Monday, August 27, 2012

Readings for September 2, 2012

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to You,

Every once in a while I add someone to this email list whom I think will receive and make use of our readings in the Bible. If you do not wish to receive this weekly mailing please reply and ask me to remove you from my list. I will promptly comply with your wish.

Please note that worship times revert to our regular schedule starting this Sunday: Grey Eagle UMC at 9:00 AM and Peace United at 10:30 AM.

A question came up yesterday about why there are so many more readings listed here then I list in the bulletins. This happens primarily during the season of Pentecost which runs from the end of May or the beginning of June through the end of November. The other seasons of the church (Can you name them all? Answers below.) have only four readings: Old Testament (or Acts), Psalm (which is related to the OT reading), Epistle, and Gospel. During Pentecost there are two tracks of OT readings, a continuous reading (such as the story of Abraham and his descendants or the Kings of Israel) with a related Psalm or an OT selection that is related to the Gospel lesson and its related Psalm. Lutherans tend to follow the second option and most others follow the continuous readings as I do.

This week we beginning two new tracks and returning to another. The Old Testament readings for the rest of Pentecost will not be so continuous as we hit Song of Solomon (once), Proverbs (three times), Esther (once), Job (four times), and Ruth (twice). For the Epistles we will have five weeks of James and seven weeks of Hebrews. We also return to our readings in the Gospel of Mark.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 – One commentator I read some time ago (I was preparing for a wedding in which the bride chose some passages from this book) said that more young boys would be reading their Bibles with a flashlight under their bed covers if they only knew about Song of Solomon. Another commentator said that between the matter-of-fact downer of Ecclesiastes and the the harsh words of Isaiah lies this book of soaring beauty and celebration of love. This is the only time in the 3 year lectionary cycle that we have a reading from Song of Solomon, also known as Song of Songs. This (too) short reading celebrates the coming of Spring and the return of the woman’s lover. As you venture into the Song please read whatever notes you have about this collection of love poems and the various speakers, mostly the man and the woman.

Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9 – The Psalmist celebrates the King who is anointed by God and who has good looks (verse 2), fine clothes (verse 8a), luxurious living quarters (8b), and beautiful women (9). Nice job if you can get it.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 – This OT reading and the Psalm listed below are chosen by the lectionary committee to go along with our Gospel reading. If you remember from our other readings from Deuteronomy, this last book of the Torah is essentially a final address of Moses to the people of Israel before his death. The basic message in this reading is Moses’ exhortation to the Israelites to “NOT FORGET” what they have seen in their wanderings and what they are about to hear from Moses. By remembering and living the law other nations will know the goodness and greatness of God.

Psalm 146 – This Psalm reflect many of the laws given by Moses in Deuteronomy and also reflect Isaiah and other prophets’ call for justice. Not only is God the creator of all that is but God cares for those in need: justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, freedom for prisoners, support to the broken, love for the righteous, care for the strangers, orphans, and widows. If God is concerned for all these people why does the United States of America, the greatest and richest nation, have oppressed people (inequality), hungry children and adults, overcrowded prisons, broken families in poverty, and no love for immigrants? I’m just asking.

James 1:17-27 – Many have characterized James as a book of works while thinking of Paul’s letters as being only about faith. Wrong on both counts. Paul calls us to faith but then reminds us that faith must be lived in the things we say and do. James is no different though we tend to focus on what James calls us to do. In verse 17 James reminds us that every good we do, every act of giving, is not just us but comes from God. This passage then proceeds to let us know what some of our behaviors should look like as faithful followers: listen more, speak less, be angry even less, live cleanly, and be doers of the word. These are some of the themes that James will return to. Finally, what is James definition of “pure, undefiled religion”?

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Please read the entire passage, 1-23. The scribes and Pharisee’s complain to Jesus that his disciples do not wash before they eat (Parents, can you hear yourselves with your children?) and therefore break Moses’ commandments (see the Deuteronomy passage above). How many times do we hear Christians complaining about other Christians breaking God’s law? Jesus turns their argument back on them by pointing out that some of them break the law by not caring for their parents. I can picture those other Christians using the same argument with the complaining Christians. What does Jesus say about washing hands in verse 15? [Note – most modern translations omit verse 16. Check the notes in your version.] Why do you think that Mark calls the words of Jesus in 14 and 15 and “parable” in verse 17? If food, even unwashed food, does not defile us, what does? Do you hear echoes of this in our James reading?

Have a great week exploring the wonderful Word of God.

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