We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Season of Creation I, Proper 17, Sept 3, 2023

Sermon, Season of Creation I, Proper 17, Year A 2023


The forests of Ethiopia. Page with links to both of the stories and videos.


“Lord, I love the house in which you dwell and the place where your glory abides,” states the psalmist. 

Jesus, who came and pitched his tent among us, lived among us, and died as one of us, dwelt on this earth. And when our hearts are open to God, we know that God has always lived among us.  Back in the Garden of Eden, in the very first book in our Bible, Genesis, God had a habit of walking in the garden in the cool of the evening. 

And in the closing book of the New Testament, Revelation, God once more comes and dwells among us, after ridding the earth of the evil that has held it in thrall for so long. 

“See,” the writer of Revelation proclaims, “See, the home of God is among mortals.  God will dwell with us and we will be God’s peoples, and God will be with us, and will wipe every tear from our eyes.  Death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”  

So we live in the time of God with us now and not yet quite fully, knowing that truly, the earth itself is the house of the Lord, for God is not only transcendent and heavenly, but also immanent,  as near to us as the air we breathe, as refreshing and as life giving  to us as the water we drink, as restoring as the rain after a long drought, and as solid as the rocky mantle that supports the soil and all of life on this earth. 

Jesus came and dwelt among us so that we could see, with our own eyes, that God has always dwelt in our midst, on this earth, which is not only God’s footstool, but the very body of God, as theologian Sallie McFague would say.   We earth dwellers live and move and have our being within the body of God during our lives on this earth. 

And so, when we truly open our eyes, we can see for ourselves God’s glory abiding all around us. 

“Lord, I love the house in which you dwell and the place where your glory abides—” God’s glory, so intricately woven into the fabric of this earth and  the entire universe.    

So we rejoice in hope, even as we look around us and see God’s glory diminished by the ways in which we abuse and mistreat one another. 

Even when we look around and truly begin to see the ways in which we have been both intentionally and unintentionally oblivious and negligent, greedy,  and selfish in the ways in which we relate to God’s earth, still, we can rejoice in hope.

When Jesus told the disciples that they must take up their crosses and follow him, he was hopeful.  Jesus told the disciples that the next part of his journey would be difficult, and would include suffering and death—but that beyond the suffering and death was resurrection.   Jesus  was hopeful that the disciples could see beyond the  grim predictions of the “now” into the  hope of the resurrection life of the “not yet.”  This resurrection life included the time that they were spending with him, because in being with him they were learning about what resurrection life is in the here and now.  So when Jesus told the disciples that they must take up their crosses and follow him, he was hopeful that they would do so, despite the costs.

Read more

Sunday Links, Sept 3, 2023, Pentecost 14, Season of Creation I

This is the first Sunday of the Season of Creation. Spend 15 minutes picking up trash in your neighborhood to help restore the environment.

  • Web site
  • YouTube St. Peter’s Page for viewing services
  • Facebook St. Peter’s Page
  • Location – 823 Water Street, P. O. Box 399, Port Royal, Virginia 22535
  • Achievement in Jamaica Sun Aug. 27, 2023

  • Sun. Sept 3, 2023, 11am Eucharist Lectionary link
  • Sun. Sept 3, 2023, 12pm Coffee Hour
  • Ecumenical Bible Study, Wed., Sept 6. 23 10am-12pm, Parish House Reading Lectionary for Sept 10, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
  • All articles for Sunday, Sept 3, 2023
  • Creation

    “Jesus was intimately involved with the natural world. When he spoke of God and God’s Kingdom, he almost always pointed to the natural world: seeds, the harvest, the clouds, vines, weeds, sheep, fire, water, lilies, bread, wine. Walk out into God’s wonderful creation – and be touched by the very hand of God.”

    –Br. Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE

    Service notes The Season of Creation uses the typical Pentecost service. There were at least 6 key changes from Week 1 This page covers most of them.

    Season of Creation, 2023

    We are embarking on the Season of Creation from Sept 1 – Oct. 4.

    Prophet Amos cries out: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5: 24) and so we are called to join the river of justice and peace, to take up climate and ecological justice, and to speak out with and for communities most impacted by climate injustice and the loss of biodiversity.

    “A mighty river” is the symbol chosen to go with this theme, representing biodiversity at risk. The urgency grows and we must make visible peace with Earth and on Earth, at the same time that justice calls us to repentance and a change of attitude and actions. When we join the river of justice and peace together with others, it creates hope instead of despair.

    We are invited to join the river of justice and peace on behalf of all creation and to converge our individual identities, of name, family or faith community, in this greater movement for justice, just like tributaries come together to form a mighty river.

    Prophet Isaiah proclaims “Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 19)

    Our individual actions during the Season of Creation are important. Celebrating creation, participating in cleanups, planting trees and reducing our carbon footprint are some of the immediate actions we can take.

    As the people of God, we must work together on behalf of all Creation, as part of that mighty river of peace and justice.

