Living as Disciples Worship Series: WEEK 3
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost – July 28, 2019
Planning for this Series:
We continue the Season after Pentecost. The liturgical color is green.
Schools may be resuming within the next few weeks. Some start as early as the first or second week of August. See our Back to School resources for ideas and suggestions.
Which of the Scripture streams are you focusing on in these weeks? Plan to stay with that stream until the next full "stream switch.” The OT book changes today (from Amos to Hosea), but the Epistle reading is still in Colossians. Both will change on August 7 (Isaiah for two weeks, and Hebrews).
Old Testament Stream: Prophetic Ministry—Calling and Working for Justice, Righteousness, and Peace
When God Speaks Judgment
Week 3: When Pity Is Exhausted
We begin two weeks with the prophet Hosea today.
Last week we focused on what had brought judgment on the people of the Northern Kingdom, Israel.
This week we enter into the realm of a prophet who brings the same message of judgment from God to the same people under the same king (Jereboam II) at roughly the same time (Amos and Hosea may have overlapped each other’s ministries to some degree.
But this prophet seems to have even less hope than Amos, who seems to have had practically none.
Hosea is a prophet who enters deeply, in every way he can, into what it means to live under a sentence of destruction by God.
This week we are introduced to his story and how his marriage and the naming of his children connect to the heart of the message he brings.
Hosea married a prostitute as a way of saying the nation had prostituted itself. Past tense. Done. Fait accompli. Not redeemable.
Then he gave his children horrifying names to reflect God’s rejection of the people and the reasons for it.
Jezreel was a name that had largely gone out of use because the place was considered cursed by God. The battle there, led by King Jehu, was considered so bloody and outrageously unjust that God swore never to leave Jehu’s house unpunished.
Lo-Ruhamah means not-pitied, an announcement that God would have no more leniency on Israel for its past or present atrocities, nor would God do anything to prevent their coming exile and destruction. Judah (the Southern Kingdom) would be spared, but not Israel.
Finally, Lo-Ammi (not my people) signaled God’s rejection of the people. Though a day of restoration of some kind may come eventually, it would not be in their foreseeable futures.
Cursed. Not Pitied. Not my people. These were Hosea’s children, whom he loved. Just as God viewed the people of Israel. Hosea embodied in his family, whom he continued to love, what it meant that God’s pity for God’s own people had become exhausted.
There was love. And at the same time, there was the stark recognition these people had no long-term future in God’s sight.
IN YOUR PLANNING TEAM
This week marks the nadir of the four-week series. Next week we hear more about the love that will still try to redeem whatever may be redeemable after judgment falls.
But not this week.
This week it is cursed, not pitied, not my people. Full stop. For them. Later, for others, maybe something better.
But not now.
And now is what matters.
This week invites us into the pathos of what it means to live with the reality that everyone you know, and everything your nation and people have known, is headed for destruction.
It is a day for listening and lament.
And it is a day for wondering.
How do we live in the face of not simply our own mortality but the promise of our obliteration as a people?
Holocaust survivors and their families know something about this. Many refugees and survivors of genocide campaigns know something about this. Some of our sisters and brothers in The United Methodist Church in places like Eastern Congo wracked by civil war that destroyed villages, infrastructure and millions of lives know something about this.
Find people where you are—or whom you can contact-- who know something about this. These are people who may have known or feared the destruction was coming, and then witnessed it, even if they got away or survived. Take the time to find them and listen to their stories. Ask what it was like to be part of a people cursed, not pitied, many even feeling like they were abandoned by God.
Let Hosea’s voice and their voices be heard today.
And help your people listen.
This will not be a feel-good Sunday. It will be a “get in touch with real despair” Sunday. It will be an “enter into the sufferings of others” Sunday.
Include in your prayers a strong focus on people everywhere who have been or are currently facing destruction they cannot escape as a whole people.
Consider using a more penitential, more somber version of The Great Thanksgiving today, such as Word and Table IV.
And send folks out to keep listening for these stories during the coming week, taking time just to listen, and let it all sink in.
Epistle Stream: Mission in the World, but not of It
Series 2: Our Life in Christ
Week 3: The All-Sufficiency of Christ to Save Us
As we live into the flow of hearing and doing God’s will, bearing fruit and learning to know God more and more (Week 1), we keep finding more and more just how amazing and true the confession of faith Paul makes about Christ (verses 15-20) really is, and we come to know and feel, even in the face of suffering, just how Christ in us is the hope of glory (Week 2).
A question some Christian missionaries were posing in these early years, however, was whether that was enough to ensure we would in fact be fully saved. Some were insisting that non-Jewish believers must first become Jewish, and their males be circumcised, before they could hope for the full effects of salvation to take place in their lives.
