Ascension Day

           Thus it is written, that the Anointed One is to suffer
           and to rise from the dead on the third day.
           and that repentance and forgiveness of sins
           is to be proclaimed to all nations
           in the name of the Anointed One.
           You are witnesses of these things.
                           —Luke 24.46-48

It’s all one thing, this loop,
in which the Beloved ascends
not into distant heavens
but into the suffering of the world,
and radiates forgiveness
that changes people,
who rise into a wounded world
to proclaim altered lives
and the miracle of ascending
from suffering to forgiveness,
of which we are witnesses,
even this very day,
rising
to begin again.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Standing there looking up into the air

            He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
           While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
           suddenly two people in white robes stood by them.
           They said, “People of Galilee,
           why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
                              —Acts 1.9-11

Because sometimes all you can do
is stare into the space where once there was
something you loved.
Because sometimes there’s a gap
between the last step of this journey
and the first step of the next one.
Because grief is the grain
in the pearl of believing.
Because sometimes there’s an empty place
in you that only the right kind of silence can fill.
Because we didn’t get here on our own
but now we’re afraid we might have to.
Because it’s sometimes only empty air
and a vast, insistent silence
where we can hear the voice,
the silent voice, and feel the presence,
the huge unsayable presence
of the One in whose absence
there is such nearness.
Because sometimes, God,
sometimes
you just really miss the skin.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

One

           “Abba God, you are in me
           and I am in you;
           may they also be in us,
           I in them and you in me,
           that they may become completely one.”
                           —John 17.21, 23

In that song you love
that one beautiful note is a note in the song,
and when you sing it right
the whole song is in that note,
and the song is in you,
and you are in the hearer,
and the hearer is in the song,
and we are one,

circles within circles,
a fish in the ocean and the ocean in the fish,
the fire in the flame and the warmth in the light,
the mother in the child in the mother,
the blood in the flesh and the life in the blood,
the Lover and the Beloved and the Love that flows between,
the Infinite who makes room within themselves for us,
and the One who comes and brings us in,
and the room and all who are in it, who are in each other:
this is what we mean when we say “One,”
what you mean when you say “I.”

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Ascension

           He was lifted up,
           and a cloud took him out of their sight.
                           —Acts 1.9

The Ascension is not about Jesus’s body
rising above the earth,
but about Jesus expanding beyond his body.

He didn’t go up,
he went out.
Into all of us.

The disciple stand there,
almost ready to believe
(they won’t until Pentecost)

that the body is not there
but here: we are the body,
the body of the risen Christ.

Christ is not an individual but a community.
You are not an individual
but a member of that community.

When Jesus prays “May they all be one,”
it isn’t about opinions.
It’s that we’re all cells of one body.

See that way.
Act that way.
Love that way.


________________
Weather Report

Heavenly,
as warm, light air rises,
raising us all
into the realm of light.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Peace

           Peace I leave with you;
           my peace I give to you.
           I do not give to you as the world gives.
                           —John 14.27


I give to you a heart of serenity,
the grace to be undisturbed
even as chaos surrounds.

I give to you a heart of harmony,
that you may be forgiving,
knowing you are forgiven.

I give to you a heart of hope,
confident in the grace that moves
unseen and vast.

I give to you a heart of acceptance,
to be present with what is
even if it is not what shall be.

I give to you a heart of wholeness,
that you may know you belong
and all that is within you be healed.

I give to you a heart of gentleness,
to live graciously with all,
even those who are not at peace.

I give to you a heart of love,
that you know you are my Beloved,
and be at peace with all.

My peace I give to you,
the Peace of the Crucified and Risen One.
Peace be with you.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

OT 17 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 24, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Hosea 1.2-10 God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute as a symbol of God’s faithfulness to us, who are unfaithful. Their children are given symbolic names.

In Psalm 85 we cry: God, you have forgiven us before; restore us again. Surely salvation is at hand: love and peace will unfold among us.

Colossians 2.6-15 (+16–19)describes life in Christ. “Christ” is not just a name for Jesus, but God’s physical presence, the Second Person of the Trinity. Jesus embodied that presence, and so does the Church, the Body of Christ. “Christ” refers not only to the person of Jesus but to the cosmic-yet-intimate presence of God that Jesus models. Here Paul describes how we let Christ be the guiding power in our lives; other forces have no power over us.

