Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Corinthians 13.
Devotional Scripture ~ Genesis 18:22-32.
This Sunday South Shore UMC will renew and celebrate baptismal, membership, marriage, and discipleship covenants in our worship services! I am very excited to lead and share this time with our church family and community.
For persons worshipping with South Shore safely in-person, please bring with you a cross that you can hold in your hand. For persons worshipping with South Shore virtually, please have a small bowl of water, a cross that you can hold in your hand, and a candle available for our worship service.
Hope you will join us in worship this week!
Genesis 18 presents three sets of contrasting images for the reader: of life and (potential) death, of obedience and disobedience, and of hope and despair.
It begins with Abraham and Sarah being visited by three visitors, who turn out to be messengers from God. They bring news that the matriarch and patriarch of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths long thought would never come - in a year’s time, they would return and Sarah would have a son.
New life. Hope. Perhaps a bit of disbelief as both Sarah and Abraham were well on in years.
The messenger’s word was true. God is faithful. And Isaac was born.
The chapter then shifts to a conversation between God and Abraham. The messengers’ feet are set towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and God prepares to render judgment. The text describes “that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him...I [The Lord] have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” whereas Sodom and Gomorrah is described only saying “how very grave their sin” (vv. 18-20).
Doing righteousness and justice - this is the way of obedience with God. Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin being very grave indicates their activity is the farthest from...
Sodom and Gomorrah’s outlook is grim, indeed, especially for the righteous and the justice seekers and doers sticking out like sore thumbs amidst the rest of the area’s sin. It is for these righteous ones that Abraham appeals to God, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked” (v. 23)?
With Abraham begins the practice of intercession, from which the table-fellowship religions developed intercessory prayer - one person or a small group of persons praying to God - appealing to God - on behalf of another for their good and for their welfare. Abraham, Moses, the prophets, the Psalmist, our Jesus, and many others through the ages appealed to God on humanity’s behalf - on our behalf! - for their and our good and welfare.
I do not think their intercessory work, which at times took an even greater role in intervention work, challenged God’s authority. God is indeed still and will always be God. The Divine Will will be done. I believe past and present intercessory work reminds us of the dynamic nature of our relationship with God - not that we can influence or change God’s will, but that we can (and should!) meet with God in the uncomfortable spaces where it seems obedience has been thrown out the window and sin has won the day and ask God’s heart to be softened once again. We can return to God the hope that God spoke to humanity in the depths of exile, words God prophesied through Ezekiel, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26).
Judgment is God’s to render. Our God is a God of accountability and grace - we need both. Because of the presence of God’s grace in our lives, I believe we are called to enter and wrestle in those places of accountability with God. Not to mete out judgments. But to be near the struggle. And advocate for the good. And commit our lives to be part of the change and transformation, and and help God usher in the solution to sin - salvation through repentance.
Reflection: Write down four names of people you know and their specific situations. How would you like to see God work in their lives for their good and welfare? Commit to praying for these people, and if you see God answer that prayer, write down the answer God provided.
Prayer: "Someone needs you, Lord, kum ba yah. Someone needs you, Lord, kum ba yah. Someone needs you, Lord, kum ba yah. Oh, Lord, kum ba yah! Let us praise the Lord, kum ba yah. Let us praise the Lord, kum ba yah. Let us praise the Lord, kum ba yah. Oh, Lord, kum ba yah!"* Amen.
*“Kum By Yah,” The United Methodist Hymnal 494.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal