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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Lectionary Readings

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Psalm 66:1-12  •  2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Psalm 111  •  2 Timothy 2:8-15  •  Luke 17:11-19

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Psalm 66:1-12 Our responsive reading comes from Psalm 66 – a praise to God for the deliverance of the people from slavery in Egypt. The first twelve verses focus on remembering and praising God for their deliverance.  In the remainder of Psalm 66 the Psalmist turns from a remembering praise that is internal to a remembering praise that is external, a physical response –  a demonstrative transformation.

2 Kings 5:1-15 The common thread in the books of Kings is the rulers’ abuse of power and God’s provision of the prophets to provide accountability.  Elisha, who followed Elijah as the prophet of the Northern Kingdom – Israel, is in the beginning stages of his ministry.  The successful captain of the army of Aram (an adjacent country – current day Syria – and frequent enemy to Israel), a man named Naaman, is sent to see Elisha to be healed of leprosy (a situation which terrifies the King of Israel). The entire story is an interesting tale of the unexpected avenues of rescue and transformation.  A slave girl from Israel tells Naaman’s wife about the miraculous acts of Elisha and then the healing is almost sidetracked by Naaman’s own arrogance.

Jeremiah 29:1-7 A familiar text to us as we see Jeremiah addressing those who have already been, and those who are about to be, exiled from Judah.  He tells them that they are to continue on with life in the midst of their slavery for the decades to come.  They are to build homes, have children and give their children in marriage….and to work to make their captors successful.  An ironic instruction as Jeremiah himself was forbidden, by God, from marriage and having children due to the fact that they would be part of the coming exile and slavery.

2 Timothy 2:8-15 Last week we saw Paul reminding Timothy to remember his faith.  Now, Paul is calling Timothy to a security and confidence in that faith and of truth itself.  The reason for this urgency of faith is that Timothy is about to come face to face with false teachers who are set on misleading the church.

Luke 17:11-19 Our gospel reading takes place after the parables we have seen in the past weeks the teaching about faith from last week.  Jesus, as he is during most of the gospel of Luke, is one his way to Jerusalem, to the cross.  His encounter with the group of lepers gives us an enhanced understanding of personhood, redemption, cleansing and even salvation.  It is an undeniable demonstration of God’s love and the transformative act of recognition, gratitude, and praise.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Lectionary Readings

Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26  •  Psalm 137; 37:1-4  •  Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4  •  2 Timothy 1:1-14  •  Luke 17:5-10

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Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26  •  Psalm 137  •  Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Our primary Old Testament passages have a common thread running through them – they all are written about, and probably during, the exile to Babylon.  As witnessed in the prophetic warnings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, both men warned of the coming catastrophe, the writings for this week take place during the actual exile.  These books give witness to the very real horror of lives turned upside down.  Just as Jeremiah warned the people against listening to the false prophets who primarily sought to tickle the ears of the politicians, religious leaders, and general population, these authors continue to seek and proclaim truth to a populous who continue to reject the reality of their situations.  They ignore the truth of their role in the devastation of the exile.

Lamentations is a series of five poems which document the tragedy of the exile on Judah as well as on those who have been left behind.  While the two chapters seem to depict a funeral asking difficult questions of ‘why’, the third chapter brings the reader to a hope – ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end…..’.  The book closes by begging for God’s mercy and restoration.

Psalm 137 is considered the most depressing and hopeless of all the Psalms.  Written from the perspective of those exiled from their homes to bondage in Babylon, the Psalm is a description of the despair and hopeless of the people.

Habakkuk is considered a minor and greatly unknown prophet.  Probably written in Jerusalem after most of the others had been exiled, Habakkuk seems to deeply love God and, at the same time, feels free to question God and the exile.  Understanding the nature of God to discipline the people and, at the same time, love them, is an agonizing conundrum for Habakkuk.  He is able to identify the selfishness of the people as a reason for the present discipline while still questioning God and diligently watching for God’s mercy.  Many are drawn to the writings of Habakkuk as they demonstrate the redemptive nature of asking difficult questions.

Psalm 37

Our Sunday responsive reading comes from Psalm 37 which was written during the Kingdom of David over four hundred years before the exile to Babylon.  Written to remind the people to trust God, the Psalm is an encouragement of faith to a people in times where questions and fear are a constant reality.

