Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Proverbs 25:6-7 and Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ruth, chapter 3 (Matthew 7:7-8)
The first selection in the Hebrew scriptures focuses on the rise of the prophets, continuing this week in Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a young prophet to Judah, prophesying before and during the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. God speaks through Jeremiah to the people that have abandoned God. God delivered them from Egypt, brough them through the wilderness into their home, but they took advantage of the land and worshiped other gods. God is especially angry at the priests who didn’t call the people back to God but instead led them after others. When the people should have cried out for God, they did not, and God stands in judgment. No other nation has abandoned their gods, but Israel has done so. Verse 13 ends this section poetically: God is the Living Water, but they have abandoned the living water freely given to them and have made their own wells; they are broken and cannot hold water. Only in turning back to God can the people be made whole.
Psalm 81 begins as a song of praise, but quickly turns to God’s judgment. The people God brought out of Egypt refused to listen to God and follow God’s ways, so God turned them over to their own leadership, and they fell into difficult times with many enemies. God laments that they have done so—if only they would turn back to God, God would deliver them! If only they would follow God’s ways, they would know God is near and they would know God’s bounty and be satisfied.
Proverbs 25:6-7 contains wisdom sayings about humility. Don’t assume you know your place—instead, act with humility and be asked to join the presence of the rulers, instead of being demoted in shame.
Psalm 112 is an acrostic poem, in which each line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The psalmist calls the people into praise of God by staying true to God’s commandments. They will know all of God’s blessings and will be blessings for other people. They will be firm in their foundation, not shaken by the ways of the world, and stay true for God. The ones who are faithful give freely to those in need. Though evil comes their way, the ones who practice evil will be thwarted and their plans not come to fruition.
The epistle series in Hebrews comes to an end with Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16. The writer concludes this letter with advice to continue loving one another and to practice what they have been taught: to show hospitality, to visit those in prison as many of the early believers were, to hold true to their marriage vows, to be content with what they have. As they have lifted up their ancestors in faith as examples, so may they look to those who have shared the faith with them as examples of how to live in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This selection concludes with a conviction to continue to do good, and to praise God freely as Christ gave himself freely, for this pleases God.
Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house for dinner in Luke 14:1, 7-14. Jesus noticed how the guests all tried to sit closer in the seats of honor. He taught them that when they go to a banquet not to assume the seats of honor but to take the lower seats so they may be invited to move closer. For all who exalt themselves are humbled, but those who humble themselves are exalted. Jesus then further instructed that when they are the host, they need to invite not the rich and famous ones around them, because that’s expected, but to invite the people on the margins who cannot extend the invitation back. The reward is not quid-pro-quo here on earth, but the reward is knowing you have been kind and good and will receive your reward in the resurrection.
The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Ruth in chapter three. In chapters one and two, Ruth took the bold initiative of vowing to remain with her mother-in-law, even though she would leave behind all she knew, and then to go out and provide for her mother-in-law. Now, Naomi advises the next steps. Naomi devises a plan to provide for Ruth in the future and advises Ruth to prepare for an encounter with Boaz on the threshing floor, as Boaz is their close relative and hopefully he will receive Ruth as a possible companion. Naomi trusts that Boaz will do nothing to disgrace Ruth, given how much hospitality he has shown her, even though Ruth is taking a risk by going to him at night. Because Ruth chose Boaz instead of the other younger or richer men, Boaz admires her courage and loyalty. However, there is one small problem—there is another relative who is related more closely, and Boaz needs to settle the matter with him first. Boaz, in his act of boldness, keeps Ruth hidden until she can go out without notice, giving her enough grain to supply her and Naomi’s needs for quite some time should the deal with the other close kinsman not work out. Naomi, seeing the bounty that Boaz has shared with them, is assured of Boaz’s tactfulness and trustworthiness and that he will settle the matter that day.
Matthew 7:7-8 are the supplementary verses for Ruth 3, similar to last week’s supplementary verses of Luke 6:36-38. Whoever asks will receive, and whoever seeks will find, and whoever knocks, the door will be opened. Having courage means trusting in God’s faithfulness as we remain faithful to God.
Being humble is a key quality of those who are faithful to God. We are called not to trust in our own ambition or perceived worthiness, but instead to put ourselves last, to seek to serve others, to make sure others needs are met. There is a difference, however, between the boldness that comes from the courage of faith, and selfish ambition that seeks to be right. The boldness that comes from faith is rooted in humility. It is rooted in trusting in God’s strength and presence and knowing that we are mere mortals in the vast universe. It is trusting that our worth comes from God’s love for us and not in anything we do. However, there are many who do not see the distinction, and assume that it is because of their possessions or fame or wealth that they are blessed. They assume they have received the places of honor. They look down upon others, instead of regarding others as at least equally deserving of respect and honor. Throughout the Wisdom literature of the Bible—Proverbs, Psalms, the parables of Jesus, and much of the advice of the Epistles—we are called to remember that we live for Christ, not for ourselves. In living for Christ, we live for one another, to share with all the joy of God’s love, the new life given to us by Christ, who gave his life for us. May we live with humility boldly, challenging the systems of oppression, and supporting those who speak up and live against the systems and structures of sin that continue to marginalize and deny the basic humanity of the children of God.
Call to Worship
To be in awe of God is the beginning of wisdom;
Open our hearts, O God, to seek Your ways.
As we gather together in worship,
May we remember that each of us is made in God’s image.
We are vessels to be filled with love, knowledge, and insight,
So that we might pour out mercy, compassion, and grace to all.
Lead us, O God, into Your ways,
Lead us in the spirit of humility and openness to follow You.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Invitation, we confess that we have not heeded Your call on our lives. With power and privilege we have assumed our place and position and have denied Your image in others. We have humiliated others rather than being humble ourselves. We have held power over others to oppress instead of sharing freely of resources to liberate and lift up. We have ignored Your teachings in Scripture and among sages, discounted the stories of our ancestors as well as those who are marginalized and suffer among us, and refused to listen to the prophets of the past and present who cry out to us to repent, to turn back to You. Forgive our foolishness, O Lord. Remind us that we are ashes, made from the dust of the mighty stars You created, and to dust we will return. It is through Your love that we are transformed, O God, and You have called us into that transformation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Call us to heed Your call, Your invitation, and to accept it with humility. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance (from Philippians 2:1-11)
“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Creator.”
Christ became one of us, lived as one of us, died as one of us, and showed us how to love one another and to live again. Know that in Christ you are lifted up, so that you may proclaim God’s love to the world. In example of Christ’s humility, go and live humbly, serve one another, and share Christ’s love and forgiveness and restoration. Amen.
In the peace that we have known, may we be known.
In the love that we have known, may we be known.
In the grace that we have known, may we be known.
You cultivate inner peace; may we live out that peace in our homes and communities.
You give us love though we do not deserve it; may we love one another as ourselves.
You grant us grace; may we extend grace and compassion.
May we live into Your ways. May we speak Your truth. May we claim eternal life now, a life that is renewed and restored and seeks to repair and heal. For we know this is not simply life after death, this is life that matters now, that changes the world now, that transforms our hearts now.
And gives us peace.
Amen and Amen.