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Sep 03

15th Sunday after Pentecost [Ordinary 23B] (Year B)

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
  • I have to be honest…  I’m not a big fan of the cut-and-paste nature of this pericope.  The verses that the RCL suggests are selected out of a varied list of sayings and…well… proverbs.  You may want to read through the verses that didn’t make the cut to see what you’re missing.
  • If you are reading the passage from James this week, you could easily pair this reading with that scripture.  There is a “rich v. poor” theme that is addressed in each of those readings that is worth exploring.
  • Focusing on the first verse (“A good name…”)?  Why not create an oversized “Hello, my name is” name-tag for your worship display?  You may even what to make a few of them.  “Names” you could use: Christian, Generous, Child of God, etc.
Psalm 125
  • Those who trust God are strong and secure – they are protected and guarded.  In an uncertain world, this is certainly good news!
  • Pictures of mountains would be excellent visuals to use with this text – especially pictures of Mount Zion.
James 2:1-17
  • While the NRSV is a great translation, I also really like the Common English Bible and The Message for this text.
  • Those of us in the United States are smack in the middle of a heated political season, and this passage of God’s Word really forces us to think about our words and actions.  “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  These words should chase after us every moment of every day…
  • I think it is really tempting to twist the letter-writer’s words and suggest that God wants us to ignore/dismiss “rich people”.  But, that doesn’t keep in line with the idea of mercy.  The mercy of God – the love of God – doesn’t play favorites, and we are called to love as Christ loves.
  • So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  What do we do to live our faith?  Are our actions as big and as bold as our words?
  • Most craft stores have large, 3-dimensional letters that you can paint to be any color (or cover with fabric, paper, etc).  You may want to use these letters to spell out words like “MERCY” or “FAITH” in your worship display.  Make sure that the letters are large enough for the people in the back row to be able to read the words.
Mark 7:24-37
  • In the Gospel text today, Jesus struggles to find a place where he can enjoy some Sabbath time and rest – away from all the crowds and away from all the people.  However, our poor Savior can’t seem to catch a break.  Even in Gentile territory, he cannot hide from those who are seeking his help.
  • Jesus doesn’t exactly demonstrate the best “pastoral care” in this text.  In his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus seems to refer to the woman as a “dog” (something that is generally frowned upon in seminary).  And, in his encounter with the deaf and mute man, Jesus employs some “interesting” methods and seems almost exasperated as he looks up to heaven and sighs.  I wonder, sometimes, if the “Messianic Secret” had more to do with Jesus desperately seeking some self-care – rather than anything more mystical or theological.
  • Jesus says, “Let the children be fed first…”  I think it is important to note that Jesus never says that the “others” shouldn’t be fed.  His first statement only suggests that they not be fed first.  I would suggest that the woman pushes back just enough to prompt Jesus (and all of us) to let go of that favoritism and just focus on feeding one another.
  • If you are focusing on the second healing story, you may want to find an old doctor’s bag – or a variety of medical tools – to use in your worship display.

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