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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

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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.

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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Lectionary

Joel 2:23-32  •  Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22  •  Psalm 65; 84:1-7  •  2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18  •  Luke 18:9-14

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Joel 2:23-3  Joel is a welcome word to the Israelites who have heard little to nothing from God during their exile.  Joel begins with the people repenting and returning to God and therefore adverting the destruction of their fields by locusts. We then see the outpouring of rain on the land to nourish and grow the crops with an abundance of produce being the result.  There is also an outpouring of God’s spirit on the people resulting in the sons and daughters, the old and young men, and even the male and female slaves prophesying God’s truth.  This is a radical prophecy in respect to who is included (for some it is radical and outrageous even thousands of years later).  Joel is calling the people to turn and follow God.

Jeremiah 14:7-22 We return to the beginning of the exile (before Joel) and Jeremiah’s warning of the coming consequences of turning away from God.  Not only a confrontation of their sinful actions but also of the fact that they have chosen to listen to false prophets.  However pleasant and affirming the false messages may be, the people have put themselves in a place of peril and hopelessness as they set their hearts, and their ears, on rejecting truth.

Psalm 65  Our responsive reading comes from Psalm 65, a thanksgiving Psalm (song) focusing on the harvest..  The Psalm, in usual fashion, begins with praise, however this praise is very unusual, it is a call to silence.  Much like the Selahs, the crowds are given a chance to breath, to recognize and grasp all that God has done, an opportunity to pour themselves out before him.  The Psalm has a strong emphasis on one element of God’s provision – water.

II Timothy 4:6-18  The second letter to Timothy is Paul’s final writing.  This particular correspondence is very personal and intimate.  Paul reflects back on the good and the bad, a self evaluation of his life and ministry, and a request for Timothy to bring him his coat, books, and writings. We also see the struggle in Paul to forgive.  This goodbye gives Paul’s conceptional analysis of what is going on in his final days – ‘As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation…’

Luke 18:9-14  In this parable, Jesus presents two men, both of whom need forgiveness, peace, and hope.  One man enters with an attitude of repentance while the other enters comparing himself to others.  Both men enter the temple, one enters with self justification but the other leaves with true justification.

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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

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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.

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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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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.