Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 1:4-20; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25; Mark 13:1-8
Narrative Lectionary: Amos: Justice Rolls Down, 1:1-2, 5:14-15, 21-24 (John 7:37-38)
We are nearing the end of the season after Pentecost, and have come full circle. The first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures began with the people of Israel demanding a king, and the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Now, we come back to 1 Samuel, in which a woman Hannah prayed to God for a son, for she was unable to have a child. She promised God that if she could conceive, she would dedicate her firstborn to God. The priest Eli at the temple of Shiloh saw Hannah praying, her lips moving but no sound coming out, and thought she was drunk. Eli confronted her, but Hannah confessed she was not drunk, only deeply troubled. She warned Eli not to accuse her of drunkenness when she was pouring out her soul to God. Eli then told her to go in peace, and hoped that God would grant her petition. Hannah and her husband worshipped God, returned to their home, and she conceived a son, whom she named Samuel, who became the great prophet.
In lieu of a psalm, the accompanying selection is 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah’s song. Hannah praises God, the source of her strength and her deliverer. God shatters the weapons of the mighty but lifts up the humble. Those who had more than enough now hire themselves out to earn bread, but those who were hungry now have an abundance. The woman who had no children now has seven, but the one who had many sons has lost them. God goes down to the grave and raises up the dead to life. God turns the world upside down, lifting up the poor and needy. Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55 echoes many of these themes.
As we near the end of this season (next week is Reign of Christ Sunday), we also turn to themes of the reign of God and the day of judgment, and the second selection of the Hebrew scriptures focuses on Daniel’s vision in 12:1-3 of Michael. Michael is an angel seen as the heavenly personification of Israel. In this vision, Michael, or Israel, takes their stand against the forces of evil, and the dead will face their final judgment. Those who lead others in God’s ways will shine like stars.
Psalm 16 is a prayer of faithfulness in God. The psalmist puts their trust solely in God unlike others around them. They have chosen the way of life led by God, and in that life they have found blessing and peace. Their whole body and soul rests in God, and their life is a testimony to God’s faithfulness.
The Epistle readings conclude the series in Hebrews with 10:11-25. This passage summarizes the themes of the last few weeks in Hebrews: Jesus came as the final and ultimate sacrifice, ending the need for the sacrificial system for those who believe in him. Because God has offered forgiveness and will remember our sins no more, there is no need for further sacrifice and offering for sin. Because Jesus is our great high priest, we can confidently approach God without fear of judgment. Jesus remains faithful, and as the day of judgment approaches, the writer calls the faithful to encourage one another.
Mark’s Gospel account turns to Jesus’ words at the temple during the final days of his life in 13:1-8. As the disciples remarked on the temple and its large stones, Jesus foretold the temple’s destruction (which took place in 70 C.E.). Peter, James, and John pulled Jesus aside to learn more about when this will take place, but Jesus warned them instead to not be led astray. They would hear rumors of war and destruction (the Roman Revolt destroyed Jerusalem in 66-70 C.E.) but they were not to be alarmed, for this was only the beginning. The early Christians and community of Mark believed God would do something new.
The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the prophet Amos. The prophet lived during the reign of Judah’s King Uzziah and Israel’s King Jeroboam and was a shepherd. While Amos lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, he prophesied to both nations and called for the people to seek good and practice justice. Amos knew that Israel’s destruction would come if its leaders did not pay attention to the evil ways infiltrating their leadership. While the leaders and priests celebrated all sorts of festivals, God told Amos the rituals and practices were empty. God had no desire to listen to their songs and music—instead, God wanted justice to roar like a waterfall, righteousness like a mighty river.
In John 7:37-38, Jesus, at a Jewish festival, stood up and shouted that the people needed to turn to him, and that rivers of living water would flow from him. The Narrative Lectionary links this passage with the rivers of righteousness of Amos.
As we approach the end of the Christian year, we turn to the stories of the Day of Judgment. While apocalyptic passages from Daniel and from the Gospels are read at this time, it is important to remember that there have been endings and beginnings in our world. The destruction of the temple and the people being taken into exile was one ending. The desecration of the temple by the Greeks was another. The Roman occupation and suppression of the rebellion of 66-70 C.E. was yet another. The Hebrew prophets look to the Day of Judgment as God’s judgment of the faithful. How do we live our lives in accordance to God’s ways? It is also a sign of God’s faithfulness to us, that the evil of the world will not have the last word. For Christians, we turn to the reign or kingdom of God, the beloved community of Christ, as we work for its fulfillment on earth as it is in heaven. We know that God makes all things new, that what is considered dead will live again. We watch and wait, and we participate now.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 16:7-9, 11)
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
In the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me;
I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
My body also rests secure.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty One, we confess that we turn to our own assurance and comforts instead of seeking You. We look to the ways of the world to measure ourselves instead of Your commandments and wisdom. Forgive us when our actions of holiness are empty and meaningless. Forgive us when we have mistaken the institution for authentic relationship. Call us back to Your way of loving our neighbor as ourselves, seeking forgiveness, healing, and restoration. Call us into the work of Your love, justice, and mercy. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
The One who calls you by name has known you, all along, through and through. The One Beyond Our Understanding knows all your flaws and thinks they are beautiful, for They made you in Their image. Know that you are holy and good and loved. Know that when you seek forgiveness and work to restore what you have broken and distorted, the Holy One is with you, helping you to heal and forgive. Go in peace, serve Christ by serving one another. Amen.
We near the turning of the year, O Wondrous Creator. As our earth revolves around the sun, help us to look all around and perceive how You are still at work in our world and in our lives. You have not given up on us yet. You have not given up on this one earth You made for us. You have not given up on creation. Help us to not give up. Call us to roll up our sleeves, to sweep away and clean, to build and plant, to pluck up what needs to be taken, to make space for what needs to grow. Help us to look all around and know that You are doing a new thing. Amen.