In Luke 11.1-13 Jesus teaches a prayer. We have come to know Matthew’s version of the prayer, slightly amplified, as the Lord’s Prayer or the Prayer of Jesus. Jesus speaks of God’s generosity: ask and it will be given.

Preaching Thoughts

Hosea
       Don’t get hung up on how weird it is to give your kids names like “Not-pitied” or “Not-my-people.” I don’t know that when Hosea’s kids played soccer their teammates called them by their theological nicknames. I bet those names were not for their use, but for Hosea’s preaching. His point was that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness God is faithful. Note that even after the harsh word that Israel is “not mine” they’ll be called “Children of the living God.” There is always grace.

Colossians
      Paul continues his theme of the cosmic Christ who is both eternal and also bodily present— Christ’s body being the church. As members of the church we are members of Christ’s physical presence.
       You could preach a whole sermon on practically every sentence in Paul’s letters.
      “Live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Christ.”— Contemplate what it means to be rooted in Christ… how we nourish our rootedness…
      “In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Christ.” — What might it mean to come to fullness in Christ? Maybe to be all of who God creates us to be, to inhabit our whole divine nature… God is not distant: though infinite, God is intimately present, and we are in God….
     “You were buried in baptism and raised with Christ.” — We surrender our lives to God, who gives us new ones… We’re so afraid of “losing ourselves,” but whatever life we love, God always gives us a new one, a more loving and beautiful one.
     “When you were dead in trespasses God made you alive.” — Dead not because of some punishment,but because sin is our distrust of God, cutting ourselves off from God, who is life. But of course we only think we’re cut off. God stays connected (God is in us, and we are in God), and God gives us new life. This is not our doing, our worthiness, but God’s gift.
     “God forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands, nailing it to the cross.” — Think of all the bad stuff you’ve done, all of your inadequacy: erased! Wow. It’s hard for us to accept that; we keep thinking there must be something in ink that didn’t erase… But, no. Our forgiveness is absolute, total and final. We’re not trying to get saved; we’re trying to come to trust that we are saved.
     “God disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross.” — We’re done with that whole Marvel Comics trope of the Battle Between Good and Evil. It’s over. They lost. Love has already triumphed. Again, the issue is not whether love is more powerful that evil, but whether we trust it. This is the foundation of our struggle for justice. The house of evil is built on the sand of fear, but the house of justice is built on the rock of love.
     “Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on (certain religious ideas and practices) and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” — Ignore those who judge your faith. Our faith is not about what we believe but how we trust God, and participate in the Body of Love. Real faith builds up the body (the community) and helps it grow in love.

