OT 20: 12th Sunday after Pentecost

August 20, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 45. 1-15. Joseph, who has become a leader in Egypt, reveals himself to his brothers, who have come seeking famine relief.

Psalm 133. How good it is when we live in harmony with one another.

Romans 11. 1-2a, 29-32. God has not rejected the Jews, but has “imprisoned everyone in disobedience” so that God can be equally merciful to everyone.

Matthew 15. 21-28. A Canaanite (pagan) woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. At first he rejects her as a Gentile, calling her a dog—a racial slur. But in response to her tenacious quest, he grants her request.

Preaching Thoughts

      Joseph (and other scriptures like Ps. 105.17) says his being sold into slavery was God’s plan. People often say that certain painful events are “part of God’s plan.” Baloney. That idea is a relic of an immature faith.. Despite many biblical stories (e.g. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart…) God’s plan doesn’t include making hurtful things happen or making people do evil things. God’s plan is that we all live peaceably, that we have life and have it abundantly. (If God was planning for Israel’s rescue in Egypt God could have figured out a better way, no?) God doesn’t engage in clever strategizing and intervention to make certain things happen. (It takes some pastoral depth to wean people of this idea!) When we blame suffering or evil on God we minimize evil and injustice and avoid the deep pain of life, and keep people from either facing evil or receiving healing. God doesn’t make bad things happen, but God’s grace is present always, even in evil deeds and disasters. It’s not a “silver lining” to a particular event but a constant. God is always present and at work, creating, blessing, liberating. Sometimes we cooperate, sometimes not. But grace is a constant, like gravity. If you are traveling a difficult road, it’s not God’s choice. But even there God will accompany you, lead you, and bless you.

       Paul has asserted that we don’t need to be Jewish to be God’s people. So where does that leave the Jews? Paul affirms God’s Covenant with Israel: that God has chosen them, that through them all people on earth would be blessed (see Gen. 12.3, 28.14). Paul says the Jews are “disobedient” in not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, so that instead of simply becoming part of Judaism, belief in Jesus would spread to Gentiles and the whole world, eventually including Jews. Without attributing such clever strategy to God, we can affirm that Christians and Jews are equally in need of God, and equally beloved. We’ve been listening to the last few weeks in the lectionary about the sibling rivalry of Abraham’s descendants, and how messed up that is. Shouldn’t we end the sibling rivalry between Christians and Jews?

       Maybe Jesus is testing the woman, hoping she’ll jump over the little fence he puts before her. . Maybe he’s repeating a racial slur, calling her a dog, in a knowing way, with a “woke” wink. Maybe he innocently thinks his ministry is to Jewish people, and not to pagans. But more likely, Jesus, having grown up in a culture that derided outsiders, has simply unknowingly taken on that inherent bias: that they are, in fact, less than human. Dogs. It’s not just that Gentiles aren’t included in his “congregation,” it’s that they are unworthy. It’s not right to take bread from deserving people and give it to undeserving dogs. Until. She calls him on it. This uppity woman won’t take “no.” She engages him like a rabbi would, taking his words and playing with them, exposing his bias and putting it in a larger, more compassionate context—just as he does with his “you have heard it said but I say to you” sayings. It opens his eyes. She’s a human being, not a dog! Possibly regarding an unconscious bias, and definitely regarding his ministry among gentiles, he allows his mind to be changed. Maybe what makes Jesus “perfect” is not that he has no flaws but that he is growing.
       I wonder if the little girl ever knew how tenaciously, how boldly, how audaciously her mother sought her healing. And how many people without our knowing have prayed for us, advocated for us, provided for us?

Call to Worship

Leader: Holy God, earth beneath our feet—
All: Holy Word, hope in our darkness—
Holy Spirit, breath within the breath—
You intend only good, and make your light shine in all our darkness.
We praise you. We thank you. We worship you.

Leader: God, Eternal Love, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, Living Word, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
Alleluia! It is not according to our worthiness
but by your grace that we are blessed.
Even the crumbs of grace that fall from your table
nourish our hearts and heal us. Alleluia!

