During Pentecost Season 2020, the Revised Common Lectionary offers two “tracks” of readings from the Hebrew Bible. Congregations may choose either track.
The first track of readings follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. The second track of readings thematically pairs the reading from the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel reading.
The readings from the Epistles are the same in both tracks.
2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 And the LORD said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the LORD said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. 7 But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”
8 When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”
10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
After Solomon died in 928 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel split into two parts, the North (called Israel with 10 tribes) and the South (Judea with two tribes). Each Kingdom had its own king.
The reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 BCE) was very prosperous, but a time of great inequality between rich and poor in which large landowners gained control of the lands of small farmers. The Jewish Study Bible describes it as “a period of apostasy, social disintegration, wrongful leadership, failed alliances, and a lack of reverence for the LORD.”
Hosea is one of the 12 “minor” prophets whose works are shorter than the three “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was a contemporary of Amos. His prophesying (speaking for YHWH) began towards the end of the reign of King Jeroboam II (747 BCE) and continued until Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BCE. He severely criticized the political, social, and religious life in the Northern Kingdom. He was the first of the prophets whose speeches were collected and edited as literary documents.
His main themes were Israel’s abandoning of the LORD, the LORD’s punishment for that abandonment, calls for Israel’s repentance, and hope of a reconciliation.
Hosea sometimes referred to the Northern Kingdom as “Ephraim” (the largest tribe and named for Joseph’s son) or “Samaria,” its capital.
Hosea used powerful symbolic images of marriage and faithlessness to describe the covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel. He described Israel as a promiscuous woman and an unfaithful wife (v.2) and his wife’s children were given symbolic names – “God sows” (v.4), “not pitied” or “not loved” (v.6) and “not my people” (literally, “no-kin-of-mine”)(v.9). Hosea interpreted the unfolding disaster as a divine punishment for Israel’s violating the commands of YHWH by worshiping other gods and saw the Assyrians as God’s instrument.
The name “Jezreel” (God sows) is the name of an actual place in Israel. The Jezreel Valley is one of the most fertile parts of Israel (even today). It was the place where Jeroboam’s predecessors (the House of Jehu) staged a bloody coup against Ahab in 842 BCE. (Ironically, according to 2 Kings 9-10, the coup by Jehu was directed by YHWH through the prophet Elisha.) The name itself also includes a double meaning in that similar Hebrew words (zr and zrh) mean “to sow” and “to scatter.”
Hosea said that YHWH (“LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) had pity on Judea (v.7). Although Hosea addressed the situation in Northern Israel, The Jewish Study Bible points out that “its intended readers were the Judeans who could constructively reflect on the demise of the Northern Kingdom.” This reflection on Israel’s demise and the reforms of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) did not last, however, and Judea was conquered by the Babylonians in 597 BCE.
20 The LORD said to Abraham, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”
22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the LORD, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh do not let the LORD be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the LORD. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh do not let the LORD be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
Genesis is the first book of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Torah also called the Pentateuch (“five books”) in Greek. Genesis covers the period from Creation to the deaths of Jacob and his 11th son, Joseph, in about 1650 BCE, if the accounts are historical.
The Book of Genesis (like the Torah as a whole) is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Since the late 19th Century, Biblical scholars have recognized four major “strands” or sources in the Torah, and these sources are identified (among other ways) by their different theological emphases, names for God, names for the holy mountain, and portrayals of God’s characteristics.
The first 11 Chapters of Genesis are called the “primeval history” which ends with the Tower of Babel story — an “etiology” (story of origins) relating to the scattering of humankind and the multiplicity of languages. The last chapter of the primeval history traces Abram’s lineage back to Noah’s son, Shem (which means “name” in Hebrew and from which we get the word “Semites”).
This week’s reading begins after the “men” left Mamre and “looked toward” Sodom (v.16). Abraham went with them and sent them on their way. YHWH then had an internal conversation in which YHWH considered not disclosing to Abraham YHWH’s plan to destroy Sodom (v.17). Treating Abraham as a prophet (as later described in 20:7), YHWH disclosed the plan of destruction because Abraham would “become a great and prosperous nation” (v.18).
To learn if “the outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great” (v.20), this anthropomorphic YHWH checked on it (v.21), just as YHWH did in deciding the fate of Babel (Gen 11:5).
In today’s reading, Abraham conducted a back-and-forth negotiation with a very human-like YHWH regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. By appealing to YHWH’s sense of fairness and justice, Abraham got YHWH to reduce to 10 the number of “righteous” people needed to save the cities.
The Jewish Study Bible notes that Abraham’s plea for mercy is not that YHWH save the innocent and punish the guilty, but that the entire city be spared. YHWH agreed to forgive all for the sake of the innocent. The JSB goes on: “The underlying theology maintains that the righteous effect deliverance for the entire community….This idea is prominent in rabbinic literature where it underlies the notion of thirty six righteous individuals for whom the world endures.”
Nevertheless, the two cities were destroyed by YHWH in the next chapter.
In verse 27, Abraham referred to himself as “but dust and ashes.” This is the same phrase used by Job after the theophany near the end of the book (Job 42:6)
6 As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
Colossae was a town in what is now western Turkey. A Jesus Follower community was founded there by Paul’s associate, Epaphras (1:7). The letter is short (three chapters) and expressed concern about apocalyptic and mystical practices that were inconsistent with Paul’s understanding of being a Jesus Follower.
Scholars debate whether this letter was written by Paul or by his disciples in the decade after Paul’s death in 63 CE. It lacks many terms used in Paul’s authentic letters and its style is more liturgical than Paul’s other letters.
Today’s reading is the theological core of the Letter to the Colossians – that Jesus the Christ was the living embodiment of God (v.9) and that the fullness of one’s humanity comes by “living one’s life in [Jesus the Christ]” (v.6).
The author noted that the Colossians had orally received Christ and warned against “philosophy” (other ethical or religious teachings) and practices associated with some forms of 1st Century Judaism: “elemental spirits” (v.8), physical circumcision (v.13), matters of food and drink (v.16), and observing festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths (v. 16).
The New Oxford Annotated Bible sees the reference to the “shadow of what is to come” (v.17) as “Platonic language indicating the superiority of Christ.” The church’s growth (the body) grows through the Christ which is “growth from God” (v.19).
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that in this section, the author “simultaneously condemns Greek philosophical tradition, Jewish legal teaching and pagan worship.” Unlike Paul’s authentic letters, Colossians speaks of resurrection in the present (“you were also raised with him [Christ] through faith” in baptism (v.12).
1 Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything, because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
This reading is in two parts – the first is Luke’s shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer, as compared to the one in Matthew 6:9-13. The NAOB points out that there is an eschatological cast to the petitions (“Thy kingdom come; thy will be done”) that look towards an end-times. But there are also concerns related to daily life.
The second part of the reading relates to persistence in prayer, Although it does not say that the praying person will get precisely what the person is praying for, the assurance given is that the person will “get whatever he needs” (v. 8); “the door will be opened” (v.10); and the heavenly Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (v.13). All of these are open-ended and indefinite but tell us that our prayers will be “answered” in some way.