Sunday readings for July 27, 2014, with questings

The St. Luke’s Preview-the-Readings page (prepared by Jonathan Bryan)

Welcome to this place where you can read the biblical passages for a coming Sunday . . . check out the introductory and explanatory materials . . . click through links to additional resources . . . contemplate the questions that arise. Just getting started with this, and I'll welcome your suggestions, feedback, comments, and so forth. Leave a message or email the Church and I'll get back to you.

I’ve put in some notes that come to mind as I examine these passages. Perhaps they’ll encourage your own thoughts. Also some questings to ponder. (Questions demand answers. "Questings" journey toward answers.)

Readings for Sunday July 27 – Proper 12 – Year A

Notes and preview – I’m struck that God’s steadfast love is affirmed in all three of these readings. Despite Laban’s raw deceit, God brings loyal Jacob through a rough patch (with some help from Jacob’s steady love for Rachel). . . . Paul states that God has a velcro – nay, super-glue – attachment to us, staying connected despite all sorts of stuff that would separate us from God and one another. . . . And Jesus offers a set of parables that, taken together, promise God’s loving fidelity toward us.

Questings -- I can hear God’s boundless grace-love for us in these passages. However, I also hear them inviting me to respond in kind – love God, love neighbor. How do we do that? Do you have to like what you love?

Suggestions -- Here are some suggestions for previewing these readings –

First, skim them, reading the bolded parts . . . then read all of them completely . . . next, see whether you agree that “God’s steadfast love is affirmed in all three of these.” And finally, read them slowly, perhaps aloud, being aware of your thoughts as you do.

I hope this process will help you hear them fully in the service . . .

(The italicized and indented introductions are borrowed from Frederick Borsch and George Woodward, Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd ed. (Kindle). Church Publishing Inc. From the copyright page: “Copyright © 2009 by Frederick Borsch. All rights reserved. Portions of this book may be reproduced by a congregation for its own use.”)

Genesis 29: 15– 28 In our sequential reading from Genesis, Jacob meets his match in his future father-in-law, the deceptive Laban. We encounter the cultural power of custom, here applied to women when it is deemed inappropriate to marry off the younger daughter Rachel before the elder daughter Leah. God makes no overt appearance in these events, though God’s promise is at work even in the unlikely interactions of an exploitative father-in-law, two competitive sisters, and the compromised patriarch Jacob.

Genesis 29:15-28

Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?" Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel." Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me." So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed." So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?" Laban said, "This is not done in our country -- giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years." Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Romans 8: 26– 39 In this lection Paul expresses his great confidence that God is for us, making love known to humankind through the sacrifice of the Son and the help of the Spirit. The Spirit pleads with God for us, interceding when words fail. We learn that God works for good with those called according to God’s purpose. Nothing, therefore, can separate us from the love of One who did not withhold from us the divine Son. Neither mortal distress nor supernatural power can separate us from such love.

The Epistle – Romans 8:26-39

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 13: 31– 33, 44– 52 Our gospel is five of Jesus’ short parables: the mustard seed, the leaven, the hidden treasure, the priceless pearl, and the net. They suggest how the action of God’s reign is realized. What seems insignificant is suddenly of great importance. It is like a marvelous gift which one seizes upon joyfully and for which all else is willingly sacrificed. The kingdom takes all kinds, and the sorting out must await the end. Wise servants will recognize treasure both old and new.

The Gospel – Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jesus put before the crowds another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."