Worship Resources for July 9, 2023—Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 and Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Zechariah 9:9-12 and Psalm 145:8-14; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Narrative Lectionary: Series on 2 Peter, 1:16-2:2, 15-19 (Mark 13:5-7)

The first selection of the Hebrew scriptures follows the ancestors of the faith through Genesis and Exodus, and this Sunday’s passage focuses on the story of Rebekah and Isaac. Abraham’s servant was sent back to the city of Nahor (named for Abraham’s brother) to find a wife. After finding Rebekah, Abraham’s servant spoke to her father and brother, and shared the story of Sarah and Abraham and his charge to find a wife for Isaac. The servant had prayed, and God had answered his prayer with Rebekah offering him a drink of water and water for his camels. Rebekah gave her consent to go with the servant and become Isaac’s wife, and her family blessed her, and Isaac welcomed Rebekah as his wife.

Psalm 45 is a song for a royal wedding, and verses 10-17 address the bride-to-be. The royal bride is to accept her husband as her king, the people of the kingdom as her own. The psalmist celebrates her arrival to the royal palace and wedding celebration and concludes the psalm with a blessing for the king.

An alternative to Psalm 45 is The Song of the Beloved in Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The woman in the song is wooed by the many to come away and enjoy the springtime, for everything is in bloom, everything is alive again. A metaphor for renewed life, love, and fertility, the song amplifies the joy of new love blossoming.

The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures is Zechariah 9:9-12. The prophet calls upon the people to rejoice as they have returned from exile and imagines God as a warrior who will lead the people. However, this warrior enters the city not on a white horse, but on a donkey. The triumphant entry is one of humility, and God is one who brings peace and destroys the weapons of war.

Psalm 145:8-14 is a song praising God for God’s goodness and mercy. In verses 8-14, the psalmist praises God for God’s compassion and steadfast love. All of creation praises God, and the faithful bless God and make known God’s reign to all people, for God’s reign is everlasting. God is faithful and gracious and raises up those who are humble.

The Epistle readings continue in Romans with 7:15-25a. Paul writes about struggling to live rightly before God. The law was designed to help followers follow God’s ways, but Paul recognizes that even if we desire strongly to do the right thing, we will still sin, for sin dwells in us. Wanting to do good isn’t enough. It is only Christ who can “rescue me from this body of death” (vs. 24). Because Jesus fully lived as one of us and died as one of us, we to, as we believe in Christ, can be free from sin in a way that the law cannot free us, in Paul’s view.

Jesus continues his discourse about John the Baptist to the crowds in 11:16-19 and concludes with a message of care and concern for those following him in 25-30. In vs. 16-19, Jesus speaks about the negative reactions of some toward him and John. Neither John nor Jesus did what the people expected of them. John called for repentance and the people rejected him as having a demon. Jesus, who didn’t fast, but ate and drank among the people, was called a glutton and a drunk and a friend of sinners. Jesus reminds the people that wisdom is known through her deeds. Wisdom, personified in Hebrew Scripture as female, is often linked to the Holy Spirit but also to Jesus in the New Testament. There is no way to counter the good work Jesus was doing. Healing, teaching, casting out demons, bringing good news and hope—these deeds show God’s goodness is in Jesus, and in those who follow him. In vs. 25-30, Jesus concludes this section by giving thanks in prayer. The leaders of Jesus’ day tried to discredit Jesus, but the followers of Jesus witnessed and experienced his good works, and God was revealed to them through his actions. Jesus then called upon the people to take up his way. In humility of letting go of the world’s concerns for wealth and power and notoriety, the followers of Jesus would find rest.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series in 2 Peter with 1:16-2:2, 15-19. The writer, purporting to be Peter, describes the Transfiguration as a moment of confirmation of God’s will through Jesus Christ. No human being can ever fully understand or convey the meaning of scripture through their own interpretation. Peter warns against false teachers, who will bring in destructive views and even deny Christ. Invoking the image of Balaam, God will correct those who insist on their own way. Though they promise freedom for others, they are actually imprisoned to whatever has a hold on them—sin. They entice others to follow their ways and to believe there are no consequences for their actions.

In the supplemental verses of Mark 13:5-7, Jesus warns against those who will claim to come in his name and will try to lead the people astray. Jesus declares that believers should not be alarmed with the news of destruction, for this must take place, and this is not the end.

Whom do we follow? How do we remain faithful? These questions arise from the passages this Sunday. Though all the men were making decisions in Rebekah’s life, ultimately, she was asked if she would go with Abraham’s servant, and she chose to do so and chose to put on the veil and become Isaac’s wife (though her choices were limited, and she would’ve been married off to someone). We have a choice to follow violence and destruction, or kindness and humility. We have a choice to try to do things our own way or to give our lives over to Christ, to give up the ways of this world that burden us and put on Jesus’s way of love, compassion, kindness and justice. We do not have to do things the way the world expects, but we will often face ridicule and rejection for choosing Christ. We must be wary of those who would try to lead us in their way, especially when their way has no accountability or responsibility. We must follow Jesus, resist evil, and do good.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 145:8-12)
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all, and God’s compassion is over all that God has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
And all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
To make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
God’s reign is everlasting,
And we worship God in faithfulness and gratitude.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, we come before You with burdens too great to bear. Burdens of pain and sadness and loss. Burdens of worry and fear and regret. Burdens of anger and hate and rejection. So many burdens placed on us through the brokenness of this world. Holy One, bring healing into our lives. Grant us gentleness and compassion. Give us justice and hope. Lead us into steadfast love and faithfulness. Guide us into Your ways that open us to receive care and healing, through the merciful love of Jesus Christ, who lived for us, who died for us, and lives again, and in whose name we pray. Amen.

There is a peace that surpasses all understanding. We may only receive a glimpse of it now, but we can know it in our lives. We can encourage it to grow by loving and caring for one another. We can find peace, even if only for a moment, but we can share it. Live into Christ’s love and compassion and share that love and compassion with one another, forgiving one another, building up one another, and working to repair what has been lost or broken. This is how we seek peace. This is how we pursue it. This is how we find it, in Christ’s love and in love for one another. Amen.

In this season of ordinary time in the church, O God, help us to know Your extraordinary love. Help us to discover the everyday miracles around us. May we see life and goodness and hope in the midst of the mundane, and especially in difficult, trying times. Guide us in practices that deepen our trust and faith in You, through reading Your scriptures, caring for others’ needs, participating in the work of justice, and in prayer and meditation. Help us to find ways to connect more fully with You and with one another. May ordinary time be a time of renewed trust and faith in You, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

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