    May this 2023 Season of Creation renew our ecumenical unity, renewing and uniting us by our bond of Peace in one Spirit, in our call to care for our common home. And may this season of prayer and action be a time to Listen to the Voice of Creation, so that our lives in words and deeds proclaim good news for all the Earth.

    Dr. William P. Brown of Columbia Theological seminary wrote the following about creation care. “The fundamental mandate for creation care comes from Genesis 2:15, where God places Adam in the garden to “till it and keep it…” Human “dominion” as intended in Genesis is best practiced in care for creation, in stewardship, which according to Genesis Noah fulfills best by implementing God’s first endangered species act.”

    Connecting to the Season of Creation

    The Season of Creation is an optional season for the church year. For the most part, the seasons of the church year follow the life of Jesus: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. The remainder of the church year encompasses Pentecost season (or Ordinary Time), which celebrates life in the Holy Spirit.

    For centuries, our theology our theology has focused on relationship with God and our human relationships with one another. The Season of Creation focuses God’s relationship with all creation and with our relationship with creation (and with God through creation). It highlights our role in understanding and addressing address the ecological problems we face today as a part of God’s creation.


    Spiritual Reflections on Nature and Humankind

    The issue of Climate Change that has enveloped over the last generation has involved both religion and science. It is closely related to the Season of Creation due to need to take action on climate change that imperils God’s creation.

    Science and religion are tools to investigate reality from two different angles. Each discipline asks a fundamentally different question.

    Science asks: how does the universe work?

    Religion asks: why is there a universe and what is its purpose, and what is our purpose of existence as human beings?

    Now, as the Earth is affected by climate change and other environmental problems we need science to learn more about the causes, effects, and solutions to these problems.

    So what’s the role of religion? While scientists can tell us what needs to be done, they are usually not able to motivate society to implement these solutions. That’s where we need religion. Religion provides us with the spiritual understanding of our responsibility towards the Earth and towards other human beings including future generations. In other words, religion provides an ethical or moral framework. And it motivates us to act!

    The concern of the environment is an interfaith issue and not just Christian. All faiths have talked about it.

    The issue in the Bible goes right back to the early Israelites

    Read more

    Recent Articles, Sun. Sept. 3, 2023

    Pentecost 14, Sept. 3, 2023
    Lectionary for Pentecost 14
    Lectionary commentary
    Visual Lectionary
    Burning Coals – Epistle

    Focus on the Season of Creation, Week 1
    The Season of Creation, 2023
    Connecting to The Season of Creation, 2023
    Spiritual Reflections on Nature and Humankind
    Keys to the Season of Creation, 2023
    Season of Creation, Climate Change challenges
    Climate Change – some improvements
    Focus on 5 areas of the Environment in the Season of Creation
    Season of Creation-the Earth
    Season of Creation 2023 – the Earth and its Threats

    Mission and Outreach
    Donations for Maui

    Andrea Pogue reported on St. Peter’s 2023 Jamaican mission trip Sept. 3, 2023 during church. This was our second mission trip after 2021 with the next trip planned for 2025. Thanks to Andrea and the entire mission team for a job well done serving 300 students with school supplies and prizes.


    Jamaican mission setup, Aug. 24, 2023
    Jamaican mission school distribution, Aug. 26, 2023
    Village Harvest

    Keys to the Season of Creation

    For centuries, our theology our theology has focused on relationship with God and our human relationships with one another. The Season of Creation focuses God’s relationship with all creation and with our relationship with creation (and with God through creation). It highlights our role in understanding and addressing address the ecological problems we face today as a part of God’s creation.

    “Imagine a great circle. God encircles everything else in this circle.

    Inside the circle is a second circle, and that circle is us. We human beings encircle the rest of creation, at the center of the circle. Look at the word, earth. If you move the letter “h” from the back of this word to the front, the word “earth” becomes the word “heart.”

    We are going to look at 6 keys to the Season of Creation

    Read more

    Season of Creation, 2023 Climate Change Challenges,

    The biggest challenge is reducing, offsetting  51 billion tons per year of emissions to get to Net Zero by 2050.

    1 Time is more important than technology  Early action pays dividends

     About three quarters of what we need to do to stop climate change are emissions cuts just in the 2020s and early 2030s. The actions we take early in the 2020s pay off the most handsomely  because they have so long to accumulate between now and the 2050s.  Those in the 2020’s are 76% of tota

    2. Emergency Brakes are solutions we can adopt now but also have a fast response in the atmosphere. We don’t have to wait for new technologies or infrastructure

    For example, stopping deforestation immediately, preventing trees from being burned everywhere in the world, as fast as we can, would have an immediate impact on climate change. Or cutting methane leaks, because methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas and warms the planet so much in the early days, that’s another kind of emergency brake solution. 30% of the leaking methane coming from natural gas wells happens from only 1% of the wells.  Shutting down those leaks can have a huge impact on methane emissions

    3. The next wave of climate actions will take a  longer to unfold because it requires us to build whole new systems  for electricity, for buildings, transportation, industry and even our farms and agriculture. Basically, we’ve got to remodel everything in the world and it’s going to take years and billions of dollars

    Take one example, electricity – Electricity is 27% of the 51 billion tons per year of emissions. Changing America’s entire electricity system to zero-carbon sources would raise average retail rates by between 1.3 and 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly 15 percent more than what most people pay now. That $18 a month for the average home—pretty affordable for most people, though possibly not for low-income Americans, who already spend a tenth of their income on energy.

