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)

Christ Our Healer (Tune: Joyful, Joyful,
or HOLY MANNA, or Love Divine, All Loves Excelling)

Christ, our healer, you have touched us, reaching through the dark divide,
healing broken hearts and bodies, casting death’s old shroud aside:
raised us from our bed of sorrows, put your arm around our pain,
raising us to new tomorrows, bringing us to life again.

Christ, our teacher, in our healing you have given us your gift:
grace to bless, your love revealing, pow’r to heal and hope to lift.
In your Spirit, your forgiveness, your compassion we embrace
ev’ry wounded, shamed or silenced child of God with gentle grace.

Christ, our savior, you are going on to every town and field,
on to every land and people, on until the world is healed.
Use us in the whole world’s mending, use us as your healing hands,
’till as one the world, made whole, takes up its mat with joy and stands.


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.

World Communion Sunday

October 2, 2022

Suitable Texts

Scriptures abound that lend themselves to World Communion reflection. Examples:

Isaiah 56.3-8. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

1 Corinthians 12.12-27. You are the Body of Christ

John 17.20-23. “That they all may be one.”

Preaching Thoughts

It seems paradoxical to preach that in the Eucharist we are in communion with all Christians around the world when Communion itself is among the things that divide us. I usually insist on respecting multiple interpretations and traditions, but here’s a place where I’ll step out and say the traditional Roman Catholic teaching is just plain wrong. Jesus clearly shared food with everybody—sometimes 5000 at a time—including believers and unbelievers, clean and unclean, righteous and sinners, Jews and gentiles. It’s just plain wrong to insist that one must belong to a certain sect (yes, all denominations are sects) to partake of the Eucharist. I see no biblical warrant for it, but exceeding evidence to the contrary. Paul says, “All who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” This is often interpreted to mean you’re supposed to see the physical flesh of Jesus in the bread and wine. But in the context of everything Paul is talking about, that is, the church, I think he means discerning the body of Christ—the community, the whole. The bread, and the complete self-giving it symbolizes, lead us to be mindful of the whole human community Jesus died for, including people of every tradition, denomination, sect, religion, belief system or unbelief. I think central to Jesus’ and Paul’s gospel is the radical inclusiveness of God’s love and the profound oneness of the human family.

Psalm 137 is the lectionary psalm of the day. Our discomfort with the violence of the psalm’s passion invites us to look at our discomfort with the suffering of others, especially those we don’t identify with. (We white folks seem more deeply touched by the plight of white Ukrainians than that of Asian Uyghurs or Rohingya.) World Communion Sunday, celebrating our unity in Christ, invites us to enter into the suffering of others, even foreigners, even enemies, because they too are our kin, members of our own body. This is the meaning of taking up the cross: to enter into the suffering of the world.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, Mother and Father of us all, your children worship you.
All: People of every tribe, nation, language and culture praise you!
Risen Christ, your sisters and brothers around the world give thanks to you.
People of every kind and status, in every hut and cathedral sing to you!
Holy Spirit, you make us one, the Body of Christ, throughout the World.
Loving Christ, we come to your table to be together with our sisters and brothers.
May there be unity among us. May we be one in the love and faith of Christ,
one in the Spirit, and one in ministry to all the world, to the glory of God. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Creator of the universe,
All: you bring forth all Creation, and we belong.
You give birth to all peoples;
you create one human family, and we belong.
You feed us with your love;
you make of us one Body in your Spirit, and we belong.
So we come, people of every race and nation and tribe and people,
to worship together and to feast on your love. Alleluia!


3.
Leader: Creator of all things,
       All: we praise!
Of earth and sky, the seas and stars, and all living beings,
       we praise!
Loving Mother and Father of all people, nations and races,
       we adore!
You whose arms hold Koreans and Bolivians, Rwandans and Inuit,
       we adore!
For Baptist and Orthodox, Methodist and Moravian, Congregational and Coptic,
       we give thanks!
With all your Beloved we gather at your table to feast with our siblings in Christ,
one in the Body of Christ, one in your love.
       We worship, we receive your grace, and we give of ourselves, for the sake of the world.
       Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Glory be to you, O God of all Creation.
All: Thanks be to you, O Christ, for our salvation.
You have saved the people of all nations and races!
People of every color and heritage praise you in every language.
Gather us as one family at your table, Love;
in your Spirit, make us one.
Alleluia! Come, 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.
You gather us as one people around the world:
one in Christ, one in your Spirit,and one in our worship of you.
We give thanks for the gathered community,
and for your presence among us!
Alleluia! Make us one, God! Make us one! Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, like a loving mother who has prepared a wonderful meal, you call all of your children to your table, to share together, to be at peace with each other, to tell our stories, to nourish one another, and most of all to feast on your grace. Feed us with your Word, that we may truly be children of God. Amen.
2.
God of all Creation, we gather at your table with your children of every nation. We thank you for your loving presence, for your Church across the globe and for the Spirit that unites us. As we listen, our sisters and brothers around the world are listening in uncounted languages. May we all hear your Word, hear your love, in the Spirit of Christ. Make us one, Love; make us one. Amen.

3.
God of love, like a loving mother who has prepared a wonderful meal, you call all of your children to your table, to share together, to be at peace with each other, to tell our stories, to nourish one another, and most of all to feast on your grace. Feed us with your Word, that we may truly be children of God. Amen.4.
God of love, your children around the world are listening to you now in many languages. Speak to us in truth that is deeper than words, in presence that is deeper than what can be seen, in love that is deeper than understanding. In scripture, in proclamation, in prayer—speak to us as you do to all your Beloved, from within Amen.

5.
Gracious God, at this moment, Christians around the world are gathered at this very table. We are among sisters and brothers in every land. Open our hearts and minds to your presence in the Body of Christ around the world. Help us to hear, to belong, and to gather others to your table. Speak to us: we are your children, and we are listening. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God, we give thanks
for the diversity and unity of the human family,
and for your grace in the ways ways we honor that gift.
And we confess the ways we resist our unity,
resist our diversity, judge those who are not like us,
and ignore our siblings.
Heal our fear, forgive our sin,
and renew in us your loving Spirit.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

 1.
Holy God, we are one in your love, and we thank you.
It is not our beliefs or our faith that unite us,
but your love for us all that makes us one.
Those who are like us and those who are different,
all are beloved and all are made one.
People of every continent and every race,
all join us at the table of your grace.
Humans and creatures and all living things
are one in the Body of Christ.
For the great diversity of people,
for the splendor of life in all its colors,
we praise you.
Gracious God, in your grace we are one,
and we worship you.
We are yours, and we serve you. Alleluia!

2.
     We give our hearts to God, Creator of all people, Mother and Father of us all.
     We follow Jesus Christ, who embodied God’s infinite love for insiders and outsiders, and who created a community of love, not doctrine. In his Spirit we are are all one Body, members of one another. In his death and resurrection we witness the triumph of divine love over human divisions. In the breaking of bread together we celebrate the wondrous diversity of the Body of Christ, and we enact his vision of our unity and our companionship.
     We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love in us, moving in us as a body, the orchestra of God, whose music is most beautiful when we are in harmony with each other. By that spirit we seek healing and justice for the whole human family and all Creation.

Listening Prayer

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

Holy One,
we are most holy when we are in you,
not cut off by ourselves.
Bring us into unity with you
and the whole Body of Christ,
that we may hear your Word
and live in your love.
Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

1.
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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
By your Word you have created all people in your image.
Though we have all gone astray, each on our separate way,
you have freed us from bondage;
you judge the forces of division and evil,
and destroy the powers of oppression.
By your Spirit you have created your church, one people,
the Body of Christ, united throughout the world in your grace,
and you call us to be reconciled in Christ.
As you draw us to your feast this day, you call all your children;
we are one with them, and we honor them here around this table.
Therefore with the faithful around the world we sing as one voice:
[Sanctus]


Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your beloved Son, your Christ:
he formed community, welcomed the outcast,
and planted a mustard seed of faith in each of us.
He has broken down all dividing walls
and made us one in his love;
for in him you have established with us
an eternal covenant of reconciliation.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]*

In the death and resurrection of Christ
you have freed us from all that separates us
from one another, and from you.
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of 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 Holy Spirit on us,
that we maybe for the world the Body of Christ,
made one not by our faith but by your love,
one Body around the world,
one in you, and one in ministry to the world,
in the name and the live of Christ.
[Amen]
________________

2.
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, you have made the whole universe
from a single batch of dough,
and all humanity from one lump of dust,
breathing your one Spirit into us in our many forms,
many colors, many languages.
You continually create us as one, set us free from our divisions,
and walk with us into new life that is not like our captivity.

And so we celebrate with this Bread of Liberation, Bread of Unity.
       As many grains are made into one loaf,
       you make us into one Body in Christ.

We thank you for Jesus, who embodied your loving presence
and called us to our natural unity,
bringing back the outcast, restoring the forgotten.
For challenging our proud divisions
he was crucified by the forces of separation,
but he was raised by the power of unity and oneness, the power of love.
       In his life, death and resurrection we behold your grace,
       and we give thanks.
[The Blessing and Covenant…] *

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
       Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
       we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
       as a living and holy sacrifice,
       in union with Christ’s offering for us,
       as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
       Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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 Holy Spirit on us,
       that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
       one in your love, one with each other, one in Christ,
       and one in ministry to all the world
       by the power of your Spirit alive in us.

     
(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 after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As many grains are made one in a loaf of bread, you make us one Body in Christ by your love. Send us into the world to love courageously and to serve humbly, for the sake of the healing and harmony of all Creation. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Children of the Heavenly Mother    (Tune: Children of the Heavenly Father)

Children of the Heavenly Mother,
gather gladly with each other,
for you call us to your table
bringing gifts as we are able.

You have held us and caressed us,
washed and taught us, healed and blessed us;
now you cherish and adore us
and you set this table for us

You have birthed us, and have freed us;
with your body now you feed us.
In this grace, O loving mother,
we are one with one another.

So we praise you, heavenly Mother,
Holy Spirit, Christ our brother,
All Creation sings together
honor, thanks and praise for ever.


O Faithful God [Tune: Finlandia]

O faithful God, whose steadfast love is sure,
O Loving Father, Mother kind and strong:
your Covenant forever will endure;
you bind us to your heart our whole life long.
No matter how rebellious is your child,
in you we are brought home and reconciled

You hold us, God, in kinship with each other.
We have been loved and held when we would run.
We all are siblings, all born of one Mother;
though we would flee, you join us all as one.
Our deepest wounds come from our deepest love,
and so our highest hope for life above

So teach us God, to bravely love each other,
for all belong within your house of grace,
to give our enemy, who is our brother,
our steadfast mercy, and a wide embrace;
for in our love, though we be right or wrong,
we know the grace to which we all belong.


One Loaf      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

Like wheat that’s made into one loaf of bread,
we are one Body with Christ as our head,
grateful for grace guiding us from above,
we are one people, one Spirit, one love.

Spirit, you live in us, in each and in all,
giving us each gifts to answer your call.
Your gift is in every soul, every heart,
each of us needed to offer our part.

Give us the faith, God, to go where you lead,
act as your loving and kind mustard seeds.
Send us in love to this world so in need,
spreading your good news in word and in deed.


