We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Lectionary, Pentecost 3, Year B, Proper 5, June 9, 2024

I. Theme –  The pervading role of sinfulness

House Divided Speech

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

Old Testament – Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm – Psalm 130 Page 784, BCP
Epistle –2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Gospel – Mark 3:20-35 

Today’s readings explore the pervading influence of sinfulness that makes humans stand in resistance and opposition to God. In 1 Samuel, we begin a series of readings describing the development of kingship in Israel. In Genesis (ALT), we learn the meaning of human sinfulness from the story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to trust in the eternal power of God. In the gospel, when his opponents declare that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul, Jesus warns them of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Commentary by Rev. Mindi

We enter this season after Pentecost, after Trinity Sunday, in which (at least in the mainstream Protestant tradition) there are no special days until Reign of Christ Sunday just before Advent. We begin this time with the story of the man and the woman hiding from God in the garden. The man explains his shame, his hiding by scapegoating the woman, who in turn explains herself by scapegoating the serpent, and the serpent is punished by God. As part of the curse of the serpent, humanity is separated from relationship with the creatures of creation. No longer will human beings and animals live in harmony; there will be predators and prey, a need to defend oneself against the wild creatures of the world. We often read this passage and recall humanity’s fall, but there is a sense that the model of harmony in the garden is disrupted among the rest of God’s creatures as well. This harmony is symbolically seen again upon the ark in the story of the flood, where miraculously somehow the animals don’t eat each other or the human beings who are caring for them. We are reminded that God’s intention for creation was harmony between man and woman, between human beings and God, and between humanity and the rest of creation; but through our greed and desire, we have distorted God’s intention, and it is God who must reconcile us through Christ.

The other choice for the Old Testament readings this year follows the historical books, beginning with 1 Samuel 8 and 11, telling the story of the anointing of Israel’s first king, Saul, by the prophet Samuel.

Psalm 130 is a song of hope in God, having patience in God’s deliverance. We may have sinned, but God forgives, and God will save, as long as we hold on to hope.

Mark 3:20-35 tells of Jesus’ homecoming after he called his first disciples and the reception he received. People had begun to talk about Jesus and were spreading some rumors and tales, including that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul. Jesus’ own family wants to bring him home and stop this “madness,” this “nonsense,” of Jesus’ ministry and healing and preaching, but Jesus declares that Satan can not cast out Satan; therefore Jesus, who is doing good works, cannot be possessed by a demon, for what he is doing is the complete opposite of what demonic forces would do. Demonic forces would destroy, bring pain and anguish and despair; Jesus brings restoration, healing, joy and hope. When Jesus’ family calls out to him and the crowd informs Jesus of this, Jesus reminds them that whoever does the will of God is Jesus’ family–for we are all children of God, we are all Christ’s brothers and sisters, when we do the work of God, bringing healing, hope and restoration to the world by sharing God’s love.

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 proclaims that we live by faith, not by sight. What can be seen is temporary–what we have made, what we have done–but what cannot be seen, God’s intention for us, is eternal. We must hold on to hope and know that God will restore us, God will reconcile us, and God will heal us. Everything we experience on this earth is temporary, but what we cannot see, cannot perceive, cannot fully understand is eternal–that God’s love endures forever.

When we look back upon the creation story, we recognize the story of God’s intention: a world created in relationship with God, a world in which human beings are in relationship with creation and with each other. In Genesis 3 that relationship is distorted by human beings; but we see glimpses of God’s intention breaking through all throughout Scripture. We see it in the story of the flood and the ark and the rainbow; we see it in the Psalms; we see it in Revelation. We see places where humanity continues to insist on their own way, one in which people are scapegoated and leaders are given too much power over people, where people who do not make good leaders are made into kings and the poor are oppressed. And when God’s intention begins to break through, as in Jesus’ ministry, we still resist. We want our own way. We want to have and others to not have–because we believe we have worked harder, we have earned it. We fail to see that God’s intention is not rivalry but relationship. We fail to see that God’s intention is not survival but harmony. We fail to see that God’s intention is not being right, but doing right. We fail to see that God’s intention is not insiders and outsiders, but all of humanity as God’s children, brothers and sisters of each other. This is what God’s intention is for humanity and the world, what God’s desire is for us: that we be part of Christ’s family.