    The main culprits are our demand for reliability, and the curse of intermittency  for renewables are solar or wind. Either we need to store excess electricity in batteries (prohibitively expensive), or we need to add other energy sources that use fossil fuels, such as natural gas plants that run only when you need them

    What about nuclear power? Nuclear produces 20% of power for US  but expensive to build. Human error can cause accidents. Uranium, the fuel it uses, can be converted for use in weapons. The waste is dangerous and hard to store.

    What can be done ? In 2008, Bill Gates founded TerraPower to develop the next generation of nuclear technology. His company is experimenting with  Natrium, a liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor (rather than water-cooled reactor) that is over 50% cheaper, safer, and even more environmentally friendly than current nuclear power.  However, it will not be ready until the 2030’s. Is that time enough

    4. More action needed from the states. The Inflation Reduction Act is the most substantial federal action the US has ever taken to combat climate change, but it was not intended to solve every decarbonization challenge in one bill. A sustained stream of federal and state actions is the only way to close the US emissions gap. While there is more activity at all levels of government than ever, the ramp-up of policy action required in the years ahead will be a substantial lift above and beyond the unprecedented actions of late.

    Climate Change – Some improvements in trends

    The bottom line – There have been some improvements in trends noted since the last Season of Creation. The increase in emissions has been reduced.  People and enterprises are taking this subject seriously. The need for reduction in emissions has been addressed by countries, companies and many levels of government

    Our goal is a Net Zero position by 2050.  Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) that’s produced and the amount that’s removed from the atmosphere. We have a long way to go by 2050 to get to our goals where we are balanced – Net Zero.

    Read more

    Focus on 5 areas of the Environment in the Season of Creation  

    We have taken the five Sundays readings in the Season of Creation and highlighted a specific environmental area which we will cover weekly. (This week, earth; ) How is this area affecting us ? What can we do at St. Peter’s and individually to improve our use of them ? We have added related scriptures.

    1. Earth – Sept 3

    Collect “O God, creator of heaven and earth, you have filled the world with beauty and abundance. Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that rejoicing with your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ”

    2. Water – Sept 10

    Isaiah 55:9-10 “8 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.”

    3. Energy – Sept 17

    Isaiah 40:28-31 “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

    4. Food – Sept 24

    James 5:7-8 “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. ”

    5. Climate (Deforestation) – Oct. 1

    Romans 8:18-21 “18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. ”

    Season of Creation – The Earth

    “O God, creator of heaven and earth, you have filled the world with beauty and abundance. Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that rejoicing with your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ”

    The Importance of Land

    The Bible unfolds in a definite place, a relative narrrow band of land of Israel. And land is the basis for any agricultural society which we find in the Bible.

    After the Pentateuch (the first five books of Scripture), there is a major transition as the wandering Israelites entered the ancient land of Canaan. Under Joshua, the Israelite armies conquered this territory promised to them by God as an inheritance (Josh. 1:1-6). The small land of Israel, just 200 miles long and 100 miles wide, would be the main stage for stories in the Bible from then .

    There are connecting points between land, life, and theology. The three great festivals (Passover, Firstfruits, and Ingathering) corresponded to the beginning and end of harvests. Rain is the grace of God. Food on the table is the blessing of God. Drought is a time of testing. The land also supported the herding of sheep and goats. So it was easy to describe God’s care as his shepherding (Ps. 23), and Jesus as “the good shepherd.” Real land, real life, real people, real God.

    Land in the Bible

    Most of the references of land fall into the Old Testament.

    From Land (Israel)

    “The Lord “cut” an unconditional covenant with Abraham in which he stated, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” ( Gen 15:18 ). The Lord periodically reconfirmed the aspect of the land to Abraham ( Gen 12:7 ; 13:14-17 ; 17:8 ; 24:7 ). The reason the Lord gave this land to the children of Israel was because he was faithful to his covenant to Abraham ( Deut 9:4-5 ), his love for Abraham ( Deut 4:37 ), and his love for Israel ( Deut 7:8 ).

    “It was only after the Lord “cut the covenant” with Abraham that he gave a general delineation of the land. He said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” ( Gen 15:18 ).

