Worship Resources for June 18, 2023—Third Sunday after Pentecost, Father’s Day

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7) and Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Exodus 19:2-8a and Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Isaiah, Isaiah 40:1-11 (Mark 1:1-4) or Isaiah 55:1-13 (John 4:13-14)

The first selection of the Hebrew scriptures in this season after Pentecost follows the ancestors of the faith in Genesis and Exodus, from a family to a nation, through enslavement to freedom. In Genesis 18, three visitors are passing by when Abraham encourages them to stop and have some respite, with he and Sarah offering food and hospitality. One of the men promises to return, and that Sarah will give birth to a son. However, Sarah, listening behind the tent entrance, laughed. God had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would be ancestors of a multitude, but now it was well past the time that they believed they could have children. God questioned Abraham as to why Sarah laughed, because there is nothing too wonderful for God, but Sarah denied that she did. However, in due season, she conceived and give birth, and Abraham named the son Laughter (Isaac) because God brought laughter into Sarah and Abraham’s life. The joke was on her—God is always true with God’s promises, even when it seems impossible.

The psalmist’s prayers were answered by God, and they sing God’s praise in Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19. The singer pledges to call upon God as long as they live because they know God’s faithfulness. Even in death, the faithful are precious to God. The psalmist pledges to live out their vows and to serve God as their mother did before them, recalling the ancestors who served faithfully, and a pledge to live out their faith in God in the temple and presence of the people of Israel.

The second selection of the Hebrew Scriptures is Exodus 19:2-8a, when the Israelites reached Mount Sinai. As the people camped in the wilderness, Moses went up the mountain for the first time, and God told Moses what to say to the people: if they obeyed God and kept God’s covenant, they would be God’s treasured people. Even though all peoples of the earth belong to God, they would serve as a holy, priestly nation, a people for whom God would be made known through to the rest of the world. When Moses returned to the people, they replied that they would do everything God had told them.

Psalm 100 is a call to worship for the people as they prepared to enter the temple. The psalmist calls upon the people to worship with gladness and to remember that they were made by God and belong to God. God is the shepherd, and the people are the sheep of God’s pasture.

The Epistle selection continues its series in Romans with 5:1-8, which was also the Epistle reading on the third Sunday of Lent back on March 12th. Because believers are justified by faith, they share in the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Even though they may suffer, in their suffering they will still experience the hope of God because they know God’s love through Jesus. Even though not all knew Christ, Christ died for all. There is no one who cannot know God’s love through Jesus Christ. Paul views Christ’s death as a sacrifice that saves everyone, regardless of being under the law or not, and Christ’s death reconciles everyone to God. It is not the believer’s works, but rather one’s faith in Christ that matters.

Jesus saw the needs of the people and had compassion on them, sending the disciples to minister among them in Matthew 9:35-10:8. Jesus appointed the twelve disciples, and in Matthew’s account, one might take note that there are fishermen, tax collectors, and a Cananaean (or Zealot, a member of a revolutionary group). What an eclectic group! Yet Jesus sent them out to minister among the Jewish villages, and to avoid the Gentiles and Samaritans, making clear that Jesus’s ministry at this point was to his own people. The message they were to share was simple: the kingdom of heaven had come near, and they were to minister as if the kingdom was at hand. Casting out demons and cleansing lepers restored people to society, curing the sick and raising the dead restored people to life. They were to go without being paid and to not receive payment.
In the optional additional reading of verses 9-20, Jesus gave further instruction to not take anything with them and to simply accept the hospitality offered them. If hospitality was not given, they were to move along. Those villages would receive the same as they gave—judged by their refusal to show hospitality, the way Sodom and Gomorrah were judged (and how the prophet Ezekiel also interpreted the destruction of those cities as a result of inhospitality in Ezekiel 16:46-50). Jesus sent the disciples to serve God like sheep among wolves, innocent servants in places where they might easily be taken advantage of or handed over to authorities. Jesus urged them to be wise in their innocence, and not to be afraid.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series in Isaiah with two choices, both part of Second Isaiah. In 40:1-11, the beginning of the section attributed to Second Isaiah, God sends a message of comfort to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the people in exile. God is bringing the people home from Babylon, and Jerusalem is the beacon of good news of God’s restoration to all the people of Judah. Even though the people were not faithful, God is always true, and God will accompany the people like a shepherd accompanying their flock, carrying the lambs close to God’s heart and gently leading the mother sheep.

The supplementary verses of Mark 1:1-4 begins the gospel of Mark with John the Baptist arriving out of the wilderness. The Gospel writers all link John the Baptist with Isaiah 40 and the voice calling in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.

