What's Ahead

Our Bible Lessons for November 15 to 21

What's ahead in the Bible readings

November 15 to November 21, 2018
The Twenty-fifth Week After Pentecost
The Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Reviews

Bible reviews will return in the near future. Next up is The Complete Jewish Bible. It is published by the Messianic Jewish organization, whose members believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah. So it includes both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures. Time got away from me this week,which prevented me from doing a review.

This Week's Image

Death on a Pale Horse

This week's image is Death on a Pale Horse and pictures an apocalyptic event foretold in Revelation. You will probably recognize the four horsemen. I chose this image to remind us that there is more about the end times in the Bible than we usually think about.

Gospel Lessons

Most of our reading this week relate, one way or another, to apocalypse, especially the complementary Hebrew Scriptures. The Oxford Dictionary of the Bible says this:

Though applied especially to the last book of the Bible, the Revelation to John, and called ‘The Apocalypse’, the word means more generally an ‘an unveiling’ of divine secrets and in the OT books such as Daniel and parts of Isaiah and Zachariah there are apocalypses.…The apocalypses traverse the whole range of human experience and beyond, from references to the social setting of the author (Dan.), to revelations of the events to occurs at the end of time and disclosures under the guidance of an angel….

Our Sunday and Wednesday Gospel readings are from Mark 13, which is often called The Little Apocalypse. These texts serve to remind us that we do not know when the end times will come, despite the ravings of some modern preachers. Our task is not to worry about the future, but to bring the commonwealth of God into being now, here, on earth.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle lessons come from Timothy, Colossians, and Hebrews. Here are a few passages to give you a flavor of the readings:

God made you alive together with him [Christ], when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:13b-14

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet
     “in a very little while,
     the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
     but my righteous one will live by faith.” Hebrews 10:35-38a

Complementary Hebrew Scriptures

All but one of our Hebrew Scripture readings are from Daniel. Our readings in the time of preparation are from the fourth chapter, which tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel's interpretation, and its coming to pass. In the time of reflection we read from Daniel 8. Without a scorecard, it's pretty tough to keep it all the images in chapter 8 straight. The little horn is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who set up a statute of Zeus in the temple, thus desecrating it. The rams two horns represent the kings of Media and Persia, and the great horn of the male goat Alexander the Great.

Why should we care about any of this? Here are some thoughts from the reflections on Daniel in The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume VII which I found helpful.

  1. “When we are introduced to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4, we recognize the proud and domineering emperor of the Babylonian empire—a regime built on the extortion and pillage of both people and resources throughout the ancient Near East. But this man undergoes a transformation by being forced to endure what he has inflicted on others. Furthermore, restitution is demanded from him for his sins, especially his treatment of the dispossessed. In Daniel, it is a humbled and transformed emperor who finally confesses that God's ‘works are truth’ and God's ‘ways are justice’ (Dan 4:37 NRSV).” So, first, have we avoided dispossessing others? And if not, are we capable of true repentance without going through what we have put on those whom we have mistreated?

  2. “The book of Daniel suggests that the mere fact that Christians may find themselves under the rule of an oppressive state (whether overt or more subtle), does not mean that they need bow to its authority. Note the interesting paradox in the words of 1 Pet 2:16 ‘As servants of God, live as free people’! The modern state is a reality in which Christians must work for more just and peaceful structures in our lives—not to preserve the sanctity of the state, but to uphold justice and peace as the way of the Christian in the world. Because God reigns, the state is merely a tool—sometimes to be used, sometimes to be prophetically condemned, but never to be baptized. In their involvement in the government of the state, whether it be political office or civil service or some other role, Christians should maintain a sense of the tentativeness of the state's role as a tool of God.”

  3. “[I]t is surely a mistake to try to pretend—as moderns constantly try to do—that we live in a world in which mistakes do not have consequences, whether errors in personal choice, misguided national policies, or worldwide environmental negligence. Forgiveness, after all, does not always involve avoiding the consequences.”

  4. How Long? Finally, there is the agonized question in chapter 8: ‘How long?’The second major theme of this chapter is that the time of wrath is limited and thus the people's suffering is limited as well. This is surely one of the most powerful appeals of apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic movements. Theologically, it is one of the most important messages of the book of Daniel for a modern world, It is the promise of the gospel that darkness will not last forever, that innocence will not be crushed forever, that justice will be had.” It has been crucial to me in my experience of recurrent major depression to know that this, too, will pass. In some ways, it makes the experience more bearable, even if it is still debilitating.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

Most of our semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures are about Samuel, his mother Hannah, and the priest Eli. Samuel is a crucial character in the Hebrew Scriptures. He is the last of the judges who ruled Israel after Moses, and he anoints Saul as the first king, and later David as the second king.

