In this set of alternative lectionary readings that David Ackerman provides us in his Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary, we hear words about false teachers and narrow gates. Like many of the texts that haven't made it into the Revised Common Lectionary, these passages can be off-putting. That being said, there is an important miessage contained her. In our age, where permissiveness is often the reigning ideology (note I didn't say tolerance), these passages call on us to be discerning. Not every voice is equally valid. Not every "leader" is worthy of being followed. Not every path is worth taking, even if it seems like it's the easiest. . In these passages we are invited to consider the path that God would us down. I invite you to again consider these passages for your preaching, teaching, and study.
Proper 2/Epiphany 7
“Beware of False Leaders”
Call to Worship: Psalm 6 NRSV
One: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror. My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O Lord – how long?
Many: Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?
One: I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of my grief; they grow weak because of all my foes.
Many: Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
Gathering Prayer: God, the world at times can be a threatening place. Thank you for gathering us together. Teach us not to make false gods out of safety and security and show us how to be the faithful people that you long for us to be.
Confession: God of grace and truth, forgive us when we make idols out of sentimentality and ignore the real depth and beauty of love. Too often we cling to lies and deception because they are easier for us to handle than the truth. Have mercy on us. Help us to change our ways so that we may embrace your truth and abide in your steadfast love.
Assurance: The good news that God gives us this day is that God’s love for us is real. God’s justice obliterates all falsehood and lies, and God’s mercy reminds that by grace we are redeemed and forgiven. With all our hearts, let us thank God for this amazing gift.
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 28:7-8, 11-25 – “The Medium of Endor”
2 Peter2:1-3, 17-22 – “False Teachers”
Matthew7:13-14 – “The Narrow Gate”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- In the reading in 1 Samuel 28 about the medium at Endor, who do you think the Biblical author intends to be good and virtuous: Samuel, Saul, or the medium? Who is supposed to be a villain? Who winds up coming across as virtuous or villainous in our 21st century ears? Does this complicate the story?
- Consider Psalm 6 (not described in the book), especially verses 4-5. How do these verses (and this psalm) tie in thematically with the other readings for the day?
- Who do you think are some of the false teachers and prophets that are derided in 2 Peter 2? What might they have been like? Who do you think are false prophets and teachers today? What traits characterize them?
- What do you think it means to enter by the “narrow gate”? What do you think today’s verses from Matthew 7 (note the change from the book) suggest about the challenges of leadership?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: We thank you, God, for leading us in your truth. Help us to turn away from falsehood and deception and embrace the good news that you freely give us this day.
Benediction: Now may the God of truth lead us and guide us as we go forth this day to love and serve others in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.