Our four texts take us on four different journeys of faith:
The journey of God’s covenant people, imaged as the beloved child of God their mother…Hosea 11:1-11.
The journey of those God gathers in from the four directions, people who are in distress, hungry and thirsty and in need of a habitable home…Psalm 107:1-9, 43.
The journey of those seeking a deeper engagement with their faith, one that lives into what the writer of Colossians calls “the risen life” in Christ… Colossians 3:1-11.
The journey to a deeper wisdom, in Jesus’ parable-invitation to contemplate what is true wealth in God’s sight… Luke 12:13-21.
The Hosea passage gives us an opportunity to share maternal-child imagery with our congregations. This oracle is presented with real tenderness and sorrow at the wayward child’s abandonment of the mother for other gods. (Take note of the Contemporary English Version’s translation, using “they/ them/theirs” pronouns for Israel. It is probably intended to emphasize that Israel is a people, rather than an individual. But I enjoyed what felt like a nonbinary pronoun usage, unexpected and thought-provoking.)
More than 20 years ago, during a Children’s Message in worship, I invited the young people to say “Our Mother, who art in heaven.” There was an audible gasp from the congregation. How is feminine language for God received in your preaching context? Is it a “no big deal, of course there’s feminine language for God in scripture” situation? Or does it remain shocking?
Psalm 107 describes multiple scenarios from the life of God’s covenant people. While the assigned verses are about fleeing famine (1-9, probably referring to the ending of Genesis, which relocates Abraham and Sarah’s family in Egypt), other passages in the psalm reference: imprisonment and harsh labor as punishment (10- 16); physical and spiritual sickness (17-22); the perils found at sea (23-32); and, finally, a beautiful description of abundant life, in which God’s presence is constant, in good times and bad.
Through the years I’ve become more and more convinced that an emphasis on God’s abiding and steadfast love is the message the Church needs to hear most urgently. This might be because I’m an Enneagram 2. How about you? What is the message you most urgently hope to share with the Church, local and global?
The reading from Colossians seems to seek to help newcomers to the Christian faith to understand that the risen life calls upon them to put aside “habits of living” associated with their former belief (or lack of belief) systems. The writer invites them to put on a new way of life we might associate with our baptismal promises.
A couple of week ago I *accidentally* had our liturgist read a passage that was filled with a bunch of the same words we have here… “fornication,” “impurity,” the whole gamut. I say, “accidentally,” because I have a policy that I don’t generally include passages in the service that are quite so loaded with words of condemnation, unless I plan to preach on those passages. So, I’m curious. Anyone out there planning to tackle this one? (Again, the CEV translation deserves a look. For example: instead of “fornication,” it reads, “the wrong kind of sex,” which allows for more spacious—and gracious—interpretation.)
Luke’s passage begins with a member of the crowd complaining to Jesus: “Hey, my brother won’t share the family inheritance with me.” (Anyone else hear in this a kind of advance-echo of the brothers in Jesus’ parable in chapter 15?) Jesus seems to rebuff the question—something like, “What am I, small claims court?” But then he turns to the crowd to talk about the evils of focusing on wealth as accumulated goods or money: “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
I wonder: Is Jesus speaking to the man who requested help getting part of the inheritance? Or, is he actually speaking to the brother who has the money and won’t share? In either case, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man scheming to make himself still richer, and the emptiness of his pursuits, when all is said and done (including, him). What wisdom does this passage hold for those who struggle financially? Is all attempt at increasing wealth corrupt? What does that phrase, “rich toward God,” mean to you?
What do you think? Which of these passages speaks to you this week? Which might contain the seeds of an important or fruitful conversation your congregation needs to have? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Blessings to you, on the study, the writing, and the proclamation of the Good News this week!
Pat Raube has served as the pastor of Union Presbyterian Church in Endicott, New York since 2007. She is a graduate of the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (MDiv). She’s the mother of two young adults (Ned and Joan) and happily partnered to Sherry. Pat loves swimming, reading, writing, and film. A native of the Jersey shore, and in love with the New England coastline, she misses the ocean every day.
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