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Daily reading: Sunday 15 July

A reflection for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

A traditional dance in Burundi for International Women's Day Christian Aid

A community in Burundi performs a dance for International Women's Day. 

Old Testament

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 and Psalm 24

There are many things that make for uncomfortable reading in 2 Samuel 6, particularly in the verses that are omitted from the lectionary. Reconciling God’s love with a holiness more sacred than life is a challenge as we read of the killing of Uzzah. Verses that the lectionary leaves out.

It is perhaps easier to focus on David’s liberation and abandonment at the return of the ark. This is not just demonstrated in the stripping away of his clothes and inhibitions, but also in his providing food to everyone so all could feast and celebrate. He does this just after he has made his offerings to the Lord as part of his ongoing worship.

David offers us an example, that we too would give from an overflow of joy and offering of worship to God.

Amos 7:7-15 and Psalm 85:8-13

Amos is being expelled because his message is hard to hear. He brings words of judgement from God because of the indulgence and injustice of Israel. Their lifestyle has been measured and found wanting.

People living in poverty have been trampled on, the vulnerable have been pushed aside (Amos 5:11). Inequality and injustice has become abhorrent to God and so Amos is sent to bring words of exile as punishment. These words are not received well by the one in religious authority, Amaziah.

When Amaziah seeks to silence and expel Amos, Amos reveals his identity is not that of a professional prophet but as a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. He is an ordinary citizen, chosen by God to speak out to challenge the injustice and to foretell the consequences.

It is a challenging passage, beckoning us to listen for prophetic voices in unlikely places, to consider the injustice and inequality that run rampant in our time and world and what voices are silenced now. And to consider the cost of fulfilling our own call to be prophetic voices.

New Testament

Ephesians 1:3-14

This passage in Ephesians gives us an opportunity to step back and to remind ourselves of the big picture of God’s plan and will for the world.

We are so often active in the details and struggles of participating in the restoration of creation. Yet this passage encourages us to remember and receive God’s abundant blessing and overflowing grace. To dwell and linger in that longing of God who will gather up all things in the fullness of time.

If we have a tendency to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, today in Ephesians we are reminded that God’s got this, we are blessed by his grace to participate in the plan for all of creation.

We can encourage the congregation to rest and be restored in that incredible and mysterious revelation.

Mark 6:14-29

As dysfunctional families go, Herod and Herodias are setting quite an example. Herod has taken his still alive brother’s wife and, so enamored by their daughter as she dances for him, he agrees to give her the head of the one man who has called him out on his sin. We can only imagine the look of horror on the girl’s face when she receives John’s head that she then gives to her mother.

It is a story of great detail and profound sadness. The words of verse 29 foretell of what would happen to Jesus, and the episode as a whole displays the cost of such discipleship. It is a costly business to challenge the systems and structures of power that think they can have whatever they want without consequence or regard for the pain of others.

Prayer

Thank you God,
for the faithfulness of prophets

for Amos and John the Baptist and all the others
who at great cost to their own lives
spoke out and stood up for what was right.
Grant us the courage, grace and conviction
to fulfil your call on our lives today
whatever the cost.
In your name we pray,
Amen.

Pointers for prayer

Pray for Christian Aid partners across the world who are standing up and speaking out against systems, powers and structures that perpetuate injustice being done to those on the margins. Pray for them to have courage and protection.