Your Hands and Your Face (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God of all holiness, baptized in you,
we are your Body: your presence shines through.
We, poor in spirit, are blessed with your own.
May our lives shine forth with your grace alone.

We who with Jesus do mourn with the world
shall see your banners of deep joy unfurled.
We who are hungry for love freely shared
feast at the banquet that you have prepared.

May we be merciful and pure in heart,
your gentle peacemakers, doing our part.
Dying and rising, we do not fear loss,
sealed with your Spirit and marked with your cross.

Blest and beloved and baptized to serve,
we are your Body and you are our nerve.
Not by our effort, but by your pure grace,
may we be your hands and your human face.


Your Holy Feast (Tune: Oh Danny Boy)

Oh healing Christ, you bring us to your table here,
to share with you, and all the ones you love.
We come as one, alike forgiven, healed and dear.
Oh come and bless us, Spirit, tender Dove.
Oh, make us yours, your servants and your lovers.
Oh, make us one, united here in you.
Oh, make us new: the Red Sea lead us over,
and set us free to walk in harmony with you.

We come to eat the bread of peace you offer us.
We come to drink your resurrecting wine.
We come to feast upon your presence here with us,
and so become your Body as we dine.
So make us whole again, and be our living breath.
Make us your hands, and you will be our nerve.
Oh, risen Christ, we join you, rising up from death,
and by your side we’ll go, made new, to love and serve.

We Feast on Your Love (Original song)

Chorus: We feast on your presence.
We feast on your love.
This is the banquet we’ve been dreaming of. (Repeat.)

We reach for the hem of your garment,
we open ourselves to your grace.
In flows the mercy you offer
in every time and place. — Chorus

You gather us; none is unworthy;
and no one is “greatest” or “least.”
You multiply what we offer,
so multitudes may feast. — Chorus



OT 26 – 16th Sunday after Pentecost

September 25, 2022

Lectionary Texts

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.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      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.

Psalm
     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.)

1 Timothy
     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?

Gospel
     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

1.
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.


3.
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!


4.
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

1.
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.

2.
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

4.
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

1.
      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.

2.
     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.

Listening Prayer

(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.

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.

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:

     (Sanctus)

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:

     (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,
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.
     
(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, 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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

Suggested Songs

(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.

OT 25 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost

September 18, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s readings lament the state of our world, but find hope in God, whose values are radically different form the world’s.

Jeremiah 8.18 – 9.1 is a lament, an expression of anguish, but also of hope, and not despair, for God’s grace always prevails. Jeremiah laments the ruin of his people, because they are not faithful. Is there a balm, a source of healing, in the land?

Psalm 79 laments that God’s people are subject to injustice, and cries out, “How long, O lord?”

1 Timothy 2.1-7 invites us into prayer, trusting that God really want us to share in God’s love and see the truth clearly.

In Luke 16.1-13 Jesus tells about a manager who is about to be fired. He cooks his masters’ books, reducing the amount others owe him—and the master commends him.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
     “For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt.” It’s ambiguous whether this is Jeremiah or God talking, but since the prophet speaks for God, it’s both. God is not mad at us; God grieves for us that we can’t seem to get it right. God is not one who punishes us, but who lets the consequences of our choices fall where they may. We are not being destroyed; we are self-destructive. The image here is not one of God bent on vengeance but a God who laments. “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears…” Again, is this Jeremiah or God? It’s both. What brings us back from the hell of our own making is not God’s anger (which only pushes us farther away) but God’s deep grief for us, because God loves us.

Gospel
     Yep. Weird story. Jesus has a few. A little background helps. Jewish law prohibits charging interest. But Jew or Gentile, rich landlords charged exorbitant rates, often hiding what amounted to interest in other “fees,” padding their income in many ways. Jesus’ audience would assume this would be the case in this story, and also that the steward probably added a cut for himself. When he reduces people’s debts, he might simply be eloiminating his own cut; he might be cutting out the (prohibited) interest, which the landlord can’t really argue with; or he might actually be reducing the principle owed. Jesus doesn’t specify. In any case, the steward is surely reducing his own take as well as that of the landlord. But in reducing the debt of the poor, he’s not just using shifty bookkeeping to make friends; he’s enacting justice. He’s helping out the poor. It’s an odd sort of Robin Hood kind of help, but it does favor the poor. Jesus might be engaging his hearers in a critique of an economic system that habitually preys on the poor.
     When Jesus says “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth,” I don’t think he means to be sly or greedy for your own benefit; maybe he means the opposite: to use money in ways that benefit other people. A lot of our wealth is “dishonest.” Will we use it for selfish means or for the benefit of others?
     This is also a story about forgiveness of debts. From the beginning (see Luke 4.19) Jesus has preached and practiced the Old Testament principle of Jubilee in which debts are forgiven and slaves freed (Leviticus 25). From “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors” to “Father forgive them,” Jesus emphasizes forgiveness of every kind of indebtedness. In the Realm of God nobody owes anybody anything. Maybe this is a story about someone working toward that, even in a compromised situation.
     Let’s turn this into an allegory about God for a moment. All of us owe God a lot. Everything, in fact. But Jesus comes along as a steward of God’s grace and says, “What do you think you owe God?” Well, change that. You don’t owe God. It’s a gift. Jesus commends stewards of God’s grace who go around declaring forgiveness.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, for your infinite grace we praise you.
All: We praise you!
Loving Christ, for your amazing love we thank you.
We thank you!
Holy Spirit, in your life-giving power we worship you.
We worship you! Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Over the chaos of the world, God, you reign in peace and grace.
All: You who are the foundation of the world, we turn to you. Mercy!
Into the pain of our lives, Christ, you come with healing and redemption.
You who are our wholeness and our hope, we turn to you. Mercy!
Amidst suffering of this world, Holy Spirit, you bind us together in one Body.
You who are our unity and our compassion, we turn to you. Mercy!

3.
Leader: In this world there is beauty, and there is injustice.
All: Brokenhearted God, you weep for us.
In this world there is selfishness and greed.
Generous God, you forgive us.
In this world there are people who lift up holy hands in prayer.
God who desires all to be made whole, we join them;
we offer our supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings;
we worship you in trust and gratitude. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Creator God, you speak the world into being. By your life-giving word you heal us and make us new. Speak your word to us now, lead us in the way of your grace. Amen.

2.
God of love, you weep for the hurt of your people, for our injustice and greed. We are broken but you desire our wholeness. We bind one another with indebtedness of many kinds, but you proclaim forgiveness. Speak your Word to us, that we may see not as the word does but as you do: with mercy and grace. May we be good stewards of your love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Leader: God, the Holy One, the Compassionate One, cries out:
“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Listen, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land.”
All: We lament our selfishness, our hate and our greed.
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.”
We lament our violence. Our injustice breaks the heart of God.
“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?”
God cries out for justice and healing yet we do not respond.
Yet there is a balm in Gilead. The grace of Christ still lives among us.
We cry out for your grace, O God.
We open ourselves to you: heal us, forgive us,
transform us, and fill us with your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is, who holds all things in her heart, whose faithful compassion is infinite.
       We follow Jesus, our brother, our teacher and our friend, who embodies God’s love, who taught and healed and gathered a community of compassion for the world. For his love he was crucified, and on the cross he shared the pain of all humanity. But in love God raised him from the dead, and he lives among us still, accompanying us within divine grace and redeeming even our darkest suffering.
       We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love in us, in whose grace we weep for the world, serve the hurting, and live as signs of God’s mercy. We live as One, the Body of Christ, in the power of forgiveness, the mystery of Resurrection, and the gift of eternal life. We devote our lives to bearing the heart of God, that we may make this wounded world more gentle and hopeful, in the Name of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

God, you desire that all be made whole,
and that we come to the knowledge of the truth.
We open ourselves to your presence,
your Word, and your healing.
Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
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. Send us into the world as messengers of your forgiveness, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.



OT 24 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost

September 11, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 4.11-12, 22-28 the prophet warns God will send a hot, destroying wind because of Israel’s evil. There will be earthquakes and barrenness.

Psalm 14 celebrates God’s presence, even though sometimes it seems like God is not really there—especially amidst injustice.

In 1 Timothy 1.12-17 Paul thanks God that God has patiently sought him out even though he is “the foremost” of sinners, affirming that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

In Luke 15.1-10 some Pharisees criticize Jesus for welcoming sinners. He responds with images of God as a woman and a shepherd devotedly seeking something that’s lost, and rejoicing when it is found. God does not exclude us or forget us, but deeply desires us.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      The prophet’s vision is pretty bleak… but it’s not a very exaggerated picture of the impact of the climate crisis—the difference being this isn’t God’s action: we are bringing this on ourselves with our selfishness and injustice. Hot winds, barren waste, hills moved to and fro and birds having fled speak of rising temperatures, mountain-top removal for coal mining, Superfund waste sites and the loss of native species. That’s our doing. It’s important to make this distinction: although the ancients spoke of God’s punishment, our suffering is the logical consequence of our actions. Some people say the earth is “getting back at us,” but the earth has no need for revenge. Climate change and its various effects are simply the laws of nature playing out. In fact this text does not picture earth seeking revenge, but the opposite: “earth shall mourn.”

1 Timothy
      The author’s confession reminds us: if you’re tempted to feel a little special because God loves you so much, remember God’s special attention is exceeding forgiveness for how awful we can be. And we’re also reminded that no matter how awful we or someone else might be we are forgiven and God’s mercy may overflow in us… and them.

Luke
      Lost sheep. In contrast to the image of God as a punishing tyrant, Jesus portrays God as one who wants us, searches for us, and rejoices in us. Imagine the times you were lost and felt abandoned: that whole time God was seeking you, following you, enduring the same rocks and thorns to be with you and to bring you back into a safe, healing place of belonging. Those times when you felt worthless or that your life was wasted, like a coin lost under the cushion, God knew every part of your life and the whole world, every nook and cranny, and treasured you enough to seek you out and return you to a place of honor and rejoicing.
      What might it be for us as followers of Jesus to embody this theology in our own lives? Trusting God’s delight in us?… Maybe: searching for the lonely and overlooked people…. seeking what is valuable but hidden in others… seeing people not in terms of what bad things they’ve done but what delight God has in them… Rather than looking for an illustration of these parables for your sermon, look for ways these parables illustrate faithful living.
     It’s our natural tendency to identify with the lost sheep, and thrill at the thought of Jesus rescuing us. But recall the context of Jesus’ conversation: he was criticized for welcoming sinners. In this parable we aren’t the one; we are the 99. We are the ones the shepherd leaves to find the lost one. We are the 99 insiders who resent the one outsider, the one who doesn’t belong, doesn’t “qualify,” the one we judge as less worthy. We good Christians have to accept God’s delight in the non-believer, the person whose life is not so good, the sinner who’s trying their best and not doing well. The story invites us to be humble and not judge.
     Jesus asks “Which of you does not leave the 99 in the wilderness to go after the one?” The answer, of course, is none of us. We stick with the crowd. We maximize our profit. This parable provides an interesting theological angle on affirmative action: giving extraordinary attention to groups that have been under-represented, or voices that have been silenced. What its opponents would call “reverse discrimination” we might see as leaving the 99 for the one, giving special attention to the one who’s been left out so they can be honored and made a part of the community. Justice sometimes requires extra effort on behalf of those who have been excluded.
     Lost coin. Again Jesus offers an image of God quite unlike an angry judge who is liable to send us to hell. God is a woman who seeks us, wants us, treasures us, and delights in re-connecting with us. Her energy is always toward drawing us closer, not pushing us away. When Jesus speaks of “ten silver coins” his might imagine not just a sum of money but a dowry, a set of coins that represents not just monetary value but also her value, a treasure of particular emotional value—and also a symbol of marriage, of loving faithfulness. (Jesus is fond of images of marriage and weddings…)
     Jesus’ parables speak of the spiritual work of seeking and finding the lost parts of ourselves, the neglected or even repressed parts of ourselves that may be valuable and precious to who we are. The same applies to “lost” members of our community: the marginalized, the forgotten. While you’re looking for lost sheep or coins, keep your eye out for all the “lost and found” in scripture: Joseph in Egypt, Moses in the bullrushes, Israelites set free from slavery in Egypt and later returning from exile in Babylon, Jeremiah’s “scattered sheep” being gathered…. Seems to be a pattern that God seeks us and finds us and brings us home.

