OT 21 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost

August 25, 2024

Lectionary Texts

1 Kings 8.(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43 — The Ark is brought into the newly built temple. Solomon’s prayer.

Psalm 84 — “How lovely is your dwelling place … even the sparrow finds a home.”

Ephesians 6. 10-20 — We are not struggling against other people, but against the power of evil. “Put on the armor of God.”

John 6. 56-69 — Again, Jesus as the bread of life: “Eat my flesh, drink my blood.” Some followers quit. “Do you, too, want to leave?” “To whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Preaching Thoughts

1 Kings
      Thick darkness. When the Ark is brought into the temple God comes in, cloaked in a dark cloud. The lectionary cuts v. 12, where Solomon says “The Holy One has said that they would dwell in thick darkness.” I usually include it. Here’s a contrasting image to all the light we get in scripture. Turns out God is both light and dark. It’s a corrective for our dualistic judgment that light is good and dark is bad. (As in “this present darkness” in Ephesians) Sometimes there’s such a thing as too much light (think of sunglasses, sunscreen, overexposed photos, highway glare, a winter whiteout…) And our deep racism lets us think of dark skin as inferior to light skin. So here’s a welcome balance: God dwells in darkness. Even “the glory of God” is dark! Darkness doesn’t always signify gloom or doom; sometimes it means richness (coffee, chocolate) or mystery (The Cloud of Unknowing, being “in the dark”). Explore all the ways we might discover God in darkness.
       “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” Yes, God will be present, but not just, or even primarily, in one place. God will be everywhere. God is greater than all of Creation. God is infinite and there is nothing beyond or outside God; and the universe is finite… so all of Creation exists inside God. The temple is not the unique locus of God, but the locus of our prayers.
       “When a foreigner prayers toward this house…” Solomon’s prayer is all-inclusive: for all who enter or “pray toward” the temple, even foreigners. God is accessible to everybody. The conviction is repeated in the prophets: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa. 56.7).

“Your dwelling place” is not just the temple; it’s wherever God is, which is everywhere. It’s God’s presence with us. The song invites us to live in God’s presence, in God’s “house.” All of us, even wild creatures as insignificant as sparrows, are at home in God.

       “Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh…” This is the heart of nonviolent resistance. We are not against people who do injustice; we are against the injustice. The people themselves we bless and pray for. After all they too are caught up in the evil of the system, the “cosmic powers of this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The heavenly places are both in our hearts and in the political, economic, cultural and even religious systems we create and sustain. Though there are individuals who employ power in evil ways, the “enemy” is beyond any one person. This doesn’t let tyrants off the hook— justice demands that tyrants be removed- but it reminds us that getting rid of the tyrant doesn’t solve the problem. The evil lies deeper and broader than in any one person. It’s hard to keep in our minds and hearts in a fraught political climate, but essential for justice.electing the good one instead of the bad one is only a small step in the struggle against evil.
       The armor of God. It’s sad how often in our sinful anxiety we take this lovely image and turn it backwards and weaponize our faith. To put on the armor of God is to renounce the usual ways we protect ourselves—through violence, coercion, defensiveness and assertion—and instead entrust ourselves in vulnerable nonviolence to love, faith and the grace of God. Instead of shielding yourself with defensiveness, take up the shield of trust. Instead of domination, take the sword of the Spirit. It’s specifically non-violent.

