Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Year B
June 22, 2015
And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:41
All right, dear everyday sinner/saints, it’s time to “gird up your loins like a man [or woman]” as God says to Job and do some remembering. Three of the lessons this Sunday fill us with plenteous reminders of the majesty, power, and steadfast love of God. One might think we wouldn’t need reminders of just how amazing the Creator of the Cosmos really is, but then again we are human and prone to forgetting that we don’t really control much of anything at all. It’s not about us; it’s all about God and God’s desire to be in relationship with us.
Look at Paul’s words to the Corinthians in this week’s epistle lesson. Paul and his fellow missionaries seem to be able to keep a pretty good handle on just who’s in control. They are servants of the Most High God, and they do not take the gift of grace for granted. In fact, Paul recites a litany of woes and ills he and his companions have suffered for the sake of the gospel, despite which they are not dissuaded from loving the rascally Corinthian Christians. Disagreement and lack of accord within the Body of Christ? Surely you jest! Not much has changed when it comes to human beings.
When we allow our focus to stray from the One who truly matters, we run the risk of forgetting our purpose, our passion, and our source of real and abundant life. It’s easy for our hearts to harden against the message of Christ when the lures of the world and the illusions of power and control dance like sugarplums before our eyes. Lured into complacency, it’s not long before life’s storms threaten to swamp us, defeat us, ruin us. And then, perhaps, we remember.
“Teacher,” we cry with the disciples of all ages and times, “do you not care that we are perishing?” Remember how church attendance skyrocketed in the first weeks after the horror of 9/11? Why does it so often take a storm to draw us back into the tether of grace? Why are we so prone to disremembering, to forgetting, and to ignoring? And why, once we do remember, are we then so quick to forget again? Why do we tend to come to worship to “get something out of it” rather than to give back to God a humble portion of what God so generously lavishes on us?
Worship is the chief act of praise to God, the time when we bring the first-fruits of ourselves, our time, our talent, and our possessions to honor God. It’s not about us. It’s all about God. It is our time to remember, our time to give, and yes, even in the act of worship God feeds and equips us to go back into the world.
So how about using this week’s lessons to help one another remember exactly how great our God really is? What about turning up the volume on our praise by encouraging people to hear, really hear, the words they are singing? How about saying the creed and the Lord’s Prayer as if our lives depended on it? Why not invite people to share where they have seen the majesty, grace, and power of God at work in the world? Let this be a day to remember and to open wide our hearts. Just who is this that can calm the storms and who can love us in spite of our imperfections? Lest we forget again, let us dare to remember. Blessings on your preaching and teaching.
Pull out the stops on praise today. Choose hymns that praise God for creation, for salvation, and for love and grace that are truly amazing. Pray with your worship team for God’s spirit to infuse every thought, every word, and every note so that all God’s people may be edified and encouraged to give their heartfelt thanks and praise. Provide a time for congregants to write those things for which they wish to praise and give thanks to God. Have children collect the slips of paper with the offering. Make a bulletin board of praise or post the comments to your church website throughout the week. Invite congregants to contemplate the words of Psalm 107 every day this week, perhaps to begin their prayers by reflecting on this passage.
In this week’s epistle passage, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth where conflict clearly exists. His aim is reconciliation. His motive is love. His desire is to continue to serve God faithfully no matter the cost. This is a powerful passage to unpack, one full of paradox and hope, all wrapped in God’s amazing grace. Invite youth to consider what Paul says about his ministry. Some questions you might ask include: How do they see this played out in their own experience of the Body of Christ? What might they affirm? What do they see missing? What rings true and what rings false? How might we use Paul’s language and life as a guide for our own faith journey? Are our hearts truly open wide to others? How can we live into a new reality of love, reconciliation, and promise?
NOTE: In light of this week’s horrific shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, you may want to use this passage in addressing what happened there. You might also choose to link the gospel lesson, where the disciples ask Jesus “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” How can we be Christ’s hands, feet, heart, eyes, and voice in the light of such tragedy? Posted on the Emanuel website is the following quote attributed to Sister Jean German Ortiz: “Jesus died a passionate death for us, so our love for him should be as passionate.” How might this quote inform your discussion?
Thank YOU, God! Tell the children about a recent note of thanks you have received or written. It feels good to be thanked. Everyone likes to be appreciated. That’s why the adults in our life encourage us to show our thanks to others. We write thank you notes when we receive birthday and Christmas gifts, for example. Invite the children to give examples of thank you notes they have written or times when they have found other ways to show their gratitude. Maybe they did something to help a parent without being asked. Maybe they did something really nice for a friend or teacher who had been nice to them. God desires our thanks and praise, too. Yet sometimes we forget to thank God–after all we can’t see God, we can’t hear God, so it’s easy to forget about God. Have a large sheet of poster board folded in half with “Thank You, God!” written in big, bold decorative lettering on the front. On the inside, write in the same lettering “Love, Your Children.” Help the children write short notes of thanks to God and then sign their names. Use this big thank you card as the center of your Bulletin Board of Praise and Thanksgiving (if you’re using the worship idea). If not, post the card somewhere where it can be seen. Finish by reminding the children that we don’t have to write thank you notes to God (although that’s certainly not a bad idea) to express our thanks and praise. We can come to worship. We can sing. We can pray. We can do good to others in God’s name. The important thing is to DO IT. Give thanks and praise to God every day. Finish with a simple prayer.
(Photo: Stenly Lam, UK Ministry of Defence, and City Temple SDA Church, Creative Commons)