Second Sunday After Pentecost Lessons & Meditation

FIRST READING:  Exodus 19:2-8a   [Delivered for a purpose – God’s covenant of love.]

Three months along on their “freedom march” after being delivered by God out from Egypt and hundreds of years of slavery, the Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Sinai and camped at the foot of the mountain that was there. At Mount Sinai, God reminded Israel who had rescued them from the Egyptians, and assured them that their loving God would continue to treasure them if they obeyed God and stayed in God’s covenant relationship with them.  God commissioned the Israelite people to serve as mediating priests representing and sharing his love and will with the nations.  The people committed themselves completely to fulfilling God’s will… they promised. But we should note that, before they had arrived at this Mount Sinai, in just three months of journey to get there, they had already murmured, grumbled, and complained against Moses… they had already tried to “quit on God”… they murmured and turned away several times. And we should note that, before Moses would return down from this Mount Sinai with all the details of God’s covenant laws and decrees, the people would get impatient and restless, murmur again, easily convince Aaron to build them a shiny golden calf as their brand new god, and start a party. Neither God nor Moses would be pleased that the promise of faithfulness by the Israelite people noted in today’s reading wouldn’t last more than 40 days. And we should also note that the Israelite people that were spared along the exodus journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, as well as their descendants, would continue that same pattern of making promises to God, disobeying, begging for mercy, and being forgiven. Can you think of times in your life when you have let God down, acted contrary to God’s will, failed to remember the mission God has entrusted to you? What do you do when you haven’t heard from God in a while, how do you manage, do you decide to head in a different direction? During worship in the season of Lent at St. Peter’s we hear these words each Sunday: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Behold, now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.”

THE PSALM:  Psalm 100   [Everybody ought to be able and willing to give thanks!]

Short, pleasant psalms like this one are popular choices for opening devotions at public faith gatherings. Historical research suggests that pilgrims, who had traveled to the Temple for worship from great and shorter distances, would be met at the outer gate by a priest or Temple official who would “liturgically” greet them. The pilgrims would be instructed to turn their backs on the Temple at first, to face the nations from which they had traveled, and to repeat the invitation, really a command (verses 1-2), to all the people dwelling on the earth to worship Yahweh, the God of Israel. Next the travelers would face one another, remind each other, and affirm together that God was the Creator and the Shepherd of this people Israel (verse 3). Then the priest or Temple official would invite the pilgrims to enter the gates “with thanksgiving”. Once inside the Temple, in its outermost court, the priest or Temple official would lead the people in professing their faith in the God who is utterly loyal to them in love. Throughout our lives… throughout the generations beyond our own lives…God offers us many reasons to give thanks, to sing and shout and clap our hands in praise and gratitude. Is your own expression of joy too limited? Too private? Are you able to live joy in your life?

SECOND READING:  Romans 5:1-8   [Standing in grace… pressing on in hope.]

Through Christ Jesus… and only through Christ Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection… Christians stand in God’s grace and are brought into a right relationship with God… we are “justified by faith”, like accepting a free gift.  St. Paul says that God makes us right and gives us peace, that God also offers us hope for the future even through all the difficult struggles and disappointing sufferings we might face. We are sustained and strengthened – and maybe even surprised – by the presence, the peace, the power, and the promises of Jesus Christ. When, as the song says, “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”, it cannot fail, it cannot turn to dust and ashes, it can never be disappointed, and it is not a phony offer. Think of a time when, in your weakness, you discovered the strength of God’s love.

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 9:35 – 10:23   [Authorized, empowered, and sent to serve and save, to suffer and trust.]

The mission of Jesus’ followers – these twelve disciples named in the reading as well as all disciples over the historical span of years and miles – is to continue the mission of Jesus himself. The same capacity for true compassion is anticipated, the same commitment to lovingly shepherd the people is required. To gather people together as a “flock”, to help reap a “harvest” that is ready, requires:

  • a focused commitment to go and to do;
  • journeying that is not weighed down with material clutter;
  • loving actions and loving words towards those in desperate need;
  • freedom from the temptation and greed for personal compensation and pleasant fringe benefits;
  • the realistic understanding that bearing Jesus’ mission includes the probability of opposition rejection, and suffering from others, from various institutions, and perhaps even from family;
  • the assurance of the help of the Holy Spirit and of a future, where, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has proclaimed, “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death; victory is ours through Him who loved us.”

A MEDITATION

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” God will see that His purposes are accomplished. God does not need many to do the work. He seeks a consecrated few. God is moving over the face of the earth, calling a people to know the splendor of his grace… to show forth his praises… to worship him in spirit and truth… and to be a strong and obedient people, a people truly able to share his love and mercy, a people of joy, Christ’s living Body, his heart and voice and hands.  

Many are “harassed and helpless” in our world. God loves us deeply and dearly and depends on us to love others with the same degree of compassion and commitment God offers us. It won’t always be easy. And sometimes it won’t look so successful. Our Lord Jesus sends us forth fluffy, slithering, and cooing to be God’s laborers for God’s plentiful harvest… that is, “like sheep in the midst of wolves… wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).”

Much has been given us, much is expected. We must never put off what God is saying to us to do. God loves us. He is with us. If God is saying to press on, to go forth, then let us stand up and do it…

Upcoming Events

Jun
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2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
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2024
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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...
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2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
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