Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Proper 8 (13), Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
June 30, 2019
Lessons: 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people understand that all vocations are sacred, and that we are all called by God to be faithful stewards in our work.
Key Scripture: If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25
What is your calling? Some of us can answer quite readily with a call to ministry, especially if we’re the ones who stand in the pulpit and who preside at the Lord’s Table. But here’s the thing: We all have a call to follow Jesus, to live by the Spirit, and to walk with God. Yet I wonder just how many folks in our worshiping communities can articulate their unique calling as disciples of Christ?
How does one live out her calling as a Jesus follower in a vocation such as teaching, or retail management, or nursing? What does one do to live out his calling in the daily work of a landscaper, or an accountant, or an insurance agent? What does it mean to be guided by the Spirit 24/7, 365 days a year? To follow Jesus authentically and with one’s whole heart means refusing to compartmentalize faith or keep it on the shelf until one needs to take it down and dust it off for appearance’s sake.
Part of our calling as preachers and teachers is to help others make the connection between a couple of hours on Sunday morning (or whenever your community gathers) and the rest of the week. We live in a world where being Christian is no longer the social norm, and we must equip individuals, families, and entire faith communities to walk against the cultural grain as people of deep and courageous faith.
We know, for example, that what Paul says in Galatians 5:14 is true: “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The more pressing reality is how we live out that commandment in a fractious and fearful cultural landscape. How do we, like Jesus, set our faces toward the Jerusalem of our day and time and refuse to be dissuaded by the many “buts…” and rationalizations that would distract and deter us?
One powerful way to do this as old as scripture itself: We share stories. We tell our own experiences with living out our faith daily. We recount how we learned from mentors and teachers and loved ones to walk with Jesus. We trust and become vulnerable enough to talk about how we have seen and felt the Spirit’s guiding. And, we are transparent enough to share both the joys and the pain.
Consider how you might relate stories of calling today with stories from scripture. Who, for example, was your Elijah? Who passed (or threw!) the mantle over you and called you to deeper faith and ministry? What did you give up to follow the Spirit’s call through seminary? How has being a minister made you better able to relate to the advice Jesus gave to a would-be follower: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58)?
For the four Sundays of July, we’ll use the weekly lessons to look at stewardship of vocation. Of course, these rich stories can be applied in a number of different ways in preaching and teaching, but why not consider lifting up the priesthood of all believers, the sacredness of every vocation, and how God calls us, sometimes out of our vocation but more often through our vocation, to share the good news that changes lives. No ifs, ands, or buts about it—we are all called by God, equipped by the Spirit, and dearly loved by the living Christ. Let’s truly live our faith and our calls together for the sake of this beautiful, yet broken world.
- Consider introducing a series on “The Call: Stewardship of Vocation” this week to help your congregants embrace their God-given calls to love and serve in their vocations. Whether they are retired, a stay-at-home parent, a tradesperson, an executive, a health professional, teacher, or retail worker, God wants to use them through their vocation to love, serve, and change the world.
- Choose a hymn each week that reflects vocational calling such as “We are Called,” “We all are One in Mission,” “How Clear is our Vocation, Lord,” “Take my Life, that I may Be,” or “Beloved, God’s Chosen.”
- Invite one or more members of your faith community to share in a vocational interview. Visit the Theology of Work Project for examples.
- Stewardship of Vocation themes for July:
July 7: Expect the Unexpected
July 14: Practicing Mercy in Your Vocation
July 21: Serve or Learn? Yes!
July 28: Prayer as Vocational Expression
Spend some time thinking about the Gospel lesson this week, particularly verses 52-55. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, to the culmination of his ministry. Jesus and his disciples are not welcomed in a Samaritan village because Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. This angers James and John, who are ready to command fire from heaven to consume the village and its people. Jesus rebukes them.
Unpack the complicated history between Samaritans and Jews. Invite the youth to consider modern day parallels. Why are we so quick to resort to anger and violence against those who differ from us? Are youth able to see how this trend plays out even on social media channels?
What’s the answer? What would Jesus have us to do? How can we remain focused on what matters in an era of competing claims and divisions? As a famous Civil Rights era song reminded those engaged in the struggle for human dignity and equality “Keep your eyes on the prize.” Our prize is Jesus and his love. By loving God and neighbor we cannot go astray.
This week’s focus verse is Galatians 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
You will need some small flags representing different countries (including the United States flag), a Bible, and some paper hearts on which you have printed Galatians 5:14.
Presuming you live in the United States, ask the children what national holiday we will be celebrating later in the week. Of course, it’s Independence Day, when we remember and give thanks for our freedom as a nation. Then ask them to pick out the flag represents our country. Tell them that this symbol will be on display a lot on July 4 as a reminder of our freedom. Then ask them if they can identify the countries of the other flags. Tell them that people who live in those countries also celebrate their independence with holidays and symbols like these flags.
Yes, we give thanks for the gift of our freedom as a country, but there’s a greater freedom that we celebrate every week when we gather to worship. That freedom is our freedom in Christ, something Paul talks about in this week’s lesson from Galatians. Show them the passage in the Bible. This freedom is for everybody—not just people in the United States and not just people in the countries represented by the other flags.
Ask the children what symbol we might use to describe this freedom. Affirm all answers. Pull out the paper hearts and give one to each child. Love is an important symbol of our freedom as Christians because that is what we are freed to do and be—people who love God and neighbor. Loving our neighbor means that just because we are free, we don’t do anything we want. We consider how God wants us to show love to our neighbors.
Invite the children to take a heart with them and find ways all week long to exercise their freedom as Christians by loving others in as many ways as they can. Finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Our Christian freedom is best expressed by love of God and neighbor. This week we will celebrate our nation’s freedom, yet we are called to be faithful stewards of our Christian freedom every single day.
Stewardship at Home
This week spend some time reflecting on the work you do. How is this a sacred calling from God intended for your flourishing? In what ways is your work rewarding and fulfilling? In what ways is it draining and difficult? How do you see God at work in your workplace encounters?
Consider these questions that are often used in vocational interviews in faith-based settings. How would you answer them?
- Describe the work you do.
- What are some of the issues you face in your work?
- Does your faith make a difference to how you deal with these issues?
- How would you like for your faith community to pray for you and your ministry in the workplace?
Find ways to celebrate the work that family members and friends do. Even the youngest and oldest members of your family/tribe/circle have important roles to fulfill.
2013 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2013/06/now/
Photos: eppytx, Laura Nicola, and University of Fraser Valley, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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