One of my favorite Bible scenes is the calling of Samuel. God speaks to him, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him. Eli finally realizes what is happening and tells Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” This story makes me ask myself how many times I have heard God's voice and thought it was a human.

Thank you for being part of the lectionary community. May these readings bring a blessing into your life.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summaries and Links for the week ahead

Remember that the links don't become active until the lessons are posted on our web site, at approximately 3:05 a.m. Eastern Time.

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 16
A song of trust and security in God.
Semi-continuous Canticle 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Hannah's prayer

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:4-18 Nebuchadnezzar's dream
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 1:12-28 Hannah gives Samuel to God.
Both 1 Timothy 6:11-21 The good fight of faith

Friday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:19-27 Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 2:18-21 The child Samuel at Shiloh
Both Colossians 2:6-15 Christ is the head of every ruler and authority. Just as you received Jesus Christ, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:28-37 Nebuchadnezzar praises God.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 3:1-18 God calls Samuel.
Both Mark 12:1-12 The parable of the wicked tenants.

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 12:1-3 God will deliver the people.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 1:4-20 God answers Hannah's prayer.
Both Hebrews 10:11-25 The way to God through Christ
Both Mark 13:1-8 The destruction of the temple and signs of the end times

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 13
A prayer for deliverance from enemies
Semi-continuous Psalm 3 Trust in God under adversity

Monday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 8:1-14 A vision of destructive power
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 3:19-4:2 God was with Samuel and the people knew it.
Both Hebrews 10:32-39 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 8:15-27 The Angel Gabriel interprets the vision.
Semi-continuous Deuteronomy 26:5-10 A declaration to be made to the priest when the first fruits are offered.
Both Hebrews 10:32-39 A call to persevere in faith

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 12:1-13:1 The future of Jerusalem
Semi-continuous 1 Kings 8:22-30 Solomon's prayer
Both Mark 13:9-23 The coming suffering.

*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

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible 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.

Image credit: Death on a Pale Horse by Benjamin West, via Wikimedia Commons. This is a public domain image.

Our Lessons for October 25 to 31

What's ahead in our Bible readings

October 25 to 31, 2018
The Twenty-second Week After Pentecost
The Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Review: Amplified Holy Bible

The most important thing you need to know about The Amplified Bible is that it has amplifications (no surprise, I'm sure). The Amplified Bible started as a project of Frances Siewert and is now stewarded by the Lockman Foundation. It is a literal equivalent (often called formal equivalent) translation. This means it is not a thought for thought translation, but rather an attempt at a word for word translation. Here are the types of amplifications and how they are designated:

  • Definition in context: (regular type parentheses)

  • Words or phrases not fully expressed in the preceding English text,but validated by the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. [Regular type brackets]

  • Text not found in early manuscripts or only in some early manuscripts [bold brackets]

  • Italicized conjunctions are not in the original text, but are used to connect additional English words indicated by the original language and, or nor

  • Italicized words are not in the original language but are implied by it word

In addition to these conventions a (bold parenthesis) indicates text that is in the original text and is parenthetical.

The Amplified Bible includes section headings, which as we always write are not part of the text but there to help us anticipate what follows. The books are in the standard biblical order. (It does not include the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books.) Each verse is starts on a new line. Paragraphs are indicated by bold verse numbers or bold words. The preface says this is to make individual verses are easier to find. I find this arrangement annoying, but many will find it helpful. Parallel passages are shown with the Bible text, which I find helpful; they are given in brackets after the first verse of a passage or, if only a single verse is involved, are the end of the passage. In a future review of the Modern English Version I will illustrate another approach to parallel passages.

Our Sunday Gospel is Mark 10:46-52. Here it is in the Amplified Bible translation:

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting beside the road [as was his custom]. [Matt 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43]
47 When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say "Jesus, *Son of David (Messiah), have mercy on me!"
48 Many sternly rebuked him, telling him to keep still and be quiet; but he kept shouting all the more, "Son of David (Messiah) have mercy on me!"
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, telling him, "Take courage, get up! He is calling for you."
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus said “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabbi (my Master), let me regain my sight.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith [and confident trust in my power] has made you well. Immediately he regained his sight and began following Jesus on the road. [Is 42:6,7]

10:47 A common Messianic title recognized the Messiah as a descendant of David.(AMP)

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The prices above are as of October 20, 2018.