2 Timothy 1:1-14 and Luke 17:5-10

Both of our New Testament readings take us to the presence and reality of faith.  The apostles ask Jesus to ‘increase their faith’ while Paul writes a second, more personal, letter explaining the importance of faith to the young church leader Timothy.  While the apostles are asking the wrong question about faith, Paul is making sure that Timothy does not forget the women and men who have been instrumental in the faith he has and needs. Jesus explains that faith is given while Paul describes faith as being a ‘good treasure entrusted to you’.  As you read the Luke passage, take a moment to look earlier in the chapter and question ‘why did the apostles ask the wrong question?’.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

 

Lectionary Readings

Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26  •  Psalm 37:1-9  •  Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

2 Timothy 1:1-14  • Luke 17:5-10

 

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Jeremiah 32:1-15

The prophet Jeremiah is now in prison for not being nice and affirming to King Zedekiah and the leaders.  These men have quit listening to Jeremiah, the true prophet of God, and instead, begun to pay homage to the false prophets who are speaking a message in line with the deceptive words of the King and leaders.  King Zedekiah has continually postponed the execution of Jeremiah in hopes that he will ‘come around’ and be more ‘agreeable’.  Jeremiah, however, continues to line up with the prophesies of Isaiah telling the people that they need to turn back to God in order to avoid disaster.  The people are acting religious while rejecting God and all that he has instructed them.  They have destroyed their environment, as well as their protection and sustenance. The irony is that while Jeremiah is in prison for speaking truth, and the King and leaders continue to ignore his message, the prophecies are actually coming true.  The armies of Nebuchadnezzar are besieging Jerusalem, and Judah is on the brink of disaster.  Now, from the restraints of imprisonment, Jeremiah gives the people a glimpse of truth and hope through a ‘skin in the game’ illustration.

I Timothy 6:1-19

The books of First and Second Timothy are letters written to a young man named Timothy who was being mentored by the Apostle Paul.  Timothy was a ‘skin in the game’ person….in a literal and figurative sense.  Being born of a Jewish (now Christian) mother and a Greek father, Timothy was not raised Jewish and therefore not circumcised.  Since he was a leader in the church at Lystra, Timothy agreed to be circumcised in order to be more acceptable to the Jewish believers, even though it was not required.  Paul’s letters to Timothy led him to confront false beliefs and teach the church how to be the Christians and, collectively, the Church. Paul tells Timothy to not let his age get in the way of his position and message.  The letters to Timothy still cause tension and confusion in the church today as they speak to issues of women, slavery, and deep theological issues that can be confusing and alarming.  In this passage, the issue of choosing God over self is the primary focus but alarmingly begins by targeting a population of people – slaves who seem to have little choice in their own lives once they leave the church gatherings.

Psalm 146

Our responsive reading is the first of five ‘joyous’ songs each proclaiming praise as well as calling for followers to keep God at the core of their life.

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backstory headingFor Sunday, September 15, 2019

 

Lectionary Readings

Numbers 21:4-9  • Exodus 32:7-14  •  Psalm 51:1-10; 78:34-38  •  Jeremiah 4:4-9 

I Timothy 1:12-17  •  John 3:13-17  •  Luke 15:1-10 (C)

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A People, A Prophet, and God

Exodus 32:7-14 – After the people had experienced God’s act of freeing them from slavery in Egypt, parting the sea, constantly providing, naming them his ‘treasured possession’ and instructing them to be ‘a priestly kingdom and holy nation’, and, after he gave the commandments which began with ‘You shall have no other gods before me’, the people turned from God to other gods.  While Moses was on the mountain speaking with God, the people became impatient waiting for Moses and built an idol like they had in slavery. A heated debate between Moses and God, in response to the actions of the people, ensues.

Numbers 21:4-9 – Once again we see these same people failing to remember God.  This account takes place after the people have proven they did not trust God enough to enter the Promised Land and are now wandering in the desert until the next generation is grown.  Much like most of us, this group of humans are frequently unpleasant to be around – the become dissatisfied with Moses’ leadership and God’s provisions.  They complain about Moses and God.

Hopelessness with Hope

Jeremiah 4:11-28 – We have been looking at the persistent refusal of the people (centuries after entry into the Promised Land) to turn back to God.  Through the warnings of the prophet of Isaiah, and then Jeremiah, the people have refused to see and hear what God is communicating through these prophets.  Instead, they have continued a false Godless religion while progressively turning to the untruths of the politicians, religious leaders, and false prophets who who say things much more pleasant to hear.  Now, the time for cautions and warnings has come to an end.  It is the end of opportunities, and God is not changing his mind, however, his proclamation of doom comes also with a promised hope.

And then there is Joy

Luke 15:1-10 – Jesus is surrounded by religious leaders who are complaining and grumbling about the company that Jesus keeps.  They cannot grasp the fact that he is hanging around with ‘undesirables’.  Jesus responds to their negativity by pointing them to the Joy of God which he desires for us to have in our lives.

Joy Revealed

Psalm 51:1-10 – Our responsive reading this Sunday focuses on the personal experience of Joy that takes place in our own life when we turn back to God. In this Psalm, written by David, we see his recognition of his sin and need for reconciliation with God. It is an experience of repentance, joy, and hope.

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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.