“From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages.”
“It is only the person who sins that shall die.”
Whichever Hebrew Bible lesson you’re using from this week’s Revised Common Lectionary, there’s an easy entre into the topic of sin. If that’s where you feel called to go this week, blessings to you! Please share your ideas in the comments below.
At this point in history, most of us probably do not particularly want to be reminded of our sin. We already feel lost in the wilderness of the pandemic, confined to our homes or to the racing of our minds. We desire a miracle like water from a rock. We know that, whatever Ezekiel tells us, a healthy person can bring home the virus and it will be the relative with the weaker immune system who dies. Nearly seven months in, there still is no end in sight, and we are trying to figure out how to achieve some semblance of normalcy while also protecting those among us who are most vulnerable to illness. We all could use some words of hope right about now.
This week’s Gospel lesson offers words of hope if you are a tax collector or a prostitute! Who are the outcast or vilified people in your community? It is to them that the kin-dom of heaven belongs! Take note, church leaders and elders. Jesus calls out the hypocrisy of the very people we are used to turning to for guidance. It is a reminder to us, preachers, to look for God in other people, and not to assume that we are the sole bearers of the Word to our community.
Philippians brings encouragement and guidance. Prioritize the needs of others. Be like Jesus. This pandemic has shown us how some people put others’ needs above their own in the most selfless ways – but it has also show us how some people refuse to consider other people when making decisions for themselves. This passage could be used in gratitude for work well done, or as an exhortation to try to do better.
Today we also hear one of the earliest confessions of Christian faith in the Christ Hymn. If you use a creed or affirmation of faith in worship, maybe this week you could substitute in Philippians 2:6-11 (after some explanation, of course). If you have a composer in your congregation, perhaps they could put these words to music.
Worship leadership continues to require creativity in these times. Even those who are meeting in person continue to follow various safety guidelines. All communities have experienced a loss or change in membership – whether because some have entered the church triumphant since the last in-person gatherings, or because some choose to remain self-quarantined for health reasons, or because some have left for another community in disagreement over the way all this has been handled. At the same time, in some communities more people than ever are participating in worship because they can do so from home. Visitors are able to attend services anywhere in the world (how many of you have had friends or family log in from a time zone away?). Please share how your community is being creative in worship in the comments below!
Whichever Scripture is your focus for preaching, wherever you are in your worship prep, however you’re feeling today – many blessings to you this week. Stay healthy, and know that you are enough.
Katya Ouchakof is a chaplain and paddlesports professional in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. She is hoping to get another round of beans and carrots from her garden before the nights get too cold for the plants. Katya took a hiatus from her blog this month, but new posts will be coming soon!
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