This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 5th, 2017.
How many of us would love to have a congregation that God described as a people who “seek me and delight to know my ways…they delight to draw near to God.” (Isaiah 58:2)? This congregation would certainly fill the pews and sing, joyously, week in and week out. They would be attentive listeners to our sermons, and they would pray diligently during the times of communal prayer. It would be easy to show up every week with a fresh word to tell these people because they would surely deposit praise upon praise on us following each service. Isaiah’s congregation has returned from exile and resides once again in Jerusalem – this is a people happy to worship. However, even the best of churches have those people who continually wonder why they’re doing all of this wonderful worship and yet God is not heaping praise and reward on them. This is not to say that these churches are selfish and self-righteous, but rather that we have been formed into people who expect our great efforts to be rewarded in ways congruent with our own expectations. If I put in a hard day’s work, I would expect a payment equal to that work. Worship, though, is not about us. At least it is not about performing in order that I may receive some due payment from God. This is what God speaks to the people in Jerusalem through the mouth of Isaiah. This is what God is speaking to us today.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 29th, 2017.
One oft-repeated benefit of the lectionary is that it forces passages on us that we would not ordinarily preach. However, one fallback to this format is that it can often give passages that end up being proof-texts or at the very least commonly repeated texts abstracted from their larger context and place within the Biblical narrative. Micah 6 is one such text. More specifically, though, it is Micah 6:8 that receives the spotlight – it is well rehearsed in many a Bible drill class. That being said, the text continues to speak a particular truth that is made more evident within its wider context and within the whole of Scripture.
The difficulty with this text, though, is to not allow our own vision of justice, loving-kindness, and humility override what Micah is describing. What one commentator describes as the “Golden Text” of the Old Testament begins, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good…” (Micah 6:8a). That Micah presumes the people know what is good because God has (presumably) told them indicates that it is not just any account of justice, loving-kindness, and humility that matters. One easy way to ground this and root it in the tangible, visceral world in which we live is to look at the Gospel text for this week, Matthew 5:1-12. The beginning of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is yet another familiar text but seen through the lens of Micah’s call to remember what God has told them reveals that this command is not only for Micah’s audience but for us as well.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 17, 2016.
Our world is divided into two types of people; the Marys and the Marthas. The Marys of the world are laid back, contemplative, and find energy by being still and quiet. The Marthas of the world are busy, organized, and find enjoyment through serving others. Both are a need in the world. Luke followed up the Story of the Good Samaritan, a story showing the importance of serving others, with an encounter Jesus had at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was an encounter which showed the importance of devotion to Christ.
Luke wrote that it was Martha who invited Jesus to come to her house for a meal. Martha loved to play the host; she had the gift of hospitality and felt the most alive when she served other people. Martha opened her home and Mary opened her heart. Jesus arrived at the home with his disciples to find Martha busy in the kitchen preparing a meal. Mary, Martha’s sister, sat down at Jesus’ feet to be near him and listen to him. When Mary is mentioned in the Bible, she is sitting. Every time Martha is mentioned, she is busy. In John 11, Jesus arrived at the tomb where Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha was buried. He died four days previous. It was Martha who went out to meet Jesus, to let him know if he had arrived earlier, then Lazarus would still be alive. After her conversation with Jesus, Martha went to find Mary to tell her Jesus wanted to see her. John did not record Jesus asking for Mary, but Martha wanted Mary to talk to Jesus. Mary was sitting at home. John also recorded an encounter Jesus had with Mary and Martha at another dinner served by Martha. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet at this dinner, and anointed his feet with expensive perfume. Jesus stated in John 12:7, Mary poured the perfume on his feet to prepare his body for burial. Jewish custom called for dead bodies to be anointed with oil in perfume as a part of the burial ritual. Mary picked up on Jesus’ conversations about his death, because she listened, a fact the disciples did not realize, although they also had been with Jesus. These events reveal the consistency of Mary and Martha’s personalities.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on March 13, 2016.
George Lakoff described the importance of linguistic framing in his book, Don’t Think of an Elephant. He describes an experiment. He recorded that when someone tells a listener not to think about an object, it frames the issue so that the listener now cannot avoid thinking about what you asked them not to think about. So whenever he asked people not to think of an elephant they were unable to not think about an elephant. Isaiah 43:16-21 invites the reader to disregard previous salvation history.
The passage (vv. 16-21) reframes the historical perception concerning the anticipated fall of the Babylonian Empire to Cyrus. The first section of this unit contains a description of God in history (vv. 16-17). The second section instructs and challenges the community to eschew remembrance of the past. The third section describes the “new age”(vv. 18-21).