OT 15 – Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

July 10, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Amos 7.7-17 the prophet envisions God’s Word like a plumb line, a bricklayer’s weight on a string, showing a perfect vertical: God wants justice to be clear. Amos announces doom for Israel because they oppress the poor, but the king and his priest don’t want to hear it. Amos preaches just the same.

Like many of the Psalms and prophets, Psalm 82 cries out for justice for the poor and oppressed.

In Colossians 1. 1-14 Paul prays for the church, that they (we) will grow closer to God and more able to discern what delights God, and live in harmony with that awareness. Paul rejoices that we have been “rescued from the dominion of darkness” and brought into a new world, the realm of Christ’s grace.

In Luke 10. 25-37 someone questions Jesus about the way to salvation. Reflecting on the commandment to love our neighbor, he asks “Who is my neighbor?” In response Jesus tells the story of a merciful Samaritan. The hero of the story turns out to be a hated enemy, not “one of us.” Our neighbor— even our savior— is the very one we want to distance ourselves from.

Preaching Thoughts

Amos
     There are three parts to this passage, and three dimensions of the prophetic message. 1. God won’t be bent. We’re tempted to somehow distort God’s demand for justice to fit our desires, but the plumb line will hang true. 2. Oppressive powers, and all who participate in them, will object. That’s not just the king, or those in power; there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to disturb or sacrifice our comfort, security, power and belonging to bring about justice for the poor and rejected. 3. The prophet speaks out anyway. Jesus notes that to be a prophet isn’t just to speak for God, but to speak under threat, and often to pay a price. We should not expect differently. (Those who complain about a “war on Christianity” forget that there is always a war against truth. Those who feel entitled probably aren’t proclaiming God’s truth, but something more selfish.)

Colossians
         If it’s true that “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the realm of God’s Beloved” (1.13) then that whole thing about the war between good and evil, light and darkness, is baloney. It’s over. Sure, we have to wrestle with our own shadows, our selfish fears, desires and habits—but even when we fail (and often we do), we’re already, and always, in the realm of God’s light. The anxious language of a “battle” against evil only makes us more anxious and concerned with our own strength—and therefore more susceptible to evil. Instead the invitation is to live in the light, and trust the power of the light to change the darkness. Many good Christians are “worried about going to heaven,” when the promise is that we already have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1.14). The challenge is not to be good enough to deserve to get into the realm of grace but to be faithful enough to look around and appreciate it, and act like it.

Gospel
        The usual sermon on this text says, “The Samaritan was a good guy. Go be like him.” It’s easy to overlook the fact that a Samaritan was a “bad guy,” despised by Jesus’ people. There are many ways that I, a white, male, middle class, straight Christian, can’t just go and be a Samaritan, good or otherwise. I’m too privileged. That would have been true for Jesus’ audience as well. Maybe Jesus is inviting us to both acknowledge our privilege and to find ways to be in solidarity with those who are treated as second class citizens.
         We often preach about choosing between being the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan. But sometimes we are the man in the ditch. We easily forget how broken we are, how needy we are, how dependent on others. The parable invites us to trade our smugness for gratitude. Before we decide “who is our neighbor” (as Jesus is asked) we need to realize who has been neighbor to us (as Jesus describes): who has helped us—especially those we ignore or discount, like poor laborers, immigrants, and endangered “essential workers.” The pandemic exposed how dependent we are on the very Samaritans we want to exclude. Who have been those unsung helpers and heroes in your life—especially the ones you don’t want to acknowledge?
        The parable suggests that God comes to us in ways and in people we detest. This message feels uncomfortable—but it probably should be at least as hard for us to swallow as it would have for Jesus’ hearers. Even unwelcome experiences may be “Samaritan moments” for us: times when what we want to reject actually bears God’s grace for us.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Holy One, you provide for us in ways we never know.
All: Alleluia! We praise you!
Loving Christ, you heal us, accompany us and set us on our feet when we have fallen.
Alleluia! We thank you!
Holy Spirit, you empower us with gratitude and compassion, with humility and courage.
Alleluia! Shape us by your grace, that we may bear your love into this world.

2.
Leader: God of generosity, you provide for us abundantly.
All: We open our hearts to your presence.
Loving Christ, you grant us deep, deep mercy.
We open our hearts to your healing.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with compassion and grace.
We open our hearts to your power.
By your grace, make us grateful and merciful people. Amen.


3. (Colossians 1.9-14)
Leader: Alleluia! God has rescued us from the power of darkness
and transferred us into the Realm of the Beloved!
All: Alleluia! In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Siblings in Christ, may you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will,
in deep spiritual wisdom and understanding.
May we lead lives worthy of the Loving One, fully pleasing to God,
as we bear fruit in every good work and as we grow in the knowledge of God.

