During Pentecost Season 2022, 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.
1 How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
3 Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
5 Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
6 From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.
In Christian versions of the Bible, Lamentations is included between Jeremiah and Ezekiel because of a tradition that the book was written by Jeremiah (just as the Psalms were incorrectly attributed to David and most Wisdom Literature was attributed to Solomon). In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations is not included with the Prophets, but is situated among the “Writings.”
Lamentations consists of a sequence of five lyric poems that lament the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the beginning of the Exile in 586 BCE. It was written in the period from 586 BCE and 520 BCE when the Exile was over and the Temple was being rebuilt.
The first four chapters of Lamentations are written as an acrostic in which the first letter of each successive verse follows the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet.
Today’s verses are the opening part of an extended lament over Jerusalem, which has lost its lovers (i.e. allies) (v.2) and now lives among the “nations” (Gentiles) (v.3). The theology of the verses is consistent with the Deuteronomic belief that if one engages in “bad acts” the consequences will be bad, and YHWH was punishing Jerusalem for its transgressions (v.5).
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous–
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
After the death of the good King Josiah in 609 BCE, Judea went into a sharp decline, culminating with the Babylonian Exile, the first part of which began in 597 BCE and the second part of which began in 586 and lasted until 539 BCE. Josiah emphasized the Torah, but in the reign of his successors “the law became slack” (v.4).
Habakkuk prophesied (spoke for YHWH) from the time Josiah’s death to the first deportation of Judean leaders in 597 BCE. He was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and his messages are similar to Jeremiah’s.
In today’s readings, Habakkuk lamented the destruction and violence in Judea and the lack of justice. In the verses between today’s readings, he spoke for YHWH and said that the Chaldeans (Babylonians) would serve as the instrument of God’s justice to punish the Judeans.
In the second part of today’s reading, YHWH replied that divine justice will come “at the appointed time” because of the righteous (vv.3-4).
2 Timothy 1:1-14
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our LORD.
3 I am grateful to God — whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did — when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
The Letters to Timothy and Titus are called “Pastoral Letters” because they concerned the internal life, governance and behavior of the early Christian churches and their members. Most scholars agree they were written in the early Second Century in Paul’s name by some of his followers (Paul died in 63 CE). Writing a document in someone else’s name (pseudepigrapha) was a common practice in the First and Second Centuries. By then, the Jesus Follower Community had become more institutionalized and concerns about “heresy” had arisen.
The Pastoral letters were written to Paul’s “co-workers” but have a broader audience. By the time they were written, Paul was regarded as an authoritative figure of the past.
2 Timothy purported to be written from prison (v.8) and is more personal than 1 Timothy. The author, writing as Paul, treated Timothy as his “beloved child” (v.2), loyal disciple and his spiritual heir. In the letter, Paul was portrayed as near death. Timothy was presented as a “third generation” Jesus Follower who followed both his grandmother and his Jewish mother (Acts 16:1-3).
Today’s reading contains a typical “Pauline salutation” followed by a “thanksgiving” for Timothy’s faith (vv. 3-7). “Paul” showed his connection to Judaism in saying that he worshiped “as my ancestors did” (v.3). Speaking as Paul, the author emphasized that his understanding of the gospel is the true one and presented the gospel proclamation in shorthand form in verses 9 and 10.
“Paul” asserted his status as a herald, apostle, teacher, and sufferer (vv. 11-12) as a prelude to criticizing persons who “have turned away from me” (v.15). The reference to “that day” in verse 12 showed the growing belief within the Jesus Follower Movement in a Second Coming of Christ when the Kingdom of God would be fulfilled.
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”
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.
Today’s reading has two distinct thoughts. The first set of verses criticized the apostles for having a lack of “faith” (pistis in Greek and understood better as “faithfulness”). In effect, even a miniscule amount (a mustard seed) of faithfulness could overcome a large tree (v.6). In Matt. 17:20, faith could “move mountains.”
The second part of the reading called for service without a desire for reward, and that doing one’s duty does not bring a reward.