Engaging the Word: Readings for 8/21/16 (The 14th Sunday after Pentecost)

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 By Barbara Klugh

Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary.

In this week’s readings, Jeremiah answers God’s call to become a prophet despite his feelings of inadequacy, the author of Hebrews tells how the gospel of Jesus has ushered in a new approach to God, and Jesus disregards tradition by healing a woman on the Sabbath.

The Prophet Jeremiah by Piero della Francesca c.1452. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Prophet Jeremiah by Piero della Francesca c.1452. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 Jeremiah 1:4-10: Jeremiah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah 627-582 BC about 100 years after Isaiah.

The Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom and Jeremiah wanted the people of Judah to return to Godliness in order to avoid a similar fate. His era spanned the reigns of the last kings of Judah—Josiah, who was a fervent religious reformer, and Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah—and for some time after the fall of Jerusalem. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed the city of Jerusalem and had most of its citizens deported. Our OT lesson for eight of the next nine Sundays will be from Jeremiah, which barely scratches the surface of this rich compilation of oracles (messages from God), prayers, exhortations, poetry, biography, and history.

In this week’s reading, God calls Jeremiah to be “a prophet to the nations.” Like Moses, Jeremiah protested that he was unqualified, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But God assures him that he will be with him and will deliver him from any difficulties. God touches Jeremiah’s mouth and said, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.” Then God gives Jeremiah his difficult mission: “See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Obviously, youth, inexperience, or lack of eloquence does not deter God. What God wants is a willing heart and faithful obedience to his will. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped…He equips the called.”

Psalm 71:1-6: In this psalm, an elderly person who has troubles, cries out to God for deliverance and is confident that God will help and protect him.

Public domain photo with text added by B. Klugh.

Public domain photo with text added by B. Klugh.

Hebrews 12:18-29: In this week’s reading, the author of Hebrews continues to address Jewish Christians who were in danger of turning back to Judaism. He uses the symbols of Mount Sinai and Mount Zion to contrast the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. Mount Sinai was a terrifying place, filled with fire, darkness, and gloom. But Christians come to a joyful gathering on Mount Zion, and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to Jesus the mediator. The author warns against refusing the salvation of God through the New Covenant. As God’s voice shook the earth on Mount Sinai, God will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens. Eventually the world—the created things—will end, and only God’s kingdom will remain. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God and acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”

I think of God’s consuming fire more about my life now, rather than the grand finale of Judgment Day. I can think of many personal flaws that should be burned up in God’s consuming fire. The more God purifies our minds and hearts, the more we can be filled with the love of Christ. And that’s a beautiful way to live.

Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. By Matthias Gerung c. 1530 Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. By Matthias Gerung c. 1530 Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 13:10-17: This week’s reading, recorded only in Luke, is about Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath. It tells a lot about the character of Jesus.

Jesus was a teacher—Jesus was teaching at a synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus was observant—he noticed a bent-over woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. Jesus  was compassionate—He called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” Jesus was a healer—he laid his hands on her and she immediately stood up and began praising God.

By healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus showed he was willing to go outside the cultural norms to help a person. Jesus was not afraid of confrontation—when the leader became indignant because Jesus cured the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus confronted him with the inconsistent way the Sabbath law was used. If it’s okay to untie your donkey, “Ought this woman, a daughter of Abraham who Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” By calling the woman “a daughter of Abraham,” Jesus saw and proclaimed the woman as one of God’s own children. The crowd loved it. It’s an interesting twist (I think of it as Jesus judo) that the leader of the synagogue was shown to be bound up and crippled by the law, while the woman was set free from Satan’s bondage.

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