    “A number of laws in the Book of Deuteronomy are rooted in the land: the year of release from debt ( 15:1-11 ), appointing just judges ( 16:18-20 ), selection of a king ( 17:14-20 ), abominations of the nations ( 18:9-14 ), the cities of refuge ( 19:1-13 ), removing landmarks ( 19:14 ), unknown murder ( 21:1-9 ), leaving a hanged man on a tree ( 21:22-23 ), divorce ( 24:1-4 ), and just weights and measurements ( 25:13-16

    “The Bible describes the land of Israel at least nineteen times as “a land flowing with milk and honey” ( Lev 26:3-12 ; Numbers 13:23Numbers 13:28 ; 14:7 ; 24:3 ; Deut 6:3 ; 11:9 ; Deuteronomy 26:9 Deuteronomy 26:15; 27:3 ; Deuteronomy 28:2-7 Deuteronomy 28:11-12 ; 31:20 ). The image can denote a lush green land that produces an abundant and fruitful harvest. But this word picture may not be an accurate representation of the term. Isaiah used the phrase “milk and honey” to describe the devastation of the land after the Assyrians conquered it ( Isa 7:21-25 ). This seeming paradox is resolved by considering the perspective of the audience being addressed.

    “The idea of plenty and abundance is partially true. When God described the land of Canaan to Moses, he used the term “milk and honey” to imply the bountifulness of the land ( Exodus 3:8 Exodus 3:17 ; 13:5 ; 33:3 ; Lev 20:24 ). When the twelve spies returned from the land of Canaan, they recounted their adventures and characterized the land as “flowing with milk and honey” ( Num 13:27 ; 14:8 ). The spies observed that cattle and goats produced more milk in areas abundant with forage. Thus, an area abundant with vegetation would be considered a land “flowing with milk.” Honey, in the biblical period, was not a cultivated product. It was associated with nonagricultural areas that were covered with wild vegetation. This is demonstrated by the account of Saul swearing his men to an oath when they fought the Philistines ( 1 Sam 14:25-26 ).

    “When Israel entered the land of Canaan, the hill country was uninhabited and covered with natural forests and thickets. Joshua commanded the tribe of Joseph to go up to the forest country and clear a place. When they took the wooded area, cut it down, terraced it, and planted trees on the terracing, the Israelites passed from a pastoral society to an agricultural/farming society.

    “The entire land was not uninhabited and forested. The Canaanites lived in the valleys and cultivated them ( Joshua 17:16 ). The twelve spies returning from their trip into the land of Canaan carried the bounty of the summer harvestgrapes, pomegranates, and figsfrom the cultivated Valley of Eshkol ( Num 13:23 ).

    “Why is this land called the promised land? After all, life was easier in Egypt (barring the oppression of Pharaoh, of course). Every year the Nile River overflowed its banks with rich alluvial soil. The farmers also had a constant supply of water with which to irrigate their fields. Just before the children of Israel entered the land, Moses contrasted the land of Canaan with Egypt. He said, “The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing over to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks water rain from heaven” ( Deut 11:10-11 ). The Israelite farmer, living in the land of Israel, had to plow the soil after the early rains loosened the hard soil in the fall and had to depend on the rains throughout the winter months. If it did not rain, drought and famine resulted

    “Monson observes that the purpose of the land was to serve as God’s testing ground of faith! The Lord wanted to see if his people, redeemed by his matchless grace and mighty power out of slavery in Egypt, and brought through the wilderness and into the promised land, would worship him and him alone. The tenor of the Hebrew Scriptures seems to indicate that the people of Israel were to be an agrarian society, living in dependence upon the Lord. They were not to be an international mercantile society like the Phoenicians.”

    Read more

    Season of Creation 2023 – the Earth and its Threats

    There are numerous threats to the land and that which depends on it:

    1 Deforestation and wildfires.

    2 Excessive farming ruining the soil.

    3 Biodiversity.

    Deforestation and wildfires

    Forests play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the Earth’s ecosystems. They provide habitat for more than half of all terrestrial species, help filter pollutants out of the air and water, and prevent soil erosion. Rainforests also provide essential hydrological (water-related) services. For example, they tend to result in higher dry season streamflow and river levels, since forests slow down the rate of water or rain run-off, and help it enter into the aquifer. Without a tree cover, the water tends to run off quickly into the streams and rivers, often taking a lot of topsoil with it. Forests also help the regional climate as they cycle water to the interior of a continent. The shrinking of the Amazon Rainforest reduces regional rainfall, which in turn threatens the health of the remaining forest and of the agricultural land in Southern Brazil. This also results in an increased fire risk.

    Forests and their soils also play a critical role in the global carbon cycle. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere depends on the distribution or exchange of carbon between different “carbon pools” as part of the carbon cycle. Forests and their soils are major carbon pools, as are oceans, agricultural soils, other vegetation, and wood products: the carbon stored in the woody part of trees and shrubs (known as “biomass”) and soils is about 50% more than that stored in the atmosphere.

    Trees continuously exchange CO2 with the atmosphere. The release of CO2 into the air is due both to natural processes (respiration of trees at night and the decomposition of organic matter) and human processes (removal or destruction of trees). Similarly, CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by the action of photosynthesis, which results in carbon being integrated into the organic molecules used by plants, including the woody biomass of trees. Thus forests play a major role in regulating global temperatures by absorbing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and storing it in the form of wood and vegetation – a process referred to as “carbon sequestration”.

