the beginning, we should realize that this Israel being saved is the whole body of believers, Jew and Gentile alike, who have found themselves vindicated in the resurrected Messiah. This new Israel, this new humanity, now has a mandate to the rest of the world. They are to offer right worship. They are to live humbly with their neighbors, acknowledging that God has poured out his gifts upon all the members of the Church. They must show genuine love, and must forgive their enemies. This new community, God’s kingdom on earth, is truly free, and yet they cannot withdraw from human society, nor may they reject human authority. They must be obedient to emperors, kings and governors because they exercise divine authority. Chapter 14 sees Paul reflecting on this new society of the Messiah’s. There are Jews and Gentiles, working thru the challenges of this new way of being. Some want to keep the old holidays, fasts and dietary requirements. Others do not feel bound by those old ways of being. But Paul reminds them that their new found freedom can never result in judging and excluding their Christian brothers and sisters. What might the Church look like today if we took seriously Paul’s injunctions?

Daily Office Series – Trinity 7 – Week of August 5, 2019 – Fr. Davidson Morse

THE COLLECT FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The lessons for the week are found on the top of pp. xxxviii-xxxix.

Part 1. The First Lesson of Morning Prayer

In the First Lesson of Morning Prayer this week we continue our reading of 1 Samuel. While Samuel had been a faithful and holy judge and guide to Israel, his sons didn’t follow his ways. This has always been troubling to intentional, and devoted Christian parents. How can it be that children raised in the faith and guidance of a Christian family and in the community of the Church fall from faith? Of course, there is no pat or easy answer. We must continue to share with them the love of God, especially in what he has done for us in his Son and Spirit.

But more particularly to the drama of 1 Samuel, the Israelites reject Samuel because of his sons’ wickedness, and demand that he give them a king so that they could be like their pagan neighbors. If true religion begins in the home, and true religion is the health of the commonwealth, then we should not be surprised when our nation’s political well-being falters when our families no longer offer authentic worship to Almighty God. Though Samuel warns Israel that they already have a king, God himself, they resolve to crown Saul the Benjamite as their king.

Part 2. The Second Lesson of Morning Prayer

In the Second Lesson of Morning Prayer we continue in our reading of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus’ warnings to Israel that have occupied our reading for the last three weeks give over to his exhortation to forgiveness. Jesus’ opponents are committed to violent nationalism, a zealous defense of land, law and temple against their gentile neighbors that can only end in the Romans coming to destroy their city and their people. Jesus offers another way: the way of peace marked by repentance and coincident forgiveness. These will be the hallmarks of the community that he was building around himself.

So Jesus tells three parables about God seeking the lost sheep, coin, and son in response to the Pharisees’ anger at Jesus’ fellowshipping with sinners. Again, his puzzling parable about the dishonest manager discounting the debts owed to his master is not given as business advice, but as a comment on the precarious state of Israel whose debts were all about to be called in. Where would they find friends when the Romans came to execute divine judgment on them? They should be wise before that terrible time came. The rich among them should take care of the poor in their streets, for in deathall humans are poor. As the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, ‘It’s better to be a live dog, than a dead lion.’ So who will be justified, that is, declared to be in God’s kingdom when it comes? Jesus’ opponents clung to their identity as Jews.

But Jesus says that the true Israelite is one who hears his words and follows his words of warning before the storm strikes. It will be like the days of Noah, or the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Part 3. The First Lesson of Evening Prayer

In the First Lesson of Evening Prayer we conclude our reading of Ezra and begin Nehemiah, both likely written as a single volume by a common author. Once King Artaxerxes had confirmed Cyrus’ original order to rebuild the city and temple in Jerusalem, Ezra leads a large party of exiles in the long journey home from Babylon. What is remarkable in the opening passage is their devotion to God’s care for them. Though it was a long and dangerous expedition, they devoted themselves in prayer and fasting to the LORD instead of asking for military assistance from the Persian king. But upon his return to Israel, Ezra found that the first wave of returning exiles led by Zerubbabel had intermarried with the local, pagan, gentile peoples. This struck at the heart of what it meant to be a ‘holy nation’ set apart as priests to serve the living God.

This should remind us of Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6) about the sanctity of the human body and the marriage covenant. It is important that we marry another Christian. Why? Because our primary status is that we are members of the temple of God, not made of stone, but of believers. We are the household of God, filled by his Spirit. We cannot be joined together with someone outside that edifice. We cannot serve God and the desires of the flesh. Nehemiah continues the story of the returning exiles from Babylon likely describing the wave of Jews arriving around the year 445BC.

