02 July 2017

How is righteousness defined, and how does it connect with our relationship wtih God and one another? This seems to be the central question of this week in the Lectionary. God’s infinite love and care for God’s people is both an invitation and a challenge. It is an invitation for us to embrace the hospitality which God offers us, but it is a challenge for us to offer hospitality to others in God’s name. God does not require us to prove our devotion through dramatic sacrifices, but welcomes us by grace. Similarly, we are to welcome others in Christ’s name, reflecting God’s goodness and love through our hospitality.

May our worship lead us into deeper connection with God, and into greater Christ-likeness in our daily living.

READINGS:
Genesis 22:1-14: Abraham takes his son Isaac out to sacrifice him to the Lord, but God stops him and provides a ram for the offering instead.
OR Jeremiah 28:5-9: Jeremiah challenges Hananiah (who has claimed to be a prophet and has prophesied the end of the Babylonian captivity), saying that he will only be known to be a true prophet if his predictions come to pass.

Psalm 13: A psalm of lament in which the psalmist cries out to God, but also affirms his trust in God’s goodness and love.
OR Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18: A psalm of praise for God’s unfailing love, and of celebration for those who, in worship, enjoy God’s presence and protection.

Romans 6:12-23: Paul encourages the Roman Christians to turn from sinful living and to obey God in order to find life and righteousness, and he reminds them that, while sin leads to death, God’s gift in Christ is life.

Matthew 10:40-42: Jesus teaches that those who receive prophets and righteous people will be rewarded, as will those who care for the followers of Christ.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
There are so many seemingly disparate themes that emerge from this week’s Lectionary – the role and test of a prophet (and the reward for receiving a prophet), the sacrifice of Isaac, Paul’s call for believers to turn from evil and embrace righteousness, and the Psalmist’s celebration of God’s unfailing love. What seems to emerge as a common thread, however, is God’s care, presence and protection that is always available to God’s people. In Genesis, Isaac is saved from sacrifice by God’s provision of another sacrifice. In Jeremiah, a simple test of the prophet is given – whether his words reflect God’s (gracious, saving) activity or not, as seen by whether what is prophesied actually happens. In Paul’s letter followers of Christ are called to embrace the life that is found in righteousness, and this is further clarified by Jesus’ teaching that receiving, welcoming, and providing hospitality for even the least is how ‘righteousness’ is lived and expressed. In resonance with this, both Psalms – one of celebration and one of lament – reflect a trust in God’s goodness, and the life and goodness that God brings to those who trust and follow God. Ultimately, then, the word ‘hospitality’ may be a simple summary of this week’s theme – God’s hospitality for us, and ours for one another in God’s name, which is the ‘definition’ of righteousness.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: On a global scale, hospitality hardly makes sense. In what ways can hospitality be exercised across borders, or to whole nations? Yet, the readings this week offer some fascinating insights that can help us to live as globally hospitable Christ-followers. First, there is the challenge of intervening on behalf of those who, like Isaac, are sacrificed on the altars of ignorance, legalism and fear-based religion. People of faith have allowed too much rhetoric which denounces other religions on the basis of a few extremists. This applies to all of the major religions. Secondly, there is the call to speak truth to those who would proclaim that the world as it is is fine, and we will all be fine with no need for change. It is a tough hospitality to call attention to the realities that threaten us and that seek to make the poor and marginalised part of the conversation. Like Jeremiah, we may indeed find ourselves at odds with those who claim to be prophets, but who avoid the tough realities we must face for justice and peace to come. Finally, there is the simple hospitality of receiving – accepting, serving and including – all people. While we may never meet some of those we are called to receive, we offer hospitality simply by refusing to stereotype, to pre-judge and to reject others in our words and attitudes. We offer hospitality by refusing to harbour any belief in our own exceptionalism, or to embrace any sense of being better than others. We offer hospitality by always being willing to listen, understand and welcome the stranger. When each of does this in our attitudes toward people in other countries, other religions, and other race groups, the righteousness (right-standing) of us with one another, and with God is fostered, and the holiness of hospitality is spread across the earth. In the end, this hospitality will offer us both healing and connection, and will enable us to know the life that God longs for us all to share in Christ.

LOCAL APPLICATION: On a local level, hospitality is both easy to understand and difficult to implement. Opening our homes to ‘receive’ prophets and righteous people seems easy – we can trust them, and there is always some blessing or ‘reward’ that we experience. But opening our homes and our lives to the ‘least’ can be a different story. They may seem untrustworthy or threatening. There is no benefit from showing hospitality to these – only cost. Yet, if we are to recognise that hospitality is, as Matthew Fox suggests, a synonym for holiness, we cannot avoid the call to hospitality. This can, however take many forms. We may be called to stand alongside one who is being ‘sacrificed’ on the altar of discrimination or prejudice. We may be called to stand against those who, while claiming to speak in God’s name, proclaim things that contradict the grace and love of Christ. We may be called to grieve with those who feel abandoned by God and join in their lament. We may be called to celebrate with those who feel close to God and who enjoy a sense of blessedness. We may be called to change how we live – to reject the sins of pride, self-protection and rejection – to which we are enslaved and which hurt others, and to embrace righteousness – the love and grace of Christ – which makes others feel welcomed and included. As individual Christ-followers and as communities of faith, we do well to ask ourselves how we can become more hospitable – how we can reject the selfish, self-protective sin that so easily enslaves us, and how we can embrace the righteousness of receiving prophets and the least equally in Christ’s name.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Jesus In Disguise
Good News By Degrees
Extending The Invitation
A Place For Us

Hymn Suggestions:
I Know Whom I Have Believed
Come Sinners To the Gospel Feast
Saviour, Like A Shepherd Lead Us
You Are
Everyone Belongs
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)
Glory Of It All (Link to YouTube video)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)
Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Breaking of Bread

Video Suggestions:
Little Ones Welcomed
Lord Is Her Father (From Les Miserables courtesy of WingClips.com)

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