O Lord, mercifully hear the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1st Reading (Track 1): Amos 7:7-17
The prophet Amos functioned during the peaceful and prosperous reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the northern kingdom) although he himself was from Judah (the southern kingdom). Around the year 752 b.c.e., Amos proclaimed God’s displeasure that this prosperity was built on the backs of the poor. Our reading today is from the last section of the book, where the Lord’s judgment is brought to the fore and disaster predicted. Indeed, the northern kingdom was wiped from history by the Assyrians in 721 b.c.e. A “plumb line” is a simple device of a string with a weight on one end, to test true vertical for a wall, etc.
7:7 This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 “Now therefore hear the word of the Lord. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’ 17 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”
Psalm 82 (Track 1)
Psalm 82 is among the more ancient of the psalms, given its assumption of a polytheistic world. It puts forward a courtroom scene where “the Most High,” the God of Israel, disputes with “the gods.” The charge is a lack of justice.
1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly, *
and show favor to the wicked?
3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;
4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
they go about in darkness; *
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
and all of you children of the Most High;
7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
and fall like any prince.’”
8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
for you shall take all nations for your own.
Today’s first reading is a portion of the end of a long speech by Moses “on the plains of Moab” (Dt. 29:1—30:20). It is a curious reading in that it begins in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a sentence. The first half of the reading emphasizes the blessing of obedience. The second part answers the question, “Is not the law too difficult to obey in its entirety?”
30:9 [Moses said to the people of Israel,] “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
Psalm 25:1-9 (Track 2)
Psalm 25, like a few other psalms (9/10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145) is an acrostic poem. Each verse begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are a total of 22 verses in Psalm 25. It is an individual’s lament, in dialogue with perhaps a worship leader of some sort (the divisions are individual 1-7, 16-22 and leader 8-10, 12-14). Psalm 25 testifies to the possibility of confession, repentance, and forgives, as does our first reading today.
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3 Show me your ways, O Lord, *
and teach me your paths.
4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.
5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.
6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.
9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
2nd Reading: Colossians 1:1-14
We will read the Letter to the Colossians for the next four weeks. Paul’s actual authorship is disputed, largely due to language and phrasing that are uncharacteristic of him. Putting the name of one’s teacher on a letter was not all that unusual in the Greek world of the time. This is a letter to a community that Paul neither founded nor visited, so far as we know. Its apostle was Epaphras, of whom Paul speaks well. The letter is written in response to the threat of false teaching, although it is not entirely clear what that false teaching was. Somehow the unique supremacy of Christ was being challenged. The letter opens in the usual way, with a short greeting and a longer thanksgiving prayer for the community.
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Gospel Reading: Luke 10:25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is well known and beloved. It begins with a dialogue between Jesus and a lawyer. The lawyer is stuck on “understanding” and Jesus tries to move him toward “doing.” The parable ultimately does that, with its finish, “Go and do likewise.” The Kingdom of God is not a proposition but an action. “Who is my neighbor,” the lawyer asks. The answer is not in a category, but in an action. Jesus, in essence, turns “neighbor” into a verb.
10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
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