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

Narrative Lectionary: God Answers Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:9-11, 19-20; 2:1-10 (Luke 1:46-55)

The prophet Jeremiah declares that the people will experience the consequences of their actions as punishment, but God is a God of restoration. God will help the people rebuild, and is establishing a new covenant, one that cannot be broken because it is written in the people’s hearts. God will forgive them, remembering their sin no longer, giving them a fresh start.

On the way to seeing his brother Esau for the first time in many years, Jacob sends his wives and children across the river to safety, and finds himself alone. He encounters God and wrestles him until daybreak, and is blessed with a new name: Israel, one who wrestles with God, for Jacob wrestled with both God and people and prevailed.

The psalmist sings joyfully of God’s law in Psalm 119:97-104. The psalmist knows more and understands more than others because they have studied the commandments, ordinances and statutes, keeping their life close to God’s ways. They describe the words as “sweeter than honey” and their feeling toward the law is love and devotion. As much as the psalmist rejoices over knowing more than others, the psalmist acknowledges that their teacher is God.

Psalm 121 sings praise to the God of creation. God is not found in the hills, but is the maker of the hills, the heavens and the earth. God never sleeps, but rather is awake, alert, and protecting the people at all times. God is the one who brings us into this world and forth from this world, and will watch over our lives.

The writer of 2 Timothy continues to encourage the reader in the faith, to continue in the ways they have been taught and to continue to study and learn from scripture (at that time, the Scriptures were only the Hebrew Bible, as the New Testament had not been compiled and the gospels not written yet). The writer also encourages them to proclaim and teach, and to rebuke, but to also encourage and have patience in teaching. The writer claims that others will start to look for teachers who “suit their own desires” so they need to stay grounded in scripture and sound doctrine.

Jesus tells a parable of a persistent widow and an unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus urges the disciples to endure and not lose heart in following God’s ways of justice. The widow, despite knowing the system was broken, didn’t give up, and eventually she was granted justice—even if the judge didn’t change, justice was still granted. So the disciples, and we, need to keep up the work of justice even when things don’t seem to change—God will grant justice.

The Narrative Lectionary moves to the birth of the prophet Samuel and the prayer of his mother, Hannah. Hannah, like Sarah, and later Elizabeth, was unable to have a child, and after being judged by others, taunted, and even accused of being drunk by the temple priest, Hannah still kept her faith. And eventually, she was able to conceive and she had Samuel, and kept her promise to God, bringing him to the temple once he was weaned, to serve God. She sings a song of praise to God when she brings Samuel to the priest Eli, a song of God’s justice –one which makes the rich empty and the hungry filled with good things. Hannah has now experienced justice in having a son—rebuking the scorn of others.

Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55 echoes Hannah’s song. Her own child will be set apart for God, also miraculously born—and in a sense, Hannah experiences the loss of her child because she has dedicated him to God, and Mary will experience the loss of her son. Both sing praise to God, however, because God has brought justice.

God is a God of justice. God’s justice is not about punishment, but about restoration. The consequences of our own actions at times are punishment for not following God’s ways; but God seeks restoration. God’s justice is a leveling out, restoring what once was—so the rich are sent away empty while the hungry are filled with good things. And what might seem like punishment—sending the rich away empty—is part of that restoration. Justice is not easy. But we must be persistent, for God will bring restoration.

Call to Worship
God has made a new covenant with us,
God’s covenant is written into our hearts.
Christ has shown us a new way of life,
Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.
The Spirit is moving among us now,
The Spirit is gathering us to worship our God.
Come, join your hearts in God’s love.
Come, witness to the covenant of God’s love, written into our hearts,
and shown to us by Christ our Lord.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Justice and Mercy, we confess that we have cloaked justice as revenge, confused justice for getting what we want. We have ignored the cries and the needs of those who have been wronged, those who are marginalized and oppressed. Forgive our self-deception. Forgive our distorted image of what justice is, and call us into Your ways of restorative justice, loving-kindness, mercy and humility. In the name of Christ, who died on the cross so that all might have life, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
God shows extravagant grace and mercy. God’s love endures forever. God lifts us up out of the pit, shows us love and mercy, and calls us to extend that same grace, love, and mercy to others. You are forgiven; now go, and do likewise, and seek justice that restores and heals. Amen.

God of All Seasons, when autumn turns crisp and cold and we watch the leaves fall and crumble, remind us that there is always a spring, always a bulb that is resting, waiting for the turning of the world to burst forth. Remind us in the shadows of our own life that the sunlight will grow again. Help us to trust in Your Covenant with us, that Your love endures forever, that forgiveness and new life are found in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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