Category Archives: Daily Office Readings

Coming Attractions April 17 – 23 (Easter Week, Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.957, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Exodus 12:1-14:4 For a different entry into these texts, here’s Peter, Paul & Mary’s Man Come into Egypt.

1 Corinthians 15:1-58 Hard to beatJohn Updike’s “Seven Stanzas at Easter” (1960). This year I’m not even trying.

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-12 How to take a picture of the sun? That’s more or less the challenge facing the Gospel writers at the Resurrection. Here’s Hooker on Mark ending his Gospel with the announcement of resurrection but without appearances: “Mark’s gospel concludes with a challenge to the disciples to set off to Galilee—to follow Jesus, once again, in the way of discipleship; if they obey—and only if they obey—they will see the Risen Lord. But is this message not a challenge also to Mark’s readers? They, too, must follow Jesus on the way of discipleship if they want to see him. Had Mark ended with resurrection stories, we might have thought (as Christians have sometimes been tempted to think): ‘so that’s the end of the story; everything is now tidied up.’ But for Mark, the resurrection of Jesus is only the beginning. He does not offer us—how could he?—cast-iron ‘evidence’ that Jesus has been raised form the dead, but confronts us instead with a challenge to believe and to follow.”

Coming Attractions April 10 – 16 (Holy Week, Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.957, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Exodus The Exodus readings are suspended until next week. The Old Testament readings draw largely on Lamentations, fitting means to express this week’s many losses.

2 Corinthians 2:1 – 2:13 During the first part of the week the 2 Corinthians readings pick up the texts omitted in last week’s readings. “For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us…” reminds us—as if we needed reminding—that the suffering of Holy Week is not confined to the past.

Mark 11:12-12:11; 14:12-25 Selected texts from Holy Week.

Coming Attractions April 3 – 9 (Week of 5 Lent, Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.957, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Exodus 3:16-11:8 The timing of the readings is perfect, bringing us from Moses’ return to Egypt to the last of the plagues before the Passover. (Oddly, given the centrality of Passover in Holy Week, next week’s readings don’t include the Passover, the Exodus readings resuming after Easter.) This week’s readings invite us to take in the original, brutal, context of Passover: state power oppressing a minority, implacable even as its decisions bring disaster on its “own” people. (The current Russian invasion of the Ukraine adding an important layer to our reading.)

1 Corinthians 14:1 – 2 Corinthians 4:18 We’re moving at breakneck speed through these letters. Something we might try this time around: from the start of 1 Corinthians Paul has been challenging the Corinthians’ strategies for getting honor/prestige/status (some of the meanings of ‘doxa’, also frequently translated ‘glory’). Notice how that renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2) with regard to doxa (1 Cor. 15:40-41, 43; 2 Cor. 1:20; 3:7-11, 18; 4:4, 6, 15, 17) is decisive for a wide variety of issues .
If we want one text to capture much of the content, 1 Cor 16:13-14 looks like a strong candidate: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

Mark 9:30-10:52 Mark 8:27-10:52 looks to many to be a unit, unified by the journey to Jerusalem and the instruction re discipleship. This week’s readings would be the latter part of that. One notable sleeper: when we hear “human hands” (9:31) we assume a Jerusalem referent—and then Mark gives us a whole series of stories about the disciples’ hands at work (9:33ff; 9:38ff; 10:13ff etc.). We are rightly distressed by the dysfunctionality within the Church; after reading Mark perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by it.

Coming Attractions March 27 – April 2 (Week of 4 Lent, Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.955, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Genesis 48:8 – Exodus 3:15 Anyone who has watched The Godfather will understand Joseph’s brothers’ fear after Jacob’s death: now what will Joseph do? And the ensuing conversation witnesses to Joseph’s seeking to understand his own story: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” (50:20; cf. the rather different statement in 45:8). And with “Am I in the place of God?” (50:19) we circle back to the beginning of the human story: the first couple grasped at being like God (Gen 3), and fratricide followed (Gen 4); Joseph owns the difference, and there is reconciliation.

The Exodus readings cover a great deal of ground. Among the many things to notice, whose names are remembered, and whose not (including Pharaoh’s, which complicates historians’ work!). And Exodus 1:15-22 provides necessary context for interpreting Romans 13:1-7.