Part 4. The Second Lesson of Evening Prayer

In the Second Lesson of Evening Prayer we continue our reading of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Our reading begins with Paul’s triumphal shout, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” The things that stood against us included not only human failing, but the failure of the Jews to be the light to the nations. So Moses’ law stands over against the Jews and accuses them; it cannot give life. But as we saw in 3.21ff God has shown himself to be trustworthy by sending his faithful Son to do for Israel what she couldn’t do for herself. The result is that now the reconciling, resurrecting power of God has been poured out upon all nations, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now there cannot be any condemnation against those who are bound up in the love of the Triune God. But that joyous truth leads Paul to consider the sad consequence to his Jewish brothers who have rejected their own Messiah.

While chapters 9 and 10 have been mined for proof texts for the doctrine of predestination, Paul’s vision has not been diverted. If Israel, God’s chosen family, though whom salvation would come to the world, has not received their own Messiah, have God’s promises failed? Paul seeks to show that since the beginning of Israel’s story God had not chosen all Israel, but only some, as a faithful remnant (Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau; etc.). The dark days of the Exile proved that most of Israel had rejected God. But he preserved a remnant. Indeed, all of Israel’s hopes were confirmed in that remnant of one, Jesus himself, who took upon himself the rebellion of his own people and went out into Exile of crucifixion and death.

So Paul, drawing deeply on Deuteronomy 30, states that all those (Jews and Gentiles alike) who confess the name of Jesus (not Yahweh, as in Dt.) will be brought back from exile. In a deeply ironic way, fulfilling Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 32, Israel’s rejecting God’s offers of forgiveness has been the means by which the Gentiles hear God’s promises, believe, and are brought in (‘justified’).

Daily Office Series – Trinity 6 – Week of July 29, 2019 – Fr. Davidson Morse

THE COLLECT.

O GOD, who hast prepared for them that love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding: Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The lessons for the week can be found in the BCP on pp. xxxvi-xxxvii.

Part 1: The First Lesson for Morning Prayer

The First Lesson for Morning Prayer this week begins a four week reading thru the book 1 Samuel.

This week will take us thru chapters 1-6. These include the miraculous birth of the last of the judges and prophet Samuel. His mother, Hannah, sings a song of praise to the Lord for giving her a child, that is strikingly similar to the song of Mary known as Magnificat. In it she praises God as the one who makes promises and keeps them; who causes wars to cease; who feeds the hungry and cares for the widow; who establishes justice and sends a king to rule with equity. With this in mind Hannah is much like Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, who miraculously bore John the Baptist. Samuel was the forerunner, the messenger, for King David. John the Baptist was the forerunner for the greater David, Jesus the King. Maintaining this thematic parallel throughout will help as we read about the corruption of Eli’s priesthood and the loss of the Ark to the Philistines. Jesus has come to be not only King, but also the true prophet and true priest. He has come ‘to purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD.’ (Mal. 3.3)

Part 2. The Second Lesson for Morning Prayer

The Second Lesson for Morning Prayer this week continues in our reading of Luke, this time chapters 13 and 14.

Jesus’ warnings continue from chapter 12. A time of judgment, of great suffering was about to fall upon Israel. They needed to settle all their outstanding accounts, both financial and moral, with their neighbors. Charity and forgiveness, not grudge-keeping, must be the guiding virtues. Jesus is speaking as God’s herald, his prophet or mouthpiece. If his audience will not hear and repent (turn and go the opposite way they had been going) then their city would be burned down. Fig trees without fruit are no better than firewood! Religious precision without charity for the sick and poor is worthless! When this judgment falls on Jerusalem, those who rejected Jesus will find themselves destroyed while those who responded to Jesus’ warnings, while those outside Israel who obeyed Jesus (the Gentiles?) will find that they have been included in God’s family. Jesus had come to establish God’s kingdom on earth at long last. Yet, the Jewish leaders rejected him, and refused to accept his invitation to the Messianic banquet. Whoever wanted to escape the coming fire would have to leave behind all that they held dear: family, reputation, possessions, influence. How do we take up our crosses to follow Jesus? How does suffering relate to being in Jesus’ kingdom? Where are the sacrifices in our own lives that we must make?

Part 3. The First Lesson for Evening Prayer

The First Lesson for Evening Prayer comes from the Book of Ezra.

Ezra and the following book, Nehemiah, were likely written together by the same author who wrote the books 1 & 2 Chronicles. 2 Chronicles ends with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and Ezra begins with the return of some of the exiles to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. Cyrus and his Persians had defeated the Babylonians in 539BC and forged a great new empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan. In 537BC he authorized the release of Jews to return and build a temple to the God in Jerusalem. Isaiah had foretold this event in Is. 45, where Cyrus is described as the LORD’s ‘messiah’. Because Israel’s God is the one true god, all nations must come, bow down, and worship him. Sadly, Ezra and Nehemiah’s work to rebuild the sacred precinct is delayed by the local tribes who attempt to intimidate and even persuade the Persian king to withdraw his support for this awesome project. Think about how our own culture is willing to allow us to practice our religion privately, as long as it doesn’t spill over into the public common space. But the true God is not content with a ‘private religious experience’. He demands the obedience of all nations.

Part 4. The Second Lesson for Evening Prayer

The Second Lesson for Evening Prayer continues our reading of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Paul is intentionally developing the Exodus theme in his appeal to the Romans. They had once been dead in their idolatry (Gentiles) or condemned by Moses’ Law (Jews), and God’s providential plan to rescue the whole world thru his promises to Abraham seem to be in jeopardy. But now he has sent his son Jesus, Israel’s messianic king, to take upon himself all the destruction of human wickedness. He was faithful to the Father’s call, and now the covenant promises have been poured out onto the world. So, all those who have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection are like those Israelites who departed 400 years of slavery to Egypt into the glorious inheritance of the Promised Land in Canaan. They had been given new lives, they could no longer act as though they were living their old lives. Those Jews who reject Jesus as their messiah, and live according to Moses’ law find themselves accused and condemned by that same law. It cannot give them new life, the way Jesus and the Spirit can. Instead, the Torah can only divide Jew from Gentile, and point out that the Jew has broken the Law that he loves so much. But those who have devoted themselves to Jesus, thru faith and baptism, find that they have been released from anyone or anything that might condemn them. God’s own Spirit, guiding them (cloud by day and fire by night) into their inheritance, has made them God’s own children.

Daily Office Series – Trinity 5 – Week of July 22 – Fr. Davidson Morse

THE COLLECT FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
GRANT, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The lessons for the week can be found in the BCP on pp. xxxvi-xxxvii.

Part 1.

The First Lesson for Morning Prayer continues the story of God sending his Judges to save his people from their pagan oppressors. The account of Samson, certainly the most famous of all the heroic judges, occupies most of the week. While the action scenes make good bedtime stories, much of the account should lead us to question our role as parents in guiding the affections of our children.

Part 2.

For the Second Lesson for Morning Prayer we read the 12 th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. The theme throughout is that there is a terrible time of judgment coming upon Israel and that if the disciples and the crowds will listen to him they can avoid it. The Scribes and Pharisees were attempting to destroy Jesus (ch. 11) but he warns the crowds not to listen to them – they were the same ones that had tormented the prophets like Jeremiah (Evening Prayer). Instead, they should follow Jesus’ warning, trust confidently in the protection of their heavenly father, provide for the poor and come quickly to a solution with anyone who accused them of anything. In our lives today, in the wealthiest, most powerful nation the world has ever known, are we happy? Do we feel confident and fulfilled? Or are we anxious for the future? How is it that we can offer a word of peace to our community that suffers from such discontent?

Part 3.

At Evening Prayer we continue the heartbreaking saga of the fall of Jerusalem and the even more distressing faithlessness of Jeremiah’s people. Nebuchadnezzer’s army had taken Jerusalem and had freed Jeremiah. However, the Babylonian king offered merciful terms to the remnant. In the place of King Zedekiah, he gave authority to a godly man named Gedaliah. However, Jeremiah’s enemies assassinated him bringing the full wrath of Nebuchadnezzar down upon Jerusalem, burning it to the ground. Jerusalem’s refugees seek guidance from Jeremiah: should they go with the King and his advisors to exile in Babylon, or remain around the ruins of their grieving city? Jeremiah tells them that either way, God will bless them. But they should not seek refuge in Egypt. They must accept the divine punishment instead of seeking revenge thru the failing power of the Pharaoh.

Part 4.

The Second Lesson for Evening Prayer continues our reading of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Chapter 3 shows how God has been faithful to his covenant promises to Israel: by sending Jesus, the faithful Israelite. It is thru his faithful death that all the promises made to Abraham come true. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that chapter 4 is all about Abraham. Who are true Jews? Who are in God’s family? It is thru God’s calling Abraham that he would redeem the world from the powers of death. Notice how all of Paul’s discussion of ‘justification’ thru chapter 6 relates to being in Christ (‘Messiah’). Take time to think about all the things that are true of him. Now, rejoice that the Father has given all those benefits to you who are in him through baptism and faith.

Editor’s note: If you have questions about how to use the lectionary or locate the the Daily Office readings, have a look at the Daily Office Series debut post, which introduces the process for the experienced and newcomers alike.

Daily Office Series Debut – Week of July 15, 2019 – Fr. Davidson Morse

King David wrote, ‘Seven times a day do I praise thee; because of thy righteous judgements’. (Ps. 119.164) The Jewish tradition has long been to offer prayers three times a day. But in the Christian monastic tradition of the west, St. Benedict followed David’s words to the letter and established seven daily times of prayer. But Abp. Thomas Cranmer reformed those monastic rites to two: Morning and Evening Prayer. These services are composed of a set of prayers, praises (‘Canticles’) and lessons taken from the Psalms, the Old Testament, and the New Testament.

To the untrained eye, this may seem very complicated. But on further examination the practice of the ‘Offices’ (from the Latin ‘officium’ meaning ‘duty’ or ‘service’) has an internal logic that depends entirely on the Lectionary calendar at the front of the Book of Common prayer (REC, pp.xvi-liii). These pages contain the appointed readings throughout the year arranged according to the liturgical week of the year. An easy way to determine the current week would be to consult a website like http://www.commonprayer.org/calend/cl_sun19.cfm . Once the liturgical week has been determined, the Psalm, Old Testament and New Testament lessons are easily found in the Lectionary. The Psalms are to be read thru once a month. The New Testament is read thru twice a year and much of the Old Testament once a year, with special attention given to the great prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

It is my hope that God will bless the reading of his word thru this ancient tradition and that the Church may again claim the truth which is written in the Scriptures.

The lessons of the week following the Fourth Sunday After Trinity take us thru the early chapters of Judges, Luke, Jeremiah and begins St. Paul’s greatest letter, his Epistle to the Romans:

  1. At Morning Prayer we hear the account of how the Israelites continued to fall into idolatry. In response the Lord sent pagan neighbors to oppress them until they repented and called to the Lord to save them. In his covenant faithfulness he sent men and women to defeat the pagan powers and restore the Israelites in the land. Deborah, Barak, Gideon and Jephthah all win the victory for God and his people. How do these stories relate to our understanding of God’s promises to Abraham, that thru his family all the nations will be blessed?
  2. At Morning Prayer we read the 12th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. The theme throughout is that there is a terrible time of judgment coming upon Israel and that if the disciples and the crowds will listen to him they can avoid it. The Scribes and Pharisees were attempting to destroy Jesus (ch. 11) but he warns the crowds not to listen to them – they were the same ones that had tormented the prophets like Jeremiah (Evening Prayer). Instead, they should follow Jesus’ warning, trust confidently in the protection of their heavenly father, provide for the poor and come quickly to a solution with anyone who accused them of anything. In our lives today, in the wealthiest, most powerful nation the world has ever known, are we happy? Do we feel confident and fulfilled? Or are we anxious for the future? How is it that we can offer a word of peace to our community that suffers from such discontent?
  3. At Evening Prayer we read of the great suffering of the prophet Jeremiah. In the year 587BC the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar encircled the city of Jerusalem and demanded that Zedekiah the king and all his counselors surrender and open the gates. The counselors demanded that Zedekiah refuse and maintain their defense of the doomed city. All the while, Jeremiah continued his message to the people of Jerusalem that the Lord had given their city over to the Babylonians, and that they must surrender and go into exile for their years of wickedness. It was only in a foreign land that they would find redemption and forgiveness. How does Jeremiah suffer in these chapters? Who are his tormentors? Who saves him? Who speaks for God?
  4. At Evening Prayer we begin Paul’s letter to the Romans. In these lessons we read how God has sent his son, the King of Israel, to fulfill all God’s promises made to his people. The Gospel ‘good news is the powerful proclamation to the world, both Jew and Greek, that God is trustworthy and that he will vindicate all those who have faith in his son Jesus. How does Paul describe the condition of the Gentiles? The Jews? How had the Jews failed in their commission? Is God’s world redeeming plan in jeopardy because the Jews haven’t been faithful to the covenant?