A sermon for Year 2, Week 11 of the Narrative Lectionary.
After a few weeks reading about the prophets to the Northern Kingdom, we switch locations this week to the Southern Kingdom, the kingdom of Judah. This week we are examining the words of one of Hosea’s contemporaries – Isaiah.
The book of Isaiah is one of the largest and most influential books in the bible. The prophecy found in Isaiah spans hundreds of years. Naturally, Isaiah wasn’t the work of one person over those hundreds of years. Isaiah is a compilation of prophecies from three time periods put together to form one body of work. First Isaiah, contained in the first 39 chapters, is attributed to Isaiah of Jerusalem, and is set in the time leading up to the exile. Second Isaiah spans chapters 40-55 and takes place during the Babylonian Exile. And Third Isaiah, composed of chapters 56-66, is set after the return from exile.
Our text today comes from First Isaiah, a Royal prophet in Judah. Isaiah was a prophet in the King’s court around 730 BCE. He focused on both the politics of the kingdom as well as the unfaithfulness of the people.
A lot was happening in Israel and Judah during the time of Isaiah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been destroyed by Assyria, and now the Assyrians were putting the pressure on Judah. I imagine it was a pretty anxious time for God’s people.
To get us ready to hear today’s reading, I’d like us to listen to a song. This song was written by a band called The Civil Wars and is called “Same Old, Same Old.” Pay particular attention to the words you will hear and see on the screen.
What we just heard is a love song, and a painfully honest love song at that. It speaks the hard truth about real love. As I say in many wedding homilies, real love is hard, complicated, messy, and wonderful, and sometimes full of contradictions. Read more…
A sermon for Year 2, Week 10 of the Narrative Lectionary.
This week we continue our time with the Northern Kingdom. We are about a hundred years after the events of last week’s reading and the ministry of Elijah. The prophet Hosea continues to encourage people to return to faithful worship and loyalty to God.
As I have mentioned before, prophets in the Old Testament did much more than predict the future. Prophets were spokesmen for God, concerned with the moral and ethical standards of the people. They often felt that empty rituals and religious “lip service” were not compatible with Godly living. Prophets interpreted current events in theological terms, helping the people see how their actions or inactions towards God affected their current situations.
Hosea is about the relationship between God and Israel and how that relationship has gone sour because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The prophets often had unique ways to get their message across – Isaiah walked around naked for three years to show the potential humiliation Judah could face if they went to war, Jeremiah wore dirty underwear to demonstrate how God had lost pride in God’s people, and Hosea had his own way of getting his message to the people. Read more…
A sermon for Year 2, Week 9 of the Narrative Lectionary.
When I was serving my last church, I was part of a pastoral team, and each week the Senior Pastor and I would get together to go over the week and make plans for the future of the church. We also would make it a priority to check-in with each other about what was going on in our lives and we would pray for each other.
I remember one week sitting in his office talking about how I really wanted to get better about finding time in my schedule to read more books about theology and ministry. Mark nodded and said, “you know Jeff, you said that last week. And the week before. And the week before that. When are you going to stop talking about it and just do it?” Then he reminded me that if I didn’t put it on my schedule, it wasn’t a real priority, just a fantasy.
Now, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with what Mark told me, but it was true and I needed to hear it. I could talk all I wanted to about making time for reading, but until I blocked off time in my schedule and actually did it, it was only talk. It wasn’t really a priority.
Looking back on this, I needed someone to tell me the truth, someone to call me out on my inaction. Someone to help me align my actions and intentions. Read more…
Last week we spent time with the story of King David, the young shepherd who God called to be the king. As you may recall, David united the tribes of Israel and Judah into one unified kingdom and centralized their civic and religious lives in Jerusalem. After David died, his son Solomon took the thrown and at first ruled with wisdom, and was responsible for the construction of the temple.
Both David and Solomon are remembered as great kings, yet the biblical story doesn’t hide their failures. They both had moments when they did what all humans do – they forgot that they were called to serve God and God’s people and ended up serving themselves.
