OT 27 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

October 2, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Lamentations 1. 1-6 the prophet Jeremiah looks with dismay at the loneliness of Jerusalem after it has been sacked by Babylon and its people taken into exile.

Psalm 137 is the cry of the exiles—and exiles, refugees and other victims of injustice today— who grieve their losses, try to remember and keep alive their former ways of life, and rage against their oppressors.

2 Timothy 1. 1-14 expresses thanks for Timothy’s faith and encourages him (and us) to “rekindle the gift of God within you,” suggesting that faith is not something you “produce,” but something you are given. It’s God’s grace-filled presence in us. Nourish God’s grace in yourself, therefore, and take courage in sharing the good news with others—even suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Trust God in you to guard your faith.

In Luke 17. 5-10 the disciples ask Jesus to “increase their faith.” He tells of the power of faith the size of a mustard seed and the duties of faithful servants.

Preaching Thoughts

Lamentations
      Jeremiah’s cry can sound a lot like people complaining that America is not what it used to be. But it is different in many ways. It is more than sorrow for what Jeremiah and his people have lost. It is sorrow for God and what God has lost. It is not mere whining—complaining to get what you want. And it is nothing like the contemporary phenomenon of privileged white people fearing the loss of their superiority and their “old way of life,” or a rallying cry to “make Israel great again.” It stands in the Hebrew tradition of lament, in which we place our sorrows and fears in God’s hands, and with gratitude and trust leave them there. The Psalms of lament—and there are many—express both individual and communal suffering but assume God’s gracious activity that is unseen in the present, but has been steadfast in the past, and therefore trustworthy for the future. Biblical lament is literature of hope. Jeremiah is strengthened to confront the deep tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem by the hope he already has: remember in last week’s reading, Jeremiah 32.1-15, in which even as the siege is approaching, he buys land, trusting God will restore Jerusalem and life will return. True lament is strong because it is sorrow braided with hope.
This reading invites us not only to name to our own losses but to acknowledge the losses of others in our worldwide family, and also to hold our grief in the light of God’s grace.

Psalm
      Many people feel uncomfortable with the Psalms that that pray for deliverance from and even violence toward our “enemies.” We often skip over those parts, both in public worship and private devotions. Here are some reasons not to.
      1. The Psalms are not all about how we ought to feel or what we wish we believed.  They’re about who we really are.  And we do have angry thoughts & feelings that we need to honestly confess. Sometimes those Psalms express our secret anger. Expressing those feelings doesn’t mean we give our hearts to them; in fact usually saying those things out loud names what we renounce, and leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling: a deep need to repent right now.  These Psalms bring us to confession.
      2.  Our “enemies” are not necessarily other people. I do not consider anybody my enemy, even some deluded terrorist who’d like to blow me up.  My real enemies are my fear, my hunger for approval, my desire for power & control, and so on.  And I do indeed dislike those enemies, and I wish God would destroy them.  To my anger or my self-centeredness I say, “Happy shall be they who take your spawn and dash them against the rock.” Sometimes I need to say that out loud—in the company of a community who can offer forgiveness, transformation and hope.
      3.  The Psalms are not our personal Hallmark cards to God.  They are the cry to God of humanity as a whole.  The Psalms voice not only our own feelings, but also the cry for justice of all who are oppressed.  If these Psalms are more visceral and vengeful than we’re comfortable with that’s because they’re not our cry: they’re their cry of the oppressed against injustice. They were written by real people suffering real evil. In praying these Psalms we take their anguish seriously, we stand in solidarity with them and we lift up their prayer, even if it’s not how we would say it.
      4. Although we do not wish personal harm to come to the perpetrators of injustice, we do oppose their evil, and we lament its fruits. The “enemies” in these Psalm are not necessarily individuals. “Babylon” is not a person; it’s a nation, a corporation, a system, a cultural mindset. We don’t pray for the destruction of people, but we do cry out for the destruction of what an unjust system generates, its “little ones.” Of course by our complicity we ourselves are also enemies of justice—which brings us back to the first two points about confession.
      The Psalms, with all their reverence, anguish, joy, gentleness, sorrow, rage and hope help us embrace our whole experience, worship with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and stand in solidarity with the whole human family and all Creation.

2 Timothy
      This letter may have been written to someone (or a community) whose faith was faltering—not so much that they were finding it hard to believe what they were supposed to believe, but that they were finding it heard to live lives of love and justice in the face of resistance. The gift of God that will sustain us is not right doctrine but “a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” As in Jeremiah’s lament, the author trusts that God is at work, even when we can’t see it.

Luke
     The image of the mustard seed clearly suggests that faith can’t be measured, and that an apparently small “amount” can do powerful things. It also suggests that the power of faith isn’t in the person holding it but in God working through that person. Faith is not something we possess at all, but a relationship, not a power or resource we have but a power that moves through us, if we align ourselves with it, a way of living in harmony with God.
     The parable of the faithful slave may seem like a call to subservience, that God commands and we obey, that risks an interpretation that borders on abuse. But in Jesus’ time for a soldier to be acting “under the command of the Emperor” didn’t just mean he was following orders. It meant he had the authority and power to carry out his actions. I believe what Jesus means by a slave “doing what is commanded” is not just that we should submit to orders, divine or otherwise (thought it is good to do want God says), but that God is working in us. In faith we give ourselves over to that “higher power,” because God is not trying to use us, but empower us. We re not subservient to some power over us, but in harmony with a power that comes from beyond us but is within us. As 2 Timothy says, “God, saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to God’s own purpose and grace.”

