Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B
June 24, 2018
Lessons: Job 38:1-11; Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people strive to practice faithful stewardship of relationship, seeing all of God’s children as valuable and beloved—even when we disagree.
Key Scripture: But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Mark 4:38
I suspect that many of the people with whom we minister are suffering from “bad news fatigue” this week. It’s been pretty tough to turn on the television, open a web browser, or peruse social media without being bombarded by painful, difficult, and even horrific news both home and abroad. Add to the news itself the nastiness of people’s responses to one another, hatefully decrying those who oppose their views, spewing venom, fomenting hate, and pointing fingers. It is so easy to be pulled into the fracas by typing a hasty and emotional response. Most of us don’t have the time to sift through credible information to figure out what is true, or what’s even real, for that matter.
Hate and fear have become the kissing cousins at the center stage of our nation’s conversation (if you can call it conversation). And while Americans duke it out behind the illusory anonymity of social media, one has to wonder what the power brokers are up to when we’re all distracted and pummeling each other with our right- and left-wing rhetorical hooks.
Meanwhile, around the world millions of people are suffering—hungry, in danger, lacking adequate housing, food, or safe drinking water, living in areas of conflict and natural disaster.
Have we forgotten that we’re all in this same boat on the stormy sea of life? As the waves of anger, despair, and doubt begin to swamp us, can you hear 21st century disciples crying, “Jesus! Is it nothing to you that we are going down? Why are you asleep out there somewhere in the cosmos that we call heaven? Do something!”
We know what Jesus did in our gospel lesson. He rebuked the storm and the wind, saying “Peace! Be still!” And it was so. But Jesus also reprimanded his disciples, saying “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”
What do you suppose Jesus would say to us today?
“Why aren’t you doing something, my people? Don’t you have any faith? Even faith the size of a mustard seed? Why are you wringing your hands in relative comfort, or putting your hands over your ears and hollering ‘LA, LA, LA, LA, LA?’”
Beloved, we have to stop this right now. We have to do something, too. And it’s hard holy work. We have to practice stewardship of relationship, and we need to start small before we can even begin to tackle the big issues.
What if during worship this week you ask your people to do you a favor. Invite them to look at the person next to them—really look—and say these simple words: “I see you.”
What if we really looked at those around us, make it a spiritual practice even? What if we invite our people to look at those with whom they disagree, those with whom they have seemingly nothing in common, those who are invisible to them on a daily basis? Can we begin to realize what a grace-filled gift it is to truly see another person, to truly hear that person? Might we be able to see the light of Christ in one another and to look on this entire world through the lens of agape love?
We are in a storm right now. Our life’s boat is being swamped. This is a frightening time to be human, to be church, to be alive in a broken and battered creation.
The gospel for us is this: We are not alone. Jesus is right here with us—even if it appears that he is snoring in the stern, trusting us to handle the rudder and trim the sails.
Yes, the Lord is with you, and me, and everybody in this beautiful, broken world. So take heart, and as Paul said to the Corinthians whom he loved so dearly and who tried him so sorely: “I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.”
When you step into the pulpit or lead a group discussion this weekend, take heart. We can do this hard thing, my friends. We can see one another, hear one another, and love one another by the grace of God. Yes, we must speak the truth to power and to one another, we must not allow evil to go unchallenged, but we must do so in love and with compassion and kindness. Only by building relationships can we stand together, only by loving God and neighbor can we live grace-fully.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can tell others is this: Don’t be afraid. Pray with your feet. Open your heart. Know that truly God is in this place and goes with you into the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Why not consider singing your confession and absolution to one another today? You might use Martin Luther’s hymn “Out of the Depths I Cry to You” as a confession followed by Kari Tikka’s hymn “For by Grace You Have Been Saved” as absolution.
Consider interspersing your sermon with verses from a hymn like “In Christ there is no East or West” by John Oxenham, “When the Poor Ones” by José Antonio Olivar, or other applicable options from your tradition.
How do we talk to one another and share despite our differences? This article by Melinda Blau can give you some good ideas. Helping your youth develop skills to bridge divides is also helping them become better stewards of relationships.
Today’s a good day to talk about the power of opening our hearts wide. You will need red file folders or red posterboard, markers, google eyes, stickers, glitter glue, or other decorations. In advance cut a folded heart pattern out of the folder or folded posterboard. Write these words on each open heart: Open wide your hearts. Share God’s love! (2 Corinthians 6:13). Glue two google eyes on the inside of the heart to make a face. Fold the hearts with the writing and eyes inside.
Talk with the children about this week’s epistle lesson from 2 Corinthians 6:1-13. In the last three verses Paul talks about how his heart is wide open, and he tells the church members in Corinth to open their hearts wide, too. When we see with our hearts, then we see people as God sees them. We see them through a lens of love with all of their good points and the things God loves about them. We see how we are alike rather than how we are different. Give each child a folded heart, and invite them to open them. Tell the children that when we close our hearts, we can’t see clearly and we can’t see beauty and love. Give the children a little time to decorate their hearts, and then finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This week’s lessons help us to understand how important it is to practice stewardship of relationships. Fear and closed-mindedness prevent us from seeing other people as God sees them. Take some time this week to really see and listen to people you perceive to be different from yourself. You may be surprised at just how much you really do have in common with others.
Stewardship at Home
This week find a way to have a conversation with someone whose views, religion, or lifestyle is different from yours. Look at them—really look at them and listen to them. Pray before you have your conversation and invite God to open your heart and mind to see new things and possibilities. If the conversation gets tough, take a deep breath and say a silent prayer. Be gentle and spacious with yourself. After your conversation, reflect on what you have learned about yourself and about the other person.
If you have children at home, consider inviting a family you do not know well from your neighborhood or church over for dinner or dessert. Take time to get to know one another and enjoy conversation and food. Stewardship of relationships is central to a life of discipleship.
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/06/wide-open-faith/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/06/in-case-you-forgot/
Photos: Anna Oh and Akia Takemoto, Creative Commons usage license and © Bastos – Fotolia.com. Thanks!
Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2018, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: firstname.lastname@example.org.