Today we come to the story of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who was anointed king after Solomon’s death. As we enter the story we come with a question – What kind of king will Rehoboam be? Will his leadership be marked by a heart bent in towards serving God and God’s people; or will his leadership be marked by a heart bent on serving himself? Let’s read the story. Read more…
A Sermon for Year 2, Week 7 of the Narrative Lectionary
This week we begin the next phase in our journey through the Old Testament this fall. We’ve covered the pre-history in Genesis, the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law, and last week’s story from Ruth comes during the time of the Judges, when each of the 12 Israelite tribes lived semi-autonomously in the promised land.
It’s been about four hundred years since the people of Israel entered the Promised Land of Canaan under Joshua. During this time they had no central ruler over all the tribes. From time to time, they were attacked by outside forces and in these times God raised up a leader, or a Judge, to protect and save the people. They also fought among themselves in both minor tribal disputes and open civil war.
After some time the people cried out for a king, like the other nations. The prophet Samuel, who was a judge over them at the time, warned them that having a king was not all it was cracked up to be. A king would lead to oppression, taxation, and a loss of freedoms. Still, the people insisted and Saul was raised up as King.
Saul started off as a good king, but soon he got on both Samuel and God’s bad side because of his unfaithfulness. So through Samuel, God anointed a young shepherd boy named David to be king. Soon after this boy would be come famous for defeating the giant Goliath and become a friend to Saul’s family. But David’s popularity and success made Saul jealous and soon David was running for his life, gathering up his own rag-tag band of followers. Before long, Saul was defeated in battle and David was victorious in the civil war over the throne. Read more…
A Sermon for Year 2, Week 5 of the Narrative Lectionary
As we continue our journey through God’s story and our story as told in the Old Testament this fall, we come to one of the best-known passages in Scripture – the 10 Commandments. Many of us hear this reading and our mind pictures either Charlton Heston holding the stone tablets, or we remember Mel Brooks dropping a tablet. Or maybe both. Either way, it is a memorable scene in the bible. But that scene comes from Exodus chapter 20, when Moses first brings the tablets down the mountain.
Today’s reading comes on the other side of the wilderness. It’s been forty years since Moses led the people out of Pharaoh’s hands. After being set free from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for forty years, learning to depend on God alone. Along the way they experienced hardships and many times wondered if they would have been better off if they stayed slaves in Egypt. There were also occasions when Moses and God became frustrated with the Israelites lack of faith and their grumbling.
Now they are on the shores of the Jordan River, the boundary between the wilderness and the Promised Land. Moses knows he won’t be crossing the river with them, and he sets out to give a farewell address, reminding them of all the things they learned in the wilderness. Deuteronomy is Greek for “Second Law,” because it is the second time Moses gives them the Law as he preaches to the Israelites, preparing and encouraging them for their life together in the land of milk and honey. Let’s read what Moses tells the Israelites.
A sermon for year 2, week 4 of the Narrative Lectionary
In seminary, my Old Testament professor was fond of saying that the story of the Jewish faith, and in turn Christianity, begins with the Exodus story. Everything that comes before it in Genesis is pre-history, telling the story of how the people came to be in Egypt. The story really gets going with the story of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people out of bondage. This is where we are today.
When we left our story last week, Jacob had wrestled with God and returned to his homeland to meet back up with his family. The lectionary this year skips over the story of Joseph and how the Hebrew people get to Egypt, so here is a short recap:
Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. His eleven older brothers are jealous of this and sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. There Joseph becomes a key assistant to the Pharaoh, interpreting dreams and saving the people from a famine. Because of Joseph, Egypt had stored enough food to get through the famine, and when Jacob’s family heard there was food in Egypt, the set off to escape the famine in Canaan. Joseph welcomes them, despite the family drama. Several generations later, the Hebrew people have multiplied significantly and now the Egyptians have become afraid to the Hebrew people. This is where we pick up the story today.
The story of Moses and the exodus is one of my favorites in all of the bible. Of course I cannot read it without picturing it with Charlton Heston as Moses and Yule Brenner as the Pharaoh. It is a great epic story of liberation, featuring a reluctant hero, a defiant villain, and an ending that is really a beginning. Read more…