Above: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn
Responsibility for Others
The Sunday Closest to September 28
Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
SEPTEMBER 27, 2015
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 (New Revised Standard Version):
The king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther,
What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.
Then Queen Esther answered,
If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me– that is my petition– and the lives of my people– that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.
Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther,
Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!
Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.
Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said,
Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.
And the king said,
Hang him on that.
So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.
Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.
Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 If the LORD had not been on our side,
let Israel now say;
2 If the LORD had not been on our side,
when enemies rose up against us;
3 Then would they have swallowed us up alive
in their fierce anger toward us;
4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us
and the torrent gone over us;
5 Then would the raging waters
have gone over us.
6 Blessed be the LORD!
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 (New Revised Standard Version):
The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said,
If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.
Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD,
Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,” to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery.
So the LORD said to Moses,
Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses,
Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.
And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said,
My lord Moses, stop them!
But Moses said to him,
Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!
Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults?
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.
James 5:13-20 (Revised English Bible):
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let him pray. Is anyone in good heart? Let him sing praises. Is one of you ill? Let him send for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. A good man’s prayer is very powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us; yet when he prayed fervently that there should be no rain, the land had no rain for three and a half years; when he prayed again, the rain poured down and the land bore crops once more.
My friends, if one of you strays from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, you may be sure of this: the one who brings a sinner back from his erring ways will be rescuing a soul from death and cancelling a multitude of sins.
Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):
John said to him,
Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.
Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me. He is not against us is on our side. Truly I tell you: whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.
If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck. If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.
Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?
You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 21, Year A:
Proper 21, Year B:
Luke 17 (Parallel to Mark 9):
For the Canadian Federal Election (2011):
For the Prime Minister of Japan:
For the President and Prime Minister of France:
For the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:
For the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority:
For the Prime Minister of Canada:
Thanksgiving for New Zealand:
God Save the Queen/King:
A Prayer for Those Who Influence Public Opinion:
A Prayer for Proper Priorities:
A Prayer for All Who Seek or Hold Public Office in Any Land at Any Time:
A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:
A Prayer for Shalom:
Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:
O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:
Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:
God Bless Our Native Land:
A Prayer for Our Country:
Independence Day (U.S.A.):
We are responsible for ourselves and for others. That is the theme which unifies the readings for Proper 21, Year B.
We begin with the options for the first reading. Haman had plotted to destroy the Jews, and had seemed to be near achieving success. Yet the intervention–at the risk of her own life–of Queen Esther foiled Haman’s evil plans. And what about Numbers 11? Israelites, bored with the monotony of manna (probably crystalized insect excrement), complained about the lack of meat. If one reads more than the assigned portions of this chapter, one finds that they got meat until they stood hip-deep in quails. As some grammatically-challenged people might have said,
That’ll learn ‘em.
In the meantime, Moses complained to God that the burden of leadership was too heavy for him to bear alone. So he got a council of seventy elders to help. One moral of the story, I suppose, is to be careful about one’s complaints to God.
James and Jesus, the latter in Mark, remind us in positive and negative terms of the principle that we are responsible for each other spiritually. And, in Mark, we read some hyperbolic language about removing one’s own stumbling blocks. Our Lord did not advocate mutilation. Rather, the principle is simple and not unique to Mark 9: Whatever stands between you and God, get rid of it. Besides, how can you avoid being a stumbling block to others if you are so severely spiritually errant? Can the blind lead the blind to safety? What we do affects others. What we do not do affects others.
May we act responsible, whether alone or collectively.
Published originally in a nearly identical form at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 25, 2011