Revised Common Lectionary: Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52; Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42
Narrative Lectionary: Series on 1 Peter, 2:1-9, 19-25 (Matthew 16:24-26)
The first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures continues its theme of the rise of the prophets, and we continue with the visions of the prophet Amos in 8:1-12. As shared last week, Amos was from the southern kingdom of Judah, a herdsman and arborist, who saw how Israel’s kings and ruling elite were turning to other gods, making political alliances that benefited them but were detrimental to the poor and marginalized. In this vision from God, Amos beheld a basket of summer fruit—which is a play on words in Hebrew, as it sounds like “the end.” This is the best that the leaders would see—at that time, things were prosperous, but they had ignored God and trampled upon the most vulnerable of their people. The political alliances they made to prosper in the short term would set up their future conquest and exile, ending the northern kingdom of Israel.
Psalm 52 speaks of God’s faithfulness. The first half of the psalm addresses a mighty enemy who has attacked the people faithful to God. Evil will not overcome, however, because God is faithful. The ones faithful to God will laugh in the face of evil because they know God’s awesome power. The mighty enemy has put their trust in worldly wealth and power and notoriety, but it will not last. The righteous instead are like an olive tree planted in the sanctuary, a tree bearing fruit that cannot be uprooted.
The second selection of the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of the visit to Abraham and Sarah by God. In Genesis 18:1-10a, three strangers are walking by, and Abraham runs out to the road to show them hospitality, inviting them to his tent for a meal and to rest. Sarah bakes cakes and Abraham has a servant prepare a calf along with curds and milk. The strangers promise Abraham and Sarah that Sarah will conceive and bear a son.
Psalm 15 is a prayer, perhaps a call to worship, reminding the people that the ones who may enter the temple, the sanctuary, are those who are faithful to God’s ways. These are the ones who do what is right, speak from their heart, and treat others with respect and dignity. They are not swayed by bribes and gossip but treat all people with equity and stay true to their oaths. These people are not moved by the actions of others, and will not be swayed, for they are rooted in God.
The Epistle reading continues the series in Colossians with 1:15-28. The writer, purporting to be Paul, continues in the introduction sharing their theology of who Christ is: the firstborn of all creation, the image of the invisible God, the one in whom all things were created, the firstborn of the dead, the head of the church. It is through Christ’s death on the cross that God has reconciled the world. All who were estranged because of the evil they did can still come to God through Christ. Paul is a servant of this gospel, and even though he suffers, he does so for the sake of the church, that they might know God’s faithfulness. Paul (or the writer) interprets their own present circumstances as helping to reveal the good news of Jesus.
Luke 10:38-42 contains Luke’s account of Mary and Martha (John also mentions them in John 11, with Lazarus their brother). In this story, Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. Mary, her sister, sat at his feet while he spoke, and Martha prepared to show Jesus hospitality. According to the gospel writer, Martha was distracted by her many tasks and got angry, asking Jesus to intervene because she was left to do all the work, but Jesus replied that Mary chose the better option. There will always be tasks to do, but what Jesus is sharing with Mary will not be forgotten or taken from her.
The Narrative Lectionary continues its series with 1 Peter 2:1-9, 19-25. The writer of 1 Peter uses the image of nursing and calls upon the readers to seek the spiritual milk that satisfies. The next image the writer uses is that of a living stone, reminiscent of Psalm 118, that the stone the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. Jesus alludes to this passage before his death, but the writer of 1 Peter takes the metaphor further, that the believers have been rejected by the world and they are living stones, the sanctuary of God. They are chosen by Christ and Christ dwells in them. The writer of 1 Peter then writes about suffering, for the believers are not simply rejected by the world, but have faced persecution. The writer attempts to make meaning of their suffering, remembering the words of the suffering servant in Isaiah. The write both alludes to Jesus as the one who suffered, and the believers as also suffering (and Isaiah originally referred to Israel as the suffering servant). Though the world led them astray, they have returned to the shepherd, to Jesus, the one who suffered on behalf of them and in solidarity with them.
The supplemental passage is Matthew 16:24-26, that those who wish to follow Jesus must deny themselves and take up their cross to follow him. Those who wish to follow Jesus must deny the comforts, wealth and security of this world. They must be prepared to die to the ways of this world to follow Jesus.
Following the ways of God is not easy. The leaders of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell astray by making political alliances that were advantageous in the short-term. Along with those alliances, they often worshiped the gods of those other countries, and ignored the needs of the poor and oppressed among them. They were distracted in their quest for power, and they failed to heed the warnings of the prophets and they were demolished and taken into exile. The quest for power, wealth, and notoriety continues to plague our peoples and our nations’ leaders to this day. As we look to Russia and Ukraine, we see the cost. We look to Afghanistan and see the cost. We see the violence in the United States and see the cost in Uvalde and in Highland Park and so many other communities. In our own lives, our values show us what is important to us—is it power and wealth, security or fame—or is it our relationships? Wisdom is found in listening to one another, as Jesus tried to show Martha. Wisdom is found in understanding that we do not suffer alone. Wisdom is found when we stop seeing suffering as a failure or punishment and instead as a part of life in which we can know we are not alone, that we suffer in solidarity with others in this world. For God so loved the world that God suffered with us through Jesus Christ. Christ knows our suffering, our pain, and is with us—not watching down from afar, but right in with the muck and pain and sorrow. Right in our own suffering.
Call to Worship
Come, open your hearts, and listen for the voice of God,
Come, open your heart to love one another.
Come, open your minds, and receive the Spirit of wisdom.
Come, open your mind to new understanding and insight.
Come, open your senses, and experience our Creator at work.
Come, open yourselves to the work of God around us.
Come, open your arms, awake and arise, for God is calling you:
Come and join in the worship of our awesome God.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God Who Sees All, we know that we are so short-sighted we sell out our own future, let alone our children and grandchildren. We fail to live into the wisdom that You have shared with all peoples around the world, that we must prepare for the next generations. We have lived for ourselves and have taken from the earth much more than we have cared for it. We have stolen from others by taking Your resources and hoarding them. We have not loved others as ourselves and failed to see our common humanity, let alone our connectedness as Your children. Forgive us for our foolish and selfish ways. Call us into accountability, to give back what has been taken, to repair what has been broken. Call us into the hard work of forgiveness which must begin with justice and restoration. For You see all, and we cannot hide from You. We cannot lie to You. We cannot hold onto the falsehoods we have told ourselves. We are bare before You, O God, and there is nothing hidden from Your sight. Call us into Your truth, so we might live. Amen.
Prayer of Blessing/Assurance
Seek first the beloved community of God, the reign of Christ on earth, and live rightly and justly, and everything will come unto you. God will see you through. God knows your wounds and binds them. God knows your mistakes and forgives them. God knows your sorrow and surrounds you with love. Live into the beloved community and God’s love will be shared through the love of others. Go and seek the community, and invite others to participate as we live into Christ’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Sweet God, You have shown us the beauty of the earth and have taught us through the scriptures how to savor life. Help us to hold on to the moments that show us Your awesome grace. Teach us to count our days so we may have a wise heart. Help us to taste and see that You are good. Open us to hear You whisper as Your spirit moves among the trees in the breeze and the waves upon the shore. Remind us to gasp and be in awe as we taken in Your wondrous work in creation and in ourselves. Sweet, Sweet Spirit, guide us into the full, abundant life You desire for us. Amen.