    Unfortunately, the global benefits provided by trees are being threatened by deforestation and forest degradation. ‘Deforestation’ as a shorthand for tree loss.Forest ‘degradation’ happens when the forest gets degraded, for example due to unsustainable logging practices which remove the most valuable species, or artesanal charcoal production in which only a few trees are harvested. The Earth loses more than 18 million acres of forestland every year—an area larger than Ireland—according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    Deforestation is a major cause of global warming. When trees are burned, their stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. As a result, tropical deforestation (including forest degradation) is responsible for about 12-15 percent of total annual global warming emissions according to the most recent estimates released for the climate change meeting in Copenhagen. Globally, some 10 million hectares of forests are lost annually, an area larger than Portugal.

    Read more

    Pentecost 14, Proper 17, Year A, Sept. 3, 2023

    I.Theme –    What does God’s Call Mean for Us ?

     "Carrying the Cross of Christ"– Gabriel Loire (1904-1996)

    The lectionary readings are here  or individually:
     

    Old Testament – Jeremiah 15:15-21
    Psalm – Psalm 26:1-8 Page 616, BCP
    Epistle –Romans 12:9-21
    Gospel – Matthew 16:21-28

    The lectionary this week  is about two questions. “What does God’s call mean for us? What can we expect when we receive God’s call?” The key words this week are integrity(Jeremiah), transformation (Romans) and self-denial(Matthew).

    In the Gospel, we are all called to follow Christ to be liberators of others, serving and loving all people, including our enemies, and that as we respond to this call we must be willing to lay our lives down and embrace the inevitable suffering that and sacrifice that will come. Yet, even in the midst of this tough word is a light of hope. It is in this self-giving love that we find our ‘souls’ (our true, God-given selves) and we discover true, abundant life.

    Questions of identity from last week continue in the Gospel reading. In Matthew, along with last week’s readings, we find lots of questions about the identity of Jesus. There are the many names given to Jesus – Messiah/Christ, Son of the living God, Son of Man. There is also an identity crisis for Peter, who has gone from the rock on which Jesus’ church will be built, to the Satan who is a stumbling block to Jesus.

    The Gospel goes beyond “who he is” last week to consider issues of transformation of “whom they are”. In Matthew, Jesus is trying to turn upside-down the rules people apply when they observe his life, and the life of his followers. Seeing a man die in agony on a cross will be transformed from a sign of shame and failure into a sign of new life and hope.

    Our call is to take up the cross, denying ourselves – our self -interest, our own desires, wants and needs. Seeing Jesus’ followers denying their own needs, in order to serve God and other people, will be a sign of true discipleship. What God sees and will judge by is very different from the status and standing of a world obsessed with power and prosperity.

    Romans is a laundry list of how one can be transformed so that we can transform our communities. Paul encourages the believers to be committed to a life of love for one another and even for enemies – seeking to bless and not curse, and to conquer evil with good. They are marks of the Christian. Most stretch the love wider – loving enemies, strangers and those who persecute (all of whom may be inside or outside the church).

    All of this is quite counter-cultural within Roman society – social status is to be ignored, honor is to be shown to all, vengeance is to be put aside, strangers and enemies are to be welcomed and offered hospitality. And it all comes quick and fast, as short phrases with great energy, explicitly and implicitly invoking zeal and ardent service.

    Jeremiah’s proclamation to the people in exile–that Babylon was the instrument of God’s judgment upon the people and that Judah should not resist–caused him to be regarded as a traitor by his own people. He has prayed for his enemies (14:7-11), but they have not listened to God’s message. Now the prophet’s concern for them is exhausted and he cries out for the lord to take vengeance upon them. Jeremiah’s plea for God’s vindication in the Old Testament echoes Jesus’ own suffering in spite of his innocence.

    Jeremiah pleads with God to act immediately and decisively on his behalf. The prophet can approach God with such confidence because he has demonstrated fidelity to his God as both a messenger of God’s words, but also in his life.

    Whereas Jeremiah approached service to God with an attitude of delight he has only received indignation, anger, and bitterness in return. For this reason the prophet can accuse God of deceiving him in verse.

    God reminds Jeremiah that the suffering he has experienced is as advertised. Jeremiah then, is not to crumble in the face of adversity but rather redouble his commitment to being a prophet.  Persecution has not derailed God’s promise to deliver and vindicate, and God reminds Jeremiah that his perseverance is the very vehicle by which the people are won over to repentance. In the midst of injustice, Jeremiah is not to allow evil to overcome good.  The reward for Jeremiah’s faithful service is not relief from suffering but more service.

