Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 45:1-15 and Psalm 133; Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 and Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Narrative Lectionary: Series on the Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:2-4

Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in Genesis 45:1-15. Having been sold into slavery in Egypt, his brothers long thought he was dead, but Joseph rose to prominence, to become Pharaoh’s right hand. Joseph’s brothers were afraid, but Joseph assured them he was no longer angry with them, because God had used what happened to him for good. Because the famine would last for years, Joseph, with the power of Pharaoh, managed to store up goods to last, saving not only the people of Egypt, but Joseph’s family. Joseph urged his brothers to go tell his father that he was alive, and to bring him to Egypt.

Psalm 133 is a very short psalm of blessing for a family, perhaps sung at a wedding. The psalmist declares it is a blessing when family comes together in harmony. It’s an anointing from God, like the oil on Aaron’s beard, or like the dew on Hermon. God’s blessing is life forever, and there is a blessing for families who come together in peace.

The prophet Isaiah declared that God’s salvation was coming soon in Isaiah 56:1, 6-8. God urged the people coming out of exile to “maintain justice, and do what is right.” The prophet declared that God was gathering the faithful to God’s holy mountain, including those from outside of Israel, the non-Israelites who had worshiped God. Their sacrifices, their acts of devotion and worship are accepted by God, for God is the God of the outcasts. God’s temple will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Psalm 67 is a blessing for God’s ways to be known upon the earth. The psalmist prays that all nations will know God’s ways and saving power. God is the one who judges the peoples of the earth and guides the nations. The psalmist calls upon all peoples to praise God, for God has blessed them, and the psalmist concludes by calling God to continually bless them, and for the “ends of the earth” to be in awe of God.

The Epistle readings continue with Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. In 11:1-2a, 29-32, Paul argues that God is still with the people of Israel. God has not abandoned the covenants of old. Because the Gentiles once worshiped other gods and the Israelites broke the covenant, all were disobedient, and now all receive God’s mercy.

The context for Jesus’ teaching about what defiles takes place in the verses before Matthew 15:10-28. Jesus was questioned by some Pharisees as to why he and his disciples did not hold the tradition to ritually wash their hands before eating (this was not for hygienic purposes). Jesus called them hypocrites for they didn’t keep all the commandments and traditions, but were skeptical of Jesus over one tradition. At verse 10, Jesus called the crowds to listen to him, that it wasn’t what goes in that defiles a person, but what comes out. What we say and do is a reflection of our faithfulness, not what foods we eat or what rituals we observe. They mean nothing if our words and actions do not reflect what we believe. In the second part of this selection, Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon, where a Canaanite woman came out into the street and started shouting for Jesus to have mercy on her. The disciples told Jesus to send her away, and in a rare instance, Jesus listened to the disciples and tried to send her away, telling her that he was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. She knelt before him, begging him to help, but Jesus said, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Still, she didn’t give up. She challenged Jesus, saying “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” And Jesus was amazed by her faith, her persistence despite being an outsider, and told her that it would be done for her as she wished, and her daughter was healed.

The Narrative Lectionary begins a four-part series on the Lord’s Prayer, the same scripture each week of Luke 11:2-4. See Working Preacher’s commentary and suggestions for preaching this series: Here is the reflection I wrote back in 2016: Luke’s account is very short and doesn’t include all of the words Protestants use in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. All Jesus includes is this: Father, hallowed be your name (God our Parent/Father: your name is holy). Your Kingdom Come (God’s beloved community, God’s kin-dom, God’s reign, come). Give us each day our daily bread (fulfill our daily needs). And forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone indebted to us (forgive others because you are forgiven; forgive others the things you ask for forgiveness for; forgive us, because we forgive others). And do not bring us to the time of trial (do not bring us to that point where we are tested beyond what we can face). That’s it—five statements. Five you can remember on your fingers. Five things we should pray for—the first two really are statements to God, not asking for anything, until we get to our daily bread, asking for forgiveness, and to not be led into trial.

Faithfulness is about aligning our actions and words with what we believe. All too often, we say we follow the commandments, but fail to live out the commitment to love our neighbor beyond lip service. If we say we want peace, we must work for justice, rather than simply condemning violence. If we desire mercy, we must practice mercy. If we believe that all are made in the image of God and are children of God, then we must dismantle racism. To be faithful means we must do the work that Christ has called us to do, the examples that Christ showed us, rather than simply stating we believe.

Call to Worship (Psalm 67:3-5)
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Covenanting God, we confess that we have broken the covenants and commandments. We have forsaken You and Your ways to follow our own path, to pursue worldly success, to satisfy our desires instead of seeking Your will and way for our lives. Forgive us. May we be restored to Your ways, to trust in Your covenant, live out Your commandments, and know Your love is with us, always. In the name of Jesus, who has shown us the Way, and has given us a new commandment and covenant of love, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (from Jeremiah 31:33)
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” God’s covenant is in our hearts, and this covenant cannot be broken. God’s love will never fail, even if we do. Know God’s forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love is with you now and forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gathering God, draw us into Your fold. Call to us when we go astray, so we can turn back to Your ways. Call to us when we feel alone or lost, so that we might hear Your voice and know that You are with us. Draw us in by the Spirit, that we may remember we are one in You, that we are stronger together when we work for justice. Draw us in by Your love, that we may remember to have deep compassion for one another, to break open our hearts and love one another. Gather us together, for we are one people, Your children. We have one planet that You have made for us, and we have one future, if we choose to live: to care for the earth, to care for each other’s needs, to help gather Your beloved community on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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