Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 and Psalm 20; Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13), 14-17; Mark 4:26-34
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Jeremiah, Scroll Burned and Rewritten, 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-31
The first selection from the Hebrew scriptures continues the series on the rise of the kings of Israel. In this week’s reading, Saul grieved that he ever made Saul king. However, God moved forward, even in God’s own grief of Saul’s misguided ways. God instructed Samuel to visit Jesse in Bethlehem under the guise of performing a sacrifice, so Samuel could anoint a new king in secret. When Jesse brought his oldest son forward, Samuel was certain it was him, but God told Samuel to pass him by, along with six other sons of Jesse. Height nor stature were important to God. Instead, Samuel asked Jesse if all his sons were present. All the important ones were, but the youngest was out tending to the sheep. Samuel told Jesse to bring him. God declared the young, handsome boy David was the one to become king, and Samuel anointed him.
Psalm 20 is a prayer for a new king. The psalmist prays for God’s protection and guidance for the new ruler, that the king’s offerings and sacrifices be remembered and accepted. Blessings for victory are part of this prayer, for the psalmist assures God that the people and the king put their trust in God and not into their military or might. The psalmist closes with a plea for God to answer the people when they call upon God.
God’s justice is restorative in Ezekiel 17:22-24. God will take a sprig from a lofty cedar tree, just a small branch, and plant it to become a noble cedar where the birds of the air will nest. God will cut down the high trees and raise up the low trees, drying up the green trees and making the dry trees flourish. Similar to Isaiah 40, and Luke 1:46-55, God takes from what has too much and gives to what has too little, restoring what has been taken.
Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 is a song of praise for those who are faithful to God. The first four verses sing of God’s faithfulness and how the psalmist will praise God with their musical gifts. Verses 12-15 sing of how the righteous, the ones who live into God’s ways, flourish like palm trees, full and lush, and strong like the cedars in Lebanon, famous trees that have withstood centuries of destruction. Even in old age, those who are faithful and righteous still bear fruit, and still produce lushly for God.
The Epistle selection continues in 2 Corinthians with Paul’s understanding of living the resurrected life in the here and now. “We walk by faith and not by sight” (vs. 7). In all that we do, living now in our bodies, or living at home with God with spiritual bodies, we aim to please God. The love of Christ encourages Paul and those with him to continue preaching the Gospel: that in Jesus’ death and resurrection we have new life. Everyone in Christ is a new creation, and the old ways, including death, have no hold on us.
Jesus told more parables in Mark 4:26-34. First, Jesus told a parable of one who scatters seeds at night. No one knows how a seed sprouts and grows, but the harvester knows when it is time to harvest. The second parable Jesus told is of the mustard seed. While not quite the smallest seed—that seems to have been an exaggeration on Jesus’ part—it is a small seed and from it a grand shrub is grown. But no one would plant it on purpose—it’s more of an invasive plant. But the kingdom of God is like someone deliberately planting this seed, so it becomes the greatest of shrubs, where birds of the air make nests in its branches. What God does is deliberate, though we do not always recognize it until after, when it is harvest time, when the birds have made their nests.
The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter 36, God told Jeremiah to take a scroll and write down all the words God told him, about all the disasters that would come. Jeremiah dictated those words to his scribe Baruch, who then took the scroll to the temple. Jeremiah was not allowed to enter the temple because the leaders didn’t want to hear his words, but Baruch read the scroll out loud in his stead. However, the king’s officials were frightened, as they knew Jeremiah spoke the truth, but also knew the king wouldn’t want to hear those words. They told Jeremiah and Baruch to go into hiding. When King Jehoiakim had the scroll read out loud to him from his servant Jehudi, he cut up the scroll and threw it in the fire. However, God told Jeremiah to get another scroll, write everything that was in the first, and this time, also include a proclamation about King Jehoiakim. God declared not only would Babylon destroy Jerusalem, the king would have no heirs, and every disaster would be prescribed to the king. Still, King Jehoiakim refused to listen to him.
God is at work in all living things. God is at work in nature surrounding us, bringing forth new life. God is at work deliberately in the things we cannot see, and we live by faith that the seasons change and life grows and dies and grows again each spring. What seems useless to us is often useful by God, and God cares for creation as much as God cares for us. God cares for our well-being, but often we do not want to change from the worldly ways we created, the systems and structures that prop up powers that control and oppress others. We do not want to hear God telling us to change our ways. God speaks to us through the prophets of old, through the scriptures, but also through the stories nature tells. Currently, we hear the story of climate change, but many of our leaders refuse to listen. We hear the story of destructive practices, but those in power only listen to the story of profit. What is God speaking to us now, and in what ways? Are we listening? Are we becoming the new creation God intends us to be in Christ?
Call to Worship (Psalm 92:1-4)
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
To declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
To the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we confess the time we have turned from Your ways and listened to the false wisdom of the world. We confess we have sought profits over people. We have loved institutions over relationships. We have held up ideals and principals from times long past instead of understanding the newness of Your creation. We have failed to care for the earth You made for us, and instead abused and misused the resources You entrusted to us. Forgive us. Call us into Your ways. Guide us to listen, and to demand that our leaders turn back to Your ways of justice and mercy, care for the earth and for one another. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
God continues to speak to us: in the Spirit moving as breeze through the boughs of tall trees, through the song of birds and the noisy squirrels making their homes in the branches God made for them. God continues to speak life and love to us. Know God’s love. You are forgiven. Listen to the voice of God in creation: You are called to restoration. God needs you, and you are God’s beloved child, made in God’s image. Go and share the Good News, and work for the reign of God. Amen.
Great Creator, Source of Light, all things come from You, and all things return to You. All the trees grow in Your light, nourished by the star You burned to warm the earth, the home You made for us now. Like the cedars of Lebanon, may we outlast the dangers and destruction before us. May we tenderly care for the earth so all of creation may outlast the climate change we have wrought. May we return to restorative practices and bring healing to Your planet. And may we remember we belong to You, and have our purpose in You, set here to care for this earth, for all of creation, and You have made us co-creators in Your image. Restore in us Your intention as earth’s caretakers. Amen.