A bevy of thoughts for the semicontinuous among us. But always comes the question of what kind of fruit we are bearing.
Semicontinuous First Reading - Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
All of chapter 20 is mentioned in a footnote to The Small Catechism, The Ten Commandments: The First Commandments (SC 1.1, n. 27) to explain that the text Luther uses for the commandments is not consistent with either this listing of the commandments or the one found in Deuteronomy 5, but reflects a common translation of the time.
Verses 2 thru 17 are cited in a footnote to The Large Catechism, Preface (LC Preface.1.1 n. 23) along with Deuteronomy 5:6-21 as the places where the Commandments can be found in the Bible.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
-- Exodus 20:7
Verse 7 is quoted twice to make the same point. First, it's quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 24: Mass (AC 24.19, Latin text only) to comment on how the mass was being misused at the time of the Reformation. Melanchthon even wrote, "Since the beginning of the world no divine matter seems every to have been so devoted to profit as the Mass" (AC 24.20, Latin text only).
The second quote of verse 7 is in The Large Catechism, Part 1: The Second Commandment (LC 1.57) with the citation provided in a footnote (LC 1.57, n. 53). Luther's commentary is that "it is a now a common affliction throughout the world that there are just a few who do not use God's name for lies and all kinds of wickedness as there are few who trust in God with their whole heart" (LC 1.59).
Verses 8 thru 11 and 19 are cited in a footnote toThe Small Catechism, The Lord's Prayer: The First Petition (SC 3.3, n. 62). While not directly an image from the Exodus reading, the caption at this point indicates the verses.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Verse 12 is partly quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 27: Monastic Vows (AP 27.61) to clarify the lifestyle of the Rechabites. They were not, according to Melanchthon's readings, striving to appease God or earn salvation through their faithfulness to the teachings of their parents. They were simply fulfilling this commandment.
Verse 15 is quoted earlier in the same article (AP 27.46) to speak against the idea that spiritual perfection in this life is attainable by getting rid of everything you own. "The distribution, control, and possession of property," Melanchthon writes, "are civil ordinances, approved of by the Word of God in the commandment, 'You shall not steal.' The abandonment of property is neither recommended nor advised in the Scriptures."
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
-- Exodus 20:17
Verse 17 is partly quoted even earlier in the same article (AP 27.25) to show how laughable the idea is that monks have a surplus of merit. Even desiring something that someone else has--or coveting--is a sin. Good luck with that.
Semicontinuous Psalm - Psalm 19
But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Verse 12 is cited four times in The Book of Concord. First, verse 12 is quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 11: Confession (AC 11.2) as scriptural evidence that no one should be expected to be able to list all of their sins. Verse 12 is quoted again a bit later in Article 25: Confession (AC 25.7) to make the same point. Verse 12 is also quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 11: Confession (AP 11.8) to make the same point with this great line: "we will neither remember nor understand most of our sins." Lastly, verse 12 is quoted in Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 7: The Keys (SA 3.7.1), to make the point that we have been given the authority to forgive even those sins that are unknown.
Verses 7 thru 9 are cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 4: Good Works (SD 4.37) to show how little regard even Paul had for the salvific efficacy of his works. Melanchthon makes sure to note, however, that "the fault lies not with the good works themselves, but rather with the false trust that is placed in such works in opposition to the express Word of God."
Verse 9 is partly quoted a bit earlier is Article 3: Righteousness (SD 3.17) to specify the meaning of the word justify, which "means to pronounce righteous and free from sins and to count as freed from the eternal punishment of sin because of Christ's righteousness, which is 'reckoned to faith by God' (Phil. 3)."
God gives us the gift of law for the sake of building a trustworthy society. But what do we do with the is gift of God? How do we turn our backs not only on God but also on those God sends to call us back? What do we do when we discover that what we thought was the best we could offer actually hurt us and others? It's so tempting to rely on our works as a way to show how good we are, but what about all those times our inaction was the sin? What about those times when we thought was worthy actually led to unnecessary suffering?