Revised Common Lectionary: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 116:1-9; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
Narrative Lectionary: Creation by the Word, Genesis 1:1-2:4a (John 1:1-5)
The first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures continues the theme of Wisdom Literature, in this second half of the season after Pentecost. In Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman, one who calls out to the people from the crossroads and city square, where the people are going about their daily lives. She calls to them to turn to her voice, to turn to God’s ways. But the people have refused to listen as they live, moving from one thing to the next, so she mocks them and laughs. The people had the opportunity to listen and follow God’s ways, but they refused, and in their time of need, God’s wisdom and knowledge will be hard to come by. Pay attention and seek wisdom now, in this moment.
Psalm 19 is a song of praise for God as creator, and also for God as the giver of the law to the people. In verses 1-6, creation itself is a witness to God’s works of wonder, the sun at sunrise like a bridegroom emerging from his tent. Nothing is hidden from the glory of God in creation. In verses 7-14, the psalmist praises God’s instruction, laws, and commandments, which revive the people. These are necessary to life, and the psalmist sings for joy. The psalmist concludes with a prayer seeking to be cleansed of hidden faults, anything that might lead them astray from God, and prays that their prayer will be acceptable to God.
Isaiah 50:4-9a is one of the Suffering Servant passages, where the people of Israel who have suffered are personified through the voice of the prophet. God has taught through the prophet, who did not resist the suffering, personifying the people who suffered together. The prophet has been vindicated and restored, as the people have been vindicated in their return from exile. God did not cause the suffering that the people endured, but God is the one who saw them through and has redeemed them.
The psalmist praises God for deliverance in Psalm 116:1-9. God heard the voice of the psalmist crying out, and the psalmist loves God, for God has delivered them from suffering and death. God is merciful, protecting those in need, and brings peace and rest to the faithful. The psalmist is grateful to be alive, knowing God is with them.
The Epistle reading continues in James with 3:1-12. In this chapter, James warns about the dangers of what we say, that in teaching and speaking, we cannot take back what is said once it is out there. Like a rudder of a ship or a bit in a horse’s mouth, the tongue directs how others perceive us. From our words come blessings and curses, and what we say can cause great harm or can instruct others in the way of God. The tongue cannot be tamed. Instead, we must be cautious about what we say. We will be judged, as a spring that yields water—if it is brackish, it will not be trusted to produce freshwater.
Mark 8:27-38 is the pivotal point in Mark’s gospel account. Until this point, Mark has focused on the ministry and teaching of Jesus. Now, Jesus turns to face Jerusalem, and begins to speak about his betrayal, arrest, and death. Jesus asks the disciples who the people say he is, and then he asks them specifically who they think he is. Peter responds that Jesus is the Messiah. However, when Jesus tells them what the Messiah must go through, Peter pulls him aside and rebukes him. Peter’s understanding of the Messiah does not mesh with Jesus’ understanding of what he must do. Jesus in turn rebukes Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” for Peter doesn’t understand that his protest is undermining Jesus. Jesus tells the disciples and the crowd that if they want to be his followers, they must take up their cross and follow him. There was a cost to following Jesus that they hadn’t understood to this point. Not everyone would accept Jesus as they had, and as he turned toward Jerusalem, opposition would grow, until Jesus’ own death on the cross.
The Narrative Lectionary moves into year four of its cycle, beginning with the story of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:4a. This priestly writing explains the order of creation, culminating in the creation of the sabbath day, a holy day of rest. As God rested from making all things, so all things must rest. All things were created good and with purpose and order.
John 1:1-5 is the poetic beginning to the Gospel according to John, placing the Word (Jesus) at the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came to be. His life is the light of all the people, a light that shines in the darkness, and is not overcome. Echoing the language of creation, the gospel writer weaves Jesus’ narrative into the fabric of our creation story.
In the United States, this Sunday is often the Sunday of new beginnings in the life of the church, the Sunday after Labor Day. A mini “New Year’s Day” of sorts sometimes called Rally Day or Homecoming Day. The scriptures point to restarting, to listening for the wisdom of God in our daily lives. Jesus teaches the disciples that up until this point, they have understood his ministry as healing and teaching. Now, they must understand that he came to give his life, and that they must also deny themselves and take up their cross. The Narrative Lectionary focuses on this new beginning by going to the very beginning of creation. Today is a fresh start. Today is a new day, a new week. New ministries may be starting, Sunday school may be resuming. Autumn is around the corner, along with harvest time. What newness is stirring in you, in your community, in your faith journey?
Call to Worship (from Psalm 19:1-2, 5)
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
And the heavens proclaim God’s handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night declares knowledge.
The sun rises like one ready for a wedding,
And God makes the sun set in deep joy.
God is the creator of all things!
Come, worship God, who made us all.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we aren’t ready for a new start just yet. We still haven’t processed what we’ve been through. We want to move forward, and yet, we’re stuck trying to make meaning of this past year. Hold us gently in Your embrace. Speak peace to our hearts and ease our minds. Help us to let go of the need to find meaning in the tragic. Instead, help us to move forward in courage because we are not alone. Guide us in Your ways of love, to be brave and bold in compassion and empathy. Lead us in Your ways of justice, to be humble and remember to step back to center voices that have not been heard. Call to us when we are afraid and lonely, and make Your presence known to us. In the name of Jesus, our companion now and always, we pray. Amen.
God will not let you go. There is no place you can be lost, nowhere so deep and dark that light cannot shine in the shadows. God loves you madly, and God is with you. Breathe, and know the Spirit is alive in you. Love, and know that you are loved by God. Live, and know that Christ lives in you. As Christ has died, Christ has also risen, and death will never have the final word. Go forth with this knowledge, wisdom, and insight: God’s steadfast love endures forever. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.
Creator God, You made the earth and the universe as a testimony to You. How can we contemplate our own short lives among the vastness of the galaxies? Of all the stars born, we know only one better than the others. Of all the planets formed, we have only touched one. We are in awe of You, Almighty One, maker of us all. Help us to never lose that sense of wonder and amazement, for that is the beginning of wisdom. Remind us, when our daily lives drag our gaze to what is in front of us, to expand our view to what is beyond us. For You are the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all things. Amen.