“We are debtors.” That’s the opening statement for our text this week. We are debtors. We’ll focus more on the text in our preaching notes, but here we will state that the obvious learning from this statement is that we are not alone. If we were fully self-sufficient, self-made, self-actualized, then we wouldn’t be in debt to anyone or anything. But our text declares the opposite, which means on one level at least that we are in relationship. Simply by living in the world, we are in relationship. We can ignore it; we can deny it; we can feel it isn’t so, as we wrestle with our loneliness, but to exist is to be in relationship.
Our worship, then, ought to be a celebration of relationship—first with God; we are debtors to God, who gave us the gift of life and the gift of salvation. So, our worship is full of songs that give thanks to the Creator and Redeemer God. We celebrate this gift as we sing and pray, acknowledging that we belong not just to ourselves, but to God.
Second, our debt is to the community of faith. We have been sustained and strengthened by those who have gone before and those who surround us now. Here is a place for testimony, where we thank the wider community, individually and collectively, for how they have been instrumental in our lives. Or we have a prayer station where we can write a note to be posted on a wall somewhere, saying thank you to someone who has been a “godsend” for us in our journey of faith. Here we could witness again how we were sustained during the quarantine by members of the church family who did something significant for us. It is a way of honoring one another.
It is also important to note that our debt is even larger than we might imagine. Our relationships are all inclusive in a way we often forget. Paul writes that “all creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (8:19). We are woven into the very fabric of creation, connected to everything that is. It might not be Earth Day here in the midst of July, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give thanks for creation when we gather to worship the Creator. Pictures of the beauty that surrounds us could enhance our worship space today, projected or printed and hung. Maybe you could ask for some vacation photos to bring the wider world into the worship space.
Our color is still the green of ordinary time, but also now the green of living things. Let the altar be draped with the colors of creation, greens and blues and pinks and yellows—all pointing to the variety and wonder of the world around us. Let’s be clear, however, we are not worshiping creation. We are standing as a part of creation, woven together in relationship, realizing that our sinfulness damages not just ourselves, but all of creation, and asking God for the forgiveness that will enable us to be partners with creation in the stewardship and preservation of what God has made. Creation waits for us to be who we were created to be.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.