Worship Resources for July 4th, 2021—Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 and Psalm 48; Ezekiel 2:1-5 and Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 2:1-10; Mark 6:1-13

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Jeremiah, Messiah and New Covenant: 33:14-18; 31:31-34

David was finally acknowledged as king over all Israel in 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10. Though he was anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem when he was a boy and Saul still ruled, his public inauguration was in Hebron after Saul’s death, where David reigned for a short time before he reigned in Jerusalem and built his stronghold there. God was with David as he became a strong king, for David looked to God.

Psalm 48 is a song of praise for Jerusalem, the city God chose to be holy. Kings tremble in the sight of the city where the temple of God was built, and God is the one who reigns over the people. The city itself is a witness of God’s power and reign, and this song was sung by pilgrims coming from faraway places to worship at the temple.

The prophet Ezekiel heard the call of God in Ezekiel 2:1-5. God’s spirit entered Ezekiel and sent him to speak to the people of Israel, knowing the people would reject the words of God as their ancestors had done. Still, God chose Ezekiel to go, whether they listened or not, so that it could be said God had sent a prophet among them, that God was still speaking to them even if they refused to listen.

Psalm 123 is a plea for God to have mercy on the people, who have faced rejection and ridicule. Another pilgrimage song, this psalm calls for the people who have lifted up their gaze to God to be recognized by God, for they have experienced much shame and contempt from those around them.

The Epistle reading concludes the series in 2 Corinthians with 12:2-10. Paul tells the church in Corinth that he has a “friend” (himself) who had a heavenly vision. He doesn’t want to boast about it, so he tells this tale of a friend who had this vision that convicted him of what God wanted him to do. Paul never mentions what the “thorn” is that he had to deal with, but some sort of spiritual struggle (and perhaps also physical) that Paul lived with. While Paul didn’t want to boast about his personal experience of a vision of heaven, he does share quite openly that he struggled in faith, and through those struggles, he found strength in Christ.

Jesus returned to his hometown in Mark 6:1-13, but because of the people’s unbelief, he could only heal a few sick people, and perform no deed of power there. The people all knew him, his family, and it seems they could not believe in him. They didn’t see a Messiah or Son of God—they saw the carpenter’s son, Mary’s boy, the brother to his brothers. So instead, Jesus decides to send the disciples out in pairs, to go out to the surrounding villages, to accept the hospitality shown them. Wherever they were welcomed, they were able to cast out demons and heal people. For those places that didn’t accept them, they were to shake the dust off their sandals and move on.

The Narrative Lectionary concludes its series on Jeremiah with 33:14-18, and 31:31-34. In 33:14-18, Jeremiah speaks of a time after the exile, when God will fulfill the promises made to the people, that a new king will arise from David’s line, someone who will live out God’s way of justice. The priests will once again make sacrifices for the people to God, restoring the intermediary actions of the priesthood. This section, according to many scholars, is probably a much later addition to the prophet’s writing, a promise of a messiah and hope for the future. In 31:31-34, Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant God will make with the people, one that can never be broken because God is making it and writing it in the people’s hearts. They will know God is their God, they will be God’s people, and their sins will be forgiven and remembered no more. Though Jeremiah would go into exile, over the centuries, scholars, rabbis, and believers would read these words and find hope for their time, for their people.

Throughout the history of God’s people, the faithful have at times faced scorn and ridicule. They have struggled to maintain faith while hope slips away. Even Jesus, coming to his hometown, was unable to help his own neighbors because they could not believe God would use one of their own people. Ezekiel was warned by God that the people wouldn’t listen to him, but to go and speak on God’s behalf anyway. Paul struggled and suffered and at times was afraid of what others would think, and yet he still preached, still wrote, still worked to share the Gospel at all times and in all ways. But there is hope. Jeremiah spoke words of comfort and hope in the midst of the siege of Jerusalem. Jesus had to change course and send out his unknown disciples into unknown places to share the good news, because in the known places, they didn’t want to listen to him. In this pre-post-Covid time, we might have to shift how we are doing ministry, how we are worshiping, how we live out the good news of God’s love, because the world has changed. But the message remains faithful: God’s steadfast love endures forever. Sin is forgiven, and remembered no more.

Call to Worship
Praise God from the highest mountains!
Praise God from the depths of the sea!
Praise God with loud instruments!
Praise God with the voice of our hearts!
Praise God in all things, at all times, in all ways,
For our God reigns over the whole earth.
Come, worship God, all nations, tribes, and peoples:
For God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we struggle with so much, and at times believe its our own fault for our shortcomings, instead of understanding that this past year has held burdens much too heavy. Help us to ease our burdens by not blaming ourselves when we feel our faith is slipping. Remind us instead that we are not alone. Encourage us to seek help for mental health, to speak to those with experience and training when we are in need. Guide us in wisdom to care for ourselves, for our minds and hearts. You are the one who loves us so much that You sent Your Son for us, that we might have new life now. Help us to understand there is nothing we can do that will separate us from that love. There are no faults or shortcomings of our own that will break us from You. Instead, surround us with mutual care and concern, that we might lift up one another, and together, seek healing and wholeness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (from Romans 8:38-39)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Go with this good news: You are loved. You are forgiven. You are restored. You are called to share in the Gospel with the world. Amen.

Prayer
Ruler of all nations, remind us that the lines on a map are of our own making and not Yours. Remind us that the borders You made are ocean shores and riverbeds, living and moving, reminders of the boundaries of fragile ecosystems. You are the Maker of the earth, and have called us to be caretakers of the whole planet, not just our own country, county, neighborhood or dwelling. You have made us to care for one another and all of creation. Call us to remember that we have only one planet, and that we are one people in You. Bind us together, O God, to be Your body, and to care for the planet You so lovingly made for us. In the name of Jesus, who laid down his life for us; may we lay down our lives for one another, and care for this earth together. Amen.

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