Revised Common Lectionary Prayersfor this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
The other "bookend" of the Joseph story—Joseph, now second in command in Egypt, reveals his identity to his brothers and promises to provide land, food, and protection for the family during the famine and beyond.
Psalm 133 (UMH 850).
The blessing of living together in unity—a fitting response to the Genesis reading for today. See Psalms for Singing for another alternative.
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32.
Paul concludes his excursus on the theological connection between God's covenant with Israel and the Jewish-Gentile church with a strong affirmation of Israel's place in God's saving intent toward the whole world. All—Jew and Gentile—receive salvation by God's mercy and grace, not by merit. God's calling and gifts cannot be called back. Israel's place is permanently secure while Gentiles are like grafts of a wild olive tree into a domesticated olive tree (see image above and verses 16-21, not in the lectionary reading, but critical to the argument).
Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28.
Jesus tells the crowd that it is what comes out of the heart that pollutes us. Then Jesus discovers great faith coming from a foreigner (the Canaanite woman) who won't take "no" for an answer. (See “Draw the Circle Wide,” Worship & Song, 3154, for a response to the latter story).
Calendar: Stay the Course and Make Your Segue
This week, continue with whatever series you started last week or are continuing from previous weeks—and poise yourself for what’s next. The Joseph story, begun last week, concludes today. Next week, we shift to the story of the birth and adoption of Moses. The extended excursus on the place of Israel after the coming, death, and resurrection of Messiah in Romans 9-11 likewise concludes today. Next week, the focus moves toward church unity enlivened by diverse spiritual gifts and what it means to live as one community in diversity together. Meanwhile, we continue to follow Jesus this week, and next week hear Peter’s pivotal confession about his identity.
So today marks another potential “inflection point,” whichever stream you are following today.
And there is another bigger inflection point yet to come in a few weeks (September 7) as the readings in Romans conclude and a four week series in Philippians begins (September 14).
If you are concluding one series and starting another next week (and all three readings next week would allow you to do that), keep these two things in mind: First, conclude the current series well. Tie up loose ends. Reiterate and summarize themes from throughout the series, whether in preaching, teaching, singing or prayers. In short, create a strong sense of closure.
Second, toward the end of worship this week, start pointing toward the new series you will begin next week. One way is to use a hymn of sending from this service that can function as a theme song for what is to come. Then next week, sing that song as your opening, or at least as part of your opening set.
And if you’re not shifting gears this week, just keep on building your current series, whether in the Old Testament, Romans, or Matthew.
Are schools starting soon where you are? Have they already started? Think about ways to connect and commission students and their families for their learning and mission as disciples as they re-engage life in and with their school communities. Back to School Resources.
Whole Month: Season of Creation (2014 Discipleship Ministries lectionary-based themes and overview).
September 1 Labor Day (USA) (August 31, Labor Sunday)
September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month
Whole Month: A Season of Saints
October 5: World Communion Sunday (Discipleship Ministries Resources); “Living into the Mystery” Video (streaming; to order on DVD, send request to worship@UMCdiscipleship.org)
October 12: Children’s Sabbath (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
October 19: Laity Sunday
November 1/2: All Saints Day/Sunday (Also see Church and Civic Holidays)
November 9: “Restored” or Extended Advent 1, Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday (USA), International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
November 11: Veterans Day (USA) (GBHEM resources)
November 23: Bible Sunday in National Bible Week (November 23-30) (USA)
November 27: Thanksgiving Day (USA)
November 30: Advent (Regular) Year B Begins, United Methodist Student Day
Genesis: First Families: Week 9 (or 6 or 2)
Claiming God's Mission, or
The Disposed-of Son Saves the Region
The readings from Genesis that have focused on the “first families” of the people Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his children) come to a close with the end of the Joseph story this week. This is not the end of Genesis or the end of the family story as such. But what happens in this story lays out the main plotlines for the remainder of Genesis and helps set up the story, beginning next week, of what happens when Egypt has a Pharoah who did not know Joseph. In literary terms, this “bookend” (as we called it last week) is thus both dénouement and segue.