Luke

      What we’ve called the Lord’s Prayer I call the Prayer of Jesus, both to avoid the word “Lord,” loaded as it is with patriarchy (lords and ladies….)— and also because it’s a fruitful (Jewish) prayer for people for whom Jesus is a spiritual teacher but nor their “lord.”
      Look here for a set of my paraphrases of the prayer (also downloadable in a .doc format).
      Luke’s version is much leaner than Matthew’s. We’re not sure what Jesus actually said (other than we know he called God Abba) and what gospel writers added. It’s doubtful Jesus taught this prayer as a whole, but he used the various petitions at times and his words were made into a composite.
      “Father…” — Jesus doesn’t mean God is male, but that even though God is infinite and unknowable, God is also intimately present. In our common version we say “Our Father,” reminding us that faith is never “between me and God,” but among the whole family.
      “Your name be revered.” — This hearkens back to the ten commandments—not merely to avoid taking God’s name in vain but to revere it. God’s “name” means more than language. It means God’s reality, God’s character, God’s essence. This prayer means “May we always be guided by love.” This petition, and the “kingdom” one following, draw us out of our everyday thinking into a new form of consciousness. We abandon worldly values and attachments, and make God the center of our world.
      “Your kingdom come.” —In less patriarchal language, “Impose your imperial rule.” In the age of Disney’s “Magical Kingdom we forget that a “kingdom” was a real political entity. In Jesus’ setting that was the Romans Empire. A kingdom, or empire, is a power structure with authority, obligations and privileges decreed from above. The Empire of God is a world in which love rules. Grace is not an option: it’s imposed from above. This is a “parallel universe” to this world—and it’s also a real-world alternative to the Roman Empire, and to all human structures of power, domination, privilege and exclusion. As such this petition is not only a spiritual hope; it’s also a political statement.
      “Give us each day our daily bread.” — Luke’s version, “each day,” has a more ongoing, long-term sense than Matthew’s “this day.” But either way we are invited to rely entirely on God’s providence. It’s like breathing: each breath—this breath— is a gift from God. I think of Ps. 127.2: “It is in vain that we rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for you give sleep to your beloved.” Even what we think we have earned is actually a gift from God.
     “Forgive our sins, for we forgive others…” — We tremble to pray that God forgive us at the low rate we forgive. Of course God forgives absolutely. But there is something about forgiveness like a hug: you can’t receive it without being wiling to give it. Jesus is likely to have said “debts;” he meant real-life forgiveness of financial debts as well as the more religious and social aspects. That aspect gradually got removed from the real world of poverty and debt-enslavement. But in Jesus’ world nobody owes anybody anything. Jesus envisions us all being being free of any guilt or shame, being free and freeing others. Again, as in the petition for God’s Reign to come, there’s a sense of all of life being re-ordered, and even re-created. Imagine this: we are provided for, and completely free, before God.
     “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” — This might be asking God not to test our faith—which in fact God does not do. God knows our faith. And God has no need to make us struggle to prove anything. God’s only will is to bless and heal. But it may be more generally asking that we avoid difficulty—not that God causes difficulties in our lives, but that grace helps us avoid them if we can and endure them if we must. This might be humanity’s wish to avoid the intense challenge of, say, world war or climate catastrophe.
     “Ask and you shall receive.” — Jesus portrays a God who is profoundly generous.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of love, we ask you to teach us to pray.
All: You show us your grace, and our wonder is our prayer to you.
Christ, your love gives us joy.
Let our gratitude be prayer to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your power.
Let our lives be our prayer to you.
And let this, our worship, bring you praise.


2.
Leader: Ask, and it will be given to you.
All: Loving God, we ask for life and peace. Grant us your grace.
Search, and you will find.
Christ, we are searching for your Way, searching for Life. Grant us your grace.
Knock, and the door will be opened.
Spirit, we come knocking at the door of this moment.
Open to us, as we open our hearts to you, and grant us your grace.


3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Our Father and Mother, we honor you.
Open our eyes to the mystery of your presence
May your Realm come to life among us!
Feed us with the bread of your Word.
Change us with the grace of your forgiveness.

All power and glory are yours, God of love.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of truth, Jesus’ disciples said to him,” Teach us to pray.” So we come to worship, to hear your Word to us, and to learn to pray. Spirit of Love, teach us. Fill us with your Spirit, that everything we do may be prayerful. Fill us with your love, that our only desire will be to do your will. Speak your Word to us, that we may hear your prayer for us, and reflect it in the living of our lives. Amen.

2.
God of love, Jesus has promised that you will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. We are asking you. In your Word, proclaimed here and pondered together and lived out in our lives, give us your Spirit. Amen.

3.
Our Mother, our Father, your presence is holy. We open ourselves to you, that Reign of your love may take over our hearts, and take over the world. May your grace feed us. May your forgiveness guide us. May your wisdom lead us through all the challenges of life, for your sake, and for the sake of the wholeness of the world. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God, we confess
we have not lived the lives of your beloved children.
We have not held your holy presence at the center of our lives.
We have submitted to this world’s empires.
We have starved ourselves of your grace;
Neglecting your forgiveness, we have not been forgiving.
Our faith has been tried, and failed.
Heal us, forgive us, and restore us to your Realm.
We pray in the name and by the grace of Christ. Amen.

Readings

1. The Lord’s Prayer
          Click here for a set of my paraphrases of the Prayer of Jesus, the “Lord’s Prayer.”

2.
Colossians 2.6-15 – My paraphrase

You received as a gift
God’s presence embodied in Jesus,
the captain of your soul.
Live as part of God’s embodied presence.
Root yourself deeply in Christ.
Grow and become more whole in your trust,
true to your experience, overflowing with gratitude.
Don’t let anyone hijack your faith with fear and lies, with selfish agendas,
with human prejudices and power structures.
Keep your trust in Christ.
Christ is a higher power than any ruler or authority.

