Archive for July, 2011

For Sunday, July 31, 2011: Year A

THE READING    Genesis 32:22-31

In recent readings, Abraham’s grandson Jacob usurped his brother’s birthright, fled for his life as a consequence, and was assured by God in an extraordinary dream that he would be the father of an enormous nation. Taking refuge with his uncle Laban, he was tricked into marrying both of Laban’s daughters. Before today’s reading opens, Jacob has become rich in chattel and children, but he has also finally had enough: it is time to go home and to face the brother he fleeced. On the way, Jacob learns that Esau his brother is coming to meet him with a force of 400 men. Terrified, Jacob sends his family and flocks away, either for their safety or for his. What happens that night, he could not have expected—but he comes away with a name that resonates in history.

 

THE EPISTLE    Romans 9:1-5

Jacob, renamed Israel, received far-reaching promises direct from God about his descendants. In our readings from the book of Romans so far, Paul is insistent that God keeps God’s promises. To the church at Rome—a mixed community of Jews and non-Jews—this posed a problem: has God stopped loving the Jews who choose not to accept the gospel? In today’s reading, a deeply troubled Paul begins to answer that question.

 

COMMENTARY ON PROPER 13, YEAR A

It’s incredibly easy to believe that God’s promises are only for those who are already righteous. The Bible, however, suggests otherwise: it’s full of characters whose character is suspect–whom God nevertheless loves deeply. Jacob is yet another case in the Old Testament: in previous readings we’ve seen him conniving against his brother and deceiving his father, and even when he’s fleeing on account of these bad deeds, God keeps loving Jacob and keeps making extravagantly generous promises to him.

Paul picks up the theme. The promises that God made to the man renamed Israel are the promises that God means to keep with Israel the people–not because Israel is righteous, but because that’s who God is–if only Israel will believe.

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For Sunday, July 24, 2011: Year A

THE READING    Genesis 29:15-28
Last week’s reading from Genesis detailed the adventures of Jacob, who, after conning his brother out of his birthright, fled for his life. En route, he had an astonishing dream in which he met God at Bethel. When we next encounter Jacob, he has arrived safely at his uncle Laban’s house. Here he falls in love, makes a deal with the young lady’s father and holds up his end of it for seven years, enjoys his wedding feast—and discovers in the morning that he himself has been conned. As we will see, even through human beings’ bad dealing God can bring about God’s purposes.

 

THE EPISTLE    Romans 8:26-39
In today’s Epistle Paul continues to explain to the church at Rome and to us the same truths that Jacob was slowly learning about how God works: first, God is on our side irrespective of our weakness; second, it is God’s plan that we should grow up to be God’s own children; third, though the going may be (and probably will be) very rough, God loves us absolutely no matter what.

Exploring the Word, one week at a time

Welcome to St Alban’s Lections!

St Alban’s Episcopal Church in El Cajon, CA follows the practice of the Episcopal Church in the USA by using the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of readings that take a congregation through most of the Bible.

The bits of scripture that one hears in church week by week can be a challenge to make sense of without some context, however. I was asked some time ago to compose prefaces for the first and second lections for our congregation’s use. Now I’ve decided to share them more widely. In my next post, I’ll begin with the lessons for the first Sunday in July 2011, in honor of our beloved former rector, D. Rebecca Dinovo.

For the most part, once the backing-up is done, I’ll update this blog weekly.

Feel free to take from these whatever is useful and adapt it to the needs and concerns of your own congregation.

For Sunday, July 17, 2011: Year A

THE READING    Genesis 28:10-19a

Last week’s Old Testament reading ended with Jacob, second son of Isaac, refusing food to his older brother until Esau agreed to give up his birthright. Furthermore, as Isaac lay dying, Jacob and his mother conned Isaac into blessing Jacob as the first son. In today’s reading we find Jacob on the run from his angry brother, stopping for the night in a place so desolate that all he has for a pillow is a stone… and in that place this dubious character receives an astonishing dream.

THE EPISTLE    Romans 8:12-25

Jacob the clever ended up with more birthright than he had bargained for. Paul, in writing to the church in Rome, which included both Jews and former pagans, explains our birthright as adopted children of God: to share in Christ’s glory but also to share humbly in Christ’s suffering while we wait in hope for our redemption.

For Sunday, July 10, 2011: Year A

THE READING    Genesis 25:19-34

The book of Genesis is the book of the beginnings of God’s people. In our reading from Genesis last week, Rebekah courageously left home to meet her destiny. This week, we learn that things haven’t gone according to plan. It’s taken twenty years for Rebekah to conceive Isaac’s heir—and then the pregnancy is awful, with twin boys who are contentious from before birth. Esau, the older one, grows into a fierce outdoorsman with no impulse control, while Jacob can charitably be described as a congenital conniver. That God should nevertheless have great good in store for Jacob suggests that there’s hope for the rest of us anyway.

THE EPISTLE    Romans 8:1-11

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome amounts to a short course in theology. Last week we heard Paul lament our existential quandary: we cannot possibly hope to save ourselves. In today’s reading, however, Paul tells us what our hope is: it is God’s grace that allows us to live according to God’s Spirit.

For Sunday, July 3, 2011: Year A

THE READING    Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

In today’s reading from the book of Genesis, a servant who remains nameless is on a journey to find the right wife for the son of Abraham. Through God’s grace the right woman reveals herself through her act of service—a camel, it should be noted, drinks gallons and gallons, so watering camels from a stone jar is no small feat. What’s more, this young woman agrees to leave home at once and go far away with the servant, toward a destiny she cannot foresee but for which she has trust in God—and her courage and obedience lead her not just to marriage but to love. It is either irony or providence, or both, that, on the very Sunday on which we bid farewell to our well-beloved rector, the name of the young woman in today’s reading is Rebekah.

THE EPISTLE    Romans 7:15-25a

Today’s first reading and the response celebrate the result of fully trusting God to do the good that is intended by God for us. Paul’s letter to the young church at Rome is a long and careful explanation for new believers of how to do that and why. In today’s painfully familiar passage, Paul identifies precisely the dilemma on the two horns of which everyone in this world is gored: we know very well that God’s way is best, but there is literally no way on earth that we can simply will ourselves to follow—except through the grace of Jesus Christ.