Word for the Week
Sunday, August 18, 2019 Lectionary 20, Year C
The word of God is a refining fire. Jesus is the great divide in human history. He invites our undivided attention and devotion. Today, in the assembly, we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses.” In the word and in the holy communion we are invited yet again to look to Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Prayer of the Day
O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression, and you call us to share your zeal for truth. Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed, and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-29
Because Jeremiah preaches the unpopular message of God’s judgment, he suffers rejection. Today’s reading distinguishes between the true prophet, like Jeremiah, who speaks God’s word, and the false prophet who misleads the people through dreams. One is like wheat; the other like worthless straw.
23Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” 26How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Psalm: Psalm 82
Arise, O God, and rule the earth. (Ps. 82:8)
1God stands to charge the divine council assembled, giving judgment in the midst of the gods: 2“How long will you judge unjustly, and show favor to the wicked? 3Save the weak and the orphan; defend the humble and needy; 4rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked. 5They do not know, neither do they understand; they wander about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, and all of you children of the Most High; 7nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.’ ” 8Arise, O God, and rule the earth, for you shall take all nations for your own.
Second Reading: Hebrews 11:29–12:2
The author of Hebrews presents us with rich stories of faith. In a long list of biblical heroes, we find examples of trust in God that enabled them to face the trials of life faithfully. In addition to this “cloud of witnesses,” we have Jesus, the perfect model of faithful endurance.
29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
32And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Gospel: Luke 12:49-56
Jesus delivers harsh words about the purifying and potentially divisive effects of obedience to God’s call. The way of the cross often leads followers to encounter hostility and rejection, even from those they love.[Jesus said:] 49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided:
father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Theme for the season of Pentecost (summer)
Pentecost is the season in which we celebrate the arrival and presence of God in our hearts and in our lives, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are many symbols and images that we use to describe and understand the Holy Spirit: the Breath of God, a mighty wind, or the Holy Ghost. One of the most vivid images we have of the Holy Spirit is a flame.
Fire gives us warmth, lights our way in the darkness, shines as a beacon of hope or a warning of danger. It also provides the heat for the process of refinement. In order to be refined, we must first be changed: The fire of the Holy Spirit melts our hardened hearts and consumes all of those things that keep us apart from God, so that we can be made as new creations, holy and wholly acceptable to God.
Throughout this season of Pentecost, we will be digging into scripture, worshiping together, and seeking out ways to live as God’s new creations, refined by fire and led by the Spirit.