Christ is the physical presence of divinity, in whom your lives are whole.
In Christ you have received God’s Covenant
through a transformation by the Spirit:
stepping beyond the limits of your fleshly bodies,
you became part of the Body of Christ
when you were buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Christ,
trusting in the power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
When you were dead, buried alive under your sins,
disconnected from the Covenant,
God gave you new life together with Christ:
God forgave all your sin,
ignoring all accounts of your failure to meet legal demands.
God destroyed these accounts, nailing them to the cross.
God disarmed all oppressive powers and spirits
and made a public display of them,
triumphing over them in the cross.

So hold fast to Christ, the head,
from whom the whole Body,
nourished and joined by the Spirit’s ligaments and sinews,
grows with a growth that is from God.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
      We love and trust you, God, creator of all that is and all that is to come.
      We love and trust you, Jesus, who embodied the loving presence of God. Crucified under the powers of worldly empire, you were raised by the power of love. You are our head and we your Body, the church, buried with you in baptism and raised in love.
     We love and trust you, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love. We are joined by your ligaments and sinews as one Body in Christ, growing by your grace. By your power we love with gentleness, seek justice with courage, and serve you with joy. May the Rule of your Grace take over this world, to your glory, now and forever. Amen.

2.
     We entrust ourselves to you, God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come. Holy is your presence. All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing. The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence; the earth is alive with heaven. You give us each day the bread we need.
     We entrust ourselves to you, Jesus, the Beloved. You healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
You showed us your forgiveness, that we might forgive others. Crucified and risen, you are our deliverance from the powers of evil, leading us past our temptations, that your will may be done.
     We entrust ourselves to you, Holy Spirit, that your love may take root in our hearts and your will be done. By your power the Realm of Grace flourishes in this world until it will prevail. The world, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

You give us each day our daily bread;
you give us each moment the breath we need.
We open our hearts to your holy presence.
May your realm of love blossom in our hearts.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Our Mother, our Father, holy is your presence.
All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing.
The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence;
the earth is alive with heaven.
You give us each day the bread we need.
Therefore, at your invitation, we come to your table,
giving our thanks and singing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
He showed us your forgiveness,
that we might forgive others.
Crucified and risen, he is our deliverance from the powers of evil,
leading us past our temptations,
that your will may be done.


     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
Bu your grace may your love take root in our hearts.
May your will be done.
May your Realm of Grace flourish in this world.
For the power and glory are yours, now and forever.
     
(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.


Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, daily you give us our bread. You give us the Realm. You call us into community with all the world. For this we thank you. In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world to share your love, to do your will, to forgive as we have been forgiven, that your Reign of Grace may prevail upon earth. Bless us that we may bear fruit in your Realm, in the name of Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You feed us the daily bread of your grace. You have forgiven us, that we may forgive. You save us from our weakness, and empower us to do your will. May your love bear fruit in our lives, for the sake of your Realm, your power and your glory, now and forever. Amen;


The Lord’s Prayer- Nine Paraphrases

Click here to find this in a downloadable (.doc) document.

#1    Your Empire

O Life-Giver at the heart of all Being,
holy is your presence.
May your Empire of grace replace our own,
and your delight be fulfilled,
as this world becomes heaven.
Give us our sustenance, one breath at a time,
and make us completely forgiving of ourselves and others.
Save us from the weakness of our will,
and deliver us from the power of evil.
For all Being is yours; all power is yours; all glory is yours,
in this moment,
in eternity. Amen.


# 2      Creation’s splendor

Our Mother, our Father, giver of life,
Holiness of Presence;
may our hearts always bow to you.
Your Realm break forth,
your delight blossom among us,
making this earth your heaven.
Give us each moment our life, our breath.
Free us from being judged,
as we free others from our judgments.
Guide us safely past our desires and attachments,
and rescue us from the power of evil.
For the world is yours;
the only real power is yours;
Creation’s splendor is yours,
in this present moment
and in eternity. Amen.



#3       Holy Place

O Divine Parent, Giver of Life,
whose presence is holiness,
may our hearts be in you.
Transform the world
according to your delight,
that all earth may become a holy place.
Give us each moment that moment’s breath.
Give us your gift of forgiveness,
that receiving it deeply we may give it freely.
Transform our desires,
and free us from evil powers;
for all creation, and all power, and all beauty
are yours, now and forever. Amen.


