Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for July 12, 2020
Gen. 25:19–34 • Ps. 119:105–112 • Rom. 8:1–11 • Matt. 13:1–9, 18–23
Today's collect asks that we may discern what we ought to do, and may have strength to do what we ought, a phrasing which emphasizes more our active cooperation with God than does the passive image of believers as soils receiving the Word, as in today’s Gospel.
Isaac’s function in Genesis is to provide a link between his father Abraham and his sons Jacob and Esau. He is inactive, rabbis speculated, because of the trauma of having been almost murdered by his father. The twin sons he begat were Esau, “the redhead” father of the Edomites, a tribe to the southeast of Canaan, and Jacob, re-named Israel, father of the Israelites. Today’s reading accounts for the proximity and the hostility between Edomites and Israelites, between hunting and herding economies, and between contrasting personality types. Medically-minded readers of this story have speculated that Esau was so willing to relinquish his birthright for red lentil stew because he suffered from hypoglycemia. The King James Version’s “a mess of pottage” has become proverbial, meaning a trifle.
Psalm 119 is a meditation on keeping the Torah both in the sense of observing the rules of the Book, and also in the sense of obeying God’s will. One who prescribed the recital of Ps. 119 was Benedict of Nursia, c. 480 - 540, the father of western monasticism. Benedict’s feast was July 11; his first biography was written by Pope Gregory the Great, who might have written today’s collect also.
Paul was another Jew who was preoccupied with keeping the Torah. Epistles for today and the next two Sundays are from Romans 8, where Paul talks about the new life which Christ has made available to believers. The Torah could not save us from death; Christ has fulfilled the requirements of the Law, and so has set humanity free from sin and death. We are not condemned. Accordingly, we must live in the Spirit, not subject to human addictions. The One who raised Jesus from death also will raise our mortal bodies from death.
The Parable of the Sower includes Matthew’s allegory to explain it. A more exact title might be the Parable of the Different Soils. It is one of a collection in Matthew 13, the remainder of which will be read on the next two Sundays. Today’s parable calls the seed “the word of the Kingdom”; next Sunday’s parable will call the sower the “Son of Man.”
Commemorated today is Nathan Söderblom, [Lutheran] Archbishop of Uppsala, 1914-1931, pioneer ecumenist, liturgist, winner of Nobel Peace Prize.
—Rev. Stephen Weissman | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
July 12, 2020 — Sixth Sunday after Pentecost