    The Psalms both express praise for God’s salvation and the plea for God to recognize the innocence of the Psalmist and God’s people – even as Jesus suffered though innocent. Psalm 26:1-8 echoes the lament and call of Jeremiah by the author calling out to God for deliverance, telling God that they have stayed true to God’s ways and that they do not take company with people who have turned away from God’s ways. Psalm 26 is likely best understood as presenting a sobering statement of the requirements for priestly entrance into God’s holy presence.
     

    II.Summary

    Old Testament –  Jeremiah 15:15-21

    Jeremiah is often cast as the “weeping prophet” since no other prophetic book contains as much description of the prophet’s woes. These passages resemble lament psalms which typically contain the elements of a cry to God, description of suffering, questions to God, condemnation of enemies, petition for deliverance, confession of trust, and a divine response.

    True in form, Jeremiah 15:15-21 is a lament by the prophet Jeremiah, protesting what is happening to himself, reminding God that he stayed true to God’s word. The reply by God is included, calling Jeremiah to serve as God’s mouthpiece, to be God’s action in the world. God declares that God is with Jeremiah, to save and deliver him.

    Jeremiah 15:15 begins with the prophet addressing God with unusual candor and directness, “You! O LORD you know”. The lament that follows contains the following three elements: the petition (15b), an argument for the prophet’s deliverance (15c-17), and complaint (18). In the petition the prophet calls upon God to “remember,” “visit,” bring retribution,” and “not take away.” The plea to “remember” is common to lament psalms.

    In Jeremiah’s day, the people believed that God controlled the outcome of worldly affairs–that God allowed Israel to be conquered as punishment for the people turning away from God and worshiping false gods. But Jeremiah and the other prophets also showed that when the people turned their backs on the poor and the widowed and the orphaned, they turned away from God. It is not God turning away from them.

    And in Jeremiah’s day, there were false gods that provided that kind of comfort–one could worship a different god and not be concerned with their neighbor’s needs, or the care of the poor, or justice for the widow or orphan. But one could not truly follow the God who is being without caring for the human beings around them. Through Moses, God acted by giving commandments that secured ways of living with God’s presence and being present to others, commandments of not stealing, not coveting what others had, and remembering God first and foremost. By remembering God who is being, we remember our neighbors who are beings. Our relationship with others is intertwined with our relationship with God. We cannot love God and not love our neighbor.

    The message is clear: Jeremiah pleads with God to act immediately and decisively on his behalf. The prophet can approach God with such confidence because he has demonstrated fidelity to his God.

    According to verses 15c-17 it is because of the LORD’s sake Jeremiah suffers. Verse 16 recalls the fact that when Jeremiah was called by God into service in chapter 1 his attitude was one of joyful obedience. The “eating” of God’s words in verse 16 illustrates that Jeremiah did not only serve as a reliable messenger of God’s words, but he also embodied them in his life.

    Whereas Jeremiah approached service to God with an attitude of delight (verse 16), he has only received indignation, anger, and bitterness in return (verse 17). For this reason the prophet can accuse God of deceiving him in verse 18. Like a brook that has run dry, so too the promise of God’s blessing has come up empty. The prophet assumed that God would support him should he obey the call to ministry, yet instead he has only experienced abandonment.

    In Jeremiah 15:19-21 God offers a response to the prophet’s complaint. As is often the case in Scripture, God answers the prayers of the people not with the response they want to hear.

    God reminds Jeremiah that the suffering he has experienced is as advertised. Jeremiah then, is not to crumble in the face of adversity but rather redouble his commitment to his prophetic vocation. Persecution has not derailed God’s promise to deliver and vindicate (verse 20), and God reminds Jeremiah that his perseverance is the very vehicle by which the people are won over to repentance (verse 19). In the midst of injustice, Jeremiah is not to allow evil to overcome good.

    Jeremiah 15:15-21 teaches that honesty and faithfulness in the midst of suffering are the hallmarks of prophetic ministry. The prophet’s recommitment to his initial calling is the means by which God effects redemption in the world and reaffirms the promises of deliverance.

    Psalm –  Psalm 26:1-8 Page 616, BCP

    Psalm 26 relates to other readings for this Sunday, which touch on matters of integrity (Jeremiah 15), self-denial (Matthew 16) and transformation (Romans 12).

    Psalm 26:1-8 echoes the lament and call of Jeremiah by the author calling out to God for deliverance, telling God that they have stayed true to God’s ways and that they do not take company with people who have turned away from God’s ways.

    Psalm 26, by virtue of its significant parallels with Psalms 15 and 24, is likely best understood as presenting a sobering statement of the requirements for priestly entrance into God’s holy presence.

    The whole psalm can be divided into the five parts, three in the lectionary reading . After the initial request for Yahweh to act on the individual’s behalf (verses 1-2), Psalm 26 makes bold assertions about the moral integrity (verses 3-5) and religious integrity (verses 6-8) of the individual. A confident statement of faith and a commitment to worship Yahweh (verse 12) follows a second request for Yahweh to act on the individual’s behalf (verses 9-11).

