Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for September 22, 2019
Jer 8:18 – 9:1 • Ps 79:1–9 • I Tim 2:1–7 • Lk 16:1–13
Jeremiah asks, “Why have they provoked me with idols?” Jesus teaches, "You cannot serve both wealth and Mammon."
Today’s collect asks God that we be taught to love things heavenly, not things earthly. Grant that we may “forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches,” prayed the collect used from 1549 through 1978 for St. Matthew’s feast, September 21.
It is timely to read “the summer is over” one day before the autumn equinox. Although this lament is not dated, the weeping prophet might have composed it when the Judeans had failed to repent even after a summer of drought, or else he composed it when Jerusalem actually was conquered by the Babylonians in 597 B.C. Gilead is the region now known as Jordan. The balm of Gilead was made from the sap of the Styrax tree, used by the ancients as an ointment. Jeremiah’s question, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” would serve as the opening line of the African-American spiritual.
Ps 79 not only pairs well with Jeremiah’s lament; its vv 6-7, “Pour out thy wrath....” appear also in Jeremiah, two chapters from the end of today’s excerpt. If Jeremiah was quoting the psalm, then it must be of earlier composition than is often assumed. If the psalmist was quoting Jeremiah, then the psalm could be about any one of several defilements of the temple by Gentiles; indeed, later Jewish custom would assign it for use during services commemorating the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 69.
The second of our readings from I Timothy urges us to “make prayers and supplications and give thanks for all, for kings....” That directive was the source of the opening phrase of the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church (in Rite I Eucharist), “Almighty..God, who by thy holy Apostle hast taught us to make prayers and supplications and to give thanks for all men ....” The Apostle (Paul) is urging prayers because that is acceptable to the one God through the one mediator, “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,” the only place in all the writings attributed to Paul that Mark’s term ransom is used to speak of Jesus’ work.
Jesus’ parable of the dishonest steward perplexes many. Seeing his pink slip coming, a canny manager insures his unemployment security by doing favors for those in positions to help him later. Not all commentators are sure that the last few sentences are congruent with the point of the parable, though all would agree with Luke that one cannot serve God and greed. September 21 was the feast of Matthew/Levi the sometime tax collector who became an apostle, and who is credited with having written a Gospel.
--Rev. Stephen Weissmann | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
September 22, 2019 — Proper 20