September 25, 2022
In Jeremiah 32.1-15 Jerusalem is under siege, but Jeremiah buys some land as an act of hope, trusting that the time will come when peace is restored.
Psalm 91 celebrates God’s protective care that shelters us, even when there is danger all around.
1 Timothy 6. 6-19 warns against the love of money, invites us to practice contentment, and encourages us to live faithfully with trust in Christ, whose dominion is eternal.
Luke 16. 19-31 is a parable of a man so obsessed with his own wealth and comfort that he can not see the poor, either in this life or the next.
Hope is not just wishing for something in the future.. It’s trusting in what is already present though unseen. The prophet trusts God is at work and will restore Jerusalem. Hope is different from wishing in that it is an action, an investment in the hoped-for future, helping to make it present.
It’s hard not to read into this Psalm our desire to avoid suffering. If I’m God’s faithful believer, surely God will protect me from suffering, right? That was the very temptation Jesus had to wrestle with in the desert. The devil quotes verse 12: “Angels will bear you up lest you even stub your toe.” Of course Jesus rejected that temptation—and sure enough, he wasn’t saved by any angels when he was crucified. So is the promise “no evil shall befall you” a hoax? Because if it doesn’t mean that, then what in the world does this Psalm mean? Maybe it’s about more than physical comfort. You can suffer and still remain intact. You are beloved, and your personhood, your being, your soul is protected, even if your body or your reputation is wounded or your situation is miserable. I think it may be only in our deepest suffering that we can discover this mystery: that you can be both suffering and whole, both wounded and beautiful. You may get hurt, but God will keep your soul safe.
Indeed we are more than our bodies. We identify so deeply with our body that we come to think we are our body, assuming that “I” am what’s inside this bag of biology. Paul calls that illusion “living by the flesh.” But we are more than that. We’re part of the Body of Christ. Living by the Spirit we’re aware that we’re not just isolated individuals but a community. You is always “you-all.” When we give our hearts to God, to the Love at the center of existence, we become part of eternal life—something infinite and eternal and essentially invulnerable. It doesn’t me we won’t get hurt. (The cross reminds us.) It means we can’t be destroyed. (Resurrection reminds us.)
It doesn’t say money is the root of all evil. It says love of money is the root of all evil. Money is a useful tool. But do you use your money to love yourself or your neighbors?
Who do we “see”? The rich man does not see Lazarus as a human being in his own right, as a peer, a brother. He probably doesn’t see him at all. And in the afterlife he sees him only as a servant. The rich man sees only himself and his his own needs. Jesus seems to notice people that others ignore. He often asks his disciples, “Do you see this person…?” And tells them, “Go and look….” What are we missing? Who are we not seeing?
Who are you? The rich man has no name; he’s just labeled according to his possessions. But, unique in all Jesus’ stories, the poor man has a name! Lazarus. When he dies he’s treated with care and honor, carried by angels, but the rich man just dies, period. It’s as if Jesus is painting a complete and compassionate picture of the poor man as a whole human being, and letting the rich man define himself, in starkest terms, by his money. We often define ourselves by various possessions, attributes, activities, career, or or history—a banker, an athlete, a murderer, a poor man—but Jesus sees us as souls, individuals with stories, hopes, beauty, wounds and worth. How do you judge people? Who do you think you are?
Family. The rich man is concerned only for himself, and finally, sort of for his brothers, but his circle of care expands no farther. Lazarus has no “brothers,” but he has a family: “Father” Abraham cradles him, presumably with everybody else. We can have as wide and deep a family, a circle of care, as we want. When our sense of family includes the poor, despite our having to share in their suffering, there is heaven itself. How great a family do you want?
Hunger. Our fears (of scarcity and loss of control, for example) and our desires (for comfort & security, for control) shield us like the rich man’s gate from our deepest hunger, which is not for things, but for sharing life. The rich man is starving for faith—for a life of compassion. How hungry are you for a life of compassion?
The chasm. In Jesus’ time you were simply born rich or poor. People didn’t change economic levels. In life a gate separates the rich man and Lazarus. There is no law that the rich man must feed the poor. (Jesus’s hearers would be surprised that he was tormented in Hades!) So the “gate” between him and Lazarus is one of tradition and social norms. But he chooses to hide behind it. In death a “great chasm” is fixed between them. I don’t think it’s a natural gap: it’s the (formerly) rich man’s poverty of compassion. He can’t cross it to experience blessing in the “bosom of Abraham” until he can cross the chasm of his own lack of compassion. What divides you from those who are poor or suffering?
If someone rises… Abraham says, “If people do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Here’s Matthew’s cut against people who deny the faith: Jesus rose, but people don’t believe him. But more generally, it’s a critique of folks who just won’t listen. If you won’t listen to scripture and learn with humility and openness, you aren’t going to learn anywhere.
Call to Worship
Leader: God of abundant generosity, you bless us.
All: We are rich in your grace.
Loving Christ, you bless the broken and the needy, and you come to us.
We are poor in spirit.
Holy Spirit, you rouse us, you open our eyes, you stir us to compassion.
We open the gates of our hearts to you. Come in, and be our love.
2. [ Ps. 91]
Leader: O Holy One, we live in the house of your love,
in the shelter of your presence.
All: You are our refuge, our belonging, our home!
You guide us safely around dangers beyond us and within us.
Your mercy is our shelter. Your faithfulness is our security.
People around us may get anxious; thousands may get frantic;
but we do not fear. You bear us up on unseen hands.
You are with us, and you give us your own life.
We return to you. We surrender to you. We worship you.
Leader: Generous Creator, you give us life abundantly.
All: You shower us with riches. How can we not praise?
Christ our brother, you show us grace among the world’s neglected souls.
