OT 28 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost

October 9, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 29.1-7 the prophet writes a letter to the Israelites who have been taken into exile in Babylon. He urges them not to think they have been helplessly deported, but sent for the purpose of ministry: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” God commands us to care for the people around us, even if they are foreigners or “enemies.”

Psalm 66 proclaims God’s gracious care even in adversity (“we went through fire and water, yet you have brought us out…”). In gratitude, the Psalmist says, “I will make an offering.”

In 2 Timothy 2.8-15 Paul celebrates our life in Christ and calls us to be faithful (“If we have died with him, we will also live with him”), trusting Christ’s faithfulness to us. He encourages us to be good workers for God.

In Luke 17.11-19. Jesus heals ten lepers and sends them to show themselves to the priest (to fulfill the law, and perhaps as part of their healing, and a prophetic witness). But only one of them, the one who is a Samaritan, a despised enemy, returns to give thanks before going away. Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      The prophet gives voice to two realities in us. One is that we are here for a purpose, that we have not just “ended up”where we are but that there is some divine intent. This doesn’t mean God “planned” for you to be where you are, doing what you’re doing, but that the universe can use you where you are. That Spirit can flow through you in whatever situation you find yourself.
      The other is the sense that we are in exile. We don’t quite belong. The story of the Hebrew Bible is mostly about God and seeking to be faithful to God, but it is also about seeking to find belonging. We are the people of a “wandering Aramean,” called to go to a foreign land and settle there. Abraham and Sarah wandered in and out of various places, seeking, achieving and losing belonging. Israel was enslaved in Egypt, and rescued, and yet still wandered for 40 years, seeking a place of belonging. God gave laws “so that you may dwell in the land I have given you.” The Babylonian exile repeats the theme again: we are not where we belong.
     The image of exile speaks to our own experience. We’re not necessarily “at home” where we are, in our location or in our culture or in our bodies or our relationships. Sometimes those of us of a certain age feel like strangers in the 21st century. Sometimes you look around your marriage and realize you’re not in the garden any more. Or you watch the news and think, “This is not the country I thought I lived in.” And sometimes you observe your life, or your job, or even just look in the mirror, or feel your knees talking to you, and think, “Wait. Who have I become?” It can be quite profound—that I’ve lost touch with who I’m supposed to be. There’s an element of estrangement, of not quite belonging, or trusting you belong. And Jeremiah says that’s OK. Just seek the welfare of the situation life has put you in. Your belonging is to a greater reality, a more vast energy, than the little plot of what was familiar to you when you were young,and beyond what you can likely discern. God’s use for you exceeds your understanding. Just be willing to show up, be present where you are, and keep shining the light.
     Jeremiah’s message is both comforting and discomforting. It’s reassuring to know we’re of use to the universe no matter what. But it can be less comforting to know there’s sense of loneliness and alienation that’s a part of life. It’s only when we accept this that we are again reassured, that the feeling of exile is a normal human thing, and that our feelings of exile don’t define or limit who we are, why we’re here or what we have to offer. I think one of the fundamental issues of being human is to deal with our capacity to choose to be something other than ourselves, to be in exile from our true selves, and the work—the real struggle, sometimes—to get back to being ourselves, to have a fruitful conversation with our inner sense of exile. That struggle involves three actions: seeking to continually move toward a more authentic being, and to recognize that we never quite make it, that we never fully overcome our alienation from what God envisions in us, and to make our peace with that. To know that even as exiles in our own being, we have purpose, and awkward as it sometimes feels, that’s where we “belong.”

Psalm
     v. 4 “All the earth worships you.” It’s easy to affirm that the created world worships God simply by being. Mountains and flowers praise God simply by being mountains and flowers. A harder step for us to take is to trust that the created world includes us: that we worship God simply by being—especially when we do our best to be the authentic individuals and community God creates us to be, rather then the ones we pretend to be. Again we are invited to confront our sense of exile.
     v. 6“You turned the sea into dry land.” This is obviously a reference to the exodus, a partner to the theme of exile. Biblically it is God who rescues us from both. As we recount “what God has done” (v. 5) we’re invited in particular to be mindful of what God has set us free from. As clearly as the ancient Israelites remembered their liberation from slavery, as clearly as an alcoholic remembers how long they’ve been sober, we should be mindful of how God as set us free and has “kept us among the living” (v. 9). How have you been set free?
     v. 10 “You have tested us.” The psalm expresses Israel’s suffering as God’s intentional action; it may be more a function of fate, as well as consequences of Israel’s actions. But the underlying message is that God didn’t abandon the people. We may have gone “through fire and through water” (v. 12) but God has been faithful to us and brought us through. What has God brought you through?
     v. 12 “You have brought us out to a spacious place.” It’s a lovely image of deliverance: being brought out to a place where we have room to grow, room to be ourselves, room to play.

2 Timothy 2
     v. 11-13: The saying is sure:
If we have died with Christ, we will also live with Christ;
if we endure, we will also reign with Christ;
if we deny Christ, Christ will also deny us;
if we are faithless, Christ remains faithful
(for Christ cannot deny Christ’s own self).

     It’s hard to know how to handle this ancient hymn. Will Christ deny us? Peter did, but Jesus didn’t deny him. The saying seems to assume that for Christ to remain faithful is to be faithful to some principle—that there is reward for affirming Christ (that is, I guess, being Christian) and punishment, or at least withholding of blessing, for not doing do so. This arises, I think from the Christian sense that we need to convert people. But I think for Christ to be faithful is specifically to be faithful to us, not to some principle. That’s what love is. That was Jesus’ message. The saying tries to paint Christ’s relationship with us as symmetrical but it isn’t. That’s the whole point of grace. In fact we are faithless, and Jesus is faithful to us anyway. In preaching this I don’t think we can pretend the hymn doesn’t say this, or that it means something else. I think we just have to acknowledge that it’s there, and, with the help of plenty of other scripture, disagree with the image of Christ denying us.
     
Luke
     It can be easy to take God’s grace for granted. We are often among the “other nine” who forget to offer thanks. This story is about gratitude, and also privilege. The one who does return to give thanks is a Samaritan—one of the bad guys. The more privilege we’re given, like by being white, middle class, well-educated, straight Christians, the easier it is to assume we’re the center of the world, and that we deserve good treatment from life. Tragedy happens to other people. Privilege engenders entitlement. But those who are routinely marginalized know not to expect such privilege, and are more acutely grateful for every blessing. Though we can’t deny our privilege, as we can be mindful that everything, even what society says we “deserve,” is actually a gift. Sometimes we just forget to give thanks. This story asks of us the same question the Psalm does: How have you been healed? Are you grateful?
    Gratitude is not a feeling. It’s a practice. It’s the action of taking stock of what we’ve been given; letting go of all our sense of entitlement; and receiving those blessings as unearned, unwarranted gifts, the overflowing of God’s delight. Truly beholding them as unearned sometimes leads us back into deeper repentance of our sense of entitlement, which deepens our gratitude. It’s not that blessed people are grateful. It’s that grateful people are blessed. The more grateful we are, the more we experience things as gifts, and discover deeper joy.
    The other nine are, of course, going to show them selves to the priest, as both Jewish law prescribes and Jesus has told them to do. The one Samaritan has departed from what he was instructed to do. Maybe sometimes our true heart leads us to step aside from prescribed religious paths to a more direct encounter with Christ.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: What wondrous gifts our Creator has given us!
All: God, we are in awe, and we praise you!
What amazing love Christ has offered us
Christ, we are healed, we are changed, and we thank you!
What blessings and powers the Holy Spirit has given us!
You have given us new life! We turn to you in gratitude,
to give you our thanks and praise, to give you our lives!


2.
Leader: Creator God, for the gifts of Creation
All: we thank you.
Loving Christ, for the gift of your grace and your presence
we thank you.
Holy Spirit, for your power in us, giving us life and love
we thank you.
We praise you. We worship you. Alleluia!


3.
Leader: Eternal God, Source of all life, for all Creation, and for your grace,
All:
with grateful hearts, we thank you!
Risen Christ, for your tender love, your healing touch, your dying and rising,
with grateful hearts, we thank you!
Holy Spirit, for your mystery, for your beauty, for your power in us,
with grateful hearts, we thank you!
For our grateful hearts, we thank you!
May our lives be a prayer of thanks and praise!


4.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: God of abundant grace, we thank you!
Christ, you who have died and risen, we greet you.
Christ, our brother, our savior and our Chief, we thank you!
Holy Spirit, you fill us with life and love, with power and beauty.
You fill us with compassion and gratitude,
with thanksgiving and awe. We thank you. Alleluia!
Arise, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


5.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You alone are holy, and we worship you.
Glory be to you, O God of all Creation.The turning leaves remind us of your glory;
they sing of the beauty of your love.
Help us to turn to you, God,
and so reveal our deepest beauty.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

6.
Leader: Loving Creator, we praise you.
All: Gentle Healer, we thank you.
Faithful Redeemer, we adore you.
Beautiful Savior, we worship you.
May our hearts always overflow with gratitude.
Alleluia. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love and mercy, you have blessed us in so many ways. We thank you. We come to you in gratitude and humility and offer our lives and thanks, knowing even in our giving we receive. Speak your Word to us, that we may live our thanks all our days, in the name and the Spirit and the presence of Christ. Amen.

2.
God, when you have spoken to our hearts it has given us joy. We are grateful. So we listen again. Bless us, that we may receive, be changed, and serve you. Amen.

3.
God of love, we come before you distracted, impatient and blinded by our desires. Open our eyes to the wonders you bestow upon us. Open our hearts to the miracles you work among us. Open our ears to your Word now as you speak to us in scripture, and in our hearts. Amen.