This whole sweep of stories, beginning with Abraham (chapter 12), has focused primarily on the persons who most clearly carry on the covenant promise with God—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Each of them, in his own way, ended up becoming a representative of the whole of the people, a marker of what faithful covenant living with this God might look like.
Joseph represents the fact that the people of God are a sent people. Joseph understands himself to have been sent by God to help save the lives of others. He understood himself to be sent, not disposed of, as his brothers had intended. And here we see him claiming it was God, and not his brothers, who actually sent him. Joseph understood himself to be a missionary to people among whom he had been sold as a slave.
It was precisely in the midst of preserving the lives of others that Joseph was also able to preserve the lives of his own family and to honor his ancestry by bringing his father and his household to live with him in Egypt. Joseph was on that job for two years before this opportunity presented itself. It is critical in this story to see that as important as family and ancestry were to Joseph, he was only able to offer such a high degree of care and protection for his family because he was on God’s mission first.
And Joseph’s missionary service was a thoroughly “secular” job. He calls that job the direct result of God’s call, provision, and sending. While there is no question that Joseph had trust in God’s care for himself and understood his gifts in organizational management and dream interpretation to have come from God, we never once see him offering an act of worship or leading others to do so. While we may often think of “the ministry” primarily in connection with worship, prayer, or other “spiritual” activities, this story shows us a potent example of ministry “in the world” that gives glory to God and great benefit to other people without any direct connection to worship at all.
God’s mission can be joined and led in many more forms than religious ritual and the leadership of communities of faith. God’s mission is for all the baptized to seek first, with whatever gifts and callings and sendings are ours from God.
n Your Planning Team
Continue OR End AND Segue Well
Decide first where you are going next week. If you are continuing in the Old Testament readings with the Moses story next week, plan this week’s service as less “conclusion” than “segue.” There is still value in taking some time to summarize the whole of the Abraham/Isaac/Jacob/Joseph story before moving on to Moses (and Exodus) next week, but reason to do so should be more about showing how all of that leads to the Moses story. If you are starting somewhere else next week (either Matthew or Romans), put a stronger period on this week’s service. Include a summary to “wrap up” whatever part of the OT series you’ve followed in the preceding weeks, then, as suggested above, plan the segue to next week to occur as part of the Sending movement of this week’s service.
For this week’s text, discuss these questions in your planning team.
1. Whom do people in your congregation and community serve? How do they understand themselves to be sent by God to preserve the lives of these people, or do they? Who in your congregation or community may be able share a current testimony that corroborates Joseph’s testimony of having discovered himself sent by God to save or preserve those served?
2. Who in your midst has a story to tell about how they discovered where God had sent them in the midst of being on their job? Who in your midst can testify to how God used that place of sending precisely as a vehicle to bless those they loved?
3. How does conversation in your congregation, conference or other judicatory concretely recognize and support ALL the settings into which God sends people in mission without equating or reducing “the ministry” to a code word for what clergy and denominational or full-time congregational leaders do? Think about concrete signs, images, or words in the life of your congregation and community that support this larger biblical vision as you plan worship and design the worship space.
Romans: Theology for Ministry: Week 8 or Week 3
The Place of Israel, Part III: Gentiles Grafted into the Tree
Verses 16-21 are not part of the lectionary selection for this week, but you should plan to read them in worship. These verses contain the most compelling image in Paul’s argument: Gentiles are like wild grafts into a domesticated olive tree (Israel). (A free, open-licensed image of a graft being joined to an olive tree is offered above with a link to the original source).
This metaphor grounds all of Paul’s arguments in these three chapters (9-11). God has taken nothing away from the promises, calling and gifts previously given to the physical and spiritual descendants of Jacob/Israel. Israel has been firmly planted and cared for like a well-tended olive tree. Its mature “trunk” has experienced much pruning over the years to keep it fruitful. Yet it remains fully capable of supporting new grafts. The place of Israel is as the tree. The place of the Gentiles is as grafts onto the tree that, over time, become fully integrated into its life. This metaphor of deep connection forming between tree and graft prefigures the image of church as body of Christ in chapter 12.
