House Church 9.15.2019 // Proper 19 - Year C - Track 2: Exodus 37:7-14, Psalm 51:1-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-10)
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Old Testament: Exodus 32:7-14
The Lord said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, `These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation."
But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, "O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, `It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, `I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
The Response: Psalm 51:1-11
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
5 And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment.
6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother's womb.
7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
10 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.
11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
The Epistle: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Gospel: Luke 15:1-10
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
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?
Questions to discuss specific to today’s reading:
What is sin?
Why is repentance so important?
What does it mean to be lost?
What does it mean to be found?
What would change if we read Psalm 51 and Luke 15 as passages addressed to God’s people corporately, instead of being addressed primarily to individuals?
The question that has plagued my mind all week is: What does it mean to be found? A few years ago, my answer would have been clear cut with plenty of theological groundwork to back it up. Now, it’s not quite as clear.
Each of the readings today deal with some sort of “lostness” and the importance of repentance when one discovers themselves within that lost space.
The apostle Paul gives a living example of what lostness looked like, and it’s not what anyone would have expected. Saul (Paul’s identity before his dramatic encounter with Jesus) was to the Jews, an ideal example of someone who was living within God’s perfect will. He was following the law and pushing out heresy. What he didn’t realize at the time was how lost he really was. God was doing a new thing in Jesus - it was offensive, far too inclusive, and way beyond the scruples of the religious leaders of the day. In order to maintain power and control, they harshly criticized Jesus, as we see in Luke 15, murdered him and then persecuted and murdered his followers. All in the name of Yahweh.
Taking all of this, lostness seems to be the worship - the centering of one’s life - around a false god. These false gods can pop up as many things - golden calves, money, security, prosperity… even morality and authentically held religious belief.
Being found, then, does not seem to mean “asking Jesus into your heart” or even identifying oneself as a Christian. In fact, if we look around, many people who have done these things appear to be the most lost of all.
Foundness seems to be aligning yourself with the Divine Presence of Love. Bestowing grace, dignity and love upon all of humanity by how we engage with ourselves, individuals around us and larger systems of society - all because the God of love has set for us the example in Jesus.
It’s pretty easy to look at this story and be critical of the actions of the Israelites. After all, they had just been rescued from Egypt in an incredibly miraculous way and then led through the desert by a pillar of cloud/fire.
But, imagine the story from their perspective - Moses, their leader and their mediator between them and God, had left and they did not know if he was coming back. In fact, it seemed like God had abandoned them as well. They were in the middle of the desert with no clue about what they were supposed to do now. So, they take control of the situation instead of remembering God’s promises to them and trusting that he will pull through for them.
-What does this passage tell us about God?
Repentance is foundational to growth. Repentance is a way of evaluating both ourselves as individuals and corporately, as the Church. While Psalm 51 has been commonly understood to have been written by David after the whole debacle with Bathsheba, many biblical scholars believe the last part of the Psalm was added during the exiles of the Jewish people and/or the beginning of their return to Jerusalem after exile. John Goldingay, a biblical scholar, writes that this passage is a prayer of repentance from a nation who has turned away from God and was demolished because of “the attitude Judah had been taking to Yahweh for a century or more - its trust in politics rather than in Yahweh and its turning to other gods rather than to Yahweh.” Take a minute to re-read Psalm 51 through the lens of being from the people of God as a whole. What an incredible prayer of repentance for the Church today.
When reading any part of the Bible, it’s important to remember who the audience was on numerous levels. First, who was Jesus’ immediate audience? It seems to be the religious leaders who are grumbling against his choice in friends. Second, who was the audience Luke was writing to when he chose to include this story? The broader whole of Luke is addressed to Gentiles - it stretched the Jewish concept of who was and was not included in this new work God was doing through Jesus.
To a Jewish religious leader, repentance would mean adopting the standards of purity and law observance from the Torah - it’s no wonder they thought the people Jesus spent his time with were beyond help. However, this is not the type of repentance Jesus is talking about. As we read on in Luke 15, repentance looks a lot more like coming home, joining the party, recovering the dignity and shared humanity on those our world so easily writes off as lost…
-In what ways do we still tend to equate repentance with morality?
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.
A Prayer of Repentance from the Book of Common Prayer
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.