II. Summary

First Reading –   Genesis 3:8-15 

Today’s reading about the fall is excerpted from the second (2:4b–3:24) of the two creation stories in Genesis God has placed a prohibition upon the tree “of the knowledge of good and evil.” This is the wisdom that comes, not intellectually, but by experience. It is partly moral in content (2 Samuel 14:17; Isaiah 7:15); but more broadly, it encompasses the power to make distinctions in the whole range of human experience (Numbers 24:13; 2 Samuel 19:35). This power of judgment is to be exercised by humankind in obedience to God and as God’s representative. Chapter 3 recounts human rebellion against God’s prohibition.

The serpent first insinuates doubt about the facts of the situation and the woman responds by overstating the case. Then he instills suspicions of God’s motive and opens the possibility of freedom, especially the freedom to judge God.

The primary sin is disobedience, a stepping outside of the sphere of God’s will. This disobedience leads to the disordering of all relationships. First the couple become individually self-aware; they are no longer “one flesh.” The relationship with God is disrupted; the couple tries to hide from God. The man accuses the woman and God, and the woman accuses the snake. The judgments given by God account for the natural world and society as these were apparent to the Hebrews. They explain why the serpent crawls and why there is hostility between humans and snakes.

Verse 16 explains why the blessing of fertility (1:28) is associated with pain and why there is tension between the sexes. Likewise, through the cursing of the ground, the work for which humans were created (2:15) is now laborious. Verse 19 would seem to show that the mortal nature of humankind was implicit in the circumstances of creation (2:7), but now death is a conscious and inevitable fate.

Man and woman are now first individualized and called Adam and Eve. In an act of grace toward them, God redeems the sentence of death (2:16) and clothes the couple before sending them out of the garden, showing God’s protective care even in a time of judgment.

The triple repetition of holy emphasizes the mysterious, unapproachable quality of the divine. Isaiah responds to the vision of God’s holiness with a sense of profound sinfulness before God’s perfection, not only for himself, but for all the people. He is granted cleansing through the coal from the altar so that he may proclaim God’s word to the people.

Psalm –   Psalm 130 Page 784, BCP

This psalm is a lament, a plea for deliverance from unspecified trouble. It is one of the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120–134), perhaps sung by pilgrims on the way up to Jerusalem. The psalmist makes an implicit confession of sin (vv. 1-3). He puts his trust in the lord and exhorts the community to do likewise. This psalm is also called the De profundis (from the Latin translation of its opening words). It is one of the seven traditional penitential psalms and has often been set to music.

Epistle –   2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Paul’s continues to explain the nature of his ministry. Despite his suffering, his faith will not let him keep silent, he must bear witness as he illustrated by quoting Psalm 116:10 (quoted according to the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament). His preaching, his suffering and his faith are all for the Corinthians’ sake so that the gift of grace may call forth the response of gratitude. For the believer, life in Jesus is both present (4:11-12) and future (4:14).

Paul combines static images drawn from Hellenistic dualism—outer/inner, seen/unseen—with a dynamic Hebraic eschatological outlook—present/future, old/new, transient/eternal. God’s work of salvation and the Christian experience of it are both ‘now’ and also ‘not yet’. In verse 17, Paul plays with the sense of the Hebrew word for glory, which also means heavy. Literally, ‘the present lightness of affliction’ prepares believers for “an eternal weight of glory,” not as a compensation for suffering but as a product, a fruit, of it (Rom. 8:17).

Gospel –   Mark 3:20-35   

Today’s reading recounts the further build up of opposition to Jesus’ ministry. The issue is now not questions of religious observance, but the very source and nature of Jesus’ authority and power. Jesus is judged (psychologically) as “beside himself” by his friends. This is tantamount to a charge of demon-possession (John 10:20). He is accused (theologically) as “beside himself” by the scribes. Their charge against him may be two-fold: possession by a particular demon, Beelzebul (2 Kings 1:2), and use of Satan’s power to cast out demons.

In response to the blindness of family and authorities, Jesus uses a parable to draw his listeners toward a decision. He refutes the charge of collusion with Satan and shows that instead, through him, Satan himself is bound by a stronger power (Isaiah 49:24-25; Revelation 20:2-3), the sign of the coming of the kingdom. He then turns the charge against the scribes—all sins and blasphemies will be forgiven, except setting one’s self against the very source of forgiveness by believing that the Spirit active in Jesus is satanic. Doing the will of God, on the other hand, brings one into intimate familial relationship with Jesus (Matthew 25:40; John 15:14; Hebrews 2:11-13).

III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

First ReadingIsaiah 6:1-8 

Psalm – Psalm 29

Epistle  –  Romans 8:12-17

Gospel  – John 3:1-17