Sep 21

18th Sunday after Pentecost [Ordinary 26B] (Year B)

“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50)

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
  • Esther is a fascinating character in our scriptures.  That said, there are many folks in the pews who likely have no idea who she was, what she did, or why her story has importance.  You may want to give an overview of the entire story (not just this passage).  One way to do this (that doesn’t require you to read all of the chapters): read the “general” story from a children’s story Bible.
  • Since Esther is such an interesting character, she is sure to attract all kinds of attention – even today.  Evangelical Christian blogger, Rachel Held Evans, recently addressed the latest “talk” about Esther on her blog.  In fact, she is going to be commenting on Esther for several weeks.  Whether you agree or disagree with her, her words are worth reading.
  • The last verse of this passage speaks of “days of feasting” and “sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor”.  You could use this as the inspiration for a mission project.  Here are some ideas:
    • Host a “feast” for your church and community.  It could be a full dinner, or it could be just appetizers or desserts.  Keep it fun and festive – with no charge for the meal (or, with all donations going to a food pantry or other charity).
    • Collect items like gift cards, toys, clothes, and/or shoes to donate to a local shelter or other charity.
    • Check with your local schools to see if there are ways your church can provide food or school supplies or clothing to students in need.  Just remember: this isn’t about preaching the Gospel with our words — it is an opportunity to “preach” through our actions and service to others.
Psalm 124
  • This is a great text to pair with the reading from Mark, since both lead us to think about the issue of “us versus them”.
  • In Christ, we have “escaped like a bird from the snare” of sin and death.  Truly, our help is in the name of the Lord!
  • If you have access to a “fowler’s snare” or other trap, you may want to include it in your worship display.  Please be sure to take safety seriously if you use an actual, working trap.
James 5:13-20
  • Prayer is at the heart of this passage, so be sure you emphasize prayer in your worship service.  You may even want to have a variety of prayer stationsset up in the worship space.  Need some simple, prayer station ideas?  Try these:
    • Invite people to “draw” their prayers.  You don’t need to be an artist to do this – just some paper and some crayons or pencils.  This is a great prayer station for people of all ages.  If you want some inspiration, check out Praying In Color.
    • Have a prayer station that is “staffed” by elders of the church.  Invite people to pray with an elder, one-on-one, with the prayer time concluding with the elder “anointing” them with oil (using a finger dipped lightly in olive oil, make the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead or hand).
  • The first few verses of this text really set the stage for a service of healing and/or a service of reconciliation.  Many prayer books and denominational worship supplements include templates for services like these, so you will want to check the materials you have on your shelves.  There are also materials available online.
  • Images of people praying — as well as hands folded in prayer and people praying together — would work well in a worship display.  Also, containers (bottles, bowls) of anointing oil could be used.
Mark 9:38-50
  • Poor Jesus… His disciples just don’t understand things, do they?  They see someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and they stop him!  Why do they stop him?  Well, it turns out that the guy who was casting out demons in the name of Christ Jesus wasn’t part of the disciples’ little “group”.  “He was not following us,” John says.  Instead of congratulating them on a job well done — instead of thanking the disciples for “protecting” Jesus like they did — Jesus chastises them for their foolish behavior.
  • When do we behave like the disciples do in this passage?  What would Jesus say to us?
  • Yes, it is a long-shot, but…  If you have access to an actual millstone, this is the perfect day to use it in your worship display.  If you don’t, you could create one using a large block of craft foam (painted with stone-colored spray paint) or paper mache.
  • The last few verses talk about salt and saltiness.  We are called to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”.  Salt has many uses – including that of being a preservative.  Check out Eugene Peterson’s The Message for a neat version of this text (which uses that imagery).
  • If you are exploring the mention of “salt”, you may want to decorate your worship space with a variety of salt shakers, types of salt, and (if you have access to one) a Himalayan Salt Lamp.

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