Readings: Lectionary Year C, Proper 13 (Related)
Ecclesiastes 1:2,12-14; 2:18-23 A downbeat assessment of human life.
Colossians 3:1-11 Our lives must reflect the reality of our salvation in Christ.
Luke 12:13-21 Jesus warns against placing confidence in material things.
Feeding the hungry. Glass in St. Mary’s parish church on Lindisfarne. (by Wailes & Strang).
The woman is richly dressed, and carries not just utilitarian food, but rich food, and plenty of it. She is portrayed as having received God’s blessing, and as now blessing others in full measure. How does this image challenge us to respond to God’s generous blessing with generosity of our own?
Some thoughts on the readings – engaging deeper
• The word “vanity” in Ecclesiastes is a translation of the Hebrew word “hevel” which normally means “vapour” or “smoke” – in other words, something which can’t be grasped or held on to. It’s a waste of time to strive for such things. The more we try to hold on to them, the more meaningless they seem.
• Paul writes that our ‘true’ life is “hidden with Christ”, therefore our lives here and now should reflect that. True repentance is not simply being sorry, but also determining to live better, throwing off sin like we throw off soiled clothes.
• Paul calls greed “idolatry” – an idea also associated with the Hebrew “hevel”. Greed takes things we want but don’t need, and makes them more important than the needs of others. It’s not the things we hanker after that are the idol, rather it’s ourselves which we put in the highest place.
• Jesus’ parable builds on the idea in Ecclesiastes 2:18-19. Riches and good harvests are rightly seen as a blessing from God, but our response should not be trying to hold on to ‘hevel’. Instead we should ‘build a bigger table’.
Suggestions for further Bible reading – engaging wider
2 Corinthians 8:12-15 Paul is discussing the gift which the Gentile churches are gathering to help the Jerusalem church. He develops a theology of “cheerful giving” – and also of ‘cheerful receiving’ when others are blessed.
Matthew 25:14-30 In the Parable of the Talents, the slave who ‘stored’ his wealth is condemned. The slaves who used their wealth to make lots more are commended. The next passage (25:31-46) show how God wants us to live.
Genesis 14:17-24 Abram gives generously to Melchizedek in gratitude for military victory, but refuses to take anything which the King of Sodom offers.
What other Bible passages come to mind when you read today’s readings?
If you haven’t already come across it, take some time to look at The Bible Project website https://thebibleproject.com which has excellent overview videos for most of the books of the Bible, as well as thematic explorations.
Points for Prayer – engaging with God
• Give thanks for the material blessings we’ve received from God, especially those which have come via the hands of other people.
• Pray for people everywhere who lack the basic necessities of life, whether through war, natural disaster, economic breakdown, or poverty. Ask God to give us compassion and generosity as individuals and as a nation.
• Pray for the relationships between our world’s nuclear powers as the treaties which have kept us safe for decades are beginning to fail. Pray for a genuine desire among all nations to rid our world of these terrible weapons.
Points for Action – engaging with the world
• If you haven’t done so recently, review your will and your legacy arrangements, to check they still reflect your response to God’s generosity.
• In the schools’ summer break, young families are likely to be away, and elderly people seeing fewer visitors. Look out for the lonely & vulnerable.