Worship Resources for August 22nd, 2021—Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18; Psalm 34:15-22; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

Narrative Lectionary: Sacraments—Lord’s Supper, Psalm 65 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, or Revelation: 6:1-8, 7:9-17 (John 14:1-4)

After King David’s death, King Solomon established worship in the temple in 1 Kings 8. Solomon remembered the covenant that God made with his father David and prayed for its renewal. He prayed for God’s presence to be in the temple, that when the people of Israel prayed toward the temple, God would hear their prayers. Solomon prayed that the temple itself would be a witness to others outside of Israel because they heard of God’s deeds and would be drawn from distant lands. This dedication for the temple not only establishes temple worship, but the role of prayer in Israelite worship life.

Psalm 84 is a song of praise for God’s temple. Mirroring heaven on earth, even the sparrows, the psalmist sings, will find a home there (and probably literally, birds made their nests in the open temple spaces). People who travel to the temple would find themselves in awe. The psalmist sings that there is no other place they’d rather be, for God blesses and does good works for those who are faithful.

In the second selection of the Hebrew scriptures, Joshua had led the people of Israel since Moses’ death, and Joshua called upon the people to make their choice to renew their commitment to God in 24:1-2a, 14-18. Joshua gave them the choice to serve the gods of other peoples, as their ancestors had once done, but Joshua and his family chose to serve the Lord their God, who delivered them from Egypt. The people renewed their commitment to God, for God had protected them and brought them to the land promised to their ancestors.

The second selection of the psalm concludes its three-week series with Psalm 34 with verses 15-22. God’s face is turned toward those who are faithful and who live in ways of righteousness and God’s face is turned from those who are wicked. God hears the cries of the faithful in their despair and dejection, and will deliver them, protect them, and care for them. God will hold accountable those who afflict the righteous and will save the faithful.

The Epistle series in Ephesians concludes with 6:10-20 (which was the Narrative Lectionary reading on August 1st). This metaphorical list of armor is all defensive, save for the Sword of the Spirit (the word of God). The rest of it is for proclaiming peace, abiding in God’s salvation and righteousness. This metaphor reminds the reader that the struggle is not against blood and flesh but the rulers and authorities and powers of the present time of evil. The author roots nonviolent protest as spiritual work, against the spiritual forces of evil: oppression, greed, marginalization—all the forces of empire. The author concludes with a call to prayer and a request for prayer while they are in prison, so they may speak boldly in faith.

The Gospel selection concludes its series in John on the Bread of Life in John 6:56-69. The first three verses overlap with last week’s selection. Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life, and that to eat his flesh, to drink his blood, is to absorb all of Jesus into one’s life and find eternal life. Jesus’ disciples are worried that this message is too harsh (maybe too graphic) and that it’s hard to accept. Jesus teaches them that it is the Spirit that gives life, not worldly bread and drink, not the consumption of this world. Life is found in following Jesus, and the disciples, though questioning, know this. They know that Jesus is the Holy One sent by God, and that to know God, they have to absorb Jesus into their daily life.

The Narrative Lectionary has two series choices for the remainder of the summer—a series on Sacraments, and a series on Revelation. I am using the same resources I did four years ago, from August 27th, 2017 in the archives:

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on the Sacraments and on Revelation. For the Lord’s Supper, the focus is Psalm 65. This call to worship God reminds the people that God is the one who performs awesome deeds of deliverance, and is all of our hope. God is the one who provides for all the earth, who forgives our transgressions, and God draws us near. Happy are those who are chosen by God to be with God.

Paul is displeased with the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. He has heard about the divisions within the church, but he is most disgusted by the divisions shown at the table for the Lord’s Supper, because they don’t really come together for this holy meal but to eat their own supper, to gorge on what they have had, to become drunk and enjoy themselves while others go hungry. This is not what the table is about. Instead, continuing from verse 23, Paul reminds the church that this is a meal of remembrance. This meal is to be taken reverently, and all need to examine themselves before coming to the table.

In the series on Revelation, from 6:1-8 and 7:9-17, the first four seals are opened, releasing the four horses associated with the apocalypse, bringing violence, hunger, famine, and pestilence upon the earth. But after the seals are opened, there is a great multitude that appear in John’s vision, no one can count them. They are of every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb and praising God. These are the ones who have come through the great ordeal, who have survived, and they come to praise God, and God will wipe away every tear from their eye. They will suffer no more. Throughout scripture, there is always a remnant that survives. There is always hope.

John 14:1-4 is part of Jesus’ final discourse to the disciples, in which he promises that he is going ahead of them to prepare a place for them. Jesus promises the disciples that they know the way to the place where Jesus is going. Have faith, do not let your hearts be troubled, Jesus tells the disciples, for there is room for all in the kingdom of God.

Taking on the metaphorical armor of God, being fed on spiritual food, the flesh and blood of Christ, is to absorb the way of Christ into our daily life. Solomon’s dedication of the temple proclaimed to the people that God was among them. The writer of Ephesians, the Gospel of John, teach us that the way to draw close to God is to live into God’s ways, to saturate God into our daily life, to take on this identity, inside and outside, as a follower of Jesus. God draws near to us, but Christ calls us to go fully into the life God intends for us, in righteousness, justice, and peace.

Call to Worship
Whether we gather our hearts at home or afar,
We are the church, the body of Christ.
Whether we are at home or in a building together,
We are in the house of God, for God is with us.
Whether we sing in the choir or pray under the trees,
We are at worship, for God is everywhere.
Come, join in worship, wherever you are,
For we are God’s people.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we come before You to confess our divisions, the walls we have built, the lines we have drawn. We confess that we have determined with our human understanding who is just and who is not, who is loved and who is not, who is right and who is wrong. We have been exclusive in our love instead of inclusive in Your Gospel. Forgive us. Remind us that all of us are created in Your image. All of us are worthy of love. All of us have sinned, and all of us can participate in the work of reparation, restoration, and forgiveness. Call us as Your children, O God. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Brother, our Redeemer, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
No matter what boundaries and borders we have made, God transcends them all. God’s love knows no measure, no limit. There is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ. Know that you are forgiven, and called into the work of healing and hope, mercy and justice. Live into God’s ways, and know that Christ is with you. Amen.

Prayer
Deep calls to deep, O God, and You have given us hearts and minds to be open to Your love and to ponder the great mysteries. Guide us in our search for understanding. Keep us to Your ways of love, justice, and mercy. Hold us to Your commandments to love You and to love our neighbors. Throughout our lives, may we continue to draw closer to You, to know more of Your ways, and to also be in awe at the vastness of the universe You made that we will never fully understand. Lead us, Eternal One, through life and death and into the great mystery of eternity. Amen.

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