Psalms in the Lectionary
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Laetare Sunday Cycle A 2017

Psalms in the Lectionary
Laetare Sunday  Cycle A   3/27/2017
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23:1-6; Ephesians 5:8-14; 
John 9:1-41
 
Psalm 23 is one of the most popular psalms in the Psalter, beginning with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd”.  It ushers in Laetare Sunday this weekend, or that mid-way place in Lent.  Our Lenten journey is half over and we are moving toward Easter.  Jack Lunbon in the biblical journal Interpretation, calls Psalm 23 a psalm of passage.  It is about major life transitions, employed at critical moments in our individual or societal life.  In the Hebrew Bible, “passage” is used for Israel as they travel or pass through the desert with the Lord. In Exodus 15, Israel passes through the Red Sea; the entry into Canaan involves passing through the Jordan.  The whole journey through the wilderness is a passage from place to place.  This weekend’s other readings are all about transitions and often the differences between darkness and light.  As we move closer to Easter, we are passing from one area of our life in darkness to moving closer and closer to the light.  In the first reading from the Hebrew Bible, Samuel finally finds the son of Jesse he is to anoint as the new king of Israel.  Young David is brought in from the fields when brother after brother is rejected as the anointed one.  David is chosen and thus begins his passing from one life as a common shepherd to a new life as the shepherd of Israel.  The Gospel from John is the story of the blind man, who passes from darkness to light, and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is also about light and darkness, inviting us to become children of the light, producing all kinds of good fruits of righteousness rather than remaining in the fruitless dark.  David, as the good shepherd of Israel, continues the story of salvation history until we meet the Christ, the ultimate Good Shepherd who leads all of us from our darkness of sin into the Easter light of the Resurrection.  As we continue through the rest of our passages this Lent, it is good to rely on our Good Shepherd to guide us from our darknesses into the light.  Praise God!! 
 
The refrain is taken from verse one of the psalm: 
 “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”
 
verses 1-3a:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
 
verses 3b-4:
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
 
verse 5:
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil; 
my cup overflows.
 
verse 6:
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
 
Today’s first reading from 1 Samuel (16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a) is about Samuel’s search for the new shepherd of Israel he is to anoint from Jesse’s sons.  He finally locates David, pours the oil over his head, and the Spirit rushes upon him.
 
text:
The LORD said to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.  I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”  As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”  But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.  Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”  In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”  Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”  Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”  Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”  Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.  He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance.  The LORD said, “There – anoint him, for this is the one!”  Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. 
 
The Gospel from John (9:1-41) is the story of the man born blind that Jesus cures, and the repetitive questioning of the man by the unbelieving Pharisees.
 
text
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.  [His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.  We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.  Night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.  When he had said this,] he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” – which means Sent –.  So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
 
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”  Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, it just looks like him.”  He said, “I am.”  [So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”  He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went there and washed and was able to see.”  And they said to him, “Where is he?”  He said, “I don’t know.”]
 
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.  Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath.  So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.  He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed and now I can see.”  Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.”  But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?”  And there was a division among them.  So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?”  He said, “He is a prophet.”
 
[Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.  They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?  How does he now see?”  His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes.  Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.”  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue.  For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; questions him.”
 
So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give god the praise!  We know this man is a sinner.”  He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know.  One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”  So they said to him, “What did he do to you?  How did he open your eyes?”  He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  Do you want to become his disciples, too?”  They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses!  We know that god spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.”  The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.  It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”]  They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
 
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”  He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshipped him.  [Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
 
Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”] 
 
The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:8-14) is one in which Paul urges his followers to live as children of the light, no longer as children of the dark.
 
text:
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
 
Psalm 23 is a beautiful and comforting psalm that assures us that God loves us and is there to guide us as a loving shepherd through all our passages in life, especially those in which we move from darkness to light.