Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year B
July 8, 2018
Lessons: Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people recognize a variety of calls and gifts within Christ’s Body, including those who are given the often difficult, controversial, and lonely task of prophecy.
Key Scriptures: “Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.” Ezekiel 2:5
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’” Mark 6:4
Know any modern day prophets? I do. When my friend and colleague speaks you get the sense that he has been given the hard holy task of calling all of us to greater awareness of what God requires of us now. His words have the power to convict, even though they are spoken with great care and gentleness, and they have the power to stir up opposition to the faces found wanting in the divine mirror he holds before you.
Being a prophet is no easier today than it was in Ezekiel’s time. While I suspect that my friend would not describe his call to prophecy as happening with fantastic creatures, fire, and wind, and the audible voice of God, I have absolutely no doubt that he does have a holy call from God. And it is not easy for him. It puts him at odds with some folks who assume he is being “political” and with others who are uncomfortable with the painful truths he lays bare. Yet he keeps on walking the walk—all the way to Iraqi Kurdistan, in fact, and to our state capitol complex every Monday for the Poor People’s Campaign.
Not feeling a call to prophecy yourself? Don’t worry; it is not how God chooses to send all of us into the world. Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, said, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, CEB). We all have our God-given gifts and talents to be used for building faith and discipleship, and we need to honor and cultivate to the fullest those gifts that we discern and that others discern in us. We do, however, desperately need prophets today, and when we encounter one, it is wise to listen. I hope, too, that we can welcome the prophets in our midst, unlike Jesus’ home folk, who prevented him from fully practicing his ministry and healing in their midst.
We need to see prophets and prophetic voices as gifts among us, as the messengers of God that they are. What about false prophets, you might ask? How do we discern who is rightly a prophet of God and who is in Shakespeare’s words “full of sound and fury signifying nothing”? If we are not open to God’s action in the world and will for our lives and creation, it’s a mighty tough thing to do, my friends. We have to open wide the doors of our hearts and let our lives be good soil for the Holy Spirit to work in us, giving us the gift of discernment, anointing us with a holy discomfort, and goading us into action in ways that may not be congruent with our own ideas of how life should go. Then, and only then, can we hear God speaking through the voices of our sisters and brothers charged with speaking a prophetic word and calling us to justice and mercy and love. Then, and only then, can be good stewards of all of God’s gifts, and ways, and movements. So open wide your hearts, and do not be afraid. God is calling you through the discomforting and convicting voices of prophets past and present. Listen. Hear. Learn. Go.
Create a prayer station with icons or photographs of modern day prophets. You might include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, William Barber, Oscar Romero, Shane Claiborne, Pope Francis, Katharine Hayhoe, Bill McKibben, Jim Wallis, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans, etc.
Invite worshipers to light candles as they pray for those who are called to use their prophetic voices to speak truth to power and to follow God’s way and will—even when it isn’t comfortable. Place small cards with the words “I feel called by God to use my voice to proclaim good news and/or uncomfortable truth by…” Invite people to fill in the blank and either leave the card on the table or take it as a reminder to use their hands and voices in prophetic response to God’s call.
Spend some time with youth talking about Paul’s message from this week’s epistle lesson (2 Corinthians 12;2-10), especially verses 9-12: “but he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
How do they understand this in their own lives? How is weakness really strength? What defines weakness and strength? How does a follower of Jesus live this passage in today’s world where strength and power are so highly prized and valued?
Two by Two: Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. That reinforces his promise that we are never alone. Even when we can’t feel or sense Jesus close to us, when we have our faith friends here in our worshiping community, we are never alone. Any job is easier with help! Growing in faith is easier when we work together. Remind the children that even the animals on the ark went in pairs.
Invite the children to play a simple game to illustrate how much better it is to work in pairs. Designate two volunteers to work together and two volunteers to work alone. Give the children a simple task such as moving marbles in tea spoons from one bowl to another a short distance away (or any other game that works more efficiently in pairs). Have the children complete the task and then talk with them about the results. Which was easier? Working alone or together? Which was more fun? Which way was quicker?
Finish by sharing with the children how important it is to work together in ministry and mission. It’s more fun, and it’s easier to get the work done. Finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Christians are called to live and work together. We are not islands alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us, and our communities of faith provide support, fellowship, and accountability. This week ponder how using our voices prophetically—if called by God to do so—can be a radical act of stewardship.
Stewardship at Home
What does it mean to share the work of discipleship? Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs without provisions or extra clothes. How does this speak to our lives of overt consumerism and consumption today?
Do some research about decluttering and minimizing consumption. Look at focus areas that you find particularly interesting. Perhaps you might declutter your closet this week or the kitchen. Can you give your excess to a local charity that could distribute it to others in need?
In your research you do you find speaking with a prophetic and gospel-centered voice against over-consumption or abuse of creation?
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/07/real-strength/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/07/lord-have-mercy/
Photos: zeevveez, Becker1999, and Ted, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!