Third Sunday after Pentecost

Our Life of Faith Depends on God’s Promises

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

Trusting people isn’t easy because people tend to let us down when we’re depending on them. It’s also hard to confess our sinfulness to others because we’re afraid those people will use our sins and mistakes against us and hold a grudge. We shouldn’t have the same concerns with our Savior. Jesus is totally reliable, entirely trustworthy. He keeps his promises. Most of all, he keeps his promise of forgiveness through the gospel. We can confidently confess our sin to him, knowing that in him, we have certain forgiveness and eternal life.

Traditional First Lesson – Hosea 5:15–6:6

Do you think Israel really repented here, or were they just saying what they thought God wanted to hear?

At first glance, the words that Israel spoke (6:1-3) seem a beautiful model of repentance. But this is unrepentant Israel’s idea of “repentance” that had as little to do with godly repentance as the Pharisees’ “righteousness” had to do with godly service. There is no confession of guilt; no fruits follow; God does not receive it. Merely going through the motions of repentance did not cut it. Merely performing the outward functions of the Law did not suffice. God wanted an admission of guilt, an earnest seeking, but he did not find it. Only the mercy of God could solve their problem. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).

Why can we confidently acknowledge our sin to the Lord?

Because he promised us that he will heal us and bind up our wound of sin, that we may live in his presence.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 3:1-15

Was Moses a good choice to be called as leader of God’s people?

The pre-incarnate Christ calls Moses into service by his mercy. What else could explain the choice? Moses had already proven himself a failure at delivering God’s people from bondage. He was an exiled killer, living in the wilds of Midian after fleeing the court of Pharaoh. No wonder Moses asked, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?”

What can we learn about our callings from the call of Moses?

Everyone called into God’s service asks this question of themselves again and again. It comes from knowing that only mercy can explain God choosing us to serve him. But when the minister stops marveling at God’s mercy and instead starts questioning God’s choice, then God’s answer rings out loud and true: I. Not you, I. Can the point be clearer? Your call is by my mercy, and the ability to perform the service I give you comes only from me, the great I AM. What comfort for both preacher and parishioner!

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 4:18-25

What promise of God to Abraham is Paul referring to in these verses?

God promised Abraham a son in his old age.

True or false: Abraham simply ignored the physical evidence which suggested that there was no way he and his wife could have a child.

False. Paul says that Abraham indeed “faced the fact that his body was as good as dead… and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Despite this evidence, however, Abraham “against all hope … in hope believed” God’s promise.

Upon what did Abraham base his faith?

Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Was Paul a good choice to be called as the apostle to the Gentiles? What can we learn about our callings from the experience of Saul/Paul?

Paul tells the end result of a bright light on the Damascus road—Christ had come to call Saul to service by his mercy. But what an astounding choice! Such a man, to such an office! Only mercy could explain why Christ picked Paul, the worst of sinners. Could there have been a more unlikely man to call as an apostle to the Gentiles? The reason had nothing to do with Paul. It had to do with us: Jesus wanted us to know that the call to ministry is not based on merit but on mercy. Here is the example par excellence of ministry based on Christ’s mercy and not human merit: Saul, the persecutor, is called into ministry as Paul, the apostle. When he reflects on God calling him to ministry—Paul cannot help but sing the praises of the King of mercy.

Gospel – Matthew 9:9-13

Why were Jesus’ actions so repulsive to the Pharisees?

They couldn’t believe that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners. Neither could they believe that Jesus would call a tax collector to be his disciple.

What did Jesus want the Pharisees to learn?

He wanted them to learn what the Lord meant through the prophet Hosea when he said: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus’ meaning is this: God has been merciful and forgiving to us, and he wants us to be merciful and forgiving toward one another. Jesus was showing mercy to these “sinners,” something the Pharisees didn’t want to do.

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