OT 21 – 11th Sunday after Pentecost

August 24, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Jeremiah 1.4-10 — Jeremiah’s call. “I am too young.” … “I am with you. I have put my words in your mouth.”

Psalm 71.1-6 — I take refuge in you. You are my hope, from my youth.

Hebrews 12.18-29 — You have not come to something that can be touched…You have come to the assembly of the firstborn, and to Jesus. Don’t refuse God. We’re receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken.

Luke 13.10-17 — Jesus heals the bent over woman.

Preaching Thoughts

     God gives a Word to each of us, regardless of our age or training. (Note how both Jeremiah and the Psalmist give encouragement to youth as vessels of God’s Word and will.) We don’t all have an authoritative word that is “appointed over nations, to pluck up and pull down,” but each person’s truth carries weight. Your calling then is to discern: what is God’s Word in you? How is God present in you? How does God’s grace shine forth in your life?
     By the way, none of us has words that are “appointed over nations, to destroy and overthrow.” God’s word has that power; we’re only the messengers, the vessels. Again note our temptation toward judgment and destruction. God’s word doesn’t actually overthrow particular nations, but it overthrows Empire: human power structures and oppressive systems.

       Looking for God’s self-disclosure? Don’t expect all the Hollywood special effects we get in the Bible. Look in a community of love. “See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking.” That takes patient, prayerful listening. True faith involves more listening and less posturing. This is an invitation to   humble, willing discernment, not a lot of pronouncements. How do you discern God’s voice in your life? In the life of your community? God’s voice won’t be a literal sound, but a “warning” (v. 25), a nudge, from heaven. God’s voice shakes things up, but the Realm of grace remains steadfast, a “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” You know those moments when you quietly got the sense there was a different reality afoot than you had thought—and it changes everything? In this way God is quiet, and yet also a “consuming fire.”

       Jesus has a wonderful way of asking “Where does it hurt?” He walks into the synagogue, looks around, and sees a wound, a point of pain. Two, in fact. Well, three: the bent over woman, and also the ruler of the synagogue, and also the hurting people under his rule. Healing the woman, he gets the ruler’s attention and engages him as well. We don’t know if the ruler’s hurts (that lead him to be so hurtful) are healed, but at least they’re addressed. And the people’s hunger for grace is addressed: the crowd rejoices at the wonderful things he’s doing. Presumably it’s not just that the woman is healed but maybe Jesus has instigated a renewed sense of freedom, healing and compassion in the community.
      Imagine being “bent over.” Imagine the pain. Imagine not being able to “stand up” for what you care about. Imagine not being able to look anyone in the face, but only seeing the ground. Imagine being in a permanent posture of subservience. Imagine feeling there’s “something wrong with you.” Imagine you’re in a wheelchair. Imagine what all of this might do to your relationships with other people… and maybe with God. Imagine being told that your healing is inappropriate, or less significant than a religious tradition. Imagine all the religious traditions that keep us bent over. Think how many dimensions of this woman’s life Jesus heals
       The woman is an icon for us all. Where are you bent over? What’s limited, suppressed, in pain? What cuts off your ability to look people in the eye, or allow them to see you face to face? What makes you wonder if God is punishing you, or why, at least, God doesn’t help you? What are the voices that prevent your healing, that consider your well-being not important? Where are we as a culture bent over, repressed, distorted, in pain? What are the voices that say, “Come back later for healing?” Remember the people who told Martin Luther King, Jr. that he was moving too fast. Or people who respond to calls for justice that the change would be too much, too soon.
      Jesus schools the synagogue ruler on how to do Bible study: not by ‘splaining, but by enacting it. It’s not just a literal transliteration (“It says here don’t work on the Sabbath”) but listening for God’s Word. What is your lived experience of Sabbath? You let your animal go free. Remember Deuteronomy 5.12-15: “The seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you… or any of your livestock…. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt… Therefore the Holy One your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” The Sabbath is about liberation. Well then, “ought not this woman whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”According to scripture setting this woman free is exactly what Sabbath is all about. Any questions, class?
      Jesus isn’t “refuting” the scripture; he’s both digging deeper and also applying it. Rules aren’t for their own sake. (“The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” [Mk. 2.27]). They’re for the sake of love. So he asks in Mk. 3.4, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” Everything is for the sake of love. Everything.
     In our joy over the woman’s healing it’s easy to overlook the significance of the ruler’s objection. This story encourages the bent-over woman in us and among us; it also convicts the disapproving ruler in us. How is the ruler of the synagogue bent over, bound by Satan? Where is he in me? In what ways to I resent or impede the healing of others? How do I feel about the liberation of people I look down on? When in my mind do religious, political or cultural traditions or values outweigh other people’s need for wholeness or freedom? Who are the people I’m happy to keep suppressed because I don’t want to have to face them eye to eye?

