This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on June 5, 2016.
There is an interesting phenomenon that runs consistently throughout the events of human history. When an individual takes a bold stand for what is good and right in the face of a culture filled with what is bad and wrong, all those who had chosen not to take a stand label that individual a hero. Whether it is St. Catherine of Siena in 14th Century Italy nursing those whom others were afraid to touch or Martin Luther in 16th Century Germany calling for integrity and truth in the Church or Rosa Parks in 20th Century America sitting still and exposing injustice, heroes live among us. Even those without courage recognize it when they see it and honor those who use it. Like a diamond against black velvet, the contrast is simply too glaring to deny. That was precisely the scene that had been set when the Prophet Elijah burst suddenly onto the stage of Israel’s tumultuous history.
For 42 years King Asa reigned in the southern kingdom of Judah in a manner that delighted the heart of God. During those same 42 years the northern kingdom of Israel went through six kings with reigns that lasted anywhere from seven days to twenty-two years…with all six reigns characterized by evil, blasphemy, and degradation. When Elijah appeared in 1 Kings 17, Israel was ruled by King Ahab who “did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him” (16:30) and who ultimately married a heathen named Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon—King Ethbaal (“with Baal”). Ahab joined his new bride in her idolatrous worship of Baal.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 29, 2016.
The lyrics of the old hymn are:
He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.
Faith is often strengthened and rejuvenated simply by remembering what God has done. There is great merit in the admonition to “count your many blessings; name them one by one.” God is faithful. Not sometimes. All the time. God is love. Not as a whimsical emotion, but as the very core of His being. The prolific songwriter, Dottie Rambo, said it like this:
Roll back the curtain of memory now and then. Show me where You brought me from and where I might have been. Remember I’m human and humans forget, So remind me, remind me, Dear Lord.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 3, 2016.
Acts 5:27-32 is part of a larger story that unfolds in Acts 5:12-42. The narrative summarizes the apostles’ work in Jerusalem which leads to their arrest. During the night, an angel of the Lord releases the apostles, sending them back to the temple to continue proclaiming the gospel message. Ever faithful, they return at daybreak, jump right back into preaching, and are arrested once again. This time the apostles are brought before the high priest and Sanhedrin. Today’s passage comprises the accusations of the high priest against them and the apostles’ bold response to the charges. The context alone sets up a possible focus for preaching. The apostles preach the gospel, encounter imprisonment, are miraculously released, and immediately get back to preaching the gospel – in the exact same place their message seemed to fail the first time!
How often are we eager to shake the dust off our feet when opposition to our faithfulness arises? There is a time for counting our losses and moving on, but the preacher might want to consider encouraging the call to return to hard places, to keep at the work of faithfulness, and to proclaim the good news again regardless of the results we see. Twice the apostles preached in the temple. Twice they were arrested. Once they were flogged. And yet, Acts 5 concludes with the apostles rejoicing in their sufferings and preaching in the temple every single day. Too often, discouragement and indifference creep in, and we cease to proclaim the gospel. There is a great witness that comes from those who keep at it. This may be a week of picking up the apostles’ torch and keeping at it!