House Church 8.18.2019 // Proper 15 - Year C - Track 2: Jeremiah 23:23-29, Psalm 82, Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56)
Ordinary time refers to the two periods in the Church calendar that are not marked by a major church season (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost). The Ordinary time after Pentecost lasts until Advent. (Church calendar + Special days )
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.Amen.
Old Testament - Jeremiah 23:23-29
Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back-- those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
The Response - Psalm 82
1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven;
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:
2 "How long will you judge unjustly,
and show favor to the wicked?
3 Save the weak and the orphan;
defend the humble and needy;
4 Rescue the weak and the poor;
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
they go about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 Now I say to you, 'You are gods,
and all of you children of the Most High;
7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.'"
8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth,
for you shall take all nations for your own.
The Epistle - Hebrews 11:29-12:2
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented-- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Gospel - Luke 12:49-56
Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"
NOTES + THOUGHTS:
*Liturgy means “the work of the people.” We enter into this work when we enact the scriptures together by reading and discussing them and allowing our lives to be formed by Christ and each other. Like a potluck, we each bring something to the discussion, and there is always enough.
Which passage jumped out at you the most? Why?
What thoughts / questions do you have?
What connections do you see between the readings + life?
What action or change do they invite?
Why was it included in the Bible?
Is there any disconnect between the narrators perspective and our perspective as modern readers?
The Old Testament
“Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off?”
If I’m totally honest, most days as I see news headlines come across my phone, see snapshots of the suffering of the world, and see how so-called Christian leaders are responding…. It’s pretty easy to feel like God is far off. Yet, the entire story of the Bible screams something different. She sees. She cares. She is acting.
In Jeremiah’s day, false prophets were a real problem. They would have some sort of spiritual experience and reassure Israel that God was for them and was going to bless them, despite Israel’s waywardness. These so-called prophets had a very different version of Yahweh’s intentions than Jeremiah did. Yet, their message was often more attractive or compelling and reflected popular opinions more that God’s. God’s message to these prophets: I see what you’re doing.
If you have a chance, read Jeremiah 23:9-40 for a little more context. Jeremiah goes on to offer an objective basis for critiquing the prophets: look at the fruit of their lives - especially their spirituality and their morality.
Discuss: Where does it feel like God is far off to you?
What parallels are there to our current world and Jeremiah’s?
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
Jesus is divisive. And not for the reasons many people think he is…it’s not about black and white morality, about heaven and hell, or even about spirituality. It’s about love and all the things that flow out of true, divine love.
It’s strange that love is so divisive. But… love surrenders rights for the sake of the other…. love includes… love puts down weapons of war and relentlessly pursues peace… love speaks the truth and challenges… love is generous… love sees humanity first, instead of political ideology, race, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. Love is the definitive center of the kingdom Jesus is initiating on earth.
This is not what the Israelites wanted from their Messiah. They wanted a Messiah who fit their own political ideology. In fact, they wanted this so badly, they failed to see all the signs in front of them that were pointing to Jesus.
Jesus was warning them: If they do not change their pursuit of legalism, their utter neglect for the more important parts of God’s law (caring for the poor and oppressed, for example), and their lust for violence, destruction would come. And it did. Shortly after Jesus died, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.
Scholar and theologian, NT Wright, so poignantly says this about Luke 12:
“The church has from early on read this chapter as a warning that each generation must read the signs of the times, the great movements of people, governments, nations and policies, and must react accordingly. If the kingdom of God is to come to earth as it is in heaven, part of the prophetic role of the church is to understand the events of earth and to seek to address them with the message of heaven.”
In what ways has love been divisive in your life?
What are the “signs of the times” today?
This is the table of Christ.
Here we remember God’s love + acceptance for humans.
Here we remember our connection with all humankind.
All are invited to come and eat
You who have much faith + you who have little.
You who have been here often + you who are new.
You who have tried to follow + you who have failed.
Come, because Christ has invited us here together.
Arise, O God, and rule the earth,
for you shall take all the nations for your own.
May your kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven.