The Burning Bush Logo of the Church of Scotland
The Call of God
The Sunday Closest to August 31
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
AUGUST 31, 2014
SEPTEMBER 3, 2017
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM Who I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this is my title for all generations.
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Search for the LORD and his strength;
continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,
O children of Jacob his chosen.
23 Israel came into Egypt,
and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.
24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;
he made them stronger than their enemies;
25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,
and dealt unjustly with his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
and Aaron whom he had chosen.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Jeremiah 15:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):
O LORD, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance do not take me away;
know that on your account I suffer insult.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
nor did I rejoice;
under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
If you turn back, I will take you back,
and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.
And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
Psalm 26:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,
for I have lived with integrity;
I have trusted in the LORD and not faltered.
2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;
examine my heart and my mind.
3 For your love is before my eyes;
I have walked faithfully with you.
4 I have not sat with the worthless,
nor do I consort with the deceitful.
5 I have hated the company of evildoers;
I will not sit down with the wicked.
6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,
that I may go in procession round your altar,
7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving
and recounting all your wonderful deeds.
8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell
and the place where your glory abides.
Romans 12:9-21 (New Revised Standard Version):
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Matthew 16:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
The prophet Jeremiah was having a very bad day. He had been preaching the word of God for awhile. And, for all his trouble, he had faced rejection and persecution.
Be honest. Have you not turned to God and complained bitterly? Have you not accused God of being absent in your time of need? I have. So did Jeremiah. There is nothing wrong with this, for a relationship with God, if it is healthy, is honest.
And God answered Jeremiah’s lament. Get beyond yourself, God said. Get busy, God said. And I will be with you, God said.
This was also God’s message to Moses, a fugitive murderer on the run from Egyptian authorities. Moses received a straight-forward mandate: to return to Egypt, speak for God, and play a vital part in the divine plan to liberate the Hebrews from slavery. This was a daunting task, and Moses was a poor speaker. But Aaron was a better orator, and God would be with them.
God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.
Jeremiah had asked God to undertake vengeance upon his enemies. Paul, in Romans, reflects the opposite point of view. Vengeance, he says, is purely a matter for God. Followers of God are supposed to love their enemies, as well as their friends and other like-minded people. Vengeance is a natural desire, one I know well. But it does not help one glorify and enjoy God forever. Revenge is not Christ-like.
Speaking of Jesus…
Last week, Peter had just become the first rock of human faith on the rock mass of God, and Jesus had just said how blessed the Apostle was. Then, in this week’s installment, Jesus predicted his own arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection. Peter, horrified, protested. Then Jesus rebuked the man he had just blessed. Jesus understood his own divine call, which was to atone for sin. This purpose came at a high cost to him. The mission of the Apostles was to follow their Lord, and most of them became martyrs.
God challenges us to move beyond ourselves, serve others, love others as ourselves–created in the divine image, and take on difficult tasks for a greater purpose. This is truly risky business, but Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Simon Peter chose to remain faithful and to endure. Two of them died for it, one died in exile, and the fourth spent a generation in the Sinai Desert with a horde of grumblers. And all four are heroes of faith.
Jesus, of course, was and is far more than a hero of faith. And he calls us to assume risks. Each of us ought to take up a cross and follow him. We need to be the best disciples we can be. That is the call of God.
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 8, 2011