OT 14 — Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

July 7, 2024

Lectionary Texts

2 Samuel 5. 1-5, 9-10 — David is anointed king of the united northern and southern kingdoms of Israel.

Psalm 48 — The “City of God” on Mt. Zion, an image of God’s strength and glory.

2 Corinthians 12. 2-10 –— “Someone” (Paul himself?) is “caught up into heaven.” His “thorn in the flesh”… “Power is made perfect in weakness.”

Mark 6.1-13 — Jesus bombs in his home town. He sends out his disciples proclaiming, healing and blessing.

Preaching Thoughts

2 Corinthians
      We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was: a physical ailment? A mental challenge? A troubled relationship? Whatever it was, I can imagine Paul had some classic “why me?” prayers. But God’s answer: You don’t need to be otherwise than who you are to be fruitful in love. Whatever you think your ailment, shortcoming, disability or fault is, it really doesn’t matter to your love. Just love. There’s power there. Not in your comfort, abilities, or adherence to cultural expectations.
       This is one of Paul’s constant themes: that we are mere vessels for God’s power. When we can manage to get our attachment to power out of the way—the human power of control and influence, the power we imagine resides in status, success, beauty, skill and “being right”—when we can empty our hands of that false power, we become clean, empty vessels for the real, life-giving, miracle-producing power of love. Only when we are wiling to appear weak by the world’s twisted standards do we bear the strength of love.

       Like Naaman in 2 Kings 5, sometimes we expect God’s truth to come with special effects. We’re blind to grace in ordinary, everyday things and people. It’s often said an expert is someone who comes from a distance away. And often they say what some locals have been saying all along. We especially don’t want to see or hear the good stuff coming from people we consider beneath us. And we all have folks we consider beneath us. But lo and behold, God keeps entering the world through the basement, the back door, the servants’ entrance. It’s a constant biblical theme: God hides wisdom and glory in the lowly. Get used to it. Even better, develop wonder and and open eyes for such mystery!
       By the way, the people say, “But isn’t Jesus that builder, the son of Mary?…” In Greek it doesn’t say “carpenter,” it says “builder.” Centuries ago German interpreters assumed a builder was a carpenter because their builders were carpenters, and we’ve continued the assumption ever since. But there are not wooden houses in Israel, then or now. It’s all stone. Jesus was more likely a stone mason. Make of that what you will.
       One moral of the story of Jesus in Nazareth is that cynical people don’t easily experience healing. On one hand, that’s a comfort when it seems our message is not widely received or our preaching bombs: maybe it’s not our fault. But also: we all know cynical people we’d like to point to as examples—but maybe the first thing is to check our own cynicism. Where is our awareness closed to grace; who are the people we don’t think capable of bearing divine goodness? Watch out.
       There’s an interesting theological angle to Jesus’ inability to heal the cynical people in his hometown. It seems his healing is a mutual event, requiring both his power and the person’s willingness. This is not to suggest that if people are unhealed it’s their own fault. But it does suggest that regardless of the power of God’s grace, we also have power, power to accept or deny, to receive or to turn away. It reminds me of one thing that divides those of us of a Wesleyan tradition from the Calvinists. The latter, based on Augustine, would say God’s election is all God’s and there’s nothing we can do about it; God’s grace can’t be refused. We Wesleyans, following Arminius, say God’s grace is a cooperative thing: we have power to work with it or not. Jesus’s experience would seem to justify the Wesleyans. The question of faith is not whether God’s grace is present and at work; the question is what we’re doing with it.
       As if to demonstrate the biblical theme of God’s upending of our power structures, Jesus, who can’t seem to get any healing going, sends out his ragtag disciples to heal—and they’re successful! Whoa. Especially in Mark’s telling, in which the disciples are the Twelve Stooges, we didn’t see that coming. See? There’s our own cynicism rearing its nasty head. Even the disciples—who are always at a loss, not getting it, a step behind, showing up for a baseball game with tennis raquets—they get it right! They cure the sick and cast our demons! Because the power is not theirs, but God’s. Power is made perfect in weakness.
       And there we are. There is the church, being sent out to do what Jesus can’t do, to heal and proclaim good news in our own places, in our own ways, with our own gifts, partial and sloppy though they may be. The calling is ours. But the power is God’s.

Call to Worship

God, you are among us.
Open our eyes to see you.
You are doing miracles every day.
Open our hearts to receive you.
You empower us to do miracles, too.
Open our hands to serve you.
In gratitude and trust, we worship you.

