OT 33 – 26th Sunday after Pentecost

November 17, 2024

Lectionary Texts

1 Samuel 1. 4-20 — Hannah’s prayer … which in due time is answered.

1 Samuel 2.1-10
— Hannah’s prayer of thanks. There is no Rock like our God. God brings low, and also exalts. God raises up the poor from the dust

Hebrews 10.11-25 —
that through Jesus’ sacrifice our sins have been removed once for all. Therefore rather than worry about our forgiveness, our faith can focus on bearing witness, doing good, and encouraging one another.

In Mark 13. 1-8 Jesus warns that the temple will be destroyed, frightening changes will occur and his followers will be persecuted. But he describes this not as the end of the world, but as “birthpangs.”

Preaching Thoughts

1 Samuel 1
Hannah is not exactly one of those Hebrew “uppity women,” but she is belittled as if she were, and she stands firm against the priest’s ill treatment and justifies herself and shows herself to be a woman of great faith.

1 Samuel 2
 The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1 is a clear parallel to Hanna’s story, and here Hannah prays in a way that will be echoed by Mary’s Magnificat. The heart of it is the great biblical theme of God raising up the lowly and bringing down the rich and powerful.

  This passage repeats last week’s theme, that in Christ we know we are forgiven, absolutely and permanently. It’s hard for folks to trust this. I still hear people worry whether God will accept them, forgive them, love them deeply. Yes. We can’t say this enough. So rather than worry about our forgiveness, our faith can focus on bearing witness, doing good, and encouraging one another.

As we move toward the culmination of the church year on Christ the Sovereign Sunday, our scriptures begin to look toward the end of things as they are, and God’s new Creation. In these and following verses Jesus warns that the temple will be destroyed, frightening changes will occur and his followers will be persecuted. With only a little modification, his words sound a lot like climate change; the collapse of the church’s influence and centrality in Western culture in the 21st Century; and the rise of political powers that support White supremacy, environmental abuse, nationalism, militarism, and a whole lot of stuff Jesus preached against. Jesus’ words may sound a bit extreme, but he wasn’t exaggerating.
       Back in the 70’s some people stirred up a lot of angst (and made a lot of money) fretting about “end times.” There was some “Left Behind” panic, and little cults expecting the imminent end of the world. We’ve outgrown that… but meanwhile the actual end of human history is more conceivable now. Any one of many real dangers could spell, if not the end of civilization as we know it, at least radical crises—climate change, micro-plastic pollution, nuclear war, water shortages, threats to democracy… The threats are real.
       So how do people of faith deal with that? The answer isn’t in this reading. It’s spread throughout the Gospel. But this passage makes it clear that we will carry out God’s call to compassion, healing, peace, justice and nonviolence in the face of opposition, violence, greed and fear. We will go through rough times. But God will sustain us. “Do not be alarmed.” Part of what sustains us is the trust that God and God’s will and God’s Creative Energy are not only greater than we imagine, they’re greater than we can imagine. Jesus describes these awful visions not as the end, but as “birthpangs.” God is at work in ways we can’t know. The Life Force is strong, and Peace may find a way even when human intelligence can’t. Grace may prevail even in the face of profound disaster. Our hope is not wishing that things will turn out OK, but trust that Grace happens no matter how things turn out, that Love is already at work, as surely as gravity, influencing everything. Even the worst case scenario is labor pains. God will bring forth something new. Resurrection will happen. God has the power to turn death into life, despair into joy. Life will go on. Love will not end.
       So we learn to trust the mystery of Resurrection. We keep the faith. This was the way of Jesus toward the cross. This was the way of the first disciples, who experienced the murder of Jesus, the weight of religious persecution, the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the crushing power of Roman oppression. We know how to do this. So we live our lives with gentle faith in the face of violence and greed. We live with forgiveness in the face of cruelty. We live with love in the face of fear. We live with hope even in the face of doom itself. It will all be thrown down. But love will not. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t overcome it.

Call to Worship

Leader: Eternal God, we praise you!
       All: Amidst all that changes, you are present.
You have been here forever, waiting for us.
       We are here, to be present for you.
Let all that is passing fall away.
        With open hands, we let go of all but you.
        Alleluia! Spirit of Life, transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Eternal God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come, we praise you.
       All: Risen Christ, you who hold the door open for us
       into this world, and into the next,
       we greet you, and we listen for your voice.
Holy Spirit, you who transform all things, we open our hearts to your presence.
        Holy One, Breath of Life, Flesh of Love and Bone of Faithfulness,
        we thank you.
        You are the turning of the world;

        you are the Mysterious Unfolding within us.
We come to you to worship, to be blessed, to be changed.
        Alleluia! Come, Spirit of Grace,
        and transform us according to your will. Alleluia!

Leader: God of grace,
so much changes, so much fails,
so much confuses and confounds us.
     All: But your love continuously unfolds,
     your grace works its mysterious power.
We are afraid for things that will not last.
     But your mercy lasts forever;
     your tender love for us holds steadfast.
So we worship you in awe and gratitude.
    We open our hearts to your grace,
    that your hope for the world
     will find a home in us. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Eternal God, so much changes around us. So much is passing. So much is frightening. But you are present with us, steadfast and solid in your love. We open our hearts to your presence, to your Word, to your Spirit living in us. Help us to hear, to be healed, and to be made new. We pray in the spirit of Christ, who has died and is risen and is with us always. Amen.

Holy God, you make this world, and remake it according to your grace. You move this world toward your will. Help us to move with you. Speak to us, and strengthen our hearts, so that we can be faithful to you always. Amen.

God of love, this word sometimes seems to be walking toward its own destruction. But Jesus walked resolutely toward the cross, trusting your grace. Give us trust. Give us hope. Give us courage. Give us Jesus. Amen.

God of Patience, bear with us humans while we try to figure out how to live. God of Forgiveness, be gentle with those who destroy life and promote injustice, and those who don’t know how to resist them. God of Resurrection, you hold this struggling world in your hands. Bring forth new birth—in the world and in us. God of the Crucified and Risen Christ, give us faith to live with grace, with love and mercy, unswayed by the troubles of the world. By your Holy Spirit, lead us in the ways of Peace. Amen.

Eternal God, World-Maker, Change-Maker, Birth-Maker,
all things come and go… but you.
Loving Christ, Burgeoning Mercy, Healing Unfolding,
fear may conquer many… but not you.
Holy Spirit, Transforming Fire, Energy of Creation,
so much slips through our fingers… but not yours.
Holy One, as worlds change your love remains steadfast.
You work your Creating power faithfully, making all things new.
God of love, deepen our trust. Strengthen our faith.
Encourage our love, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
O constant God,
when all is thrown down,
your love is not.
We turn to you,
we rely upon you.
Pour yourself into us
that we may be constant in you.

Prayer of Confession

The grace of God be with you.
        And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
        Gentle God, we confess that we have left your ways
        and followed the ways of the world
        ways that will fail and not endure.
        We have fit in with the culture
        rather than staying true to your Spirit in us.
        Forgive us; re-root us in your Spirit,
        and remake us in the image of Christ. Amen.


When the towers fell

         “Do you see these great buildings?
         Not one stone will be left here upon another.”
                   —Mark 13.2

When the towers fell
it seemed the center of the world had vanished,
but the center, it turns out, is elsewhere.
When the towers fell
it seemed the end of the world,
but wars and rumors
have come and gone, and here we are.
They said everything changed
but nothing changed.
Empires come, and pass. Stones fall.
Hate and anger are still unable to build, but only destroy.
Still some people harm; some bless.
We seek stones unfallen, but stones still fall.
Even stones are made of smoke.

Listen. Things happen, things pass;
but they don’t express God’s love for you.
That’s constant. And so is God’s invitation.

