This coming week we are continuing our three week sermon series on Reach*Renew*Rejoice. What does it mean to be “renewed”? What is a renewal of faith for you personally? What does it mean to have renewal of our churches? What, do you suppose, will lead our churches in renewal?
The lectionary text for this week are numerous. One of the readings comes from the “Apocrypha” which are those Old Testament texts that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have accepted and which are not included in the Jewish Tanakh or Protestant Old Testament. Therefore, the Lectionary gives some alternatives.
Our readings are:
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 – Joshua has reached the end of his time of leadership of the twelve tribes of Israel and he gathers everyone together for some last instructions. After reminding them of their history, Joshua pleads with the people to remain faithful to God. “Whom will you serve, God or the other gods? Me and my family will serve God!” When the people proclaim their loyalty to God, Joshua challenges them. Which god do you serve: country, money, power? What does it mean if you say you serve God? How long does the promise last? What do you make of Joshua’s challenge, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.”?
Psalm 78:1-7 – This long psalm recounts God’s saving (redeeming) acts through the history of Israel. Verses 1-4 call upon the listeners to pay attention to that history, learn from it, and obey the commandments. The psalmist starts with Jacob (Israel, “one who wrestled with God”) in verses 5-7.
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 – Here is a link to the text: Wisdom 6:12-16. “Wisdom” in the Old Testament is nearly always depicted as a women. Wisdom is beautiful and is to be desired. If we desire Wisdom we will find her.
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 – Here is a link to the text: Wisdom 6:17-20. Wisdom begins with a desire for instruction which leads loving wisdom. Loving wisdom leads to keeping the laws which leads to an assurance of immortality which brings us close to God. Therefore desire for wisdom leads us to a kingdom.
Amos 5:18-24 – The prophet is probably speaking for God in verses 18-20 and then quoting God in verses 21-24. Amos speaks against empty meaningless worship and rituals. Worship without justice is empty. In more modern terms loving Jesus without loving neighbors is meaningless. A personal faith without the service to others is egotistical. Churches and the people who attend them should make worship meaningful by always being in mission to others.
Psalm 70 – The psalmist calls on God to save him from his enemies.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – In the earliest of Paul’s letters he is anxiously waiting for the return of Jesus. He urges his churches to faithful as the “Day of the Lord” is coming soon. The question here is “What happens to those who have died before Jesus returns?” His answer is that we are not to grieve because the dead will return with the Lord. The dead will be raise before the living are united with Christ. I think that this letter may be one of the first letters if not the first. If Paul sincerely believed in the imminent return of Christ, what are we to think nearly 2,000 years later.
Matthew 25:1-13 – This is the second of four parable about the return of the Son of Man. The first parable is at 24:45-51. This reading is about 10 bridesmaids waiting for the groom to collect his bride. Five anticipated a long wait and brought extra oil for their lamps. The other five did not. In the end the five who did not prepare were left out of the party with no hope of getting in. Remember, parables are not analogies or metaphors. Jesus might be suggesting something other then what you first think. Compare this to the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 7:7-8.
Have a great week serving God by serving your neighbors. Invite someone to church this week!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor