Sunday, October 22, 2017 Lectionary 29 Introduction
In today’s first reading God uses the Gentile ruler Cyrus to accomplish divine purposes. When the Pharisees try to trap Jesus, he tells them to give the emperor what belongs to him and to God what belongs to God. To gather for worship reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is to God rather than to any earthly authority. Created in the image of God, we offer our entire selves in the service of God and for the sake of the world.
Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts. Created by you, let us live in your image; created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Isaiah 45:1-7
The prophet announces that Cyrus the Persian emperor is the one the Lord has anointed to end Israel’s exile. The Lord makes this choice so that the whole world will recognize this Lord as the only God. Persia had a god of light and a god of darkness; the Lord claims sovereignty over both light and darkness.
Psalm: Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]
Ascribe to the Lord honor and power. (Ps. 96:7)
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Most likely this letter is the first written by Paul. Paul is giving pastoral encouragement and reassurances to new Christians living in an antagonistic pagan environment. Their commitment of faith, love, and hope makes them a model for other new Christian communities.
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22
After Jesus begins teaching in the temple, religious leaders try to trap him with questions. First they ask if God’s people should pay taxes to an earthly tyrant like Caesar.
Sunday, October 15, 2017 Lectionary 28 Introduction
In Isaiah we are given a vision of the great feast to come, when God will wipe away death forever. In Jesus’ parable about a great banquet, those invited do not come, so the invitation is extended to others. In our liturgy God spreads a table before us. Even amid anxiety and hardship we rejoice in the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. With great joy we feast at the table of the Lord, and we go forth to share the wonderful invitation with others hungering and thirsting for the abundant life of God.
Prayer of the Day
Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples and poured out your life with abundance. Call us again to your banquet. Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure, and transform us into a people of righteousness and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9
After a hymn of praise acknowledging God as a shelter for the poor, the prophet portrays a wonderful victory banquet at which death—which in ancient Canaan was depicted as a monster swallowing everyone up—will be swallowed up forever. The prophet urges celebration of this victory of salvation.
Psalm: Psalm 23
You prepare a table before me, and my cup is running over. (Ps. 23:5)
Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9
Though writing from prison and facing an uncertain future, Paul calls on the Philippians to rejoice and give thanks to God no matter what the circumstance. God’s peace is with us and binds together our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ, especially when things around us do not seem peaceful.
Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus tells a parable indicating that the blessings of God’s kingdom are available to all, but the invitation is not to be taken lightly.
Sunday, October 8, 2017 Lectionary 27 Introduction
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable of the vineyard, an image of Israel, the prophets’ mission, and Christ’s death. For Christians, the vineyard also speaks of God’s love poured out in the blood of Christ, given to us for the forgiveness of sin. Grafted onto Christ the vine at baptism, we are nourished with wine and bread, that we may share Christ’s sufferings and know the power of his resurrection.
Prayer of the Day
Beloved God, from you come all things that are good. Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right, and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
The prophet sings a sad, parable-like love song about the relationship between God and Israel. In this song Israel is compared to a promising vineyard. Despite God’s loving care, the vineyard that is Israel has brought forth “wild grapes” of injustice and distress, when fine grapes of justice and righteousness were expected.
Psalm: Psalm 80:7-15
Look down from heaven, O God; behold and tend this vine. (Ps. 80:14, 15)
Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14
Paul reviews some of his supposed credentials, which no longer have any bearing in comparison to the right relationship he has been given through the death of Christ. The power of Christ’s resurrection motivates him to press on toward the ultimate goal, eternal life with Christ.
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46
Jesus tells a parable to the religious leaders who are plotting his death, revealing that their plans will, ironically, bring about the fulfillment of scripture.
Sunday, October 1, 2017 Lectionary 26 Introduction
Jesus’ parable about two sons who don’t do what they say reveals surprises in the reign of God, such as prostitutes and tax collectors going before others into God’s kingdom. In the reading from Ezekiel the people question whether the ways of the Lord are unfair; instead they are to repent and turn to the Lord. Paul urges us to look to Christ as a model of humility, looking to the interests of others above our own. Nourished by the broken bread and shared cup, we offer our lives for the sake of our needy world.
Prayer of the Day
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Ezekiel challenges those who think they cannot change because of what their parents were and did, or who think they cannot turn from their wicked ways. God insistently invites people to turn and live.
Psalm: Psalm 25:1-9
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love. (Ps. 25:6)
Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13
As part of a call for harmony rather than self-seeking, Paul uses a very early Christian hymn that extols the selflessness of Christ in his obedient death on the cross. Christ’s selfless perspective is to be the essential perspective we share as the foundation for Christian accord.
Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32
After driving the moneychangers out of the temple (21:12), Jesus begins teaching there. His authority is questioned by the religious leaders, who are supposed to be in charge of the temple.
Sunday, September 24, 2017 Lectionary 25 Introduction
Matthew narrates one of Jesus’ controversial parables, in which Jesus says the reign of God is like workers who get paid the same no matter when they start. When God changes his mind about punishing Nineveh for their evil ways, Jonah is angry. Yet God is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. In baptism we receive the grace of God that is freely given to all. As Luther wrote, in the presence of God’s mercy we are all beggars.
Prayer of the Day
Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Jonah 3:10–4:11
After Jonah’s short sermon in 3:4, the Ninevites all repented and God decided to spare the city. Jonah objected to this and became even more angry when God ordered a worm to destroy a plant that was providing shade. The book ends with a question that challenges any who are not ready to forgive: You, Jonah, are all worked up about a bush, but should not I be concerned about a hundred and twenty thousand Ninevites who do not know the difference between their right and left hands?
Psalm: Psalm 145:1-8
The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Ps. 145:8)
Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30
Paul writes to the Philippians from prison. Though he is uncertain about the outcome of his imprisonment, he is committed to the ministry of the gospel and calls on the Philippians to live lives that reflect and enhance the gospel mission.
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus tells a parable about God’s generosity, challenging the common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserve.