During this Pentecost Season, there are two “Tracks” of Scriptures that are offered, and congregations may choose which Track they will follow. The first two readings presented are the readings from Tracks 1 and 2, respectively. The third and fourth readings are the same in both Tracks.


1 Samuel 3:1-20  


1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”

19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.


The Book of Samuel is part of the “Deuteronomic History” that includes the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. These books are a “didactic history” that covered the period from just before the entry into the Promised Land (c.1220 BCE, if the account is historical) to the beginning of Babylonian Captivity (586 BCE). The books were written in the period from 640 BCE to 550 BCE and continued to be revised even after that.

The authors artfully wove together numerous sources. They used the stories in these books to demonstrate that that God controls history and to assert that it was the failures of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judea (and by extension, the people) to worship YHWH and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)

The Book of Samuel (to the extent it may be historical) covers from the end of the Time of the Judges (c.1030 BCE) to the last years of the Reign of David (c. 965 BCE). Because the Book of Judges ended on such a low note in terms of YHWH worship, “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” (v.1), the Book of Samuel presented a return to worship of YHWH – although this return was viewed (in retrospect by the authors) as uneven.

Today’s reading is “The Call of Samuel” and his elevation to the rank of prophet. Samuel is one of the towering figures of the Hebrew Bible. His conception was unusual in that his mother, Hannah, had been barren until the LORD “remembered her” (1 Sam. 1:19) – the same phrase used when YHWH “remembered” his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 2:24) and called Moses.

Hannah had promised YHWH that if she bore a son, he would be a “Nazarite.”  A Nazirite did not consume wine or intoxicants, did not cut his hair, and was dedicated to remaining ritually clean.

According to today’s text, Samuel as a child was ministering at “the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was” (v.3). The time of Samuel’s call would have been around 1040 BCE, and there was no Temple in Jerusalem. (The so-called “First Temple” was built by Solomon around 950 BCE – if the account is historical.)

The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that the phrase “the lamp of God had not yet gone out” (v.3) means that it was just before dawn, and that the reference “Dan to Beer-sheba” (v.20) refers to the traditional northern and southern limits of Israel.

Reflecting the multiple sources of the Book of Samuel, this account says Eli did not restrain his sons’ blaspheming (v.13), but in 1 Sam. 2:23-25, he chastised his sons for their behaviors.


Deuteronomy 5:12-15


12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work — you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.


Deuteronomy is the fifth (and last) book of the Torah and (as a literary device) was presented as Moses’ final speech to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land.

“Deuteronomy” comes from Greek words that mean “Second Law” and the book was structured as if it were a “restatement” of the laws found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Parts of Deuteronomy were revised as late as 450 BCE, but the bulk of the book is generally dated to the reign of King Josiah of Judea (640-609 BCE). Many of the reforms under Josiah, particularly the centralization of sacrificial worship in Jerusalem, are stipulated in Deuteronomy.

It is also the first book of the didactic “Deuteronomic History” which consists of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. This “History” taught that when the people and kings of Israel and Judea worshiped YHWH properly, they prospered, but when they worshiped false gods, other nations (Assyria in 722 BCE and Babylon in 587 BCE) conquered them. For the Deuteronomists, these conquests occurred because of false worship, not because the Assyrians and Babylonians were wealthier countries with larger armies. In this way, the Deuteronomists “preserved” the notions of YHWH’s being the all-powerful protector of Israel and Judea, that YHWH was faithful to the promises made by YHWH, and that YHWH controlled everything that occurred.

Today’s reading is part of the Deuteronomic Decalogue – a version of the 10 Commandments that differs at several points from the version in Ex. 20:2-17. For example, the rationale for observing the Sabbath in Exodus is because God rested on the 7th day and blessed the Sabbath. In Deuteronomy, the rationale for observing the Sabbath is that the LORD brought out the Israelites out of Egypt. The NOAB points out that the obligation regarding the Sabbath in Deuteronomy applies equally to slaves and non-Israelites (v.14).


