Above: Soil Profile
A Call for Righteous Deeds
The Sunday Closest to July 13
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
JULY 13, 2014
JULY 16, 2017
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Genesis 25:19-34 (New Revised Standard Version):
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said,
If it is to be this way, why do I live?
So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,
Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the elder shall serve the younger.
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob,
Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!
(Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said,
First sell me your birthright.
I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?
Swear to me first.
So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Psalm 119:105-112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
105 Your word is a lantern to my feet
and a light upon my path.
106 I have sworn and am determined
to keep your righteous judgments.
107 I am deeply troubled;
prserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,
and teach me your judgments.
109 My life is always in my hand,
yet I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a trap for me,
but I have not strayed from your commandments.
111 Your decrees are my inheritance for ever;
truly, they are the joy of my heart.
112 I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes
for ever and to the end.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;
to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.
2 To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,
because of their transgressions.
3 Our sins are stronger than we are,
but you will blot them out.
4 Happy are they whom you choose
and draw to your courts to dwell there!
they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,
by the holiness of your temple.
5 Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
O Hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the seas that are far away.
6 You make fast the mountains by your power;
they are girded about with might.
7 You still the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the clamor of the peoples.
8 Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;
you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it abundantly;
you make it very plenteous;
the river of God is full of water.
10 You prepare the grain,
for so you provide for the earth.
11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;
with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
12 You crown the year with your goodness,
and your paths overflow with plenty.
13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,
and the hills be clothed with joy.
14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,
and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;
let them shout for joy and sing.
Romans 8:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Buf if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your moral bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (New Revised Standard Version):
Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying:
Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!
Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
My reflections on the Markan parallel version of the Parable of the Sower are here: http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/week-of-3-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/
Our sins are stronger than we are,
but you will blot them out….
You visit the earth and water it abundantly;
you make it very plenteous;
the river of God is full of water.
–Psalm 65:3, 9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer)
This Sunday’s readings, taken together, constitute a call for righteous deeds.
One aspect of a righteous deed is that it lacks resentment. Esau had every right to be resentful. His brother, Jacob, forced him to sell his birthright. Jacob was a schemer, and his plots got him into much needless difficulty over the years. They did reconcile eventually, but not before much family drama played out.
A righteous deed is a faithful response to God. God has acted. And God continues to act. God shows the initiative in Isaiah 55 and Psalm 65. And God (specifically Jesus) is the sower in Matthew 13. This chapter is eschatological. After the Parable of the Sower we have the tares, which resemble wheat. God will sort out the difference at the time of the harvest, or the final judgment.
With eschatology in mind, the fates of the seeds take on meanings beyond “What kind of soil am I?” in the context of mere daily life. The author of the Gospel of Matthew expected Jesus to return very shortly, a fact we must consider. Another relevant detail is the presence of Roman persecutions of Christianity. So seeds never sprout, others do for a time but do not survive adversity, and still other seeds take root and yield much. Christians are supposed to yield much, a harvest possible only in God.
The harvest yields are unrealistic in agricultural terms, thus the parable is not agricultural; it is spiritual. No farmer could expect such yields in First Century C.E. Judea reasonably. So the yields must be the work of God, in concert with faithful people. Stakes do not get much higher than eschatological ones, and, if one thinks the schedule is short, yields need to be greater to make up for the lack of time.
That was in 85-90 C.E. I write these words on Christmas Day in 2010. Between the 85 and 2010 many have speculated as to when Jesus might return. They have all been wrong. I have a 1979 paperback book explaining why Jesus will return by 1988. That author was incorrect. There is another date (May 2011) making the rounds as I write these words. The fact that I am writing a devotion for July 10, 2011, indicates my opinion of that date. We ought not obsess over dates, which come and go. No, our mandate is to be faithful Christians who cooperate with God more often than not. We cannot cooperate with God all the time, due to sin, but, by grace, we can improve spiritually. The formula is this: see and hear, understand, then act accordingly.
As for eschatology, God will handle those details. The human track record on trying to understand it has not proved promising. So let us focus on what God calls to do: bear good fruit. May we sink our roots into the river of God, which always has plenty of water.
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on December 25, 2010