Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - June 28, 2020

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.

Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It begins with two versions of the creation story, neither of them intended to be scientific but telling us why we are on earth. In the story of Adam and Eve, it tells us that we are responsible, under God, for the care of all creation. It then continues with the stories of the patriarchs: Abraham (who enters into a covenant (or treaty) with God), Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Genesis 22:1-14

God has given Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac. Ishmael, born of a slave woman, has been banished, with his mother, Hagar. While Abraham’s line will continue through Isaac, Ishmael too will be the father of a nation. Rabbis pointed out long ago that Abraham is tested ten times by God; our reading tells of the tenth.

We know that Abraham is being tested, but he does not. When God calls him, he is ready and available to do as God asks (“‘Here I am’”, v. 1). Isaac is his “‘only [remaining] son’” (v. 2), the one through whom he will become “a great nation” ( 12:2). God asks much of Abraham: offer Isaac to him as a sacrificial offering – accept that God may undo his promise of descendants. Abraham travels from Beer-sheba (in southern Palestine) to a mountain God will show him – later known as Mount Zion. He is a man of action (v. 3). Part way there, “on the third day” (v. 4), he and Isaac leave their retainers behind. Isaac is naturally curious: where is the sacrificial animal? (v. 7). His father’s answer (v. 8) is not a ruse; rather it shows Abraham’s trust in God: he will “provide”.

Abraham follows the normal procedure for a sacrifice; he even takes out his knife to slay Isaac, as an animal was slain. But at this moment “the angel” (v. 11, a messenger from God, perhaps the one who had called to Hagar from heaven, showing her the life-saving well during her flight with Ishmael, 21:17-19), calls; he is God’s life-preserving agent here too (v. 12). Abraham has shown himself totally obedient to God; he has shown that he holds God in proper respect (“fear”). A “ram” (v. 13) is sacrificed instead. V. 14 tells us how Mount “Moriah” (v. 2) got its name. In vv. 15-18, through the angel, God renews his promise to Abraham: he will bless him with many descendants (v. 17), and make them politically and militarily powerful; Abraham will be the source of oneness with God for “all the nations of the earth” (v. 18) – as God promised him, in 12:8, if he would leave Haran and settle in Palestine.


Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.

Psalm 13

The psalmist appears to be frustrated by waiting for God: four times he asks “how long ... ?”. When, he asks, will God care for him again and return to taking an interest in him (“face”). How long must he, in his very being (“soul”, v. 2), feel alienated from God? How long will his “enemy” (one who ignores God’s ways), be able to insist that his trust in God is foolishness? In vv. 3-4, he prays for God’s help: strengthen me, give me the will to continue living – else my “enemy” will claim that the victory is his. (“Death” here is alienation from God.) The psalmist has trusted in God’s absolutely reliable (“steadfast”, v. 5) love and generosity. He hopes to thank God for saving him – by singing his praises.


Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, although not the first to be written. Paul wrote it to the church at Rome, which included both Jews and Gentiles. His primary theme is the basics of the good news of Christ, salvation for all people. The book was probably written in 57 AD, when Paul was near the end of his third missionary journey around the Eastern Mediterranean. It is unusual in that it was written to a church that Paul had not visited.

Romans 6:12-23

Paul has told his readers that baptism has changed their way of being from one in which God responded to their continual contravention of the Law by loving them more to one in which sin is no more. But freedom from sin is not yet definitive: they can still be tempted and can succumb to the “passions” of their “bodies”. So take care to avoid using any of your faculties and functions (“members”, v. 13) to advance the cause of evil, but rather work actively to advance God’s benevolence (“righteousness”). At the end of time, sin will not be your master, and you will fully live the baptised life, “under grace” (v. 14), in God’s free gift of love. In v. 15 Paul asks again the rhetorical question he posed in v. 1: are we now free to behave as we like, no longer being subject to the Law?; he again answers no!.

He now uses the analogy of slavery (or servanthood) to explain the two ways of being. You cannot serve two masters (v. 16). If sin is your master, you will face spiritual (as well as physical) death; death will be final. However if you serve God, your end is oneness with him (“righteousness”). Through baptism you have ceased to be under sin ; you have committed yourselves willingly (“from the heart”, v. 17) to obedience to the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection (“form of teaching ...”). You have attained Christian liberty and have become servants of God (v. 18). He explains a divine truth “in human terms” (v. 19).

In the old way, you were slaves to licentiousness and accumulation of sin (for only some sins could be forgiven); in the new way, you work towards “sanctification” (v. 19, consecration to God and dedication to him). Before conversion, you thought yourselves free from God’s demands (v. 20), but the end-point of that life was “death” (v. 21). In the new way, the goal (“end”, v. 22) is sharing in God himself, “eternal life”. Now v. 23: “wages” are regular, recurrent. In the old way, you regularly deserved spiritual “death”, but God’s gift is pro gratia , without expectation of repayment.

Symbol of St Matthew


This gospel is the first in the New Testament, but it was probably the second to be written. Scholars recognize that it borrows material from Mark, and from a sayings source containing sayings of Jesus and known as Q (for Quelle, German for source). The author shows an understanding of Jewish culture and religion not found in the other gospels. It was probably written about 80 to 90 AD, possibly for a largely Jewish audience.

Matthew 10:40-42

Our reading is Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples as he prepares them to continue his mission. Earlier he has told them that being his followers will, at times, be difficult: they will be persecuted. Now he tells them the nature of the authority they will have, and will hand on to future disciples.

Jewish law considered that one’s agent is like oneself. Jesus goes beyond this: to welcome a disciple is to welcome both him and the Father. Prophecy (v. 41) continues into the era of the risen Christ. If one “welcomes a prophet”, recognizing his office and actions (“name”), one will “receive a prophet’s reward”, i.e. a place in the Kingdom. A “righteous person” is probably a Christian. A person who welcomes him or her, recognizing what being a Christian means, will attain union with God. Then v. 42: one who, “in the name of a disciple” (and through him, of God), helps someone on the fringe of society (or the Church) even in a simple, kindly way will be rewarded in heaven.

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