This Sunday is Back to Church Sunday. Please invite someone you know from our churches who have not been attending church to join you in worship this Sunday. We want to invite all who have drifted away to come back to church and Jesus.
Our scripture this week
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 - The prophesies in the Old Testament are difficult to hear and more difficult to understand. When we hear of God's fierce anger and judgment against his people who have been faithless, which we read in these verses, we wonder how we can reconcile that image with the image of God who desires "restoration, reconciliation, and redemption" and was lived out in the life and teaching of Jesus. One tool to help us may be the knowledge that the worldview of the people and writers of that time was that all things that happened, whether good (peace, rain, good crops) or bad (war, drought, failed crops), came from God. Therefore, if you are not faithful to God so you could reap God's blessings then you must suffer the consequences that will also come from God. With that worldview, a prophet could challenge the people who are faithless by using the images of destruction. This may or may not help you, but we all need to wrestle with scripture like these.
Psalm 14 - Where are the good, wise people who seek after the Lord? There is none for they are all bent on doing evil. Only the righteous and the poor are with the Lord. When will Israel be restored and rejoice? This psalm fits well with the Jeremiah passage.
[Alternate readings: Exodus 32:7-14 (The people of Israel have made and worshiped a golden calf and God wants to destroy them. Moses argues that God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about descendents. God then changes God's mind.) and Psalm 51:1-10 (A confession of sin and a plea that God will change the psalmist's heart.).
1 Timothy 1:12-17 - We begin a 7 week reading of 1st and 2nd Timothy this week. Paul, in this passage, gives thanks to God for God's mercy that was shown to him. God chose Paul to be a witness to God's love and mercy even though he was "a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence". Paul, before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, persecuted Christians in the name of God. His violence was a sacred violence to rid the Jewish faith of those pesky Christians. Now he knows that "the grace of our Lord (God) overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus". He knows that Christ "came into the world to save sinners" and not to destroy (see John 3:17). How often in the past, and maybe even today, do Christians seek to destroy using the name of God? Shouldn't we have "the utmost patience" that Jesus has?
Luke 15:1-10 - Here we have the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. These are two parables in a quartet of parables, the other two being the Prodigal Son and the Dishonest Manager. We had the Prodigal Son back during Lent and we will read about the Dishonest Manager next week. All of these follow last week's lesson on the cost of discipleship. What is the cost of discipleship? Could the cost be in seeking out the lost while not worrying about those who are in the community. Remember, the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to seek the 1 and the woman cleans house to find the 1 coin while not worrying about the other 9. Another cost may be in the celebration of the found. From the Prodigal Son, the cost could be extravagant forgiveness and an lavish party. Is the image of a God who seeks lost sinners and throws a party the same image of our Jeremiah passage? Which is right? Can both be right? I don't think so, but that is up to you.
May you be challenged and blessed by our readings this week! Praise be to God!