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Revised Common Lectionary: 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
Narrative Lectionary: Ruth, Ruth 1:1-17 (Mark 3:33-35)
The prophet Jeremiah speaks a word of hope to the people in 29:1, 4-7. God told Jeremiah to tell the people who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon to build houses and plant gardens where they were, to live their lives, to go on marrying and having children, even in a foreign land, even in exile and under occupation, to pray for the welfare of the city they were living in. It’s a word of hope that God is still with them, even though they’ve been taken from their land, no one can take who they are as God’s people, and no one can take their God from them.
The psalmist rejoices in God who delivered the people in Psalm 66:1-12. The psalmist recalls God’s deliverance through the waters during the Exodus, and calls upon the people to bless God. The people have gone through terrible trials, but God has seen them through, and has brought them to a “spacious place.” God keeps watch over the peoples, and all the earth worships God.
This story of Naaman being healed after washing in the river Jordan was the first selection back on July 7th. However, the verse selections are slightly different, with the emphasis on this selection ending with verse 15, that there is no God on earth except in Israel. Naaman, commander of King Aram’s army, suffered from leprosy. A slave girl, taken captive by Aram’s army, served Naaman’s wife, and she told him of the prophet in Israel who could cure him. Naaman first had a letter sent to the king of Israel, who was confused and frightened, but Elisha the prophet told the king of Israel to send Naaman to him, so he would “learn there is a prophet in Israel.” At first, when Naaman hears Elisha’s command to simply wash in the Jordan seven times, he is appalled, as he could have easily done so in one of the nicer rivers back home, but his servants convinced him that if it had been a hard task he would have done it without question, so why refuse to do something simple? He washed seven times in the Jordan, and his flesh was restored, and he returned to Elisha, the man of God, and knew there was no God on earth except in Israel.
Psalm 111 is a song of praise to God who provides for all. The psalmist praises God for all God has done in works and deeds, and that God always remembers the covenant with the people. God’s work is faithful, just, and true, and God has redeemed the people. All who practice wisdom have a good understanding of God, and are in awe of what God has done for the people.
The writer of 2 Timothy reminds the readers to remember Jesus Christ in 2:8-15. Those who died have died with him, and will reign with him. Those who deny him will be denied, but Christ will still remain faithful, because he cannot deny himself. The writer encourages the receivers to not get worried about semantics but instead do the work of God, as one who is not ashamed.
Luke 17:11-19 is a story of another “good Samaritan” in a sense. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, passing near Galilee and Samaria, when ten lepers called out for him to have mercy on them. Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, and on their way, they were made clean. But one of them, when he realized he was healed, came back, and fell at Jesus’ feet. He praised God and thanked Jesus for being healed. Though there were ten, he was the only one who came back—and he was a Samaritan. Only the foreigner, the outsider, had come back truly thankful for what God had done for him. Jesus told him to get up and go on his way, for his faith had made him well.
The Narrative Lectionary has focused on the theme of names and belonging. This Sunday, it focuses on the story of Ruth in Ruth 1:1-17. Ruth, a Moabite woman, has lost her husband and has become a young widow, as has her sister-in-law. Their mother-in-law Naomi, also widowed, longs to return back home to Bethlehem. Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab, to go back to their father’s homes and find new husbands, but Ruth refuses to leave. In her famous vows to her mother-in-law, she promises that where Naomi goes, she will go, where she stays, she will stay, where she dies, she will die. Naomi’s people will be her people, and Naomi’s God, her God. She pledges herself to Naomi, to becoming part of her family and people. In the chapters and verses following, Ruth, a foreigner, will marry Boaz, and become the great-grandmother of King David.
In a moment when Jesus’ own family tried to stop him, in Mark 3:33-35, Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Those who do the will of God are my mother and my sister and my brother.” This didn’t mean his mother and brothers were valued any less, but that they were also part of the greater family of God that Jesus perceived all around him.
Faith and belonging—God continually challenges us when we draw our lines, where we say who we are against other people. Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner, and at certain times in the history of Israel, the Israelites were not to marry Moabites. Yet Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David. Naaman thought he was better than the Israelites, but when he realized that it was God who was healing him, he recognized that the only God of the whole earth was the God of Israel, the people he had gone to war against. Samaritans were despised because they worshiped in Samaria instead of Jerusalem and only viewed the Torah as sacred scripture, yet more than once, Jesus interacts with, includes, heals, and welcomes Samaritans, and even upholds them as an example of how to be a neighbor who loves one another. Jesus declares that those who do the will of God are his mother and sister and brother. There are no borders in God’s community, in God’s family—all that is required is faith to belong (and even then, there’s some wiggle room—just look at Thomas).
Call to Worship (from Mark 3:35; Galatians 3:28; Revelation 7:9)
Those who do the will of God are Christ’s mother and sister and brothers,
There are no outcasts in the family of God.
For all of you are one in Christ Jesus our Lord,
There are no borders, no dividing walls in the kingdom of God.
For there will be a great multitude that no one can count,
From every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.
Of all ages and abilities, every one of us made in God’s image;
We are loved. We belong. We are the whole people of God.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
We confess to You, Creator God, that we have not always viewed one another through Your image. We have dehumanized, debased, and devalued others. We have sought to exclude for purity’s sake, rather than include for the sake of love. We have sought to control and keep people within bounds of our own making, instead of sharing the liberty that comes through faith in Christ Jesus. Forgive us. Call us into accountability. Widen our doors and open our borders. Break wide our hearts to Your love, compassion, and healing. Lead us into the ways of justice, so that peace may prevail. It is in the name of Christ Jesus, who came to erase the lines that we have drawn, who bridges life through death into eternity, who forgives us of our sins, that we pray. Amen.
God created you and knows you, God knows the very hairs on your head and your inmost thoughts, and God loves you madly. God made you in Their image, and you are precious in God’s sight. God forgives you, calls you into accountability to change your ways, and God blesses you to go forth and love your neighbor as yourself. Go, and share the good news of God’s all-encompassing love. Amen.
Sojourning God, You call us to move from our comfort zone into new spaces. You call us to reach out to embrace our neighbors of different backgrounds, even different religions, to teach us to be better reflections of Your image. You call us to move to those on the margins and invite them in, to make space where we may have taken space way. You give us a voice to raise up for justice, for the oppressed. You encourage us to take risks, in the name of love for one another. But You never leave us alone. Sojourning God, You are with us, at all times and in all places. You were with our ancestors when they traveled to a place You had promised them, assuring them their descendants would be as numerous as the stars. You were with our ancestors when they escaped oppression and slavery and wandered in the wilderness. You were with our ancestors when they were taken into exile. You have been with all peoples who have faced oppression, injustice, slavery, marginalization, imprisonment. And You are with us. Move us from our comfort zone and into the spaces You need us to be, not to take up space, but to make room for more, for Your beloved community is beyond what we can imagine, and includes us all. In the name of Christ, who laid down his life for us, risking it all, to live with us again and continues to be with us, we pray. Amen.
Release Date: October 8th, 2019