1 Corinthians 10:14-13:13 Understandably, 1 Corinthians 13 is often read in situations in which we’re celebrating love. What’s worth noticing here is that Paul focuses on love in a situation in which it’s way down the hearers’ list of priorities, way below exercising authority, deeds of power, miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, etc. (and we can add our own measures of success to this list). Is there any part of 1 Corinthians 1-12 that this chapter doesn’t bring into sharper focus?

Mark 7:24-9:29 Mark records twice a voice from heaven, at Jesus’ baptism (“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” 1:11) and at the Transfiguration (“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 9:7). Readers see the latter as part of a major shift, introduced perhaps by Jesus’ “But who do you say that I am?” (8:29) The answer turns out to be the easy part; the hard part: what ‘Messiah’ means, both for Jesus and his followers. Not bad reading for Lent.

Coming Attractions March 20 – 26 (Week of 3 Lent, Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.953, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Genesis 44:1-48:7 As the Jacob and Joseph stories begin to conclude, much to wonder about. There’s an interesting tension between verses 22 and 24 in chapter 45: just how are favoritism and reconciliation supposed to coexist? The interest in Joseph’s political/economic policies may be etiological (Why the current economic arrangements in Egypt), and in any case give readers pause. Sarna provides helpful context for 47:23-24: “Such an interest rate was not considered excessive in the ancient Near East. During the reign of Hammurabi, for instance, the state’s share of the harvest from administered fields varied between two-thirds and one-half after the deduction of production expenses. An interest rate of 20 percent on money loans was quite common in Babylon, while the rate for loans of produce was usually 33.3 percent” (JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis 322). Finally, the stories in Gen 12-50 are often about both the protagonists and the tribes/groups that bear their names. Thus, probably, the prominence of Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh (48:5-6) in these stories, reflecting their prominence in later history.

1 Corinthians 7:25-10:13 Again, much to chew on. Indigestible as some of Paul’s opinions seem at first glance (7:25-40), how many of us do half as well as Paul does in distinguishing between one’s own opinion and authoritative teaching? Chapters 8-9: a resource for sorting out relating one’s rights to one’s responsibility for the common good. Chapter 10: “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall?” What proper role does this warning play in a healthy spirituality?

Mark 5:21-7:23 Thanks to my brother, Elvice and I have been binge watching Star Trek Voyager. In one of the last season’s episodes Neelix says “There’s an old Talaxian expression: ‘When the road before you splits in two, take the third path.’” That highlights one of the many things we might observe in these stories, Jesus repeatedly approaching issues diagonally, creating paths that weren’t on anyone’s map. What might that mean for our following that Jesus today?

Coming Attractions March 13 – 19 (Week of 2 Lent, Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.953, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Genesis 41:14-43:34 The action slows to allow us to observe and wonder about the changing choices the protagonists make, even the self-contradictory ones (naming one’s son “Manasseh” in celebration of forgetting). It looks like the narrator is constrained also by knowledge of Egypt’s economics, so that while there’s silence re whether the people are paid for the grain collected, we’re told that they must pay to get it back.

1 Corinthians 4:8-7:24 These chapters provide opportunity to wonder about multiple issues. For example, the role of our context in determining what we find self-evident, what we find surprising and/or objectionable. (In my time in Latin America, the surprising text was 7:4, specifically “the husband does not have authority over his own body”!) For example, strategies for dealing with behavior that threatens communion. I wonder about 5:11: is there tension between this strategy and Jesus’ practice with Judas (cf. John 12:6), who finally self-expels from the Twelve?

Mark 3:7-5:20 William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” We might notice the ways Faulkner’s observation plays out in these stories, e.g., the role of the past in the formation of the different soils the word encounters (4:1ff). Or, we might take Jesus’ “Have you still no faith?” (4:40) as an invitation to review the preceding stories: is the question/complaint justified? In what circumstances might Jesus direct that question to us? Finally, the exorcisms, usually not part of our experience. M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie is a helpful entry point.

Coming Attractions March 6 – 12 (1st Sunday in Lent Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.953, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Genesis 37:1-41:13 We begin close to four weeks with Joseph and his family. After Cain & Abel, Esau & Jacob, etc. what happens this time around? For the post-Moses/Exodus audience, Egypt is a freighted setting: Abram gets out by the skin of his teeth (Gen 12:10ff); what will happen to Joseph?

