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.

different-nationalities-1743392_1920Our 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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16 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Foreigners and Refugees

  1. Wednesday evening and i am weary, which means i ma eating too much chocolate. today i have led a memorial service and did 3 hospital/nursing home visits, one for a lady who is likely to die soon.
    with the Friday family service i am planning on focusing on the first part of the gospel reading, about what comes out of our mouths.
    not sure about Sunday, but we are hearing all of the gospel reading, and Isaiah.


    1. I didn’t realize there was such a thing as too much chocolate! 🙂
      Sounds like you’ve had a tiring week so far, but at least you have a plan for Friday. Let us know how it goes!


  2. I am pairing the gospel reading with the non-lectionary story of Dinah. I wanted to acknowledge Dinah’s story in the midst of the patriarchal narrative before moving to Moses. I was going to speak about the fact that we never hear what Dinah thought, what she wanted, that all that seemed to matter was that the ‘property’ of Jacob was defiled and made worthless. I had no idea this was the gospel for this week. gah…two equally hard stories with harsh truths and strong emotions.

    I have chosen hymns that I think will work with whatever the Spirit is leading but goodness knows what I will say to the children – I don’t really want to talk to them about Dinah’s rape nor the fact that ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ is a racist pig who gets his mind changed by the persistence of a mother who would do anything for just a crumb of blessing.

    Maybe women’s rights, equal rights and justice for all God’s children is at the heart of it…but how to preach it. Waiting for the Spirit to come and do her thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you are using Dinah. Every time I get to talk about the Genesis stories, I remind folks that Jacob had 12 sons and at least one daughter! In some ways, simply acknowledging her existence is as important as the story that we have of her. I wonder if that would be enough for the kids?


  3. I’ve been preaching the Genesis passages this summer and this week will be no exception. When I chose this passage, I was thinking to preach on forgiveness. I’m not feeling that at the moment. I’m frustrated and angry after the events in Charlottesville, VA. I’m angered by the President’s ridiculous statments and I’m frustrated by people who go to vigils just so they feel better but then don’t do anything that brings about real change. Sorry to vent, but you should probably know where my head is at before reading my thoughts on this week’s Genesis reading…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am filling the pulpit for a colleague this Sunday. He, too, has been following Genesis this summer, and I believe it is collegial to continue that in his absence. I preached twice in July, but those were my first experiences in his pulpit EVER, and I have no connection to his congregation beyond those two preaching opportunities.

      I keep reading Genesis 45 with the lens of recent events, and a number of things are going through my head: Who am *I* to preach forgiveness in the context of the Charlottesville hatred when I am a product of white privilege? What right do *I* have to speak to that and how will it be received by a congregation of white privilege members?

      From my Reiki Master perspective, I can speak to the detriment that stored anger can do physically. Do I talk about the anger of the brothers that resulted in selling Joseph? Do I talk about the anger Joseph could have borne against his brothers? Do I talk about what anger is doing to our country, and the cancer caused by the resentment we bear againt one another?

      I’ve never been an aggressive preacher, but I *have* been known to be a bit straightforward … how far is too far in a colleague’s pulpit? I don’t want to cross a line, but the Bible and the newspaper side by side is a concept I have often preached … in a church where I served for 13 years and knew the congregants well.

      I started working on this sermon on August 5th, hoping to have it written by last Sunday because of my week this week, yet here I am … Ugh.


    2. WOW, Rachel! This is POWERFUL! Thank you for your interpretation of this passage in the wake of the Charlottesville events. Thank you for your courage to speak truth. Blessings …


  4. Y’all, I am at a new congregation (this will be only my third time preaching) and I am kind of at a loss. It’s divided politically, overwhelmingly white racially, and progressive theologically (the “older folks” Bible study was good evidence of that). Praying for clarity of thought and message. I am drawn to Isaiah, but can’t ignore Jesus and his biases. I was wondering…would the Canaanite woman have been more privileged than the Jews? I’m not trying to apologize for Jesus, just trying to get my brain around the story.


  5. Hmm, I’m torn between the Genesis passage and the Gospel this week. I was on vacation this past weekend, so will preach about Charlottesville this weekend. The Canaanite woman is such a powerful story about race, and then the extended lectionary passage also includes the part about “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles,” and that has some good possibilities, too.

    But when I read the Genesis passage, I’m drawn especially towards the first part. It reminds me of an exorcism, in a way. Joseph names who he is and exactly what his brothers did to him…he gets all the terrible, demonic truth out there in the open…and instead of being happy he’s alive, his brothers are upset to see him and to hear that truth! And then there’s this great reversal–the brothers tried so hard to hang onto their status, to the point of doing terrible things, but now they finally have to make space for Joseph and his power. I’m thinking that speaks to our racial realities today.

    Actually, after writing it out here, I think I’ll go with the Genesis.


    1. Sounds like you have a good start – thanks for sharing your thought process with us! Hoping it comes together well.


  6. I am preaching on Jesus and the Canaanite woman and how he changed his mind in his response to her….things that used to be viewed as acceptable (of course hatred and bigotry was never acceptable) are no longer acceptable and, like Jesus, we are called to change our attitudes…somehow, in my mind, this all connects to the ongoing need for Reformation in our church and our world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This works! Things we used to accept are no longer acceptable, which is why we don’t go back to the church of the Reformers 500 years ago, but continue looking forward, continually reforming ourselves at the Spirit’s guidance. Happy preaching!


    2. Ooo this goes along with the pastoral commentary in Feasting on the Word talking about the role that tradition should play in religious life…I was liking the commentary but wasn’t sure what to do with Jesus’ response and this is that part I need. Thanks!


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