OT 23 – 13th Sunday After Pentecost

September 7, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Jeremiah 18. 1-11 — “You are the clay and I am the potter. I reshape you as I see fit.”

Psalm 139 — “God, you created me.” (Knitted and woven, specifically, which were women’s work). “You know me; you are always with me. Help me to avoid doing evil.”

Philemon — Paul’s letter appealing to Philemon to release his slave Onesimus.

Luke 14. 25-33 — Carry the cross. Hate father and mother… Carry the cross; building a tower, count the cost. Don’t lose your saltiness.

Preaching Thoughts

     “Hate father and mother..” — Strong language, typical of Jesus. Obviously he doesn’t mean disliking, enmity or mistreatment. (Notice how he defends “honor your father and mother” in Mark 7.11). He means honoring your discipleship even above family loyalty. We easily surrender our beliefs or our integrity to avoid upsetting people we care about (well, yeah, and even strangers). We “go along to get along.” This can be hardest in families or significant friendships. How many folks don’t talk politics with family members? Jesus invites us to stand for who we are, even when the resistance is costly. That’s when we really become ourselves. Of course, the point is not to start family arguments; some disagreements are best left untested. But not arguing about our beliefs is one thing; staying true to them is another. That’s what counts.
     “Carry the cross.” — A “cross to bear” is not an annoyance. It’s our willingness to suffer for the sake of loving others. And love requires suffering. Sometimes not much, but always at least a little. Sometimes a lot. Every parent knows your heart will be broken a thousand times. But you do it, because the cost is actually a good deal. Love is worth it. But don’t think it won’t hurt. “Count the cost.” I think people need help discerning the difference between the authentic cost of discipleship and unrelated struggle or suffering. Not every “thorn in the flesh” is a result of our love, forgiveness, generosity or work for justice. “Stuff happens.” On the other hand, we often minimize just how much we have to let go of to really live lives of love, forgiveness, humility, vulnerability, reconciliation, healing and justice. Each of us needs to discern: What do I need to let go of to be perfectly loving? What are the things I cling to that are likely to hold me back from loving deeply, forgiving entirely, or risking for the sake of others?
     “Salt is good.” — What a cryptic, evocative image. Be salt. There’s not much correct doctrine to it, nor any clear senses of definition. In the context of carrying the cross, it seems to mean “be loving.” Its ambiguity invites us to ponder: What feels like “salty” living to you? Loving? Kind? Authentic? Simple? Bringing out other people’s beauty, as salt brings out other flavors? It certainly seems to describe behavior, not belief. Who has “salted” your life? What do you value in that? The image of salt invites a lot of play, imagination and storytelling.

Call to Worship

Leader: Creator God, divine artist, you fashion the universe with skill and beauty.
All: We praise you!
Jesus the builder has shaped our hearts with loving hands and a steady eye.
We thank you!
Holy Spirit, breath of new creation, you continually fashion us anew.
We worship you. We open our hearts to you.
We surrender ourselves to your shaping hands. Alleluia!

Leader: God, you have searched us and known us.
All: Holy Mystery, we wonder; and we praise you.
Where could we escape your presence? Even in the farthest desolation, you are there.
Loving Presence, you accompany us; you sustain us, and we thank you.
You have formed our inner nature; you create us by your grace.
How vast is your love! We praise you,
for we are astoundingly and wonderfully made.
Search us, and remove whatever is evil in us,
and lead us in the way everlasting.

Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: We thank you and we worship you.
God, you search us and know us;
you are all about us, within us and among us.
Your presence is everywhere; help us to be aware.
Come be with us now, God, and help us in our worship.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, you are the potter; we are the clay.
All: Shape us by your Word.
By your grace help us to turn from the things we possess
and worship you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
By your grace help us to take up our cross and follow.
Savior of the world, we devote our hearts to you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Potter God, shape us by your Word. Fashion us with your divine skill. In your grace re-make us in your image. Speak to us, and your Word will call us to new life. Amen.

God of love, Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But we confess that we hold back; we cling to many things. Grant us the faith to trust your grace, to let go of all that burdens us, and to take up Christ’s love for the world and follow him in faith and service. Speak your Word to us, call to us in our fear, and give us courage to follow. Amen.

