Worship Resources for October 3rd, 2021—Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, World Communion Sunday

Revised Common Lectionary: Job 1:1, 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

Narrative Lectionary: God’s Name is Revealed, Exodus 2:23-25, 3:1-15, 4:10-17 (John 8:58)

The first selection of the Hebrew scriptures continues in Wisdom Literature, moving into a four-part series on Job. The story of Job is an old one, and some scholars believe parts of Job may be the earliest writings we have in the entire Bible. We know from verse one that there once was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job—a great beginning to any folktale. In this story, Satan is known as The Accuser—a heavenly being whose job was to question others in the heavenly courtroom. At the time Job was written, Satan was not seen as a being personifying all evil—instead, Satan was a necessary figure of the heavenly court. In this case, Satan suggested that Job was only faithful because God hadn’t struck Job himself, just everything and everyone around him. In chapter one, Job lost everything, including his children, but in chapter two he was struck with a skin disease that left sores all over his body. Nonetheless, even when Job’s wife suggested he curse God, he refused.

Psalm 26 is a prayer of help to God, for the psalmist has been falsely accused. They know they are innocent and ask God to test them and prove it. The psalmist declares that they do not associate with the faithless but love being in God’s presence, singing their thanksgiving and praise. They pray for God’s deliverance, for they do not deserve to be grouped together with those who do evil. The psalmist lives with integrity and knows they will continue to praise and bless God in the congregation, for they trust that God will be faithful.

The second selection for the Hebrew scriptures, Genesis 2:18-24, contains a second creation story, one in which God made humanity out of a human being. In this story, God made the first human being and then made the rest of creation, countering Genesis 1. God gave authority to the first human being to name all the creatures, but the human being was alone—there was no partner found among the rest of creation. So, God made a companion for the first human being, and at last, the first human being recognized its own, one that was of the same bone and flesh, taken from them.

Psalm 8 is a song of wonder and awe at God, the one who made all the heavens. God’s strong foundation and fortress is in children and babies, who sing God’s praise. The psalmist wonders, however, that out of all the universe, the moon and stars—why make human beings? What are we that God is mindful of us? And yet, God made human beings similar to divine beings, only slightly less so, and has given them glory and honor, and all of creation is under the care of human beings. How wonderful is God who has done this for us!

The Epistle reading begins a new series in the letter of Hebrews. This letter was written to remind the early believers of Jesus to stay faithful as their ancestors had remained faithful, even though they didn’t see the fulfillment of God’s promises in their lifetime. They knew the stories of their ancestors, and they also knew the words and stories of Jesus, the Son of God. The writer links Psalm 8 to Jesus, that Jesus, though God, came to be one of us, a little lower than the angels. Jesus suffered and died, but now risen, was crowned with glory and honor. Because Jesus was fully human, Jesus calls us siblings, brothers and sisters, and we are all now part of God’s family through Jesus Christ.

Jesus teaches about divorce and welcoming children in Mark 10:2-16. This is perhaps one of the most difficult teachings of Jesus, that Jesus equates divorce with adultery. And while much can be said of how marriage has changed over two thousand years, what Jesus teaches, in reference to Genesis 2, is that God’s intention for us is not divorce. God’s intention for us is faithfulness. God grieves with us. Jesus taught that it was because of their hardness of heart that Moses allowed for divorce, and it is our (humanity’s) hardness of heart that makes it often for reconciliation not to be possible. However, there are a variety of reasons when divorce is necessary, and this passage has caused much grief and harm. Instead, we must know that God does not intend for us to go through that pain. Instead, Jesus calls us to welcome one another, especially children. Jesus spoke of his mother, sister, and brothers—his family—as those who do the will of God. Jesus calls us to welcome children and not stop them, for the reign of God belongs to children and we must become like children. When we become childlike, we understand that distorted, abusive, and broken relationships are harmful. We need one another to be the family of God. And yet, we know that at times, the brokenness is beyond repair. God’s intention is for us not to break, but to be whole.

