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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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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lectionary Reading

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 • Amos 6:1a, 4-7 and Psalm 146 • 1 Timothy 6:6-19 • Luke 16:19-31

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Luke 16:1-13
This parable told by Jesus is often erroneously titled ‘The Dishonest Manager’. The setting would have been the same life situation that the listeners lived in. A life environment where someone was at the top of the income and lifestyle ladder. This person(s) would have been the landowner, employer, and controller of most of the community. The folks at the bottom of the ladder would have lived, and worked, under the thumb of this rich landowner as tenant farmers expected to pay a portion of their earnings to the landowner. These farmers would need to grow high cash crops instead of produce that could feed and sustain them and their families. It was a constant struggle to survive. Inserted into this system was the middle man, the manager, who was expected to collect these payments from the farmers while taking extra for himself. This was a system that, in concept, worked well for all of society. Conceptually, those at the top, the rich and powerful, would allow the money to dribble down to the middle and eventually to the bottom. The problem with any economic or political system is that it is always at the mercy of those with the most power. If the top is selfish and unethical, then survival dictates that those in the middle and bottom become self-centered as well. As Jesus tells this parable he is calling on the listeners to look at what is of true value rather than wealth – what their lives are centered on. As you read this passage remember that it comes after the parable of the prodigal son and before the story of the poor man named Lazarus.

Amos 8:4-7
The prophet Amos began his ministry shortly before the prophet Isaiah began calling the people to return to God. Amos was from the Southern Kingdom (Judah), but his message was primarily directed to those in the Northern Kingdom (Israel). Amos message was so strong and offensive to those who listened that not long after arriving in the north he was forced to return to his southern home. Amos then confronted the selfish practices of the rich and their unethical treatment of the poor in writing. It is apparent throughout this short book that Amos was very focused on social justice as well as the equality of all men.

Psalm 113:1-8
Our responsive reading for this Sunday comes from Psalm 113, the first of six Psalm passages sung in conjunction with the traditional Passover observances. Psalm 113 and 114 are usually sung at the beginning of Passover as a reminder of the works and faithfulness of God. In Psalm 113 we also see God’s notice of, and concern for, the poor and needy.