Call to Worship

1. Leader: God of grace, you create us because you desire us.
All: And we desire you, and we worship you.
Because you treasure us, you seek us out.
Even when we wander, you search us out and bring us home.
Spirit of love, help us to reach out for you and for all who are lost.
For in your love we discover one another;
we enter our own lives; we meet you at last.
It is your will to seek and to save.
So we worship you. Alleluia.


2.
Leader: Bountiful Creator, Lover of all, we greet you.
All: God of love, we belong to you.
Jesus Christ, gentle shepherd, you call to us.
Shepherd of love, we belong to you.
Holy Spirit, breath of God in us, you sing, you cry out, you call in us.
Spirit of love, we belong to you.
With joy and gratitude, we come home to you.
Receive us, bless us, change us, and give us gifts to serve you. Amen.


3.
Leader: Creator God, you have declared that we are the people of your pasture,
the sheep of your hand.You tend us and guide us.
All: Lead us to you.
Christ, our faithful shepherd, our unfailing companion, you show us the way.
Lead us to life.
You search out others, and bring them in with joy;
those who are lost or feel unworthy you treasure and you rescue.
Lead us to one another.
Open our hearts to your presence, Holy One,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Loving God, you have searched for us in the lost places,
in the lonely places, in the grimy places.
All: And you have found us, and brought us home,
into the light, into one another’s company.
And you have set a celebration of joy, and invited us all.
So we come, to give thanks and to celebrate! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, celebrate with us,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: Gracious God, you have searched for us in love.
All: And you have found us and brought us home, and we thank you.
And you have sought others in the lost places,
in the lonely places, the grimy places,
and brought them also to be with us here.
You have brought us together, and we rejoice.
All of us are lost and found; not one made our own way here.
All of us together worship you in humility and gratitude.
Deepen our gratitude, our humility, and our togetherness,
in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.


6.
Leader: God of love, as a woman rejoices at finding a lost coin
you delight in us.
All: We praise you, and thank you for your grace.
You gather your coins together, all of us,
for each one, new and shiny or old and grimy, is valuable.
We praise you, and thank you for each other.
All of us alike are lost and found, wayward and redeemed.
In humility and gratitude we praise you, we thank you,
we worship you. Alleluia!

7.
Gracious and loving God, though we are lost you have sought us out; though we are scattered you have gathered us in. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love and wisdom, we are your lost sheep. Raise your voice; speak your Word to us, and call us back to your side. We are listening. Amen.

2.God of love, we sometimes feel like a lost sheep, not knowing the way. Sometimes we feel like a forgotten coin under the cushion, not knowing our worth. Yet you treasure us; you seek us and find us and speak your Word to us. Reach out to us now with your Word, touch us with your grace, and transform us, so that we may live among those who are lost as living signs of your mercy. Amen.

3.
Holy One, you guide all who seek your delight to ways of peace and safety; you lead us out of darkness by your grace into the light. You guide us to a path that is straight. So we listen for your voice, and we follow. Amen.

4.
Gentle God, you have shown mercy, and given to us the fullness of life. Jesus has overflowed with your grace and love for us. Help us now to listen for your voice, to hold ourselves up to your light, so that even in our deepest darkness you may find us. We pray in the name of Jesus, our shepherd, our homemaker, our savior. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, we have left your house, and wandered from your care. Yet you call to us to return, always seeking us, always desiring our presence. Help us to leave behind all that we must in order to be present to you now. God, you have invited us to the banquet of your love. Stir up in us your Spirit, so that we can listen to your Word, and feast on your grace. Amen.

6.
Loving God, we give you thanks that you seek and find all the lost. You welcome sinners. Sometimes we are the ones welcomed, sometimes the ones doing the welcoming. For both, we give you thanks. For this community of the lost and found, the seeking and the wandering, we give you thanks. We are one in your love, and we open our hearts to your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
God of love, we are the people of your pasture, the sheep of your hand.
Yet we stray from you, and seek fulfillment in lifeless places.
Come find us, bring us home to you,
forgive us,
and bless us with your life-changing grace.
God of life, we return to you.
[ Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

2.
God, we confess sometimes we are your lost sheep,
wandering and needing you to return us to our place in you.
And we confess sometimes we think we are the insiders,
the saved, and we resent those who are lost,
who are outside our fold,
and we scorn your grace toward them.
Soften our hearts to your grace
for us and for all your children.
In humility and gratitude we ask your forgiveness,
your healing and your grace. Amen.

3.
Loving God, gentle shepherd,
we confess that although we cannot flee from your presence,
our hearts have wandered.
We have become lost in our own ways,
ways of fear that lead to death.
Come to us, forgive us,
enfold us in your mercy and lead us to life,
in the name of Christ, our brother, and your grace. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we are your beloved, your treasure.
But in the clutter of our lives,
in the wildernesses of this world,
we have gotten lost.
Come to us, God.
In the darkest parts of our hearts, find us.
Find us, forgive us, and bring us home to you.
Let us shine again in your presence.
Let us be once again coins of joy around your neck,
sheep of your company around your feet.
We pray in the name of Christ
and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We trust in God, creator of all, who loves every soul, sinner and saint, success or failure, in health or infirm, who knows each one’s divine worth, and who cares especially for the last, the lost and the least, those without power or place or voice. Blessed are the poor, and those who hunger and thirst, for they are God’s Beloved.
       We follow Jesus, who taught and healed, who gathered the outcast and blessed the despised. He gave love to all people, sought out those on the margins, restored the dignity of the rejected, and died on the cross in solidarity with all who are condemned, ignored or dehumanized. In glory God raised Christ from the dead and seated them in power, where they rule over all Creation with the humble whom Christ saves. Blessed are the merciful and the pure in heart, for they will see God.
       We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in and among us, who gives us the grace to love our neighbors, to seek the lost, to defend the powerless and raise up the poor, to seek justice for the oppressed and hope for the brokenhearted. We believe in the power of forgiveness; the reality of resurrection; the unity of the church, the Body of Christ; and the presence of eternal life. We look to the day when the lost are returned and we are gathered as one, to the delight and rejoicing of God. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who are persecuted, for they are children of God.

Listening Prayer

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

God of grace,
though I am lost and scattered
you search me out; you center me.
Though I lose sight of my worth,
you treasure me.
In the stillness you hold me.

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.

We thank you, God: we are your coins, stamped with your image.
You treasure us, and find us when we are lost, and rejoice in us.
We are your sheep, and you search us out when we wander.
You return us to our place of belonging, and rejoice.
So you set this table and invite us to celebrate with you,
for we who were lost are found.
Therefore with all your saints we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, our good shepherd.
He sought the lost, gathered the outcast and fed the hungry.
Like a woman rejoicing at finding a coin,
he embodied your delight in us.
He gathered those the Powers did not want included
and saved those the Insiders didn’t want saved;
therefore by the powers of oppression he was killed.
But you raised him from death
like a precious coin rescued from the trash.

Now he invites us to this feast of reunion, where all are united.
Lost and continually found, we rejoice.

     (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,
seeking the lost and lonely, treasuring the outcast and rejected,
and rejoicing in all whom you love.
     
(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, 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. You bless us that in our giving is our receiving; in our searching is our finding; in our living for you we find your purpose for us. God of love, send us out in ministry for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.
2.
God of love, every person we see is your beloved, whom you seek. For those who are wandering lost, for those who are neglected as unworthy, give us the eyes and heart of our Gentle Shepherd to seek them out, to offer them a place of belonging and honor, to rejoice with God in their lives, for we, too, were lost, and are found. May Christ go with us, in the life-giving power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In this feast of celebration you have united us with all who are lost and found, all who are your precious treasures. By your grace my we always rejoice in the gift of your salvation, and serve you in seeking and including those who have been separated. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Dear Gentle Watchful Shepherd (Tune: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)

Dear gentle, watchful shepherd,
you lead us as we graze,
and guide, us when we wander,
to find again your ways.
And when we stray in darkness,
alone and lost and weak,
unseen, you still are with us,
your dear ones whom you seek.

We pray for those who struggle
through life all on their own,
who find no path to guide them,
who think they are alone.
You fold them in your mercy
in every lonely place,
and with your hand upon them
you bless them with your grace.

O lead us, loving shepherd
to seek the last and lost,
to love them with your passion,
and serve at any cost.
Send us to find the lonely,
forgotten and ignored:
it’s there that we shall meet you,
our saving, healing Lord.



I Belong to You      (Tune: Water is Wide / Gift of Love)

Beloved, I belong to you.
You give me birth; you make me new,
your image formed, by Spirit stirred.
You are the Song; I am your Word.

Whatever pains I may endure,
I still belong. Your love is sure.
Since I am yours, your will I do.
I trust and give myself to you.

I am your coin to richly spend,
so spend me, God, as you intend.
You bless my end; you hold my worth;
send me to love throughout the earth.

Beloved, I belong to you.
Do with me what your love will do.
Bear me, and I, through ease or strife
will find in you eternal life.



OT 27 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

October 2, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Lamentations 1. 1-6 the prophet Jeremiah looks with dismay at the loneliness of Jerusalem after it has been sacked by Babylon and its people taken into exile.

Psalm 137 is the cry of the exiles—and exiles, refugees and other victims of injustice today— who grieve their losses, try to remember and keep alive their former ways of life, and rage against their oppressors.

2 Timothy 1. 1-14 expresses thanks for Timothy’s faith and encourages him (and us) to “rekindle the gift of God within you,” suggesting that faith is not something you “produce,” but something you are given. It’s God’s grace-filled presence in us. Nourish God’s grace in yourself, therefore, and take courage in sharing the good news with others—even suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Trust God in you to guard your faith.

In Luke 17. 5-10 the disciples ask Jesus to “increase their faith.” He tells of the power of faith the size of a mustard seed and the duties of faithful servants.

Preaching Thoughts

Lamentations
      Jeremiah’s cry can sound a lot like people complaining that America is not what it used to be. But it is different in many ways. It is more than sorrow for what Jeremiah and his people have lost. It is sorrow for God and what God has lost. It is not mere whining—complaining to get what you want. And it is nothing like the contemporary phenomenon of privileged white people fearing the loss of their superiority and their “old way of life,” or a rallying cry to “make Israel great again.” It stands in the Hebrew tradition of lament, in which we place our sorrows and fears in God’s hands, and with gratitude and trust leave them there. The Psalms of lament—and there are many—express both individual and communal suffering but assume God’s gracious activity that is unseen in the present, but has been steadfast in the past, and therefore trustworthy for the future. Biblical lament is literature of hope. Jeremiah is strengthened to confront the deep tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem by the hope he already has: remember in last week’s reading, Jeremiah 32.1-15, in which even as the siege is approaching, he buys land, trusting God will restore Jerusalem and life will return. True lament is strong because it is sorrow braided with hope.
This reading invites us not only to name to our own losses but to acknowledge the losses of others in our worldwide family, and also to hold our grief in the light of God’s grace.

Psalm
      Many people feel uncomfortable with the Psalms that that pray for deliverance from and even violence toward our “enemies.” We often skip over those parts, both in public worship and private devotions. Here are some reasons not to.
      1. The Psalms are not all about how we ought to feel or what we wish we believed.  They’re about who we really are.  And we do have angry thoughts & feelings that we need to honestly confess. Sometimes those Psalms express our secret anger. Expressing those feelings doesn’t mean we give our hearts to them; in fact usually saying those things out loud names what we renounce, and leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling: a deep need to repent right now.  These Psalms bring us to confession.
      2.  Our “enemies” are not necessarily other people. I do not consider anybody my enemy, even some deluded terrorist who’d like to blow me up.  My real enemies are my fear, my hunger for approval, my desire for power & control, and so on.  And I do indeed dislike those enemies, and I wish God would destroy them.  To my anger or my self-centeredness I say, “Happy shall be they who take your spawn and dash them against the rock.” Sometimes I need to say that out loud—in the company of a community who can offer forgiveness, transformation and hope.
      3.  The Psalms are not our personal Hallmark cards to God.  They are the cry to God of humanity as a whole.  The Psalms voice not only our own feelings, but also the cry for justice of all who are oppressed.  If these Psalms are more visceral and vengeful than we’re comfortable with that’s because they’re not our cry: they’re their cry of the oppressed against injustice. They were written by real people suffering real evil. In praying these Psalms we take their anguish seriously, we stand in solidarity with them and we lift up their prayer, even if it’s not how we would say it.
      4. Although we do not wish personal harm to come to the perpetrators of injustice, we do oppose their evil, and we lament its fruits. The “enemies” in these Psalm are not necessarily individuals. “Babylon” is not a person; it’s a nation, a corporation, a system, a cultural mindset. We don’t pray for the destruction of people, but we do cry out for the destruction of what an unjust system generates, its “little ones.” Of course by our complicity we ourselves are also enemies of justice—which brings us back to the first two points about confession.
      The Psalms, with all their reverence, anguish, joy, gentleness, sorrow, rage and hope help us embrace our whole experience, worship with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and stand in solidarity with the whole human family and all Creation.

2 Timothy
      This letter may have been written to someone (or a community) whose faith was faltering—not so much that they were finding it hard to believe what they were supposed to believe, but that they were finding it heard to live lives of love and justice in the face of resistance. The gift of God that will sustain us is not right doctrine but “a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” As in Jeremiah’s lament, the author trusts that God is at work, even when we can’t see it.

Luke
     The image of the mustard seed clearly suggests that faith can’t be measured, and that an apparently small “amount” can do powerful things. It also suggests that the power of faith isn’t in the person holding it but in God working through that person. Faith is not something we possess at all, but a relationship, not a power or resource we have but a power that moves through us, if we align ourselves with it, a way of living in harmony with God.
     The parable of the faithful slave may seem like a call to subservience, that God commands and we obey, that risks an interpretation that borders on abuse. But in Jesus’ time for a soldier to be acting “under the command of the Emperor” didn’t just mean he was following orders. It meant he had the authority and power to carry out his actions. I believe what Jesus means by a slave “doing what is commanded” is not just that we should submit to orders, divine or otherwise (thought it is good to do want God says), but that God is working in us. In faith we give ourselves over to that “higher power,” because God is not trying to use us, but empower us. We re not subservient to some power over us, but in harmony with a power that comes from beyond us but is within us. As 2 Timothy says, “God, saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to God’s own purpose and grace.”

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: O rising morn and brother wind, you praise our God.
All: O sister water, and stars of night, you sing of God’s glory.
O Spirit of love, flowing through us like a river, hold us to your way.
O Spirit of courage and justice, burning in us like a fire,
be our strength and our guide.
Holy God, you give us grace to live faithfully in challenging times.
And you give us grace to worship you, with thanksgiving and praise.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Loving God, you have called us with a holy calling,
All: not according to our accomplishments but according to your grace.
We are your servants; lead us to carry out your will.
We are the mustard seeds of your grace;
nourish your spirit in us that we may live with love and faith.
We thank you, and we trust you.
We praise you, and we worship you.

3. (Based on 2 Timothy 1.6-14)
Leader: God, you have saved us and called us with a holy calling.All: Christ, you have abolished death and brought life to light.
You have given us a spirit, not of cowardice,
but of love and power and self-giving.
Holy Spirit, we entrust ourselves to you;
rekindle the gift of your presence in us. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you are the power within an acorn to become an oak, the power within the mustard seed to move great things. Rekindle the power of your love within us, that we may be faithful servants in the work of love. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, there is much to lament in today’s world. And we do lament, and we place our grief in your hands, for we trust that despite all human evil you are at work in the world for healing and grace. Rekindle in us the power of your Spirit, that we may be faithful servants carrying out your command of love. Amen.

3.
God of love, by your grace
give us your eyes to look honestly on the world.
Give us your compassion to love this broken world.
Give us your heart enter into this world with courage.
Plant the mustard seed of your love in us
that we may join you in the healing of the world. 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 abundant life,
you have planted the seed of your grace within us.
Create an empty, fertile place in us for it to grow.
In silence, we harbor the miracle of your presence;
we let it grow within us.
We lift up to your light and surrender
all those things that hinder our full living
in the power of your Spirit alone in us.
Forgive us, heal us, and bring your power to life in us.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Readings

1. 1 Timothy 1.1-14
Reader: This is the good news: that the grace of Christ was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
All: We thank you, O God for this gift! Help us to trust you.
God has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything that we have done but for God’s own purpose and grace. I know Christ, and my trust is deep. So I am sure that as the gift of faith has been entrusted to me, Christ is able to guard it until that final Day.
We entrust ourselves to you, O Christ. Help us to answer your calling.
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you. Hold yourselves to the high standard of the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus that I have modeled for you. Guard the good treasure of faith entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
We surrender ourselves to you, O Holy Spirit. Help us to love as you delight for us to love.
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be afraid, then, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
Gracious God, live in us, so that we may bear your love into the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2. [Psalm 137]
Leader: We pray for exiles and refugees;
for those who have been displaced,
who have fled their homelands
and those who have been taken into slavery.
We pray with them and join in their song.
All: By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

We pray for all oppressors,
that their eyes may be opened,
that their hearts be changed,
and their terrible fear be healed.
We pray for them
and plead for their conversion.

For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

We lament the lives that are ended.
the families that are broken,
the cultures that are destroyed,
the traditions that are lost,
the voices that are silenced.
We weep with them
and join in their song.

How could we sing the Beloved’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.

We join in their grief.
We honor their terror.
We accept their anger.
We lift their cry.
We stand with them
and join in their song.

Remember, O God, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”

We pray for the end to all violence
and the end to all the results of injustice,
that evil itself be demolished
and its spawn eliminated,
that every human heart be free of fear.
We rage with all victims of injustice
and join in their cry.

O daughter Injustice, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be
who take your offspring
and dash them against the rock!
We pray for exiles and refugees.
We are among them:
for until our siblings are restored,
we ourselves are not at home.
We pray with them,
and join in their silence.
Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     We believe in God, the Creator of all things, who has made us, and who has saved us and called us and given us a spirit of power.
     We look to Jesus Christ, our chief, whose servants we are; who reveals God’s grace to us in his life and ministry, in his death and resurrection.
      We trust in the Holy Spirit, the mustard seed of God within us, who leads us to love, to serve and to find our delight in the grace of God. We commit ourselves to the Body of Christ, to the life of forgiveness, to the healing of the world, and the promise of eternal life. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Eternal God, I am small.
I am your mustard seed.
But you, vast and infinite, are in me.
Rekindle in me your presence,
your power, your love,
that I may bear fruit according to your delight.

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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
By your Word you have created all people in your image.
Though we have all gone astray, each on our separate way,
you have freed us from bondage;
you judge the forces of division and evil,
and destroy the powers of oppression.
By your Spirit you have created your church, one people,
the Body of Christ, united throughout the world in your grace,
and you call us to be reconciled in Christ.
As you draw us to your feast this day, you call all your children;
we are one with them, and we honor them here around this table.
Therefore with the faithful around the world we sing as one voice:
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your beloved Son, your Christ:
he formed community, welcomed the outcast,
and planted a mustard seed of faith in each of us.
He has broken down all dividing walls
and made us one in his love;
for in him you have established with us
an eternal covenant of reconciliation.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

In the death and resurrection of Christ
you have freed us from all that separates us
from one another, and from you.
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of 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.

Rekindle the gift of your Holy Spirit within us, O God,
your Spirit of power and of love and of self-giving.
You saved us and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works but according to your own purpose and grace.

You have entrusted to us this power that we have seen in Christ,
who abolished death and brought life to light in the gospel.
By your Spirit make us mustard seeds of your love.
[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 after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have made us one with all your people in the Body of Christ throughout the earth. Feeding us body and soul, you strengthen us and send us out to be your servants, to participate in your great work of the redemption of the world in the name and the Spirit of Christ, to your eternal delight. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

All that We Hold in Our Hands (Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts)
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.


Five Loaves and Two Fish (Original song)

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The gifts that you have are enough
to shine with the glory of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The love that you have is enough
to offer the healing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The courage you have is enough
to work for the justice of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.
See what you have. See what you have.

OT 17 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 27, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Hosea 1.2-10 — God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute. Their children are given symbolic names.

Psalm 85 — You forgave us; restore us again. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Colossians 2.6-15 (+16–19)— Live rooted and built up in Christ …

Luke 11.1-13 — The Prayer of Jesus (“Lord’s Prayer”). … The importunate neighbor. … Ask and you will receive …

Preaching Thoughts

Hosea
        Go easy on the idea of a prostitute as an image of an unfaithful spouse. I don’t know much about prostitution in biblical times, but I worked among teenage girls involved in prostitution in Minneapolis in the 1970’s. One thing I learned is that women don’t go into prostitution to be promiscuous. They go because they’re forced. In the case of my teenage kids, they were sent down that path from an early age by abusive parents. They almost had no choice. In biblical times women had no role in public life. (How many single women do you see in the Hebrew Bible with “honorable” professions? Miriam, Deborah, and… that’s it.) Most women, now as then, do it out of economic desperation; most are also embodying their early abuse. Notice how we always blame the prostitute, but never the men. The prostitute is the victim, not the perpetrator. Even here, Gomer is not the one in power. She’s being used by Hosea. (This whole story is highly and probably purely symbolic, not a real event. So don’t go too far trying to figure out what it was like. But if you play that game, note that Gomer apparently stayed faithful to Hosea long enough to bear two children.) Anyway, in preaching you can touch on how the scripture uses Gomer as a symbol of unfaithfulness, but note the inappropriateness of the archaic equation of “prostitute= unfaithful person.”
         Don’t get hung up on how weird it is to give your kids names like “Not-pitied” or “Not-my-people.” I don’t know that when Hosea’s kids played soccer their teammates called them by their theological nicknames. The names are Hosea’s symbolic image, not his kids’ actual names. They’re symbols of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Hosea’s point was that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness God is faithful. Note that even after the harsh word that Israel is “not mine” they’ll be called “Children of the living God.” There is always grace.