# 4       Center and Source

Beloved, Center and Source of our living,
whose presence is heaven,
your holy love fills Creation.
May your delight be fulfilled
and your Realm unfold among us,
the visible world blossoming out of the unseen.
We turn to you alone for our sustenance,
the bread of life each day.
Set us free from our failings,
as we set free all who have failed us
Lead us beyond our desires
and save us from the grip of evil.
For the world is within you;
all power is from you,
and all glory is about you,
in eternity, which is in the present moment.
Amen.

#5        One day’s bread

Our Mother and Father in heaven,
holy be your name.
Impose your Reign,
that we may do your will, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today this one day’s bread.
Forgive our wrongs
as we forgive those who do wrong against us.
Save us from our temptations
and keep us from doing evil.
For the Realm, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.



#6        Community of grace

Giver of all life, whose presence is holy,
may you come first in our hearts.
May all Creation become your community of grace,
and your desire be fulfilled throughout the earth,
as it is in your own heart.
Sustain us with the breath of life moment by moment.
Forgive us, and give us the gift of forgiveness.
Lead us past our temptations,
and save us from the power of the evil that would ensnare us.
For all that is, and all power, and all glory, come from you,
now and forever. Amen.


#7        Holy!

O Infinite, Intimate One, Source of our being,
whose presence is heaven,
all Creation sings of you, “Holy!”
May your Realm unfold among us;
May our only story be the story of your grace,
this world blossoming out of your delight.
Give us the breath of life, one breath at a time.
Accept our brokenness;
give us acceptance of others who are broken.
Lead us beyond our desires
and save us from cooperating with evil.
For the world is within you;
all power is from you,
and all glory is about you,
in eternity, which is in the present moment. Amen.


# 8 Mother-Womb, Father-Shoulders

O Mother-womb, O Father-shoulders
at the heart of all Being,
holy is your presence.
May your rule of grace replace all powers,
your delight be fulfilled,
and all Creation become all that you hope for us.
Help us receive the grace of the present moment
as you unfold it before us.
As you completely love us and forgive us,
grant us love and forgiveness for others.
Protect us from the allure of our twisted desires,
and rescue us from the power of our selfishness.
For all Being is yours; all power is yours; all glory is yours,
in this moment,
in eternity. Amen.


#9       Your story

Our Mother, Our Father,
author of all life,
holy is your presence.
May your story replace our own,
the story of this world
become the story of the unfolding of heaven.
Give us this moment, moment by moment.
Forgive us completely,
and make us completely forgiving of ourselves and others.
Save us from the weakness of our will,
and keep us from doing injustice.
For all Being is yours; all power is yours; all glory is yours,
in this moment, in eternity. Amen

No running

           The sick man answered him,
           “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
           when the water is stirred up;
           and while I am making my way,
           someone else steps down ahead of me.”
           Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”
                           —John 5.7-8

Around the angels and the waters
Jesus skirts,
far from the pool of your will,
your ability, your resolve, your place,
the dice of who is next,
while those who know
trouble the waters of opinion.
The healer knows more of sickness
than the sick.
Never mind the clamor as the air stirs.
Beneath the crowd of noises within
he says quietly, whispers even,
like ripples of troubled waters,
what echoes so quietly, echoes
in the little portico of your heart,
beyond all desiring or deserving
and all that isn’t healed:

Stand up, take your mat, and walk.
No running by the pool.

_________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
ww.unfoldinglight.net

Do you want to be healed?

           Knowing he had been there a long time,
           Jesus said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

                           —John 5.6

      Perhaps it was a challenge:
Do you want to be healed,
or are you too used to it
to want to leave that life behind?
Have you grown fond of complaining,
accustomed to lying here,
unwilling to be changed?

      To which the answer may have been:
You can only obsess with what you want
for so long. After 38 years I am at peace with what is.
But, yes. I would rather be well.

      But maybe it was just an invitation,
      a way of saying, “May I?”

When I come to my prayers,
do I want to be transformed?
Do I realize I need to be healed?
Or do I think that’s Jesus’ job, to notice?
Do I know my sin makes me sick,
my fears and desires paralyze me?
How often do I ask for stuff
but forget to open myself
to being made new?

Yes, Beloved, yes.
I want to be made well.

