Daily Lectionary Passages:
Psalm 69:7-10, 16-18; Jeremiah 18:18-23 &
Psalm 69:7-10, 16-18 (NRSV)
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies.
Faith is knowing that in the midst of struggles, God is with those who rely on Him. The Psalmist was insulted for his 1005 devotion to following God. When he spent time in fasting, his brothers and sisters threw insults at him. Fasting was never seen as an end to itself. At times, people were called to fast for a time of repentance. Usually fasting was to seek God’s wisdom and as a sign of worship. Here, this person is completely aligning himself with God. And it is for that reason, the things people say against God are said against him.
Now, in despair, he is seeking God’s deliverance. At the beginning of the passage, the writer talks of his brothers and sisters. By the end, they are his enemies. It is easy to see times in life when we feel like the writer. It is more humbling and challenging to image oneself as the brother or sister that becomes the enemy. Whenever we insult people, or keep them from a right relationship with God (and oneself) we turn their words of worship into words of distress. May we seek to restore broken relationships before they become our enemies.
Jeremiah 18:18-23 (NRSV)
Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah—for instruction shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us bring charges against him, and let us not heed any of his words.”
Give heed to me, O Lord,
and listen to what my adversaries say!
Is evil a recompense for good?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
Therefore give their children over to famine;
hurl them out to the power of the sword,
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be slain by the sword in battle.
May a cry be heard from their houses,
when you bring the marauder suddenly upon them!
For they have dug a pit to catch me,
and laid snares for my feet.
Yet you, O Lord, know
all their plotting to kill me.
Do not forgive their iniquity,
do not blot out their sin from your sight.
Let them be tripped up before you;
deal with them while you are angry.
Jeremiah had been warning Israel of their wrongdoing, and the fact that God would punish them for not repenting and turning. Yet, the people still thought they were in the right. Instead of listening to the word of God, they turned on the messenger. Today’s passages are challenging us to humble ourselves and listen to the messenger. To search our hearts and consider our relationship with God and with God’s messengers. When we are in the wrong, and have sinned, we need to confess our sins and ask for repentance.
This is a collective sin of the people. Some may have been striving to follow God’s law. Yet, it will be the entire nation of Israel that is punished. For a while, Jeremiah had tried to change God’s mind. Had reasoned with God that the people would repent. Yet, when they did not, when they turned to kill the messenger, Jeremiah called on God to carry out the act that God had already foretold Jeremiah. Now the messenger lines up with the message. When we, either individually or collectively, have sinned and turned from God, may we hear the message and return to the paths of righteousness.
Acts 5:17-26 (NRSV)
Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
The first followers of Jesus understood the resurrection to be a fulfillment of the Law and not a new religion. So, when they proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, they would go to the temple. For this, the high priest (the one who should have been in a right relationship with God) had them thrown into prison. When the angel of the Lord opened the prison door, they were told to return to the temple and tell everyone about the entire message of Jesus Christ. God was not just giving the self-righteous one chance. God was giving them multiple chances. God even gave them the sign that the prison doors were still locked. The guards were still at their posts. Something new had happened. Even so, they did not accept the teaching. They simply wanted to return to life as normal.
Yet, the life message of Jesus Christ could not remain behind prison bars. The gospel was to be proclaimed to all people. Again, this passage is challenging me about where to I fit in the gospel telling in today’s day. Am I one who thinks I have the right answers, but I am not in a right relationship with God? Or, am I the one willing to risk freedom to have the freedom found in Christ? It is my prayer, my desire to be one proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ and salvation again and again, no matter the consequences.
Forgiving Lord, humble our hearts and allow us to confess our sins to you. There are times when we have not listened to your message. There are times that we have tried to destroy your messengers. Forgive us and give us ears to hear, hearts to discern, and hands to do what your Son called us to do. May we proclaim your life-giving salvation to others. Help us to rebuild the relationships we have broken. Give us the words to say, and the words not to say to bring all your children together in your family.
As we turn to this weekend, may be give you praise for the ability to gather together as your family in worship. We pray for those who need to remain isolated for health reasons. May they feel an extra gift of your Holy Spirit. We give you thanks for all fathers who kindled in us a love for your dear name.
(Spend time in silent prayer, praying for those you know. Name them before God and place them in God’s loving arms).
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.