Colossians
      Paul continues his theme of the cosmic Christ who is both eternal and also bodily present— Christ’s body being the church. As members of the church we are members of Christ’s physical presence. As such, Christ is the one who has power over us. Other people, movements, values or forces have no power over us.
       You could preach a whole sermon on practically every sentence in Paul’s letters.
      “Live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Christ.”— Contemplate what it means to be rooted in Christ… how we nourish our rootedness…
      “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit…” You can argue over doctrine and the culture wars forever and never touch on what it means to follow Jesus. Never mind that. Ignore the culture wars and live lives of love.
      “In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Christ.” — What might it mean to come to fullness in Christ? Maybe to be all of who God creates us to be, to inhabit our whole divine nature… God is not distant: though infinite, God is intimately present, and we are in God….
     “You were buried in baptism and raised with Christ.” — We surrender our lives to God, who gives us new ones… We’re so afraid of “losing ourselves,” but whatever life we love, God always gives us a new one, a more loving and beautiful one.
     “When you were dead in trespasses God made you alive.” — Dead not because of some punishment,but because sin is our distrust of God, cutting ourselves off from God, who is life. But of course we only think we’re cut off. God stays connected (God is in us, and we are in God), and God gives us new life. This is not our doing, our worthiness, but God’s gift.
     “God forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands, nailing it to the cross.” — Think of all the bad stuff you’ve done, all of your inadequacy: erased! Wow. It’s hard for us to accept that; we keep thinking there must be something in ink that didn’t erase… But, no. Our forgiveness is absolute, total and final. We’re not trying to get saved; we’re trying to come to trust that we are saved.
     “God disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross.” — We’re done with that whole Marvel Comics trope of the Battle Between Good and Evil. t’s over. They lost. Love has already triumphed. Again, the issue is not whether love is more powerful that evil, but whether we trust it. This is the foundation of our struggle for justice. The house of evil is built on the sand of fear, but the house of justice is built on the rock of love.
     “Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on (certain religious ideas and practices) and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” — Ignore those who judge your faith. Our faith is not about what we believe but how we trust God, and participate in the Body of Love. Real faith builds up the body (the community) and helps it grow in love.

Luke

      What we’ve called the Lord’s Prayer I call the Prayer of Jesus, both to avoid the word “Lord,” loaded as it is with patriarchy (lords and ladies….)— and also because it’s a fruitful (Jewish) prayer for people for whom Jesus is a spiritual teacher but nor their “lord.”
      Look here for a set of my paraphrases of the prayer (Matthew’s version).
      Luke’s version is much leaner than Matthew’s. We’re not sure what Jesus actually said (other than we know he called God Abba) and what gospel writers added. It’s doubtful Jesus taught this prayer as a whole, but he used the various petitions at times and his words were made into a composite.
      “Father…” — Jesus doesn’t mean God is male, but that even though God is infinite and unknowable, God is also intimately present. Jesus’ particular image of God as “Father” is a strong corrective to many people’s experience of fatherhood as domineering, demanding and distant, and sometimes even violent. Form older generation even a kind father is often experienced as the one who’s away, “off at work.” For people with bad images of “father,” this can be healing. Jesus’ God is a father who is intimate, faithful, generous, and present and attentive— a really good listener.
      In our common version we say “Our Father,” reminding us that faith is never “between me and God,” but among the whole family. God does not belong to any one of us or a small group of us. God is everybody’s parent.
      “Your name be revered.” — This hearkens back to the ten commandments—not merely to avoid taking God’s name in vain but to revere it. God’s “name” means more than language. It means God’s reality, God’s character, God’s essence. This prayer means “May we always be guided by love.” This petition, and the “kingdom” one following, draw us out of our everyday thinking into a new form of consciousness. We abandon worldly values and attachments, and make God the center of our world.
      “Your kingdom come.” —In less patriarchal language, “Impose your imperial rule.” In the age of Disney’s “Magical Kingdom” we forget that a “kingdom” was a real political entity. In Jesus’ setting that was the Romans Empire. A kingdom, or empire, is a power structure with authority, obligations and privileges decreed from above. The Empire of God is a world in which love rules. Grace is not an option: it’s imposed from above. This both a “parallel universe” to this world, and also a real-world alternative to the Roman Empire, and to all human structures of power, domination, privilege and exclusion. As such this petition is not only a spiritual hope; it’s also a political statement.
      “Give us each day our daily bread.” — It’s given. Everything is a gift. Luke’s version, “each day,” has a more ongoing, long-term sense than Matthew’s “this day.” But either way we are invited to rely entirely on God’s providence. It’s like breathing: each breath—this breath— is a gift from God. I think of Ps. 127.2: “It is in vain that we rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for you give sleep to your beloved.” Even what we think we have earned is actually a gift from God.
     “Forgive our sins, for we forgive others…” — We would tremble to ask that God forgive us at the low rate we forgive. Of course God forgives absolutely. But there is something about forgiveness like a hug: you can’t receive it without being wiling to give it. Jesus is likely to have said “debts;” he meant real-life forgiveness of financial debts as well as the more religious and social aspects. That aspect gradually got removed from the real world of poverty and debt-enslavement. But in Jesus’ world nobody owes anybody anything. Jesus envisions us all being free of any guilt, shame, or obligation, being free and freeing others. Again, as in the petition for God’s Reign to come, there’s a sense of all of life being re-ordered, and even re-created. Imagine this: we are provided for, and completely free, before God.
     “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” — This might be asking God not to test our faith—which in fact God does not do. God knows our faith. And God has no need to make us struggle to prove anything. God’s only will is to bless and heal. But it may be more generally asking that we not be brought to the limits of our capacity—not that God causes difficulties in our lives, but that grace helps us avoid them if we can and endure them if we must. This might be a petition spoken not as an individual but as all of humanity: our wish to avoid the intense challenge of, say, world war or climate catastrophe.
     “Ask and you shall receive.” — God is profoundly generous.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of love, we ask you to teach us to pray.
All: You show us your grace, and our wonder is our prayer to you.
Christ, your love gives us joy.
Let our gratitude be prayer to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your power.
Let our lives be our prayer to you.
And let this, our worship, bring you praise.


2.
Leader: Ask, and it will be given to you.
All: Loving God, we ask for life and peace. Grant us your grace.
Search, and you will find.
Christ, we are searching for your Way, searching for Life. Grant us your grace.
Knock, and the door will be opened.
Spirit, we come knocking at the door of this moment.
Open to us, as we open our hearts to you, and grant us your grace.


3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Our Father and Mother, we honor you.
Open our eyes to the mystery of your presence
May your Realm come to life among us!
Feed us with the bread of your Word.
Change us with the grace of your forgiveness.

All power and glory are yours, God of love.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of truth, Jesus’ disciples said to him,” Teach us to pray.” So we come to worship, to hear your Word to us, and to learn to pray. Spirit of Love, teach us. Fill us with your Spirit, that everything we do may be prayerful. Fill us with your love, that our only desire will be to do your will. Speak your Word to us, that we may hear your prayer for us, and reflect it in the living of our lives. Amen.

2.
God of love, Jesus has promised that you will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. We are asking you. In your Word, proclaimed here and pondered together and lived out in our lives, give us your Spirit. Amen.

3.
Our Mother, our Father, your presence is holy. We open ourselves to you, that Reign of your love may take over our hearts, and take over the world. May your grace feed us. May your forgiveness guide us. May your wisdom lead us through all the challenges of life, for your sake, and for the sake of the wholeness of the world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
1.
God our Father, God our Mother,
God, our intimate parent,
you give us life. You provide for us,
protect us, guide us and love us.
Like little children we rest in your loving arms;
whether you speak or are silent,
you hold us, and we are at peace.

2.
You give us each day our daily bread;
you give us each moment the breath we need.
We open our hearts to your holy presence.
May your realm of love blossom in our hearts.


Prayer of Confession

God, we confess
we have not lived the lives of your beloved children.
We have not held your holy presence at the center of our lives.
We have submitted to this world’s empires.
We have starved ourselves of your grace;
Neglecting your forgiveness, we have not been forgiving.
Our faith has been tried, and failed.
Heal us, forgive us, and restore us to your Realm.
We pray in the name and by the grace of Christ. Amen.

Readings

1. The Lord’s Prayer
          Click here for a set of my paraphrases of the Prayer of Jesus, the “Lord’s Prayer.”

2.
Colossians 2.6-15 – My paraphrase

You received as a gift
God’s presence embodied in Jesus,
the captain of your soul.
Live as part of God’s embodied presence.
Root yourself deeply in Christ.
Grow and become more whole in your trust,
true to your experience, overflowing with gratitude.
Don’t let anyone hijack your faith with fear and lies, with selfish agendas,
with human prejudices and power structures.
Keep your trust in Christ.
Christ is a higher power than any ruler or authority.

Christ is the physical presence of divinity, in whom your lives are whole.
In Christ you have received God’s Covenant
through a transformation by the Spirit:
stepping beyond the limits of your fleshly bodies,
you became part of the Body of Christ
when you were buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Christ,
trusting in the power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
When you were dead, buried alive under your sins,
disconnected from the Covenant,
God gave you new life together with Christ:
God forgave all your sin,
ignoring all accounts of your failure to meet legal demands.
God destroyed these accounts, nailing them to the cross.
God disarmed all oppressive powers and spirits
and made a public display of them,
triumphing over them in the cross.

So hold fast to Christ, the head,
from whom the whole Body,
nourished and joined by the Spirit’s ligaments and sinews,
grows with a growth that is from God.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
      We love and trust you, God, creator of all that is and all that is to come.
      We love and trust you, Jesus, who embodied the loving presence of God. Crucified under the powers of worldly empire, you were raised by the power of love. You are our head and we your Body, the church, buried with you in baptism and raised in love.
     We love and trust you, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love. We are joined by your ligaments and sinews as one Body in Christ, growing by your grace. By your power we love with gentleness, seek justice with courage, and serve you with joy. May the Rule of your Grace take over this world, to your glory, now and forever. Amen.

2.
     We entrust ourselves to you, God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come. Holy is your presence. All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing. The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence; the earth is alive with heaven. You give us each day the bread we need.
     We entrust ourselves to you, Jesus, the Beloved. You healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
You showed us your forgiveness, that we might forgive others. Crucified and risen, you are our deliverance from the powers of evil, leading us past our temptations, that your will may be done.
     We entrust ourselves to you, Holy Spirit, that your love may take root in our hearts and your will be done. By your power the Realm of Grace flourishes in this world until it will prevail. The world, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

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 heart.
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.

Our Mother, our Father, holy is your presence.
All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing.
The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence;
the earth is alive with heaven.
You give us each day the bread we need.
Therefore, at your invitation, we come to your table,
giving our thanks and singing 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.
He healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
He showed us your forgiveness,
that we might forgive others.
Crucified and risen, he is our deliverance from the powers of evil,
leading us past our temptations,
that your will may be done.

