Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 21:8-21 and Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Jeremiah 20:7-13 and Psalm 69:7-10 (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Isaiah, 61:1-11 (Luke 4:16-21)
The first selection of the Hebrew scriptures in this season after Pentecost follows the ancestors of the faith in Genesis and Exodus. While we primarily think of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah as growing from a family with one child into a nation, through enslavement to freedom, we are reminded that the family tree is large. The story of Hagar is also one of our ancestral stories, a story of enslavement and trafficking and abandonment. However, though Hagar and her son were cast out by Sarah and Abraham so they would not inherit, God promised Hagar an inheritance through her son, that he would become a great nation. Though Abraham gave very little to Hagar and Ishmael, God provided for them in the wilderness. Though God spoke to Abraham, God also spoke to Hagar, and God’s presence was made known to Ishmael.
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 is a prayer for help. The psalmist, perhaps facing enemies, calls upon God to save their life and to answer their prayer, for there is no other God like God. God is good, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love. All nations shall bow before God. The psalmist concludes by seeking strength from God and asking for a sign so that others will know God’s presence is with the psalmist. God is the one who helps and brings comfort.
Ever wondered how hard it was to be a prophet? In Jeremiah 20:7-13, the second selection of the Hebrew scriptures, Jeremiah complains that God has enticed him to speak up and look what he gets for it? Nothing but trouble. Jeremiah feels he must declare violence and destruction to the people, but he hates doing it. If he tries not to speak on behalf of God, the fire inside of him burns and he can’t keep it in. Everyone else is waiting for him to screw up so they can pounce on him, even his close friends. Nonetheless, Jeremiah knows that God is with him and those persecuting him will not prevail. God is the one who will deliver him. Content Warning: the English translations of this passage are tamer than the Hebrew, which uses the language of rape to describe Jeremiah being compelled to prophecy by God and that same language of his friends working against him.
Psalm 69 is a prayer for deliverance from persecution. In verses 7-10, the psalmist reminds God that it is for God’s sake they have been shamed, that their family has disowned them, for the psalmist is being blamed for what God has called them to do and insulted for being humble. In verses 11-15, the psalmist continues to share that they are ridiculed and gossiped about, but they pray to God because they trust that God will deliver them from their enemies. They call upon God to not let them die. In verses 16-18, the psalmist turns to God, calling upon God to answer them in according to God’s mercy, and calls upon God to draw near to them and set them free from their enemies.
The Epistle reading continues in Romans with 6:1b-11. Paul uses rhetoric here to say that even though it is faith that saves instead of the law, believers are not to continue in sin. Through Christ, we have died to sin and have been raised to life. Knowing that we are united in a resurrection like Christ’s, we are called to live as alive in Christ. Sin has no power over us, but if we know Jesus Christ, we live in the newness of life. Sin holds us back; Christ sets us free.
The Gospel lesson focuses on Matthew 10:24-39. Continuing from last week’s lesson, Jesus is giving the disciples further instructions before they head out in ministry. Jesus reminds the disciples that they are not above the teacher, but a disciple ought to be like the teacher. Nonetheless, Jesus also warns them that the insults thrown at him (such as calling him Beelzebul) will be even greater toward them. Jesus then instructs them to not be afraid and to share everything he has taught them, and that they are precious to God. If they are faithful to Christ, Christ will be with them, but whoever denies Christ, Christ will deny them before God. Jesus further warns the disciples that his teachings will bring division, not peace. Just as Jesus’s own family at first tried to stop him, so will some of the disciple’s families and friends. Those who follow Jesus must be willing to let go of everything, even families, if they hold them back from following Christ. Those who are willing to give up everything for Christ’s sake will find everything of purpose and meaning is in Christ.
The Narrative Lectionary concludes its series in Isaiah with 61:1-11, part of Third Isaiah. The prophet shares good news of God to those who were oppressed and in captivity, those who have returned from exile. The city of Jerusalem and the temple shall be rebuilt, and the people shall be a holy priesthood for God, a witness to the world of God’s faithfulness and they shall receive a double portion of goodness because of what they have suffered. God loves justice and will make sure that all of God’s people are known and blessed in the world. The prophet concludes this chapter with assurance that God will renew the people as a nation, just like spring renews the earth, faithfully.
The supplemental verses are from Luke 4:16-21, in which Jesus, in his first sermon, reads from this very portion of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, probably the synagogue he grew up in, and declares that this portion of Isaiah 61:1-2 has been fulfilled in their hearing. Jesus came to bring good news, though later in that same chapter, he would declare that the good news may be for those outside of Israel.
Living faithfully is not easy. Believers do not have life any easier than anyone else. At times, being faithful can be more difficult. Jeremiah and other prophets were called to speak against injustice and corruption and many prophets faced humiliation, disgrace, and even death. Paul writes that we are called as faithful people to live differently, and Jesus warns that believers will face humiliation, persecution, and even loss of family and friends. But we are reminded that God draws close to us and is with us, just as God was close to Hagar and Ishmael. God was with the faithful when they returned from exile. And Christ promises to be with us, until the end of the age, when we live as disciples and make disciples, following the instructions of our great Teacher.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 86:4-8)
Gladden the soul of your servant,
For to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
Abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
Listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
For you will answer me.
There is none like you, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like yours.
Let us gather our hearts and minds for worship,
For there is no God but God, who hears our prayers, our songs, and our sighs.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that our ways are not Your ways. We look for the easy choice, the easy decision, the easy way out, whether individually or collectively. We do not want to sit in the struggle. We do not want to listen to those who disagree with us. We do not want conflict and we have somehow bought into the idea that if we are with believers we ought to get along. We blame others when things don’t work out. We scapegoat and snark and gossip. We forget that we are flawed and human, each one of us, and that our desire for the easy way sometimes is the stumbling block for healthy decisions and growing from our differences. Forgive us, O God. Remind us that sometimes we need to be silent and listen. Sometimes we are called to speak only to remind others to listen to the voices that have been silenced. And sometimes, You do call us to cry out against injustice. Call those of us with privilege to share space and at times give up space so that all may be heard, and all may know Your love. In the name of Jesus, who has led us on the difficult, rough path that leads from death to life, we pray. Amen.
God is gracious and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love and mercy. You are precious to God, and God loves you so, so much. Know this, in your heart of hearts, that nothing can ever take away that love of God from you. Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Seek forgiveness and grant forgiveness. Seek healing and help bring healing. Participate in the work of justice and restoration, for this is what we are called to do. Go and share the Good News. Amen.
God of all seasons, we give thanks for the light of day and the darkness of night as we pass by the solstice. We give thanks for the ebb and flow of creation, for the beautiful summer of the north and winter of the south. Call us to the work of climate justice and hold us accountable, for You made us to be good stewards of the earth and we have failed. We have misused and abused creation for our own comfort and profit. Call us into accountability and help us, individually and collectively, to do our part to restore the earth and reduce our waste. Guide us to be Your children, caretakers of this beautiful planet, the only one You have given us. In the name of Christ, who came so that all might have life, may we live more simply for others. Amen.