OT 26 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

September 29, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Esther 7.1-6, 9-10; 8.3-8, 17 — Esther exposes Haman and his plot, and he is hanged on the gallows he had prepared to use to kill Mordecai.

Psalm 124 — God’s saving power has helped us escape our enemy.

James 5. 13-20 — Pray for one another. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Mark 9.38-50 — An exorcist who is not one of Jesus’ followers. … If your hand causes you to stumble cut it off.

Preaching Thoughts

       Esther is another of those uppity women who saves her people through intelligence, grit, compassion, and courage. The book of Esther is the only one in the Bible that never mentions God. I imagine it was included in the canon because it’s about the survival of the Jewish people. But it’s also about how God, though human agency, works against oppression and genocide.

       The psalm is a fitting response to the story of the rescue of the Jews from Haman’s scheme. But more broadly it celebrates God saving us from any kind of destructive forces. As with all the Psalms, the “enemy” may be a political, social or economic force oppressing a group of people… or it may be one of our own inner enemies of resentment, greed, fear, or whatever. If it weren’t for God, the flood of my anger would have swept me away…

       James invites us to be a community of honesty, prayer and healing. I find problematic the image of a God who intervenes at the prompting of prayer—obviously intervening sometimes but not all the time. The power of prayer may not be in its magic ability to make things happen, like curing a disease; it might be in its power to unite us in love, to bring our hearts into harmony. I believe prayer resonates with God, with the loving energy field of all Creation and, as in music, creates harmonics—new wavelengths of sound that weren’t there before. Which makes things happen. As is often said, prayer doesn’t change God; it changes us.

“Whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus is up against our innate tribalism and our deep instinct to “otherize” people. (Yeah, he says the opposite in Mt. 12.30 / Lk. 11.23. But for now let’s stick with this.) Jesus is not interested in which group the man belongs to, but the ministry that he is doing. I think Jesus wants the healing of everybody more than the ascendancy of any group, including his own followers. Our ego often get snagged on criticizing others as an escape from seeing to our own work—and confessing our own sin. Sometimes we Christians are guilty of prideful entitlement, superiority and self-centeredness that we just need to grow out of. So many ways Jesus wants us to get over ourselves!
       If your eye causes you to sin, poke it out. Here’s a bit the literalists have a hard time with. Clearly Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation, but self-awareness and the process of getting at the roots of our sin. If your fear causes you to sin or your racism, or your attachment to possessions…. What causes you to sin, to set yourself against others, to otherize people who are different from you?
       “Everyone will be salted with fire.” It can sound like hell, but maybe it means we’ll be suffused with God’s purifying, saving, life-giving grace. Pentecost is all about being salted with fire.

Call to Worship

Leader: Creator God,
            All: you are enough.
Loving Christ,
            we need no other.
Breath of Life,
            you satisfy us. We rest in you.
            We worship you with praise and gratitude. Alleluia!

Leader: Eternal God, you are present.
           All: Loving presence, we open ourselves to you.
Gracious Mystery, you enfold us.
           Faithful Mercy, you dwell in us.
Creator of the universe, create anew in us.
           Create each moment, a new gift.
Create new life for us to live.
           Create your realm among us.
           Alleluia! Spirit of Life, create us anew by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Friends, are any of you suffering?
All: If so we will pray!
Are any cheerful?
If so let us sing praises!
If any are in trouble God will raise them up;
and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
So we confess our sins to each other,
accept the grace of forgiveness,
and commit ourselves as a reconciled community
Then let the praying and singing begin!
Let the healing and forgiveness pour forth!
God, we worship you in gratitude, in humility, in hope!

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, we do not know how to pray as we ought. But you pray in us, with sighs too deep for words. With all our prayers we come to you, to listen for your Word, to hear your healing voice, to follow your gracious leading, and to live by the power of your mercy and grace in us. Speak to us Lord for we are listening. Amen.

Loving God, Holy Mystery, Power of healing and forgiveness, we ope our hearts to you. Whatever distracts us from loving you, help us put it aside. Whatever in inhibits us from loving our neighbors, help us let go of it. Whatever causes us to stumble, we offer it up to you. Give us what we need to live without it, or live through it. God of wholeness, bless us. Amen.

Eternal One, purge us of our attachments.
Salt us with your fire.
Heal our fears.
Salt us with your fire.
Work your mysterious grace at the root of our sins.
Salt us with your fire.
Fill us with prayer and thanksgiving,
and beautiful songs of praise.
Salt us with your fire. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Holy One,
you are the breathing that breathes us;
you are the heartbeat that moves us.
In the stillness we are still,
and you move within us.
We attend.