Previous Bible reviews covering the NET Bible, the Message, and The Inclusive Bible, are here.

This week's image

This image evokes a real sense of the power of healing touch, at least for me. Even now, Jesus touches us with his words and the remembrance of his actions. I pray that Jesus touches you this week.

Healing Touch

Gospel Lessons and a healing from Acts

Our Gospel lessons this week all concern healing of the physically blind. In the Sunday lesson, Jesus heals Bartimaeus. On Saturday, we have the curious story of the blind man from Bethsaida who, after Jesus first puts saliva on his eyes, perceives people looking like trees. Jesus touches his eyes again and his sight is completely restored. On Wednesday, Jesus heals two blind men as he is leaving Jericho. In a reading from Acts Peter heals Aeneas, who has been crippled for many years. The Bethsaida and Jericho healings involve touch and the cured aren't named for us. Bartimaeus is healed by faith and Aeneas is simply told that Jesus Christ heals him. Neither is touched. It may be that the touch strengthened the faith of those who received it.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle lessons in the time of preparation and on Sunday come from Hebrews, and our friend King Melchizedek makes another, important, appearance. To be a priest in first century Israel or Judah, you had to be a descendent of Aaron. Melchizedek first appears in Genesis 14 where he blesses Abram. He lived sometime between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BCE. Aaron and Moses lived about the thirteenth century BCE, so Melchizedek couldn't have been a descendent of Aaron. As you know from our readings last week, Melchizedek was also acknowledged as a priest in Psalm 110:4. He represented a separate order of priests, and an exception to the requirement of descent from Aaron. Assigning Christ's priesthood to the order of Melchizedek nicely avoids his needing to be descended from Aaron. Also of note, there is no Scriptural reference to the death of Melchizedek, which explains some of the language about his order being eternal. To modern people, all this fuss about orders of Israelite priests may appear pretty silly, but to first century Jewish Christians, it was very serious.

Complementary Hebrew Scripture

Yet another story about vision is in our Tuesday Hebrew Scripture. The King of Aram finds out that it is Elisha who keeps warning the King of Israel about the Aramean plans, so he sends his army to find Elisha. They surround Dothan, where Elisha is, and Elisha's servant is greatly afraid. Elisha prays that his servant be allowed to see that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Elisha prayed that the Aramean army be struck blind, and it was.

Consider this week the ways in which you might be blind, and ask God to give you a vision of the army that surrounds you to support you in doing God's will.

Four of our other Hebrew Scripture readings come from Jeremiah. On Thursday, Jeremiah warns the prophets of Samaria (the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom) and Jerusalem (the capital of Judah, the southern kingdom) that they will eat wormwood and drink poisoned water because of their infidelity and adultery toward God. On Friday, Jeremiah says that it is God who sent him to prophesy, and tells them to amend their ways and perhaps God's mind will be changed. In a shining moment of faith he says “But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” On Sunday, this prophet of doom and gloom proclaims that God will save a remnant of Israel, and the remnant will return from their exile with songs of gladness and praise.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scripture

We finish up our reading of Job on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday God effectively scolds Job's friends for not speaking rightly of God. On Sunday, Job answers God that he is humbled and satisfied. Job's fortunes are restored and he gains a new family. It is somewhat irksome that the narrative assumes that Job's first children could be replaced by another set. However, this may be a convention in this kind of story in the Middle East, or there may be some other explanation for it.

Our other lessons except Tuesday have to do with the exile. On Thursday, Isaiah tells King Hezekiah that the Babylonians will take all that he has and his sons will be eunuchs in the King of Babylon's palace. On Monday, Isaiah says that injustice and oppression will be punished, and on Wednesday Ezekiel says that the land has sinned against God and that not even Noah, Daniel, or Job (all exemplars of righteousness) could save sinners, yet there will be a remnant left.

Tuesday's lesson, the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel, says that the sinner will be punished for his or her sins, but neither the parents nor the children (provided they are righteous) will be punished. The way I interpret that is the remnant who were left behind at the time of the exile were those who had not sinned.

Of course, there is more, including Moses arguing with God and Peter declaring that once we were not a people, but now we are God's people. May it be so for you.

I hope these readings bring a special blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summary and links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 126
Restore our fortunes. Let those who weep as they go out to sow return joyfully with their sheaves.
Semi-continuous Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 Taste and see that God is good.

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 23:9-15 God says "Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness.
Semi-continuous 2 Kings 20:12-19 Isaiah tells King Hezekiah that the Babylonians will take all that he has and that his sons will be eunuchs in the Babylonian king's palace.
Both Hebrews 7:1-10 Melchizedek remains a priest forever.

Friday: Preparation for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 26:12-24 Jeremiah, prophesying in the temple, is threatened with death.
Semi-continuous Nehemiah 1:1-11 Nehemiah prays for the return of the exiles.
Both Hebrews 7:11-22 Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 29:24-32 Jeremiah speaks God's words condemning Shemaiah.
Semi-continuous Job 42:7-9 Eliphaz has not spoken rightly about God. God tells him to make a sacrifice to Job and God will answer Job's prayer on behalf of Eliphaz and his friends.
Both Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida.

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 31:7-9 God will gather the people from the furthest parts of the earth and bring them back, consoling them.
Semi-continuous Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Job answers God that he is humbled and satisfied and his fortune is restored.
Both Hebrews 7:23-28 Christ, who lives forever, is our merciful high priest.
Both Mark 10:46-52 At Jericho, Jesus heals Bartimaeus of his blindness.

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 119:17-24
Open my eyes so I can see the wonderous things out of your law.
Semi-continuous Psalm 28 God, save your people and bless your heritage; be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday: Reflection on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 4:1-17 God shows Moses the signs he is to use to convince the people that God has appeared to him.
Semi-continuous Isaiah 59:9-19 Injustice and oppression will be punished.
Both 1 Peter 2:1-10 Peter, quoting from Hebrew Scripture, urges his readers to be a holy priesthood and offer spiritual sacrifices.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 2 Kings 6:8-23 God answers Elisha's prayer first to make the Arameans blind, then to restore their sight.
Semi-continuous Ezekiel 18 The sin belongs to the sinner, not to his or her parents or children. God urges the house of Israel to repent and get themselves a new heart and a new spirit. God says, "Turn, then, and live."
Both Acts 9:32-35 Peter, through Jesus Christ, heals Aeneas, who has been paralyzed for eight years.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 33:1-11 God will bring recovery and healing.
Semi-continuous Ezekiel 14:12-23 The land has sinned against God. Not even Noah, Daniel, and Job could save sinners from the land. Yet there will be a faithful remnant.
Both Matthew 20:29-34 As Jesus is leaving Jericho, he heals two blind men.

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*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

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.

Scripture passages ending in (AMP) are from Amplified Holy Bible, Paperback, Copyright 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987, 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Image credit: Healing Touch by an unidentified painter, downloaded from markcommentary.blogspot.com

Lessons for September 27 to October 3

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.

Gospel Lessons

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.
Mike Gilbertson

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.

Image credit: Spirit Fire downloaded via Max Pixel. This is a public domain image.

What's ahead in the Bible readings for the fourth week after the Epiphany (January 25 to 31)

What's ahead in the Bible readings for the fourth week after the Epiphany (January 25 to 31)

The Flammarion engraving

One of the stories we have this week concerns Balaam. There is more than we read; the relevant parts are Numbers 22 to 24. There are a couple of unusual things about the story. First, Balaam is not an Israelite, but he receives messages from God. This is most unusual. Second, his donkey talks to him. The only other talking animal in the Bible is the snake in the Garden of Eden. If you read just Numbers 22 to 24, everything that is said about Balaam is positive, except for the passage we read on Tuesday (Numbers 22:22-28). God talks to him, he blesses the Israelites, and he refuses to be bribed into cursing them. However, there is more to the story. According to Numbers 31:16 and Revelation 2:12-17 (which we read on Friday), Balaam enticed the Israelite men to sleep with Moabite women, and for that he is killed (Numbers 31:6).

We also read an often quoted passage from Jeremiah this week: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” I am glad that we get to read the context for this quote, which includes the preceding sentence: “Only when Babylon's seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” God's promises are good, but they aren't always fulfilled immediately. I know in my own life, as I have dealt with recurring episodes of depression, I have often had to wait for an answer from God. Thanks to God, I have never had to wait seventy years!

