Category: Steve Graham

Jeremiah 2:4-13

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on August 28, 2016.

Duccio - Jeremiah
Duccio – Jeremiah

Jeremiah shares freely a word of the Lord given him for the house of Jacob and the entire clan that bears the name of Israel. He presents this message and asks them to hear it, to listen to it. There is something transformational about giving pause to hear the word of the Lord.

The people are asked to listen to the cold hard facts of estrangement. God and his people are like a husband and wife at great distance from one another. Yahweh speaks as a husband to a silent wife while the whole family of Israel listens on. Their dreams have died. The beautiful relationship they had hoped for has gone sour. The husband rages with pain. He desires anything but this. Being cut-off is made more excruciating by remembering the kindness and love they shared when they had found each other in a barren land (2:2).

These tender memories bring strength to his argument, and he makes a tenacious case. With an abrupt tone, he confronts his wife by asking what evidence there is that he has not given his all to the relationship. “What faults did your fathers find in me? Tell me one way in which I have done you wrong.” The bride’s ancestors have also left him going after worthlessness and becoming worthless. They have gone away without even asking where is the One who brought us out of the land of Egypt and led us through the wilderness, a parched place, a land of darkness, where no one lives or even travels (2:6). The things they had faced before, they face now. They have forgotten that scarcity in the waste land was met with abundant provision.

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Jeremiah 1:4-10

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on August 21, 2016.

Gustave Dore - Jeremiah Preaching To His Followers
Gustave Dore – Jeremiah Preaching To His Followers

“The word of the Lord came to me,” declares Jeremiah. We gather for worship to place ourselves in this vulnerable position where the word of the Lord might come upon us. The high moment of Christian worship is the moment when the scripture is read giving expression to the voice of God. This text offers us an opportunity to ask ourselves a great question: Are we providing the appropriate setting that allows scripture to come alive in the context of our worship? How might we improve the platform upon which this part of worship is framed? How might the person(s) reading best prepare for this moment? Scripture should not only be read, but it should also guide our worship. How does this text set the mark on the horizon toward which all elements of worship might be directed? Isaiah reinforces this assertion, “Listen carefully to me,” says the Lord, “Incline your ear, and come to me. Listen, so that you may live.” (Isaiah 55:2-3).

Jeremiah articulates God’s long involvement in our lives. Even before we were formed in the womb, God had knowledge and understanding about us. God knew and approved of us even before our birth and claimed us to be his own. Before our birth the Holy One declared us to be holy and set apart for kingdom purposes (1:5). Early on, God appointed us to be spokespersons to the world, “a prophet unto the nations.”

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Isaiah 5:1-17

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on August 14, 2016.

Red Vineyard - Van Gogh
Red Vineyard – Van Gogh

Isaiah sings for his beloved. His beloved is the Lord. Consistent to Isaiah, he does not speak as himself or for himself, but as the Lord, for the Lord. In this regard, Isaiah has more speech on behalf of the Lord than either Jeremiah or Ezekiel; as in Isaiah 30:1, where he expresses a deep woe for the Lord about the stubborn sons and daughters bearing witness to the word of the Lord.

In this fashion Isaiah sings to the beloved while being overheard in the camp of the rebellious. The song is a lament by the God who so hurt in his heart (borrowing a frequently used Native American expression for our creator’s deep love in sending his son to die for us). Singing a love song Isaiah expresses the disappointment of the Lord. Their disenchantment brings a stiff word of judgment upon the people. Hear the sound of this song in its reading. It sounds like the deep cords of a cello echoing from a heart that has been broken. As part of your worship the reading of this text could very well be followed by the playing of a deeply sad but lovely lament on the cello offering a time of confession. When the beauty of God’s heart is revealed we can be empowered to muster the courage that is required to make confession.

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Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on August 7, 2016.

Isaiah - Duccio
Isaiah – Duccio

Like an artist, Isaiah shapes a vision into a word; a hard yet good word that seeks to form the language of God and transform the people of God; hard in the sense that it holds nothing back, truth-speaking even when the truth is too hot to handle.

Isaiah has hopes for the people to be alive with wonder to the presence of God. He confronts them with the concrete particulars of the life they are living. He challenges them to examine the mundane and ordinary realities of their everyday existence in light of the multiplicity of ways God desires to take this raw material to transform the world in which they live.

This urban prophet brings a strong word imploring the people to give over their lives to this powerful, compassionate God. Their lives nullify the worship they are performing. What is the purpose of going through the motions of worship when our everyday lives do not live out such praise?

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