Pentecost 7, the effect of walls

Title:Pentecost 7, the effect of walls

 Pentecost 7, Year B (full size gallery)

Clear but somewhat steamy day on Sunday – “7-11” day. The river was beautiful with an extensive sparkling that extended from the shore on down river. The crepes myrtle are all blooming and Cookie’s flowers featured purple flowers on the altar. Johnny gave out many ears of corn after the service to all takers.

Good attendance with 25 at the church and 6 online, including Laura Carey who is celebrating a birthday. It was the first use of the “birthday prayer” from inside the church through Zoom. We had one newcomer.

We are collecting sanitizer through next Sunday. We have a ways to go to meeting our goals of 250 bottles for Caroline’s Promise.

We announced a mission trip to Jamaica in August to deliver the school supplies and funds to the school we have supported. We have 6 going so far.

The sermon used the entire lectionary around the concept of wall

“We count on walls to protect us. The walls of a prison cell, walls built strong, are not to protect the person within them, but instead to protect the person in power, Herod in the Gospel Reading. John the Baptist, locked in this strong and stout prison cell, is in the greatest danger of his life and is beheaded in the reading”

Walls can be used to separate us from each other. “In today’s Old Testament reading, Amos uses the metaphor of a wall built with the plumb line of God’s righteousness and justice, a wall that separates the people of Israel from God. The people have forgotten what God has asked them to do, and instead are resting in ease and luxury behind the firm and stout walls that they have built, by taking the land of the poor and leaving them with nothing.”

In contrast to these walls built to protect political power, the lectionary offers us visions of God’s reign.

“Today’s psalm describes the reign of God. In the first part of the psalm, the people ask God to restore them, to take away the wall of God’s anger that has separated them from God. “The psalm ends with the vision of the Lord entering the created world on a pathway of peace, making God’s truth, righteousness, and peace real in us and on this earth. God cannot be contained by walls. God’s arrival in our midst makes walls unnecessary. The writer of Ephesians has this same understanding of the immensity of God’s reign. “So the wall becomes a metaphor for Jesus himself, the one who gathers up all things in God, things in heaven and things on earth, ad holds them together in himself. ”

The sermon described a church in Winchester literally demolishing their church in the coming week to make way for affordable housing. “But we must be careful not to let the walls of St Peter’s have the sole purpose of keeping want and trouble out, to be coming here only for comfort and protection from the world around us.

“Unlike the people at the sanctuary at Bethel, we want to welcome prophets even though prophets can be trouble! But we need to hear the words of the prophets, for they call us to back to God’s truth and righteousness when we go astray.”

Catherine aptly described St. Peter’s mission in the sermon.

“Our work is to break down walls in our community, which we currently do by working to eliminate hunger by providing healthy food for people who come to the food distribution.

“Our work is to break down the dividing walls of inequity out in the world. Our current work is to bring resources to those who are in need and will benefit, as the children in Jamaica at the Victoria School will when we go there in August to meet them and to distribute the school supplies which you all have so generously donated, and closer to home, to help provide sanitizer for students in Caroline County.

“Our work and our prayer is to be full of God’s peace, so that mercy and truth can meet together in us, and righteousness and peace can kiss one another—for when we are full of God’s peace, we know that we are already dwelling in the immensity of God’s reign, even within these walls, and as we reach out in Jesus’ name beyond these walls.”

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).