We also have several passages about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul's advice, that we should consider the effect on others, seems good to me, and certainly applies in other situations where our view of what is acceptable behavior differs from that of others.

Two Gospel passages concern Jesus' healing of one or two men possessed by demons at Gerasene (or Gadarene). He also heals a demon possessed man in Capernaum. The healing power of our Lord is astounding!

Thursday to Sunday Psalm 111 Praise the Lord! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.
Monday to Wednesday Psalm 35:1-10 O Lord, who is like you? You deliver the weak from those too strong for them, the weak and needy from those who despoil them.

Thursday: Preparation for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Deuteronomy 3:23-29 After refusing Moses' request to enter the promised land, God tells him "Go up to the top of Pisgah and look around you to the west, to the north, to the south, and to the east. Look well, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, because it is he who shall cross over at the head of this people."
Romans 9:6-18 It is not as though the word of God has failed. He has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

Friday: Preparation for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Deuteronomy 12:28-32 Moses tells the people, "Be careful to obey all these words that I command you today; do not add to it or take anything from it." And, when you dispossess other nations, do not inquire concerning their gods.
Revelation 2:12-17 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, making the people of Israel eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Saturday: Preparation for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast.
Matthew 8:28-9:1 Two men of Gadarene had demons. Jesus cast them into swine, who ran down a bank into the sea. When the people of the time came to meet Jesus, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.

The Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 Moses told the people, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people." He also told them that God said, "any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak-that prophet shall die."
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Paul lays out rules for eating food sacrificed to idols, emphasizing the effect on other believers.
Mark 1:21-28 Jesus heals a demoniac in the Capernaum synagogue on the Sabbath.

Monday: Reflection on the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
Numbers 22:1-21 Balak, king of Moab, sends emissaries to Balaam, asking that he come to curse the Israelites. Balaam refuses once. The second time God tells him to go, but to do only as he is instructed.
Acts 21:17-26 Paul met with James and the elders, and related the things God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. They told Paul of reports he urged Jews not to observe the law, and asked him to go through the rite of purification to show that he observed it.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
Numbers 22:22-28 Balaam's donkey sees the angel of the Lord, but Balaam does not.
1 Corinthians 7:32-40 Paul says if one's passions are strong, then marry. If not, remain unmarried.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
Jeremiah 29:1-14 For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me. I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Mark 5:1-20 Another telling of the Gerasene (or Gadarene) demoniac miracle

Please note that the links above do not become active until 7 a.m. US Eastern Time on the designated day, when the readings get posted on the new web site. If you need the Sunday reading earlier, please let me know and I will assist you.

Thank you for being a regular Bible reader.
Mike Gilbertson

Do you have a friend who could us these readings?

If you know someone who could deepen his or her commitment to being a Christian through these readings, why not forward this newsletter to that person? Here is a link that leads to the sign up forms: Sign up links for daily and weekly emails

 

Bible verses from The New Revised Standard Version, 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.

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Image credit: The Flammarion engraving is a wood engraving by an unknown artist that first appeared in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, depicted as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption underneath the engraving (not shown here) translates to "A medieval missionary tells that he has found the point where heaven and Earth meet..." This public domain image was downloaded via Wikimedia Commons.

What's Ahead B Epiphany 4

What's Ahead in Ordinary 29 (October 19 to 25)

What's ahead in the Bible readings for the twenty-ninth week in Ordinary Time?

Other designations for this week are the twentieth week after Pentecost, Roman Catholic Proper 29, and Revised Common Lectionary Proper 24.

Money-Changers.jpg

This week features two stories about money. On Sunday, we read the attempt of some Pharisees to trap Jesus by asking him whether it was legal to pay taxes to the emperor. He gets them to show him a coin with the emperor's head on it, and says give to the emperor what is the emperor's and to God what is God's. One of the keys to understanding this passage is that Roman coins could not be used in the temple. Since they had an image of someone who considered himself to be god, using it in the temple would be to bring an idol into the holy space. Thus we have the Saturday Gospel, in which Jesus instructs Peter to catch a fish, which will have a shekel in it. Not in this week's readings, Jesus at one point overturns the tables of the money changers, those who took Roman and other coins in exchange for shekels. That story is at Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19 and Luke 19:45-48. It also appears in John's Gospel, near the beginning, at John 2:13-16.

