Proper 16 (August 22, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 58:9b-14; Ps. 103:1-8; Heb. 12:18-29; Lk. 13:10-17
This week we welcomed four new SALT (Serving and Learning Together) workers in our region. They will study Arabic for six weeks in Amman before beginning their assignments – two in Palestine/Israel, one in Jordan and one in Iraq.
- The last U.S. combat brigade left Iraq after more than 7 years of war, even as explosions in Baghdad resulted in at least 68 deaths. Some 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq in advisory roles until the end of 2011. It has been nearly six months since elections took place in Iraq, but a government has yet to be formed and the number of civilian casualties has risen in recent months.
- Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed to begin direct peace talks, Sept. 2, in Washington, D.C. Few have expectations that the talks will lead to a comprehensive settlement.
- Talk of an Israeli military strike on Iran was heightened after Russia announced that it would install nuclear fuel rods into Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station, Aug. 21.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about acceptable worship.
In the Old Testament reading, acceptable worship includes acting justly (Is. 58:9b), showing compassion (v.10) and honoring the Sabbath (vv. 13-14) — which means to refrain from going our own ways, or serving our own interests or pursuing our own affairs (v. 13). God promises to continually guide and satisfy the needs of those who do these things (vv. 11, 14b).
The psalmist describes true worship as blessing God with “all that is within me” (Ps. 103:1) an not forgetting all of God’s benefits (v.2) – forgiveness, healing, redemption, satisfaction with good, and justice for the oppressed (vv. 3-6).
The writer of Hebrews describes an acceptable worship as giving thanks to God with awe and reverence – for God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29).
While the Old Testament reading reminds us to honor the Sabbath, the Gospel reading makes it clear that, limiting Sabbath activities does not preclude doing good to others. On the Sabbath, Jesus heals a woman who has been bound and crippled for 18 years (Lk. 13:10-13). A synagogue leader criticizes Jesus for doing so (v.14). Jesus reminds him that, if it is appropriate to untie animals and lead them to water on the Sabbath, it is certainly appropriate to free humans from bondage on the Sabbath (vv. 15-16).
With the many worries of life – from daily relationship struggles to geopolitical conflicts — it is easy to focus on ourselves and our needs. Acceptable worship shifts our attention away from obsessing on our own interests and re-focuses it on the God who gives us life, and on serving others.