Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; Amos 6:1a, 4-7 and Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
Narrative Lectionary: Joseph in Prison, Genesis 39:1-23 (Matthew 5:11-12)
The first selection for the Hebrew scriptures follows the rise of the prophets, and the second half of this season after Pentecost spends several weeks in Jeremiah. In the midst of the siege of Jerusalem, while Jeremiah was imprisoned by the king, he managed to secure a land deal despite his captivity. Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel sold a field to Jeremiah because the right of redemption passed to him, meaning, Hanamel went down the line of succession within the family and Jeremiah was next in line to either buy it or refuse it. Despite the war going on and being under guard, Jeremiah purchased the field because he knew God was using him as a sign of hope for the people, especially for the guard and the officials close by, that there would be those who survived, a remnant that returned. The deed was placed in an earthenware jar so that it could survive a long time, when those who return would rebuild and plant again.
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 is a song of praise to God who delivers the people from evil. The psalmist assures those who put their trust in God will have shelter and safety and need not fear for their lives. In the latter verses, God declares through the psalmist that They will deliver those who love God and call out to God, for God is their salvation.
The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures turns to the prophet Amos, who warned what was to come to the people of Israel and Judah before the conquest of the Assyrians in the northern kingdom. In chapter 6, the prophet warned those in both nation’s capitals who gorged on their wealth and luxurious lifestyle, ignoring the poor and oppressed among them, that they would be the first taken into exile. Their judgment was at hand.
Psalm 146 sings praise to God who watches over the marginalized. The psalmist warns against trusting worldly leaders, for they will not last, but instead the psalmist sings praises to the eternal one. God is the Creator of all and cares for the needs of the poor, hungry, and oppressed, and brings liberty to those in captivity. God watches over especially the most vulnerable, the orphans and widows, and those who practice evil will come to their end. God’s reign will endure forever.
The Epistle readings continue the series on the pastoral letters of 1 and 2 Timothy with 1 Timothy 6:6-19. Paul warns against those who desire wealth because they will never be satisfied. Instead, Paul praises those who find contentment. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” reminds us that if we love wealth, we do not love God, for Jesus warned us we cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Instead, Paul urges the pursuit of righteousness (right-living with God), faith, love, gentleness, and so on. Take hold of eternal life. For those who are rich already they ought to be generous and share of their resources. They need to set their hope on God and not on their wealth and use their resources as a “good foundation” for the church in the future.
Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Prior to this story, Jesus was teaching his disciples and encountered some Pharisees who were opposed to him. It is good to remember that just a few chapters ago, in 13:31, some Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. Not all the Pharisees were at odds with Jesus, and at different times Jesus had different encounters with this particular Jewish group. In this part of chapter 16, Jesus challenged the Pharisees and others on wealth ownership, and how wealth can lead us away from what God desires for us. In this story Jesus told, a man named Lazarus, who was poor and covered with sores on his body, used to sleep at the gates of a rich man’s house—a man who lived in luxury without a care in the world. Lazarus longed to eat even the crumbs from the rich man’s table, but instead, the rich man’s dogs would come lick his sores. When both men died, Lazarus was taken by the angels to Abraham, while the rich man suffered. The rich man called upon Abraham for mercy but also had the nerve to tell Abraham to send Lazarus to relieve his suffering! Abraham reminded the rich man that he had everything during his life while Lazarus had to suffer, so now it was time for Lazarus to be comforted. Besides that, it was impossible to cross the chasm separating them. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them, but Abraham said if they didn’t believe the prophets, they weren’t going to believe, even if someone rose from the dead—foreshadowing Jesus and the hardness of heart some people would have toward him.
The Narrative Lectionary continues a series on the promises of God with the story of Joseph in prison in Genesis 39.
A content warning for this story: Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph of attempted sexual assault. However, the number of sexual assault cases turning out to be false is extremely low. The story might lead some to believe it happens more often, but in actuality it is a rare occurrence. We need to believe women when they come forward with their stories of assault.
Joseph had already been betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, taken to Egypt, and then served in the household of Potiphar, chief officer for Pharaoh. While he was there, he served Potiphar and helped make him successful. God blessed Joseph in all he did, and Potiphar trusted Joseph. However, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, and when he refused, she accused him of assault and Joseph was thrown into prison. Nonetheless, even in prison, Joseph knew God’s steadfast love. The chief jailer saw Joseph’s potential for leadership and his loyalty and put him in charge of caring for all the prisoners. Despite everything that happened to Joseph, he believed God was with him and he remained loyal and faithful.
The supplementary verses of Matthew 5:11-12. At the end of the Beatitudes, Jesus blesses those who are persecuted and accused falsely on his account. For those who are faithful to God, Jesus’s words are to bring encouragement and to remind the faithful this is what happened to the prophets before them.
Faithfulness to God’s ways does not usually lead to worldly rewards. The prophets faced persecution. Jeremiah was imprisoned. Joseph was sold into slavery and then imprisoned. Jesus himself was crucified. Paul warns that wealth can distort our values and lead us away from God unless we “store up the treasure of a good foundation for the future”—in other words, using wealth to care for those in need around us, being generous and eager to share. Otherwise, far too often wealth leads us to be like the rich man in the story Jesus shared—a man who had no cares in this world and didn’t care for others, and even in death was quite selfish. Unless we change our lives and our values in the here and now and use our resources for God’s reign, we are like those who lounged on the couches in luxury that Amos warned about: the first to lose. Rather, when we are faithful to God, we know that storing up wealth does nothing for the reign of God and we can let go of the way wealth possesses us.
Call to Worship (Psalm 146:1-2, 5, 7, 10)
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the LORD their God,
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
The LORD will reign forever,
Your God, for all generations.
Praise the LORD!
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Faithful God, we confess our unfaithfulness. We have sought the idols of this world: wealth, notoriety, and worldly power. We have stored up treasure on earth instead of treasure in heaven. We have put the value of money over the value of human lives. We have made our lives more convenient and secure and put our very earth at risk from climate change. We have failed to live rightly by You. We have forgotten Your ways, O God. Turn us back to You. Call us by name and lead us in the path of repentance, reparation, and restoration, for You are our only hope, our Saving Grace. In the name of Christ, who lived, died, and lives again for us, we pray. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance (from 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
“The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” God will always remain faithful, even when our faith fails us. Turn back to God and know God’s love is with you. Turn back to God and know you are forgiven. Turn back to God and know you are restored. Prepare to go forth, ready to share the good news to others that they, too, can know God’s love, forgiveness, and restoration. Amen.
Holy One, our world moves at a rapid pace of work, school, care of loved ones, paying bills, and all the other things that are important but can overwhelm us. Help us to find the holy in the midst of it all: the brief moments of quiet, the time to read a chapter of a book, the sunshine breaking through the clouds, the task of watering plants. Wherever we find a bit of Sabbath rest, O God, may we find it a holy moment. Whenever we find a bit of good, O God, nurture that goodness in us. May we seek the holy in our daily lives, for it escapes us in the world that pursues values away from You. May we find the holy moments already among us. Amen.