We are reading 2 Peter 5:1-5 for the second week in a row. I imagine we are being reminded to be humble in the face of our awesome God.

Finally, in 3 John (another book so short that it has verses but not chapters) two people are mentioned, Diotrephes and Demetrius. I could find nothing useful about either one.

Remember that from now through Advent we have two series of readings, the complementary and the semi-continuous. Most denominations allow pastors to choose from either series. More information about the two series is here: Which Series?

Thursday through Sunday Psalms
Complementary: Psalm 96
The Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with his truth.
Semi-continuous: Psalm 99 Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy.

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Judges 17:1-6 In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.
Semi-continuous: Exodus 33:7-11 When Moses entered the tent of meeting, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance, and God would speak with Moses.
Both: 3 John verses 9-12 Do not imitate what is evil, but imitate what is good.

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Deuteronomy 17:14-22 When you have a king, he shall have a copy of the law written for him and shall read it every day, not exalting himself or turning aside from the commandment.
Semi-continuous: Exodus 31:1-11 God called Bezalel and Oholiab and gave them special talent to make the things required for the tent of meeting.
Both: 1 Peter 5:1-5 All of you must clothe yourselves in humility in your dealings with one another. We also read this passage last week.

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Isaiah 14:3-11 You shall take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: Your pomp has gone down to Sheol; maggots are the bed beneath you, and worms are your covering.
Semi-continuous: Exodus 39:32-43 All the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. When Moses saw they had done all the work just as God commanded, he blessed them.
Both: Matthew 14:1-12 Herod heard reports about Jesus, and said he was John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Herod had the Baptizer beheaded to satisfy Herodias, his wife.

The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Isaiah 45:1-7 I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.
Semi-continuous: Exodus 33:12-23 Moses said, "Show me your glory, I pray." God replied, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, but you cannot see my face; no one shall see it and live."
Both: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 We always thank God for you and mention you in our prayers, remembering your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in Jesus Christ.
Both: Matthew 22:15-22 To entrap him, the Pharisees asked if it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor. He asked them to show the coin used for the tax. It has the emperor's head on it. Jesus said, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

Monday through Wednesday Psalms
Complementary: Psalm 98
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth' break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Semi-continuous: Psalm 63:1-8 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Daniel 3:1-18 Daniel and his companions refuse to worship a golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. They are thrown into a blazing furnace.
Semi-continuous: Exodus 40:34-38 The cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night.
Both: Revelation 18:1-10, 19-20 An angel called out "Fallen is Babylon the great." Another voice from heaven said "Come out of her my people, so that you do not take part in her sins."

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Daniel 3:19-30 The fire had no power over Daniel and his companions. Nebuchadnezzar saw that no other god could deliver in this way, and killed their accusers.
Semi-continuous: Numbers 12:1-9 Moses was very humble. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of his Cushite wife. God told Miriam and Aaron "When there are prophets, I make myself known in visions and dreams. Not so with Moses. With him I speak face to face."
Both: Revelation 18:21-24 Then a mighty angel took up a great stone and threw it into the sea, saying, "With such violence Babylon will be thrown down."

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary: Daniel 6 Leaders of Darius' kingdom conspired against Daniel. They had Darius order that for 30 days only he be worshiped. Daniel continued to worship God. Daniel was thrown into the lions' den and survived. The conspirators were thrown into the den and died.
Semi-continuous: Numbers 13:1-2, 17-14:9 Moses sent spies into Canaan. When they returned, one group said the people there were too strong. Caleb and Joshua insisted they could succeed.
Both: Matthew 17:22-27 Jesus has Peter catch a fish, which has a coin in it, with which he paid their temple tax.

Please note that the links above do not become active until 7 a.m. US Eastern Time on the designated day, when the readings get posted on the new web site. If you need the Sunday reading earlier, please let me know and I will assist you.

Thank you for being part of the Bible reading community.
Mike Gilbertson

Do you have a friend who could us these readings?

If you know someone who could deepen his or her commitment to being a Christian through these readings, why not forward this newsletter to that person? Here is a link that leads to the sign up forms: Sign up links for daily and weekly emails

 

Bible verses from The New Revised Standard Version, 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.

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Image credit:Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple by Valentin de Boulogne, via Wikimedia Commons. This is a public domain image.

What's Ahead Ordinary Time 29