Bible readings for Sunday, July 4, 2021

The First Reading is recorded in Ezekiel 2:1-5.  There is an ominous tone in this passage: the Lord is sending the prophet Ezekiel to a sinful and rebellious people.  Of course, the Lord hopes that His rebellious people will repent, but He knows the outcome.  Whatever the people do, God is faithfully sending a prophet to them, and they will know that a prophet has been among them.  If they repent, well and good, if not, God has warned them and they have no excuse before Him.

What messages of God are we ignoring?  Are we a nation of rebels, are we impudent and stubborn?  Will we be forced to admit that God warned us, even if we refuse to follow?  

Let us die to the sinful self in each of us and let God be Lord of our lives, following Him in discipleship.

Lord God, open our ears, eyes, and hearts to Your Spirit, listening for Your Word and will for our lives.  Turn us from our sinful rebellion, turn us to You as you forgive and renew us in Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

The psalm, 123, is another Song of Ascents, a psalm the pilgrims would recite and sing as they made their way up the Temple mount in Jerusalem to worship.  The psalmist has endured much suffering and heartache at the hands of foes, but instead of bitterness and retaliation, the psalmist looks to the Lord for rescue.  

When the hardships and heartaches of life roll over us, when people turn against us because we bear the Name of Christ, let us look to the Lord, trusting in His righteous judgments and mercy, and that One Day, when Jesus returns, all will be made new, and all injustices will be set right.  Let us keep our eyes on the Lord.

Holy Father, as You know, we live in a world that increasingly is turning from You.  We live among those who are gathering power to go to battle against You.  Enable us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  Keep us safe in Jesus.  In His Name we pray.  Amen.

The Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, continues a theme we had in the Second Reading a couple of weeks ago; here the apostle Paul returns to defending himself, his ministry, and the Gospel he preaches from the lying slanderers who have risen in Corinth with the purpose of tearing down Paul and the Gospel he proclaims.  Paul is forced to lay out his credentials again: he has had an awesome vision of heaven, but he will not boast in the vision, but rather he is constantly reminded through a thorn in the flesh of his utter dependence on the Lord.  Paul pleaded that the thorn in the flesh be removed, but the Lord’s response was to trust in God’s grace.  Paul realizes that his visions and experiences are not what saves him, rather it is God’s mercy and grace in Christ, so he is content in his weaknesses, resting on the power of God in Christ.  May we also rest in God’s mercy and grace in Christ.

Lord, remind us that when we are weak, You are strong.  Let Your Holy Spirit work in our lives so that we rely on Your strength to overcome all obstacles in life.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

The Gospel is recorded in Mark 6:1-13.  Note how the readings for today all tie together: God has sent His servants (Ezekiel, the psalmist, Paul, Jesus, the 12 disciples) to proclaim His message to His rebellious, sinful people, but they refuse to listen.  We scratch our heads at their stubbornness, how could they be so short-sighted?  Yet, how often are we the stubborn ones who refuse to listen to the Lord?  How often do we reject the prophet or teacher in our midst because we think we know more?  How often are the words of God met with unbelief in our lives?

And, this Gospel reminds us that as we proclaim Christ to others, we will face resistance.  What do we do when that happens?  Go on to the next place and proclaim Christ there.

Lord Jesus, keep us from closing our hearts and minds to Your leading; each day open us up to You and enable us to grow more and more into You, our Lord and Savior.  As You send us out to a world of sin and rebellion to call people to repentance and new life in You, empower us with Your love and compassion to be faithful in our mission, and to help people in their needs, and by so doing helping to bring health in all ways to them.  In Your Name we pray.  Amen.

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