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power.
Prepare us, Beloved, to endure everything with patience,
while joyfully giving thanks to you;
for in you, with all the saints, we inherit your light. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Holy One, giver of Life, you breathe us into being.
All: With all living things we thank you. With all beings we praise you.
Living Christ, you save and heal all people alike, without distinction.
You open your heart as a safe place for us.
With all who are grateful we honor you.
With all who long for life we turn to you for blessing.
Holy Spirit, you gather us in one body and fill our hearts with joy.
With all who follow Christ we sing your praise,
and we open our hearts to you.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


5.
Leader: Loving God, amidst our evil you set a plumb line of justice.
All:We praise you.
In our brokenness you heal us.
We thank you.
You enfold us in your light.
We worship you. Fill us with your love. Alleluia!

6.
Leader: Creator God, we greet you!
All: We praise you; we worship you!
You have rescued us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the Dominion of your Beloved.
Joyfully we give you thanks, and ask your blessing.
Grant your peace to all who worship you here today.
Grant your peace to all the world,
to those in need who await your rescue.
Bless your Church, that in the Spirit of Christ
we may love our neighbors and serve them with humility and compassion.
Alleluia! Empower us in our worship to do your will. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God, in a world driven by fear and greed, you set a plumb line in the midst of your people by which you determine justice and discern what is good. Speak your Word to us, that though the world resist and our hearts grow faint we may see clearly, act justly, and live faithfully by your grace. Amen.

2.
God of love, your come to us in many ways. Open our hearts to hear and receive. Open our minds to wonder and grow. Open our souls to embrace and be changed. Speak your Word to us, and make us whole. Amen.

3.
God of grace, when our souls are bruised and weary, you come to us. When we are broken and destitute, in spirit or in flesh, you come to us, heal us, and care for us. Speak your healing word to us now, that we may be made whole by your grace, and restored to our neighbor in love, in the power of your Spirit. We listen for your Word, and we await your grace. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we pray that we may filled with the knowledge of your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that we may lead lives worthy of you, bearing fruit in every good work and growing closer to you. Bless us with open hearts and minds, that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

5.
God of truth, we wonder about the meaning of our lives, and wander about this earth searching. Set among us a plumb line, a direction, an anchoring place, a starting place. Speak your Word and give clarity to our lives. In Scripture, in prayer, in silence and the Word, show us your way. Show us our lives. Heavenly Lover, we open our hearts to you. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Holy Mystery,
we confess that we reject you
even though you come to heal us;
we ignore you even though you save us.
Samaritan God, forgive us,
overcome our smugness,
and restore in us
a spirit of gratitude and compassion.

Readings

1. (Colossians 1.1-14)
Leader: Since the day we heard of your love, we have not ceased praying for you,
that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will,
in deep spiritual wisdom and understanding.
All: May we lead lives worthy of Christ,
to God’s great delight, as we bear fruit in every good work
and as we grow in the knowledge of God.

May you be made strong with all the strength
that comes from God’s glorious power,
and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience,
joyfully giving thanks to the Holy One,
who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
God has rescued us from the power of darkness
and transferred us into the Realm of the Beloved,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Amen and alleluia!

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is and all that shall be, Lover of the Universe, Womb of Grace.
         We follow Jesus, the Beloved, who embodied God’s love and mercy, who emptied himself and became one who was humble, poor and rejected. He taught and healed; he lived among the poor and lifted up the lowly. He proclaimed God’s prophetic call for justice, and opened our eyes to God’s presence in the neighbor, in the stranger, in the enemy. For his love he was crucified, and in love he was raised, and lives among us now, still among the poor and outcast.
         We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love alive in us. We serve in the power of forgiveness, the mystery of resurrection, the light of eternal life. In God’s Spirit we are one body, the church, sent in love for the healing of the world, in the name of Christ, who with the Spirit lives and reigns with God forever. Amen.

2.(Colossians 1.1-14)
Leader: Our Father, our Mother, we give thanks to you,
for you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and instilled in us the light that all your children receive.
All: Alleluia! God, we praise you, and we want to grow closer to you.
You have brought us into the Realm of your Beloved, who sets us free,
Christ, who forgives us and gives us life again.
Alleluia! Christ, we thank you.
Give us your strength, your patience and your wisdom.
You fill us with faith and hope and love that bears fruit among us.
Alleluia! Holy Spirit, we open our hearts to you,
that our hope may bear fruit, that we may discern what gives you delight,
and that we may live in harmony with you. Alleluia!

A prayer of Blessing

[Colossians 1.1-14. A baptismal blessing; may be adapted for leader and congregation, or the congregation in two groups speaking to each other, substituting “Beloved” for the name.]

Sponsor: (Name), we do not cease praying for you:
All: May you always discern God’s delight.
May the Spirit give you a loving vision of the world.
May you be in harmony with the Holy One,
your life a gift to God.
May you continually grow closer to God.
Your life be full of loving deeds.
God’s grace be strong in you.
May you be prepared to endure everything with patience.
May gratitude to God fill your heart:
for as with all her children, her holy ones,
the Loving One has claimed you
and given you her light.
She has rescued us
from the dark tombs that encase us
and brought us into the realm of her Beloved,
in whom we have life again,
and we are set free. Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

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

Holy Mystery,
we cannot know or control
how you come to us.
We open our hearts,
Samaritan God,
to heal us even when we don’t welcome you.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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.

We thank you, God, for your faithful love,
for you come to us in ways we seldom recognize.
You heal us, often in ways we do not welcome.

You set among us a plumb-line of justice,
that all who are oppressed be set free.
You have delivered us from the dominion of shadows,
from fear and selfishness.

You have brought us into the light
of the Realm of your Beloved,
in whom we know our forgiveness and belonging.
Therefore with one voice, together with all Creation,
we sing you praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who held fast your plumb-line of justice:
he fed the hungry, healed the broken,
and showed us your grace among the outcast and rejected.
He proclaimed our redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He confronted the powers that oppress.
For his resistance he was crucified;
but you raised him from the dead,
and with him delivered us from the shadowy powers.


     (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.
May we lead lives worthy of the Beloved,
fully pleasing to Christ, as we bear fruit in every good work,
growing ever nearer to you.
May we be made strong with all the strength
that comes from your glorious power,
prepared to endure everything with with patience,
joyfully giving thanks to you.
     
(Amen.)

____________
* 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

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. You have blessed us in ways we have not expected, not even seen. Now send us out as your unnoticed angels to bless others, even our enemies, in the name and Spirit of Christ, for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

2. (Colossians 1.1-14)
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. By your grace may we be filled with the knowledge of your will, in deep spiritual wisdom and understanding. May we lead lives worthy of you, fully pleasing to you, as we bear fruit in every good work and as we grow in our knowledge of you. May we be made strong with all the strength that comes from your glorious power. Prepare us, O Lord, to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to you; for in you, with all the saints, we inherit your light. Send us into the world now, not as benefactors to the poor but sisters and brothers with them, sharing your grace and love in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, though we have turned against you, you have bent over us in tender compassion and healed us. And so, grateful for your mercy and radiant with your love, we give you our lives, symbolized in these gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world to extend compassion to our neighbor, and even to our enemy, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Christ. Amen.

4.
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. Send us into the world to proclaim your nearness, to heal the broken and cast out evil, to stand up for justice and to share your peace with all Creation, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have come to us as one unknown; yet you have healed and nourished us. Send us now in your Spirit, guided by the light of your love and the plumb line of your justice, to love our neighbors, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Angels in Disguise (Original song)

For the angels in all disguises who have loved us in so many ways,
we have come to expect your surprises; we have come to sing your praise.
         [Refrain:] God, you have loved us more than we believed.
                          Help us to be humble; help us to receive.


We have asked for your Word’s revealing without listening to all that you say,
and the ones who would bring us your healing we have pridefully turned away.

When we dare to be unprotected from a foe of Samaritan cast
when we welcome the ones we rejected, then we meet you, God, at last.

Have we enemies? Love them dearly, for the pones we reject or despise
are the ones we will some day see clearly as your angels in disguise.


Do Justice (Original song)

Do justice, love mercy,
walk humbly with your God.
O, help us humbly live your justice,
your love, your mercy.


Let Me Feel Your Wounds (Original song)

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the heart of the One whom I have crucified.
May I feel your forgiving,
and begin brand new living.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the hands of the lonely and despairing ones.
May I love with your caring.
May I hope with your daring.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the feet of the poor and homeless wandering.
May I weep with their weeping.
May I give without keeping.
May I know your rising there.

Risen Christ, let me feel your wounds
in the marks of our violence upon the world.
May I bless and heal.
May your peace be my seal.
May I know your rising there.


You are the Nerve (Tune: Finlandia)

O God, your Christ is risen in your people.
On earth Christ has no body now but ours.
We are the flesh and blood of your compassion:
moved by your Spirit, with its loving powers.
God be our heart, and we will be your Body,
serving in love in all our days and hours.

We are your feet, that go with joy to others
to share your love, the gospel we confess.
We are your eyes that see what is and may be,
that see each person’s need and loveliness.
We are your hands, that work with strength for justice,
your hands that shelter, heal and feed and bless.

Love, move in me, and guide me by your Spirit,
even when I don’t see or understand.
My life is yours, to be your living Body,
that I may love and serve at your command.
This is my life, my purpose and my power:
you are the nerve, and I your willing hand.