This week’s reading include a call, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, and the conclusion to Jesus’ visit to his home synagogue.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 – The first three verses of Jeremiah give the context of who Jeremiah was (son of the priest Hilkiah), where he came from (the land of Benjamin) and when he prophesied (during the reigns of Josiah, his son Jehoiakim, and his son Zedekiah until the “captivity” of Jerusalem). Our verses are titled in my Bible as “Jeremiah’s Call and Commission”. God speaks to Jeremiah saying that God knew him before he was formed in the womb and knew that he would be a prophet. Of course, Jeremiah objects since he is only a boy, but God will hear none of it. God touches Jeremiah’s lips saying that God’s words are now in his mouth with which Jeremiah will speak to the kingdoms. Those words that he speaks will build up or bring down those nations. While your call and commission may not be as dramatic as Jeremiah’s, how has God called you to serve?
Psalm 71:1-6 – My Bible titles this psalm “Prayer for Lifelong Protection and Help”. The commentary at the bottom of the page says, “The prayer of an elderly person.” Our reading is but 6 verses out of 24 total and all 24 are worthy of your reading. Throughout the psalm, the writer in her/his old age does three things: praises God, petitions God for protection from enemies, and promises to serve God. This might be one way to think about prayer: Praise, Petition, Promise.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians was all about the gifts of the Spirit and how the gifts each person possesses contribute to the functioning of the church much like the individual parts of a body contribute to the whole body. At the end of that discussion Paul writes, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (12:30b) What follows is not a new idea or theme as we often treat it but a continuation of what Paul was saying. Of course, we all have heard 1 Corinthians 13 read at weddings and we associate it with the love of a woman and her husband. However, that is NOT what Paul is talking about. He is talking about the one gift of the Spirit that allows all the other gifts to work to the glory of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and for the sustaining of God’s people, the church: Love. All the other gifts of the Spirit, without love, are worthless. (verses 1-3). How that love is lived out in community is the next section, verses 4-7. Paul concludes that life is short and we never understand the full nature of God and his will in creation (verses 8-12). In the end there is only three things we can count on: faith, hope, and love. Of those three, the greatest is . . . .
Luke 4:21-30 – And now for the rest of the story. Last week we read about Jesus reading from Isaiah in his hometown synagogue. After some silence Jesus tells the crowd that the prophesy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in their presence. At that statement, the listeners were “wowed”. But Jesus continued to speak and he anticipated that they would want him to perform miracles like he had elsewhere (verse 23). He told them that prophets are not accepted in their home towns and reminded them of Elijah who lived with a Gentile widow during a three year drought and Elisha who healed a Syrian general of leprosy while others were stricken. This is the statement that angers the hometown crowd. Why would they be angry enough to want to throw him off a cliff? Perhaps they were offended to hear that God’s concern and care was not just for the select people, but for all those that society has turned its back on. How would we feel if Jesus said that God had little concern for the welfare of the privileged, relatively well off, white males of the United States? God’s work would be done among the peoples of Flint Michigan, Baltimore Maryland, Chicago South Side, Ferguson Missouri, Minneapolis North Side, the refugees from Syria and Iraq, the immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, the women and children trapped in the sex industry, and the poor, hungry, and/or homeless throughout the United States. I think we could respond by either being upset at the message and the messenger or we could join with the Messenger in bringing the Good News. What do you say? Where could we be working with the Messenger to serve others in Long Prairie and Southern Todd County?
That was my question for you in last Sunday’s sermon. “Where can we be serving God by serving our neighbors?” “What mission could we be doing that will bring the Good News to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor?” Think about it, talk about it, and let me know.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor