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Aug 06

11th Sunday after Pentecost [Ordinary 19B] (Year B)

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
  • Not everyone is going to be familiar with the full context of this particular narrative.  So, if you are going to preach from this text, you will probably want to summarize the story a bit (perhaps giving a brief overview of the previous chapters, speaking about the conflict between David and Absalom.
  • What does David mean when he says “deal gently…with the young man Absalom”?  Is he hoping that they will kill him quickly, or not at all?
  • With all of the senseless killings that are reported in the news each week, this is an interesting text to explore right now.  “Themes” that I can easily see: violence begets violence, the ever-pressing need for forgiveness, and making tough choices.
  • I find it curious that the writer makes a point to say that “the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword”.  How might we name the “forest” today?
  • If you are preaching on this text, you may want to create a “forest” in your worship space.  Keep on the lookout for sales at your local craft and home decor stores on varieties of artificial trees and plants.  Greenery of all kinds (as long as it looks like a real plant) can really help any worship space look more welcoming.  As for artificial plants/trees that look fake (unrealistic colors, shapes, etc)…please leave them at the store!
  • A single “tree” and a sword could also be used to help illustrate this scripture.  (As always, if you use a sword – especially a real one of any kind – please be sure to exercise caution and care.  Safety first — decor second.)
Psalm 130
  • If it seems like we just read this Psalm a few weeks ago…that’s because we did.  You can check out the reflections and liturgy that I wrote for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.
  • Where are “the depths” for you? For your congregation? For your community?
  • How is it that God hears us?  Do we have to shout?  Do we need to whisper?  Do we need to say anything at all?  These questions would be interesting to explore in a sermon — and they could be really fun to explore with kids in a children’s sermon.
  • Exploring the first 2 verses of this text?  Why not use a variety of communication devices in your worship display?  Objects like megaphones, walkie-talkies, cell phones, and even tin cans and string can be used to create a visual display that gets people thinking about how we make our voices heard.
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
  • What a fantastic scripture to be reading as we find ourselves in the midst of an election year here in the USA!  Paul reminds us to be passionate (yes!), but he also instructs us to never forget who/whose we are.  Don’t let our quest for righteousness (speaking the truth in love, forgiving one another) become a quest for right-ness (letting anger rule instead of love, looking down on those who disagree with us).
  • What would it look like – in our ever day lives – if we only spoke/wrote “what is useful for building up” so our words “may give grace to those who hear”?  Would we post differently on Facebook and Twitter?  Would we speak differently around the water cooler at the office or in the cafeteria at school?  What would happen if we really made an effort to “put away from [us] all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice”?
  • If you are preaching on this text, I would suggest putting all the “stuff” away, and just keep your worship display plain and simple.  A Christ Candle, a simple cross, and (if you are celebrating) communion elements are probably enough.
John 6:35, 41-51
  • In case you missed it last week, Jesus is talking about being the bread of life again.  For those of us that are trying to live the low-carb lifestyle, Jesus isn’t exactly giving us the most diet-friendly metaphor.
  • There are several online commentaries that are helpful in digesting this text.  One in particular that I like is from Brian Peterson from a 2009 post on WorkingPreacher.org.
  • The obvious “prop” to include in your worship display: bread.  I encourage you – especially if your want to set up an interactive display – to be mindful of the people in your congregation who have gluten allergies.  You may even want them to help you with the display this week, as it could help you understand their needs even better.
  • Easy mission project idea: invite everyone to bring a loaf of bread to donate to a local food pantry.  Or, if you don’t have time to announce a food collection, have an impromptu offering collection.  Set a specific goal (an amount of money that you know can buy a specific amount of bread), and have the kids/youth collect the offering in the middle of your Time with Children.  You could even have the kids (and an adult helper) count the money before the end of the service so you can announce how much bread you will be able to buy for the food pantry or soup kitchen — and you could have the kids/youth help you buy and distribute the bread after worship, too!

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