God, we want to worship you. Christ, we want to follow you. Living within us, you know better than we what holds us back. Spirit, rise up in us now, and bend us toward you. You are the potter; we are the clay. Shape us by your Word. With your steady hands upon us, change us from one degree of glory to another, and form us into your delight. You are the weaver. Weave the threads of our hearts into the tapestry of your image, the Body of Christ, our Savior and our brother. Amen.

Gentle God, you know that we cling to many things in this life. Help us now to let go of them all, and to open ourselves to your presence and your Word. As your scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, help us to hear your voice, and to allow ourselves to be changed, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of love, Jesus called his hearers to leave behind their worldly attachments and follow him. Lead us by your grace to let go of everything to which we cling, so that we can be open to your Word. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Listening prayer

Loving Christ,
hold us with your mercy;
strengthen us with your grace,
that we may hear your challenge,
accept hard teachings,
and follow you no matter the cost,
by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Great Potter God,
we confess we have had a mind of our own,
and shaped our lives as we have chosen,
not as you have hoped for us.
In stillness we repent.
Lay your strong and gentle hands upon us,
and reshape us according to your delight.
Forgive our sin, heal our wounds,
and shape us by your grace,
as vessels of your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       Loving God, you are our creator. You create all things in your love; you create us as an image of your love. You are the potter; we are the clay. We submit ourselves to your shaping hands.
       Loving Christ, you who perfectly embodied God’s love, who taught and healed, who fed the hungry and gathered the outcast: you call us to follow you. You were willing to pay the cost for your radical faithfulness to God: you were crucified. But God raised you from the dead. The way of the cross is not the way of death, but the way of Life! Christ, you call us to surrender all and follow you. We submit ourselves to your life-giving Way.
       Loving Spirit, it is by your power alone that we are faithful, You breathe in us; you give us grace to take up our cross and follow. Make us people of trust and forgiveness, people of prayer, people of resurrection. You are the potter and we are the clay: mold us and shape us according to your will. Amen.

Leader: God, like a thoughtful grandmother you knit each of us a life.
All: Like a weaver at her loom of beauty you weave us together.
Like an artful potter you shape us for your purposes.
And when we are distorted you re-shape us again.
You are the beauty that draws us toward life.
You are the love that beckons us out of self-centeredness
and toward our sisters and brothers in compassion and gratitude.
You are the treasure that is worth the greatest cost.
Alleluia! We gladly give up everything and turn to you.
Bless us, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia

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 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.

We thank you, God, for we are wondrously made.
You know us inside and out, and are with us always.
Even in the farthest places you are with us;
even in the darkest times you are light.
You set us free from all that enslaves us,
and ask us to set one another free.
Like a master potter you shape us by your love.
And so we come to your table to be re-shaped again,
singing 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 loved even at the cost of his life,
and asks us to do the same.
Under an oppressive power he was crucified,
but by your infinite grace he was raised from the dead.

     (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,
with courage and compassion no matter the cost,
salty with your love,
for the sake of the healing 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

God of love, you have shaped us by your Word; now send us into the world to embody that Word, forsaking all our possessions, our habits and attachments, to follow Christ with courage, to heal the broken and set free the oppressed with compassion, and to praise you in all things, by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit in us. We pray, as we live, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the love of Jesus you have salted us with your love, that we may serve you for the sake of justice, with courage and compassion. May this mystery live in us always. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

I Am Open (Original song)

Dear gentle Jesus, I open to you
the deepest secrets of my soul.
My heart is open, wounded and broken.
Heal and forgive and make me whole.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Beloved Jesus, my eyes are open;
your healing touch restores my sight.
Like open windows, they shine, and in flows
your glory filling me with light.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

My wounded Jesus. Your arms are open,
our hurt and dying to embrace.
When I would close them, hold my arms open,
to be so loving by your grace.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Now risen Jesus, my life is open,
a flower unfolding in the sun:
by your light growing, and boldly showing
the love of God, as you have done.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

I Take Up My Cross (Original song)

Letting go, I am held. I take up my cross and follow.

1. Jesus, you call to me, and draw me into your life.
2. Christ, I leave all behind, to follow you in love.
3. I yield my life to you, for you alone are God.
4. Loved with your costly love, I’ll suffer for the sake of love.
5. Christ, make my one desire to be to serve you in love.

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