     (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.
                     —or—
        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.
Bu your grace may your love take root in our hearts.
May your will be done.
May your Realm of Grace flourish in this world.
For the power and glory are yours, now and forever.

           [Spoken or sung]
      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

Gracious God, daily you give us our bread. You give us the Realm. You call us into community with all the world. For this we thank you. In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world to share your love, to do your will, to forgive as we have been forgiven, that your Reign of Grace may prevail upon earth. Bless us that we may bear fruit in your Realm, in the name of Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You feed us the daily bread of your grace. You have forgiven us, that we may forgive. You save us from our weakness, and empower us to do your will. May your love bear fruit in our lives, for the sake of your Realm, your power and your glory, now and forever. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

All of the Gifts I Have         (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

All of the gifts I have, all that is within me,
you give to me, O God, with care;
all of my prayers and skills, passions and energies
you grant to me to freely share.

Here are my hopes and dreams, attitudes and deepest loves,
all of the treasure to which I cling.
I will not hold them in, stilling my ardent song,
but serving you I’ll freely sing.

In all I keep or give, may I do my very best
in everything I say and do,
in harmony with you, only to love and bless,
with joy, to serve and honor you.

Giving Heart (Tune: The Water is Wide- Gift of Love)

O God of grace, you set us free
and feed us all abundantly,
so help me trust the gifts you give,
with giving heart and hands to live.

Come, Spirit, come, and set me free
from all I cling to fearfully.
Come heal my heart, my fears relieve,
so I may give as I receive.

Your Bread of Life transforms us, Lord,
so we become your living Word.
Our lives no more are ours to hold,
but yours to share with all the world.

Giving Thanks (Original song)

We are a grateful people giving thanks to you.
We are a blessed people singing praise to you.
We are a gifted people spreading love for you.
We are a thankful people spreading love for you.

Grateful Hearts (Tune: This is My father’s World)

Our life is yours, O God, a gift of love from you.
We pray that we may faithfully serve you in all we do.
O give us grateful hearts, for blessings still unknown,
as stewards of your gracious love, your gifts we do not own.

God, all that we possess—the pow’r for what we do,
our goods, our skill, our kind good will— is all a gift from you.
Since all we have is yours, and bears deep grace from you,
Bless us with care to gladly share your love as you would do.

This is Our Mother’s World (Tune: This Is My father’s World)

As a mother in her love surrounds her own with care,
God gives us birth and life and earth and grace beyond compare.
This is our Mother’s world; her grace is everywhere,
each person blest, held to her breast, enfolded in her care.

As a mother tends her young and teaches them her ways,
God loves us so that her light will show: our lives become her praise.
This is our Mother’s world. Her care for us is sure.
Though we go wrong her love stays strong. Her love and grace endure.

As a mother, wise and kind, leads children day by day,
God holds us near so we can hear the voice that guides our way.
This is our Mother’s world, and so our gifts we bring,
to freely share her loving care, and praises gladly sing.

       One-verse Offertory version:

As a mother in her love surrounds her own with care,
God gives us birth and life and earth and grace beyond compare.
This is our Mother’s world, and so our gifts we bring,
to freely share her loving care, and praises gladly sing.






OT 14 — Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 7, 2025

Lectionary Texts

2 Kings 5.1-14 — Elisha heals Naaman of leprosy.

Psalm 30 —I cried for help and you restored me. You have turned my mourning into joy, my sackcloth into am party dress.

Galatians 6.1-16 — Bear one another’s burdens. Test your own work, not someone else’s. … Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!

Luke 10.1-11, 16-20 — Jesus sends out the 72. Travel light, spread peace, and take nothing personally.

Preaching Thoughts

2 Kings
       Jesus preaches a sermon on this text, in Luke 4, about the inclusiveness of God’s love. It nearly gets him killed. When wee don’t actually trust God’s grace we are fearful we are of sharing it, as if there’s a finite amount. We feel the need to be better, in some way, than others; we want to be “first.” (Remember last week when the disciples wanted to call down fire on some Samaritans for not accepting Jesus?)
       Naaman expects some fancy rigamarole for his healing, and is disappointed by the simplicity and banality of Jesus’ instructions. Sometimes we have some fancy expectations of religion—complicated beliefs, strenuous disciplines—when in fact we can seek wholeness in ordinary, everyday activities. God is accessible not only through esoteric means; God is available in our ordinary experiences.

Galatians
      Sin is distrust of God: we think we need to be good enough—that God’s approval is an earned wage, not a free gift. So we turn our desire for God’s grace into a competition. We think we have to be better than others, so we judge and compare. Paul corrects that illusion. The point of our faith is not to be good enough, but to love. The point of God’s law is not for some people to be righteous, but for everybody to live together. So when people err we don’t judge them, we don’t punish them: we love them. Despite other texts that seem to encourage us to exclude “sinners” (as if we can judge), Paul says “whenever we have the opportunity let us work for the good of all.”
       It might sound contradictory for Paul to say both “Bear one another’s burdens” in verse 2 and “All must carry their own loads” in verse 5. But what he means is your relationship with God is “your own load,” not comparable to anyone else’s; but you can help others in their struggles, and “bear one another’s burdens.” Pay attention to your own behavior instead of criticizing others or comparing yourselves to them. Rather than judging those who are having a hard time, help them! And, seriously, mind the log in your own eye…
       Paul’s audience in Galatia is questioning whether Gentile converts have to adhere to Jewish laws to follow Jesus. Although circumcision isn’t relevant for us, Paul’s points are: one is that our actual relationship with Jesus and therefore with others is more important than external indications of “being a Christian.” like, say wearing a cross or having a fish sticker on your car; yet, if our own faith is authentic we won’t judge other people for how they show their faith, but help them be loving.

Luke
      Jesus doesn’t keep the work of ministry to himself. He asks 72 others (that’s us) to join in. The tasks he assigns are to share christ’s peace, to offer healing, and to proclaim the presence of God’s Reign. He invites us to travel light, trusting that we need no more than love to be effective. And even when our message is rejected, we still offer peace and healing; we still include the very people who reject us in our vision of God’s Realm. And when people reject that message we don’t take it personally, or judge either them or ourselves. We “shake the dust from our shoes” and go on. We can’t do everything.
       Imagine this is what you are sent into your daily life to do: to heal, to spread peace, to reveal God’s grace. And to take yourself lightly.
       Jesus sends us out as “lambs in the midst of wolves.” We are not expected to be wolves. We won’t be manipulative or coercive. We won’t expect to get our way, or assume our ways should dominate. In our gentleness and nonviolence we will be vulnerable. We may not prevail. Wolves may still be wolves. But we will not follow their ways. We will bear witness, extend healing, and work for justice.
And when we enjoy success, Jesus reminds us: the real joy is our relationship with God.
       The Reign (“Kingdom”) of God. Jesus sends us out to proclaim that God’s Reign is near. I think what he meant is the absolute rule of God’s love: unconditional, universal and inclusive, as absolute as gravity. It’s three-dimensional. One dimension is God’s absolute sovereignty over all of life whether we accept it or not. This world is not ours, and not anyone else’s, no matter how powerful. It’s God’s. The Empire of God is a direct antithesis to the Empire of Rome. Whereas Rome oversees an Empire of domination and submission, a system of power, privilege and exclusion, God’s Empire is an Empire of Grace, in which everyone is beloved, and everyone belongs. The Empire of God contradicts all our human empires of domination, obligation, deserving and comparison, all our systems of privilege and exclusion. So of course worldly empires will fight back, especially by trying to create insiders and outsiders, and restrict God’s grace to the insiders. But Jesus says to hell with that. God’s love is for everybody, period. God’s Imperial Rule of grace is absolute. The Reign of God is eternal.
       And there’s also a dimension in the present moment. When we choose to accept the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace we find deep peace and a sense of belonging and trust, and empowerment to live in harmony with God’s reign. We “enter into it”—we live in harmony with it. It’s like being in a marriage. The point of marriage is not merely to have said “I do” but to actually be faithful and loving and present for our partner. Jesus invites us to live as if God’s Reign is present, to live in harmony with God’s infinite grace and love for all people. It’s a way of seeing the world and living in it shaped by love, trust, forgiveness, healing, gratitude, generosity and justice. Moment by moment we tend to slip in and out of the Reign of God. Jesus invites us to keep returning, and renewing our faithfulness.
       Because we’re not done yet—nor is God. The third dimension is still in the future, the “age to come.” Jesus imagines God’s ultimate hope for humanity, a world of justice and peace, that is still unfolding, that God is still working on—and that we are asked to help work toward. This is not the same as the afterlife. It’s this life, transformed. It’s the process, still in process, envisioned in Rev. 11.15: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord.”
       So to “proclaim the Kingdom of God” is to live in a way that makes all this stuff real: to live in trust and gratitude, to offer healing and forgiveness, to work for justice and reconciliation, to include those who have been excluded, and in the words of the United Methodist baptismal rite to “accept the power God gives us resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves.”


Call to Worship

1. (from Psalm 30)
Leader: O Holy One my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
All: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
So my soul will praise you and not be silent.
O Holy One my God, I will give thanks to you forever.


2. (from Psalm 30)
Leader: We praise you, O God, for you have lifted us up.
All: We cried to you for help, and you healed us.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes in the morning.
You have turned our sorrow into dancing.
You have beautified us with joy.
We thank you. We praise you! We worship you!

3.
Leader: Holy One, giver of life,
All: we praise you!
Loving Christ, healer of our souls,
we thank you!
Holy Spirit, flame of love in our hearts,
we open ourselves to you.
We thank you for your love, we ask your blessing, and we trust your grace
as we worship you. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Holy Mystery, you hold this world in your hands.
All: The people, the places, are all in your heart.
We are your beloved, and we give you thanks.
The wholeness you wish for us you wish for all people.
We open our hearts to you as we worship.
Fill us with your love, that we may
spread your love,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Eternal God, you have poured the clear water of your grace
into the pitcher of our lives.
Our cup overflows.
Stir up your spirit in us, that we may hear your Word
and be changed,
and bear your grace into this thirsty world. Amen.

2.
God of love, you establish your Realm of mercy and justice, your Empire of Grace. Speak your Word to us now, that we may be formed in the image of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gentle God, as your Christ gathered disciples together as a community, so you invite us to live in community with one another. Teach us how to love each other. Show us your way. Give us your Spirit, that the love we have for one another and for all the world may be your love alive in us: powerful, pure and infinite. We open our hearts to your grace. Speak, and we will listen. Amen.

4.
God of healing and wholeness, we are broken people in a broken world. Give us the spirit of your healing, to be whole and to make whole this wounded world. Nourish in us the power to heal, to enact goodness, to do justice and love mercy. Jesus, walk with us as we go into this world to share your love. Amen.

Listening prayer

1.
Jesus, you have a mission for us.
You empower us to accomplish it.
Let us see your vision,
receive your power,
accept your guidance,
and trust your company.

2.
Christ,
you have a vision for our lives.
Let us see with your eyes,
live with your Spirit,
and trust in your grace.
We await your Word.

