Proper 6A

June 08, 2020

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 9:35-10:8

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7

    Author: Stan Mast

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 100

    Author: Scott Hoezee

    It’s such a perky psalm.  So upbeat. It’s a call for the whole cosmos to sing as one.  One big happy choir entering God’s gates with thanksgiving and praise.

    Well, maybe it’s just me in early June 2020 but perky is not the mood one finds in most of the world right now.  COVID-19 and racial violence and tensions on every side have curdled the moods—even the outlook—of many people.  We’d love to sing in one big choir.  That is, if singing around one another were not so potentially deadly right now with all those possible coronavirus germs expelling from our lungs and mouths.  Choir practice right now can be lethal.  We’d love to enter God’s gates with thanksgiving but lately it’s not been possible to enter even the doorways of our own churches, for goodness sake.

    Shout to the Lord . . . via Zoom.  Enter his gates . . . online.  Come before him with joyful songs . . .  in your living room.

    “Psalm 100 COVID-19 Version” just doesn’t quite cut it, does it?  It doesn’t quite have the zip of the original.  Yet this is the Hebrew poem the Lectionary assigns in Year A to introduce the long season of Ordinary Time.  Thing is, our times are not ordinary in most any sense and no one is completely sure when (or if) they will feel ordinary or normal ever again.  This is one of those times in history—and surely not the first—when full-throated songs of praise stick in our throats at least a bit and maybe a lot.  Maybe some of us who have gone through the worst this pandemic has to offer cannot sing such words at all just now.  We are quite literally too choked up with the loss of loved ones.

    Is now the time to call for global praise?  Is now a moment to ask people to shout to the Lord because we are the sheep of his pasture?  Can we praise God during a season that otherwise seems far more prone to lament?  There are plenty of lament psalms available to us in the Hebrew Psalter.  Should we go to one of those instead of the assigned Psalm 100?

    Maybe.  We all have to exegete our own context and congregations to know what people can bear just now.  And maybe it’s more than OK to admit that even the most pious and hope-filled among us are singing praises these days with just a little less enthusiasm than might otherwise be the case during different times when there is not so much cascading suffering around us on every side.

    Still, as believers we are called to acknowledge God as our Sovereign, we are still called to recognize God’s goodness.  We can still know that the earth is the Lord’s even though it is for now such a fractured and fragmented and hurting planet.  We have to have a Psalm 100-like preview of the fact that at the end of the cosmic day, praise and not lament is going to have the last word.

    The actor John Krasinski (Jim Halpert of “The Office” TV fame) hit on an idea just as the global lockdown stated to happen in March to produce a little weekly online program called “Some Good News.”  It became something of a sensation as Krasinski and his staff culled YouTube and Facebook and Twitter for videos from ordinary folks showing how they were getting by in quarantine, how they were reaching out to people despite all the obstacles, how encouragement and good humor and lyric acts of kindness were not going to be derailed by COVID-19.

    Soon people all over the world were doing mini-versions of the show themselves for friends and neighbors even as many people started posting videos and stories to the “Some Good News” social media pages (obviously in the hopes they might actually get onto the show, which many have of course).  Krasinski’s tagline for the show has basically been to remember that even when times are tough, there is always some good news out there.  Such heartwarming stories do not banish all sorrow but they keep us going with something we all need: hope.  Inspiration.  A reason to get teary-eyed now and again for good reasons instead of merely sorrowful ones.

    To state the merely obvious: if John Krasinski and company can do it, the church surely can.  We have not just some good news but we are the custodians of the Good News that just is the Gospel.  And the Gospel assures us that although the Son of God had to get dragged through the mud and the muck of this ugly world to do it—indeed, the Son of God had to go clear to hell itself to do it—Jesus Christ did win the victory.  Songs of thanksgiving and the entering of God’s courts with praise are all still possible because the Lord Jesus died and rose again.

    As John of Patmos experienced in a grim time of exile in his own life, God can pull back the curtain of history for us to reveal the heavenly choruses of praise that are going on right now and that are, in fact, never-ceasing.  That’s what John saw on that otherwise desolate island: not visions of what will be but a glimpse of what is right now.  Choirs of angels and saints singing “Worthy is the Lamb!”  Right now. The song goes on.  In this sense Psalm 100 pairs well with this week’s Gospel Lectionary text from Matthew 9-10 and the need to proclaim “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  That kingdom is not future but is real today.

    And so perhaps equally real is the need to sing Psalm 100 with everything we can muster from quarantine, from our homes, on our Zoom feeds, and as we go out and about into our fragmented, grasping, hurting society.  So yes, as I said at the outset of this article, at first glance long about now in early June 2020, Psalm 100 seems to sound all the wrong notes vis-à-vis the mood many of us are in.

    Or maybe it’s the other way around: given the mood we are all in, perhaps Psalm 100 sounds all the right notes.

    Illustration Idea

    Those of us over a certain age remember a Coca-Cola commercial that ran incessantly in the early 1970s.  In it a choir of people from all the world sing a song about global unity, about teaching the world to sing “in perfect harmony.”  And somehow buying everyone in the world a Coke was going to be the ticket to make this happen.  After all, as the song concludes, Coke “is the real thing.”

    Well . . . it’s an advertisement after all.  But Coke is not “the real thing” to unite the world, to help us sing in global harmony.  But the call of Psalm 100 does connect us to the real thing, to the real deal, to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who can and will in the end help us all shout to the Lord in perfect harmony as we enter his gates with thanksgiving.

    And maybe there will be Coca-Cola in the New Creation but . . . it won’t be the main event.  Thanks be to God!

     

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    Romans 5:1-8

    Author: Doug Bratt