Eighth Sunday After Pentecost Study

8TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST   07-18-2021

FIRST READING:   Jeremiah 23:1-6

The shepherds mentioned in today’s reading are not standing on a hillside with a staff in their hand looking out over their flock of grazing fluffy sheep! These shepherds are all those kings – a long succession of monarchs in history! – of the southern Jewish kingdom of Judah who were supposed to lead, protect, and tend the nation. But they have failed, and the prophet proclaims that it was never their true intent to properly tend the flock of God, God’s people. So “woe” is pronounced over those kings… indeed, for not attending to the people, God “will attend” to each of those kings [The word in Hebrew can mean either “look after” or “punish”].

Then God will graciously gather up the people from their misery and their exile [The northern Jewish nation of Israel has already fallen long ago, and the southern Jewish nation of Judah is going to fall soon enough.], and God will raise up a new king from David’s line, a “shepherd” who will care and “execute justice and righteousness” in the land, saving both Israel and Judah.

Verse 6 proclaims that the new king would be called, “The Lord is our righteousness”. The current king of Judah when Jeremiah spoke these words was a puppet king installed by the Babylonians; his name, Zedekiah, meant “The Lord is my righteousness”. Note how God’s new shepherd, God’s “righteous Branch”, will bring favor and blessing to all God’s people!

You might want to read Chapter 22 – where judgment is pronounced over individual kings who reigned briefly during the troubled decades before Judah fell to the Babylonians and many were taken away in exile – and also the rest of Chapter 23 that follows today’s reading – where Jeremiah denounces the lying prophets who are speaking, to use a phrase from today’s politics, alternative realities, to please the king and to fool the people. The “Big Lie” is not just a present day, post-election phenomenon.

In Jeremiah’s time and our own, God expects the “kings” who are leading and the “prophets” who are interpreting to be faithful and obedient to God, to think right, say right, do right, and be right. Not every “king” or “prophet” has the humility, the integrity, the commitment, or the compassion to even try!

It was just last Sunday that we were talking about the challenge of speaking God’s “truth to power”. Last Sunday the prophet Amos was condemned and threatened, John the Baptizer was jailed and beheaded, and Jesus would someday be crucified. This Sunday’s featured prophet, Jeremiah, suffered all sorts of abuse for his peaching…felt deceived and wronged by God… and wished he had never been born. When have you encountered risk and faced suffering for speaking up, for standing up, for acting up on behalf of God’s truth, God’s mercy, God’s justice, God’s love?

As you think about this text and today’s Gospel, how did Jesus fulfill the promise of a shepherd to care for God’s flock? And you might look at John 10 where Jesus says “I am the good shepherd.”

What do you think are the qualities of a good leader? A good prophet?  

 

PSALM:   Psalm 23   

Is there any psalm that’s as familiar and as beloved as this one?

We are like sheep. We are not as smart, brave, or self-sufficient as we might like to think and hope. We have a tendency to wander away and either get lost or nibble ourselves into dangerous situations. We are quick to get frightened, quick to flee, and even quicker to panic. And it makes a real difference in our lives to have a good shepherd to guide, protect, comfort, and nourish us always and even into eternity.

We celebrate the love of God that has given us Jesus Christ to be our Good Shepherd… and the love of Jesus who has willingly suffered and died for us, conquered death, defeated sin, and given us salvation and new life. We can trust the love of God. We can trust the love of Jesus Christ. It gives us a sense of peace. It empowers our living. It lifts up a promise that, no matter what, everything is gonna be alright.

What recent experience left you scattered, scraped, and scared? How did you get back on the right path?  

 

SECOND READING:   Ephesians 2:11-22

When Pastor Neil transferred to the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia after attending another Lutheran seminary, Hamma School of Theology, for three years, the new school was not very welcoming or affirming. For example, he and other transfer students like him were given the label of “unclassified” because he and they did not fit into the seminary’s traditional designations of “Junior”, “Middler”, “Intern”, or “Senior” to mark the rigidly structured four year progression to get a degree in preparation for pastoral ministry.

Today’s reading bears the labels “aliens”, strangers”, “citizens”, and “household of God”. It isn’t too difficult to recognize that Paul is talking about the issue of inclusion and exclusion in the Christian faith. Paul is declaring – and he’s saying it to Gentiles who, in the Jewish faith, were on the wrong side of the fence – that the distance has disappeared, the dividing wall has been broken down, the hostility has been removed… Gentiles are welcomed and included and equally valued… “there is one new humanity in place of the two”… we all are saints, we all belong… and we are connected together, almost like building blocks, as a dwelling place for God, with Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone. Through Jesus’ death, we are brought close and together. ONE new humanity.  NO dividing walls. Peace. ALL of us belong. 

Have you ever felt like a “stranger” to God and to God’s people? And when have you participated in the rejecting, the wall building, the hostility towards others? The ancient world had its barriers. So, too, does our modern world. Shamefully, so also does the Church at times. But “in Christ” we can tear down all the walls of hate and indifference and separation that threaten to destroy our human relationships. Remember, God is teaching us, leading us, guiding us, and empowering us, so that we might bring harmony and unity to all of life! It’s not just for you, this plan of God, not just for your own gain. It is all for the praise of God’s glory, to be a child of God and a servant of God. Having been given the gift of Jesus Christ, we can hope, we can live, we can love others, we can help heal the world, fixing what is broken and uniting what is fragmented.   

 

GOSPEL READING:  Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

There is a rhythm to authentic living that includes work and leisure, rest and exercise, interaction with others and time to ourselves, getting away as well as staying home, tending to our own wellness as well as caring for others. And there should also be some time in our busy and distracted lives for worship, both the organized worship gatherings with other Christian people as well as the personal moments of quiet reflection and prayer. It takes time to relax and to be renewed. And it takes effort. First, you have to set aside the time. Then you have to “work” at slowing down, entering into the quiet and the calm, accepting God’s peace and grace. But it isn’t as hard as you think to do this, if you are willing to “let go and let God”. After all, God has created a human being rather than a human doing. And God can help you find the right balance in your life.

How do you both take care of yourself and also remain faithful in ministry to others?

Today’s reading begins with the invitation by Jesus to his disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” They had been out on the mission field, sent forth on a mission journey, traveling light with few possessions and little comfort, village to village and perhaps not much to eat, preaching and teaching, listening and counseling, laying on hands, anointing and healing the sick, driving out evil spirits, representing in word and in deed the good news about God’s love, God’s Kingdom, a new way of being and becoming.

Rest. We all need it sometimes. The disciples needed it. No doubt Jesus needed rest too. What one thing might you NOT DO this day in order to not be “so busy”? And what one thing might you actually DO in order to rest, in order to renew, in order to get your life moving in the direction of a better balance? More sleep? Leisurely walk? Play a game with a child? Read a book? Just sit quietly and breathe? Stop and rest.

Here we will not even focus on the second theme of today’s Gospel – about all those suffering, desperate people finding Jesus and his disciples… about Jesus having “compassion for them, because they looked like sheep without a shepherd” (verse 34). That’ can be next Sunday’s message.

Who knows, along the way you may just find the joy and meaning of your life again.

Upcoming Events

Jun
19
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jun 19 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jun
23
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jun
30
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
3
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 3 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
5
Fri
2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Jul 5 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Check out the Senior Food Program’s page for more information.