Monthly Archives: August 2007

October 7

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October 7: World Communion Sunday

Lamentations 3.19-26

lam19The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
20My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
21But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,*
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’

25The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
26It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

2 Timothy 1.5-14

67I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

91011 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. *1314 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Both of these texts speak of trust and hope–to put one’s trust and one’s hope in the LORD is to put it in a good place, we can be sure that God is able to guard whatever we “entrust to him.” How can we be so sure?
Well, it seems that this trust, this hope, may be born from the humility that often comes from suffering. When we have to truly rely on God, we discover just how trustworthy God is.
Now, few of us have suffered the way the people of the early church suffered, or the way the writer of Lamentations has suffered. But each of us knows suffering in some way–it’s part of the human condition. Many in the world suffer in different ways and for different reasons (or “reasons”).
On this World Communion Sunday, we have the opportunity to be in solidarity, in community, with people around the world. We place our trust and hope in one Lord, we celebrate one Communion meal, we are family through our one baptism. God’s steadfast love is for each of us, God’s mercies are new every morning here and in Asia and in Africa and in South America, shining and gifting us with the love and power of the Holy Spirit. That is indeed a good treasure, one worth guarding.

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September 30

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Jeremiah 32.1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord23 in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ 8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

A text like this is hard for people like us. Jeremiah, a prophet before and during the time of the exile, buys a field. So what? Well, the Babylonian army, which has come to take possession of Israel and deport the Israelites, is camped on the field and is besieging God’s Holy City. Who would buy that field? It looks like a pretty bad investment.

Well, Jeremiah just got finished telling the Israelites (in chapter 31) all about God’s promise of a new covenant, of the law being written in people’s hearts rather than on stone tablets, of God’s unending love for the chosen people. But with God’s Holy City under siege, it must look like Jeremiah is nuts. Even Jeremiah must be wondering if he’s really hearing God’s word.
The next time God’s word comes, Jeremiah waits. When his cousin shows up and says exactly the words God said he would, Jeremiah “knew this was the word of the LORD.” And so he buys a field, a field with an army camped on it, and puts the deed somewhere where it will be safe “for a long time.” It’s going to be a while, but fields and houses and vineyards shall again be bought in the land. Jeremiah doesn’t just buy a field, he seals his life to the testimony he’s been giving, he invests in the hope he’s been preaching, he puts his money where his mouth is. This is not just a story of a field, it’s a story of hope calling out in the midst of national despair.

We may not be able to directly relate this story to our everyday lives, but thousands around the world can. On this day when we also explore the various mission opportunities and partnerships of RCLPC, perhaps this is a day when we pray for those who feel this despair, when we try to be in solidarity with those who need a word of hope, and perhaps, in so doing, find hope for the despair in our own nation and lives as well.

September 23

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Creation Sunday (September 23)
Leviticus 25:1-7

The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the LORD: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. You may eat what the land yields during its sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound laborers who live with you; for your livestock also, and for the wild animals in your land all its yield shall be for food.

This Sunday we will be celebrating creation—the beauty of creation, the goodness of creation, the gift of creation, and our responsibility toward creation. I don’t preach often from Leviticus (it can be rough in places), but the whole purpose of the book is to order the people’s lives in life-giving ways. We may not agree with some of the specific prescriptions to do that, but we can’t argue with the intent. In this scripture reading, a part of the life-giving order of the community is allowing for sabbath rest for the land. Human beings already have sabbath rest one day out of seven (or they are supposed to). The sabbath day is also supposed to extend to animals (beasts of burden are not supposed to work, either). And now we find the land itself gets a sabbath (once every seven years). Obviously this has a lot to tell us about the importance of rest, for us and for all creation. It also chastises us in our constant attempts to make nature “productive”—if land is not producing something, we consider it a waste of space. This text invites us to imagine that God has a relationship with the land independent of human beings; that the value of the land (and nature more generally) is not determined simply by human needs and desires. Human beings, animals, the land itself—we’re all God’s creatures, we all have value because of God’s love, we all are utterly dependent on God’s grace, we all are required to live in ways that are life-giving for all creation, we all need rest, we’re all in this together, we’re all kin.

September 16

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Luke 15:1-10
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 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.”

This is a well-known and beloved text. Who among us has not felt like a lost sheep at one time or another, or a coin that has dropped through the cracks of life? The good news is that God the shepherd, God the housekeeper, will not stop looking until we are found. We did recognize there’s a bit of an edge to this: it comes right before the story of the prodigal son, and just like the older brother in that story, you have to wonder if the 99 good sheep who stayed put resent the shepherd expending so much effort to find the one lost sheep (and then throwing a party for him!) Of course this presumes any of us are really one of the 99 good and faithful sheep. It may be (and I think Jesus and Luke would agree) that we are ALL lost sheep (or lost coins), in one way or another, it’s just that some of us (like the Pharisees) THINK we’re righteous and not in need of God’s grace. One more thing: it’s easy for us to imagine ourselves as one of the sheep (or the coins), but the text also invites us to imagine ourselves as the shepherd (or the woman). “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep…” See, we’re the shepherd, too, and that means it’s our job to go out in search of the lost ones, even when it’s risky.

September 9

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Jeremiah 18:1-11

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.
Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

This may seem like a bit of a harsh word of judgment: the Lord says “I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you.” God is planning to thump the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness. But there’s actually good news in this text, because God says even the best laid plans—even divine plans!—can change, if only the people will repent and move in a new direction. The text uses the image of a potter working a lump of clay: he doesn’t like his first try, so then he reshapes it into a better form. God’s trying to do that with Israel, but the clay can be stubborn and won’t play along. Good news for the day: we’re not done yet! God’s not finished shaping us yet. We’re still wet clay. And that means we always have the chance for a new beginning. We always have the chance to turn around and move in a new direction. This seems an appropriate message as we kick off a new church year.