Now—before the tower of this moment falls—
is the time to decide whether to be kind and how,
whether to show mercy.
This is the moment—unchanging—
and always has been, the moment
to love.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

        Holy God, we know you as the Creator of all that is and all that is to come, who makes and remakes the world in love and wisdom. You are moving this world toward perfect love, transforming all Creation by grace.
        We look to Jesus, your Christ, the embodiment of your presence among us. He taught and healed, proclaimed your Word, gathered a community, and announced the coming of your Realm of Grace. In his death and resurrection you have shown us the end of the world to which we cling and the coming of a new heaven and earth. He lives among us, accompanying us in faithful living and prophetic witness.
        We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, your transforming energy within and among us. As one church, the Body of Christ, we bear witness to your grace, practice your forgiveness, work for justice, rely on your promise of resurrection, and see all things in light of the eternity of all that is rooted in you. We devote ourselves to proclaiming your good news to all peoples, for the sake of the transformation of the world. 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.

Blessed God, we praise you.
Creator of all that is and is to come, we thank you.
You create us, claim us, and accompany us.
From the interlocking powers that entrap us
you set us free.
You invite us into your Realm of Grace
that is free from the world’s fear and hostility.
You have given us Jesus, who showed us how to resist evil.
In the face of his death he ate with his friends,
a feast of hope and liberation.
You have set a table before us in the presence of our enemies;
and we come, all of us siblings in your love,
to feast on your mercy and to 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,
who embodied your love.
In the face of brokenness he healed people,
in the face of hunger he fed people,
in the face of our sin he forgave.
He was crucified, and with him the hopes of a people.
And yet you raised him from the dead,
and with him the hope of a people.
This is a feast of death and resurrection
in the arms of Christ,
a feast of hope and trust.

     (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.
As worlds change around us, your love remains steady,
and yet by it we are transformed.
You feed us with the mystery of your grace,
that we may share in the courageous love of Christ,
and the peace of your Holy Spirit,
for the sake of the redemption 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.
Amid the changing of worlds your love is steadfast. You have drawn us into the Realm of your Grace that is eternal. Send us out into the world, unwavering in bearing the steadfast love of Christ, at peace in the grace of your Holy Spirit, for the sake of the world you love. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

God of the Future
    [Tune: SLANE – Be Thou My Vision]
God of our dark night, and God of our day,
God of our journey, whose will is our way,
when our path dims and the future’s unknown,
still you walk with us; we’re never alone.

Though the familiar should fade and turn strange,
your steady love for us never will change.
So when we worry and can’t see the way
Love, still your grace is enough for today.

All that is taken and all that we lose,
all of the cost of the path that we choose
never compares with the grace you impart:
faithful and gracious, you give us your heart.

Bless all the journeys we still are to make.
May they shed mercy and light for your sake
Lead us with courage on journeys unknown,
walking in blessing, and never alone.

Be our companion, our courage, our nerve,
You, the heart in us, to love and to serve.
Blessings you promise, whatever befall.
Still you walk with us, O lover of all.

In All that Changes (Tune: Breathe on Me, Breath of God)

In all that changes, God, all that will fail or fall,
your loving presence still abides, and will not fade at all.

In all that changes, God, your love is strong and sure.
Therefore we give in thanks for grace, and trust it will endure.

Through raging storm and sea, you are the rock that stands.
Free from all else, we give ourselves into your loving hands.

Love Will Bear Us Over (Tune : Holy Manna)

When our world is changing ‘round us and we long for good old days,
what that lasts will bear us over to new earth, new heaven, new ways?
Love will lead us when the path is unfamiliar, come what may:
set our heart to love our neighbors and our feet will find the way.

Christ gives us a new commandment: “Share the love that you’ve been given.”
When we do we’re resurrected, entering new earth and heaven.
When we love our neighbor more than caring for what used to be,
then our love will bear us over, then our love will set us free.

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