Leader: God of Love, we have come by many arduous roads
to this day in this place.
All: You have accompanied us.
We have needed you.
And you have provided, sometimes in ways we did not see.
Still we are in your house, members of your family.
Still we are loved. So we praise you. We thank you. We worship you.

Leader: Generous God, we reach out to you.
All: Healing God, we plead with you.
Our doubts discourage us.
Voices of judgment wold turn us back.
But your grace prevails.
You feed us. You heal us. You bless us.
We thank you. We bless you. We worship you.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Spirit of Love, you come to us in many ways. Open our hearts to see you before us. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts to receive your love and to bear your love to all, in the name and the grace of Christ. Amen.

God of Generosity and Miracles, we come to you, humbly begging for even the crumbs that fall from the Table of your Word. Bless us that we may hear what you are saying to us, and humbly and gladly receive your grace, so that we may bear it to others, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Holy One, you still the terror of our loneliness. You feed the famine of our hearts. You heal us even when we hear we are unworthy. Your grace is the gravity of our lives. We open our hearts to you, to hear and be shaped by your Word, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of grace, God of mercy and justice, you have come to set us free from all that diminishes life, that enslaves our hearts, that imprisons our spirits, that constricts our love. Come to us and speak your liberating Word to us. Set us free and bring us on your Way through the Red Sea. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

God of infinite love,
the crumbs that fall
from the table of your grace
are enough for us.
Have mercy on us.
We trust in you.

Prayer of Confession

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.
God of love, help us to see ourselves honestly,
to see each moment we intend love,
and each moment we intend otherwise.
Trusting, by the grace of Christ, that you intend only love,
we offer ourselves to you:
receive us, forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
[Silent prayer … The word of grace]

… God of love, we give you our whole selves,
and invite your grace into all that is not whole,
that is not free, that is not loving.
Forgive us, heal us, and restore your Spirit in us.


A reflection on Psalm 133

Look, how good and pleasant it is
       when we live together in unity as siblings!
Rich and poor, native and foreign, insider and outsider in unity—
      like the champagne of a great celebration!
Deserving and undeserving, honored and condemned, loved and hated—
       like the best cake at a party.
Wise and foolish, right and wrong in unity—
      it is like morning dew shining on the mountain of God.
For there God has commanded blessing:
       blessing and life forever.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Leader: God of love, you create us and claim us; you love us and guide us.
All: We praise you and we worship you.
Beloved Christ, you heal us and forgive us; you teach us and lead us.
We thank you and we follow you.
Holy Spirit, you unite us and transform us; you empower us and shine in us.
We open our heart to you and we live by your grace. Alleluia!

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.

God, we thank you, for you create us in your image,
claim us in love and continually set us free.
You work your grace in good times and bad,
and accompany us in familiar lands and strange places.

When we are lost you guide us,
and when we re in need you bless us.
Even the crumbs that fall from your table are enough for us,
and yet you bless us richly.
So we thank you, and praise you together with all Creation.

            [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 taught and healed, who loved and forgave,
who included the outcast and blessed the alien.
No one was beyond the reach of his love.
By his death and resurrection he blessed us still.

     (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.
By your grace in us may we forgive all who have wronged us,
for they are our kin.
May no one be outside the bounds of our compassion,
that we may share this bread with all, without exception,
in the love of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit.

     [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.) We have begged for crumbs and you have fed us with the bread of life. In gratitude we give you our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us O Love, knowing that no one is outside our care, no one is beyond our reach, 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)

Humbly, My God (Tune: Open My Eyes)

Open my eyes, O God of grace,
to see you here in every face,
you in the poor, the stranger, the foe,
bidding me learn and love and grow.
Humbly, my God, I look for you,
ready, with love, your will to do.
Open my eyes; illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my ears to hear your voice
leading with grace in every choice.
You come in need that I cannot hide,
so that your love will be my guide.
Humbly, my God, I look for you,
ready, with love, your will to do.
Open my ears; illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my heart to freely care,
your undefended love to share.
Open my arms; release all my fear;
and in my love you will appear.
Humbly, my God, I look for you,
ready, with love, your will to do.
Open my heart; illumine me, Spirit divine.

Your Cart
  • No products in the cart.