Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Jeremiah 23:23-29 and Psalm 89; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ruth, Chapter 1 (Matthew 5:3-9)
In the series of the Hebrew scriptures following the rise of the prophets, we continue with First Isaiah and the Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7. The song begins with the prophet singing about a “loved one” who cared for a vineyard and protected it, but the vineyard grew wild grapes. The loved one, God, takes the mic at verse three, speaking to the people of Judah and Jerusalem and asking the question of what God was supposed to do? God did everything to help the vineyard, but it chose to grow wild. Therefore, God is tearing down the protection for the vineyard. God expected the people, whom God had covenanted with, to live into God’s ways, but they turned to violence and injustice instead.
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 is a song seeking God’s deliverance and salvation from their enemies. The first two verses call upon God, who shepherded the people, to come and shepherd again and save them. In verse eight, the psalmist refers to the people as a vine brought out of Egypt by God, a vine that was protected, but now God has torn down its protections. The psalmist asks God why this has happened and calls upon God to return to the people and save them. Besides the image of the vine and vineyard, the psalmist also refers to the people as the root, and the son (or the anointed one) that God has chosen as God’s very own.
The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures is Jeremiah 23:23-29. The prophet speaks on behalf of God, that God isn’t like one of the local deities the other peoples around them know, but God is the God of the universe. There were prophets claiming to speak for God to the people, but they told the people what they wanted to hear, instead of the way of God. God’s word is like fire that consumes and a hammer that shatters rock. It calls us to change our ways and destroys the walls of injustice.
Psalm 82 sings of God’s power among other gods. In a polytheistic society, the psalmist sings of God’s might and power, and how God looks to the marginalized, the poor and oppressed, against other gods. For other deities will not stand, they will die like mortals, and only God will endure before God is the God of all people, the one who judges the earth.
The Epistle reading continues to follow Hebrews in 11:29-12:2. Last week’s portion began this section about faith, and how Abraham and Sarah believed in God’s word. God promised that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars, though they only had one child and in their old age. They were also promised a new home, but when they arrived, they still referred to themselves as strangers in a strange land, a hint that the promise of God was still to be fulfilled. In this section, the writer continues with the stories of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants but also some of the most notorious figures, such as Rahab and Samson, Gideon and Jephthah and others, to David and Samuel and the prophets, up through the first century and the early church, the martyrs of the faith. All of these were worthy, and yet still did not receive what was promised. These are our cloud of witnesses, so that believers may endure and persevere, shedding the sins of the world and looking to Jesus as the example.
Jesus continues to speak about his purpose and the time of judgment in Luke 12:49-56. Jesus came with a message that divides, that will destroy sin and purify the earth. This message will divide family and friends and communities. The time is coming, but people are not aware of the signs. The people are hypocrites for they understand how to prepare from season to season and year to year but cannot comprehend the vast transformation coming because of Christ.
The Narrative Lectionary begins a four part series in Ruth, beginning with the first chapter. The family of Naomi had left Bethlehem and moved to Moab during a time of famine. While they were in Moab, her husband died, and her sons married Moabite women, but then her sons died. In the culture of the time, if a woman had no husband or sons to care for her, she went back to her father’s family. Naomi tells her daughters in law to go back to their father’s home, for they are still young enough to be married again, but Ruth refuses to go, and shares her own vows to Naomi, pledging to remain with her. They return to Bethlehem, where Naomi continues to mourn her loss, and they arrive in time for the barley harvest. Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi is reminiscent of God’s faithfulness to us, and that God’s family goes beyond the bounds of blood but in the relationships we build, even across cultures.
The supporting passage is from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-9. Jesus shared in the sermon on the mount that those who are hopeless now, those who are grieving now, will find hope and joy. Those who show mercy will receive mercy, those who are humble will inherit the earth, those who are peacemakers are called children of God. When we struggle and suffer, God draws close to us. It doesn’t mean life becomes easier, but we know we are not alone, and God takes special notice.
Call to Worship
God made a covenant with our ancestors,
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
God delivered our ancestors from oppression and exile,
Shepherding the people into the way of peace.
God sent the Word through prophets and proverbs,
Becoming flesh and living among us.
God’s steadfast love endures forever,
And we are God’s beloved children.
Come, worship God,
Who covenants with us through Christ our Lord.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Ancient of Days, we confess that we have broken the covenant You made with us. We have followed the idols of this world, worshiped wealth and power, sacrificed the next generation to our greed. We have polluted Your earth for our own gain. We have failed to seek Your wisdom. We even fail to meditate and read Your words from long ago and to apply them to our lives. Instead, we use Your words as weapons against each other instead of judging ourselves in how we measure up to You. Forgive us, O God, for our cruelty and selfishness. Call us back to Your ways and to seeking Your wisdom and insight. Grant us mercy, and help us humbly seek Your way again, through Jesus Christ, our pioneer and protector of our faith. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance (from Psalm 119:10-16)
“With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”
May we be true to God. May we seek God’s wisdom and meditate on God’s teachings. May we know God’s grace, mercy, and love in our lives, and extend that grace, mercy, and love to one another. Amen.
Spirit of the Living God, move in us, stir in us, call upon us out of our sleep to be awake. Awaken us to the cries of injustice and despair and help us to respond. Awaken us to what You are doing in our world and in our lives and guide us in harmony with Your work. Awaken us to the promise of new life and help us to live into that truth for one another. For in You we live, move, and have our being, Spirit of Life. Fall fresh upon us, mold us and make us into who You desire us to be. In the name of the Son, the Living One, we pray. Amen.