Prayer of Confession

God of mercy, we confess
our hands, our feet, our eyes cause us to stumble.
Hidden forces work at the roots of our sin.
Bring them to light, God,
and cover them with your mercy.
Reveal what we must let go of,
what harmful things we must cut off,
what we can live without.
Heal our wounds,
forgive our sin,
and renew in us your perfect love.

God, we wish to be faithful,
but we confess the temptations that mislead us.
Help us to see the desires that shackle us…
the fears that stop us…
the inadequacy that haunts us…
the appetites and attachments that mire us…
help us to see them and to trust
that you set us free from them.
Help us let go of them,
that we may truly be salted by your grace.
God of grace, you set us free.
Help us let go.

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.
… By your grace you relieve us of all that diminishes our love. Send us into the world, cleansed of all that oppresses, with perfect love for you and our neighbor, in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

… With the compassion of Esther may we serve people who are at risk. With the wisdom of Esther may we see the power of our gifts. With the courage of Esther may we risk for the sake of justice. By your Spirit, God, help us accept the power you give us to resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they may present themselves, in the name and the company of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

God, Be Merciful to Me (Original song)
[May be used as a repeating chant.]

God, be merciful to me.
With empty hands and open,
I turn to you for mercy.

God of Mercy (Original song)

God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.

God, heal my sin, brokenness deep within.
Too often I bear pain I make others share.
Set me free from what I have been.

God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.

You are gentle with me; gentle I learn to be.
You touch me and heal; deep in my soul I feel
burdens gone, and I am free.

God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.
By your grace I shall live.

[Note: The last line, “By your grace I shall live” may be used as a repeating chant.]

God, We Are Broken       (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are broken, for all flesh is weak.
Grant us the healing and peace that we seek.
For all that pains us, beyond our control,
grant us your healing, our bodies made whole.

God, we are broken; our hearts are not one.
Sometimes it seems that our souls come undone.
Bring us renewal and calm in our soul.
Grant us your healing and make our hearts whole.

God, we are broken: for families and friends
suffer when love fails and faithfulness ends.
May your forgiveness and grace play its role.
Grant us your healing; make covenants whole.

God, we are broken, for many are poor,
and we ignore those who lie by our door.
God, may your justice like great rivers roll.
Grant us your healing; make all people whole.

God, we are broken for hate and all war
wound us so we are not free anymore.
Make us one people from pole to pole.
Grant us your healing, and make the world whole.

God, You Have Searched Me
  (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, you have searched me; you know from within
all of my beauty, my wounds and my sin.
Deep in my heart—I’ve not spoken a word—
you know my soul, and my thoughts you have heard.

You who have made me and always are near,
help me to shed my illusion and fear.
Help me be truthful, and truthfully see,
humbly transparent to your grace in me.

Your loving presence within me each day
go with me, guide me, and show me your way.
Give me the eyes of your mercy and grace,
to walk in love in each moment, each place.

Prayer Song (Original Song)

God, you hold us in you care
as we turn to you in prayer.
You hear our yearning by your grace;
we return your warm embrace.
Refrain: We await your revealing,
your love and your healing.
All things shall be whole again. Amen. Amen.

God, you hold them in your care
whom we name now in our prayer.
Use the blessing of our soul
by your grace to make them whole.

God, we hold you in our care;
We receive you now in prayer.
Let us listen; let us tend.
Rest here, welcome, holy friend.

Return, My Soul (Tune: Finlandia)

Return, my soul, from all your hungry wandering,
your fearful search for comfort and control.
Let go my grasp of things apart from God,
for God alone can heal and hold my soul.
Return to God, for God alone will love me,
and give me life, and bless and make me whole.

Return, my soul, from all the things that dull me,
that soothe my sense, but leave my sin in place.
My broken heart, return from tricks and bargains;
turn to the One who meets me face to face.
Return to God. Each moment turn again;
receive unending love and life and grace.

I turn, O God, to you who love with patience.
You walk beside me, though I cannot see.
You are my life in dry and weary deserts,
my spring of life that flows eternally.I
turn to you, from false desire and grasping,
and letting go, I find that you hold me.

Set Me Free (To Love)
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
Set me free, Love, set me free.
Oh Love, set me free to love.

From what I fear, O Love set me free….
From what I cling to, Love, set me free…
To live in perfect love, set me free….

Your Will Be Done
(Original song)

Father, take my willfulness.
I surrender it to you grace alone.
Mother, be my willingness.
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Jesus, take my brokenness.
I surrender it to you grace alone.
Jesus, heal my brokenness.
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Spirit, take my empty hands.
I surrender them to you grace alone.
Spirit, with my empty hands
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Your Cart
  • No products in the cart.