OT 13- Third Sunday after Pentecost

June 26, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In 2 Kings 2. 1-15 the prophet Elijah knows that God is about to take him from this life. Elisha, his student, follows him across the Jordan River, even though Elijah gives him permission to go home. Elisha asks to receive Elijah’s prophetic spirit, and his wish is granted as Elijah is taken up into heaven.

Psalm 77 cries to God for help in difficulty. The Psalmist sees God’s power in a thunderstorm, and remembers God’s mighty deeds in the Exodus from Egypt.

In Galatians 5.1 13-25 Paul says God has set us free from slavery. So we should not only treasure our own freedom, but be careful not to infringe on other people’s freedom, and in fact “through love become slaves of one another.” He contrasts living “by the flesh,” that is, under the power of selfish fear and desire, with living “in the Spirit,” and describes what the fruit of that Spirit is like.

In Luke 9.51-62 Jesus commits to going to Jerusalem, knowing what awaits him there. On his way he passes through a Samaritan village that rejects him. His disciples want to retaliate, But Jesus won’t have it. He warns people who would follow him that to live a life of radical obedience you may have to sacrifice your security, social status and belonging, or maybe even a place to sleep. To follow Jesus you have to let go of everything else.

Preaching Thoughts

Elisha
Elisha is deeply moved to follow his mentor Elijah to the end, despite being given permission to go home, and being warned that he’ll face deep loss. Poignantly he continues on with Elijah at every stage of the journey. Maybe you’ve seen people of faith who pursue their calling despite resistance, sacrifice and loss. God does that to us. What is it that calls you that strongly? Is there something you’ll stick with “through thick and thin?” How do you encounter God in that?

Flesh and spirit
What Paul means by contrasting “flesh” and “spirit” is not a contrast of “physical” and “spiritual.” They’re both physical. We are subject to the profoundly convincing illusion that we are separate individuals contained in our bodies. Paul calls this “living by the flesh.” It doesn’t mean there’s something evil about our bodies, or about sensual pleasure. It means we think we’re defined by and limited to our flesh. But in fact we—our “selves””—are not separate islands of being. We are part of one vast, immeasurable Being in the one Spirit. We are all members of one living organism, seemingly separate but actually one being, like different fingers of the same hand, or cells of the same body, living in seemingly separate bodies but actually united in one Spirit. Mindful of our oneness, we live “in the spirit.” The contrast between flesh and spirit isn’t physical versus non-physical; it’s separate versus united. It’s the difference between living according to “I, me and Myself” and living as a member of the Body of Christ. Watch Paul’s vocabulary. Pretty consistently by “flesh” he means self-centeredness; by “body” he means the body of Christ.

Fruit of the Spirit
Here’s a pretty good snapshot of the Christian life. What else might it mean to follow Jesus but to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? These are not “spiritual gifts,” which, in their various combinations, are unique to each of us. These describe the fruit we all experience from living in harmony with the Spirit. You might think of these qualities as the “vital signs” of a living faith. If you’re short on one of them, you might commit to practicing it—but also be aware that it’s a symptom of living in harmony with God’s energy. When we open ourselves to God’s love, these qualities are the natural fruit.

Following Jesus
         Jesus is not welcomed because “he set his face toward Jerusalem.” That might be a form of regional/religious discrimination: the locals are Samaritans, who see folks from Jerusalem as categorically suspect. But it may also be because as a critic of the authoritarian powers, centered in Jerusalem, Jesus is walking toward certain death,—and nobody likes a loser. Of course the disciples want to avoid being losers, so they want to retaliate. They sound like Christians who complain about a “war on Christianity” and seem to want to call down fire on their opponents. Jesus says no. I’m sure he rebuked them partly for thinking God would want such violent behavior, and partly because Jesus is trying to teach them humility and acceptance, and to let go of their sense of superiority. And he likely also rebuked them for thinking—not only how mean, but how vain!—they they could call down fire from heaven. Before we judge them for being so arrogantly mean-spirited, we need to observe how much of our energy (fire from heaven) we spend defending ourselves and our sense of being, if not superior, at least right. One thing we have to sacrifice to follow Jesus is our smugness.
         And that’s not all: you’ll surrender your sense of belonging (“nowhere to lay his head”) and be asked to tend to the work at hand. When Jesus says “Let the dead bury the dead” I don’t think he’s asking us to abandon our families. He’s inviting us to be in the present moment, not the past. To put your hand to the plow and don’t look back is like looking forward while you’re driving. You can’t plow straight lines if you’re not looking ahead. Again, it’s not about denying your memories, but about being in the present moment, and forging ahead even when it’s hard. (Like Elisha.)

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Spirit of Creation, you make us in your image.
All: Spirit, bear your fruit in us.
Christ, you call us to be your messengers.
Spirit, bear your fruit in us.
Holy Spirit, breathe your grace in us, that we may shine with your light,
live with your love, and give of your gifts in us.
Spirit, bear your fruit in us.
Fill us, Holy Spirit, as we worship you. Amen.


2.
Leader: “My people, I call to you.”
All: We look to the halls of power, to the weapons of the mighty, the tools of the merchants, but we do not hear your voice.
“My people, I call to you.”
We look to the confident and the secure, but we do not see your grace.
“My people, I call to you.”
We look to the poor, and you are present. We listen to the voiceless, and you speak to us. We open our broken hearts, and you enter.
“My people, I love you, and I am with you.”
We give you thanks. We give you our lives, and we worship you. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
We call to mind your deeds, O God, and meditate on your ways.
Your way is holy, O God; you redeem your people with a mighty arm.
There are no distinctions or divisions;
in Christ we are all your children through faith.
Alleluia! In Christ we worship you as one.Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1. (from Psalm 77)
I will call to mind the deeds of the Holy One;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work, and ponder your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
I will listen with my heart, for you are a God who redeems. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we open our hearts to you, that your Spirit may flourish and bear fruit in us. May we be a garden of love, joy, and peace. May we blossom with patience, faithfulness and self-control. May our gentleness, kindness and generosity bear fruit in the lives of those around us. Help us set aside all that hinders us from perfect love, by the grace of your Beloved, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of love, we long for you, yet we are distant from you;
we know some of the things that keep us from you,
and others are hidden.
Open our hearts to see ourselves clearly,
to name what turns us from you,
and to allow you to forgive us, heal us and bring us back to you.

Reading

Galatians 5.1, 13-25 (My version)
       Christ has set us truly free. Sand, firm, then, and don’t let yourself be enslaved by anything. But remember: freedom isn’t for the sake of selfishness. Freedom is the power to love each other deeply. After all, the whole law is summed up this one thing: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour one another, you’ll be eaten up by your selfishness. Live by the Spirit that makes us one. Beware of the fearful desires born of thinking you are an isolated unit contained in your flesh. That way of thinking is opposed to the Spirit. The Spirit sets you free from your solitary confinement that prevents you from living fully. If you are led by the Spirit, you are free from having to be good enough.
       Now the works of our fearful, self-centered desires are obvious: using other people, clinging to possessions, making enemies, fighting over trivial things, jealousy, temper tantrums, fighting, competition, and all kinds of addictive behaviors. I’ve said before, this is not the way to experience the realm of God. But listen: when the Spirit lives in you it bears fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? When we live in Christ we let our self-centered desires and attachments die. We live by the Spirit and the Spirit living in us guides us.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. (Ephesians 4. 1-16)

      Leader: I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
      All: There is one body and one Spirit, just as we were called to the one hope of our calling, one Chief, one faith, one baptism, one God and Parent of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
      
Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 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.
      We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must 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.

2. (based on Galatians 5.22-23. I encourage silence after each response…)
Leader: God, you love us deeply.
All: Give us love.
You delight in us.
Give us joy.

You are patient with us.
Give us patience.
You are kind with us.
Give us kindness.

You are generous with us.
Give us generosity.
You are faithful to us.
Give us faithfulness.
You are gentle with us.
Give us faithfulness.

You are full of grace toward us.
Give us self-control.


Listening Prayer

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

Holy Mystery,
foxes have dens, birds have nests,
but the Beloved has no place to rest,
except in my heart.
I will be a nest for your Anointed One,
a resting place for the Beloved.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
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. In the power of your Spirit give us grace to follow Christ, to go with your Beloved to the broken places in this world with the news of your love and the light of your presence, for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for your grace. You have made us one in Christ, gathered us as your children, and fed us with your word. Send us into the world as one, to break down the barriers that divide us, to reach out to those who are outcast, and to proclaim in word and deed the miracle of your grace for all people. Send us in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit to do your will, for your glory. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

God, I Surrender (Original song)

God, I surrender myself to you,
all that I have and all I do.
All my desires I give to you.
Take them from me and make me new.

God, I surrender myself to you,
all that I have and all I do.
Trusting you wholly I follow you
Take my life and make me new.


I Belong to You (Tune: Water is Wide / Gift of Love)

Beloved, I belong to you.
You give me birth; you make me new,
your image formed, by Spirit stirred.
You are the Song; I am your Word.

Whatever pains I may endure,
I still belong. Your love is sure.
Since I am yours, your will I do.
I trust and give myself to you.

I am your coin to richly spend,
so spend me, God, as you intend.
You bless my end; you hold my worth;
send me to love throughout the earth.

Beloved, I belong to you.
Do with me what your love will do.
Bear me, and I, through ease or strife
will find in you eternal life.