    1. Opening pleas (verses 1-3) 

    The opening words of Psalm 26, "Vindicate me, O Lord," petition Yahweh to act on behalf of the author. The author is confident that he had engaged in in personal integrity and unwavering trust in God, The author’s appeal to integrity does not presume a perfect life. Rather, " I have lived with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord." He is so confident that he asks God to test him.

    2. Evidence of Moral Integrity (verses 3-5)

    Using human actions of looking, walking, sitting, and consorting the author presents evidence of moral integrity. First, the author sees the love of Yahweh continually, not occasionally (verse 3a). Yahweh’s love is present no matter what happens, and Yahweh’s commitment becomes the impetus for the author to craft a journey around faithfulness to Yahweh (verse 3b).

    Because the author is walking in faithfulness to Yahweh, the author is not sitting with the worthless (verse 4a) or the wicked (verse 5b)." This infers that while the author does not have lasting and potentially harmful relationships with the wicked, cursory or redemptive relationships are not negated.

    Just as the author rejects sitting with the worthless and wicked, so does the author reject consorting with hypocrites (verse 4b) and the company of evildoers (verse 5a). The double rejection of the wicked in verses 4-5 creates a strong statement that the author not only walks with Yahweh, but moves in the opposite direction with the above named.

    3. Assurance of Religious Integrity (verses 6-8)

    Verses 6-8 shift this psalm’s focus from moral integrity to religious integrity. In verses 3-5, the author created distance from the evildoers. In verses 6-8, the author creates further distance from the outside world — this time through worship.

    Washing hands with water was a rite of purification that symbolized innocence (verse 6). It prepared the worshiper to enter the presence of Yahweh and join the assembly in worship. In worship the author did what was right before Yahweh: sing a song of thanksgiving and tell of Yahweh’s wondrous deeds (verse 7). Presumably, this included thanksgiving for Yahweh’s involvement in the author’s personal life as well as recounting Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel.

    Before returning to pleas that close Psalm 26, the author makes one final statement of love and dedication to the place where Yahweh and Yahweh’s glory reside. Surely Yahweh’s abode is more pleasant than the abode of the wicked.

    Epistle –  Romans 12:9-21

    This may be described as how to live a righteous, beneficial life as he challenges his Christian community.

    In the preceding chapters, Paul has told us about the “mercies of God” (v. 1), i.e. what God has done for those who have faith in him. In vv. 1-8, outside of the lectionary, he began to explain what our response should be to the “mercies of God”, what is involved in living the ethical life, what obedience to God means, what Christian ethics is, what serving the Lord (v. 11) is.

    Paul now says what pursuing “what is good” (v. 9) requires in our attitude to those beyond the community. They are marks of the true Christian. The virtues beginning in V9 described are nearly all ones that concern our relationships with others.

    Most stretch the love wider – loving enemies, strangers and those who persecute (all of whom may be inside or outside the church). Some of this seems to harness the competitive instinct, or at least the accountability, of community.

    The images are powerful: let your love be heartfelt; be eager to show each other honor; be set on fire by the Spirit; be devoted to prayer; contribute to — literally “participate in” — the needs of the saints, and pursue hospitality. To “participate in” others’ needs is to give of yourself and your own resources for their material needs, like food, clothing, and shelter. True love is fervent, relentless, and practical.

    All of this is quite counter-cultural within Roman society – social status is to be ignored, honur is to be shown to all, vengeance is to be put aside, strangers and enemies are to be welcomed and offered hospitality. And it all comes quick and fast, as short phrases with great energy, explicitly and implicitly invoking zeal and ardent service.

    Paul addresses how to love those outside the Christian community, by living in such a way that fosters peace. Verses 17 and 21 act like bookends, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil … Do not be overcome by evil.” These ideas are connected: we ourselves are overcome by evil when we let spite infect and spread through us like a disease.

    Notice that Paul is not asking his audience simply to practice self-control when provoked. They are to do more than refrain from repaying evil; they are to initiate doing good to opponents. This is much harder. But in doing so, Christians overcome evil with good, showing that they “cling to what is good,” expressing the definition of true love.

    Listing

    1. “Let love be genuine” (v. 9) introduces instructions on what it means to be loving towards others. Hate what is evil and cling to what is good.

    2. V. 10 can be rendered: Have brotherly love for your fellow Christian; treat him or her with the greatest honor. In V16 sympathize with your neighbor – rejoice with those who find a need to do so and “weep with those who weep.”

    3. V. 11-12: do not allow your “zeal” for Christ to slacken; be fervent in the Holy Spirit; “serve the Lord”. Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, looking beyond the present suffering to the future, keep praying.

    4. We are to share with (“Contribute to”, v. 13) the “saints”, the holy ones, our fellow Christians. Practicing hospitality to Christians from other places (“strangers”, v. 13) was important in the early Church, public accommodation being infested with prostitutes and bandits.

