Pentecost 8, July 15, 2018

Title:Pentecost 8, July 15, 2018

 Pentecost 8, July 15, 2018 (full size gallery)


This was the last week before Catherine went out on sabbatical which lasts from this Sunday, July 15 trough Sunday, August 22.

Monday was lunch in the trailer court and Tuesday a trip with the youth to see the nature exhibits at Maymont to take advantage of both the summer weather and schedule.  The common denominator was service, both outreach and inreach. On Monday we served 20 people in the trailer court lunch and played games. The service on Tuesday was for 14 children and adults. 

Today’s readings invite us to reflect on our participation in Christ’s mission and ministry today. Amos defends his prophetic calling in the face of opposition from Israel’s rulers. The author of Ephesians reminds us that God has chosen us from the beginning to share in the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus instructs and sends out twelve disciples to share in his ministry.

Amos is the first of the prophets whose words have come down to us in a separate book. Although he was from Judah his mission was to the northern kingdom of Israel about the years 760—750 B.C. when, under Jeroboam II, the kingdom was at the height of its prosperity. Its wealth and power rested, however, upon injustice.

The reading from Amos follows the third of five visions (7:1–9:6) of the Lord’s judgment upon the people. In response to the first and second visions, Amos had interceded for the people and God had relented, but now the condition of the nation is made so evident Amos cannot plead for them. By the Lord’s measure, they are irrevocably warped (2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11).

This Sunday’s reading describes what happens when Amos incurs the anger of Amaziah, the representative of civil religion, for attacking the king, and he is told to ply his trade elsewhere. Amos answers that he is not a ‘professional’ prophet. He does not make his living at it (1 Samuel 9:6-10), nor is he a member of the guild of prophets (2 Kings 2:3; 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Kings 22:6). He is merely a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. This seasonal occupation meant puncturing the fig-like fruit, food only for the poor, so that it would grow large enough to eat. Rather, Amos has been constrained by the Lord to speak God’s word. (3:8b).

Amos is an example of the Lord’s stamp of destiny on responsive people, whom God may call from any modest quarter, fill with the Holy Spirit, and commission to speak God’s word. Amos had no credentials as a prophet, and sounds rather bewildered that he was called away from his sheep and sycamores. Nevertheless, he had no doubt that he had been divinely called to speak God’s word. 

Similar to Amos, Jesus disciples had no training in what set out to do. Jesus calls them in their ordinary clothes, pursuing their usual routines. To do his work, it seems more important to have a companion than a new wardrobe.

The lament from the Psalm 85 gives thanks for the exiles’ restoration and recounts the people’s affliction and need for God’s continued help (vv. 4-6). The Lord’s answer comes (vv. 8-13), perhaps as an oracle uttered by a prophet or priest. Verses 10-11 beautifully reassure the people of God’s gracious care. These four qualities—steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace—spring from God and are the genuine foundation for relationships among God’s people.

Chapter 1 of Ephesisans, the Epistle this Sunday, centers on the privileges of the believer’s new life in Christ. Much of the verse is in the form of a hymn which is trinitarian in emphasis, framed by the repeated phrase “the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6, the Father; 1:12, the Son; 1:14, the Holy Spirit), and centered about the revelation of God in Christ. Just as Christ’s mission of redemption was not a belated stop-gap measure on God’s part but rather part of God’s will for all time, so likewise the believer has been chosen to participate in that mission since “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4).

“The mystery of his will” (v. 9) is not an incomprehensible secret, but God’s age-long purpose now revealed in Christ. God’s aim is the unity of all things, heavenly and earthly, in Christ. The ultimate cosmic re-unification is to be shown forth on earth by the unity in the Church of Jew and Gentile (3:4-6). The individual believer appropriates a role in the Church through baptism, the sealing with the Holy Spirit, as the down payment on his new life (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5; Romans 8:23).

In this section of the gospel, Mark uses one of his familiar “sandwich” constructions to highlight the meaning of the mission of the disciples. In between their sending (vv. 7-13) and their return (v. 30), instead of narrating the details of their mission Mark recounts the death of John the Baptist. His message is clear: there is no privileged form of discipleship. Sharing in Jesus’ mission will always cost.

In Mark’s gospel, the fate of John the Baptist and Jesus are closely linked. When John is arrested (Greek, handed over), Jesus then began his ministry (1:14). Now in the ministry section, the fate of John serves as a warning about the hardships that disciples will also face after Jesus’ death. John’s death also foreshadows the difficulties that Jesus must face in carrying out his mission. He will soon have to reveal to the disciples that his death must be an essential part of his messianic role (8:31, 9:31, 10:45).

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