OT 11: 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

June 18, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 18. 1-15. Although God has promised an heir to Abraham and Sarah, they are old and without any children. Three visitors tell them that they will have a son—news so preposterous that Sarah laughs.

Psalm 116. A song of thanks to God: “When I was brought low God saved me.”

Romans 5. 1-8. We accept suffering because through it we experience God’s love. Even though we are sinners, in love Christ gives his life for us.

Matthew 9.35 – 10.8 Jesus goes about healing, and sends out his apostles with instructions to proclaim and to heal.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis. Like a TV series that ends each episode with a cliff-hanger leading you on to the next episode, Genesis gives us a cliff-hanger in each generation: will God fulfill the covenant to give Abraham descendants? Here’s the first. Abraham and Sarah are old, and—dun dun dun—still no children. The visitors announce otherwise. What angels announce hope in your world? Who are the visitors we might host and “entertain angels unawares?” What signs do you see that God continues to uphold a covenant of mercy despite how messed up the world is? Sarah laughing reminds me of the family of the dead girl who laugh at Jesus before he raises her. What good news might we tend to laugh at that maybe we should take seriously?

Romans. Watch out for the old Puritan notion that suffering is good. Suffering is not inherently good—but like everything it is a locus of grace. Paul invites us to look beyond our immediate pain to the greater story we’re part of, and trust it even when we’re in the middle of a hard chapter. Remember, hope isn’t wishing, not belief that “everything will be OK, “ but trust in the Goodness of God, “the love that’s been poured into our hearts,” regardless of how things turn out for us. It’s the big picture of God’s love that is our hope, and that doesn’t disappoint us. Jesus makes that love for us accessible to us, in that he dies for us even though we might think of ourselves as “unworthy.” When we let this grace sink in it allows us to restore our trust in God. This trust sustains us even through suffering.
      “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” This is God’s hope: not that we will become Christian, but that we will know we are loved. That’s what it means to be “justified.” To be saved—saved from the tyranny of our anxious, selfish ego—Jesus dies for us, destroying the notion of being”worthy” or “unworthy, and from being afraid of “the wrath of God.”

Jesus’ healing tour looks very different from a “crusade” trying to get people to become Christian. We are sent (the word “apostle” means “sent”) to be the good news of the Reign of God, to cure the sick (heal what is broken), raise the dead (embody resurrection, empower the powerless and bring hope where there is despair), cleanse lepers (embrace outcasts) and cast out demons (confront injustice). It’s for the sake of the healing of the world, not the stuffing of the church. The “harvest” we’re sent out to labor in is not dragging people into the church, but participating in God’s harvest of the gifts God has planted in each person, gifts made fruitful by the Spirit, with our encouragement. Who are the “lost sheep” we’re sent to?

Call to Worship

Leader: God, you are in this world with love and grace.
All: You heal us when we are broken and cleanse us of our shame.
You cast out the demons of injustice and embrace the outcast.
You raise the dead, giving power to the powerless and hope to the despairing.
You have called disciples, and sent them into the world in love.
You call us now to come close, and we come. Alleluia!

Leader: Eternal God, Spirit of Love, we worship you.
All: Creating God, Renewing God, we worship you.
Transforming God, Bewildering God, we worship you.
Disorienting, Re-orienting God, we worship you.
Come, upset our ways and reshape us according to your Spirit. Amen.

Leader: God of love, we seek healing: wholeness for our bodies.
All: Come to us, enfold us in your grace, and send us forth, renewed.
We seek hope: fruitfulness for our lives.
Come to us, enfold us in your grace, and send us forth, renewed.
We seek courage: power to carry your grace into the world.
Come to us, enfold us in your grace, and send us forth, renewed. Amen.

Leader: Holy One, you claim us as your own and call us to serve you.
All: Beloved, receive us with love.
Living Christ, you send us out to share your grace.
Beloved, transform us with love.
Holy Spirit, you empower us with gifts for healing.
Beloved, send us with love.
The world awaits. May it be for us according to your word. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1. (Genesis)
God of grace and mystery, you hold us faithfully your Covenant. Your love upholds us, your grace moves ahead of us, your mercy comes to us in surprising ways. Open our hearts to welcome the message of your promise, and to trust your blessing. We pray in the name and the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Loving God, our deep distrust separates us from you, but you reach out to us in our fear with love and grace. You forgive us; you heal us; you bless us. We open our hearts to your Spirit, that the good news of your love might sink in and change us. Creator God, make us new. Loving Christ, come and speak to us. Holy Spirit, give us new life. Amen.

