RCL: On Worthlessness, Pride, and Love

 

honey-dipper-924732_1920.jpgThe texts this week are rich in images and provide no shortage of materials for sermons. There’s everything here from being a worthless people to being humble, loving servant-people. I’m just returning from vacation and am struck by the power in these passages.

Jeremiah’s words might not be any more popular now than when they were first uttered. However, the truth is undeniable. We whose worth is inherent because we are made in the image of God, become absolutely worthless when we forsake God. The people of Israel are accused of two sins:  they abandoned God and then created gods who offer no life. Is this not what we have done now? So many have forgotten God’s ways of love. Many others have been lulled into believing they follow God’s ways even as their words and action fail to support life.

Psalm 81 is a plea for the people of God to listen to God and return to God’s ways. Surely, the would do well to remember the God who brought them from Egypt and saved them from their enemies. In their own self-reliance they are in danger of being overrun once more. God would nourish them with the finest wheat and the sweetest honey. They would be satisfied. How often do we do the same? We rely on our own abilities, forgetting God’s presence and promises, only to find ourselves hungry, dissatisfied, and bitter?

Sirach gets right to the core of the matter. Pride is what leads us away from God. Pride can fool us into believing that we are more powerful and significant in the universe than we actually are. Pride makes us forget the God who loves us so much more than we know. The hope here is that “pride was not created for human beings.” It is not natural to us and we can set it aside. Moreover, and a message that many need to hear, “violent anger” was not created “for those born of women.” Violent anger is not innately who we are either. What powerful words for a world full of very violent anger!

Palm 112 poetically reminds us of the amazing qualities of those who live in God. Grace, mercy, righteousness along with generosity, justice, steadiness, and fearlessness are marks of those who trust God and follow God’s ways. Imagine how different our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation, our world would be if all God’s children took this seriously.

All of these passages are nicely summed up in Hebrews. These few paragraphs lay out how to live as followers of Christ. The first line says it all, “Let mutual love continue.” This is a prescription for living fully with our neighbors. Instead of worrying about what we do not have and what we cannot do (remembering days of larger budgets and fewer available seats on Sunday mornings), we are called to do good and share what we have. I wonder what this would look like in our churches… What if each congregation figured out what good they could, what they could share, and did just that? I bet we’d all get along better with each other.

If you haven’t found a sermon idea yet, there’s the Gospel text. What a lesson in humility! This banquet Jesus talks about, reminds me of the communion table. Of course this is not great stretch. But who really are the welcomed, sought-after guests at Christ’s table? Who is really welcome in our churches when we celebrate communion? Who would have the seats of honor? Jesus is clear about who he invites. Are we?

So much to contemplate in these texts. The wanted and the worthless, the welcomed guest and the unrecognized angels. Where is the Spirit leading you this week?

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at Beachtheology.com.

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Tuesday Prayer: Lasers of Love

Today I’m bursting with love for you, Friend!

I skipped out to get the trash bin

and sang as it trundled back behind me.

New students filling my college town

Friends’ children scrubbed and ready for school

things seem just a little newer and fresher

Today, help me see with fresh eyes

the person who stands too close to me at exercise

the person who speaks so loudly in the grocery store line

You love every single one of them just as much as you do me

and how can I do any less?

My eyes will be lasers of your love today.

Amen.

Mary Beth Butler is an Episcopal layperson in North Texas. She is a retired university administrator, paving contractor, and occasional blogger.

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The Pastoral is Political: Flood Messages

mjYAgSSA week ago, an unnamed storm dumped four trillion gallons of rain on Southeast Louisiana, flooding over 100,000 homes and thousands of businesses. The Red Cross has called it “the worst [disaster] to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy.”

Baton Rouge, the state capital, was submerged in water after more than two feet of rain fell in less than 72 hours. Baton Rouge is usually a “high and dry” place that New Orleans residents evacuate to when hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast.

Baton Rouge  — or “red stick” — is the place I call home. Baton Rouge is Red State and Bible Belt, LSU football, Cajun cuisine and the epicenter of the indescribable circus that is Louisiana politics. We moved there when I was in junior high school. My 86 year old mother still lives in that same house with my sister and brother-in-law.

As the flood waters rose, I worried from too-far-away Nashville. Social media brought regular family updates along photos tracking the water level. The streets filled up, then the water spilled over the curbs, then up into the yards. Raindrops plopped relentlessly into our newly formed neighborhood lake, ringed by houses that were flooding, one by one.