You have blessed us beyond our deserving. How can we not sing?
Spirit of Truth, you hide in glory among the human race.
You call to us. How can we not share?
Come, Love, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Leader: Loving God, we are hungry for your word.
You invite us to your table, to feast on your grace.
So many around us are hungry for food.
You invite us to share our table, that we may feast on grace.
Nourish us with your Spirit, that we may serve you faithfully.
May our lives be a generous feast of love and gratitude.
Collect / Prayer of the Day
Merciful God, you provide for us a place of belonging, a home in the arms of your love. Safe in your grace, we open our hearts to your Word of life. Speak to us, transform us, and empower us with your love for this world. Amen.
God of love, Holy Oneness, you who are wholeness and life and truth, we open our hearts to you. Dulled by our comforts and our privilege, we ask you to open our eyes, stir our hearts, and move us to do your will. Speak to us and awaken us with your Word. Amen.
3. [ I Timothy 6.6-19]
God, you who dwell in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to you be honor and eternal dominion. You give life to all things; and we want to take hold of the life that really is life. Speak your Word to us; call us to your side, so that we might keep your commandments and be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen
God, you are our light and our day.
Open the windows of our minds,
that your dawn may pour in.
Open the eyes of our hearts,
that we may see, in beauty and truth. 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 mercy,
we confess our sin:
that our vision has failed,
our compassion has waned,
and we have not lived
the lives of love you intended.
Forgive us, heal us,
and restore us in Christ. Amen.
Silent prayer … The Word of Grace
Response / Creed / Affirmation
We trust in you, God, creator of all things, provider of life. You create us in your image, covenant to be our God, walk with us all our days, set us free from all that diminishes life, and lead us toward your Reign of Grace.
We follow Jesus, your Christ, the embodiment of your love and presence. He healed and taught, fed the hungry and gathered the outcast, and announced the good news of your forgiveness. He noticed and named the poor, welcoming them into your family of grace. For his witness he was killed by the powers of oppression; but you have raised him from the dead.
We live by the Holy Spirit, your resurrected love in us. In gratitude and humility we devote ourselves as the Body of Christ to love, mercy, reconciliation and justice. Open our eyes to know your desire for us, that we may live for the sake of your Reign of Grace, in the name of Christ, now and always. Amen.
We put our trust in God, creator of all that is and ruler of all that is to come, who loves all people, and whose mercy is not bound by our fears and prejudices, but is infinite and absolute.
We give our hearts to Jesus, the Christ, God’s Word of love made flesh, who taught and healed, who noticed those whom others did not see and included those whom others did not want. He created a community of grace, redemption and transformation. He was crucified and raised from the dead, and lives among us still, calling us to lives of grace and mercy.
We are vessels of the Holy Spirit, God’s compassion in us. We serve as one church, the Body of Christ. We honor the neglected mystery that all people eat at one table. Knowing we are poor in spirit, we follow Christ’s call to love, and devote ourselves to lives of compassion and justice, looking toward the day when all of God’s Beloved gather as one in peace, abundance, and joy. Amen.
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
O Love, Most High,
you are our shelter.
Under your wings,
safe from the terrors of the world,
we rest in you.
Hold us in the great silence of your Word.
[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.
Generous God, we thank you. For all of life is a feast of your abundance.
You feed us with beauty and grace.
You call all your children to your table.
Here we eat with rich and poor, insider and outcast, with gratitude.
When we lose our way, when we become selfish, you bring us back.
Here at your table all are cherished, the feted and the forgotten,
the familiar and the foreign, together singing your praise:
Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ
who fed the hungry together with the rich.
He prepared a feast of grace and belonging
and invited everyone as one family to the table,
the table of life.
(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:
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 food for the hungry and love for the outcast,
for we are all siblings in one family,
gathered at the table of life.
All thanks and glory be to you, God,
Parent and Provider of us all.
* 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. Open our eyes to the needy among us, and send us, in true poverty of spirit, to share with them, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.
Gracious God, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Fed by your love, may we reach out to all our siblings and provide them a place at the table, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.
God of love, in your grace you make us all one family, rich and poor, near and far. Send us forth with compassion for all our siblings, that we may invite all and share with all the feast of your abundance. Amen.
Prayer after Communion
God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Open our eyes to your beloved poor among and around us, mindful that we are poor in spirit and fed by your grace, eager to share the sacrament of generosity, and grateful that we are all your beloved children. Amen.
(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)
Do Justice (Original song)
“Do justice, love mercy,
walk humbly with your God.”
Oh, help us humbly live your justice,
your love, your mercy.
Feast on Mercy (Original song)
May not my comfort cloud my eyes to see the needy at my door.
But, poor in spirit, may I rise and feast on mercy with the poor.
Poor Christ, I confess: I cling to all that I possess.
Open my eyes to see the poor who bear your image to my door.
May my privilege and place not blind me to my need for grace.
With empty hands I come, for I am sure with grace, O God, you feed the poor.
As one who by your hand is fed I hunger now to share your bread.
To see that justice for the poor is done, for at your table we are one.
Open My Heart (Tune: Open My Eyes)
Open my eyes that I may see everyone ‘round me lovingly,
shedding my labels, habits and fear, see with a heart that’s true and clear.
Patiently, God, may I behold each blessed life as it unfolds.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.
Open my ears and let me hear unspoken stories, unshed tears.
Help me to hear with love shining through stories that no one’s listened to.
Tenderly, God, help me to hold what is within each person’s soul.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine.
Open my heart and grant me love, mercy for those I’m heedless of.
Help me to know each person I face as one you bless with gentle grace.
Lovingly, God, please make me more mindful of those whom we ignore.
Open my heart, illumine me, spirit divine.