Worship Resources for August 21, 2022—Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6; Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ruth, chapter 2 (Luke 6:36-28)

The first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures, following the rise of the prophets, moves to the call of Jeremiah in 1:4-10. God called Jeremiah when he was a boy and told him that before he was born, he was consecrated to be a prophet. However, Jeremiah, like many prophets before him including Moses, is afraid to speak in public. God tells Jeremiah to not be afraid and touches Jeremiah’s mouth, putting God’s own words into this young boy and appointing him to prophesy over the nations. Jeremiah’s words will tear down and destroy what is evil and build up and plant what is good for the future.

Psalm 71:1-6 begins a petition to God for deliverance; however, the psalmist knows God will be faithful even during injustice because God has been faithful from the beginning, even before the psalmist was born. The psalmist calls upon God’s steadfastness and surety, knowing that God is their rock and salvation. They have put their hope and trust in God since their youth and know that they will always praise God, for God is faithful.

The second selection of the Hebrew Scriptures turns to Second Isaiah in 58:9b-14. God speaks through the prophet to the people who have returned from exile that if they put aside their evil and oppressive ways and instead provide for those in need, God will satisfy their needs. They will rebuild and be strong and be known as the ones who repair the brokenness and restore the way. If they turn back to God’s ways, they will know the fullness of God’s promises to their ancestors.

Psalm 103:1-8 is a song of praise and blessing. The psalmist calls the people to worship God who forgives, heals, redeems, and restores. God works justice for the oppressed and is full of mercy and steadfast love. God’s ways were made known to Moses and through all the prophets and will satisfy the faithful with goodness.

The Epistle reading continues in Hebrews with 12:18-29. For their ancestors, only Moses could approach God’s holy mountain of Sinai, but now, all believers can approach God upon the new Zion, the holy mountain city of God. Jesus has mediated a new covenant with his blood. The writer warns against rejecting Jesus the way the people rejected Moses, for Moses warned from earth but Jesus warns from heaven. Though the earth and worldly kingdoms are shaken, heaven cannot be, and the faithful receive the unshakable reign of God. God is a consuming, purifying fire, the one whom we serve in faithfulness, ready to be cleansed and made pure.

Jesus heals a woman suffering from physical disability in Luke 13:10-17. The woman was unable to stand up straight due to a spirit, but Jesus called her over and told her she was set free, and immediately she could stand. She began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue was upset that Jesus healed her on the Sabbath when she could have been healed at any other time. Jesus calls them hypocrites, for surely they would water and feed their animals on the Sabbath, so why could he not set free this daughter of Abraham? While there are several stories of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and someone being upset by it, the people upset are in the minority. The issue is not that Jesus healed this woman or that it’s the Sabbath, it’s that this particular leader didn’t see this woman as part of his community, a “daughter of Abraham.” Jesus showed her kindness and compassion. The demon removed perhaps is the demon of separation, the way we “other” people, especially those with disabilities.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Ruth, this time in chapter two. Ruth, a Moabite woman, has traveled with her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem since both were widowed. Ruth chose to travel with her mother-in-law instead of returning to her father’s family. That was the first of Ruth’s bold actions showing her commitment to her mother-in-law. The second is in chapter two, where she advises her mother-in-law to let her go glean in the fields to provide for them both, and Naomi acquiesces. Ruth happens to glean in the field belonging to Boaz, who is from the family of Naomi’s husband. Boaz is moved when he hears of Ruth’s story, traveling away from her own family and people of origin to help Naomi, and tells Ruth not to glean elsewhere, but to stay at his field as he will make sure she is not harassed. He also serves her dinner. Ruth brought the gleanings home to Naomi, who was surprised, and when Ruth told Naomi who had helped her and whose field she had gleaned in, Naomi knows they are blessed by this close relative, but that it comes from Ruth’s actions: she was kind to Naomi, and Boaz in turn was kind to Ruth. Compassion begets compassion.

The companion verses in the Narrative Lectionary are Luke 6:36-38. Jesus teaches the disciples to be merciful just as God is merciful. The Common English Bible translates merciful as “compassionate.” Jesus further teaches the disciples not to judge, then they won’t be judged, and to forgive as they have been forgiven. The measure they give is the measure they will receive.

Compassion begins in us, a stirring in us that moves us to do the right thing for another person. Jesus had compassion on the woman who was bent over and unable to stand up because she was ignored by others in her community that could have helped her, that didn’t see her as worthy. Ruth was moved to compassion for her mother-in-law who had lost so much, and in turn, Boaz was moved to compassion to help her. God is merciful and compassionate. However, when we do not act in compassion but act in vengeance, jealousy, selfish ambition—we reap what we sow. It is hard to receive compassion when we are not practicing it ourselves. Jesus reminds us to see one another through the lens of covenant, of relationship—that we are all connected. When one suffers, we all suffer together. When one shows compassion to another, we receive compassion together.

Call to Worship (Psalm 103:1-4a, 8)
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me,
Bless God’s holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And do not forget all God has done for us.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
For God forgives, heals, and redeems us.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me,
Bless God’s holy name.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Blessed One, we come before You, Author of Compassionate Love, Forgiver of Sins, Redeemer of us All. There is no one name that comes forth from our lips that conveys the breadth and depth of Your love for us. We confess that our words often fall short and fail us. Instead, may our hearts be open to Your mercy. May our souls be open to Your grace. May our bodies be open to live out Your compassion to one another by doing justice, practicing empathy and kindness, and living in humility with You. You are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love that endures forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
God is our Rock and Refuge, our Strength and Help, and God shall not be moved. We have a sure foundation, and we cannot be shaken. Know that You are loved, forgiven, and restored. The strength and wisdom and mercy of God is in you, to be shared with the world. This indeed is the Gospel of Christ. Live it out. Love it out. Shout it out! Proclaim it with praise! Share God’s love with all. Amen and amen!

Prayer
Spirit of Peace, in a world of violence, war, and destruction, help us to make peace with ourselves. Help us to forgive our own brokenness. Remind us to speak tenderly to us, that we are worthy and beautifully made. In awe You have formed us. Call upon us to speak in love to our bodies, our hearts that wander, our souls that tremble. Speak peace to us and help us to live into Your peace. For then may we live as peacemakers and peacebuilders, justice-seekers and love-bringers. Spirit of Peace, breathe peace into us, so we may live. Amen.

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