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Friday, August 31, 2007
As we enter the second half of the Season after Pentecost, we continue to explore what it means to be the church. We live within the faith community, called to show mutual love and hospitality to all, for God excludes no one. We are mentors for one another as we learn what it means to follow God’s ways. Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16The early church suffered persecution in the Roman Empire, some of it severe. The book of Hebrews encourages Christians living in difficult times. Hebrews does not follow the form of traditional letters in New Testament times. It is more likely a long sermon, written by an unknown author between CE 60 and 95 to a Christian community of both Jews and Gentiles. In the focus verses, the author of Hebrews summarizes key messages for the fledgling Christian community. What does it mean to be the church? How should Christians behave in difficult times? Show love for other members of the Christian family and show love to strangers and guests. Remember those suffering in prison. Be faithful in marriage. Keep free from the love of money. Be content. Do good to others and share. In Christian communities today, we continue to open ourselves in mutual love to give and to receive. In showing hospitality to strangers, we cannot tell what effects our acts of kindness may have. Years later we may hear, “Thanks for your encouraging words and your help when I needed them.” We also may receive surprising gifts from strangers when we are open to them. The message of Hebrews continues to encourage us to remember those who are mentors to us, teaching the faith by word and example. We, in our turn, are guides to others. Above all, the writer of Hebrews calls early Christians, and us, to celebrate that Jesus Christ is a sure and constant presence, supporting us in adversity, encouraging and guiding us at all times. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We affirm this by praising God and by looking after each other, doing good, and sharing what we have. Jesus also is our mentor in the ways of faithful living. In Luke 14:1, 7–14, Jesus is dining at a Pharisee’s home. In Luke, the writer shows Jesus as friendly with the Pharisees, supporting the Pharisees’ view of the Resurrection of the righteous. Jesus tells a story about a banquet to call his disciples to welcome all, including those who live outside the traditions and beliefs of the community. The passage in Hebrews spells out in more detail how this hospitality is lived in the Christian community. Today the lectionary begins a series of readings from Jeremiah. The prophet began his work about 627 BCE, in the last years of the independence of Judah. He is speaking to those who are about to be carried off into exile in Babylon. In Jeremiah 2:4–13, the prophet speaks God’s accusation of Israel for breaking the covenant. God has done so much for the people, but the people have given up God’s way and gone after unprofitable things. Jeremiah’s message is strengthened by Psalm 81:1, 10–16. The psalmist declares that God has brought Israel out of Egypt, but the people have forsaken God’s ways. The words of the psalmist affirm that God will be our mentor, guiding us if only we would listen. How do we work out what it means to live as disciples in everyday life? Today’s readings offer a number of examples to consider as we follow Christ’s leading in our community life. We have received the challenge to reach out with hospitality and to mentor one another in the faith. It may be comfortable to extend guiding love and hospitality to those within our own families and churches, but what does it mean to offer such a welcome to newcomers and strangers?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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