Social media offered support and a remedy: “Please pray” was the plea from my family members and from other Baton Rouge-related friends. “God help us.”

The water was coming up on the carport, rising toward the back door. It was early Monday morning August 17 when the good news came through a family member’s timeline: “The rain has stopped and waters have stopped rising. The house is dry. Prayers were answered.”

For my family, it seemed, all those prayers held back the water, and God messaged us, “You are safe from the flood.”

For a high school friend’s family, prayers did not “work” to stop the waters at her doorstep. As they kept seeking higher ground, God’s message may have been, “I am with you in the flood.”  

For Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, disasters are God’s way of saying, “I’m angry about your liberating politics and civil rights actions.”

In 2015, Perkins said that Hurricane Joaquin was God’s punishment for legalizing gay marriage and abortion. “God is trying to send us a message,” Perkins declared. He hasn’t yet revealed what message God was sending him last week when his Baton Rouge home was flooded out.

A 1000 year flood happening in a place that is always wet but never before underwater — that sends a clear message:

“Climate change is real. And it’s getting worse.”

The days before the Louisiana floods saw a record amount of precipitable vapor in the atmosphere . Extreme climate conditions brought a flood to a city that is always wet but never before under water. Weather disasters are becoming more common and more severe. Church-related disaster relief, Red Cross, and emergency management services will not be able to keep up with the great need. The clean up is expensive and disruptive. Society’s marginalized are hardest hit. The next disaster is on the way.

Ancient God message:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.”
(Psalm 24:1-2)

Translated for today:
Red state, Blue state: We all breathe from the same air, thirst for clean water, benefit from nature’s bounty. When disaster strikes, we are all in the same boat.

The Louisiana flooding was “at least the eighth 500-year (or rarer) rainfall event in America (sic) since just last May,” according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus. (emphasis mine) 

As the waters begin to rise again, will we get the message?

“Climate change is real. And its effects fall on all of us.”

God help us.

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Rev. Sharon M. Temple currently serves as Designated Pastor of the delightful Brookmeade Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Nashville TN.  She blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy and contributed an essay to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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Monday Prayer – a walk in the woods

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Monday morning walk in the woods

Holy One
I walk
the early morning light is dappled and green
The puppy runs ahead; bouncing, skittish – her exuberant joy spilling over as she leaps and bounds through the wet grass

I pause – thank you for green light and skittish puppies.

I walk
It has rained overnight and the warm rising sun is making the air damp; musty; earthy – and I breathe in deeply allowing it to fill me

I pause – thank you for air; for water; for being grounded.

I walk
The path steepens; my breath quickens
The puppy is still running ahead; running back; looking at me as I pant and slow – as if to say, come on!! get a move on! This is the moment; this is fun!!

I pause. Thank you for the ability to walk and pant and climb and embrace this day; for every day. For this walk in the woods, on a damp Monday morning, with a puppy who reminds me that life is full of joy and discovery.
yes.
thank you for that
For all creation rightly praises God – creator of all we have
Amen

Julie Rennick is a Church of Scotland minister, serving a rural community in the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders. She recently married and is getting used to a new name. She blogs at A Country Girl, writes for Spill the Beans and contributed to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

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Sunday Prayer

treeftsewallSabbath Maker,

Sabbath Healer,

We come to you this morning with so much on our hearts and minds.  We gift you deep thanks for these moments of respite and quiet, where we can enter into your Holy Presence, and be touched by your healing spirit.

We offer to you our prayers for the world today.

We pray for the ravaged lives and land in Louisania where flooding waters have killed and ruined homes and injured countless.   We pray for the rescue workers and first responders.

We pray for the torn lives and land in California, where raging wildfires have consumed households and devastated lives.  We pray for firefighters and those involved in recovery and rescue.

We pray for all those places in our world where the terror of war is a reality.

We especially pray for Syria, whom many of us were reminded of in the photograph of a small child sitting alone, in shock, injured and bleeding from the bombing of his apartment building.  O God, when will warring madness cease, and peace become a true path?

We offer to you our prayers for those around us, those whom we know are suffering, who are afflicted and afraid, who need your healing touch and care.  (Silent Prayer)

We offer to you our prayers for ourselves.  Release us from the constraints of dis-ease in our lives.  We pray for the courage to be your Sabbath people who bend towards love, towards mercy, towards humble justice, and loving care.   (Silent Prayer)

We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus the Christ, our brother and friend.  Amen.

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The Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church, UCC in Marblehead, MA.  She is also a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.
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Saturday Prayer: Navigation

Turn right. Turn left. Turn around.

