Revised Common Lectionary: Exodus 17:1-17; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Narrative Lectionary: Parable of the Tenants, Mark 12:1-12 (13-17); (Psalm 86:8-13)

Almost immediately after escaping oppression in Egypt, after God led the people through the Red Sea, they begin complaining about the food first, and now the water in Exodus 17:1-17. The people begin to claim that God brought them out of Egypt to kill them with thirst. Moses is at his wits end. God tells Moses to take the staff that he used to strike the Nile and bring plagues, and instead, to strike the rock at Horeb in front of the elders. Moses did so, and there was water, and the place was named Massah and Meribah, which means “Quarrel,” because of how the people quarreled and tested God.

Psalm 95 is a song of praise, but also a song of warning: invoking the memory of the people arguing with God at Horeb, called Massah and Meribah. The psalmist calls the people to praise God, to sing and rejoice and give thanks. The psalmist reminds the people to listen to God’s voice, as sheep listen to their shepherd, and then reminds them of a time when they wouldn’t listen, and they tested God at Massah and Meribah. “Do not harden your hearts,” the psalmist warns, but instead, come to worship the great God who is above all gods.

Paul speaks of endurance in faith in Romans 5:1-11. Paul states that the best proof of God’s love for us was that Christ died for us, before we knew him. Christ had faith in us that we would turn to God’s ways. Because of Christ’s death we know the power of resurrection, but because of Christ’s life, we know the way of God. We are now reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4:5-42. Jesus crosses several social boundaries—he speaks with a woman alone, she is unmarried, and she is a Samaritan. She also was married before several times, but now lives with someone whom she is not married to. When his disciples discover him with her, they are astonished, but Jesus has chosen to speak to her, to have her draw water from the well. Jesus uses it as a teaching moment to speak about the new life God is offering all people. Jesus speaks of the living water that becomes a wellspring of eternal life. The disciples do not seem to understand, but the Samaritans in the village begin to come to him because the woman went out and told them all about this man she had met. They begin to believe because of the woman’s testimony, and after meeting Jesus, believe he is the savior of the world.

The Narrative lectionary focuses on the Parable of the Tenants in Mark 12. Jesus tells this last parable before his betrayal and arrest while he is in the temple, gathered among the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. He tells this parable to provoke those listening. There is a man who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants, but the tenants beat his servants and messengers, even killing some. The owner decides to send his only son, believing the tenants would respect him, but they kill him. Jesus asks a rhetorical question: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do?” Jesus’ answer is shocking: he will come destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. In addition, Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 and interprets it as a rejection of himself. This angers the leaders in the temple who hear his words, and they want to arrest him. In verses 13-17, Jesus teaches among Pharisees and Herodians (those of the family of Herod, who were probably Greek in culture and practice). Jesus is asked a question about paying taxes, but he knows they are trying to trick him into stating loyalty to either Rome or to Herod. Jesus uses the emperor’s coin to show how narrow their focus is—give to the emperor what is the emperor’s but give to God what belongs to God. In other words, if God is our only God, everything comes from God.

This section of Psalm 86, verses 8-13 begins with praising God by claiming there are no other gods like God. All nations are under God. The psalmist calls upon God to teach them God’s ways, and they give thanks for God’s steadfast love and deliverance.

We’re often focused on the wrong things. The disciples were focused on worldly questions about what to eat right then, where Jesus was focused on an eternal question when he spoke with the Samaritan woman about living water. The people of Israel were complaining about what they had left behind, not what God was providing for them and where God was leading them. Paul spoke of endurance of the faith, that when we first come to believe it is because of Christ’s death and resurrection, but we are saved because of Christ’s life, and that Christ lived so we might know God’s love more fully. We miss the forest for the trees. We focus on the narrow things and miss the greater picture. We worry about whether we should worship in a temple or on a mountain, when the point is to worship God who is everywhere. Everything is under the reign of God.

Call to Worship
God made the earth and all its creatures,
God brought forth life from dust and water.
God made the whole universe: stars and planets, galaxies far away,
And God made us in the divine image.
We are such a small part of creation, and yet, God loves us.
God has given us the responsibility of caring for the world.
God has filled us with knowledge, wisdom, and insight,
May we use the gifts of God for God’s work in our world.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Creator of the Universe, forgive us for missing the big picture. Forgive us for making ourselves lord over our own lives and putting ourselves on pedestals. Forgive us for our egos that have caused us to consume and take what we think we rightfully own. Forgive us for not acknowledging Your sovereignty over all of creation. Hold us in accountability. Call us into the ways of restorative justice, to be good stewards of the earth, to care for all Your creatures, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. You are the Make of All, the Sovereign One, and we come before You with our brokenness and humility. Help us to repair what we have done, to work toward the good of Your creation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
God is always faithful, even when we have been faithless. God is always hopeful, even when we have lost hope. God’s love is always steadfast, even when our love waivers. Know that God is with you. God made you, and God loves you, and God is rooting for you. Take courage, hold on to faith, and go forth knowing you are loved, forgiven, and restored. Amen.

Prayer
God of Hope, fill us now. We need love, and we need peace, and we need mercy, but most of all, we need hope. We need hope to take one more step, to sing one more note, to listen to one more word. We need hope that guides our faith forward. We need hope that all that has come before us has not been in vain. Restore our hope, O God, in one another. Restore our hope, O God, that this, too, will come to pass. May we become living hope to those in need around us. You are the source of our strength and our being, and in You, we know that You will see us through. Amen.

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