Righteousness

Watching for the morning of September 1

Year C

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 17 / Lectionary 22

Righteousness has become an uncomfortable word for us, connected as it is in the public mind with self-righteousness.  No one likes a goody-two-shoes.  We want our heroes to have a few flaws lest they seem to good to be true.  At the same time, we all recognize there are some who are just good people: kind, generous, faithful, courageous when necessary to defend others or to defend what is right.  The kind who will take you to the airport in the middle of the night, come rescue you if your car breaks down, or show up to sit with you in the surgical waiting lounge.  There is in them something more than friendship, because you know they will do all this even for a stranger.

Righteousness is not about ritual or moral purity; it is living the values of God who is gracious and merciful, just and true: who rescues those in bondage, who provides for those in need, who is faithful to his promises, who defends the widow and orphan.

There is a humility to such good people, a humility born of the encounter with the boundless love of God.  They are not preoccupied with looking good or even with being good; they simply live in and from and for the goodness of God.

Such “righteousness” weaves through the readings this week, expressed directly in the psalm and second reading, but underlying also the first reading and gospel: the righteous are those who embody the governance of God in the human spirit.

The Prayer for September 1, 2013

Gracious God,
you have given us a place at your own table,
feeding us with all your gifts of mercy and life.
Turn our eyes away from what is treasured by others
to what is treasured by you: humility, justice and kindness to all.

The Texts for September 1, 2013

First Reading: Proverbs 25:6-7
“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great;
for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” – This proverb from the wisdom tradition in Israel about wise behavior at court sets the background for today’s Gospel.

Psalmody: Psalm 112
“Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments.” – The poet celebrates the character of the righteous and the fruit that come from faithfulness to God’s commands.

Second Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
“Let mutual love continue.”
– The author’s call for renewal now moves to a series of exhortations that touch on key elements in the shape of Christian life.

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Observing the behavior of those gathering for a banquet, Jesus taps into the ancient proverbs about proper conduct at a banquet, then transforms it with the call to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” who bring you no advantage in moving up the social or economic ladder, but make you children of the kingdom of heaven.