LECTIONARY Sunday Readings for JULY 2023 by Buddy Kirwan
2nd July: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
GOD OUR PROVIDER
Genesis 22:1-14. Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18. Romans 6:12-23. Matthew 10:40-42
Our Genesis 22 passage is loaded with meaning for Christians. We see Abraham’s obedience being tested when God called on him to offer, as a burnt offering, “his son, his only son Isaac.” On arrival at the designated place, Abraham “laid (the wood) on his son.” We naturally see parallels here with the crucifixion event. God the Father gave up his Son, his only Son as an offering. Just as Isaac carried the wood up to the place of sacrifice, Jesus bore a wooden cross up to Golgotha. Surely, we have been provided with much cause to praise our covenantal Lord for His steadfast love towards us; and Psalm 89 provides us with wonderful words for that very thing. God’s provision for us, includes the power to choose whether Christians should “present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness” or “to God as instruments of righteousness.” Our Romans 6 reading, ends with a brief but stark contrast of the choice before us: “the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life.” Notice the outcome of, working for sins’ wages, and the contrasting “free gift of God.” Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15). In our gospel reading, Matthew records some words of Jesus as He imparts Kingdom principles to His followers. One particular characteristic of the Messiah’s Kingdom, hospitality, is referred to. How else can we welcome Jesus? How accessible is his reward: “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple none of these will lose their reward.” The hospitable Saviour who welcomes each one of us, invites us to demonstrate a similar welcome to all of those he brings our way.
9th July: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
OUR HOSPITABLE GOD
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67. Psalm 145:8-14. Romans 7:15-25a Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30.
Our Genesis reading today has many inspiring lessons for us. If you cast your mind back to last Sunday’s readings, you might remember our references to ‘hospitality’ and ‘provision’. In our first reading today, we see more evidence of Yahweh’s provision and the role of hospitality at its heart. The Lord had promised Abraham an amazing dynasty. We witness here the hospitality that Abraham’s servant received as he seeks out Yahweh’s chosen wife for Isaac: ‘She (Rebekah)…said, “Drink, and I will also water your camels”.’ Rebekah’s family warmly welcomed Abraham’s servant into their household and Rebekah agreed to become Isaac’s wife. Psalm 145, extols God’s covenantal love to his children: “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… good to all… compassion over all that he has made.” Our gospel reading includes one of the most inviting and welcoming verses ever uttered; the Creator himself, in the person of the Son says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That astounding grace of God continues to shine through to us, in the words of Paul in Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
16th July: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
OUR REVEALING GOD
Genesis 25:19-34. Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-13 Romans 8:1-11 Matthew 13:1-9, (18-23)
We continue to follow the record of our spiritual father’s family in Genesis. Throughout Scripture we are confronted with these words: “These are the descendants of…” The significance of Abraham’s family to the future coming of Messiah cannot be overstated and to say that there were a few ‘anxious moments’ would also be true. Rebekah miraculously conceived and gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob. In this passage from Genesis 25, we learn to value our spiritual birthright and not despise it, like Esau; leading to his ultimate undoing: “… Esau despised his birthright.” Our Psalm for today is a wonderful song of praise to our covenant-keeping God, and potentially a source of praise for today and the week ahead. In our epistle reading on last Sunday, we read such words as: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me… ?” This Sunday, the opening line of the epistle to the Romans letter, opens with these wonderful words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are treated to a picture of new life in the Spirit, a life that will appeal to all Jesus-followers as they seek to please the One who has taken up His abode in us: “… 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.” Our gospel reading from Matthew 13, introduces us to how Jesus used parables to reveal the mysteries of God’s kingdom to his followers. In the parable of the sower and the soils, we might find ourselves praying that “the word of the kingdom” would find “good soil” in our hearts. May we have ears to hear.
23rd July: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
OUR AMAZING GOD
Genesis 28:10-19a. Psalm 86:11-17. Romans 8:12-25. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Today, we pick up again on the story of God’s early days of the formation of a covenant people, Abraham’s descendants. Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob leave a lot to be desired in areas of honesty and integrity. Having deceived both his father and his brother, Jacob flees from Esau’s threat on his life. En route to his planned destination, the home of his uncle Laban, Jacob has a significant encounter with the Lord: “he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” God, in his amazing grace, was drawing this ‘deceptive sinner’ into that “way” that David, in Psalm 86, was praying for. A way, a journey where our divided hearts and loyalties would find integrity in God. This journey of sanctification, according to Paul, requires the Christian’s cooperation with the internal work of the Spirit in our wandering hearts. Our gospel reading from Matthew 13, brings us another parable of the kingdom. In seeking to unfold the mysteries of the kingdom, Jesus narrates the parable of the wheat and seeds. In this parable, He compares the kingdom of heaven to: “someone who sowed good seed in his field… an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.” Following seed-germination, the workers noticed the unwelcome weeds growing alongside the wheat, and asked the boss if they should remove them. His response: “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them… at harvest time I will tell the reapers, collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Later-on (Matt 13: 36-43), in a private conversation, Jesus explained this parable to His disciples.
30th July: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
OUR RESTORING GOD
Genesis 29:15-28. Psalm 119:129-136. Romans 8:26-39. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Having successfully escaped with his life from a ‘bloodthirsty’ twin brother, Jacob secures a place of safety, nearly five hundred miles away in the home of his uncle Laban. We might notice some parallels in this record of Jacob’s wife-seeking efforts with that of his father many years earlier; a significant difference, however, is how Jacob becomes victim to a sin that had also beset himself, deception! It was love at first sight for Rachel, Laban’s daughter, and Jacob agreed to serve his future father-in-law for a seven-year period. There follows a number of disgraceful deceptions by Laban until eventually, Jacob was given Rachel to be his wife. Let us ‘put to death’/mortify any, even the slightest appearance of deception in our own hearts. Psalm 119:129-136 provides us with welcome words and phrases, to come, in loving prayer, to God: “Your decrees are wonderful… the unfolding of your words gives light.” Lord, keep us from either self-deception or the deception of others: “Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.” More welcome news from Paul: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” This chapter 8 of Romans, provides the Christian with much encouragement e.g., one with God is a majority: “If God is for us, who is against us? “… all things work together for good for those who love God.” Nothing can separate us from the love of God. In Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus continue to use parables to teach His disciples about the kingdom of heaven. In our gospel passage, Jesus compares the kingdom with the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed; yeast as a leaven in baking; hidden treasure; fine pearls; a fishing net. At the end of this narrative, Jesus asks: “Have you understood all this?” May God the Holy Spirit, grant us the understanding and discernment of his kingdom.