       “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Yeah, by now we’re with the disciples: enough of this gory talk about eating your flesh, Jesus! And for that matter enough of these teachings that are just plain too hard—either too hard to understand or, worse, the ones we do understand and they’re too hard to follow. Se can understand the people who quit. But don’t we all? Now and then, or a little bit all the time? We don’t really, fully follow Jesus 24/7. We’re continually asking for the strength and trust to hang in there. Not just to remain “good Christians,” but to keep on with the work of healing and justice, to stay non-violent in a hostile atmosphere, to get free of the grip of an addiction, to keep forgiving our enemies, to know the right thing to do in an abusive relationship, to continue to care for Creation in the face of climate change and corporate destructiveness—to keep going when it would be such a relief to just quit. We are all at times asking, hungry, even desperate, for the faith to continue.
       And what gives us the faith to continue? Divine Presence. The life-giving grace of God. Jesus hanging in there with us even when we falter. The Bread of Life, offered to us when we’re hungry. Eat and be satisfied. Our preaching needs to point people toward the hope they’re searching for, the trust and courage they need to keep on.
      “Do you also wish to go away?” Jesus is the Bread of Life. He’s also the Truly Human Human Being being human. As people drop away, Jesus turns to his beloved and asks—not just as as a theological challenge or a test of discipleship, but as a guy who doesn’t like to feel lonely or like a failure: “Do you also wish to go away?” So human, so personal, so poignant. It reminds us we have a choice to make, and that Jesus cares about that choice. It also suggests that Jesus wants you. He needs you. He wants you by his side. He’s counting on you when things get tough—for him. As in Gethsemane, it’s not a demand for our faith, it’s a personal request: Jesus asks us to be with him. Maybe that;’s most of what faith is not necessarily strong conviction but simply hanging in there with Jesus so we’re there when he needs us.
       “To whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter’s response to Jesus is equally poignant. There’s almost a sense of homelessness, of being refugees. Where else can we go? When life in the church gets nasty, when the institution seems to embody the “rulers and authorities and the cosmic powers of evil,” we may be tempted to jump ship. But where else to we receive life like we do from Jesus? This may be not just about leaving or staying with the church, but about what we let go of and what we hang onto, about the ongoing process of refining our faith, letting go of old, non-life-giving stuff and seeing things in a new way. Sometimes we do need to “go away,” at least from certain beliefs, habits or practices. And we need to stay true to where we hear the words of eternal life, where we are deeply connected with the Divine in a life-giving way.

Call to Worship

Leader:  God of love, we are hungry for your grace.
All:  You feed us the bread of life, and we thank you.
We are thirsty for your presence.
         You give us drink from the well of eternal life, and we rejoice.
We hunger and thirst for true love.
           We feast on your grace, and we worship you.  Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, many voices in this world would claim our attention.
 All:  But to whom can we turn?  You have the words of eternal life.
ou form us in your image.
 We are in awe.  We worship you.
You beckon us like a loving parent.
 We are in love, and we come to you.
You enfold us in your grace and fill us with your transforming Spirit.
 Alleluia!  Receive us, Heavenly Lover!
 Heal us, Risen Brother!
 Make us new, Spirit of Life!  Alleluia!

Leader:  God’s love is made known to us in Christ.
 All: We come to hear the good news.
We are hungry for God’s grace.
 We come not merely to listen to Jesus,
 but to consume him: to “inwardly digest,”
 to make his love part of who we are.
In that holy hunger, we praise, we pray, we worship.
 Alleluia!  Come, Christ, and feed our souls.  Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, you speak to us the words of eternal life.
All: Loving Christ, you are the Bread of Life.
And yet, God, your Word disturbs us.
O Christ, your wisdom challenges us.
And yet here we are.
And yet we choose to follow you.
Speak to us then, and change our hearts.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
          All: You alone are holy, and we worship you.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Holy One!
Even the sparrow finds a home in you.
          We come to you, and pour ourselves out to you;
          for you have the words of eternal life.
New every morning is your love, God of life,
and you are working for good throughout the day.
            Alleluia!  Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, how lovely is your dwelling among us!
How desirable is your presence with us.
How deeply we are attracted to be with you in intimacy and safety.
Alleluia!  Holy Spirit, you invite us to take your grace into ourselves,
and so we come to you.
Fill us, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: In this quiet hour may our spirits be renewed.
All: May there be joy in our coming together this day.
Let there be truth in the words we speak and the thoughts we hear.
May there be help and healing for our disharmony and despair.

May there be silence for the voice within us and beyond us.
May there be joy in our coming together,
for you are at our center.

Leader: How lovely is your dwelling place, O Holy One.
All: Our souls long for your presence.
Even the sparrow finds a home in your shelter.
Joy is ours, to dwell in your grace.
God of love, you bring us into your presence.
We come in song and silence,
into the dark mystery and the warm light,
into the sanctuary of your grace.
Loving Mystery, bless us.
Faithful Lover, hold us, as we worship you in praise, in thanksgiving, in awe.

