The Word that divides

Watching for the morning of August 18

Year C

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 15 / Lectionary 20

Map of Israel Drainage divide

Map of Israel Drainage divide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a call to faithfulness in the texts for Sunday.  Jeremiah challenges the king’s prophets who speak only what the king wishes to hear, yet who claim to speak in the name of God.  The psalm speaks a word of judgment against the nations for failing to protect the poor and powerless.  Hebrews continues its recital of the great examples of faithfulness from Israel’s past.  And Jesus talks about families divided over him, the deepest bond of allegiance in the ancient world wrenched in two.

Those who don’t know the anguish of rent families can get carried away with enthusiasm and heroism – us against the world – but these are troubling matters.  It’s easy in hindsight to know that Jeremiah was the true prophet, but how easy would it have been at the time?  His message calling Judah to submit to Babylonian rule did sound like he was working for the enemy.  Heretic and traitor are easier to see in hindsight – though we throw the words around easily enough.

But the word of God does provoke and challenge.  It rends even as it heals.  And there are times that people are called to step up and stand against the tide.  Jesus’ message of Gods reign is wonderful news for the poor and indebted, but it is a profound challenge to the way of the world – and a risk to those who follow.

The Prayer for August 18, 2013

You call us to faithfulness, O God,
in times of trial and in times of peace.
Grant us courage to speak your word boldly
and to live with daring your teaching,
until that day when all the earth is ablaze
with the fire of your Holy Spirit.

The Texts for August 18, 2013

First Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-29
“Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?” – God challenges the false prophets who claim to speak for God but speak only their own hopes and dreams.

Psalmody: Psalm 82
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” – God gathers the ‘gods’ of the nations and speaks judgment for they have failed to protect the weak and the needy.

Second Reading: Hebrews 11:29–12:2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
– The conclusion of the great recital of those who put their trust in the promise of God and the call to model their faithfulness

Gospel: Luke 12:49-56
“”I came to bring fire to the earth.” – The message of Jesus will provoke division, even within families.