Fourth Sunday After Pentecost Lessons & Meditation

FIRST READING:  Jeremiah 28:5-9

In last Sunday’s reading (Jeremiah 20:7-13) the prophet Jeremiah was discouraged and disheartened. He blamed God for forcing him into a preaching ministry that only brought ridicule and persecution, including a recent whipping and being locked up and publicly humiliated in stocks… he confessed that he had unsuccessfully tried to hold back the “fire in his bones” of God’s word… and he determined once again to try to trust in God’s hands as he told God’s truth. In this Sunday’s reading, Jeremiah is stronger. Isn’t the journey of faithfulness for many a believer an experience of “ups and downs” depending on our sense of success, our sense of failure, and the suffering we might encounter?

Three years before the time of today’s reading, fierce Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem, deported much of the population, stripped the Temple of its vessels, and placed the puppet king Zedekiah on the Jewish throne. The world of God’s people had been turned upside down, and the nation struggled to find its footing and its future. In Jeremiah 27 the prophet, Jeremiah placed an oxen yoke on his neck and called upon King Zedekiah and the people not to resist Babylonian rule because it was God’s judgment upon them for breaking the covenant relationship with God. Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah persistently counseled submission to Babylon. It was not a popular message.

In today’s reading two prophets, Jeremiah and Hananiah, proclaim the word of the Lord. One speaks of God’s judgment, of submitting to the invaders and accepting the punishment it brings. The other speaks glowingly of God’s love and mercy and promises an imminent deliverance from the threat of Babylon, the return of the exiled people, and the stolen Temple vessels within two years, lasting peace, and restoration to national greatness. Only one can be speaking the truth – God’s word – for that moment in history.

Hananiah dramatically took the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it to demonstrate his confidence that God would smash the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of God’s people within those next two years. Oops! Before the first year was completed, Hananiah died for speaking against the Lord, just, as Jeremiah had predicted he would.

Today in the United States, we are often confronted with competing messages. In the political realm we have numerous “alternate realities” lifted up about almost everything; and, in particular, there is much-polarized debate about whether there is systemic racism or continued injustice in our nation. In the medical realm, we have disagreements about whether we are pretty much “done” with the COVID-19 pandemic; and we have politicized even the wearing of masks and practicing social distance. In the religious realm, the majority of white evangelical Christians still struggle to uphold President Trump as God’s special “good guy” in spite of his words and behavior
that clash with traditional Christian beliefs. In the midst of life’s complexities and opposing messages, how do you seek to determine what to believe? What role does your faith play in that?

SECOND READING:  Romans 6:12-23

Paul asserts that sin is an enslaving power that motivates us to live self-serving and disobedient lives.  Sin’s final payoff is death. In Christ, however, we have been set free from sin’s slavery to live obediently under God’s grace, whose end is the free gift of eternal life. But we need to understand that grace is not a debit card to live any old way we desire! We cannot give just a part of ourselves to God. With God, it is all or nothing.

Jesus once taught, “No one can serve two masters. Either s/he will hate the one and love the other, or s/he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24). In today’s reading Paul makes use of the master/slave image to assert that we have become, in Christ, “slaves to righteousness” and are no longer “slaves to sin”.

Once we have been saved by God’s grace, we still have the option of living the old life, choosing to just follow our own passions and desires, choosing this world’s fading treasures and fleeting pleasures, and ignoring the needs of the world. Old habits and values are tempting and easy. And Satan doesn’t give up on us, on human nature. But the life-giving way is to practice living into our new identity as Christians, living faithfully and loving fervently, becoming like Christ in character and in action.

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 10:40-42

Last Sunday, Jesus warned his disciples then and now that their ministry in his name will surely meet with persecution and hardships. This week, he promises to reward those who aid his followers and support his ministry.

We who have been brought from death to life have a new mode of being in the world. To embrace life means to extend Christ’s welcome and hospitality to others, particularly to the stranger, the prophet, and the child… and, in them, to find Christ.

Have you discovered yet that what makes life valuable and worth living is to follow Jesus in selfless service?

A MEDITATION

“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 6:23). Always make the right choice in your journey of life. Accept the gift. 

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.