Engaging the Word: Readings for 11/15/15 (25th Sunday after Pentecost)

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By Barbara Klugh

1 Samuel 1:4-20; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-8. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Hannah rejoices in the birth of her son Samuel she had promised to God’s service, the author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the initiator of the new covenant, and Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple and describes the end times.

Hannah before Eli the high priest, by Malnazar, 1637. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hannah before Eli the high priest, by Malnazar, 1637. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Samuel 1:4-20: You may have noticed a familiar theme in the biblical narrative: women who were barren end up giving birth to sons who play important roles in Israel’s history. Think of Sarah, the mother of Isaac, Rebekah, mother of  Jacob and Esau, Rachael, mother of Joseph, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. So it is in this week’s reading.

Elkanah, husband of Hannah and Peninnah, went up every year to Shiloh to offer sacrifices to the LORD. Peninnah had several children and mocked Hannah because she was barren. Elkanah  gave Hannah a double portion of the sacrificial meal “because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb.”

One day Hannah went up to the temple, and prayed to the LORD, weeping in great distress. Eli the priest was sitting by the doorpost. She promised God that if he would give her a son, she would give her son to the service of the LORD, and that he will remain a nazarite all his life.

Seeing Hannah’s mouth move, Eli thought Hannah was drunk and questioned her. When she explained that she had been “pouring out my soul before the LORD.” Eli told Hannah, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” In due course Hannah conceived and bore a son, and named him Samuel, which means “God hears,” “asked of God,” or “name of God.”

Hannah kept her vow, and gave Samuel to Eli in service to God. Samuel was the last of the Hebrew judges, the first great prophet after Moses, and anointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David.

Psalm 16: This week we have favorite psalm of mine, a song about living with joy, trust, and security as we follow the way of God, however imperfectly. Verses 5 and 11 have extra highlighting in my Prayer Book: “O LORD, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot….You will show me the path of life; in your presence here is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”

Salvator Mundi by Andrea Previtali (1480-1528). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Salvator Mundi by Andrea Previtali (1480-1528). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hebrews 10:11-25: This week’s passage is the last one in our series from the letter to the Hebrews, which is more like a sermon (or, as the author writes, an “exhortation”)  than a letter.

The author continues to drive home the point that the old sacrificial system was ineffective, because the priest stood “day after day” offering the same sacrifices. In contrast, Christ offered a single sacrifice for sins once for all time and then “sat down at the right hand of God.” Jesus’ earthly work was completed.

The author cited Jeremiah’s prophecy about the new covenant: The LORD said, “I will put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds…I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.”  With forgiveness  of sins, God wipes our slates clean, so there is no longer any need to make sin offerings. Jesus has fulfilled  Jeremiah’s prophecy and initiated the new covenant through his death and resurrection.  Mission accomplished!

Now that our hearts are cleansed from sin, we can have the confidence to approach God  “with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” So let’s not waver in our faith. Let’s stay in Christian community and “provoke one another to love and good deeds…meeting together…encouraging one another” as we await the second coming of Christ. Amen.

The prophecy of the temple destruction by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The prophecy of the temple destruction by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mark 13:1-8: This week’s reading takes place during the last week of Jesus’ life and is the last time we will read our Sunday Scriptures from Mark’s Gospel until the end of 2017.

Chapter 13 is known as Jesus’ Olivet discourse, also known as the “Little Apocalypse” because Jesus spoke about the end times and used apocalyptic language.

First, one of Jesus’ disciples admired the large stones and large buildings of the temple, and Jesus predicted their destruction, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Indeed, the temple was destroyed by the Romans 40 years later.

Next, while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, four of his disciples asked him when this destruction will take place, and what will be the sign that indicate  the end of the age. Jesus replied, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

The lectionary ends there, but Jesus goes on to tell about persecution of disciples, the desolating sacrilege (possibly the siege of Jerusalem), and the coming of the Son of Man  “with great power and glory.” At the end of the chapter said,  “About that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….Therefore, keep awake.”

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