OT 16 — 9th Sunday After Pentecost

July 21, 2024

Lectionary Texts

2 Samuel 7. 1-14 — David aspires to build a temple, a house for God. But God says, “No, I will live in a tent among my people as I have always done.”

Psalm 89.20-37 — God’s covenant to uphold David and his reign; “his line shall continue forever.”

Ephesians 2. 11-22 — Christ has broken down the division between Jews and Gentiles in the cross. We are all citizens, members of the household of God.

Mark 6. 30-34, 53-56 — Jesus invites the disciples to retreat to a solitary place. But they are followed by people seeking Jesus, “like sheep without a shepherd.” Here and on the other side of the lake Jesus heals and teaches.

Preaching Thoughts

Christ eliminates the division between all insiders and outsiders: Jew and gentile, Christian and not, fundamentalist and progressive, black and white, red and blue. Christ is our peace. In the cross God “puts to death that hostility.” It’s significant to acknowledge that our protection of “insider” status is not just pride; it’s hostility, it’s aggression against our fellow humans. We can see that hatred in white supremacy; it’s a little better disguised, but no less judged, in our smugness that Christians are the “good guys.” We find those insidious insider-outsider dividing walls even in our churches. (we almost all have them. Where’s yours?) The cross makes us one: Jesus died for all of us as a group, not some of us. So then you are no longer strangers but members of the household of God. Sibling rivalries aside, you’re part of the family. Your ultimate belonging is not in question. You belong. Whatever you do to distance yourself from others or God, or what others do to distance you, we’re a\still all siblings in Christ.
       In Christ the whole community grows into a holy temple, a dwelling place for God. Here’s Ephesian’s response to David’s plan to build a house for God: God will live in us, not a building!

      There are two stories here. (Almost a story-within-a-story.) The first is unfinished. Jesus says, “Come away by yourselves to a place of solitude and rest a while.” So they went away… and then they got interrupted. Before we get to the interruption, pause at that invitation. Jesus invites us into solitude, a place where we’re a soul., that’s all—not doing but being, not producing or accomplishing but abiding. How often are our churches or you, dear pastor, too busy? Coming and going, with no leisure even to eat. Jesus invites us to come away. Yes, it’s hard to let go, sometimes because there’s so much to do and we’re falling behind, sometimes because we’re doing great stuff and don’t want to quit. (The disciples wanted to celebrate all the cool stuff they just did on their mission trips!) Drop it, Jesus says. Take some sabbath time to just be. (“Come to me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest…”) Sometimes churches get so wrapped up in our mission that we forget to pray, or really worship. (Some worship services can seem like a business meeting!) No, just be with Jesus. Seek solitude. Balance doing with being. Even in your worship service, balance words and silence.
       So they go—but the crowd comes and spoils it. Here’s the flip side of the story. Jesus gives up his intention for solitude and has compassion on the crowd. Sometimes churches (or individuals) are so inwardly focused that they don’t notice the people around them in need like sheep without a shepherd. Here’s call to ministry, to reaching out, to mission, to get up out of our building and serve the people around us.
       This story reminds me of parenting. Sometimes you’re tired and you want to take a break but your family is like sheep without a shepherd and you need to be a parent; you need to get to it. And sometimes your kids are rushing around doing what they do—or you yourself are rushing around, too busy— and you just need to stop and sit and be still with them. There’s no magic formula. You just have to pay attention.
       The challenge is how we balance the two, how we seek solitude and nourish our souls and also serve selflessly. We have to learn to balance the journey inward and the journey outward. It may seem heroic of Jesus to sacrifice his solitude to meet the needs of a huge crowd—but he already has achieved that balance! Immediately before this, he has sent the disciples out, while, I imagine, he remained at home, getting his solitude. He’s all rested up. When then crowds show up, he’s ready. Maybe service with others is what feeds you, or maybe you need to be fed first to serve others. There’s no right way… though it’s generally important that you “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” The point is, be mindful. Where is God calling you right now?

Call to Worship

Leader: Welcome to this holy time and place. 
Bring your hearts into the presence of God.
 All: We have been busy!
Come away.
      What of our triumphs and our struggles?
Come away.
      What of our wish to know and understand?
Come away.
      Gentle Christ, we are here, with you.  It is enough for us.

Leader: “Come away,” Jesus said,
“to a quiet place by yourselves, and rest a while.”
All: Jesus, we come to this quiet place to be with you.
Give us rest. Surround us with the peace in your heart.
Nourish our souls with the bread of your presence.
The needs of the world will come begging soon enough.
In this time and space, we are here. We are yours.
Accompany us as we worship.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of grace, we wander through this life, hungry, like sheep without a shepherd.  But you have compassion on us.  And so we bring to you our hunger and our wounds.  We bring our sick souls on the mats of our prayer.  By your tender grace, touch us, change us, and make us whole.  Amen.

God, you invite us to discover your presence in activity and in quiet, in word and in silence. Help us now, as your Scripture is read and your good news proclaimed, to pay attention, to be mindful of your presence, and to listen for your Word as you speak to us. Amen.