    5. V. 14 is in the Sermon on the Mount.

    6. V. 16 Hold all in mutual esteem, not thinking oneself better than others.

    7. V. 17 Seek out what is “noble” (v. 17) in others.

    8. To the extent that you can control the situation, “live peaceably with all” (v. 18).

    9. Never even desire revenge (v. 19); leave handling sin to God (at the end of time). Their job is to show love, not to act as judge don’t be worried about vengeance and whether someone will get what is coming to them–do your part to live with others as Christ has called us to do.

    10. V20 says that by shaming “your enemies” they may come round, repent. Vengeance should be held back.

    11. Do good when faced with evil (v. 21).

    Gospel –  Matthew 16:21-28

    This passage follows on from Jesus’ discussion of his identity with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi last week. Simon Peter has named him as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus has been instructing his disciples about the mission they are to carry out on his behalf, about telling the good news. Now for the bad news!

    His message to them shifts to teaching them that he, the Messiah, must (per God’s will and purpose), undergo great suffering – something inconceivable to most Jews. (“Jerusalem” is the city where prophets are put to death.) Peter grasped that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God”, (v. 16) but he cannot yet deal with the impending death of the Messiah, rather than his direct ascendance to glory.

    The reason for Peter’s objection is never stated, but we can imagine three possibilities: his love for Jesus, his own unwillingness to suffer, and his misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus’ messianic mission. The latter is probably the controlling element, but the other two may play a part as well.

    Peter’s standing rising to new heights last week declaring Jesus as the Messiah falls this week in trying to talk Jesus out of this fate. Jesus’ reproach is anything but subtle: “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter thus moves from the heights of recognition to the depths of rejection. He is a temptation to all to let things go as part of the status quo rather than acknowledge God’s mission for Jesus.

    Peter is acting as Satan – the deceiver. Peter is deceiving himself and the disciples – and Peter offers an argument that might have been very tempting for Jesus to hear, as he prepared himself for the road ahead. Peter goes from being a rock to a stumbling block.

    First-century Judaism’s idea of a Messiah was that this person would usher in a new era under God, overthrowing those who were oppressing the people of Israel (at that time, the Romans), setting them free to live and worship God. Those expectations did not include arrest, torture, or shameful execution by the occupying forces. All have endured suffering and dying under the Romans, prophet and ordinary person alike. Jesus are supposed to be different. Jesus is supposed to save us from all our enemies!

    So the writer of Matthew’s gospel shows us Jesus trying to open his disciples minds to different possibilities for the Messiah – for even if the label was correct, the ideas they had were not. Jesus needed to teach a new understanding, for God’s love would not overcome evil through displays of power and might, but through being prepared to be powerless, to suffer the worst human actions, and face death. Only then could that worst be overcome. This passage marks the turn of Matthew’s gospel towards Jerusalem and the cross.

    Jesus then continues to upturn conventional expectations – this time, for his followers. Goodness and righteousness will not earn people prosperity, but will bring them to struggle and suffering. Worldly progress and power are not the measure of success or true life.

    Instead , they must deny themselves and take up the cross. We must deny the part of us that is rooted to the ways of this world, the part of us that is concerned about worldly matters–human things, which include the necessity of survival, of one conquering over another. It is a legitimate call to self-sacrifice on behalf of others and the common good.

    Jesus calls us to a different way, a way of self-denial, of denying the need to conquer over another, to have power over another, to save our own life no matter the cost. We have life when we are living fully into Christ. Christ is with us in the difficult times of life.

    The confrontation with oppressive power in fact affirms their selfhood in its deepest sense. When Jesus asks the rhetorical question, “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?”, he is underscoring the fact that the giving of life in one sense leads to self-fulfillment in another sense.

    The word for ‘life’ that is used here has two meanings and Jesus plays on the difference between them. ‘Life’ can mean just our earthly span of existence or it can mean that spirit within us that will live beyond the grave into eternal life. Those who are physically killed for Jesus’ sake will actually find that other life – the hope of resurrection, the promise of eternal life.

    The disciples are not just witnesses of Jesus’ suffering but participants in it. They just don’t get to tell about it. They actually will live through Jesus’ suffering in their own bodies. What does it look like to follow the Messiah, the anointed of God? That path is lined with crosses and paved with Jesus’ passion. This is a matter of life and death for his followers as much as it is for Jesus.

    Fortunately, there will be more than suffering in the future. The Son of Man will return and bring justice in his wake. Such justice is not merely the paying off of old debts or the settling of bitter scores. Instead, this judgment is a promise of deliverance. Verse 28 suggests that time was coming soon – which was definitely the expectation of the early church. The cross will appear to span finality. The cross will appear to be the end of the story for us all but it is not.

    In last week’s text, v13-20, Jesus is referred to as “The Messiah” (in Greek “The Christ”), “the Son of the living God,” and this week we add to those “the Son of Man,” (v27-8).

    III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

    Old TestamentJeremiah 15:15-21

    PsalmPsalm 26:1-8  

    Epistle  – Romans 12:9-21 

    Gospel  – Matthew 16:21-28