backstory headingSunday, September 1, 2019

Lectionary Readings

Jeremiah 2:4-13 • Psalm 81:1-16 and 112 • Proverbs 25:6-7 • Hebrews 13:1-16 • Luke 14:1-14 


Psalm 112 describes the life of the righteous. We learn that the righteous person’s happiness comes from fearing God and delighting in the commands of God rather than from self-fulfillment, success, and power. The righteous are known for distributing freely from the wealth God has given them. Because God is in control the righteous need not fear anything such as scarcity, evil tidings, or their foes. Security and delight come from matching their lives to God’s expectations rather than being molded into the world’s shape of success.

Luke 14:1, 7-14 Jesus does not conform to the world’s ideal of guests or hosts! He attends a dinner party one Sabbath day where he takes the opportunity to teach more about the Kingdom and its priorities. Jesus points out that the guests need to let others be honored by giving up the chance to take the best seats. Jesus then tells the host that it is inhospitable to only invite those who can repay him in some way. It is more important in God’s eyes to invite the forgotten, the lost, the hurting into our community where they can receive fellowship, food, and comfort. Whether you are a guest or a host, the breaking of bread and drinking of wine is too sacred to be polluted with greed or self-service of any kind. The goal of gathering together should be to further the goals of the Kingdom and not to elevate ourselves.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 The book of Hebrews takes a turn in this chapter from its beautiful sermon into more of a letter with instructions in godly living. It opens with a gentle reminder that our community is one bound by mutual love – not to keep people out. Mutual love brings us together and opens our hearts to invite others in. We are given the assurance that in doing so we may in fact be entertaining angels! Verse 3 exhorts us to remember those in prison. This is to be more than a simple thought it would have been extremely dangerous. Mutual love means we are to expose ourselves to be present with those suffering in every way offering encouragement and relief. Verses 5 and 6 warn us against misplaced trust. Quoting from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Psalm 118:6, the author reminds us that when our faith is in God, we have all the resources we need. Mutual love is risky, exposing us to strangers, to possible persecution, or scarcity – but our trust is in God who brings contentment, assurance, God’s constant presence and an abundance of all we need.

(written by Kristin McAtee, Sunday, September 1 guest speaker)


backstory heading

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Lectionary Readings

Jeremiah 1:4-10  •  Psalm 71:1-6, 103:1-8  •  Isaiah 58:9b-14  •  Hebrews 12:18-29  •  Luke 13:10-17

Backstory for Sunday Passages

An Everything You Got Moment (Psalm 103:1-8)

Psalm 103 is an expression of praise for God’s love that has been showered on the psalmist and the nation of Israel.  It is a call to praise.  In our responsive reading this morning, from the first eight verses of Psalm 103, we see the phrase ‘Bless the Lord, O my Soul.”  The word Soul is a reference to everything that we are and have, the phrase is akin to the greatest commandment which says to Love the Lord you God with everything you are and everything you have (heart, soul, and mind).  The word Bless is a metaphor for falling down prostrate before God (kneel), it is an act of submission – giving to God all that you are and have.  This Psalm is an ‘everything you got’ realization and recognition of God – his mercies and love.

A Not Me Moment (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Jeremiah is often called the reluctant prophet in that he was very hesitant in accepting God’s call to be a prophet.  Today’s passage takes place when Jeremiah is a young man, around 20 years old.  It was in this exchange between God and Jeremiah in which we see God informing Jeremiah that he is to be the mouthpiece of God.  This was the beginning of a forty year career in which Jeremiah was not permitted to marry. This was also the start to a life of presenting truth to a people who, sometimes violently, did not want to hear truth.  As Jeremiah heard God’s plan for him he was quick to argue his own immaturity and inability.  God told Jeremiah, however, that he knew him and that he was the right person for the job.

A Someone Sees Me Moment (Luke 13:10-17)

Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was the day of the week set aside for rest.  It was a day to focus on the fact that God had given all that was needed, therefore, it was a time to remember and recognize God.  Over the centuries, since the law of the Sabbath was given, the leaders had made many rules to assure that no one took part in anything too physically asserting or activities – busyness that would limit God’s people from remembering him and his provision.  In the midst of all these Sabbath rules, Mercy laws had also been given permitting individuals to act, ‘work’, in situations that required works/acts of mercy.  So, on this particular Sabbath day, when Jesus noticed a woman who had been, up to this point, unnoticed, he acted in a merciful way. Oddly, even with these ‘mercy’ exceptions, the religious official became indignant that Jesus had ‘worked’ on the Sabbath when he could have, instead, done so on any of the other six days of the week.


backstory heading

Lectionary Passages for week of August 12  – 18, 2019

Isaiah 5:1-7   •   Psalm 80:1-19 & 82   •   Jeremiah 23:23-29   •   Hebrews 11:29-12:2   •   Luke 12:49-56

Backstory for worship passages for Sunday, August 18, 2019

Two Prophets (Isaiah 5:1-7 and Jeremiah 23:23-29)

Isaiah compared the leaders, and people, of Judah and Jerusalem to the leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah – they had turned from God. They pretended a ‘holiness facade’ with their religious practices and rituals, along with ‘holy sounding’ deceptive religious talk, in an attempt to cover up their rebellion against God.  Isaiah prophesied about two centuries before the conquer of the Judah.  The unpleasant message of Isaiah was to call the people out of their faith numbness and wickedness – to return to God.  In this Sunday’s passage, Isaiah, speaking on behalf of God, shares a ‘love note’ to the people. It is an honest and brutal message in which he reminds the people of all that God has lovingly given to them. It is a blunt note to inform them that God has set them up for success yet they have turned their backs on his gifts placing themselves at risk.

While most of Isaiah’s message was to call the people back to God, the majority of Jeremiah’s message, a century later, was to prepare the people for God’s coming correction.  Jeremiah’s negative sounding confrontational words became increasingly repugnant to the leaders and people. He was hated – they did not want to hear his message.  They began accepting the words coming from the false prophets.  These individuals would say what the leaders and people wanted to hear.  Words of prosperity and riches, words of affirmation and approval. Words of false and deceptive hope.  While God was calling out these false prophets, he was also confronting the people who were eager and quick to accept these pleasant lies.

The Savior (Luke 12:49-46)

The words of Jesus, in Sunday’s passage, are surprisingly blunt and fierce.  Most would describe his words (and also the words of Jeremiah and Isaiah) as apoplectic – indignant, fierce, and full of rage.  Desperate words because Jesus is acting as a passionate father desiring that his children see the truth sooner rather than later.  The cross and end of the physical life of Jesus was fast approaching and he was fully aware of the time crunch; he was preparing the followers for life after the ascension.   Like the words of the prophets, Jesus words, come from a place of love and hope for his followers.

A Reminder of Faith (Hebrews 11:29-12:2)

In our responsive reading this Sunday we are reminded of the faith of our ancestors. The variety of individuals who held on to their faith even when they did not see any hope or rescue.  These faithful individuals stand as a testimony of God’s faithfulness; they serve as witness for us to God’s love and mercy.