2.
God of love,
Jesus sends us out to proclaim your Reign of Grace.
May your Spirit rule our hearts,
that we may travel light,
bear your love,
and release all but your grace.
Empower us, and send us, in your Spirit.


Prayer of Confession

God of grace, we confess we are in need of healing.
Immerse us in your grace.
We are in need of forgiveness.
Immerse us in your grace.
We are in need of the faith to heal and to bless.
Immerse us in your grace.
Heal our hearts, forgive our sin,
and empower us to live the fullness of your love,
in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Readings

1. Galatians 6.1-10. My paraphrase

My friends, if you see someone do wrong,
     by the Spirit you’ve received
     restore them with gentleness.
Help them out of that pit;
     don’t climb into it yourself.
 Bear one another’s burdens:
     this is what the law is really about.
Don’t embarrass yourself
      thinking you’re better than others.
Do work you yourself are proud of;
      don’t fuss about your neighbor’s.
Live your life, not somebody else’s.

Those who are learning in the Word
      should share with their teachers.
You might be deceived but God’s isn’t:
      you reap what you sow.
If you sow desire you will reap more desires.
      If you sow the Spirit, you will reap the Spirit,
      and its eternal life.
So don’t grow weary of doing good;
      don’t give up: the harvest is coming.
Whenever you have an opportunity
      work for the good of all,
      especially those in the family of faith.

2.
Psalm 5 — My Paraphrase

O Listening Grace, hear me;
        let the sigh of my heart lie against your chest.
Hold my cry like your child—
        you who are Life and all Being,
the One to whom my prayers belong.
        You hear me before my day dawns;
in the morning I put my desire in your hands
        and I wait.

Evil is like darkness in your light;
        in you my deadliness dies.
The closer I draw to you
        the farther behind I leave my falsehood.

You see through our arrogance like glass,
        and like glass you shatter our wrongdoing.
Your grace destroys our lies,
        and our deceit evaporates in your truth.

Your mercy draws me into you;
        your presence awes and awakens me.
Lead me, O Love, in your way of blessing,
        despite those who would pull me elsewhere:
        maintain the path so I don’t miss it.

There are those who are gushers of lies,
        deep wells of hurt and destruction.
Their greed is a grave;
        their fear is disguised as power.

Don’t let me fall for their deceit.
        Let their disguises unravel about them.
Strip them naked of their lies
        so that I can stay true to your grace.

Those who nest in you are safe forever;
        our lives are songs of joy.
Surround us in your presence,
        set free our joy in your embrace.
Your blessing is our inescapable gravity.
        You hold us to you with love
as the earth holds us
        and the air gives us breath.

Response / Affirmation / Creed

      We trust in God, Creator of all things,
who is pure compassion,
who loves us unconditionally,
who is present with us in good times and bad,
who is our salvation.
      We trust in Christ, the embodiment of God’s love,
the love and healer of our sols,
who saves us, forgiving our failures,
washing away our betrayals,
who teaches us life’s deepest things:
how to pray, how to love,
how to be gentle with each other.
       We trust in the Holy Spirit, God’s power flowing in us,
that comforts the faithful,
empowers us to love as we have been loved,
and joins us together as the Body of Christ.
We believe we are sent in that Spirit
to heal, to forgive, to do justice,
to radiate the love of God, in the name of Christ. Amen.

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 heart.
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.

Infinite Love, we thank you.
You create us; you claim us; you accompany us.
Though we are broken you heal us.

When we betray your love you forgive us;
when we are lost you lead us.
You judge the forces of evil and injustice,
and set us free from oppression.

You give us Jesus, and call us to join him
in the work of the healing of the world.
You invite us to his table, and so we come,
singing your praise with al 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.
He healed the sick and cast out demons
and enacted the Reign of your Grace.

He drew us into a community of humility and compassion,
in which we feed one another, forgive each other,
and bear one another’s burdens.
He was crucified by the power of domination,
but you raised him from the dead,
faithful to 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,
healed by your grace, reconciled with you and one another,
and sent into the world to heal, to bless,
to cast out the powers of evil and injustice,
and to enact your Realm of Love,
in the name of Christ, for the healing of the world.

           [Spoken or sung]
      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

God of grace, you have healed us with your Word. Now you send your disciples out, with the grace to heal, to bless, to spread your love. Give us faith to go, to trust, and to serve. In all we do, may your peace prevail, and peace be upon all whom we meet. We pray, and we go, in your name, in your company, and in your spirit. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In this meal Jesus has modeled for us your Empire of Grace. Send us out into the world to share your love, to break down the barriers and boundaries that divide your beloved children, to work for peace and justice in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You companion us in our journeys and feed our souls with your presence and your grace. Send us out, nourished and accompanied, in your name, to love all people, to bear pone another’s burdens, to provide for healing, to proclaim your Reign, and to bring peace to every place you send us. We pray, and we live, in the power and the presence of your loving Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

One Tribe (Tune: Tallis’ Canon or The Water Is Wide/ Gift of Love)

We come with thanks, God, at your call,
to share our gifts in love with all;
for what to us you have supplied
is meant for all both far and wide.

The bread and cup from Jesus’ hand
exceeds the bounds of every land.
Your saving love, surpassing worth,
we share with every soul on earth.

Here at this feast we are, by grace,
one nation now, one tribe, one race.
All our divisions are erased.
We all are kin in every place.


The Table of your Grace (Tune: Channel of Peace)

This is the table of your grace.
We set it with the gifts that you have given.
You call us, one and all, to share your grace,
that in this meal we know your love.

You grant your presence in this meal.
Your blood and body, given for our sake.,
your humble, suff’ring service and your love,
that we may be your Body now.

The bread you give is not for us alone;
the cup is meant for us to take and share. So you
send us out, to a hungry world.
We rely on your grace to bear us on.

You send us in the Spirit’s power.
You give us strength to take the journey on,
to go and serve and heal and to proclaim
this Realm of Love in Jesus’ name.

OT 22 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost

August 31, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Jeremiah 2. 4-13 — “What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me? … Those who handle the law do not know me… You have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug leaky cisterns that hold no water.”

Psalm 81 —“I relieved your shoulder of the burden. .. Open your mouth and I will fill it. But you won’t listen to me. If you did I would satisfy you.

Hebrews 13. 1-8, 15-16 — Show love, and hospitality to strangers (some have entertained angels without knowing it). Care for those in prison, exercise fidelity in relationships, and and be free of the love of money. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not neglect to do good and share.

Luke 14. 7-14 — Choose the humblest seat… Invite those who cannot repay the favor.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      The prophet offers us a lovey image. His criticism is not just that we’re disobedient to God’s command to love our neighbor. When we go our own way and turn from God we abandon the fountain of life Then we become desperate for life, clinging and competing, fighting against each other and withholding life from others. You can see the consequences today: racism, poverty, hate, violence, suspicion of immigrants, mass incarceration…. These are not just political problems. They’re symptoms of our life-denying ways. Using Jeremiah’s image, imagine if we drank deeply of the waters of life. That life would flow through s naturally. We would be moved to share, to love our neighbor, to do justice.

Hebrews
       Hebrews provides the antidote to the sickness Jeremiah has diagnosed: share! Do good, show hospitality, avoid love of money. Hebrews offers us bracing medicine for our legal system. “Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those who are being tortured as though you yourselves were being tortured.” (This is a good time to stop pretending torture—including solitary confinement, beatings and other methods—doesn’t happen, even in our American prisons.) This good advice for all our acts of mercy: avoid playing the role of the gifted savior; be in solidarity; take on the suffering of others as your own. That is the most radical kind of sharing and hospitality. If we are afraid to get close to that suffering.. maybe we’ve not drunk deeply enough of the fountain of life.

Luke
     Jesus is not a fan of social status. He says of social capital the same as he does of financial capital: sell everything and give to the poor. Stop seeking status. Practice humility. It doesn’t mean you think poorly of yourself; it means you stop striving to appear better than others.
     Back in the 1970’s I worked with adolescent girls involved in prostitution. In their world everything, not just sex, was an exchange. You didn’t give something without getting something. Honor, shame, debt and obligation were finely calibrated. Everybody knew who owed exactly what to whom. Jesus’ culture was more like that than ours, but we all fall into that. If someone has done you a favor you owe them, right? If they’ve wronged you they owe you. But Jesus believes in a world in which everything is a gift. Nobody owes anybody anything. (“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”) So, Jesus says, practice giving stuff away. Have a dinner for folks who can’t repay you. Not because you want them to feel indebted, or so you can appear oh-so-generous (oops! there goes your humility!), but because God’s grace is free and your gifts are like that. Because generosity is a way to drink of the fountain of life.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, Holy of Holies, Great Mystery, Generous Love,
All: we worship you.
Jesus Christ, Humble Savior, Embodied Love, Faithful One,
we thank you.
Holy Spirit, Divine Presence, Flowing Love,
we praise you. We open our hearts to you. We sing of your glory. Alleluia!

2. [May also be a response, prayer of confession, or invitation to communion.]
            from Psalm 81
Leader: I hear a voice I had not known: “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder.”
All: O God, you have saved us; you have blessed us. We praise you!
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
O Christ, you invite us to your table. We come with joy, and we thank you!
“But you have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for yourselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”
O Spirit, we confess that we have turned from you. Forgive us, renew us and give us life. We open ourselves to your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Creator God, you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you. We drink from you. We rejoice in you.
Risen Christ, our loving brother, you set us free.
You feed us at the banquet of you grace. We give thanks to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with humility, generosity and compassion.
Alleluia! We open our hearts to you. Come and fill us.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Generous God, we praise you!
All: Humble Christ, we greet you!
We are poor, and you have invited us to your feast.
We are unable to repay you, and you have brought us to your table.
We are beneath you, and yet you humbly serve us,
and lavish upon us great gifts.
Alleluia! We thank you for your mercies. Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of grace, you give yourself to us, humbly, with delight, mostly invisibly. We receive you with gratitude. We enter into your heart. We welcome you into ours. We open the doors of our minds, that you may enter. We open the windows of our hearts, that your light may shine in. Welcome. Amen.2.
God of love, you speak softly in our hearts. You call us into this world with your love. Speak to us now; awaken us with your grace, shape us by your Word, and lead us into lives of compassion, courage and beauty. Amen.

3.
God of abundance, you make this life a wedding party, and invite us to your banquet of grace. We come now to celebrate your faithful love, to feast on your Word, and to be made new by your grace. We open our hearts wide: fill us with your Spirit, in the name and the presence of Christ. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, our pride means nothing before you. You bless the humble and feed the poor. Like beggars we come to you. Like children we open our hands to your grace. Give us the humility of Christ, that we may embody his generosity and hospitality, in the power of your Spirit. Come to us, God; speak to us, and feed our souls. Amen.

5.
God of truth, you spread the banquet of life before us. We feast upon your Word. We come in hunger to hear and understand, to know your love and to shine with your Spirit. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

1.
God of abundance,
you have invited us to your table.
Humbly we come.
We cannot repay your grace.
But we can rejoice in one another,
and in each other’s company
feast on your Word.

2.
God, you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you,
and drink deeply
of the flowing waters
of your grace.

