Engaging the Word: Readings for 9/7/14 (13th Sunday after Pentecost)

By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text.

This week we learn about the origin of the Passover, Paul exhorts us to love one another, Jesus teaches us us what to do if another member of the church sins against us and reminds us He is present when we are gathered in His name.

Feast of the Passover by Dieric Bouts (c. 1420 - 1475). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Feast of the Passover by Dieric Bouts (c. 1420 – 1475). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exodus: Moses obeyed God’s call, and he and his brother Aaron went to the Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go.’” Pharaoh refused, so God smote the Egyptians with a series of ten plagues. The tenth, final, and most horrific plague was the killing of the firstborn, which would result in the deliverance of the Israelites.

In this week’s reading, Moses gives the Israelites instructions as they prepare for departure. They are to take some of the blood from a sacrificed lamb and smear it upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. The “whole assembled congregation” will roast the lamb and “they shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.” They shall “eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord.” That night God will “strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals.” When God sees the blood on the houses, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” God says the people are to observe this day throughout the generations “as a perpetual ordinance.” As we know, the Jewish people have been celebrating Passover for over three thousand years.

Psalm: This week’s psalm is a liturgical hymn praising God for victory over enemies. We should praise God’s Name by singing “a new song,” dancing, and playing musical instruments.

Romans: Paul continues his teaching on Christian ethics,“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Paul makes sense because when we love others we don’t commit adultery, we don’t murder, we don’t steal, we don’t covet.

St Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan (1546).  Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
St Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan (1546). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Paul has a sense of urgency because he believes the return of Christ is imminent. He tells us, “Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” We need to “put on the armor of light,” and live honorable lives. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

The Life with God Bible comments, “The present moment is the only time available to us for living in the Spirit, for following Jesus, for obeying his commands, for receiving the Father’s love. We do not live the gospel in nostalgia, savoring past blessings; and we do not live in fantasy, anticipating a more convenient time. The time is now—sink into this present, this Presence.”

Matthew: Our reading this week is from Chapter 18, which is Jesus’ fourth discourse in Matthew’s gospel. It is known as the discourse on the church. The first part of our selection deals with how to confront another member of the church who has sinned against you. it’s interesting that Jesus felt a need to spell out some rules for living in community. Jesus knows that we may get into an argument with another church member, and he wants a system in place. If a fellow believer sins against you, work it out in private, just the two of you, face to face. But If he doesn’t listen, have another meeting with a couple of witnesses. If the person refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, consider the person as “a Gentile and a tax collector.” Chris Haslam says this means to consider the person an unworthy outsider.

The Angelus, by Jean-François Millet (1814 - 1875). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Angelus, by Jean-François Millet (1814 – 1875). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the second part of our selection, Jesus talks again about binding and loosing. He says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

I still don’t “get” binding and loosing, but every morning I ease into the Daily Office by singing a couple of verses from St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken, to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

If all those words are bound in heaven, I’m extremely blessed.  In case you’re interested, here’s a link to the congregation of St. James Holy Catholic Anglican Church in Kansas City, MO, singing the long (around seven minutes) hymn in the processional. It includes the lyrics on the screen. You’ll see several bishops and the censing of the altar. They use the 1928 Prayer Book and Anglican Missal in their worship. I’ll stay with the Episcopal Church. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMvQUClBtvo.

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