Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) and Psalm 138; Genesis 3:8-15 and Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Jeremiah, 18:1-11 Potter and the Clay
In the season after Pentecost, there are two selections for the Hebrew scriptures paired with a psalm. The first selection is continuous each week, and for year B, follows the rise of the kings of Israel, from Saul to Solomon, from June through September. In September, following Solomon, the first selection moves into wisdom literature, with Job, and ending the season with Ruth, from just before the time of the kings: the story of David’s great-grandmother.
The first selection begins with the prophet Samuel, for the people have come to him and are demanding to have a king. This wasn’t what God desired—God desired to be their king, but they insisted on having a human king. Samuel warned the people what would happen if they have a human king—a king would exploit their labor, tax their goods, and enslave the people. A king cannot save the people the way God can. But the people will not listen to Samuel, because they want to be like other nations and have a king rule over them. In chapter 11, Samuel anoints Saul as the first king over Israel.
The psalmist leads worship in the temple in Psalm 138, praising God, who has answered their prayers with steadfast love and faithfulness. The psalmist declares that all the kings of the earth will praise God. Even though God is king of kings, God knows the humble and lowly. God is with the psalmist in the midst of their persecution by their enemies, and God will be faithful to God’s intention for the psalmist in this world.
The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures in the season after Pentecost doesn’t follow a consistent pattern or theme but tends to be paired with the Gospel lesson. In Genesis 3:8-15, God has taken a stroll in the garden of Eden, but Adam and Eve, having given into temptation from the serpent, have hidden from God’s sight. Because of what the serpent has done, God curses the serpent. Later interpretations suggest the serpent as Satan at work in the garden, but the story in Genesis doesn’t necessarily imply this.
The psalmist cries out for God’s help in Psalm 130. The psalmist knows their help comes from God, and that God will forgive them of their sins. They patiently wait for God, knowing that God will answer. The author calls upon the people of Israel to put their trust in God and wait patiently for God’s deliverance and redemption.
The Epistle readings for the next five weeks are from 2 Corinthians. In 4:13-5:1, Paul, speaking from his faith experience, knows that Jesus who was raised from the dead will also raise them from the dead. Even though they face struggles now, they know that God renews their spirits. Paul encourages the church to focus not on what is temporary and visible, but on the eternal and internal, what cannot be seen: the hope of resurrection.
The Gospel readings in this season turn back to Mark, picking up from close to where they left off during the last season of Ordinary time after Epiphany. In 3:20-35, right after Jesus called the first disciples, the crowds gathered near to hear him while he was at home. His family believed he had lost his mind, and scribes from Jerusalem came and said he had a demon. Jesus asked them, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Jesus had been casting out demons before them, healing people with the power of the Holy Spirit. If they insulted him, that was one thing, but to insult the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus—the good works he was performing—that was a sin that was unforgivable in Jesus’ view. His mother and his brothers let some of the crowd know that they were looking for Jesus, but Jesus asked the question “who are my mother and my brothers?” Speaking to the crowd, he said that everyone who did the will of God was his family.
The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Jeremiah in 18:1-11. As with many of the prophets, God often used metaphors in conversing with the prophet to explain what was happening or what is was to come. Isaiah also used the image of God as the potter and the people as clay, molded by God. Jeremiah was sent to the potter’s house by God and observed the potter working on his wheel. The piece developed flaws, so the potter reworked the clay into another object. God spoke to the people through Jeremiah, using this metaphor, that God can also rework the people, deciding to build up a nation one day, or tear it down the next. If a people forsake God’s ways, God will shape the clay differently. God warned the people to turn from their evil ways, or God would shape their future into something else.
God’s desire for all of us, from Moses to the early church, is to live faithfully into God’s ways. We do not need human authority over us to determine this—in fact, human authority is often corrupt and leads people astray from God’s intention. The people wanted a human king even though God and the prophet Samuel knew no king would be perfect. Some religious leaders in Jesus’ day wanted Jesus to work within their understanding of what God would do for the people, and when he didn’t, they determined he must be working for evil instead, despite the healing miracles and other good works he performed. The prophets warned the people to turn back to God’s ways, especially the kings and priests of their day, but all too often, they chose their own way, and fell apart because of their actions. Instead, if we do God’s will, and love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, we live into God’s intention, becoming children of God, siblings of one another.
Call to Worship (adapted from 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)
We do not lose heart,
We are being renewed day by day.
We look at what cannot be seen,
For what cannot be seen is eternal.
We know we are from God,
In whom we have eternal life.
Come, follow Jesus, who leads us into life.
Worship God and trust the Holy Spirit, among us now.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Sovereign God, we confess that we have placed other powers ahead of You. We have turned to the power of wealth over Your generosity and abundance. We have given in to the power of fear. We have placed human authority above Your commandment to love one another. Forgive us for turning to the kings and rulers of this world that we have made, and not to the ultimate authority of love found in Your commandments from Jesus Christ, who lived and died for us. Forgive us for our selfish ways, and call us into Your ways of love, mercy, and peace. Amen.
God’s steadfast love endures forever. God’s mercy is far beyond what we can imagine. While we have wandered astray, God remains true, and when we turn back, God is waiting for us with open arms. You are forgiven. Trust in God’s commandments to love one another, and know that grace and mercy are with you, always. Amen.
Beloved Creator, You are always making something new, shaping life out of dust and breath. You made the universe, an ever-expanding canvas of atoms and molecules and particles we are still learning about. You molded the planets and set fire to the sun. You drew an atmosphere upon the earth and breathed life into its living creatures. You continue to mold and shape our hearts as we learn and grow, expanding our understanding of human beings and of all life. Shape us as we are needed, O God, to live into Your ways, to practice Your justice, to seek Your reconciliation, to love one another. You have made us in Your image. As creator, You made us to be creative. Guide us to shape new ideas, new ways of living, new hope for us now and in the time to come. Amen.