God, sometimes the hungers of the world come rushing at us. We want peace and quiet, but people around us are in need, like sheep without a shepherd. Feed our hearts, rest our souls, nourish our spirits, and renew our compassion, that we may be ready and able to serve with joy and energy, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of love, you call us to tend to our neighbors. But we cannot feed them with what we don’t have. Nourish our souls, so that we may serve others. Heal us and feed us your grace, so that what we can offer them is not ourselves but you.

Leader: Holy God, we leave behind the busyness of our lives;
      All:  we come to you.
We leave behind the noise in our lives and our minds,
      and we come to a quiet place where you are.
We come to a place of solitude, where there are no roles, no expectations:
      we are souls.  And here in this simple place, you are with us.
We let go.  We sink in.  We become present.
      We are happy to be here. 

Gentle God, you draw us into the stillness of your Presence.  You breathe your breath in us, and we become more deeply aware.  We come into the quiet place in your heart    Speak your Word to us, even if it is silence, and we will listen, even if we do not understand.  Our hearts are open.  Come, Spirit of Truth, and be with us.  Amen.

God, you invite us to discover your presence in activity and in quiet, in word and in silence.  Help us now, as your Scripture is read and your good news proclaimed, to pay attention, to be mindful of your presence, and to listen for your Word as you speak to us.    Amen.

Prayer of Confession:

      Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
All: And also with you.
      Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Gentle God, we have not always been present;
caught up in many things, we have neglected the One Thing.
We confess: renouncing all pretending,
letting go of all fear,
we bring ourselves to be with you,
in simplicity, in honesty, in silence.
Receive us as we are.
In your presence and your grace,
we are willing to become again the souls you create us to be.

Listening Prayer

Jesus, you are our quiet place.
You are our source of rest.
You are the food that nourishes,
the breath that renews.
We come simply to be with you, that you may be in us.


                 Come away

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and stop a while.”
      — Mark 6. 30-31

Purify your doing with being.
Come away to a solitary place
where there are no others:
no one watching, judging, comparing, setting examples.
No one to impress, please, satisfy, conform to.
Just you, your body and your soul.

Go to a place where nothing matters, and nothing defines you
but being there,
where you have not achieved or failed at anything.
A stopping place, 
a place where you stop all that you do,
and discover your being,
at the center, beyond all doing.

The Holy One, who said, “I Am Being,” is there,
creating you moment by moment,
breath by breath.
Stop doing, and simply be being created.

You may find such solitude in a quiet park or in a noisy office.
For the place is nowhere out there, but within you.

Come away.
Be yourself.
Stop a while.
a time and place is holy.

         A resting place

Breathe in.  Breath out.
Let go of all you have accomplished.
Step out of what you have done,
the “who” you think you are
that comes from something,
into the who that is I AM.
Be still.

Breathe in.  Breath out.
Set everything down.
The great burden of being yourself,
what everyone thinks, even you,
the work of remembering,
what you must and mustn’t,
let them all go.
Be still.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.
Come to the sabbath place
where nothing, even you,
is fashioned, everything just is.
Come into the rest that is God,
the silence from which your light pours,
the Spirit brooding over the waters.
Here where you are received,
receive yourself.
Be still.

Breathe in.   Breathe out.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

 We give our hearts to God, the Creator of all that is and all that is to come, who is present everywhere and in each moment.
 We follow Jesus, our teacher and healer, who has compassion on all people.  He leads us to seek God in activity and in quiet, in ministry and in solitude, in words and in silence—and in life and even in death.  Though Jesus was crucified, he was raised to new life, and accompanies us still in all things.
 We live by the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in and among us, which makes us the church the Body of Christ.   The Spirit empowers us to live with forgiveness and compassion, and trust in the power of resurrection; to proclaim Christ’s way of living, and to give of ourselves in ministry, for the sake of the healing of the world.

2. [from Ephesians 2.14-22; 4.11-16]
Christ is our peace.  In Christ God has made us into one flesh.  and has broken down every dividing wall between us.
In Christ God has created one new humanity, making peace, and reconciling all to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death all hostility through it.
Jesus came and proclaimed peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near. In Christ all of us have access in one Spirit to God.  So we are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.
In Christ the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom we are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
God has given us various gifts to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Beloved of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
So we  grow up in every way into the one who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]

Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us from the sanctuary of your heart into the sacred place of the world, bearing with us always your presence and your grace. By your Spirit we never go out from you, but only come more closely toward you, more deeply into your silent heart. By your Spirit, guide us. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Sanctuary (Original song)

Arms of healing, hands of peace, be my sanctuary.
Heal me, bless me with your grace, in your sanctuary.

All are welcome, all are safe, in your sanctuary.
All are given blessed life in your sanctuary.

May we offer, by your grace, holy sanctuary,
be your loving hands and face, be your sanctuary.

With Open Hands (Tune: The Water Is Wide / Gift of Love)

O Love, we come with open hands
for grace we do not understand.
We simply take, and we are blessed
that you receive us as your guest.

We open all our treasure stores
in gratitude that freely pours
from open hearts that you have healed,
so in our love, yours is revealed.

You open wide great heaven’s doors;
your love includes, heals and restores.
We share your feast, and we are called
with open arms to all the world.

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