Worship Resources for November 7th, 2021—Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17; Psalm 127; 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Narrative Lectionary: God Speaks to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:1-18 (John 12:27-28)

Resources for All Saints Day can be found here.

Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David, even though she was not an Israelite in Ruth 3 and 4. Naomi, her mother-in-law, helped her pursue Boaz, a near kinsman, even though Ruth was a Moabite. Ruth trusted her mother-in-law to seek the well-being for both of them, for Naomi treated Ruth like her own daughter. The women of the community blessed Naomi for the gift of Ruth, who helped provide for her and gave her a new family in her old age.

Psalm 127 is a song of blessing for family life. The psalmist begins by reminding the listener/reader that unless they turn to God first as their foundation and strength, their efforts will be in vain. Instead, when they turn to God first, God will provide. Hard work does not bring blessings, but relationship with God brings us into relationship with one another. The second half of the psalm contains a blessing for large families, especially sons for inheritance, which was necessary in the culture and traditions of property and inheritance of Biblical times

God called the prophet Elijah to visit the widow at Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:8-16. The prophet asked the widow for water, and then asked her for bread while she was getting him water. She swore to him that she had nothing to eat, just some oil and a little meal, and she was about to make a cake for her and her son as their last meal before they starved to death. However, Elijah tells her to not be afraid, but to first make a little cake of it for him, and then make some for herself and her son. Elijah promised her that the oil and meal would not run out until the day God brought rain back to the land. The injustice of the world would be brough to an end. The woman and her son were able to eat for many days and did not go hungry.

Psalm 146 was the first Psalm selection last week. This psalm is a song of praise to God, the one who truly reigns. The psalmist reminds the people that worldly rulers will fail them and to not put their trust in them. It is God, maker of heaven and earth, who executes justice and remembers the poor and oppressed. Worldly kings will always be tempted by the ways of the world, but God watches over the widows and strangers and immigrants, the ones who are forgotten about, and God loves the righteous. God’s reign endures forever.

The Epistle reading continues in Hebrews with 9:24-28. Because Jesus entered heaven, and not the temple made of human hands, Jesus’s sacrifice was once for all and removed sin itself. Through Christ’s sacrifice, sin has no hold on our lives. Jesus will appear a second time, the writer states, because we appear a second time after our death. We will be saved by Jesus who is waiting for us in the resurrection.

The Gospel of Mark continues with Jesus’ teaching in the temple. In last week’s passage, Jesus was questioned by a scribe about the greatest commandment, and even though Jesus told that scribe he wasn’t far from the kingdom of God, Jesus warns those listening to him to beware other scribes who are scribes for appearances sake. They want everyone to know they are studying scripture, wearing their long robes, and saying long prayers so everyone knows who they are, to be invited for banquets as guests of honor. Instead, Jesus spies a widow putting in two copper coins into the temple treasury, and Jesus lifts her up as an example. Others might have put in large sums, but she put in all she had. Others contributed out of their abundance, but she gave all she had. She lived out her faithfulness.

The Narrative Lectionary also focuses on the prophet Elijah, when Elijah was persecuted and feeling abandoned. In 1 Kings 19:1-18, Elijah wanted to fall down and die. He complained to God he was all alone. Even though he hid 100 prophets still loyal to God before battling the prophets of Baal, Elijah complained he was the only one left, facing persecution. He sat down and fell asleep from exhaustion. However, God sent an angel to wake Elijah up and told him to get up and eat. This happened twice, and Elijah finally had the strength to continue on. Even then, when he arrived at Horeb, he told God he was the only one left, that he remained faithful while the people abandoned God. God told Elijah to stand at the mountain, for God would pass by. However, God was not present in the mighty wind, or the great earthquake, or the roaring fire. There was a sound of sheer silence, and Elijah wrapped his face before going to meet God. Elijah still complained he was the only one left, so God told him to anoint a new king of Aram, a new king of Israel, and Elisha as a new prophet to take his place. In the midst of Elijah’s utter despair, his feeling alone and abandoned, God heard him, and God answered.

In John 12:27-28, Jesus himself was deeply troubled and despairing, and God responded to Jesus’ request to glorify God’s name. In the following verse, others heard the voice, but thought it was thunder, or perhaps an angel, not knowing that it was God speaking assurance to Jesus.

Those of us in the Northern hemisphere are preparing for harvest, and in the U.S. preparing for Thanksgiving. These scriptures remind us that knowing God’s abundance is not about an outward display of faith, but an inner transformation and trust in God. Ruth trusted her mother-in-law was not only looking out for her own interests but for all of them, including Boaz, as family. The widow at Zarephath trusted the prophet Elijah and fed him first before herself and her son, trusting his words that God would provide for her family as well as the prophet. Elijah himself, when everything seems to be collapsing, still trusts in God enough to know he can pour out his feelings to God, and God provides in his time of need. Jesus takes notice of a widow who puts in all she has, trusting in God, compared to the religious leaders who were concerned about looking religious. Trusting in God’s abundance doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes go without, but it means we believe God has provided a world of abundance. The systems and structures of the world create food scarcity, hunger, and poverty, but God calls us to the work of justice to dismantle the sin of the world. This is what Elijah did when he met the widow at Zarephath. This is what Jesus pointed out to the disciples when he lifted up the poor widow above the rich givers and the flashy religious leaders. This is what we are called to do.

Call to Worship
We gather now to give thanks to our God,
Whose steadfast love endures forever.
We lift up our hearts, our prayers and praise to God,
Whose steadfast love endures forever.
We reflect and ponder the word and wisdom of God,
Whose steadfast love endures forever.
We join together as followers of Jesus Christ,
Whose steadfast love endures forever.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Everlasting Love, we confess that we are short-tempered and short-sighted. We do not have patience for those who cry out for justice because we are focused on ourselves. We do not perceive how our lives are connected to others when all we notice are our own troubles. We fail to remember that our days are short, but You are the one who reigns forever. You remind us time and again that we are connected to each other. You have commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. You call us into Your work of justice and reparation. God, hold us accountable. Remind us when we are focused only on ourselves instead of the world You called us to participate in. Keep us to Your ways of love, justice, and mercy. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
There is more than enough love to go around. More than enough resources. More than enough of everything, when we remember we are one body in Christ, when we remember we are all children of God. Know that you are loved and needed, and that you need to love one another. When we love each other, our needs are met in the care of Christ’s community. Go and work to build up the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven, for you are loved, forgiven, and restored. Amen.

Prayer
Steadfast Spirit, breathe into us new life when we are downtrodden. Lift up our hearts when the world crushes us down. Guide us into Your ways of peace when the violence and heartbreak is unbearable. Refresh and restore us, Holy One, for there is so much that drains us. Remind us that renewal and rest are holy acts, and You have created us and called us into the holy work of love in this world. *In the winds of November, may Your Spirit raise us and encourage us as the nights grow longer and the days short and cold, for You are the one who brings all things into renewal. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.

*for those in the Southern Hemisphere, alternative wording: In the growing light, may Your Spirit raise us and encourage us as the flowers bloom and birds sing, for You are the one who births all things in renewal. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.

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