Worship Resources for October 29th, 2023—Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
Revised Common Lectionary: Deuteronomy 34:1-12 and Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 and Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Narrative Lectionary: Kingdom Divided, 1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29 (Mark 10:42-45)
We are drawing to a close in this liturgical year and we are nearing the end of our journey with the ancestors of our faith in the first selection of the Hebrew scriptures. Deuteronomy 34:1-12 contains the story of Moses’s death and God’s continued promise. God showed Moses all the land that had been promised to the descendants of Abraham and Sarah long ago, and although Moses would not set foot in it, God allows him a glimpse before his death. Moses died in Moab and was buried, and the Israelites mourned him for thirty days. Previously, Moses had laid his hands upon Joshua, and Joshua had the spirit of wisdom Moses had. The people turned to follow Joshua, but there would never be another like Moses.
Psalm 90 is a prayer to God who is present throughout the generations, and the only psalm attributed to Moses. In verses 1-6, God was present before there was anything, and instead of a physical place, the psalmist views God as the people’s true home. For a wandering people with a promise of a homeland, how do you find home when you won’t see it? Know that home is wherever God is, and God is with you. Time for mortals is brief, but chronological time is nothing to God. Verses 13-17 turns to a plea for help, for God to have compassion on the people who have suffered. The psalmist calls upon God to make God’s works known to the people, and for the people’s work to have meaning and value.
The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures is Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18. In this part of the law, God told Moses that the people of Israel were to be holy because God is holy. Verses 15-18 are a reminder of how the people are to live among their neighbors, ending with “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The very first psalm in the book of Psalms is a reminder that for those who seek wisdom, they are like a tree planted by a stream of water who bear fruit and never wither. They are strong in the law of the Lord, which they meditate on day and night and ignore the voices of evil. The wicked, unfortunately, are like chaff blown away, with no roots. The righteous are the ones who are in the congregation and remain firm in righteousness, for they are faithful to God.
The Epistle reading continues the series in 1 Thessalonians with 2:1-8. Paul speaks of the deep care he and his companions have for the church in Thessalonica and contrasts that to an incident in Philippi where he and his companions were not treated well. Most scholars believe that 1 Thessalonians is earlier than the letter to the Philippians and refers to something not addressed in that letter. In spite of how they were treated, Paul and others had the courage to share the gospel, and they did this not for their own gain but to please God. The Thessalonians have become dear to Paul, like a nurse caring for the children in her charge.
Jesus continues to be challenged in the temple in Matthew 22:34-46. In last week’s reading, Jesus was challenged by the Herodians on paying taxes. The lectionary skips over Jesus’s challenge by the Sadducees on the resurrection, and now he is questioned by some Pharisees over which commandment is the greatest. This is different than Mark’s account, in which a scribe asks this question but in curiosity because Jesus answered the others well. Debates were how rabbis taught and learned from each other, and while Matthew makes these different groups opposed to Jesus, it is possible, like in Marks’ account, they were not all opposed but curious. Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Then Jesus replies with a question of who the Messiah is by quoting Psalm 110:1, that the Messiah is not David’s son, but God’s son, since fathers would never address their own son as “Lord.” Jesus uses both the question about the greatest commandment and his own question on who is the Messiah’s son as a way to demonstrate his authority.
The Narrative Lectionary turns to the divided kingdom in 1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29. When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam went to Shechem to be made king, but he listened to the advisors he chose instead of his father’s advisors when the people complained, and he added on more taxes and forced labor. Jeroboam, who had previously rebelled against Solomon led the people to challenge Rehoboam’s orders, but Rehoboam refused to listen, and the people went to war. Rehoboam ruled in Jerusalem, but the tribes outside of Judah turned to Jeroboam, who made two calves for the people to worship in Shechem in Ephraim. Since the temple of God was in Jerusalem, Jeroboam turned away from the God of Israel.
The supplementary verses of Mark 10:42-45, in which Jesus instructs the disciples after James and John had asked to sit at his right and left hand in glory. The other disciples were angry, but Jesus told them not to be like the Gentiles who lord it over each other, but that they are to serve one another, to become last of all and servant of all, as Jesus came to serve and to give his life as a ransom.
Care, humility, and love go together. Moses cared about the people and the people cared for him, even though they were at odds at times, and the people wept when he died. Paul cared about new Christians and the early churches, like a nurse cares for her children. Paul didn’t just share the Gospel to spread the word of Jesus and definitely did not do so to puff himself up, but because he genuinely cared about these early converts. Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam suffered from pride and power. Though the people thought of the Messiah as David’s son, a mighty warrior in his line, Jesus thought of the Messiah as the Son of God, not one who would come on a war horse to save the people, but one who came to give his life and to serve. Jesus deeply loved the disciples, had compassion for the people, such as the thousands that gathered once to hear him and were fed bread and fish. Jesus cared about the nobodies—the little girl that died, the Syrophoenician woman and her child who were ignored by others (and even by Jesus himself at first), the woman who bled for twelve years, and so on. We know the love we have is genuine when we are filled with deep compassion for those around us who are most vulnerable. In this time of heightened conflict and war, ethnic tensions in Azerbaijan, India, and Israel/Palestine, may we be moved from a place of deep compassion to embrace others, rather than hard lines. May our words for justice always be rooted in compassion and humility.
(I invite you to take your time and breathe at the commas for this Call to Worship)
Call to Worship
Take a deep breath, and breathe in God’s spirit,
We breathe out, knowing that God is always present with us.
Take a deep breath, and know God’ solve,
We breathe out, sharing God’s love with one another.
Take a deep breath, and know God’s joy,
We breathe out, rejoicing in God our Savior.
Take a deep breath, and be full of compassion for God’s people,
We breathe out, ready to worship our God, and follow Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Loving God, we confess that we are quick to judge and move to judgment at breakneck speed. We do not slow down to consider another point of view or give pause to allow compassion to open our hearts. We want to do right and to be right, sometimes at a cost. Remind us of how deeply You love us, how Your Son bent down to draw in the dirt before the crowd that wanted to condemn another. Call us into that same sacred pause, to remember that we are all human beings, all made in Your image, all Your children. May we withdraw our sharp words and judgments and instead break open our hearts for compassionate, deep listening to one another. In the name of Christ, who in all humility laid down his life for each of us, that we might have abundant life full of pauses, full of compassion, full of love, we pray. Amen.
You are precious to God, so loved and so worthy of love. I know you may not feel it all the time, but it is true: God loves you madly. God’s love is written inside your heart and can never be removed, never changed, never diminished. Know this, in your heart of hearts, that you are made in God’s image and that image is love. Go share that love with the world. Amen.
Great God, You are with us even in the shadows and bleakness, among the haunts and spooks. There is no place where You can’t be found. There is nothing we have to fear in You. We call upon You to draw close when we are in shadow, when it is difficult to find light. Help us to know You are always near. Guide us through the valley of the shadow with Your rod and staff before us, comforting us, until we come to the table You have prepared for us. But even when our hope seems lost, may we know You never leave us, and will always hold us fast. Amen.