Backstory

backstory heading

Posted 10.28.19

Lectionary Readings

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4  •  Psalm 119:137-144  •  Isaiah 1:10-18  •  2 Thessalonians 1:1-12  •  Luke 19:1-10

Backstory

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 – Little is known about Habakkuk except that he was a prophet in a time of troubles and trials for the Israelites. Many scholars are unsure of the time period, some feel that it took place just before the exile to Babylon.  Regardless of the period, the questions and message of Habakkuk are timeless – they reach forward even to us and our times.  Habakkuk asked legitimate questions and expected honest answers from God.  He is a perfect demonstration of the struggle between our faith and our reality. He asks ‘why does God allow injustice?’ and ‘how can God justify using the unrighteous to correct the Israelites?’  Habakkuk makes it permissible, and advisable, to struggle with questions, even questions directed at God. If possible – take the time to read all of Habakkuk.

Psalm 119:137-144 – The reality of the Israelites is that they are a suffering people.  They are consistently under attack, scorned, mistreated and usually hated. Their very existence is a struggle with, against, and for, God – it is the meaning of the name ‘Israel’.  In the midst of that struggle, however, is a constant return to ‘Who God Is’ looking at his faithfulness looking for truth.  Let these eight verses remind you ‘Who God Is” in the midst of your life. This will be our Responsive Reading passage.

Isaiah 1:10-18 – We return to the beginning of the ministry of Isaiah as he begins to call the people of Jerusalem and Judah back to God.  This is the first of a long time call to repentance that will be proclaimed by Isaiah and then Jeremiah, as well as others, and ultimately unheeded by the Israelites.  This centuries long prophesy will not be heeded until after the Israelites have spent over seven decades as slaves in Babylon.  Isaiah begins it all by confronting the hypocrisy in their religious practices and spiritual conversations.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 – Though often used as an attack on those who do not believe, or practice differently,, the letter to the Thessalonians is actually a love letter.  The author is telling the Thessalonians that their growing faith is an example for all.  The harsh sections of the letter must be viewed with the audience and attitude of the author in mind.  The letter is an acclamation of their faith and an affirmation of the unjust nature of the attacks on them.  The letter is a reminder to persevere.

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, on his way to the Cross, on his way to Death. Jesus has taught about prayer, equality, love, mercy, riches, and more, all while being judged and condemned by the religious leaders.  The familiar story of Zaccheus is about a rich man with a questionable vocation, a vocation that puts him in the spot of being hated and scorned by all.  It is also a story of Jesus noticing the unnoticeable again, once again, and a story of grumblers and haters. We will be looking at the familiar story of Zaccheus in an unfamiliar fashion.unfamiliar fashion.

Backstory

backstory heading

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Lectionary Readings

Jeremiah 31:27-34  •  Genesis 32:22-31  •  Psalm 119:97-104; 121 •  2 Timothy 3:14-4:5  •  Luke 18:1-8

Backstory

Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob, the primary character in this passage, comes from a long line of ‘less than perfect’ humans and greatly dysfunctional family environments. His grandfather, Abraham, twice gave his own wife away in an act of self protection, grew impatient with God’s promise so he birthed a child with his wife’s servant and then sent the child away to keep peace with his wife. Jacob’s own parents, Isaac and Rebekah, pitted Jacob and his brother Esau against each other through their blatant favoritism. It is no surprise, then, that Jacob continued to perpetuate this ‘less than perfect’ husband and father tradition creating an equally unhealthy life environment. Our passage today begins after Jacob has decided to return to his birth family and home. His decision was made after angering his in-laws and fearing for his life. The journey home was a fearful one for Jacob – he had originally left his own family fearing for his life after stealing brother Esau’s birthright. Now, after decades apart, Jacob was about to reunite with his brother having no idea if the brother was still furious and justifiably vengeful. A wrestling match, a new name, a painful limp, and a surprising reunion are all pivotal moments on Jacob’s journey home.

Jeremiah 31:27-34 We are nearing the end of our journey in the writings of Jeremiah and now see him preparing the people for the time that they will be able to return home to Judah. Jeremiah specifies two primary lessons in this passage. 1) each person bears personal responsibility for their own sin which cannot be blamed on their parents or others, and 2) their new relationship with God will be personal and internal rather than external and institutional. There will be a personal responsibility for repentance and personal accountability in life.

Psalm 119:97-104; 121 Our verses in chapter 119 remind us that wisdom and purity come from our own meditation on God’s truth. In Chapter 121, our responsive reading, reminds us that our true help comes from God.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 Following the the teachings/cautions from Paul to Timothy about the coming false teachers, the conversation now turns to foundational truth. Paul begins to bring his mentoring letters to a close by focusing Timothy’s teaching, leading, living, and correcting on a foundation of truth.

Luke 18:1-8 Our focus passage this week is another strange parable from Jesus in which the focus is an odd mix of prayer, persistence and justice. Jesus makes a, possibly confusing and troubling, comparison between an unjust judge and God. Take a moment to let yourself wrestle with this comparison as well as the overall take-away for you from this parable.