______________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

OT 14 — Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 3, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In 2 Kings 5.1-14 the prophet Elisha heals Naaman of leprosy. (Naaman is not an Israelite. God’s grace extends to all people.) Elisha instructs him to wash in the Jordan river. Naaman is angry, since, if that’s all that’s needed, he could have washed in one of the rivers of his own country. But his servants convince him to wash, and he is healed.

Psalm 30 is a thanksgiving for God’s saving grace, and trust in the face of sorrow and challenge.

In Galatians 6.1-16 Paul talks about living in community. The point of God’s law is not for some people to be righteous, but for everybody to live together. Restore transgressors gently, and bear one another’s burdens. Pay attention to your own behavior instead of criticizing others or comparing yourselves to them. You reap what you sow: you set the tone of your own life. Work for the good of all. In verses 11-16 he summarizes the letter’s main point: that what matters is faith, not adherence to Jewish laws like circumcision.

In Luke 10.1-11, 16-20 Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem. He sends out 72 disciples in pairs to go ahead of him to cure the sick and proclaim the nearness of the Reign of God. He coaches them to travel light, spread peace, and take nothing personally. Upon their return they rejoice at their success, but Jesus reminds them that the real joy is their relationship with God.

Preaching Thoughts

Naaman
      Jesus preaches a sermon on this text, in Luke 4, about the inclusiveness of God’s love. It nearly gets him killed. When wee don’t actually trust God’s grace we are fearful we are of sharing it, as if there’s a finite amount. We feel the need to be better, in some way, than others; we want to be “first.” (Remember last week when the disciples wanted to call down fire on some Samaritans for not accepting Jesus?)
      Naaman expects some fancy rigamarole for his healing, and is disappointed by the simplicity and banality of Jesus’ instructions. Sometimes we have some fancy expectations of religion—complicated beliefs, strenuous disciplines—when in fact we can seek wholeness in ordinary, everyday activities. God is not inaccessible except through esoteric means; God is available in our ordinary experiences.

Galatians
      Again we encounter the theme of inclusiveness. Sin is distrust of God: we think we need to be good enough—that God’s approval is an earned wage, not a free gift. So we turn our desire for God’s grace into a competition. We think we have to be better than others, so we judge and compare. Paul corrects that illusion. The point of our faith is not to be good enough, but to love. So when people err we don’t judge them, we don’t punish them: we love them. Despite other texts that seem to encourage us to exclude “sinners” (as if we can judge), Paul says “whenever we have the opportunity let us work for the good of all.”
      It might sound contradictory for Paul to say both “Bear one another’s burdens” in verse 2 and “All must carry their own loads” in verse 5. But what he means is your relationship with God is “your own load,” not comparable to anyone else’s; but you can help others in their struggles, and “bear one another’s burdens.” Rather than judging those who are having a hard time, help them!
       Paul’s audience in Galatia is questioning whether Gentile converts have to adhere to Jewish laws to follow Jesus. Although circumcision isn’t relevant for us, Paul’s points are: one is that our actual relationship with Jesus and therefore with others is more important than external indications of “being a Christian.” like, say wearing a cross or having a fish sticker on your car; yet, if our own faith is authentic we won’t judge other people for how they show their faith, but help them be loving.

The 72
      Jesus doesn’t keep the work of ministry to himself. He asks 72 others (that’s us) to join in. The tasks he assigns are to share christ’s peace, to offer healing, and to proclaim the presence of God’s Reign. He invites us to travel light, trusting that we need no more than love to be effective. And even when our message is rejected, we still offer peace and healing; we still include the very people who reject us in our vision of God’s Realm. And when people reject that message we don’t take it personally, or judge either them or ourselves. We “shake the dust from our shoes” and go on. We can’t do everything.
      Imagine this is what you are sent into your daily life to do: to heal, to spread peace, to reveal God’s grace. And to take yourself lightly.
      Jesus sends us out as “lambs in the midst of wolves.” We are not expected to be wolves. We are not to be manipulative or coercive.we will not expect to get our way, or assume our ways should dominate. In our gentleness and nonviolence we will be vulnerable. We may not prevail. Wolves may still be wolves. But we will not follow their ways. We will bear witness, extend healing, and work for justice.