Here, as elsewhere throughout his writings, Paul rejected this approach outright. In Christ the fullness of God dwells bodily (2:9), and so if we are in Christ—as those who have been baptized into Christ are (verse 2:12)—then there is no need of circumcision or participation in ceremonies of the covenant of Israel because all of them have already been fulfilled in Christ into whom we have been joined. (2:16-17). The salvation Jesus offers is offered to all, and effective for all, regardless of whether they are Jewish or Gentile.
Paul equally opposed some ascetic and what we might call “charismatic” missionaries who were insisting that persons were not truly “in Christ” unless they were harshly disciplining their bodies, or speaking in tongues (perhaps what “the worship of angels” alludes to here), or able to have and talk about visions from God all the time (2:18).
No, it’s not Jewish, ascetic or charismatic practices that save us. God saves us all in Christ, and once we are in Christ, incorporated into his body through baptism, God continues to grow us all, individually and together. In Christ, and through Christ, God both does and will fully save us from the power of sin and death in this life and for the age to come.
IN YOUR PLANNING TEAM
Today, few if any Christian missionaries anywhere seek to insist that Gentiles become Jewish or take on core Jewish practices if they wish to become “real Christians.” There are likewise few if any who insist on asceticism as a precondition of salvation. There are some (notably in the United Pentecost Church and parallel movements) who insist one isn’t fully saved until one speaks in tongues.
The presence or absence of these particular detractors of or distractors from the gospel, as Paul might have called them, does not deflect from the core teaching of this week’s reading. God has already given us all we need to be fully saved from the power of sin and death in Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
Select songs that celebrate the all-sufficiency of God’s love and power to save us in Christ.
Consider focusing the sermon today on two elements of today’s reading. First, we are in Christ through baptism (2:11-12). And second, and perhaps primarily for today, what God has done to ensure salvation in and through Christ, requiring neither law nor particular forms or spiritual practice nor asceticism as pre-requisites (2:13-15).
In your prayers today, pray that we all may “come to fullness in [Christ]” (verse 10), and for all who seek to do so.
At the Lord’s Table, that great feast of our salvation made possible through Christ, celebrate the fullness of the deliverance he offers us.
And send folks forth committed to keep growing in Christ, letting go all that gets in the way, and putting on Christ more and more.
Gospel Stream: Learning from the Master
Loving God and Neighbor
Week 3: “Letting God Love You”
This week we learn from Jesus what to pray and how to pray. If most Christian congregations know any "written" prayer, it is most likely the Lord's Prayer, though in a version that actually appears in neither Luke nor Matthew.
Some of us may have been taught the Lord's Prayer is simply a model prayer, primarily a basis for forming prayers or even for forming worship.
Luke’s gospel presents us with what may be an unfamiliar version of the Lord’s prayer and a context in which it is clear the disciples were looking for Jesus to give them a specific prayer to pray. "Lord, teach us to pray" meant, and means, "Lord, give us a prayer — your prayer that marks us as your disciples." Giving them a prayer was not giving them magic words. It was, however, giving them language that would both mark and form them in their relationship with God and their master. So that was what Jesus gave them — a specific prayer for them to use. It is short, densely packed and memorable. "When you pray," Jesus said, "say this."
This is a text that lends itself as a reading and a sermon/teaching time all in one. Offer the words of the Lord's Prayer from Luke's Gospel on a screen or in a handout that all can easily read. Pray it with the congregation several times. Help the congregation learn it; keep praying it until the congregation can say it without needing to look at the words. (Consider using this form of the prayer at Holy Communion today as well!).
And don’t stop there. The words of the prayer are good to know by heart. Prayer is one of the chief ways we listen to God.
Listen, too, to what Jesus says next about how we pray. He doesn’t give us postures or gestures or even a list of feelings or attitudes to conjure up when we pray.
He gives us these remarkable little stories about waking a friend at midnight, or a child asking her father for a fish or an egg. Of course in all of these stories, the friend or the father gives what is requested, and maybe more. Because a father or a friend wants to, even if the wanting to is sometimes more driven by the persistence of the requester than good sense.
If that weren’t clear enough, Jesus says it outright at the end. “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask” (11:13).
God longs to love us! One of the chief ways God is able to express that love and care for us is through responding to our prayers—including “The Lord’s Prayer,” but not limited to it.
So, when we pray, we not only listen to God, give attention to God’s word and God’s direction in our lives, and so love God.
We also let God love us.
So, pray as Jesus taught.
And pray for whatever you need, or others need.
Pray because you love God.
And let God, in your praying, love you.
And if you and your worshiping community are not ready for confessing the faith with joy, praying for the church and the world with new fervor, and celebrating around the Lord's Table after that, well. . .