For Gen 37, recall that Rachel, Joseph’s mother, dies in Gen 35. Recalling the crucial role of mothers in protecting their sons (Sarah and Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob), her absence leaves Joseph vulnerable in multiple ways.

The Lectionary omits, oddly, Gen 38. It’s worth reading in sequence not only because Tamar appears in Jesus’ genealogy (Mt 1:3), but also because it increases the dramatic tension (what will happen to Joseph?) and because it provides a counterpoint to the action in both Gen 37 (37:32-33//38:25-26) and Gen 39 (Potiphar’s wife’s and Tamar’s choices). In passing, 38:26 presents Tamar’s actions as an important model of what it means to be a tsaddiq (to be righteous). (By the way, 39:19: why does Potiphar become enraged?)

1 Corinthians 1:1-4:7 Murphy-O’Connor recalls the Greco/Roman proverb “Not for everyone is the voyage to Corinth,” i.e., “only the tough survived at Corinth” (New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible I.734). Paul, having planted a church there, is now working on the more difficult task of ongoing conversion (we are in Lent, after all): which survival skills need to be modified or simply jettisoned? What does Christ crucified do to our easy assumptions about what counts as wisdom or folly?

Mark 1:1-3:6 The Phariseestend tofare badly in the Christian imaginations, so it’s worth noticing that of all the groups the Gospels identify (the Herodians, the Sadducees, the Zealots, etc.) it’s only the Pharisees that Jesus bothers arguing with. The Pharisees—very roughly—a lay renewal movement that asked how holiness could be freed from the temple precincts to transform daily (secular) life. So when the Pharisees get it wrong, it’s likely that they’re getting it wrong in ways that anticipate the ways Christians will get it wrong. They can serve as a mirror, and in Lent mirrors aren’t bad things to have. Since the Lectionary has juxtaposed these chapters of Genesis and Mark, consider Tamar and Jesus as two paradigmatic tsaddiqs. How do they deal with the choices and demands the powerful around them are making?

Coming Attractions February 27— March 5 (Last Epiphany Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.951, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Old Testament. The Old Testament readings range widely, usually with some connection to the themes of Ash Wednesday. We might take the closing verse from the first Ezekiel reading as a sort of basso continuo for the whole week: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live” (18:32).

Philippians 2:1-4:23. Paul’s “be of the same mind” uses the verb phroneō, characteristically associated with practical reasoning. Fowl paraphrases “by manifesting a common pattern of thinking and acting,” which pattern is seen paradigmatically in Jesus (2:5-11). Quite intentionally, this Jesus-shaped pattern visibly plays out/doesn’t play out/is encouraged to play out in pretty much all the folk who appear in the book: Timothy, Epaphroditus, Paul himself, the dogs, Euodia, Syntyche, us readers.

Fowl thinks this pattern is part of the friendship with God and others into which we’re invited, citing Dorotheos of Gaza: “Suppose we were to take a compass and insert the point and draw the outline of a circle.… Let us suppose that this circle is the world and that God is the center; the straight lines drawn from the circumference to the center are the lives of [humans]… But at the same time, the closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they become to God” (p.214). (While I’ve read Philippians many times, it never occurred to me that Paul might be talking about friendship. Still chewing on that.)

In passing, “though” in “who, though he was in the form of God” (2:6) is inserted by the translators. They might equally justifiably have inserted “because.” The text is about Jesus; it’s equally about God, what it means to be God. (See, particularly, Gorman’s Inhabiting the Cruciform God.)

And, as unbelievable in the 21st century as it was in the 1st, Paul thinks this looking to the interests of others (2:4) is the path to joy.

The jarring juxtapositions of the Roman penal system and joy in the letter might recall Screwtape’s diatribe in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters:

He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more please. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore’” (Letter XXII).

Gospels. The Lectionary offers engaging selections:

  • Sunday: Peter’s confession and Jesus’ first passion prediction (immediately preceding the Transfiguration, which we hear today from the [Eucharistic] Lectionary)
  • Monday-Tuesday: Scenes from the fulfillment of that passion prediction
  • Wednesday: A sort of dummy’s guide to Ash Wednesday
  • Thursday-Saturday: As we enter Lent, Jesus praying for us

Coming Attractions Feb 20-26 (7 Epiphany Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.949, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Genesis? The Lectionary pauses the Genesis readings until the first week in Lent.

Proverbs 1:20-8:36. Israeltended to view the people’s accumulated wisdom as one of God’s primary media of instruction, the priests and prophets being the other two (Jer 18:18; Ezek 7:26). While Proverbs is ascribed to Solomon (1:1), it likely received its definitive shape in the post-exilic period, when Persian and Hellenistic globalization threatened to make “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” a dated provincial opinion. So Proverbs focuses on the imagination; see the world this way: Dame Wisdom, God’s confidant, patiently and lovingly wooing all to pay patient attention, to trust—it’s by no means obvious—that “the upright will abide in the land, / and the innocent will remain in it; / but the wicked will be cut off from the land, / and the treacherous will be rooted out of it” (2:21-22). It’s an attempt to chart a course that doesn’t end in the ambiguities of Ecclesiastes (“all is vanity”) or the violence of the Maccabees. It ends up laying the groundwork for the Gospel of John’s account of the Word (logos) made flesh (Prov 8:22-31; Jn 1:1-18).

1 John 3:18-5:21. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” Amen.

If we wonder who the author meant by “one another,” scholars (predictably) differ, but, as noted before, “brothers and sisters” looks more likely, “brothers and sisters” in turn denoting those who share the belief described by the author. In NT usage, ‘brother’ and ‘neighbor’ do not appear to be interchangeable, and neither the Gospel of John nor the epistle speak of love of neighbor. What then? Enter Ignatius, who, at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises writes “every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.” And if the “good interpretation” goes against the grain of the author’s evident intention? That’s the challenge the epistle poses for this reader.

Coming at this from another angle, here’s Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” It is easy to see the speck in the epistle’s eye…

John 11:17-12:26. The raising of Lazarus, the Council’s plotting, the anointing at Bethany, the triumphal entry, the Greeks’ petition: much to wonder about here. For example, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people…” After Lazarus’ raising, why does Caiaphas assume that Jesus is going to stay dead? “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Who and what needs to die? Reading John together with 1 John, and recalling Solzhenitsyn, it looks like all of us—including the Gospel writers—struggle to figure that out.

Coming Attractions: Daily Office Readings 6 Epiphany (Year 2)

The readings are listed in the Book of Common Prayer p.949, and appear on various websites including Forward Movement, Mission St Clare.

Genesis 29:20-35:20. Jacob remains centerstage. The authors/editors obviously like a good story, but since the narrative is cool, not hot (McLuhan), there are plenty of gaps to fill in. For example, Gen 34: do we enjoy the Jacob’s sons’ (underdog) subterfuge, or weep over its violence?

At other points stories are paired: Isaac’s blindness and the switching of sons (Gen 27), Jacob’s blindness (in the dark) and the switching of daughters (Gen 29); what “seeing God” looks like (Gen 32:22ff and Gen 33:1-11).

Throughout we might wonder about that promise to Abram (“I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” 12:3). How is this working out (or not)? What has God gotten Godself into?

1 John 1:1-3:18. There are at least two reading strategies worth trying here. The first is a chosen naïveté: there are plenty of gems in the book; take one (e.g., “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God”) and sit with it for a good stretch.

The second is to wonder about the weird mix of tenderness and venom throughout. Scholars have various ways of trying to understand this (of course). I find Raymond Brown’s analysis convincing: a community that has understood itself in terms of the tradition represented by the Gospel of John has split, and in the book we hear the voice of the faction thatS eventually joined with the churches that were transmitting what became our New Testament. In contrast to the other Gospels, John does not encourage love for outsiders, and in I John we may be hearing those chickens coming home to roost.

John 9:1-11:16. There are different ways we can read situations. In 9:1-3 and 11:4 it looks like Jesus’ way is to ask what God is doing. Is the author focusing on this as a model for us?

Jn 9:39 (“I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”): only then, or something that continues to play out? What of Jesus’ followers who claim to “see”?

“If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (10:24). In context that may be doubly ironic. First, because likely as not “I am the good shepherd” is a political declaration (see 2 Sam 5:2; Ps 78:71; Ezek 34:23). Second, because any attempt to slot Jesus into our carefully constructed taxonomies is likely to be counterproductive.