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.
Loving and faithful God,
you are the fountain of our life,
yet we have turned away,
seeking life elsewhere.
We have cut ourselves off from life’s deep abundance,
shriveled our own glory,
and strangled our compassion.
Forgive us,
bring us back,
and change our hearts,
so that we might drink deeply from your grace. Amen.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
Leader: God of love, you create us in your image and call us in your grace.
All: We are your Beloved, special in your eyes and chosen for great tasks.
Christ, you come to us in lowly form. You heal us and lift us up and give us our lives.
We are your companions: nothing special, but blessed by your love.
Holy Spirit, you live in us and move us by your will.
We are your earthen vessels, holy in our ordinary lives, powerful in your hands.
Speak to us, lead us, and use us according to your delight. Amen.


2.
      We believe in God, creator of all things, the fountain of life, who provides for us with grace and abundance.
      We trust in Jesus Christ, who made God manifest among us. He healed the sick, raised up the downtrodden, ate with sinners, and spoke the Word of God. He died in love for all people, and none are undeserving. Crucified by the powers of oppression, he was raised by the power of love, and lives among us now, inviting all to the feast of God’s love and generosity.
      We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of trust and hospitality. As the Body of Christ, in unity with the whole universal church, we devote ourselves to live in love in the name and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

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

God you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you,
and drink deeply
of the flowing waters
of your grace.

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.

God, we thank you, for you invite us to your table.
You put us in the place of honor.
You set the finest table, and serve us.
You offer us love we can’t return.
You give us Creation; you give us your delight.
You are the fountain of life,
and we drink deeply of your flowing grace.
In thanksgiving, in the company of all who are grateful,
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.
He fed the hungry and healed the sick.
He took the lowest place, and served us.
He served in humility, suffering death,
yet you raised him in glory.


     (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.
                     —or—
        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,
humble in spirit, generous of heart,
aware that in our hospitality
we may welcome angels unawares.
All glory be to you, loving God.

           [Spoken or sung]
      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 after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In your Spirit may we give ourselves to others. By the grace you give us may we honor the angels we entertain. Send us out now to serve, to give without expecting return from any but your grace, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Send us, strengthened by gifts beyond our comprehending, into the world, to share your love in humility and generosity, and to invite others to your table, that the day may come when we feast with all Creation in harmony at your table of grace. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In our hunger you have fed us the finest food; in our poverty you have served us as royalty. Send us into the world with the humility of Christ, to serve those whom the world rejects, to give to those who cannot repay, to honor those whom the world thinks unworthy. Send us to share your feast of life with all, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on title to view on the Music page.)


We Feast On Your Love (Original song)

Chorus: We drink from your presence.
We feast on your love.
This is the banquet we’ve been dreaming of. (Repeat.)

You gather us: no one’s unworthy,
and no one is “greatest” or “least.”
You multiply what we offer,
so multitudes may feast. — Chorus

We hunger and thirst for your spirit,
we open ourselves to your grace.
In flows the mercy you offer
in every time and place. — Chorus

We taste the sweet wine made from water,
our bread is your body you give.
“Drink of the water I give you,
so you may truly live.”



OT 23 – 13th Sunday After Pentecost

September 7, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Jeremiah 18. 1-11 — “You are the clay and I am the potter. I reshape you as I see fit.”

Psalm 139 — “God, you created me.” (Knitted and woven, specifically, which were women’s work). “You know me; you are always with me. Help me to avoid doing evil.”

Philemon — Paul’s letter appealing to Philemon to release his slave Onesimus.

Luke 14. 25-33 — Carry the cross. Hate father and mother… Carry the cross; building a tower, count the cost. Don’t lose your saltiness.

Preaching Thoughts

Luke
     “Hate father and mother..” — Strong language, typical of Jesus. Obviously he doesn’t mean disliking, enmity or mistreatment. (Notice how he defends “honor your father and mother” in Mark 7.11). He means honoring your discipleship even above family loyalty. We easily surrender our beliefs or our integrity to avoid upsetting people we care about (well, yeah, and even strangers). We “go along to get along.” This can be hardest in families or significant friendships. How many folks don’t talk politics with family members? Jesus invites us to stand for who we are, even when the resistance is costly. That’s when we really become ourselves. Of course, the point is not to start family arguments; some disagreements are best left untested. But not arguing about our beliefs is one thing; staying true to them is another. That’s what counts.
     “Carry the cross.” — A “cross to bear” is not an annoyance. It’s our willingness to suffer for the sake of loving others. And love requires suffering. Sometimes not much, but always at least a little. Sometimes a lot. Every parent knows your heart will be broken a thousand times. But you do it, because the cost is actually a good deal. Love is worth it. But don’t think it won’t hurt. “Count the cost.” I think people need help discerning the difference between the authentic cost of discipleship and unrelated struggle or suffering. Not every “thorn in the flesh” is a result of our love, forgiveness, generosity or work for justice. “Stuff happens.” On the other hand, we often minimize just how much we have to let go of to really live lives of love, forgiveness, humility, vulnerability, reconciliation, healing and justice. Each of us needs to discern: What do I need to let go of to be perfectly loving? What are the things I cling to that are likely to hold me back from loving deeply, forgiving entirely, or risking for the sake of others?
     “Salt is good.” — What a cryptic, evocative image. Be salt. There’s not much correct doctrine to it, nor any clear senses of definition. In the context of carrying the cross, it seems to mean “be loving.” Its ambiguity invites us to ponder: What feels like “salty” living to you? Loving? Kind? Authentic? Simple? Bringing out other people’s beauty, as salt brings out other flavors? It certainly seems to describe behavior, not belief. Who has “salted” your life? What do you value in that? The image of salt invites a lot of play, imagination and storytelling.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, divine artist, you fashion the universe with skill and beauty.
All: We praise you!
Jesus the builder has shaped our hearts with loving hands and a steady eye.
We thank you!
Holy Spirit, breath of new creation, you continually fashion us anew.
We worship you. We open our hearts to you.
We surrender ourselves to your shaping hands. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: God, you have searched us and known us.
All: Holy Mystery, we wonder; and we praise you.
Where could we escape your presence? Even in the farthest desolation, you are there.
Loving Presence, you accompany us; you sustain us, and we thank you.
You have formed our inner nature; you create us by your grace.
How vast is your love! We praise you,
for we are astoundingly and wonderfully made.
Search us, and remove whatever is evil in us,
and lead us in the way everlasting.

3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: We thank you and we worship you.
God, you search us and know us;
you are all about us, within us and among us.
Your presence is everywhere; help us to be aware.
Come be with us now, God, and help us in our worship.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Creator God, you are the potter; we are the clay.
All: Shape us by your Word.
By your grace help us to turn from the things we possess
and worship you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
By your grace help us to take up our cross and follow.
Savior of the world, we devote our hearts to you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Potter God, shape us by your Word. Fashion us with your divine skill. In your grace re-make us in your image. Speak to us, and your Word will call us to new life. Amen.

2.
God of love, Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But we confess that we hold back; we cling to many things. Grant us the faith to trust your grace, to let go of all that burdens us, and to take up Christ’s love for the world and follow him in faith and service. Speak your Word to us, call to us in our fear, and give us courage to follow. Amen.

3.
God, we want to worship you. Christ, we want to follow you. Living within us, you know better than we what holds us back. Spirit, rise up in us now, and bend us toward you. You are the potter; we are the clay. Shape us by your Word. With your steady hands upon us, change us from one degree of glory to another, and form us into your delight. You are the weaver. Weave the threads of our hearts into the tapestry of your image, the Body of Christ, our Savior and our brother. Amen.

4.
Gentle God, you know that we cling to many things in this life. Help us now to let go of them all, and to open ourselves to your presence and your Word. As your scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, help us to hear your voice, and to allow ourselves to be changed, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

5.
God of love, Jesus called his hearers to leave behind their worldly attachments and follow him. Lead us by your grace to let go of everything to which we cling, so that we can be open to your Word. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Listening prayer

Loving Christ,
hold us with your mercy;
strengthen us with your grace,
that we may hear your challenge,
accept hard teachings,
and follow you no matter the cost,
by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Great Potter God,
we confess we have had a mind of our own,
and shaped our lives as we have chosen,
not as you have hoped for us.
In stillness we repent.
Lay your strong and gentle hands upon us,
and reshape us according to your delight.
Forgive our sin, heal our wounds,
and shape us by your grace,
as vessels of your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
       Loving God, you are our creator. You create all things in your love; you create us as an image of your love. You are the potter; we are the clay. We submit ourselves to your shaping hands.
       Loving Christ, you who perfectly embodied God’s love, who taught and healed, who fed the hungry and gathered the outcast: you call us to follow you. You were willing to pay the cost for your radical faithfulness to God: you were crucified. But God raised you from the dead. The way of the cross is not the way of death, but the way of Life! Christ, you call us to surrender all and follow you. We submit ourselves to your life-giving Way.
       Loving Spirit, it is by your power alone that we are faithful, You breathe in us; you give us grace to take up our cross and follow. Make us people of trust and forgiveness, people of prayer, people of resurrection. You are the potter and we are the clay: mold us and shape us according to your will. Amen.

2.
Leader: God, like a thoughtful grandmother you knit each of us a life.
All: Like a weaver at her loom of beauty you weave us together.
Like an artful potter you shape us for your purposes.
And when we are distorted you re-shape us again.
You are the beauty that draws us toward life.
You are the love that beckons us out of self-centeredness
and toward our sisters and brothers in compassion and gratitude.
You are the treasure that is worth the greatest cost.
Alleluia! We gladly give up everything and turn to you.
Bless us, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia
!

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.

We thank you, God, for we are wondrously made.
You know us inside and out, and are with us always.
Even in the farthest places you are with us;
even in the darkest times you are light.
You set us free from all that enslaves us,
and ask us to set one another free.
Like a master potter you shape us by your love.
And so we come to your table to be re-shaped again,
singing 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 loved even at the cost of his life,
and asks us to do the same.
Under an oppressive power he was crucified,
but by your infinite grace he was raised from the dead.


     (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.
                     —or—
        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,
with courage and compassion no matter the cost,
salty with your love,
for the sake of the healing of the world.

           [Spoken or sung]
      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

God of love, you have shaped us by your Word; now send us into the world to embody that Word, forsaking all our possessions, our habits and attachments, to follow Christ with courage, to heal the broken and set free the oppressed with compassion, and to praise you in all things, by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit in us. We pray, as we live, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the love of Jesus you have salted us with your love, that we may serve you for the sake of justice, with courage and compassion. May this mystery live in us always. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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


I Am Open (Original song)

Dear gentle Jesus, I open to you
the deepest secrets of my soul.
My heart is open, wounded and broken.
Heal and forgive and make me whole.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Beloved Jesus, my eyes are open;
your healing touch restores my sight.
Like open windows, they shine, and in flows
your glory filling me with light.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

My wounded Jesus. Your arms are open,
our hurt and dying to embrace.
When I would close them, hold my arms open,
to be so loving by your grace.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Now risen Jesus, my life is open,
a flower unfolding in the sun:
by your light growing, and boldly showing
the love of God, as you have done.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.


I Take Up My Cross (Original song)

Congregation:
Letting go, I am held. I take up my cross and follow.

Cantor
1. Jesus, you call to me, and draw me into your life.
2. Christ, I leave all behind, to follow you in love.
3. I yield my life to you, for you alone are God.
4. Loved with your costly love, I’ll suffer for the sake of love.
5. Christ, make my one desire to be to serve you in love.


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