3. (Matthew)
God of love, you who called disciples and sent them: gather us now, equip us for your service, and send us in your name for the sake of the healing of the world, in the loving presence and the healing spirit of Christ. Amen.

4. (Matthew)
Eternal God, Jesus gathered his disciples, blessed them with his teachings, and sent them out to join in his work of the blessing of the world. Gather us now and transform us by your Word, so that we will be ready to go out into the world to serve you, in the grace of the Hoy Spirit and in the name of Christ. Amen

Listening Prayer

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

As the strange visitors
who bring promise to Sarai and Abram,
you come to us.
We welcome you.
Sit with us,
bring us news from God.


Psalm 86 – a paraphrase [1-7, 8-13, 14-17]

Sung Response:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

Listen to me, God, and speak to me,
         not according to my worthiness but according to your love.
I trust you to give me life.
         It is you my heart longs for all day long.
Give me joy, as I enter into your joy.
         I give you my soul.
For you are good and forgiving,
         abounding in steadfast love.

Hear the secrets of my heart, God,
         the unspoken longings of my soul.
When I am troubled, I turn to you,
         and you are there.                   

O God, you are great, and do wondrous things.
You alone are God.
Teach me your way, O God,
that I may walk in your truth.
Give me an undivided heart,
to be mindful of your presence.
I give thanks to you, God, with my whole heart.
I will live as your glory all my life.
For great is your steady love toward me:
you have saved my soul from its dreary death.     …Response

O God, arrogance rises up in me;
 self-centeredness threatens to take over my life.
But you are merciful and gracious,
         slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give me strength to faithfully serve you.
Show me a sign of your favor,
         to put my doubts to rest—
         for always you have helped me and comforted me.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         [based on Romans 5.1-8]
Leader: As children of God we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
All: Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God
through the Beloved, Jesus Christ,
who shows us God’s great love for us,
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
We give thanks, and we give God our lives,
that we may live in peace with God and with all people,
in the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

         We love and trust God, Eternal Creator, the Source of all Being and the giver of the laws of life, whose word of love is unchanging, though our understanding is imperfect and incomplete.
         We follow Jesus, God’s Christ, who embodied God’s love, who taught and healed, who enacted God’s law of love in new and radical ways. He gave himself completely in love; he was crucified; yet God raised him from death, transforming the law, and even life and death. He sets us free and leads us in lives of radical self-giving.
         We live by the Holy Spirit, the living breath of God in us, who empowers us to live lives of grace and compassion, trusting in the power of forgiveness, the blessing of community, the reality of resurrection and the coming of God’s Reign of mercy and justice. In all, we give God thanks, and we give God our lives. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the 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 your faithful love.
You create us in your image, promise to be with us in love,
and deliver us from all that enslaves us.
When we least expect it you send us signs of your mercy,
angels who remind us of your promise.
You come among us with healing and redemption.
Therefore in gratitude, with all Creation, we sing 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 healed and taught, who cast out injustice,
who embodied the Realm of your grace among us.
Opposed by the powers of injustice, he was crucified
but you raised him from the dead, still to be with us in mercy.

     (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,
sent into the world to heal the broken,
to confront the demons of injustice,
and to show through our lives
the coming of your Realm of grace and love,
for the sake of the mending 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 / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. May this meal call us to mindfulness of your presence, attentiveness to your Word, and readiness to serve you. Send us into the world to bless, to heal, and to proclaim your good news, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of love, you gifted Sarah and Abraham with a child to bring into the world. You have given us spiritual gifts to share. As Jesus gave his disciples authority to heal, to proclaim your grace and to confront the demons of injustice, you call us to bear our gifts for the sake of the healing of the world. Send us in the power of your Spirit and the company of Christ., who is with s always Amen.

The gift of God’s promise be within you,
growing and vibrant as a child.
The grace of God’s gifts be within you,
the power to heal and to bless.
The authority of the Word be within you,
the courage to love and to do justice.
The Spirit of God be within you,
the strength to make you serve,
and the joy to make you laugh. Amen

Suggested Songs

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

Three Strangers       (Tune: DOVE OF PEACE – I Come with Joy)

Three strangers came to Abraham and Sarah in their age,
and told them God had plans for them, a promise to engage,
a promise to engage.

So Sarah laughed and Abraham, he knit his furrowed brow:
“How could this come to us?” he said, “How could this happen now?
How could this happen now?”

So God appears and promises new life for us as well,
and gives us joy so that we laugh. Such happy news to tell!
Such happy news to tell!

God promises new life in us, and love and joy to bear,
and gives us gifts and blessings dear, the grace of God to share,
the grace of God to share.

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