Dear preachers, if you have the option in your setting, I highly recommend adding in the optional verses to the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel this Sunday. In a week when hate speech and crimes are making international headlines, this is a poignant time to hear Jesus’ words: It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles. … What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.
Our actions and our words carry consequences. They matter to others. They show the world a glimpse of who we are and what we stand for. The question to ask ourselves is this: do our words and actions reflect the Gospel? Do they honor Jesus, or do they defile us?
Matthew 15 gives us clear examples of the broad reach of God’s love, surpassing all human prejudices and boundaries. The Canaanite woman calls out Jesus’ own assumptions and privilege, reminding him that she, too, was created in God’s image, and her daughter is also deserving of healing. The divine nature of Jesus prevails over the human, when he acknowledges her faith in asking for his help, and agrees to heal her daughter. Based on the preceding verses, I wonder whether Jesus was just picking a fight with the Canaanite woman for the sake of this story of her faithfulness to be told forever after. She stands firm and gets what she needs, and the disciples are surprised once again by the actions of Jesus.
The Gospel and the Hebrew Bible readings share similar ideas this week, regardless of which series your congregation follows. If you are using the reading from Genesis, you might pull out themes of forgiveness or welcoming refuges. If you are using Isaiah, you can focus on the assertion that God’s house is for everyone.
In Romans, Paul clearly states that the people of Israel have not been forgotten, even in the midst of all the welcoming of outsiders that is apparent in the other readings. Psalm 133 reminds us how good and pleasant it is when people live together in harmony! Psalm 67 offers praise to God for God’s blessing and justice for all nations of the earth.
What will be the focus of your sermon this week? Which readings will be used in worship? How can you authentically interpret the text for your community, relating it to the world around you while being faithful to its original intention? Please share any ideas, questions, and helpful links below! Blessings to you in your writing and preparations for this weekend.
Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor, writer, chaplain, and canoeing instructor located in Madison, WI. This time of year, she spends as much time outside as possible!
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