Revised Common Lectionary: Hosea 11:1-11 or Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23; Psalm 49:1-12 or Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Narrative Lectionary: Job 38:25-27, 41:1-8, 42:1-6

The first strand of the Revised Common Lectionary through the Hebrew Scriptures continues with the prophet Hosea. God speaks through the prophet and personifies Israel like a child, remembering when God called the people out of slavery in Egypt, when God taught the people to “walk” in the desert with the commandments and covenant, and how God provided manna for the people in the wilderness. Despite all the ways that Israel (also called Ephraim, for one of Joseph’s sons) has rebelled against God, no matter how much they have turned away, God cannot forget them. God loves the people because they are his children, and God will continue to gather them up and lead them, even out of exile.

The writer of Ecclesiastes speaks of “vanity,” but the word translated from Hebrew is more like a vapor or mist. Something you cannot grasp, something that veils. The writer teaches that most of what we strive for in this life is vanity—is mist. Something that isn’t really there, isn’t really worth anything. Much of what we are working for is to gain worldly possessions and worldly notoriety, which means nothing in the long run. The writer notes that most do not find joy in their struggle, and that this also is vanity and chasing after wind.

Psalm 49:1-12 speaks of the foolishness of those who trust in their wealth. Wealth cannot save us in the end, only God can. The psalmist calls out to all people, rich and poor, to learn that striving for wealth is meaningless because it is for those after us who will enjoy it (similar to what the writer of Ecclesiastes says).

Psalm 107:1-9, 43 sings praise to God, reminding the people of times when they were lost and wandering, and how God was the one who delivered them. God is the one who brings justice and feeds the hungry, and those who are wise will listen to God and remember God’s ways.

Colossians 3:1-11 calls the listener to put to death worldly ways, which include the desires and wealth of this world, and the greed for it. Instead, we are called to set our minds on Christ and to live into God’s ways. We have been clothed with a new self, and we are one in Christ Jesus. The divisions between us based on ethnicity, gender, and economic status, among others, are part of the ways of this world, but we are now a new creation in Christ, in which those things no longer have a hold on us.

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12:13-21 after being prompted by a man who wanted Jesus to judge between him and his brother to settle their inheritance. Jesus is concerned that this man is more concerned about wealth than he is about the relationship with his brother. Greed tears families apart, and Jesus reminds the man that wealth is not what life is about. In the parable, Jesus warns against those who seek wealth in this world because they are not seeking the reign of God, when they store up treasures for themselves.

In the Narrative Lectionary, we continue with Job and the conclusion of God’s answer to Job, and Job’s response. After God asks Job if Job can do God’s job, Job recognizes that he didn’t understand what he was asking, and Job repents of his challenging God. Job realizes that he was still looking at God from a human point of view, and now, as he understands where God is coming from, he feels quite foolish.

It is quite easy for us to mistake our desires, our greed, our pursuit of worldly wealth as part of God’s plan. According to Jesus, it is the opposite. Pursuing worldly wealth and success leads us away from the reign of God. Pursuing worldly wealth is, as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, a mist—a veil that we think is really there, but when we finally grasp for it, it slips through our fingers and we recognize that worldly wealth fails to satisfy. Worldly wealth leaves us when we die, but God’s love endures forever. And to love God, we must love our neighbor and look to their needs.

Call to Worship
Trust in God, and know God’s ways;
For God leads us in the way of right-living.
Trust in Christ, and know Christ’s ways;
For Christ leads us to eternal life by putting to death the ways of this world.
Trust in the Holy Spirit, and know the Spirit’s ways;
For the Spirit binds us together, and sends us forth to do God’s work in this world.
Come, worship God, Three-in-One, in whom we trust our hearts and lives.
Come, worship God, who calls us into beloved community.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of the Poor, the Downtrodden, the Oppressed: we confess to You that we have looked to ourselves and ignored the needs of others. We confess that we have not sought justice, but rather stumbled after wealth and worldly success. We confess that we have given in to greed over Your ways time and again. Forgive us. Call us away from the vanity of this world that will never satisfy. Call us away from the desire for short-term happiness that is limited to few, over the work of justice and restoration that will bring wholeness to the world. Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, in Your name we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
There are always opportunities to do justice, love mercy, and to move humbly with God. There are always opportunities to love our neighbors, feed the hungry, lift up the oppressed, and gather in the marginalized. There are always opportunities for us to listen to others who have suffered injustice, always opportunities to seek forgiveness, always opportunities to share God’s love. Go, love, serve, and seek justice, and you will do well, with the love of Christ in your heart. Amen.

Ancient of Days, call our memories to the forefront of Your ways. Call forth the words of the prophets that teach us when we ignore those in poverty, all of us suffer. Call forth the words of the prophets that teach us when we oppress others, all of us suffer. Call forth the words of the prophets to our memories that challenge us to change our ways. Ancient of Days, Inspirer of the Prophets, lead us now in this world to build up Your Beloved Community. Amen.

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