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: O rising morn and brother wind, you praise our God.
All: O sister water, and stars of night, you sing of God’s glory.
O Spirit of love, flowing through us like a river, hold us to your way.
O Spirit of courage and justice, burning in us like a fire,
be our strength and our guide.
Holy God, you give us grace to live faithfully in challenging times.
And you give us grace to worship you, with thanksgiving and praise.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Loving God, you have called us with a holy calling,
All: not according to our accomplishments but according to your grace.
We are your servants; lead us to carry out your will.
We are the mustard seeds of your grace;
nourish your spirit in us that we may live with love and faith.
We thank you, and we trust you.
We praise you, and we worship you.

3. (Based on 2 Timothy 1.6-14)
Leader: God, you have saved us and called us with a holy calling.All: Christ, you have abolished death and brought life to light.
You have given us a spirit, not of cowardice,
but of love and power and self-giving.
Holy Spirit, we entrust ourselves to you;
rekindle the gift of your presence in us. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you are the power within an acorn to become an oak, the power within the mustard seed to move great things. Rekindle the power of your love within us, that we may be faithful servants in the work of love. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, there is much to lament in today’s world. And we do lament, and we place our grief in your hands, for we trust that despite all human evil you are at work in the world for healing and grace. Rekindle in us the power of your Spirit, that we may be faithful servants carrying out your command of love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

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.
God of abundant life,
you have planted the seed of your grace within us.
Create an empty, fertile place in us for it to grow.
In silence, we harbor the miracle of your presence;
we let it grow within us.
We lift up to your light and surrender
all those things that hinder our full living
in the power of your Spirit alone in us.
Forgive us, heal us, and bring your power to life in us.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Readings

1. 1 Timothy 1.1-14
Reader: This is the good news: that the grace of Christ was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
All: We thank you, O God for this gift! Help us to trust you.
God has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything that we have done but for God’s own purpose and grace. I know Christ, and my trust is deep. So I am sure that as the gift of faith has been entrusted to me, Christ is able to guard it until that final Day.
We entrust ourselves to you, O Christ. Help us to answer your calling.
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you. Hold yourselves to the high standard of the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus that I have modeled for you. Guard the good treasure of faith entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
We surrender ourselves to you, O Holy Spirit. Help us to love as you delight for us to love.
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be afraid, then, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
Gracious God, live in us, so that we may bear your love into the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2. [Psalm 137]
Leader: We pray for exiles and refugees;
for those who have been displaced,
who have fled their homelands
and those who have been taken into slavery.
We pray with them and join in their song.
All: By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

We pray for all oppressors,
that their eyes may be opened,
that their hearts be changed,
and their terrible fear be healed.
We pray for them
and plead for their conversion.

For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

We lament the lives that are ended.
the families that are broken,
the cultures that are destroyed,
the traditions that are lost,
the voices that are silenced.
We weep with them
and join in their song.

How could we sing the Beloved’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.

We join in their grief.
We honor their terror.
We accept their anger.
We lift their cry.
We stand with them
and join in their song.

Remember, O God, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”

We pray for the end to all violence
and the end to all the results of injustice,
that evil itself be demolished
and its spawn eliminated,
that every human heart be free of fear.
We rage with all victims of injustice
and join in their cry.

O daughter Injustice, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be
who take your offspring
and dash them against the rock!
We pray for exiles and refugees.
We are among them:
for until our siblings are restored,
we ourselves are not at home.
We pray with them,
and join in their silence.
Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     We believe in God, the Creator of all things, who has made us, and who has saved us and called us and given us a spirit of power.
     We look to Jesus Christ, our chief, whose servants we are; who reveals God’s grace to us in his life and ministry, in his death and resurrection.
      We trust in the Holy Spirit, the mustard seed of God within us, who leads us to love, to serve and to find our delight in the grace of God. We commit ourselves to the Body of Christ, to the life of forgiveness, to the healing of the world, and the promise of eternal life. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Eternal God, I am small.
I am your mustard seed.
But you, vast and infinite, are in me.
Rekindle in me your presence,
your power, your love,
that I may bear fruit according to your delight.

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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
By your Word you have created all people in your image.
Though we have all gone astray, each on our separate way,
you have freed us from bondage;
you judge the forces of division and evil,
and destroy the powers of oppression.
By your Spirit you have created your church, one people,
the Body of Christ, united throughout the world in your grace,
and you call us to be reconciled in Christ.
As you draw us to your feast this day, you call all your children;
we are one with them, and we honor them here around this table.
Therefore with the faithful around the world we sing as one voice:
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your beloved Son, your Christ:
he formed community, welcomed the outcast,
and planted a mustard seed of faith in each of us.
He has broken down all dividing walls
and made us one in his love;
for in him you have established with us
an eternal covenant of reconciliation.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

In the death and resurrection of Christ
you have freed us from all that separates us
from one another, and from you.
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of 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.

Rekindle the gift of your Holy Spirit within us, O God,
your Spirit of power and of love and of self-giving.
You saved us and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works but according to your own purpose and grace.

You have entrusted to us this power that we have seen in Christ,
who abolished death and brought life to light in the gospel.
By your Spirit make us mustard seeds of your love.
[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 after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have made us one with all your people in the Body of Christ throughout the earth. Feeding us body and soul, you strengthen us and send us out to be your servants, to participate in your great work of the redemption of the world in the name and the Spirit of Christ, to your eternal delight. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

All that We Hold in Our Hands (Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts)
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.


Five Loaves and Two Fish (Original song)

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The gifts that you have are enough
to shine with the glory of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The love that you have is enough
to offer the healing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The courage you have is enough
to work for the justice of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.
See what you have. See what you have.