With Labor Day now past and all of our children back at school summer is unofficially over. The official end of summer happens on Saturday, September 22 when the hours of daylight equal the hours of nighttime. Oh where, Oh where has the summer gone?
We just had our one week in the Song of Solomon and now we move to three weeks of Proverbs. How can you go wrong when at least 2 verses in Proverbs extoll the virtues of having gray hair: Proverbs 16:31 and 20:29. 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Judging from all my gray hair I must be really, really righteous. Anyway, our verses this week are:
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 – The theme of these six verses seems to be that the Lord looks favorably upon the poor, week, and disenfranchised of our world. Whom does the world favor? Most of us reading this should see ourselves not as one of the poor but as one of the rich and we need to ask ourselves if we are despoiling others (verse 23)? One of the remedies should be an attitude of giving for in giving we will be blessed (verse 9). Where do we fit into these words of wisdom?
Psalm 125 – I am fairly certain that the Lectionary Committee chose the Psalms to fit with the Old Testament reading. This is why during Pentecost when we have a choice of Old Testament readings we also have two Psalms readings. I am not totally sure how this Psalm fits with the Proverbs reading except to say that the Lord is with and blesses those who do good (no wrong) and who are righteous. Our definition of those who do good and are righteous can then be found in our Proverbs reading.
Isaiah 35:4-7a – I would recommend reading the entire chapter as Isaiah proclaims a time when the exiled people of Judah (Israel) shall return. The people who shall be returned to Zion will be the least, lost, and last of Israel: the blind, lame, speechless, sick, etc. The way home will be wide, easy, and safe with everything a traveler needs.
Psalm 146 – I think I commented on this Psalm last week, but I know I was wrong. My eyes looked at the wrong week and we should have had Psalm 15 to go along with our Deuteronomy reading. So, without writing anything new, I will simply copy and paste what I wrote last week. “This Psalm reflects many of the laws given by Moses in Deuteronomy and also reflects 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.” (This Psalm fits better with Isaiah then with the Deuteronomy reading!)
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 – This reading feels as if it were three readings: 1-7, 8-13, and 14-17. The first section is a warning about showing preference to the rich and powerful and ignoring the poor and powerless. The second is about loving your neighbor (the second greatest commandment) and how that love fulfills the Law. If, however, we try to live by the Law (and without love is implied) if we fail at one law we fail them all. For instance, check out Leviticus 20:10. Do we EVER uphold this law? If not, then we have broken the whole Law. The third section is about faith and works. If you have one, you have the other. Verse 18 say that our faith is shown by our works. If there are no works then there is no faith, at least this is implied. I can tell you I have faith until I am blue in the face, yet if I don’t love my neighbor by what I do for him or her then I am simply a liar (and breaking one of those pesky commandments).
Mark 7:24-37 – This reading contains two vignettes: the encounter with a gentile woman and healing a deaf person. In the first story, I have always claimed that Jesus learned something God’s love for all people but many disagree with me. In the insistence of the women to claim the healing power of Jesus for her daughter, Jesus learns that his mission is not just for the chosen people of God, the Jews, but for all people. Others claim that Jesus’ rudeness is simply his testing her faith, but I don’t recall Jesus testing anyone else’s faith. In this regard, look at the second story. Jesus does not test the deaf man’s faith, he simply heals him. What is the response to a healing? Telling everyone we know, which is what the formerly deaf man and his family does. What is our response to God’s healing salvation?
Have a great week reading God’s Word. Serve the Lord and your neighbor in all you do in love.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor