1st Reading (Track 1): Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Jeremiah prophesies the invasion of an army (“a hot wind”) of destruction (“a wind too strong [just] to winnow or cleanse”). Verses 13-21, not read today, deliver that message in stark terms and make the claim that it is God who is intervening as a consequence of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Yet (as verses 22-28 make clear) the people are oblivious, which only assures the “desolation.” But there is a faint glimmer of hope: “I will not make a full end.” God cannot quite let go of the people he has made and loved.
4:11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse—12 a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. 22 “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” 23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. 27 For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. 28 Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.
Psalm 14 (Track 1)
Psalm 14 is a reflection on the nature of fools to do evil as opposed to the righteous poor, for whom God is a refuge and deliverer. If there is a refrain in the psalm it is “no…no one…none…none…no...no one.” Verse 4 may be the crux of the argument: indifference toward God and social injustice go hand in hand.
1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
there is none who does any good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.
3 Every one has proved faithless; all alike have turned bad; *
there is none who does good; no, not one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
who eat up my people like bread
and do not call upon the Lord?
5 See how they tremble with fear, *
because God is in the company of the righteous.
6 Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
but the Lord is their refuge.
7 Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! *
when the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.
1st Reading (Track 2): Exodus 32:7-14
Moses has been on the mountain forty days and the people have grown restless. In the first six verses of chapter 32, they ask Aaron, the priest, to make them an idol to worship and he comes up with a golden calf (which will appear again in Israel’s history—see 1 Kings 12:28ff). To say that God is upset is an understatement! Notice how God calls Israel “your people” and Moses turns around and says the same to God. Moses successfully negotiates with God (reminiscent of Abraham bargaining over Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-33). God changes his mind and renews the promise. As the story goes on, however, there was severe punishment. Aaron is spared though he made the calf. He shows his own weakness as a leader when he says (v. 24): “so they gave it [the gold] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
32:7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Psalm 51 (Track 2)
Psalm 51 is a psalm of penitence and a prayer for deliverance. Verse 8 suggests the underlying problem is illness, although the penitent feels he has been sinful from his mother’s womb. The Hebrew introduction to the psalm ascribes it to David “when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” The first verse contains three key words of Israel’s faith in God: mercy, loving-kindness (or steadfast love), and compassion. They are played off against three descriptive words of separation from God: iniquity, sin, and transgression. It is Israel’s faith that the former will trump the latter.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned *
and done what is evil in your sight.
5 And so you are justified when you speak *
and upright in your judgment.
6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
a sinner from my mother’s womb.
7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
10 Hide your face from my sins *
and blot out all my iniquities.
11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.
2nd Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
We will spend six weeks reading through 1 & 2 Timothy. They are attributed to Paul, but the great majority of biblical scholars consider them second generation. It was not unusual for followers of someone to write in his name. Here Paul’s story is rehearsed to make the point: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Timothy, of course, was Paul’s protégé and probably continued his ministry in Ephesus after Paul’s death. The first portion of verse 15 is one of the “comfortable words” after the confession and absolution of Rite I in The Book of Common Prayer (p. 332).
1:12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-10
Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel contains three parables answering the charge of the religious authorities: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” We have the first two this morning (the third is the much longer parable of the Prodigal Son, which we read in Lent). The two parables below parallel one another almost exactly and they follow a pattern in Luke of male and female examples being held up together. Of all the Gospel writers, Luke is not afraid to use feminine imagery in referring to God. The point of the parables is clear: the joy of the forgiveness of sins available to all. They also bring home the message from the Sermon on the Plain, “Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful.” (6:36)
15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. The Psalm is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany Esources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information. And like us on Facebook!