Call to Worship

Leader: Holy Mystery, we are your children.
All: We turn to you in wonder and in need.
Loving Christ, you lay your hands on our wounds.
We come bent over, and rise in praise.
Holy Spirit, you give us power to heal.
Touch us; change us; send us out as new people.

Leader: God of life, our breath is your praise.
All: God of love, our joy is your name, and we honor you.
Brother Christ, our healing is your passion.
Virtuoso of love, our wholeness is your doing, and we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you breathe in us, and give us beauty.
Spirit of Love, our life is your glory and we worship you. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, light of the sun and summer’s embrace,
warmth of our lives and beauty of each day:
All: We praise you! We stand in awe.
We open our hearts like a morning meadow to your light.
Risen Christ, brother and teacher, prince of healing and presence of God:
We greet you. We bow in humble thanksgiving.
We open our minds to your wisdom like a river drinking from a spring.
Holy Spirit, power of love and light of grace within and among us:
We welcome you. We open our bodies to you like breath, like food.
Enter us, and re-create us in your grace.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, we praise you.
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!We were been bent over, but you raised us up.
We were wounded, but you healed us.
We were oppressed, but you set us free.
Alleluia! Come again, Jesus! Heal us, and set us free!
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, Jesus healed the bent over woman. Speak your Word and heal what is bent in us. Lay your hand on us and grant us your grace and mercy. By your Spirit may we rise in gratitude and praise you with lives of love and service. Amen.

God of healing, there is much in us that is bent down, that is distorted, that is not free. Reach out and touch us with your Word: heal us, and make us new by your grace. Speak to us as we hear your scripture, as we reflect, and as we re-direct our lives, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of gentle mercy, we worship you not because you lord it over us, but because you raise us up. We come to you bowed down with cares and fears, with wounds and needs, and with hunger for your grace. Speak your Word and lay your hand upon us, so that we may be made whole again. We pray in the name of Jesus, your healer and your Presence. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Gentle God,
our souls are bent over.
Lay your hand on us,
set us free,
and give us power to stand
in your light.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, we open ourselves in honesty to God.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,
to see what is in us that is loving,
and what is not loving.

God, we recall when we have received your gift of healing, and we give thanks.
[silent prayer…]
We recall when we have resisted your healing for ourselves or others, and we seek your grace. [silent prayer…]
We call to mind those places where we still need healing, and where we may be called to be a healing presence for others, and we open our hearts to your Spirit. [silent prayer…]
God of mercy, in Christ you have touched us, healed us, and set us free.
Touch us, make us whole, and perfect your love in us,
that we may be wounded healers in this broken world. Amen.

[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you,
that our hearts are bent over and we are quite unable to straighten ourselves.
Forgive our sin,
heal our hearts,
and set us free from what prevents us
from living in your perfect love,
in the Spirit of Christ.

[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

God of grace,
we confess that we are uprooted from your love,
and that we do not know how to live.
Our spirits are bent over and unable to stand straight;
our faith is weak; our vision is dark;
our hearts are wounded; our desires are amiss.
Receive us with mercy, God;
forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
and restore in us your Spirit,
so that we may live in the present moment with joy,
walking in your ways and delighting in your will.
O God, we surrender to your perfect grace.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

God, we confess we are bent over.
Our compassion is stunted, bent by forces within us and around us.
Lay your hand on us and raise us up.
Heal what is broken; set free what is repressed.
Confront the voices that tell us our healing shouldn’t be.
Disarm the voices that say others shouldn’t have what we have.
Disturb the powers that keep hearts bent down.
Confront the powers that keep people “in their place.”
Raise up your Spirit in us, that we may attain the stature of Christ,
that we may stand boldly for justice,
for healing of this bent-over world.
Lay your hand on us, Jesus, and make us whole by your grace.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

      We’ve been set free! Therefore we trust in God, Creator of all, who in the beginning set light free into the world, who rescued us from slavery and liberated us from exile, who overthrows the power of injustice and oppression, who redeems all Creation.
      We’ve been healed. Therefore we follow Jesus, child of God and brother to all, teacher and healer, who resisted the power of evil and set people free in body, mind, heart and soul, as persons and as a community. He was crucified and was raised, and in his rising defeated the oppression of death itself. We entrust ourselves to his grace and his leading, as he lays his hands upon us.
      We’ve been empowered. Therefore we live by the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in us. We live by the grace of forgiveness and the power of resurrection, as one church, the Body of Christ. We devote ourselves to the way of liberation, healing and grace, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

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.

Loving Creator, we thank you for the gift of this world.
We thank you for the gift of Sabbath,
that we may rest and be free.
Lovely One, we praise you for the mystery of our bodies,
for their beauty and abilities, and how they hold us.
You give us one another, to bear us up when the flesh is weak.

Beautiful Savior, you heal us; you make us whole.
You condemn oppression and confront injustice;
you release us from all that binds us, and set us free.
Therefore with all Creation we 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 healed the sick and fed the hungry,
who lifted up those who were bent low.
He noticed the downtrodden, and reached out to the hurting.
For his opposition to the powers of oppression
he was crucified; but you raised him from the dead.
We rejoice in the wonderful things he is doing.

     (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,

healed by you grace,
and empowered to undo the yoke of slavery
and to set free all who are bowed down,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
to your glory.

           [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

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 healed us, set us free, raised us up, and given us strength and stature. Send us into the world now, trusting in your grace, to heal and to set others free, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. May we, who have been healed and set free, never oppress others, but work for the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Becoming Whole       (Original song)

We are a broken people becoming whole again.
We are a wounded people being healed again.
We are a hungry people being fed again.
We are a captive people walking free again.
plus additional verses

Christ our Healer        (Tune: Ode to Joy or HOLY MANNA)

Christ, our healer, you have touched us, reaching through the dark divide,
healing broken hearts and bodies, casting death’s old shroud aside:
raised us from our bed of sorrows, put your arm around our pain,
raising us to new tomorrows, bringing us to life again.

Christ, our teacher, in our healing you have given us your gift:
grace to bless, your love revealing, pow’r to heal and hope to lift.
In your Spirit, your forgiveness, your compassion we embrace
ev’ry wounded, shamed or silenced child of God with gentle grace.

Christ, our savior, you are going on to every town and field,
on to every land and people, on until the world is healed.
Use us in the whole world’s mending, use us as your healing hands,
’till as one the world, made whole, takes up its mat with joy and stands.

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.

Jesus, My Healer
(Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Jesus, my healer, come to me and touch me;
lay your hand upon my soul.
All of my woundedness gently embrace and bless
and, though I’m broken, make me whole.

Source of our healing, God, our Re-Creator,
your deep joy is to raise and bless.
Your faithful promises and all our trusting hope
are stronger than our dark distress.

Spirit of healing, move among your people
to bear the blessing that flows from you:
with tender love to bless the world’s brokenness
and share the grace that made us new.

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.
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.
We await your revealing,
your love and your healing.
All things shall be whole again. Amen. Amen.

God, we hold you in our care;
We receive you now in prayer.
Let us listen; let us tend.
Rest here, welcome, holy friend.
We await your revealing,
your love and your healing.
All things shall be whole again. Amen. Amen.

Amen, amen, amen.

Song of Healing(Tune: Finlandia)

O God of love, O God of grace unending,
come heal your people, body, mind and soul:
those who know grief, whom sorrow is befriending,
the sick and struggling, who know sorrow’s role.
Heal those whose backs beneath their loads are bending;
come set them free. Come heal and make them whole.

Use us, O God: complete the nations’ mending:
make us your hands; show us our healing role;
make us your eyes, your light in all defending;
let healing flow; O, let your justice roll.
Help us, O God, your Holy Spirit lending,
to heal and bless, to make the dear world whole.

With our Bodies (Tune: Finlandia)

Creating God, we praise you with our bodies,
this miracle in love you have designed,
these mysteries that see and feel and listen,
that move and breathe, and cradle heart and mind,
that, old or young, and awkward, lithe or graceful,
bind us to earth, and to all humankind.

Oh dancing God, we praise you in all movement,
in hands that heal, create things, or caress,
in wombs that birth, in feet that humbly bear us,
in throats that sing, and lips that love confess.
Oh, may our bodies praise you in their being,
with joy embrace, and touch and dance and bless.

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