The second choice is from the end of Second Isaiah, 55:1-13. God calls everyone who thirsts to join with God, because the spiritual food God offers is better than anything humans could work for in a human kingdom. God’s reign is the one to live for. God made a covenant with David that is everlasting, and other nations will see the people of Israel as a witness of God’s goodness and faithfulness because of what God has done for them. Nonetheless, human beings cannot comprehend all that God has done and will do, for God is the one who provides for the whole earth, and all of nature will rejoice and praise God for what God continues to do for the people.

The supplementary verses of John 4:13-14 are from the passage of the Samaritan woman at the well, where Jesus speaks about how everyone who drinks of the well water will be thirsty again, but the water Jesus offers is a wellspring of eternal life.

The themes of God’s faithfulness run through the Genesis reading of the promise of Isaac, to God’s message through Moses on Mount Sinai, to God calling the people through the wilderness and reminding the people of the covenant in Isaiah. God’s faithfulness endures forever. We experience God’s faithfulness through God’s presence, through our worship, as the psalmist called the people to worship long ago, through God speaking through the prophets such as Moses, and through Jesus and his disciples sent out to minister among the people. God is near to us and desires for us to be in relationship. We understand God’s covenantal presence through community in the Hebrew scriptures and through the life, death, love, and ministry of Christ. Today, we experience that covenantal presence in faith community, in relationship with one another, in ministering among our neighbors, and in relationship with Christ. Jesus never taught is that we were only to be in relationship with him; rather, we are called to be in relationship with both God and our neighbor. As a shepherd accompanies the sheep, we know God is closest to the most vulnerable among us, but God always gathers us together—all of us—to be in community. And in the example of the disciples, we know we are called to share the Good News, perhaps in a similar manner: go forth to help change as many lives as possible and use as few words as necessary (to paraphrase the quote often attributed to St. Francis).

Call to Worship (Psalm 100)
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is God that made us, and we belong to God;
We are God’s people, and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and God’s courts with praise.
Give thanks to God, bless God’s name.
For the LORD is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever,
And God’s faithfulness to all generations.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Shepherding God, we confess that far too often we want to do things our own way. We want to love the neighbors we already know. We want to minister among those who won’t ask much of us. We want to work for justice when it benefits ourselves. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and our selfishness. Remind us of Your call to all, but especially the most vulnerable. Gentle Shepherd, You led the people out of exile, carrying the lambs close to Your heart. Remind us to seek those with the greatest needs to serve in Your ways of love and justice, and to allow ourselves to be led by You. May we listen to those most affected by injustice and follow their lead and not our own desires and opinions. In the name of Christ, our Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen.

Psalm 116:1-2: I love the LORD, because God has heard my voice and my supplications. Because God inclined their ear to me, therefore I will call on God as long as I live.
God hears our prayers, our cries, our sobs, our sighs too deep for words. God knows all that you desire, and all that you need, and God provides for us through the blessings of creation, the bounty of the earth, and the love of one another. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Love as Christ loved, as he laid down his life for you. Serve as Christ served. Repair and restore, for God’s faithfulness endures forever. Be a part of the good work of God in this world, and it shall go well with you. Amen.

God of our ancestors, we recall the stories of Sarah and Abraham, how they hoped and prayed and yet You still surprised them in the long run. You are still surprising us with Your goodness and mercy. Sometimes it is difficult for us to be surprised because we are caught up in the day-to-day busyness of the world, or the day-to-day difficult news. Sometimes despair keeps us from taking notice. Nonetheless, You are surprising us in new discoveries of science. You surprise us in a gentle breeze on a hot day. You surprise us in the hatching of eggs and the soft rain on the grass. You surprise us when the news is not as dire as we thought, when the lost are found, the vulnerable are rescued, the houseless are given a home, and someone receives good news for their illness. We know that we are not always the recipients of the good news, but there is good news in the world, and You are at work in it all. Sometimes You call us to be the good news for others. Sometimes we are the ones who answer a call for a neighbor in need, provide a meal for someone who is hungry, and help someone find their way who is lost. Remind us that we might be the answer to a prayer, that we might be the surprise needed in the world. For long ago, You surprised Sarah and Abraham by stopping by, a group of three strangers walking down the road, and Abraham surprised You by inviting You in, and Sarah made You a cake. In turn, You surprised them with the best news, even though they still had to wait. God of our ancestors, teach us how to surprise You and to surprise one another with Your good news. Amen.

Prayer for Father’s Day
Abba God, we come to You on this day knowing that it may be a difficult day, for those who are missing their fathers and for those who have difficult relationships, for those who are estranged and for those who never knew their fathers. We thank You for those fathers who demonstrate Your love, and for stepdads, uncles, coaches, grandpas, teachers and neighbors. We thank You that we know Your love like a father to Jesus Christ, who called You “Abba.” Abba God, may we know Your love surpasses our human understanding and that You are beyond gender, but You love us, Your children, far beyond what we can comprehend or imagine. Abba God, may we draw closer to You, to abide in You as Jesus abides in us, and it is in Your Son’s name that we pray. Amen.

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