Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10, Year B
July 15, 2018
Lessons: Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people of all times and places are part of a grand narrative of salvation and reconciliation.
Key Scriptures: In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
Do you ever stop to ponder the “why” of the Christian life? Do you ever really pause to consider that you (yes, you) have an integral part in God’s wide narrative of salvation and reconciliation? You, beloved child of God, have been adopted into God’s family in Christ; you have an eternal inheritance and a forever place at the table. And it’s not just about you or me or any individual, God desires to gather, bless, and restore all of creation. We are stitched into the fabric of God’s mercy and grace, woven into the tapestry of the divine story. This is mind-blowing and life-changing stuff! Truly, this reality of redemption and blessing changes everything. We are part of something way bigger than ourselves—more vast and grand than we can conceive, really.
And yet, despite this promise and the writer’s explanation to the Gentile Christians in Ephesus, life goes on missing the wonder and awe of this promise. We go to work, we juggle multiple priorities, have relationships, families, peaks and valleys, hobbies and interests. In the midst of living we are prone to forget the promise as we focus on our individual high and lows. In doing so, we miss the beauty of the present moment as God brings about the reconciliation and blessing of the entire world.
True, this is a tough lesson to unpack in a standard homily or average length sermon. The writer’s words are lush with meaning and theologically deep. Trying to appeal to the mind and reason puts preachers at risk of hitting the homiletical ball into the weeds. This letter was written to a specific audience dealing with specific concerns, needs, and hopes. It is definitely worth the risk!
In today’s cultural fabric of fractious unraveling, God’s people may need to be reminded that they are woven into something that’s so grand and so amazing. Being part of the family of God gives us all we need to transcend all the fear, pain, suffering, and doubt this world can engender. This lesson is a powerful reminder of the importance of being part of Christ’s Body, the church, and how this is truly the blessed community. Together we are so much stronger than any one of us could ever be alone. When we connect ourselves through the gift of the Holy Spirit to God’s people of all time and all places, we can glimpse and participate in this story of blessing and redemption. It’s not about “me” but rather all about “we.”
God desires for us to participate in this work of healing, restoring, and blessing all of creation. We are not there yet, but we are on the way. The more we bind ourselves into the fabric of this story and understand that same connection that Abraham must have surely felt when God announced his promise and blessing and pointed to myriad stars in the night sky, the more we can worship, praise, and bless in return.
Yes, our world needs prophets like John who are willing to risk it all to speak the truth to power (Mark 6:14-29), and yes, our world needs prophets who feel un- and underprepared to announce a hard word to a stubborn people (Amos 7:7-15), but we also need to center ourselves in the promise, the blessing, and the grand salvation narrative into which we have already been grafted. Story is how we make sense of the world, and there is no better story than the one the Holy Spirit empowers and equips us to share. Blessings on your fearless and faithful preaching and teaching.
Why not create a prayer station focusing on unity and strength in the Body of Christ today? Find an old frame and create a simple loom. Instructions can be found here. Provide multicolored yarn or strips of fabric no more than one inch in height and of an appropriate length for the weaving. If you choose the fabric option, provide pens and/or fine tipped permanent markers, and invite people to write their prayers, concerns, hopes, and dreams on one or more strips of fabric. Next, invite them to pray over their strip and then weave it in. If you’re using yarn, invite worshipers to lift their silent prayers as they weave their yarn into the loom. Display the completed weaving on an easel near the font, altar, or some other highly visible place for several weeks to remind worshipers of their unity and diversity.
Spend some time talking about redemption, blessing, and inclusion in the Body of Christ. One possible approach is to use Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” as a spring board. Marley knew that he had cancer when he composed this song and recorded his final album. Consider how this knowledge may have empowered him to say things and approach topics in ways he might not have done if he was not facing death. Click here for a version recorded by Playing for Change, a movement created and inspired to connect the world through music.
You are Chosen! Ask if the children have ever been chosen for something. Maybe a team? An award? A prize? Be prepared to tell your own story of being chosen if the children don’t have stories to share. Once you hear all of the stories and affirm the children’s sharing, tell them that they have all been chosen for something very important. Ask them if they know what it might be. Tell them that God has chosen each one of them to be part of something bigger than they could ever imagine or do or be on their own. We are written into God’s story of reconciling and restoring all of creation. Each one of us has been uniquely gifted and will be equipped by the Holy Spirit to use our gifts and talents. But we don’t do this alone or in competition. We do this work together—the more the better! We do it within our church community. We do it with the churches in our community. We do it with our wider church bodies, and we do it with God’s people all around the world.
If you have a partner or companion congregation in another part of the world, spend a little time sharing something from that congregation and talking a little bit about how you have many of the same goals and worship in much the same way. You could even have the children draw a picture or write short letters to send. Finish with a prayer for unity and for God’s will to be done through our willing hands, hearts, and feet.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
We are called to be stewards of something that is mighty and vast, God’s salvation and redemption narrative that spans time and place. How can you add your part to the larger effort? What is God calling you to do?
Stewardship at Home
This week explore the connections in your life and faith. If you have children at home create a chain or web of connection using materials that can be touched and manipulated (paper, yarn, wire, etc.). How is each family member connected by faith to one another? To your faith community? To the wider community? To the greater church? Even globally? You may have to do some “sleuthing” to find connections, but they are definitely there! Consider how your offering spreads far and wide. When you participate in a service project, who all benefits? For whom and what do you pray? How are the decisions you make about your resources and consumption connected to others’ livelihoods and lives?
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/07/at-what-cost/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/07/the-high-cost-of-truth-telling/
Photos: Aaron Geller and Mark Parker, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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