The Reign (“Kingdom”) of God
      Jesus sends us out to proclaim that God’s Reign is near. Jesus seems to have meant three things by the Kingdom, or the Realm, of God. One is God’s absolute sovereignty over all of life whether we accept it or not. This world is not ours, and not anyone else’s, no matter how powerful. It’s God’s. The Empire of God is a direct antithesis to the Empire of Rome. Whereas Rome oversees an Empire of domination and submission, a system of power, privilege and exclusion, God’s Empire is an Empire of Grace, in which everyone is beloved, and everyone belongs. (There’s that theme of inclusivity again.) The Empire of God contradicts all our human empires of domination, obligation, deserving and comparison. God’s Imperial Rule is the reign of love. Grace is absolute. This aspect of the Reign of God is eternal.
     But there’s also a dimension in the present moment. When we choose to accept the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace we find deep peace and a sense of belonging and trust, and empowerment to live in harmony with God’s reign. We “enter into it”—we live in harmony with it. It’s like being in a marriage. The point of marriage is not merely to have said “I do” but to actually be faithful and loving and present to our partner. Jesus invites us to live as if God’s Reign is present, to live in harmony with God’s infinite grace and love for all people. It’s a way of seeing the world and living in it shaped by love, trust, forgiveness, healing, gratitude, generosity and justice. Moment by moment we tend to slip in and out of the Reign of God. Jesus invites us to keep returning, and renewing our faithfulness.
      There’s also a third dimension. (Well, duh. We’re trinitarian, right?) It’s the future dimension, the “age to come.” Jesus sometimes seems to be referring to God’s ultimate hope for humanity, a world of justice and peace, that is still unfolding, that God is still working on—and that we are asked to help work toward.
So to “proclaim the Kingdom of God” is to live in a way that makes all this stuff real: to live in trust and gratitude, to offer healing and forgiveness, to work for justice and reconciliation, to include those who have been excluded, and in the words of the Methodist baptismal rite to “resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves.”

Call to Worship

1. (from Psalm 30)
Leader: O Holy One my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
All: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
So my soul will praise you and not be silent.
O Holy One my God, I will give thanks to you forever.


2. (from Psalm 30)
Leader: We praise you, O God, for you have lifted us up.
All: We cried to you for help, and you healed us.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes in the morning.
You have turned our sorrow into dancing.
You have beautified us with joy.
We thank you. We praise you! We worship you!

3.
Leader: Holy One, giver of life,
All: we praise you!
Loving Christ, healer of our souls,
we thank you!
Holy Spirit, flame of love in our hearts,
we open ourselves to you.
We thank you for your love, we ask your blessing, and we trust your grace
as we worship you. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Holy Mystery, you hold this world in your hands.
All: The people, the places, are all in your heart.
We are your beloved, and we give you thanks.
The wholeness you wish for us you wish for all people.
We open our hearts to you as we worship.
Fill us with your love, that we may
spread your love,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Eternal God, you have poured the clear water of your grace
into the pitcher of our lives.
Our cup overflows.
Stir up your spirit in us, that we may hear your Word
and be changed,
and bear your grace into this thirsty world. Amen.

2.
God of love, you establish your Realm of mercy and justice, your Empire of Grace. Speak your Word to us now, that we may be formed in the image of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gentle God, as your Christ gathered disciples together as a community, so you invite us to live in community with one another. Teach us how to love each other. Show us your way. Give us your Spirit, that the love we have for one another and for all the world may be your love alive in us: powerful, pure and infinite. We open our hearts to your grace. Speak, and we will listen. Amen.

4.
God of healing and wholeness, we are broken people in a broken world. Give us the spirit of your healing, to be whole and to make whole this wounded world. Nourish in us the power to heal, to enact goodness, to do justice and love mercy. Jesus, walk with us as we go into this world to share your love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of grace, we confess we are in need of healing.
Immerse us in your grace.
We are in need of forgiveness.
Immerse us in your grace.
We are in need of the faith to heal and to bless.
Immerse us in your grace.
Heal our hearts, forgive our sin,
and empower us to live the fullness of your love,
in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Readings

1. Galatians 6.1-10. My paraphrase

My friends, if you see someone do wrong,
     by the Spirit you’ve received
     restore them with gentleness.
Help them out of that pit;
     don’t climb into it yourself.
 Bear one another’s burdens:
     this is what the law is really about.
Don’t embarrass yourself
      thinking you’re better than others.
Do work you yourself are proud of;
      don’t fuss about your neighbor’s.
Live your life, not somebody else’s.

