6th Sunday after Epiphany

February 19, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Jeremiah 17.5-10 — “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord.. they shall be like a tree planted by water.” “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it?”

Psalm 1 — “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.

1 Corinthians 15.12-20 — “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”

Luke 6.17-26 — The first part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain (preceded by healings): blessings and woes.

Preaching thoughts

       Faith is not heaving all the right answers. It’s being rooted in God. Both Jeremiah and the Psalm offer this image of being deeply rooted in a life-giving, nourishing stream. In faith we don;t have to “go to God:” we are already rooted in God; all we have to do is receive the grace that flows to us, underground, unseen, but steady. Those who we judge as “unrighteous” aren’t punished; but they’re like “shrubs in the desert who don’t see when relief comes.” They don’t receive the grace that’s given to them, that streams below them. Maybe, as in one of Jesus’ parables, their roots are too shallow.
       But what impedes our receiving God’s grace? What makes it so hard to send our roots down, down, deep into God? Well, that’s a mystery. “The heart is devious.” Our sin is our disconnectedness from God, the illusion that we’re separate. And in our separateness we can’t see clearly. So we ask God to help us see—this is not judgment, but discernment: we welcome God’s “testing the mind and searching the heart.”
       A special warning is given to those who “amass wealth unjustly”. That’s not just people who make money through immoral means. It means those who keep their money and spend it on themselves instead of using it justly. Of course, though that’s especially true for billionaires, it’s true for all of us, isn’t it?

1 Corinthians
       Paul seems to be arguing backwards: the proof of resurrection is that Christ is risen. But I think he’s not really trying to convince skeptics that there is such a thing as resurrection. He’s reminding us who do believe in resurrection that it’s the bedrock of our faith. We’re not just following somebody who taught us some really good moral precepts. We’re entrusting ourselves to a God who brings life out of death—as we have seen in the resurrection of Christ. Our faith in is God’s grace, which transcends the powers and limitations of this world. You can agree with the ideas you’ve learned from Jesus, but the life of faith isn’t an idea, it’s a commitment, an adventure—and a risk. If you really live by Jesus’ teachings—blessed are you poor, you who mourn, you who hunger for justice—then you’ll necessarily risk the riches, comforts and security of this world for the sake of love and justice. You will have to let go of much. And only a God of resurrection will get you through that.

       It is noted that this is a sermon on the plain, not the mount, that the blessed are “you poor,” not “those (others) who are poor in spirit.” Which did Jesus say? Both. For Jesus people’s “physical” and “spiritual” needs were part of the same thing. He didn’t distinguish. He offered physical experiences—healing their physical bodies, feeding them physical food—all of which carried profound spiritual meaning, affecting their relationship with God, themselves and others. The spiritual / physical dualism is false. Everything is both. For the poor, oppressed and downtrodden, sometimes justice comes in the form of encouragement, empathy and companionship, and sometimes it comes in the form of real food, or money, or political power. “Good news for the poo” means both “thoughts and prayers” and also legislation.
       Jesus’ beatitudes are a radical counter to secular understanding of what makes for happiness. The source of our blessing is not the condition of our lives—whether or not we’re poor, or mourning, or longing for justice that’s unfulfilled. Rather, the source of our blessing is God’s grace, which is available to everybody, including the poor and miserable. God’s grace brings life out of death; it transcends, overwhelms and subverts human fate, will and intention.
       Jesus is not necessarily coaching us to become poor or grieving, but to love, even at great risk, trusting God to bless us even if we do become poor or hungry. And he’s encouraging those who are poor and mourning that God is with them. The poor are not more blessed than the rest of us, but if we’re not rooted in God’s grace, we’re less aware of our blessing, less able to receive the nourishment that flows from those underground streams of blessing, because our trust is in our own skill, resources, bank account, luck, whatever. The times we truly behold the depth of God’s grace is when we have to, when there’s no other option, when we really are poor or powerless.
       If we really want to receive the blessing that Jesus offers the poor, the way is not necessarily to take on suffering, but to be loving. (“If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”) If we are loving toward those who suffer, we will befriend them, share their burdens (“weep with those who weep”), advocate for them, ally ourselves with them. Their concerns will concern us. We don’t have to wait till someone we love dies to receive the blessing of those who mourn. All we need to do is open ourselves to being brokenhearted for the world and its profound hurt. Scary as that is, there’s blessing there. We don’t need to find ways to make people speak ill of us. All we have to do is stop trying to avoid criticism. If we live for love, if we seek justice, if we give attention and power and voice to those who are poor or powerless or broken, it won’t be popular. Systems of domination will resist, and people will speak ill of us. But there’s blessing there.
       Jesus pairs woes with his blessings. These are not punishments. It’s not retribution. It’s just the flip side. It’s clarity about what it’s like when we don’t live in harmony with God’s grace. It’s about the hollowness of rooting our happiness in possessions, comfort and status. Inherent in these woes is a critique of the prosperity gospel or a religion that urges us to seek happiness, comfort, reward and a sense of security. (In fact in the desert following his baptism Jesus had to wrestle with the temptation of power, security, and status, and renounce them.) Of course there’s also a critique of the rich and powerful (Jeremiah: “those who amass wealth unjustly”) and those who decline to enter with compassion into the suffering of the world. His blessings and woes mirror the image in both Jeremiah and the Psalm: those who live in harmony with God’s grace and compassion are rooted in good soil with life-giving streams. Those who invest merely in their own happiness have no roots in God’s life-giving grace, and will eventually shrivel up, lifeless.

Call to Worship

Leader: Creator God, you are a stream of living water;
we are trees planted nearby, rooted in your deep, flowing love.
All: We drink form your blessing; we grow in your grace.
By the gentle presence of Christ with us
we avoid the ways selfishness and cynicism,
even when they are al around us.
We fill ourselves with your Word, and we delight in your ways;
rooted in your Creation, we flourish in your love.
All of our evil perishes in your grace.
It becomes like dry leaves, blown away in the wind of your Spirit.
In closeness with you, we bear the fruit of love
for the healing of the world.
Flow in us, God of life, and once again transform us by your grace.

Leader: Happy are those whose delight is in God’s Word.
All: They are like trees planted by streams of water.
They yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
We come to root ourselves in your love, O God.
May we bear the fruit of your Spirit,
the fruit of your love. Amen.

Leader: Creator God, we seek you.
People: Risen Christ, we rely on you.
Holy Spirit, you are lour life and our breath.
We thank you for always being with us.
When we are lonely you comfort us,
when we are poor you enrich us,
when we are lost you guide us.
You are always with us.
We worship you in gratitude, with open hearts.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, we come with fears and desires, habits and attachments, and all our compulsive agendas. Give us peace to release them all, to seek only your love, and to give only your love. Bless us with your grace, that our lives may be shaped by the love that bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we seek to be happy, but we only find deep joy in you. We strive to be strong, yet our strength is only in you. We desire the riches of this world, but only your grace is truly what we need. Open us to your Word now; help us to surrender everything but our love for you, our trust in you, and our willingness to receive your grace. We pray in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of grace, the world tells us to seek power, possessions, esteem and security. But you alone are our power and our security. Your love alone is the esteem we need. Help us to renounce the goods of the world and turn to you again to receive your grace. Be our hope in despair, our consolation in sorrow, our riches in need, and our power to love as Jesus loved. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

God of infinite grace,
we are trees planted by streams of your love.
Let the deep roots of our souls,
the invisible root hairs of our prayer,
sink deep in your grace,
and draw up your blessing,
unseen, into our hearts
and our community.

Beloved, we thank you:
out of poverty, abundance.
We open to you:
out of hunger, fullness.
We trust you:
out of weeping, laughing.
May your grace well up in us,
out of our dying, your rising.

Prayer of Confession

Gracious God,
we confess our sin to you,
for we have denied your light in us;
we have betrayed your Holy Spirit in us.
We have sought happiness and security
instead of faithfulness and trust.
For those sins which weigh upon us,
and those we do not even know
we ask your forgiveness.
Heal our hearts, renew your Spirit within us,
and restore in us the image of Christ,
that by your grace
we may be light for the world. Amen.

Loving God, we confess the poverty of our spirits.
We lift up to you the hunger of our souls,
and our broken hearts. We need you.
Turn us away from the riches of this world,
to receive the riches of your grace.
Forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
renew our hope; create us anew.


     Person 1: Jesus, help me. I’m trying to get ahead, but I’m falling behind. I’m too weak and inadequate. I don’t know what’s worse: the worry or the shame.
Jesus: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Realm of God.
     Person 2: I’m missing something. I feel a deep longing that is never satisfied.
Jesus: Blessed are you who are hungry, for you will be filled.
     Person 3: I’m trying to be happy, but my heart is broken.
Jesus: Blessed are you who are mourning, for one day you will laugh.
     Person 4
: People don’t take me seriously.
Jesus: Blessed are you when people exclude you: this is how they treat the prophets.
     Person 1: I see people who are powerful and successful and glamorous, and I am jealous.
Jesus: Woe to those of whom everyone speaks well: this his how people treat the false prophets.
     Person 2: Jesus, I feel empty.
Jesus: Only an empty vessel is ready to be filled.
     Person 3: I feel powerless.
Jesus: The power is not ours, but God’s.
Person 4: I want to be deeply alive.
Jesus: Yes. First you have to die. Then, miracles.