2 Corinthians 4:5-12


5 We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.


Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it means to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.

Paul’s controversies with the Corinthians continued, and he wrote at least four letters to them. The Second Letter is a composite of fragments from these letters. In the Second Letter, Paul countered some Jewish Jesus Followers who were disagreeing with Paul and undermining his authority.

In today’s reading, Paul defended his competence to preach the Gospel, an issue raised in 2:17. He asserted that, unlike his opponents, he was not proclaiming himself (v.5). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary summarizes this portion of the letter as follows: “Paul’s opponents interpreted his trials and tribulations as contradicting his claim to be an apostle. Such weakness could not minister the saving power of God. In reply, Paul insists that suffering is integral to authentic apostleship and to Christian life.”

The NOAB notes that “clay jars” (v.7) are a reference to himself in that when they are broken, they cannot be mended and must be thrown away. The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that Paul said that our human bodies which are weak and impermanent (“vessels of clay”) and cannot be the source of the power of the treasure found in the knowledge of the Gospel.

The NOAB continues: “The Stoics used catalogues of hardship to demonstrate their indifference to adversity, but for Paul adversity demonstrates the unworthiness of the vessels [the clay jars to which he compares himself] and the overcoming of adversity documents the surpassing power of God.”  It understands that “the death of Jesus” (v.10) “is replicated in Paul’s bodily sufferings, with the result that the life of Jesus may be made visible.”


Mark 2:23-3:6


23 One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.


The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is generally dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.” 

The NOAB describes this Gospel as a story of multiple conflicts with a compelling message. The dominant conflict is Jesus’ challenge to the high priestly rulers and their Roman imperial overlords. The Gospel proceeds with a sense of urgency – the word “immediately” appears frequently.

In today’s reading, the disciples may have been violating two Sabbath rules – the prohibition on travel (“going through the grainfields”) and working.

The NJBC notes that according to Leviticus 24:5-9, the “bread of Presence” (v.26) consisted of 12 cakes that were set out in two rows before God in the Tent of Meeting and were later consumed by the priests. It notes that David was given the bread by the priests and that (unlike the disciples), he did not take it by force or even on his own initiative.

The NJBC notes that both Matthew and Luke omit the saying “the sabbath was made for humankind” (v.27), presumably because it was too radical.

The NJBC also states that the “Son of Man” (also used in 2:10) “means either ‘human being’ or refers to Jesus as an exalted figure representative of a finally restored Israel (derived from Daniel 7:13), or both.”

The JANT has an extended discussion of Son of Man: “The title for Jesus that Mark uses most often is Son of Man or ‘son of humanity’ (Gk ho huios tou anthrōpou). Although originally simply an evocative way to say ‘human being’ (Ezek 2.1), it underwent a significant transformation in the pre-Christian era, as reflected in Dan 7.13, which refers to the angel of judgment (probably Michael) as ‘one like a son of man’ (KJV), that is, one who looked like a human being. In apocalyptic Jewish texts such as 1 En. 37-71, ‘Son of Man’ became a term for God’s eschatological heavenly judge. Jesus may have spoken of the Son of Man as a figure other than himself, the coming judge, but Mark’s narrative identifies this figure with Jesus. Mark introduces the important idea, retained by Matthew and Luke, that the Son of Man also suffers and is killed. Mark thus identifies Isaiah’s suffering servant (Isa 52.13 – 53.12) and the suffering righteous person (Wis 2-5) with the Messiah and Son of Man (see 8.27- 33n.). As far as we know, this identification is original to Mark.”

With regard to the healing of the man on the Sabbath, the problem relates not only to the timing of the healing (the Sabbath) but also whether the illness is life-threatening. Jesus turned the question into one of doing good or doing harm.

The “Herodians” were representatives of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, but did not constitute a sect or party like the Pharisees, Sadducees or John the Baptist’s disciples.