Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, July 15th, 2018

After two weeks of not preaching on Sunday (attending the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas on July 1st and providing space on July 8th for our teenage attendees to share with the congregation their experiences at the Gathering), I am back to my regular sermon-prep schedule.  The themes from the ELCA Youth Gathering, "This (including God's call, love, grace, and hope as well as Jesus) changes everything!" and the theme from this week's Vacation Bible School, "Building Christmas," will be weighing on my mind as I prepare to preach.  Any connection back to these themes will help others hear these readings in a new way.

As always, you can find my comments in italics after each reading.  If you have an insight, a comment, or a question, please leave it in the comments below!

Amos 7:7 - 15:

7This is what [the Lord God] showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, 
 “See, I am setting a plumb line
  in the midst of my people Israel;
  I will never again pass them by;
9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
  and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
  and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
  10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said, 
 ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
  and Israel must go into exile
  away from his land.’ ”
12And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
  14Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”

Readings from Amos 7 usually focus solely on the plumb line.  This week, we get the reaction from Amaziah and Amos’ response.  Amaziah’s report to Jeroboam intensifies (exaggerates?) Amos’ prophetic message, likely as a way of stirring Jeroboam to act against Amos.  Then Amaziah turns back to Amos, telling Amos to be a prophet somewhere else.  Amos responds by saying that the Lord has sent him to prophesy in this place to these people.  Amos may not be a citizen of the Northern Kingdom, Israel (this was during the time of the divided kingdom: Israel was the Northern Kingdom while Judah, including Jerusalem, was the Southern Kingdom), but the Lord sent him here and he will not leave until the Lord sends him elsewhere.

Have you ever been sent away from home for a season, either for work or for ministry?  What was that like for you?  Were you at peace with the change, or were you longing for home until you returned?

Psalm 85:8 - 13

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
 9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
 11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
 12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
 13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

We have yet to find a way to turn “righteousness” into a verb.  The best way to think about righteousness in an active way is doing or performing an act of the Lord’s justice, which is based on mercy and grace.  Thinking in these terms, it will be acts of the Lord’s justice based on the Lord’s mercy and grace that will prepare the Lord’s pathway.

Ephesians 1:3 - 14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Whom do we include among the “us” in this passage?  In other words, whom has God chosen as adopted children?  What are the limits to our understanding of “us?”  If we are not among God’s adopted children, is because God has excluded us?  Or do we find ourselves on the outside because we have excluded ourselves?

We are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” when we are baptized.

Mark 6:14 - 29

14King Herod heard of [the disciples’ preaching,] for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
  17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

This week during VBS, we are discussing how Jesus entered the world to rebuild the world.  Certainly, a world where we are more comfortable killing someone than allowing ourselves to be embarrassed in front of others is a world that needs to be repaired and rebuilt.

We see that people are still wrestling with Jesus’ identity.  The people recognize that Jesus is something more than just another rabbi, but they have yet to identify Jesus as the Messiah.  This leaves them comparing Jesus to the prophets of old…or perceiving that Jesus is the resurrected John the Baptist.

The reader remembers the scene from chapter 1 where John baptizes Jesus, so the reader knows that Herod is wrong when he identifies Jesus as the resurrected John the Baptist.

No comments:

Post a Comment