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The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost A, August 20, 2023

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The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost A, August 20, 2023

The prophet here anticipates Jesus, for Jesus himself echoes this passage from Isaiah.  Isaiah, it is said, addresses the Israelites of three distinct time periods—before their exile in Babylon, during their exile in Babylon, and after their exile in Babylon.  Here, in the book’s third section (chapters 56-66), Isaiah begins to encourage and hearten the returned exiles in their task of rebuilding Jerusalem and its Temple.

The Lord refers to “my house, a house of prayer, for all people” (vs. 7).  This reference is to the Temple, on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, on the holy hill.  No longer will it be restricted to Jews and their priests alone, but foreigners—joined to the Lord, ministering to the Lord, loving the Lord’s name, keeping the Sabbath, and holding fast to the covenant—will have their worship accepted there.  Jesus, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, goes to the Temple and finds it full of people (perhaps foreigners) with none of those qualities.  Jesus drives them out, announcing, “It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers” (Mt. 21:13, Lk. 19:46; Mk. 11:17).

A second passage echoed by Jesus comes when the Lord announces, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”  Jesus, too, announces similar words, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).  A possible third allusion is found as the foreigners of vs. 6 are drawn to the Lord’s holy mountain; Jesus possibly echoes this with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, “…the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23).

You, too, are encouraged and heartened.  You do not worship in vain in the Lord’s house but establish it as a place where Jesus’ voice can be heard and the other sheep will be gathered—one flock, one shepherd.  You will all hear and pray together.

Table Talk:  Discuss connections such as these between the prophets and Jesus. 

Pray:  Heavenly Father, grant that I and the other sheep, hear Jesus’ voice and come together as one flock.  Amen

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord:

Keep justice, and do righteousness,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my deliverance be revealed.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
8 The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.

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