The Narrative Lectionary turns to Exodus and the revelation of God’s name to Moses. In Exodus 2:23-25, God took notice of the people’s suffering cries in their oppression in Egypt. God remembered the covenant with their ancestors. In chapter three, Moses, who was exiled from Egypt after killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, experienced God speaking to him through a bush that was burning but not consumed by the flames. God called Moses to go speak to Pharaoh and deliver God’s people from Egypt. Moses asked God what he was supposed to tell his own people about the God of their ancestors—what was God’s name? God responded with a verb: “I Am,” or “Being.” Moses was to tell the people, “I Am sent me to you.” However, in chapter four, Moses was still nervous about all he had been called to do, especially speaking before people and Pharaoh. God told Moses that his brother Aaron was already on his way to meet him, and that Aaron could speak before the people on his behalf. Then God gave Moses a shepherd’s staff to perform signs before Pharaoh and the people, signifying that Moses had all he needed to go forward.

In John 8:58, Jesus, in an argument with religious authorities about eternal life, claims the same name of God that was revealed to Moses: “I Am.”

How do we know God? What image of God do we hold, and what image do we perceive reflected in ourselves? Is God testing us to see if we are faithful or is it that is God with us in our suffering, and we need to remember that God is always faithful to us. God made us a little lower than God out of love, but sometimes we have exploited that image, and not cared for creation; instead, misusing its resources. Christ came as one of us, called us brothers and sisters, siblings of God, but we have distorted relationships and hurt one another. God’s intention for us is wholeness, but we have sought division. We have excluded the most vulnerable, the ones on whom God’s foundation rests, refusing to see the image of God in all people. However, God calls us, through the songs of the psalms, the stories of Jesus, the teachings of the prophets, to remember that we are made in God’s image, all of us, and to love one another as God has loved us.

On this World Communion Sunday, we know that while we have a variety of ways we have responded to what has been passed on to us (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), we are still one in Christ. We are all made in the image of God, and together, we are one as we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection until he comes again.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 8)
O LORD, our Sovereign,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Infants and children sing Your praise.
You have made us a little lower than You,
Crowned us with glory and honor.
You set us in charge of caring for Your creation,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Creator God, we confess that we do not always perceive Your image in others. We dehumanize those who are different than us, especially those we perceive as enemies, instead of following Your commandment to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. Throughout history we have distorted Your image, such as making You light skinned, when You are representative of all of us. We have made You male when You embody all genders. We have made You to hold worldly wealth and power when You taught us to become last of all, servant of all, and You laid down Your life for us. Forgive us for distorting Your image, for dehumanizing others, for not understanding who we are in relationship with You. Call us back to Your ways, to view one another as You view us, as Your children. In the name of Christ, who lived like us, died like us, and lives again, we pray. Amen.

God calls us all to be children of God. You are known by name and you are loved, exactly as you are. God is nudging you lovingly in the right direction. Embrace God’s love and correction of course in your life, and know that you are forgiven, loved, and restored. Go and share the good news. Amen.

Shepherd God, You are the one with us in the valley of shadow. There are many shadows in our lives, of the deaths and endings we experience, but we know You are with us and will guide us through. May Your presence be known to us in those deepest shadows, when we find ourselves alone and vulnerable. Remind us that while friendships and relationships come to endings, You never fail us, and we are never truly alone. We belong to You, the sheep of Your hand, and You will lead us to still waters and green pastures. We know You are the one who restores our soul, and we will dwell with You forever. Amen.

Prayer for World Communion Sunday
God of Harvest, we thank You for these gifts of bread and drink, symbolizing Your body and blood. On this day, we remember that around the world we are bonded together as Your children, and in all traditions and cultures, we have our ways of bonding over food and drink. We gather at Your table with these gifts from the earth, from Your bounty, and remember You, how You gave Your life for us. We thank You, Gracious Christ, for giving of Yourself, and creating a way for us to remember You, Your life, death, and resurrection, in the simplest of ways: sharing a meal with one another. Bless this bread to nourish our bodies, bless these cups to nourish our souls, bless this meal to nourish our relationships with one another as Your children. Amen.

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