What's ahead in the Bible readings this week
September 27 to October 3
The Eighteenth Week After Pentecost
The Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time*
This week's image
The Holy Spirit seems to be at work in most of our lessons this week. In particular, the Holy Spirit falls on the believers in our Thursday reading from Acts, giving them the power to speak boldly. May we all have this power.
There are several things to notice in our Gospel readings this week. We are warned, both on Sunday and Wednesday against creating stumbling blocks for others, particularly for little ones. In both readings, Jesus says we should cut off whatever body part causes us to stumble. On Sunday, he even says that we can enter the kingdom of God with one eye. The ancient Hebrews believed that any animal sacrificed to God had to be without blemish, perfect in every way. The idea that God would accept us in God's kingdom even if we aren't physically perfect was probably surprising to Jesus' hearers. There are a number of echoes from Sunday in our other readings. I especially notice that Jesus tells his disciples not to stop others who are casting out demons in his name. You might also notice that Jesus says in hell “their worm never dies.” In our Friday New Testament reading, Herod, after failing to correct the people when they said his voice was of a god and not of a mortal, is eaten by a worm. In the Sunday Gospel, Jesus says that we should have salt in ourselves, and be at peace with one another. Our Saturday Gospel reading reminds us that we are the salt of the earth, but if we lose our taste (that is, our conviction to live according to the Gospels), we are not good for anything.
Lessons from Acts of the Apostles and Epistles
In our Thursday reading from Acts, Peter—who days before denied the Lord—and John are speaking the Gospel with boldness, even after being questioned in the Sanhedrin. The power of the Holy Spirit again fell on them. Sunday, James tells us that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective,” and on Monday, Peter reminds us that our trials prove the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold. On Tuesday, the first letter of John tells us that we have been anointed by the Holy One. Let us use that anointing in the service of others.
Complementary Hebrew Scriptures and Psalms
Our Hebrew Scriptures this week are about choosing leaders. On Sunday, Moses complains to the Lord of the burden, and the Lord commands the appointment of the elders. Notice at the end of this reading Joshua (who is to become the leader of the Israelites) urges Moses to stop two prophets, and Moses replies, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” This is the same thing Jesus said to his disciples when they wanted to stop someone who was casting out demons in his name. On Thursday, Moses is overwhelmed with settling disputes, and it is Jethro, his father-in-law, advises him to pick leaders over “thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.” The leaders should be people who “fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain.” On Friday, Moses repeats an explanation (evidently given earlier) of the role of the leaders. He charged them, “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. Any case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.” On Saturday, the people are charged to obey the law.
Our Psalm during the time of preparation begins with “The law of Lord is perfect, reviving the soul,” and ends with the prayer traditionally used before a sermon or homily, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” The Psalm during the period of reflection tells us that God listens to our prayers in the morning.
Semi-continuous Hebrew Scripture and Psalms
This week we are reading the story of Esther, a woman who stood up for her people when a holocaust was planned. Her uncle Mordecai, who raised her, got word to her of the plans of one of the king's courtiers to kill the Jews, basically because Modedcai did not show him obesience. Of course we know that doing so would violate an essential tenent of our faith: glory goes only to God. Naturally, the most dramatic part of the story is saved for Sunday, which means we are reading it out of order. If we read it in order, the sequence would be
Thursday: Esther 1:1-21 Queen Vashti disobeys King Xeres.
Friday:Esther 2:1-23 Xeres chooses Esther as his new queen.
Saturday: Esther 3:1-15 Haman, a powerful member of Xerex's court, plans the destruction of the Jews.
Monday: Esther 4:1-17 Mordecai seeks Esther's help to save their people. "Who knows, perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this."
Tuesday: Esther 5:1-14 Haman, feeling disrespected, plots to kill Mordecai. (This passage seems out of place, but this is the order in the Bible)
Sunday: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 Esther, after urging from Mordecai, intercedes for her people.
Wednesday: Esther 8:1-17 A happy ending for the Esther's and Mordecai's people.
Both of the Psalms are about God's protection, for which I am grateful.
Thank you for all that you do toward bringing God's justice and mercy into being. May this week's readings bring a blessing into your life.
Links and Summaries for the week ahead
Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 19:7-14 God's law of is perfect, more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey.
Semi-continuous Psalm 124 If God had not been on our side, the flood would have swept us away.
Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 18:13-27 Moses, at Jethro's suggestion, appoints judges over the people.
Semi-continuous Esther 1:1-21 Queen Vashti disobeys King Xeres.
Both Acts 4:13-31 The believers pray to speak God's word with great boldness.
Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 1:1-18 Moses recalls for the people the events at Mount Horeb, and the appointment of judges.
Semi-continuous Esther 2:1-23 Xeres chooses Esther as his new queen.
Both Acts 12:20-25 Herod does not give glory to God and is struck down.
Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 27:1-10 Moses charges the people to build an altar on Mount Ebal after they have crossed the Jordan.
Semi-continuous Esther 3:1-15 Haman, a powerful member of Xerex's court, plans the destruction of the Jews.
Both Matthew 5:13-20 You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 Moses complains to God about the people's complaints to him. At God's command, Moses gathers the elders of the people, and God comes and speaks to them.
Semi-continuous Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 Esther, after urging from Mordecai, intercedes for her people.
Both James 5:13-20 The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.
Both Mark 9:38-50 Jesus says, "Do not cause anyone who believe in me to stumble."
Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 5 Lead me in your righteousness, and make straight the way before me.
Semi-continuous Psalm 140 I know that God maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor.
Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 6:9-15 The people will come from near and far to build the temple.
Semi-continuous Esther 4:1-17 Mordecai seeks Esther's help to save their people. "Who knows, perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this."
Both 1 Peter 1:3-9 The outcome of your faith is the salvation of your soul.
Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 8:18-23 Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek and entreat God.
Semi-continuous Esther 5:1-14 Haman, feeling disrespected, plots to kill Mordecai.
Both 1 John 2:18-25 You have been anointed by the Holy One and know the truth.
Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 10 God will restore Israel and Judah.
Semi-continuous Esther 8:1-17 A happy ending for the Esther's and Mordecai's people.
Both Matthew 18:6-9 Do not cause any of these little ones to stumble.
*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation
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Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.
Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from The New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.
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