Dear God, where are we going?

I would love to hear from you today. Is this the right thing? The right place? Are you recalculating?

You sure are taking a while, which makes me think I’ve gotten so off course that I should just stop and wait for you to speak.

Should I just turn around? Not that there’s anything left for me back there.

Maybe we should just abandon this course all together? Or is that I should just keep going? Is your silence your way of being all zen and stuff?

I’m not demanding a sign. Okay, yes. Yes I am. I need some direction here. I need some input.

How much longer O Lord will you take me down this path until I reach my destination?

Amen

you-are-here_2

 

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The Reverend Shannon Meacham is the mother of two exhausting children Maggie and Gus, and she currently serves Ashland Presbyterian Church in the safest part of Baltimore, the suburbs. You can find her musings about any and all subjects on her personal blog pulpitshenanigans.com.

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11th Hour Preacher Party: End of….

Here in the northern hemisphere USA, particularly in my region of the midwest, this long, hot, dry, summer is coming to an end. Others may be coming to an end of winter. The Olympics are getting ready for the final games and the closing ceremony. And, my vacation is coming to an end. It’s back to work this week for me, and soon, back to preaching every Sunday. The last eight weeks we’ve either had a sermon dialogue time where the congregation was encouraged to share what they heard, what raised questions for them, what they were thinking about, OR the intern preached, OR I’ve been on vacation.

So as you come to the end of whatever you are coming to the end of, what are you thinking about for this Sunday? What readings stand out for you? Here is what other’s have said about the readings in our Tuesday Lectionary sermon prep.

It’s the 11th Hour preacher party and we’re here with you all day! Pull up a chair and grab a mug. I have plenty of coffee, tea, and loads of fresh fruit and veggies from my garden, even some homemade blueberry muffins.

 

The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest and the Rector of Christ Church in Dearborn, Michigan. She serves the wider church as the Convener of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. Terri has been a member of the RevGals and a blogger since 2006. 

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Friday Prayer: One Scratch at a Time

Dear God,

Slowly, I work through my to-do list.

Scratch. A phone call made.

Scratch. An email sent.

Scratch. A plan adjusted, consulted, readjusted.

Pause for texting. Pause to pee.

Scratch. Another call.

Help me to see where you are in these things. Surround me with your Spirit and stir a sense of joy and fulfillment in me at the slow completion of the mundane. Lift my soul at things done and left undone and, in your mercy, grant me peace.

Amen.

 

 

The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs atlutheranjulia.blogspot.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 

 

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Friday Five – the Times they are a Changing

The Times They Are a Changing

This is the season of change; our Facebook feeds are full of pictures from first days at school; and news of exam success and college places for our teens. In our churches the summer season is ending and minds turn to autumn and all the things that will start up again in the next few weeks. In families there is news of new starts, new relationships all sorts of newy newness… so what’s yours? What new things are you anticipating in this Time of Change? Below is my five…

  • New term begins – school, college, student or teacher – for my nephew a new start at the University of his choice.
  • New season looms as summer wanes into autumn – preparing the autumn schedule for worship this week made it all too clear – only 12 weeks to Advent!!
  • New things in our house as the dust settles after the wedding and we get used to the new life ahead as husband and wife.
  • New status updates as my youngest son becomes engaged to his sweetheart
  • New life as my oldest son announces he is to be a father – and therefore me a granny!
jamie-lara

My son & his Fiancee

Over to you – tell us what new things are ahead for you? What are you anticipating; or waiting for; or dreading? Play in the comments or on your blog and remember to post a link so we can read about your new things

 

Julie Rennick is a Church of Scotland minister, serving a rural community in the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders. She recently married and is getting used to a new name. She blogs at A Country Girl, writes for Spill the Beans and contributed to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

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Thursday Prayer

A prayer for the “bent over woman” (Luke 13:10-17); a prayer for her in me…

For the ways I am broken,
for the burdens, worries, and hurt that weigh so heavy on my shoulders that they bend my very spine,

And also for the pressure,
that comes from my own hands, words, and actions,
which holds others down, bending them over with relentless oppression and condescension,

O Healer,
Release me.

Cast out this evil.
Set me free.
To continue this journey
changed,
made healthy,
made free,
by your perfect touch.

O Healer,
Release me.

 

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The Rev. Erin Counihan serves as pastor at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in St. Louis, MO and blogs hardly ever at all these days at http://www.somewhatreverend.wordpress.com.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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