Leader: God of Mystery, you call us. We come.
All: God of Darkness, you surround us. We attend to you.
God of Grace, you hear our prayers. We cry out to you.
God of Silence, you enfold us. We wait for you.
God of Eternity, we are always with you and within you.
Open our hearts to be aware of your loving presence.
God of love, you hear the silent prayers of all peoples.
In gratitude, we listen for your grace. Amen.

Leader: Sweetness of Heaven, all around!
All: Honor and beauty before us!
We are silent in wonder and humility.
We praise you in gratitude and joy.
We who hunger for life come with trembling lips and open hands.
Bread of Life, you feed us. Fountain of healing, you renew us.
!Bread of Life, we feast upon your grace
Alleluia! We worship you. We consume you. We become you. Alleluia!

Leader: Generous God, you have provided shelter for us in your love,
and a sanctuary in your arms.
All: As we enter your house we give thanks for your grace,
and pray that we may always be at home in your love.
A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Alleluia! Happy are those who trust in you. Alleluia!


God of life, we hunger for your love, and you give us Christ, the bread of Life.  So we come to feast on your Word, to listen and “inwardly digest,” and to be changed, that we too may be bread for the world.  Feed us with your grace.  Amen

Gracious God, we have been promised that no one will be turned away who comes to Christ.  We come to you now, to know your presence, to hear your Word, to be transformed by your grace.  Speak to us, touch us, and take our lives as your own.  We pray in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

God of Silence, God of the Word, your Christ, Jesus, has the words of eternal life. They are challenging words, sometimes frightening.  We sometimes want to go away.  Help us now to stay near, to listen with courage and with open hearts, so that your Word may live in our souls and transform us by your grace.     Amen.

Leader: God of Mystery, you call us. We come.
All: God of Darkness, you surround us. We attend to you.
God of Grace, you hear our prayers. We cry out to you.
God of Silence, you enfold us. We wait for you.
God of Eternity, we are always with you and within you.
Open our hearts to be aware of your loving presence.
God of love, you hear the silent prayers of all peoples.
In gratitude, we listen for your grace. Amen.

Eternal God, we are hungry for your truth. Feed us with your Word. Clear our minds; open our hearts; ready our hands: to receive your Word and to digest it, to hear your Word and to do it, to love your Christ and to follow him in the deep joy and compassion of the life you give. Speak, for our hearts are listening. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

O mysterious darkness,
open yourself to us.
O sacred silence, speak.
O Word of God, disturb us.
O broken heart of heaven,
invite us in.
Feed us the words of eternal life.

Prayer of Confession

God of mercy, we confess to you
that we have struggled against other people—
     but we have ignored the struggle against our own evil.
We confess that we have taken on the armor of this world:
     we confess our domination and defensiveness,
     our willingness for others to be hurt to protect our comfort.

We confess that we have closed ourselves off from you:
     we confess the armor of our ego,
     our apathy and our distrust.
     Closed off, we have failed to love you with all we are,
     and to love our neighbor as you have loved us.
We open our hearts to you,
that we may undefended from your grace.
     Forgive us, heal us, and grant us the spirit of your mercy.
    Clothe us with the armor of your love.
[Silent prayer…]

Beloved of God, receive the good news gladly:
that in Christ we know that all our sin is forgiven entirely
and we are set free to live by the Spirit of God, in faith and love.  Amen.

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, for all that we have done that diminishes life,
     that separates us from you and from others,
     we are sorrowful.
     We give to you our broken hearts.
     Receive us, bless us, and heal us.
     Forgive our sin, and restore in us
     the image of Christ.
[Silent prayer    …    the Word of grace….]   

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.
     Gentle, healing God:
     for all that is not well in us we seek your healing;
     for all that is in disharmony with your grace
     we seek your transformation;
     from all that is a burden in us we seek relief;
     for all that is broken between us and you, and others,
     we seek your forgiveness, your healing grace,
     and a new way of living.
    Accepting what is. God, we open ourselves in your grace
    to what may be.
[Silent prayer    …    the Word of grace….]   

A Prayer for the Sanctuary

God, you who are our dwelling place, we ask your blessing on this Sanctuary.
May it glorify you; may it point us toward you; may it serve you.
May it beckon all who seek you, and welcome all who draw near.
May our worship in this place bring us deeper into your heart.
As we gather in this place may we know your presence with us,
and the presence of all your Beloved on earth and in heaven.
In this place may we love one another, and be strengthened to serve the poor.
Gracious God, hear the prayers of all who pray here.
Bless all those who have worked in this place, and who ever draw near.
May your house be a place of safety, healing and blessing,
a refuge of grace in this world.
God, you who are our dwelling place, we ask your blessing on this Sanctuary.


Psalm 84 – a paraphrase

O God, you who are All and Infinite,
how lovely it is to sit in the living room of your presence.

This yearning I feel, this hunger,
is to be close to you.
Will I listen to my heart cry out,
and my body tremble
to feel you, alive, beside me?

Even the sparrow finds a home,
a swallow finds a place of belonging
to nestle her tender young
near your altar,
O God, Provider of all things.

Blessed are they who live in your house;
their very living is praise to you.
Blessed are they who have no power
except your breathing in them.
Their lives are continual movement toward you.
As they pass through tearful valleys
they make them places of springs,
lush with pools from autumn rains.
They become more and more themselves
until they are wholly present, with you.

I am simply here, God.
Listen to the silence of my heart.
See me as I rest here
in the blessing of your grace.

In this moment, mindful of your presence,
I have nowhere else to be.
I would rather be with you in simplicity
than elsewhere, seeking power.

You are the Source of all light. You bestow favor and honor.
You are generous with good things
to those who open to you.
Lord, Spirit of all life,
happy are those who trust in you.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

            We trust in God, creator of all that is, provider of every good thing to eat.
            We follow Jesus, the Bread of Life, who embodied God’s love, made grace available to all, and gave himself in love for us.  He was crucified and died, and was raised from the dead.  We feast on his grace, and his love becomes the substance of our lives. In Christ we are all made one, as grains united in one loaf.
            We live by the Holy Spirit, the Yeast of God in us, who unites us, nourishes us and gives us strength to love our neighbors.  Graced by the power of forgiveness, the promise of resurrection and the mystery of eternal life; protected only by the armor of God’s grace; we serve in the name of Christ for the sake of others, that in the power of the Holy Spirit we may be bread for the world. Amen.

            We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is, and all that is to come, who is revealed in Word and deed, in light and in darkness, and who is yet mystery; yet whom we know as love and the source of life.
            We follow Jesus, though his teachings upset our ways and his miracles upend our world, for his words are the words of life and his love is the light of life.  He was crucified and was raised, and lives among us still, speaking to us, present with us, drawing us to him with alluring power.
            We live by the Holy Spirit, God’s power within and among us, which enables us to follow Jesus, to live lives of love, forgiveness, justice and healing, trusting in the power of grace and the mystery of eternal life.  In the unity of the Spirit we live as one Body, the Body of Christ, devoted to self-giving service to the world in the name of Christ. 

            Creator God, how lovely is the dwelling you have made for us!  You who create all things, we gladly awaken in your presence.  You are our maker, our host, and our home.
            Risen Christ, how lovely is your dwelling with us!  You invite us to feast at your table: to be nourished by your wisdom, to be healed by your grace, and to share in this banquet of life with all the other poor sinners of this world.  You who taught and healed, you who died and were raised, you who are the Bread of Life, feed us with your presence, fill us with your spirit, and lead us by your Word. We desire with all our heart and mind and strength to die and live with you in the mystery of eternal life.
            Holy Spirit, love of God, how lovely is your dwelling within us!  Sophia, Wisdom of God, how gracious is your invitation to feast at your table. You make of us one body, the Body of Christ.  We give our hearts to you, that by your grace we may devote ourselves to lives of compassion, justice and joy, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

       We live in God, Creator of all that is and all that shall be: all of Creation is within God, who is infinite: there is nothing beyond God.
        We follow Jesus, who embodied God’s love, who taught and healed and proclaimed a new vision for the world. God was in his life and ministry, and even in his death. Therefore he was raised from the dead, and lives among us still, awakening us to the indwelling presence of God.
        We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, God living within and among us. We trust in the grace of God, the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the gift of eternal life, and our unity in the Body of Christ. We devote ourselves to lives of compassion for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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.

