Last Minute Preaching Points for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 17
August 30, 2020
Lessons: Exodus 3:1:15; Psalm 106:1-6, 23-26, 45b; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people navigate crossings and boundaries to follow Jesus and be his hands and feet in the world.
Key Scripture: Then [God] said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
The lessons this week offer a wonderful study in how disciples follow Jesus, navigating crossings and boundaries that inevitably present themselves every day. Both the lessons from Exodus and Jeremiah, and the epistle and gospel show us that God’s people have been wrestling with boundaries and crossings from the beginning of this great narrative.
A vital thread running through the lessons is the Oneness, the unity of everything in the Cosmos created by the Divine voice and breath. More and more our culture deals in dualism: It’s either this way or that way, either my way or the highway, good or evil, or this against that. Combine that with rampant fear mongering and stereotyping and it’s tough to see any kind of unity or Oneness. Invite congregants to reflect on these lessons in light of how they hear and experience them through a contemporary lens.
The call of Moses and the burning bush is a perennial favorite for good reason. Here we begin to see that all of earth is holy ground that demands a response from and a connection to us. God also makes it clear that it is God who calls and equips us for ministry rather than we choosing the trajectory of our discipleship. It may not always be easy, but once one quits resisting God amazing things happen.
Consider this quote from “Aurora Leigh” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in light of this lesson:
crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
God told Moses to remove his sandals. In doing so he was in direct connection to the sacred, the holy. Our world often forgets to connect to the earth. We walk, run, and work in shoes. Rarely do we take time to mosey barefoot through the grass or along the shore. There is real science behind the importance to grounding or earthing as it’s called. The study of environmental medicine provides credible research showing the benefits of direct connection to the earth. These benefits range from better sleep, reduced pain, relief from anxiety and healing from trauma. A quick search of the Internet will provide plenty of information, or you can read this article from the Journal of Environmental Public Health.
Psalm 106:1-6, 23-26, 45b
Take some time to ponder the action words in the alternate Psalm, including praise, sing, tell, seek, and remember. What one word or phrase speaks to you? Spend some time praying with and meditating on it. How does it inform your discipleship journey?
Ponder verse 16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” How did this deep connection to God sustain the prophet in difficult times? How might a deeper dive into scripture and prayer sustain you in uncertain times?
The Psalm of the day proclaims praise and invites contemplation. Consider verse three: “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.” How do these words bring comfort? Is there a challenge here?
This passage provides instruction for the life of discipleship. Why not choose one or more verses upon which to meditate and pray? Perhaps try verse 18: If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” How does this verse speak to our present time and context? What connections do you see between love and peace? What kind of boundaries may need to be crossed for the sake of love and peace? What boundaries should not be crossed?
This familiar passage includes Jesus’ teaching about losing your life to find it. It opens with a major boundary crossing when Peter takes Jesus aside and basically scolds him for saying that he must die. Jesus sets him straight in no uncertain terms. How often does our own agenda and understanding prevent us from seeing the bigger picture? How does this affect the crossings and boundaries in our lives?
And just what does it mean to lose one’s life? Yes, of course it can be literal; there are a slew of saints and martyrs. We tend, however, to relegate their witness and suffering to dusty books and commemoration days instead of remembering and honoring their life and ministry as models for contemporary discipleship.
We live in a time of great division, rage, and fear. Might losing one’s life, taking up one’s cross, and following Jesus in the hard, holy way of discipleship be more about the collective good than our own personal salvation and security? What boundaries must be crossed to ensure that all God’s children are valued and included? What must we release? Give up? What is Jesus calling YOU to do?
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Being a steward of all God’s gifts and blessings can put us in some pretty uncomfortable and sometimes uncharted territory. Are you willing to examine the boundaries and crossings that are needed to be a good steward and faithful disciple?
This week consider setting a time each day to reflect on one of the lessons using the questions above.
2011 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2011/08/the-biggest-losers/
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