Lectionary Reflection for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
September 18, 2016
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 The Message
A colleague of mine, Pastor Tim Seitz-Brown, is spending part of his sabbatical with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation in Iraqi Kurdistan He will be there for about two weeks with this team as they seek to offer an alternative to organized violence by supporting Iraqi Kurds who are engaged in dismantling violence. There is risk involved to be sure, but there is also great blessing, and I have every confidence that this faithful pastor is engaged in fervent prayer, deep listening, and holy conversation. In fact, his journey to Kurdistan and his willingness to bear witness, share hospitality, and seek to reduce violence and make peace reminds me of what Paul might have been getting at in this second chapter of his letter to the young disciple Timothy.
We live in a world where snap judgments and unfounded opinion, polarizing opposites, angry rhetoric, and rampant hate reign supreme in the media. Good news doesn’t usually sell publications or improve ratings. It takes bombast, divisiveness, and catty, snarky repartee to make headlines, not prayerful peacemakers standing in the breach attempting to reknit brokenness in quiet relationship building and listening. It’s easy to point fingers and hurl blame; just spend some time listening to candidates on the campaign trail. But we are called to a different way of being, to a stewardship of self and other that places value on people, on relationships, and on the building up of community.
Sure, there are contextual differences between the world in which Paul and Timothy lived and our present age, but human nature has not changed at all. Struggles between Empire and the Way of Christ still exist, poverty and war are ever-present, and violence continues to mar our relationships in myriad ways. If we can move beyond Paul’s words that sound somewhat out-of-sync to us and distill the message into its essence, we can hear clearly a timeless call to prayer, to peace, to simplicity, and to gratitude.
Instead of buying into a culture of anger, hate, consumption, and various and sundry —isms, we are called to be counter-cultural witnesses to God’s love, mercy, and saving grace. We cannot be a witness if our hearts are filled with hate. We cannot love our neighbors if we aren’t willing to get to know them, and certainly not if we aren’t willing to stop working violence against one another. Importantly, we cannot be good and faithful stewards of all God’s abundance if we refuse to cease our relentless “doing” and calm our anxious chatter.
Yes, dear friends we are called to prayer, to humility, and to quiet listening and reflection. We are invited to fall to our knees at the foot of the cross and die daily to our sinful selves. Then, and only then, can Christ raise us up to new life and send us out to be his hands, feet, heart, ears, and voice in this broken world. Then and only then can we be the prayerful peacemakers our world so desperately needs.
I am praying daily for Pastor Tim during his time in Kurdistan. I am grateful for his witness, his willingness to live out his faith, to take risks, and to be the change he wants to see in the world. His example also calls me to examine myself and how I am stewarding the gifts of a gracious and loving God. How am I being a “little Christ” in a world of big egos and great chaos? God is still calling all prayerful peacemakers. Lord, help me to be worthy of the call. And may God bless your teaching and prophetic preaching through Spirit wind and divine love.
Who are the peacemakers in your congregation? In your circles of friends and acquaintances? Make sure that you pray for these people by name in the intercessory prayers. Add a petition that asks God to make everyone a peacemaker, to give us words, witness, and means to make peace, to love our neighbors, and to learn from one another. Challenge congregants to take the time to get to know someone different from them–someone of another race, faith, or ethnicity. When we come to know our neighbors it is easier to love them rather than simply assume how they are, how they live, and what they think.
If you have someone who has been part of a Christian Peacemaker Team or other accompaniment program, invite them to give a brief temple talk about their experience.
Invite the youth to consider this week’s gospel lesson (Luke 16:1-13) as Eugene Peterson recounts it in The Message. Focus on the last verse: “I want you to be smart in the same way–but for what is right–using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” What is Jesus talking about? How can we live this out in our fast-paced, crazy world?
“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.” (The Message)
This is Paul’s basic instruction to young Timothy. And it is a good place to start. Talk to the children about prayer and how it is our conversation with God. It helps us build relationship with God and with one another. Ask the children who they want to pray for. Make a list on a white board or large poster. Be sure to include those names in the intercessory prayers during your worship. Consider giving each child a booklet in which you have included your favorite prayers, or make a prayer craft with them. Google children’s prayer book crafts or check out Pinterest for ideas. Here’s one craft that’s easy to do. Finish with a simple prayer and invite the congregation to pray this week for each child by name.
Photos: Christian Peacemaker Teams, Creative Commons