I looks like I haven't posted for the last two weeks. Sorry about that. Part of that time was vacation that I took. Well, I am now back from vacation. I did a lot of different things: golfed in the Hands of Hope Tournament; 3 days in Minneapolis with my daughter Jenn; went to hear Rabbi Harold Kushner at Beth El Synagogue while there; went to see my personal physician while there; officiated a wedding ceremony at GEUMC; went to church in Clarissa; sang for my supper at the Community Fellowship Dinner in Long Prairie; did my laundry; and spent 3 days in Fargo with my son Zach and daughter Megan and her husband Jeremiah and their 3 rambunctious dogs. Several hours after my return home Cheryl returned from her 9 day bus tour to New England (Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Portsmouth, Kennebunkport, and Boston). I think we are both glad to be done with vacation.
This week we have a lot of Old Testament scriptures to choose from. Through the Pentecost season (until November 13) the lectionary provides us either a continuous reading of the OT stories with Psalms chosen for them or OT readings that relate to the Gospel lesson with the appropriate Psalm. Each week I will list them all and that should give us plenty to read.
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 – Because Easter was so late this year we have missed the early Pentecost stories of Abraham and Sarah: his call, his journeys to Egypt and other lands, the promise of a son that would eventually lead to a great nation, the union of Hagar to Abraham at Sarah’s behest, the birth of Ismael to Hagar, the birth of Isaac to Sarah, the enmity between Sarah and Hagar, Hagar’s banishment, the near sacrifice of Isaac, and the death of Sarah. This brings us to our story today. Abraham sends a trusted servant to his ancestral lands, Ur, to find Isaac a wife. When the servant arrives he prays to God to show him the woman and that woman is Rebekah. The first two sections are the servant’s retelling of what happened in verses 1-27. Verses 50-57 is the negotiation for the hand of Rebekah, which is settled by agreeing to ask her what she wants to do. 58-67 is her response, the goodbyes, and the return to Canaan and Abraham’s home with Isaac’s reaction (love).
Psalm 45:10-17 – The Psalmist calls on a maiden to leave her lands and family and marry the king. OR The Song of Solomon 2:8-13 – The Song of Solomon is the love poetry of a man and a woman. The book alternates who is speaking and in this section it is the woman, the beloved. She admires his good looks and tells us what he says to her. The Song of Solomon is a wonderful, sensuous celebration of emotional, spiritual, and, yes, physical love. It comes between the bleakness of Ecclesiastes and the power of Isaiah.
Zechariah 9:9-12 – This passage is often read on Palm Sunday. As I read the Gospel lesson I am not so sure why this reading was chosen.
Psalm 145:8-14 – You might as well read the entire Psalm because it is a wonderful praise of God who is: King, great, mighty, glorious, wondrous, abundantly good, gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, compassionate, faithful, just, kind, near, fulfilling, hearing, watching, and holy. Many of these words are used multiple times. Every Psalm that praises God seems to include one thing that irks us and that happens in the last half of verse 20: God destroys the wicked. How does this fit in with the rest of the Psalm?
Romans 7:15-25a – The Lectionary also gives us a continuing reading in several epistles during the Pentecost season. Again, because of the lateness of Easter, we have missed the first 4 readings in Romans. Last week you probably heard the passage from Romans 6 that ends with “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (6:23)” This reminded me of 3:23, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We often hear the first part of 6:23 and all of 3:23 without hear the remainder of the sentence: “the free gift of God is eternal life” and “they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24). Paul, in our reading, knows that he (and we) are sinners and he knows that he (and we) have received the free gift, but he struggles with it in his own life, as we also struggle. He knows what is right but does wrong. He wants to stop what is wrong but can’t. Isn’t this so true for all of us. We are all wretched in this respect. So who will rescues us from this predicament? Is it not the God of Psalm 145 working through Jesus Christ? Only God can save us.
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 – In verses 2-6 John the Baptizer, who is in prison, sends a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus if he is truly the one whom John had announced. He sends them back with the message of what they have heard and seen: blind see, lame walk, deaf hear, lepers cleansed, dead raised, and the good new proclaimed to the poor. In verses 7-15 Jesus praises John. In the first section of our reading Jesus wonders what is wrong with the people who disregard John’s message and Jesus’ message. The skipped verses are Jesus’ woes to a couple of Jewish cities who reject his message and compares them to two Gentile cities who would have received it. The second part is a short prayer to God his Father. A familiar and famous verse comes at the end, “For my yoke is easy [to wear], and my burden is light.” What message will we respond to: the severe message of gloom and doom, the message of grace and gospel of Jesus, or neither?