The texts this week are rich in images and provide no shortage of materials for sermons. There’s everything here from being a worthless people to being humble, loving servant-people. I’m just returning from vacation and am struck by the power in these passages.
Jeremiah’s words might not be any more popular now than when they were first uttered. However, the truth is undeniable. We whose worth is inherent because we are made in the image of God, become absolutely worthless when we forsake God. The people of Israel are accused of two sins: they abandoned God and then created gods who offer no life. Is this not what we have done now? So many have forgotten God’s ways of love. Many others have been lulled into believing they follow God’s ways even as their words and action fail to support life.
Psalm 81 is a plea for the people of God to listen to God and return to God’s ways. Surely, the would do well to remember the God who brought them from Egypt and saved them from their enemies. In their own self-reliance they are in danger of being overrun once more. God would nourish them with the finest wheat and the sweetest honey. They would be satisfied. How often do we do the same? We rely on our own abilities, forgetting God’s presence and promises, only to find ourselves hungry, dissatisfied, and bitter?
Sirach gets right to the core of the matter. Pride is what leads us away from God. Pride can fool us into believing that we are more powerful and significant in the universe than we actually are. Pride makes us forget the God who loves us so much more than we know. The hope here is that “pride was not created for human beings.” It is not natural to us and we can set it aside. Moreover, and a message that many need to hear, “violent anger” was not created “for those born of women.” Violent anger is not innately who we are either. What powerful words for a world full of very violent anger!
Palm 112 poetically reminds us of the amazing qualities of those who live in God. Grace, mercy, righteousness along with generosity, justice, steadiness, and fearlessness are marks of those who trust God and follow God’s ways. Imagine how different our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation, our world would be if all God’s children took this seriously.
All of these passages are nicely summed up in Hebrews. These few paragraphs lay out how to live as followers of Christ. The first line says it all, “Let mutual love continue.” This is a prescription for living fully with our neighbors. Instead of worrying about what we do not have and what we cannot do (remembering days of larger budgets and fewer available seats on Sunday mornings), we are called to do good and share what we have. I wonder what this would look like in our churches… What if each congregation figured out what good they could, what they could share, and did just that? I bet we’d all get along better with each other.
If you haven’t found a sermon idea yet, there’s the Gospel text. What a lesson in humility! This banquet Jesus talks about, reminds me of the communion table. Of course this is not great stretch. But who really are the welcomed, sought-after guests at Christ’s table? Who is really welcome in our churches when we celebrate communion? Who would have the seats of honor? Jesus is clear about who he invites. Are we?
So much to contemplate in these texts. The wanted and the worthless, the welcomed guest and the unrecognized angels. Where is the Spirit leading you this week?
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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