Revised Common Lectionary: Amos 7:7-17 and Psalm 82; Deuteronomy 30:9-14 and Psalm 25:1-10; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
Narrative Lectionary: Series on 1 Peter, 1:3-23 (Matthew 5:11-12)
The first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures follows the rise of the prophets in this season after Pentecost. Amos was from the southern kingdom of Judah but came north to Israel to prophesy against their ways. A herdsman and an arborist, he didn’t come from a wealthy family or educated background, but spoke from what he knew, and spoke out against the inequity of the wealthy elite and the poor who were suffering. Amos prophesied against Israel by sharing a vision from God using a plumb line, a tool for assisting with setting walls at the proper 90 degrees angle. Israel had not measured up, so God will allow Israel to fall. The priests benefited from the ruling elite, so when Amos spoke out against them and warned of the king’s death by violence and Israel’s fate, the priest Amaziah tattled to the king. However, Amaziah also warned Amos to stop prophesying and to get out of Israel. Amos replied to Amaziah that he’s no prophet, he’s just a herdsman and an arborist. God took him from the flock and the care of the trees to go care for God’s flock in Israel and to trim what needed to be pruned. Amos returned the warning to Amaziah with a curse upon the people, and the prophecy that the people of Israel would go into exile.
God is the God of justice, especially for the vulnerable in Psalm 82. In this vision of a divine court, God is among other gods (remember, the ancient Israelites were not monotheists). The other gods do not listen to the poor, the oppressed and the orphans, but God Most High does. All the nations belong to God, and all peoples, for the other gods will fail, but God will deliver the most vulnerable of the people.
The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures is Deuteronomy 30:9-14. In Moses’ final discourse to the people before his death and before they arrive in the land promised to them, Moses reminded the people to turn to the commandments of God and the words written in the law given to them. This commandment is not difficult, it does not require seeking and searching far and wide—the word of God is very near to them. It is what has been taught and passed down, and it is in their heart, and what they remember every day.
Psalm 25 is a prayerful song. The psalmist calls upon God to continue to teach them and make known God’s ways to them. They know that God will deliver them from evil and they will not be put to shame. They ask God to not remember how they went astray when they were younger, but instead to remember the covenant of steadfast love. God is the one who will teach and guide the humble and instruct sinners to the right path, for God is the God of covenant, and God desires for all to receive correction and to change their ways.
The Epistle readings begin a series in Colossians, starting with 1:1-14. Paul, or a writer purporting to be Paul, gives an introduction and prayer for the church in Colossae, for they have been faithful to the gospel. Their ministries are bearing fruit, and Paul and companions are in prayer for them. Paul shares a blessing that they will be made strong and will endure with patience and joy. They are living into the reign of Christ on earth, and they know Christ’s forgiveness and love.
Luke’s account of Jesus sharing the Greatest Commandment is different from Matthew and Mark in that the question asked isn’t about the greatest commandment, but what must one to do to inherit eternal life. In Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer asked Jesus that question, and Jesus responded the same as Matthew and Mark, quoting Deuteronomy 6, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul, and Leviticus 19:18 to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. But then the lawyer asks a further question: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the one who is the example of a neighbor is the one that shocks us into remembering who we are supposed to be as faithful people. I highly recommend reading Amy-Jill Levine’s Short Stories of Jesus for her understanding of this parable.
The Narrative Lectionary begins a new series on 1 Peter for the next five weeks. 1 Peter was not written by Peter, but someone using his name to help establish credibility and authority, written toward the end of the first century. In 1:3-23, the author begins like many of the letters of the New Testament with an introductory statement of their faith as a blessing to the audience. They have a living hope through the resurrection of Christ, protected through faith “for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” By this point, the early Christians have come to believe that Christ’s return represents a far-off consummation, a revelation for the end times. Those that came before and everything that happened before led up to this: to help the believers of their time (the audience of the letter) understand the fullness of the good news. They have been born anew and are ready. Though they live in exile from the reign of Christ while on earth, they wait patiently for when Christ comes.
The supporting verses of Matthew 5:11-12 come from the Beatitudes, when Jesus shares a blessing for those who are persecuted, for those who remain faithful, for their reward will be great in heaven. They were treated in the same way as the prophets who were before them.
“Pass on what you have learned,” Yoda said to Luke in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and so our ancestors of the faith call upon us to pass on what we have learned. To pass on the commandments, the ordinances and statutes. To pass on the stories of how God was faithful to our ancestors, and the lessons learned. To pass on the hope of our faith, that the worst of what we experience now will not have the final word. To pass on the knowledge of God’s steadfast love that endures forever. To pass on the teachings of Christ that lead us to eternal life, a new life that begins now.
Call to Worship (from Colossians 1:9-12)
May we be full of the knowledge of God’s will,
In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
May we live lives worthy of the Lord,
May we bear fruit in every good work.
May we grow in the knowledge of God,
May we be strong with God’s glorious strength,
May we endure everything with patience,
Joyfully giving thanks to God our Creator,
And Christ Jesus the Son.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Loving Christ, we confess that the arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice, but it seems to go on forever. We wait with hope, but our hopes are dimming in the shadow of oppression. The bleakness at times is overwhelming. God of Light and Love, shine through us and remind us to be the living hope to one another. When the way of empire shrouds us, grant us the courage to cast off the veil of the world and to live into Your way, Your truth, and Your life. For You lived in defiance of empire without falling into the ways of the empire. You resisted evil through Your love and compassion and mercy. Call us to do the same, for in You we have the true life. Amen.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. We are reminded in the blessings of Jesus that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled, those who mourn will be comforted, those who are merciful will receive mercy. We will be restored. We are forgiven. We are loved. And we will find all things made new in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Holy Spirit, we seek Your guidance in the violent winds of empire and evil. May Your Spirit blow through us and direct us out of despair into hope. May Your Spirit carry us out of shadows into radiance, out of the valley of death to the still pastures and cool waters of refreshment and life. When the world seems to crash down around us, O God, give us the strength to resist and rebuild. Remind us that our ancestors didn’t see the fulfillment but still lived into hope, as we do today for tomorrow. Guide us, Holy Spirit, renew us and give us strength. Amen.