God of grace, you perform miracles , though we do not often see them
Help us to look and to see, to trust and to receive.
Give us faith, that we may be open to your truth and your grace;
make us worthy vessels of your love to all the world.
Our power is nothing, but your power is infinite;
our abilities come and go but your ability is eternal.
Help us to trust in your power alone, O God.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Holy God, Creator of the universe, we worship you.
All: Living Christ, Sovereign of all, we honor you.
Holy Spirit, above and within every power and people, we give thanks for you.
You alone are God, and we worship you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, you are here today. You are not far off. You are here. In this place. This moment. This breath. We come to be present for you, you who are infinitely present for us. Open our hearts to you. Grant us a listening faith, a trusting and seeking and receiving faith. By your Spirit, open us to your grace. Amen.

Gracious God, Jesus sent out his disciples to preach and to heal. We are among those whom he sends in your name, and in the power of your Spirit. But we cannot preach unless we know your good news. We cannot heal unless we know your power. Speak to us, heal our hearts, and fill us with your grace, so that we can faithfully bear witness to your Word in the name of Christ. Amen.

Holy God, prophets may lack honor in their hometown, but we ask you to make your home in our hearts anyway. Help us to honor your Word and not take it for granted. Move us to hear the freshness of your Spirit within words that may be familiar. Help us to honor you by paying attention to how you speak to us today. Teach us to respond to your call, so that we may be ever more faithful disciples. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Gracious God, we remember those who received no miracles because they were not willing. We surrender our superior knowledge, and the resistance of what we know. We open ourselves to the mystery of your Word and the miracle of your grace. Speak to us, touch us, and change us. Amen.

Good and life-giving God, you send us out to heal and bear light in a hurting world. Teach us in the wisdom of your Word. Shape us by your grace. Fill us with the power of your mercy. Set the match of your love to the torch of our hearts, that we may bear your light into the world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Gentle God,
sidestep our doubts,
penetrate our disbelief,
and open our hearts to your grace.
Let your glory and wonder come to us
where we did not expect.
Even when we are not confident,
let your power flow through us for healing.
We are open.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God, we confess that our hearts have been closed to you.
We have judged one another, and so we have not been able to hear your truth.
Holy One, have mercy.
We have been absorbed in our expectations instead of your grace,
and so we have not witnessed your miracles.
Christ, have mercy.
We have not loved our neighbors and so we have not received love.
Holy One, have mercy.
Forgive us, heal us, and create us anew. Amen.
Silent prayer… The word of grace

Gracious God, our sins nag at us.
Our faults and failures haunt us.
What we are afraid to see, shamed to name,
and even unable to look at clearly,
we lay at your feet.
Know us… Forgive us… Make us new.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come, who is creating in each moment. We open our hearts and minds to God’s grace and presence in all things.
       We follow Jesus, our teacher and healer. We are open to God’s grace and power in him. For he was open to God’s leading, and so he gave himself in love. He was killed by fear but raised by love, and still is present with power and truth.
       We live by the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in us and an all things: the power that unites us as the Church, the Body of Christ, and that enables us to trust resurrection and to live with mindfulness and forgiveness, and to serve God in love for the sake of the healing of the world. We trust that this power in us is made perfect in our weakness: not in our own strength or ability, but in our reliance upon God’s grace. It is God’s Spirit, not our wisdom, that enables us to discern truthfully. For these blessings we give God thanks, and we devote our lives.

      We trust in God, Creator of all things,
who is pure compassion,
who loves us unconditionally,
who is present with us in good times and bad,
who is our salvation.
      We trust in Christ, the embodiment of God’s love,
the love and healer of our sols,
who saves us, forgiving our failures,
washing away our betrayals,
who teaches us life’s deepest things:
how to pray, how to love,
how to be gentle with each other.
       We trust in the Holy Spirit, God’s power flowing in us,
that comforts the faithful,
empowers us to love as we have been loved,
and joins us together as the Body of Christ.
We believe we are sent in that Spirit
to heal, to forgive, to do justice,
to radiate the love of God, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Eucharistic prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
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.

God, you create all things, and nothing is beyond your power.
You form all people in your image, and no one is beyond your love.
You judge the forces of oppression and set us free,
and no force or nation can overpower your grace.
You make us your people, and no boundaries can divide us.
You gather us to your table, not by our deserving but by your grace,
and no one is unworthy; no one is excluded.
Therefore with people in every nation, in every language,
we sing your praise:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]
Blessed are all who come in your name, who work for justice,
who pray for healing, who proclaim your grace.
Blessed is Jesus, who embodied your love.
He taught and healed;
and he gathered a community that crossed all boundaries.
For his witness he was opposed; he was convicted and executed.
But in the power of your grace he rose again.
He has set us free, and so we give you thanks.

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, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

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.
Send us out as agents of healing,
as bearers of good news.
May your power be made perfect in our weakness,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ.

     [Spoken or sung]
* 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 / after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
You gather us into your Empire of Grace, uniting us with all people Send us into the world to bear witness to our unity, to work for justice, to embody your grace, in the name and the Spirit of Christ, who with you reigns over all nations forever. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
As Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to his beloved, so take us, bless us, break us, and give us to the world; that by your grace in us you may bless all the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
Bless us that we might serve you faithfully, not because of our great powers or abilities, but by our openness to your grace. Use your power through us, so that by our ministry you might transform the world into your blessed Realm. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view on the Music page.)

