The Work of the Church
These are the readings for the Fourth 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
What is the primary work of the Christian church? Surprisingly, many people answer that question in different ways. Some suggest that the primary work of the church is to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Some say that the church is to work for overall social justice. Others think that the church’s job is to reform and restore the moral fiber of our world. These are perhaps all worthy tasks, but there shouldn’t be any debate about the church’s primary task because Jesus tells us what it is: Preach the gospel of forgiveness! (Mark 16:15) That’s our work and our privilege!
Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 19:2-8a
What is a covenant? (See 19:5.)
A covenant is an agreement. God is here establishing a covenant with his people: obey me fully and you will be my treasured possession. This is a two-sided covenant. God’s covenant with us is one-sided (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).
How would God view his Old Testament people if they obeyed his Word?
They would be for him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
What is a priest?
The Scriptural job description of a priest is to be a go-between or mediator between God and human beings. In particular, he offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. God commanded that there be such priests in Old Testament times from the tribe of Levi. But in the New Testament, there is no longer any need for such priests because through the sacrifice of Jesus, our great High Priest (Hebrews 7:26-28), we have all become priests of God (1 Peter 2:4-10), offering up our own spiritual sacrifices.
Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:15-23
How does Moses show compassion on Israel?
After forty years of faithfully leading God’s people through their wanderings, after much pleading with God in prayer, Moses’ hopes of leading the people into the Promised Land were dashed. Moses would see the land from afar, but then like his brother before him, he would die because of his actions at Meribah Kadesh. But look at Moses’ response! There is no complaint or murmur or cry. See how this minister of the Word emulates the compassion of God and his Son: Moses’ first thought is of the people of God. He saw them as Christ would 1400 years later, as sheep without a shepherd. Leave them not leaderless, O Lord! And God answers with a man full of the Spirit to be the new leader of God’s people. Lord, give your church more ministers who model your compassion!
Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:6-11
How did God demonstrate his love for all people?
Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, his enemies. God’s love is unconditional! He was not waiting for us to love him first.
What does it mean for us to be reconciled to God?
To be reconciled with God means that all people were estranged or separated from him at one time because of our sinfulness, but now Jesus has washed our sinfulness away with his sacrifice on the cross. All people are now reconciled to God, and as Christians, we share that message of reconciliation with others who don’t realize or believe it. (See 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5
What is the church’s responsibility toward her ministers?
Paul’s words to the Thessalonians center on the ministry of the Word born of God’s compassion. The God who loved us also gave us the encouragement of his Word and sacrament that strengthen us in word and deed. Therefore, Paul beseeches the prayers of the church for its ministers. Pray that their message be spread and the ministers are spared, for there are those who will work against this ministry and its message. Yet see the compassion of Christ modeled in his ministers: Paul’s words are ones of concern and comfort for people of God.
Gospel – Matthew 9:35–10:8
Why did Jesus show compassion toward the crowds?
Because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
What is an apostle?
An apostle is one who is “sent out” to proclaim the gospel. The twelve apostles had a special call from Jesus to proclaim the gospel without boundaries. In a very real sense, though, we are also “apostles” whenever we proclaim the gospel.