Those who are learning in the Word
      should share with their teachers.
You might be deceived but God’s isn’t:
      you reap what you sow.
If you sow desire you will reap more desires.
      If you sow the Spirit, you will reap the Spirit,
      and its eternal life.
So don’t grow weary of doing good;
      don’t give up: the harvest is coming.
Whenever you have an opportunity
      work for the good of all,
      especially those in the family of faith.

2.
Psalm 5 — My Paraphrase

O Listening Grace, hear me;
        let the sigh of my heart lie against your chest.
Hold my cry like your child—
        you who are Life and all Being,
the One to whom my prayers belong.
        You hear me before my day dawns;
in the morning I put my desire in your hands
        and I wait.

Evil is like darkness in your light;
        in you my deadliness dies.
The closer I draw to you
        the farther behind I leave my falsehood.

You see through our arrogance like glass,
        and like glass you shatter our wrongdoing.
Your grace destroys our lies,
        and our deceit evaporates in your truth.

Your mercy draws me into you;
        your presence awes and awakens me.
Lead me, O Love, in your way of blessing,
        despite those who would pull me elsewhere:
        maintain the path so I don’t miss it.

There are those who are gushers of lies,
        deep wells of hurt and destruction.
Their greed is a grave;
        their fear is disguised as power.

Don’t let me fall for their deceit.
        Let their disguises unravel about them.
Strip them naked of their lies
        so that I can stay true to your grace.

Those who nest in you are safe forever;
        our lives are songs of joy.
Surround us in your presence,
        set free our joy in your embrace.
Your blessing is our inescapable gravity.
        You hold us to you with love
as the earth holds us
        and the air gives us breath.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Infinite Love, we thank you.
You create us; you claim us; you accompany us.
Though we are broken you heal us.

When we betray your love you forgive us;
when we are lost you lead us.
You judge the forces of evil and injustice,
and set us free from oppression.

You give us Jesus, and call us to join him
in the work of the healing of the world.
You invite us to his table, and so we come,
singing your praise with al Creation.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed the sick and cast out demons
and enacted the Reign of your Grace.

He drew us into a community of humility and compassion,
in which we feed one another, forgive each other,
and bear one another’s burdens.
He was crucified by the power of domination,
but you raised him from the dead,
faithful to your covenant to be with us always in love.


     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
healed by your grace, reconciled with you and one another,
and sent into the world to heal, to bless,
to cast out the powers of evil and injustice,
and to enact your Realm of Love,
in the name of Christ, for the healing of the world.
     
(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of grace, you have healed us with your Word. Now you send your disciples out, with the grace to heal, to bless, to spread your love. Give us faith to go, to trust, and to serve. In all we do, may your peace prevail, and peace be upon all whom we meet. We pray, and we go, in your name, in your company, and in your spirit. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In this meal Jesus has modeled for us your Empire of Grace. Send us out into the world to share your love, to break down the barriers and boundaries that divide your beloved children, to work for peace and justice in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You companion us in our journeys and feed our souls with your presence and your grace. Send us out, nourished and accompanied, in your name, to love all people, to bear pone another’s burdens, to provide for healing, to proclaim your Reign, and to bring peace to every place you send us. We pray, and we live, in the power and the presence of your loving Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

One Tribe (Tune: Tallis’ Canon or The Water Is Wide/ Gift of Love)

We come with thanks, God, at your call,
to share our gifts in love with all;
for what to us you have supplied
is meant for all both far and wide.

The bread and cup from Jesus’ hand
exceeds the bounds of every land.
Your saving love, surpassing worth,
we share with every soul on earth.

Here at this feast we are, by grace,
one nation now, one tribe, one race.
All our divisions are erased.
We all are kin in every place.


The Table of your Grace (Tune: Channel of Peace)

This is the table of your grace.
We set it with the gifts that you have given.
You call us, one and all, to share your grace,
that in this meal we know your love.

You grant your presence in this meal.
Your blood and body, given for our sake.,
your humble, suff’ring service and your love,
that we may be your Body now.

The bread you give is not for us alone;
the cup is meant for us to take and share. So you
send us out, to a hungry world.
We rely on your grace to bear us on.

You send us in the Spirit’s power.
You give us strength to take the journey on,
to go and serve and heal and to proclaim
this Realm of Love in Jesus’ name.