OT 29 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

October 16, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 31.27-34 the prophet promises restoration after a time of calamity. And he announces God will establish a new Covenant: not a legal code that can be written down, but a faithful relationship that is alive in our hearts. In this relationship we won’t be accountable for ancestors’ misdeeds according to an honor code, but only for our own.

Psalm 119. 97-104 Celebrates God’s Word and its life-giving power for us. Each line uses a different image for God’s Word: law, statutes, precepts, etc., but they are not “rules:” they are God’s promises.
   —Or—
Psalm 19 says all Creation sings God’s truth. The psalm celebrates God’s Word, or Covenant, or “law”—not legal requirements, but a faithful relationship that we are invited to enter. We are not even aware of the ways we betray faithfulness to the Covenant, so we pray, “Clear me from hidden faults.”

2 Timothy 3.14 – 4.5 encourages us to be faithful in speaking the truth, even if people want us to say only what they want to hear.

In Luke 18.1-8 Jesus encourages faithfulness in prayer with a story of a callous judge who won’t hear, but finally responds to a persistent widow who pleads for justice.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
     Here is the real meaning, if not the origin of the phrase, of “learning by heart.” Our Covenant with God isn’t a set of rules, it’s a faithful relationship.There are no commandments you can post on the Courthouse wall, just a commitment in our hearts. Like a marriage. It’s hard for some folks to imagine God not actually having any laws. No rewards and punishments. No judgment, no heaven or hell as payback. Just love. Somebody actually said to me once, “Then why be good?” I asked him about his marriage.

Psalm 119
     Each of all 176 verses of this psalm refers to God’s Word, with a dozen different expressions: commandments, teachings, ways, precepts, promise, statues… It’s tempting to think of legal “laws,” but again God’s “laws” aren’t rules to be followed. They’re eternal and absolute principles that exist, like the law of gravity. God’s laws are things like love, justice, unity, forgiveness, giving-and-receiving, wholeness and healing, and so on. To really get the sense of the psalm, substitute “love” for each occurrence of the euphemism for “law.” That’s what it’s getting at. “Obeying” God’s laws doesn’t mean being subservient to some demand, expectation or requirement; it means living in harmony with God’s grace. This psalm is a prayer seeking to be in harmony with God, living in the way of love.

Psalm 19
     The heavens are telling the glory of God. All of Creation is expresses God’s Word. Not words, but Word—Truth. Every created thing, even the passage of time from night to day, is God speaking.
     The law of God is perfect. Again, as in Psalm 119, God’s “laws” aren’t requirements; they’re the basic and absolute principles of life as God creates it. They don’t constrict life; they create it, bless it, and empower it.
     Who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. When we define “sin” as knowingly breaking God’s commandments we make two mistakes. One is that God’s laws can’t actually be broken. You can’t break the law of gravity. You can ignore or abuse God’s grace but you can’t get around it. The other is that we can follow all the rules and still never actually love God perfectly or love our neighbor as ourselves. We have no idea the ways in which we fail to love perfectly and live in perfect harmony with God’s grace. No idea. I treasure the wisdom of this prayer. I know I’ve missed the mark a million times. Forgive me for the ways I’ve sinned I don’t even know. And help me see better.
     Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. This is not a request for God to be lenient but for us to be faithful. The hope is to effect our faithfulness, which is fickle, not God’s acceptance, which is absolute. Many preachers say these words before they begin a sermon. My hope is that they’ve said them, continually, while they wrote the sermon. The beast way to pray this prayer is in silence, letting God offer the words and meditations.

2 Timothy
     Continue in what you have learned… Give thanks for what you have been taught, and “from whom you learned it,” some of whom signed up for it and some of whom never knew they were teaching you. And give thanks for “how from childhood you have known….” Whether or not you’ve known them from childhood, none of us ever becomes a full-blown Christians all by ourselves. We’ve been taught, led, accompanied. Give thanks for that community! Give thanks for that odd old Sunday School teacher who told you strange stories when you were a kid, and maybe got it all wrong, even the stern teacher who practically scared you away from Jesus for life. They were part of the gang, part of the gift. And give thanks for the “sacred writings,” some of which were pure truth and some of which were one generation’s bad attempt to reach God. They’re all part of the gift.
     All scripture is inspired. It doesn’t mean it was dictated by God. Doesn’t even guarantee it’s the truth. It just means the Holy Spirit was active in its writing. It’s part of Holy Spirit’s story. I think of scripture as the community’s shared reflection on what it means to be God’s people. It includes lots of perspectives —it was written by dozens of people over hundreds of years. Some of the community’s reflections turn out to be inadequate or even wrong. Many of them contradict each other. But they’re all part of the journey, al part of the community (including us) engaged in actively discerning God in the world and how to live in harmony with God. And the point, note, is not so that we believe the right stuff, but that we love, that we are “equipped for every good work.”

Luke
     A parable about their need to pray always. And by praying we usually mean asking for stuff. So, yeah, if even the mean-hearted judge acquiesces, won’t God? Yes. But. Who is who in this story? Who, though told “do not judge,” judges anyway? We do. Who cares for neither God not humans? That would be us. And who continually pleads for justice? That would be God. The judge does not represent God in this story; the widow does. Prayer is not making demands: it’s listening. God has to come to us again and again pleading for justice, in humble, powerless form, in the poor , in the sick and rejected, in the orphan and the widow, in the peasant hung on a cross. And still we don’t listen. But God will wear us down with her insistent coming, until we relent. O we need to prayer—listen—always and not lose heart, that is, not lose our love, our willingness to listen.
    Funny how the role reversal tricks us, huh? Judge? Must be God. Poor widow? Can’t be God. Check that every time you read the Bible. Or the news.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of justice, you brought us up out of slavery into a place of freedom.
All: We thank you and we praise you.
God of mercy, you have given us your law;
you have given us gifts of wisdom and power to order our world according to your grace.
We bow to you, and pray that we may so order our lives.
God of truth, you speak your Word to us; you raise your voice in our inner hearts.
Help us to listen.
Speak to us now, and shape us by your love, that we may do your will. Amen.


2.
Leader: Creating God, by your Word you bring all things into being.
All: Speak, for all the universe listens.
In Christ you have spoken your love to us.
Speak, for your people are listening.
Holy Spirit, your Word unfolds in us, and gives light.
Speak in us, for we are listening.

3. [from Psalm 19]
Leader: The heavens are telling the glory of God! Holy One, all Creation speaks your Word.
All: There is no human speech, yet the whole universe proclaims you.
God, your truth is perfect, reviving the soul.
We desire your Word more than gold.
But who can detect their errors?
Clear us from hidden faults, and do not let selfish ways have dominion over us.
Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts
be the kind that are delightful to you,
O Love, our rock and our redeemer.


4.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
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!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, in this world of hurt we cry to you: hear our prayer.
God of love, speak to us, and give us grace to listen.
God of truth, help us to hear the truth, and to live accordingly. Amen.

2.
God of patient love, we confess that we often lose heart, and forget to pray. Speak to us in scripture, in our hearts and in one another, for we are hungry for your Word. Amen.

3.
God of grace and truth, your Spirit breathes in scripture, so that it is fruitful for teaching, for training in love, for equipping us for every work of love. Open the eyes and ears of our hearts to see your presence and hear your Word, so that we may do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with you, in the name of Christ. Amen.

3.
Eternal God, all Creation sings your praise. Every day is a word from you. You speak to us in quiet, even silent ways. Help us to listen with the ears of our hearts; help us to hear and be created again. We pray in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we bring our many prayers to you, and cry out for you to hear us. But first, we will listen to you. As your Scripture is read and your good news proclaimed, help us to listen and to hear. Speak, Lord, for your children are listening. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of gentle mercy,
we confess our sin;
for our brokenness,
known to us and unknown,
keeps us from loving perfectly.
Receive us, forgive us,
transform us,
and set us free to live by your grace alone. Amen.

[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

2.
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.
Loving God, your Word is our life.
But we have not listened;
we have not given attention to your voice;
we have not followed your will or answered your promptings.
Forgive us, change our hearts,
and help us to listen. Amen.

[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

3.
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 truth,
you have spoken your Word to us and in us
but we have not listened to you.
We have not been mindful of your presence,
or attentive to your voice.
Forgive the hardness of our hearts.
Have mercy on us, heal us, and create us anew,
that we might live by the power of your Word
and in the light of your grace.
We open our hearts to you, God.
Come, and be present.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
Leader:
We hear your voice, O God, calling us to justice and compassion.
All: You will not give up on us. We are listening.
We hear your voice, O Christ, calling out to us among the poor and the rejected.
You are continually coming to us. We are listening.
We hear your voice, Holy Spirit, deep within us.
You give us hearts of compassion that we do not want to lose.
Help us to do justice, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with you. By your grace, God, we are listening.

2.
Leader: Eternal God, all of Creation sings your praise.
All: Every day is your Word, and every night discloses your truth.
Creation does not use words, but it reveals your grace.
Your truth is our very being; your Word gives us life.
Your promises are more precious than anything in our lives.
Your Covenant is our life itself.
Help us, then, to pay attention.
Give us grace to let go of everything and listen.
Help us to attend to what is hidden, to hear what is silent.
For in the voices that are silenced, in quiet pleadings,
you speak your truth and you lead us to justice.
God, if we listen humbly and faithfully, we hear your voice.
Alleluia! Living Christ, speak to us,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


3.
We trust in God, Spirit of life, Creator of all that is and all that is to come; who surrounds us and fills us; who speaks the Word of life in us; and so we listen. We listen to Jesus, Revealer of God, our brother and teacher; who lived in prayer, and in love. Listening to God’s voice and doing God’s will, he gave his life in love; but God raised him to life that is eternal; and so we follow him. We follow in the power of Holy Spirit, God alive in us, for the sake of the healing of the world. We trust in the power of love, the call to forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the gift of the universal Church as the body of Christ, and the mystery of eternal life. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Loving God, Patient One,
we set aside our judging,
knowing with such certainty;
instead we listen for your presence,
your humble, unassuming, quiet voice
that never gives up on us.
By your grace, we listen.

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. Help us to listen for your voice, to hear your cry for justice, to discern your Word, and to humbly follow, for the sake of 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)

I Wait for Your Will      (Original song)

I wait for your will.
I wait for your will, O God,
for your loving will,
your life-giving will.
I wait for your will, O God.

1. All I desire to control
I let go and place into your hands, my God.
2. Heal and protect and provide.
Hear me and stay by my side.
3. You are my wisdom and strength.
I will do your will alone, my God.
4. Help me to listen and wait,
trusting your Spirit to move, my God.


Listen       (Original song)

(verse 1, Transfiguration version)
“This is my dear Beloved Son,
the Light of Life, my Chosen One.
And so I ask by grace, by choice,
you listen for his gentle voice.
/
(verse 1, Elijah version)
“Not in the earthquake, fire or wind
will you find me, your faithful friend;
but in the silence is my Word:
it is not spoken, but is heard.
/
“For when you listen and attend
in silence deep, you meet your Friend,
whose voice no words can catch or hold,
and yet whose love is clearly told.

“And listen well with love’s deep art,
to what is in your neighbor’s heart,
for there I dwell, and there I speak;
and there I hide, for you to seek.

“My glory shines in every face
of my beloved human race.
So listen well with wond’ring care:
behold my glory shining there.”


My Heart Is Open      (Original song)

I listen for your Word. My heart is open.

I hunger for your Word. I listen for your voice.
I hold the silence, Love, so you may gently speak to me.

Show me your ways, O God, teach me, O Holy One,
and lead me in your path. For you I listen all day long.

I listen for you, Love, and in your Word I hope.
More than the watchers wait for morning, God, I wait for you.

I listen for your Word. My Heart is open, open.