O Sacred Mystery, O gleaming darkness,
you who we can only love but not comprehend,
we praise you.
O Loving Presence, Heart of Heaven,
you who comfort and disturb, who invite us in,
we thank you.
You create us; you hold us; you free us.
You call us your own; you feed us the words of infinite life.
We gather at your table to feast on the presence of Christ,
the Bread of life.
In harmony with all Creation, we thank you and 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,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, the Bread of Life.
We give thanks that he taught the curious, fed the hungry,
healed the broken and loved the unlovely.

He disturbed the comfortable with words of death and resurrection.
And he offered himself in a life of death and resurrection.
Though his teachings unsettle us, we do not leave him,
but we stay to feast on the words of eternal life.

     (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.
Having been fed the words of eternal life,
may we become bread for the hungry.
May we remain with Jesus, at his side, in his healing work,
doing justice, enacting kindness, embodying resurrection,
in his name and by the power of your Spirit.,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world.

     [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

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
May we continually feed on your presence and become bread for the world. Send us in Jesus’ name to serve and to love, to bless and to heal, in the power of your Spirit, to the ends of the earth. 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.
You have fed us the Bread of life, the words of eternal life. Send us now, unafraid to follow Jesus, into the dark and unknown places, into disturbing places, knowing you dwell in the darkness, knowing you offer, always, the mystery of eternal life. Amen.

… Bless us by these gifts that we might always shelter your love in our hearts, and bear it into the world with gratitude, trust and compassion. We pray as we are devoted to live: in the name and the Spirit of the risen Christ, who is always with us. Amen.

… Bless us with grace and use us according to your will, so that we may serve you more faithfully. May our lives praise you with their beauty. May our actions serve you, for the sake of the healing of the world. We pray, as we give you ourselves, in the name of Christ and in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

A Safe, Healing Place (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God of all living, we truly are blessed:
you are our home and our soul’s gentle nest.
Even the swallows shall find in your arms
safety and beauty and rest from all harm.

As you have welcomed us into this space,
help us find others who long for your grace,
those who seek shelter and all those who roam.
Make of our living a warm, welcome home

You have forgiven and blessed us today,
healed us and raised us to go on our way:
send us in courage with trust in your grace,
to make of this world a safe, healing place.

Food for the Body (Original song)
A dialogue between leader and congregation.

All: (Chorus)Food for the body, food for the soul,
making us new again, making us whole.
Grateful we are that you faithfully give
the Spirit of love, the power to live.

1. Remembering Jesus, we thank you for all that he’s done.
He gives us his Spirit, and feeds us, and makes us all one
in love, in faith, in you. (Chorus):

2. The body of Jesus, broken and risen to live,
you give us to eat, by your grace to become and to give
to all, for all to live. (Chorus):

3. The Spirit of Jesus arises in us like a dove,
to give us the courage to live every moment in love
in you for you, forever. (Chorus)

The Heart of Heaven         (Original song)

There’s a heart in heaven that knows you,
and speaks your name in love from heaven’s throne,
that has laughed and labored here beside you,
and says, “I know your journey as my own.”

There are eyes in heaven that adore you,
and weep with joy at the beauty of your soul,
for they see the courage of your living,
and share your deepest yearnings to be whole.

There’s a tear in heaven that remembers,
there’s a deep, weary sigh that understands;
there are gentle, wounded hands that know the struggle
to do the work of God with human hands.

There’s a voice from heaven within you,
a spring of life-giving water flowing free.
Let it flow, let grace and peace shine in you
with heaven’s loveliness for all to see.

Oh, the heart of heaven is within you,
the universe embraces you in love,
for the humble One who walks beside you
is the One who rules the sun and stars above.

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place
  [Psalm 84]   (Original song)
A dialogue between leader and congregation.

How lovely is your dwelling place.
We find a home in you, O God.
Even the sparrow finds a place
in the perfect sanctuary of your grace.

1. My soul cries out to be with you.
My heart and flesh sing out to you. Our love is in you.

2. Blessed are they who live in you,
who put their trust in you alone. Our hope is in you.

3. You bless your pilgrims on their way.
You turn our hearts to living springs. Our strength is in you.

4. A day within your house, O God,
is better than a year without. Our joy is in you.

5. I’ll be a servant in your house,
rather than riches on my own. Our heart is in you.

6. There’s nothing good that you withhold
from those who live each day in you. Our home is in you.

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.

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