Reflections for Sunday, June 28th

 
Reflections for Sunday, June 28th

Call to Worship (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary,
and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
So we come, to worship, to learn, to rest... in Jesus God,
And may we find rest and renewal
In Christ Jesus our Lord.



Prayer
Loving and Sustaining God,
You call us to obedience,
to follow you in all things;
to give up the things we cling to,
and to give ourselves wholeheartedly to your purposes.

We confess that we don’t always find this easy to do.
We confess that it is often very difficult to let go of the things we love.
But we also know that you never ask more of us than what is possible,
and that you stand ready, at all times, to sustain us,
and to provide everything we need.

Give us courage to faithfully follow your leading,
even when we cannot see the outcome,
even when the path you call us to seems impossible to comprehend.
Help us to trust you in all things,
to let go of everything that would stand in the way
of whole-hearted obedience to you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.
Amen.



Scripture Readings:
Genesis 22:1-14

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you."

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you."

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

Isaac said to his father Abraham, "Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"

Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."

And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

So Abraham called that place "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed"; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Jeremiah 28

One day in late summer of that same year—the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah—Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet from Gibeon, addressed me publicly in the Temple while all the priests and people listened. He said, “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will remove the yoke of the king of Babylon from your necks.  Within two years I will bring back all the Temple treasures that King Nebuchadnezzar carried off to Babylon.  And I will bring back Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the other captives that were taken to Babylon. I will surely break the yoke that the king of Babylon has put on your necks. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”

Jeremiah responded to Hananiah as they stood in front of all the priests and people at the Temple.  He said, “Amen! May your prophecies come true! I hope the Lord does everything you say. I hope he does bring back from Babylon the treasures of this Temple and all the captives.  But listen now to the solemn words I speak to you in the presence of all these people.  The ancient prophets who preceded you and me spoke against many nations, always warning of war, disaster, and disease.  So a prophet who predicts peace must show he is right. Only when his predictions come true can we know that he is really from the Lord.”

Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it in pieces.  And Hananiah said again to the crowd that had gathered, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Just as this yoke has been broken, within two years I will break the yoke of oppression from all the nations now subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.’” With that, Jeremiah left the Temple area.

Soon after this confrontation with Hananiah, the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah:  “Go and tell Hananiah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but you have replaced it with a yoke of iron.  The Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I have put a yoke of iron on the necks of all these nations, forcing them into slavery under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I have put everything, even the wild animals, under his control.’”

Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, but the people believe your lies.  Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘You must die. Your life will end this very year because you have rebelled against the Lord.’”

Two months later the prophet Hananiah died.  

Reflections

In the tenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, we read a small passage about "welcoming a prophet as a prophet, and getting a prophet's reward."  It comes at the end of a chapter where Jesus is commissioning his disciples to go and be missionaries... prophets, speaking forth for God... and it has been a chapter where Jesus has prepared his disciples for persecution.  Perhaps not the best motivational speech... yet, very true.

It is easy to think that when we are on the side of right and good that we should be welcomed as heroes and saviours and with open arms.  But remember what Jesus has just said:  "As they persecuted me, so they will persecute you." (see Matt 10:24-25)  Being God's emissary does not make you a popular figure.

We turn to Jeremiah chapter 28...  Jeremiah has been called the weeping prophet because he despaired of bringing harsh word to the nation of Israel.  He was mocked and persecuted, even jailed, because he spoke out against the people and told of God's heavy judgement.  Here in the 28th chapter, we see a brief conflict emerge between Jeremiah and another prophet, Hananiah.  Israel had been taken captive by the harsh Babylonians... the people were weary and anxious for good news.  And so along comes Hananiah to speak a word of encouragement...  well, maybe a bit more.  You see, rebellion was stirring within Israel.  Rebellion against the Babylonians.  And people were looking for encouragement that now was the time to rise up and take back their own land... to restore the glory of Israel.  Hananiah spoke such words.  "Within two years, the yoke of the Babylonians will be broken," he said.

This challenge, this disagreement, was offered in a public space...  Jeremiah's authenticity, the validity of his message, was called into question.  And it is interesting how Jeremiah responded:  "Amen!  May your prophecies come true!"  Some will suggest that Jeremiah is being sarcastic.  But perhaps he is simply being genuine.  I mean, who wouldn't want good news for a change?  In fact, even Jeremiah has despaired of always speaking doom and gloom, but recognizes that he cannot shut it down because God's hand is too heavy. (See Jeremiah 20)  Perhaps Jeremiah wishes that this message of hope can, in fact, be the case?  And yet, God has spoken to him... and he knows what God has said.  And Jeremiah's message squares with the historic voice of God's prophets.  A radical departure in God's message needs to be attested.  And so Jeremiah reminds Hananiah (and everyone else) that the proof of truth is whether the message comes true in the proffered time span.  Hananiah said it would all come to pass in two years. And so, in two years his truth would be authenticated.  Or proven false.

Jeremiah, having answered Hananiah, is content to leave it to be judged by God... but Hananiah is not.  Seeing Jeremiah continue to wear his symbolic yoke provokes the would be prophet; he lashes out and breaks the wooden yoke as an intended sign of God breaking the yoke of Babylon.  Only, he has listened to God properly...  He has prophesied what he, and the people, wanted to hear.  And so God responds.... "You have broken a wooden yoke, but you have replaced it with a yoke of iron."

There is so much that can be drawn from this passage...  but as I look at it in the light of Jesus' command to his disciples to go and share the Good News, I am reminded of the necessary caution that we should only speak what we hear God speak.  It is a dangerous thing to presume to usurp God's voice.  

But the pressures to bend the message are real!  Jesus talks about persecution; Jeremiah was bitterly persecuted.  And everyone has at least some desire to be liked... some desired to be thought well of...  "Everyone who welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward."  That's a scary thing!  Prophets are seldom well received...

And how do we determine just who is a prophet?  As Jeremiah notes, "Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, but the people believe your lies."  There are many false prophets who speak without authority... and many are deceived.  How are we to know the difference?  Well, Jeremiah gave some good advice:  "The ancient prophets spoke..."  It is always good to see what has been true through history.  Do we stand in line with the historic Church?  If not, "a prophet that predicts peace must prove he is right."  If one speaks a "new word" from God, then there is a need to prove that it is true and accurate.

Who are the prophets that we listen to today?  Is their message in line with the teaching of the Church... the historic Church?  If not, if they teach something new... where do they claim their authority?





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