Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B
June 20, 2021
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 endeavor to live with a wide-open faith of complete trust and radical hope in the cosmic Christ and the gospel.
Key Scripture: Let them give thanks to you, LORD, for your steadfast love and your wonderful works for all people. – Psalm 107:31
It’s a crazy time in our United States. While the virus seems to be subsiding somewhat, thanks to vaccines, masks, and good public health practices, there’s plenty of misinformation still being spread as thick as peanut butter on sandwich bread. People refuse the vaccine for fear they might be magnetized, that it will make women sterile, that it’s a violation of their right to choose for themselves, and on and on and on. These same people are also the ones who often refuse to wear masks in public and are anti-vaccine passport. It’s scary stuff and not too different from some of people and events happening in this week’s lessons. We have a whole lot of chaos and evil going on in the gospel lesson, hardships and rejection of God’s leaders in the epistle lesson, and a lack of awe and wonder at what God is doing in the world while we’re all busy running around like ants. What’s a disciple to do? Why, live with a wide-open faith and complete trust and radical hope in the risen cosmic Christ and the very good gospel we proclaim, of course!
Yes, I know; this is much easier said than done, but we can all take steps toward this goal and a more fruitful and loving life here on earth right now. Heaven starts here—not at some pie-in-the-sky future date when we’ve vacated this reality for eternity—so we might as well start living like it. After all, wouldn’t you rather be living in Christ’s reign than in a purgatory/hell of your own construction? But how, then, do we persuade our beloved congregations and people to let go and live into a new and wide-open reality? A lot of the answer is contextually based, but here are some potential ways to approach the lessons that might provoke some thought and change.
Job 38:1-11: Job has suffered so much. He and his best buddies have argued about the cause of his suffering and come to no satisfactory conclusions. Finally, God weighs in. Yes, suffering is part and parcel of the human existence, but so are wonder, awe, and God’s amazing designs for all of creation. Not to sound trite, but what might happen if we quit our navel gazing, arguing, and judgment, and instead focus on what God is up to all around us, and even in our own lives, whether they are filled with suffering and pain of blissful successes? Some say that perspective is everything, and in this case I have to agree with them.
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32: How often do we forget to give God thanks and praise for all that the Divine One has done in our lives and around us in this awe-filled world? Do we spend too much of our time nitpicking about things that ultimately have no lasting or eternal value? Are we so fearful of losing ground that we fail to see the wide-open path in front of us? Why not explore today’s psalm in light of world events?
2 Corinthians 6:1-13: Being a leader in the faith community is not an easy task. One automatically becomes a moving target for the discontent of others, and the leader’s every move is often judged against a nearly impossible scale. Paul talks about this in today’s epistle lesson and urges leaders to invite others to open wide their hearts to those who seek to lead and share the good news. Challenge your community to ponder how they treat their called and volunteer leaders? Do they make life difficult for them, treating them like hired hands, or do they open their hearts, prayers, and hands and feet to the work of the gospel?
Mark 4:35-41: In Jesus’ time, the sea represented evil and chaos, so no wonder the disciples were so afraid to be caught up in the teeth of a storm. They wondered how Jesus could sleep at a time like that, whether he really even cared about them. They wake him up, and he calms the storm with the words, “Peace! Be still!” He asks why they were afraid and why they still have no faith. Then they are filled with great awe and wonder, asking “Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him.” How often do we overlook the obvious of who Jesus is? Why do we continue to lean on our own understanding and short-sighted vision of life and how things ought to be. What will it take for us to trust Jesus to handle the storms and evil of life? We can, of course, help and be a force for good, but our wide-open faith is in the Christ who holds life together.
When we gather as God’s beloved community, we are called to lay down all other identities in light of our identity as God’s beloved. This means putting aside all that would polarize us and cause us to judge others and look askance at them. It means finding those things that bind us together in love and mutuality as Christ’s body here on earth. We are to love God first with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). We are to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Today in worship, challenge those gathered to consider how well they are living this out. Invite them to find one person that is different in some significant way and get to know that person better and pray for them daily. Learn what their needs, hopes, and dreams are and seek their best, putting aside all human differences for the sake of the gospel. Challenge worshipers to do this for forty days and see how God is changing their own life in the process. They may be quite surprised.
Do your youth have caring and faithful adult members within the congregation? If not, what are you waiting for? Parents today need all the support and help they can get. Try to match willing adults and youth to be prayer and faith partners. Set reasonable expectations, goals, and activities and begin the process of making valuable connections within your congregation. Make sure that these adults will not be put off by the self-differentiation that so often occurs with teens. Caring non-related adults can make a real difference in youth feeling safe and supported in their faith community. Make sure these adults have all their proper child clearances and have been a part of your community for a sufficient amount of time. We also need to protect our children, so this is of paramount importance.
This week’s focus verse is 2 Corinthians 6:13 – In return—I speak as to children—open wide our hearts also.
Paul points out an important thing in today’s epistle lesson. Sometimes adults have a hard time opening their hearts. We can learn a lot from you children. You are generally willing to give us adults the benefit of the doubt. Your hearts are full of love, and you readily accept people who are different from you. Yes, Paul knew that we can learn a lot from the children in our lives, and I agree! I am grateful for what all of you bring to our community. Thank you for opening wide your hearts to Jesus and to us.
Dear Lord (Dear Lord),
Thank you for loving us (Thank you for loving us). Thank you for giving us wide-open hearts (Thank you for giving us wide open hearts) and a wide-open faith (and a wide open faith). Help us to teach one another (Help us to teach one another) how to love like you (how to love like you). And let all God’s children say…AMEN!
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Part of faithful stewardship and wide-open discipleship is being able to put aside our worldly differences to love God and one another as God has called us to do. Help us be the people you want us to be so that all may see your love reflected in our lives and treatment of one another.
Stewardship at Home
This week try to spend some time outside. If you have children or grandchildren at home, make it a family affair. Thunderstorm rolling in? Stand outside and feel the electricity in the air as long as it is safe to do so. A warm, sunny day ahead? Put on the sunscreen and bask in the heat and brightness. Gentle rain ahead? Go splash in a puddle together. Check out this week’s SOLI Health resource and the July Toolkit. Make it point to get outside. Not only do we all need a little more wonder and awe in our lives, we also need to be outside for our good health.
2018 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2018/06/see-hear-love/
2015 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/06/in-case-you-forgot/
2012 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/06/wide-open-faith/
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