4.
God of infinite grace, fountain of life, you shower abundant blessings on us. You are a waterfall of blessing, a ceaseless spring of delight, the sun of mercy. Your Word is an infinite gift. Your presence is our eternal home. With gratitude we open our hearts to your Word, to your presence, to your grace. In joy, we look for the presence of Christ. In trust and gratitude, we listen for your voice. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor:
The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Gracious God, we have been tried and found wanting.
In the light of your Spirit we give thanks for our blessings,
repent of our sins,
and ask your grace for our struggles.
By the grace that we know in Christ,
forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

2.

God of gentle mercy, we confess our sin,
that we have not lived in perfect trust and gratitude,
compassion and joy.
Our hearts have been broken and we have lived in fear.
Forgive us and heal our hearts
in the name of the crucified and risen Christ. Amen.

3.
….
We confess we have tended to ourselves,
and not to the welfare of the place we have bee sent.
Forgive our sin, heal our fear;
open our eyes, widen our gaze,
deepen our trust and strengthen our compassion,
in the Spirit and grace of Christ.



Readings

A prayer of thanks
Leader: Creator God, for the gifts of Creation, for earth and sea, sky and stars,
for plants and animals and all living creatures, and for food that you give us,
All: we give you thanks!
For the gifts of beauty, for art and music, for literature and drama, for the beauty of each culture and every language,
we give you thanks!
For the gifts of community, for all those who have come before us, for those who have taught us and provided for us, for all those who have helped us in our life’s journey,
we give you thanks!
For family and loved ones, for love that has not failed us, for friends who have stood by us in hard times,
we give you thanks!
For the gift of Christ, your love embodied among us, and for the gift of faith, for our traditions, for scripture and teachings of wisdom, for the whole Body of Christ, all people who seek union with you throughout the world,
we give you thanks!
For your grace, walking with us each moment of our lives, for your forgiveness and your guidance, for your blessings even in the hardest of times, and your abiding presence, for your amazing love poured out into us and through us,
we give you thanks! May we always be grateful.
May our lives be songs of humble, joyful praise!

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     God of abundance, we thank you for your gifts! You have created all things by your Word, and created us in your image. We are in awe, and full of wonder.
     Christ, our healer, teacher and savior, we thank you for your gifts. You have gathered us into a community of hope and compassion. You have given us your blessing and offered to us your wisdom. You have filled us with you Spirit and your love. You died for us, and rose that we too might die and rise in faith. So we follow you with trust and gratitude.
     Holy Spirit, you give us gifts with which to serve God and our neighbors. You make us into one body by the grace of your presence, with the power to forgive. Trusting in the mystery of resurrection and your presence within us, we devote ourselves to you, Holy One, in courage and compassion. And in all things, we thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Loving God,
every moment has been a gift,
every moment.
And we have taken them for granted.
We have been healed and held,
blessed and beloved.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank 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 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.

Creator God, we thank you for the gift of Creation.
For your love and grace, we thank you.
For setting us free from all that oppresses,
and healing us of all that wounds us, we thank you.
For calling us to join you in resisting injustice
and mending the world, we thank you.
For making us one in your Spirit and gathering us here, we thank you.
In gratitude we come to this feast of thanks,
singing your praise with all Creation.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who gave gifts of food and healing,
of love and attention, of acceptance and delight.
For his love for us, we thank you.
For his steadfast companionship, we thank you.
By the powers of injustice he was crucified,
but you raised him from the dead, and we thank you.
In inviting us here to his table he embodies your forgiveness,
and your Covenant to be with us always in love.

     (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.
Your Spirit make us one, and we thank you.
Your Spirit gives us gifts and healing powers, and we thank you.
Your Spirit sends us into the world
to love, to heal and to share your delight, and we thank 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, in gratitude for all you have given us, and in faithful stewardship of what you have placed in our hands to share with the world, 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, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
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. Give us hearts of gratitude that overflow in generosity, for the sake of the healing 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. As in this ordinary meal we have seen your presence, so every moment is a miracle of grace. Fill our hearts, heal our fears, lift our spirits, and guide our feet to follow in your ways with gratitude and delight, in the Spirit and company of Jesus. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

God, We Thank You      (Tune: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling)

God, with grateful hearts we thank you for your blessings and your grace,
gifts of life and all Creation, gift of all the human race.
For your boundless love and mercy, your forgiveness, given free,
Loving One, we praise and thank you—singing, living joyfully.

For your healing, for your wisdom, guiding us through all our days,
for each person and their varied gifts, we give you endless praise.
Give us grace to thank you, God, for grace that hides in everything.
Give us eyes and ears to notice; give us grateful hearts to sing.

May we come to life in wonder at the gifts that you bestow;
and in generosity of hand and spirit overflow.
Blossoming in gratitude, God, may we gladly serve and give,
praising you in all we do, with thanks throughout the lives we live.