Be the Living Word (Tune: HOLY MANNA)

As you go to serve Creation bear the Word of God with you,
Word that brings forth light now dwelling in your heart and shining through.
Do not merely say the words: become the Word. Embody grace.
Be the living Word and give the love of God a human face.

To the poor in spirit go, and give them bread for which they long.
Nourish them for love and justice. Feed their souls and make them strong.
Be the hearty bread that’s taken, blest and broken day by day.
Be the bread of love made real, bread that Jesus gives away.

Do not try to serve with only your own passion to impart.
Let the love of God flow through you from the Source, from Heaven’s Heart.
Pass along God’s deep forgiveness, flowing freely from the Lord.
Be the wine of God’s great feast, the wine so generously poured.

By the Spirit living in you, be the hope you hope to preach;
be the peace you long to witness; be the truth you want to teach.
Let your living be the Word that words alone cannot convey.
Be the Word of love embodied; be the flesh of Christ today.

Before My Eyes        (Tune: For the Beauty of the Earth)

Prophets plainly speak your Word, but are silenced and not heard.
Miracles will pass us by, hidden by the jaundiced eye.
Spirit, help me realize: you are here before my eyes.

Acts of courage, though unseen; in forgiveness hearts washed clean;
deeds of love, though they are small: most miraculous of all!
Spirit, help me realize: you are here before my eyes.

How the outcast choose to live, how the poor in spirit give,
how the ones we ostracize give gifts we don’t recognize!
Spirit, help me realize: you are here before my eyes.

Letting expectations go, humbly knowing I don’t know,
blessing what the moment brings, finding grace in humble things:
Spirit, help me realize: you are here before my eyes.

Help me seek the truth today, set aside what others say,
speak your Word and trust your grace— miracles will then take place!
Spirit, help me realize: you are here before my eyes.

Bread of Justice (Tune: HOLY MANNA)

God of justice and compassion, you who freed the Hebrew slaves,
you who feed the poor and powerless, you whose great forgiveness saves,
now you feed us, poor in spirit, through the grace of your dear Son;
now you call us, now you send us. May your loving will be done.

Feed us, God, the bread of justice: give us hearts to see and care.
We are one with all who suffer. They are yours; now send us there.
Knowing not if we shall triumph, give us faith to never cease;
give us strength to boldly witness, seeking justice, making peace.

Feed us , God, the wine of courage, faithfully to do your will.
Now we drink of resurrection, facing death but steadfast still.
To this world of heartless plunder, send us in a different vein:
by our fearless, gentle healing, to bear witness to your Reign.

Send Us In Love (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

God in your mercy you are forgiving.
Now in our living we give you praise,
bearing your grace that blesses and frees us,
following Jesus all of our days.

Christ, your good news we share in thanksgiving,
gratefully living as you have done.
Make us your Body, faithfully sharing,
loving and caring, serving as one.

Send us in love now, Great Holy Spirit.
All we inherit is ours to give.
Set us to healing, humbly expressing
your gracious blessing that makes us live.

Send Us, Jesus (Tune: All Through the Night)

Send us, Jesus, in your spirit, held in your love,
to this torn and troubled world, still held in your love.
When despair and pain have found us,
still your mercy wraps around us,
giving hope that may astound us,
held in your love.

Send us, Jesus, bearing witness, held in your love,
present with the poor and broken, held in your love.
Evil looms, so cruel, deceiving,
leaving victims shorn and grieving;
still we will not cease believing,
held in your love.

Send us with the power of healing, held in your love.
Give us courage, strength and wisdom, held in your love.
To the selfish powers, oppressing,
may we stand, your love expressing,
facing fear with grace and blessing,
held in your love.

Send us for the sake of living, held in your love.
Give us grace to be forgiving, held in your love.
Facing evil’s vile rejection,
fearless love is resurrection.
May we be your best reflection,
held in your love.

You Are the Nerve (Tune: Finlandia)

O God, your Christ is risen in your people.
On earth Christ has no body now but ours.
We are the flesh and blood of your compassion
:moved by your Spirit, with its loving powers.
God be our heart, and we will be your Body,
serving in love in all our days and hours.

We are your feet, that go with joy to others
to share your love, the gospel we confess.
We are your eyes that see what is and may be,
that see each person’s need and loveliness.
We are your hands, that work with strength for justice,
your hands that shelter, heal and feed and bless.

Love, move in me, and guide me by your Spirit,
even when I don’t see or understand.
My life is yours, to be your living Body,
that I may love and serve at your command.
This is my life, my purpose and my power:
you are the nerve, and I your willing hand.

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