August 7, 2016- Proper 14 (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)
August 19, 2016 | by Benjamin Cowan
|Reading 1 Alt
|Reading 2 Alt
|Isaiah 1:1 & 10-20
|Hebrews 11:1-3 & 8-16
Isaiah 1:1 & 10-20
The opening of Isaiah offers a shocking idea to the nation of Israel. God is not motivated or moved by burnt offerings, incenses, sabbaths, convocations, new moons, and festivals. All the rituals that are thought to be pleasing to God are revealed to not be. In fact, God labels his people like Sodom and Gomorrah. The language harkens back to a time of intense judgment because of a failure of people to practice basic civility and hospitality to strangers. God calls his people through Isaiah to abandon evil and do good. Good in the sight of God was to, “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Good is always moving towards the other to enable them to live. If Israel did these things, there land would be at peace, because together, everyone accomplishes more.
Isaiah’s oracle is important to the church today. The text calls us to question our actions. Why do we sing? Why do we preach? Why do we take up offerings? Why do we consistently engage in the liturgy? Why do we go to church? The text warns us if we do these practices out of form or in belief that we will get something in return, than we can expect God to be displeased. However, if we do these things while actively living in love and holiness, than these things become life giving aspects of our walk with God.
Psalm 50:1-8 & 22-23
The psalm is a call for us to reflect in our worship upon why do we worship. Fitting well with what was established in the OT reading, the psalm turns the concepts of doing good and righteousness into the reflection of worship. Thus, let us all worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Alternative Reading 1: Genesis 15:1-6
The text describes the story of how Abraham was declared righteous before God. It was not by some mighty act, destroying a great enemy ,or some other heroic deed. It was through a simple act of trust. Abraham trusted in his relationship with God and because of that he was declared righteous. Many people believe that they will become righteous because of what they do but the text tells us that we become righteous not because of what we do but because of who know. Righteousness is about having a relationship with God. In knowing God , we cannot help but imitate and be lured by God’s mission of love!
Alternative Reading 2: Psalm 33:12-22
This psalm calls us to reflect upon, in our worship, the joys of having a relationship with God. Let us all cultivate and strengthen our relationship with God and our fellow humans.
Hebrews 11:1-3 & 8-16
In this passage, the author provides a definition of faith as hope for a future outcome. To illustrate what he means, the author draws upon the life of the most iconic person in Jewish culture. Abraham is a man whom God promised would become a great nation, but this did not happen in his lifetime, it took place many years after he had passed away. Yet, Abraham did not doubt God’s word, although he himself did not see it. The text reminds us that God’s guidance is not limited to us individually but includes our family, future generations, the well-being of the planet, and the cosmos. What Abraham endured opened paths of possibilities for his descendants. In like manner, lets us not assume that the leading of God in our lives and communities are exclusively about ourselves. God’s leading is always working towards building a brighter future for the whole world.
The gospel reading is an exhortation to trust in God as ones source and not one’s material possession. In doing so, the text implies that God will take care of the individual whose treasure is God in their heart. The one whose has God’ in their heart is ready for action. Jesus describes this person as the one waiting to open the door for his/her master. As such, the faithful servant is the one whom the master trusts and shows gratitude by eating with the servant and serving the servant. This is an inversion of social norms, slaves served master, masters did not serve slaves! This shows that in the kingdom of God all are made equal. Jesus tells his followers to be ready for one does not the time when the kingdom will come but one must be in action and be prepared. As has been illustrated from the other text in the lectionary, being in action is participating and promoting the will of God. As John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can .”