Adapted from 1 Corinthians 1.23-31

We give thanks to God because of the grace God has given us in Christ Jesus. Not many of us are wise by human standards, not many are powerful, or of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to teach the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to save the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are. God alone is the source of our life in Christ, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Therefore we proclaim Christ crucified and raised, a stumbling block to those who seek signs, and foolishness to those who want proof. But to us who are being saved, this is the power of God. Alleluia!

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     We love and you trust you, God, for you bring light out of darkness, Creation out of chaos, life out of death.
     We love you and trust you, Jesus, for you embody the grace of God: you brought healing out of sickness and food out of need. You gave hope and dignity to those who had none. Though you were rejected you brought love to the unloving. You were crucified, but God raised you from the dead.
     We love you and trust you, Holy Spirit, for our own spirits are poor without you. You bring consolation to our sorrow and power to our weakness. By your grace you raise us up out of our dying, and give us the gift of eternal life. Holy One, we give ourselves to you, that we may live in trust and joy, and the love of Christ, for the sake of the healing of the world, in your name. Amen.

     We affirm our trust in you, God: though the world clamors for our allegiance you are our only source of identity, belonging and security. You offer us consolation in our sorrows, nourishment for our hunger, and healing for our brokenness.
     We affirm our trust in you, Christ, for though the world tells us to seek power, prestige and possessions, you show us the power of love, and radical trust in God. In your dying and rising you reveal the grace that God offers us, and lead us to surrender our lives in love, and to die and rise with you.
     We affirm our trust in you, Holy Spirit, for by your power in us we stand against the world’s greed and divisions, its materialism and prejudice, its reliance on force and violence. Because we trust you, by your grace we renounce the ways of selfishness and fear, and devote ourselves to courageous love, deep generosity, and the struggle for justice, in the name and the spirit and the company of Christ.

Eucharistic Prayer

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
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 of grace we thank you.
Out of the “No” of all nothing you brought the “Yes” of Creation.
Out of our nobodiness you have made us Somebody.
Out of our oppression you have set us free,
with all your Beloved.
In our mourning you have comforted us.
In our hunger you feed us, and we gather at your table
with all whom you have raised up, singing your praise:

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who brought forth healing amid sickness, bread amid hunger,
community amid brokenness, hope amid despair.

Without worldly power or wealth he trusted utterly in your grace,
and fearlessly proclaimed your love.
Though he was excluded, reviled and rejected,
he offered only love.

     (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)

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,

raised from the dead and reliant upon your grace alone.
Send us to the world,
to its poverty and hunger, its sorrow and hatred,
to sow your love, in the name of Christ,
for the healing of the world.

* 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 Dedication / Sending / after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In our hunger you have fed us. In our brokenness you have joined us, and made us one. Into our empty hands you have placed the riches of your grace. Send us now, grateful and trusting, to share that grace with all who are poor and hungry, mourning and rejected, in the name and the love and the companionship of Jesus. Amen.

God of grace, you have raised us up from death to life. When we are weak you are strong. Give us deep trust in your grace, and send us out as hollow, fragile vessels of your inextinguishable grace; to be light in the darkness and healing in the hurt, to be among the poor and powerless with hope and courage; to love at all costs, knowing our life is in you alone. We pray, as we go, in the name and the company of Christ. Amen.

.God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us /
that mystery that you give yourself to us.
By your Spirit may we be stewards of your blessing. May we be trees planted by streams of your grace, faithfully bearing the fruit of your love. Send us to the poor, the mourning, and those hungry for justice. May we find our happiness in your grace alone, accompanied by Christ and empowered by your Holy Spirit, for the sake of the wholeness of the world. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Blessed (Original tune. Music also includes Eucharistic prayer responses)

Dear God, receive me anew, mourning and poor in my soul,
hungry for what makes me whole.
Bless me by making me simple like you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

Mercy please grant me anew. Make my heart pure by your grace,
humble, that I may see your face.
Bless me by making me gentle like you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

Courage please give me anew, peace in the world to make,
and to suffer for your Gospel’s sake.
Bless me by making me faithful to you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

By your grace (Tune: What Wondrous Love Is This)

What wondrous love is this O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
That you so freely give the bread by which we live,
that you revive our soul, by your Word, by your Word,
and by your life in us make us whole.

Our lives we give to you, by your grace, by your grace,
our lives we give to you, by your grace.
Lord, use the gifts we give to help your children live
that all may come and feast by your grace, by your grace,
the greatest and the least, by your grace.

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.

We Lift Our Spirits Up (Tune: SURSUM CORDA, Alfred Norton Smith,
or Abide with Me, or Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart)

We lift our spirits up to you, O God,
O Love, our morning sun, our living breath.
You are our first and final dwelling, God:
receive our prayers, receive our life and death.

Our grateful thanks we give you for your care
that bears us through the challenges we face,
for nothing we desire can compare
with your compassion and your healing grace.

O God, we open wide our longing soul:
breathe into us your mercy and delight.
We give to you all that we would control,
make us pure vessels of your love and light.

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