God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable (verse 29). God has not abandoned the Jewish people at all. Rather, God has grafted even Gentiles into the covenant of promise through Jesus Christ.
In Your Planning Team
Again, first of all, be mindful as you plan for today both where you are (at the end of an excursus) and where you’re going next. Even if you’re continuing in Romans next week, there’s reason to do a summary of these three weeks and create a kind of segue, at least, into the different kind of topic you’ll be exploring starting next week. If you’ve come to Romans just as a mini-series, or if you’re heading to a different stream of texts next week, you’ll want to make the summary stronger and mark today as a strong ending before you make a new beginning next week. I’ve suggested above that one way to build the segue to next week is to conclude today with a song of sending that may also address key themes you’ll pick up starting next week.
For this week’s planning session, consider including a local gardener, orchard keeper or vineyard owner—someone with experience in grafting branches into an existing tree or vine—as part of your conversations. Invite them to share with you how the process works, bring images or pictures (if they have them) they’d be willing to have shared in worship, and explore together with you what implications this practice of grafting may have for the life of your congregation.
Consider also inviting a rabbi or other leaders from one or more local Jewish congregations to help you discuss together what it might look like to take Paul’s metaphor of Gentiles as grafts onto Israel seriously in your own ongoing relationship with your Jewish neighbors—including in worship for this service. If you do this, at the very least invite a Jewish cantor to lead you all in praying Psalm 133—both in your team meeting and in worship.
Journeying with Jesus, Week 9 or Week 2
Getting Beyond Unclean
The reading from Matthew for this Sunday provides two stories that can be read perhaps most fruitfully side by side assuming you include the optional verses (10-20). Indeed, they might be read precisely alongside each other as you offer the reading of the text as follows:
Reader 1: 10-11 Reader 2: 21-23a
Pause for reflection
Reader 1: 12-14 Reader 2: 23b-26
Pause for reflection
Reader 1: 15-20 Reader 2: 27-28
The first story (10-20) addresses theories about unclean hands, food and words. The second (21-28) records an encounter between Jesus, the disciples, and an unclean woman (Canaanite) whose daughter had an unclean spirit (demon). The second story illustrates the challenges raised by the first, but taken up by several notches, especially when the unclean mother of an unclean girl refuses to be dismissed even by very harsh words reflecting Jesus’ own sense of calling to offer ministry for the Jewish people exclusively.
Great was this woman’s faith! Jesus and his disciples had “withdrawn” to the region of Tyre and Sidon (verse 15), the Riviera of the Eastern Mediterranean. They were, in essence, on vacation, taking a pause from their extended preaching and teaching mission for some R and R.
They’re on vacation, and Jesus doesn’t really want to be bothered.
So when a local woman (not Jewish) comes begging him to come help her demon-possessed daughter, we can already expect Jesus not to be all that interested. But Jesus himself takes it a step further. He says why he’s not interested. And he says it’s because even if he were on mission right now, his mission is only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and not to the likes of her.
She will not be dismissed so easily. She persists, constantly looking for any opening at all. When she finds one in his dismissive and actually insulting reference to the Gentiles as house pets, she has what she needs to prevail. “Even the little house dogs get some scraps from the family table.”
Her persistence changes everything—and not only for her. It also changes everything for Jesus. His mission, from this point forward, does begin to include Gentiles, and on purpose. The next time we see Jesus, he is teaching, healing and feeding a mixed crowd of Jewish and Gentile people alike in northern Galilee (Matthew 15:29-39). No wonder the Pharisees, when they catch up to him (16:1), ask for a sign from heaven to justify his radical, Gentile-including behavior!
Reading the two parts of this text in the interwoven way suggested above might help emphasize what Jesus and his disciples come to learn while taking some time out. Perhaps it is not simply words that defile, but also labels and attitudes. Perhaps freedom from an exclusive focus on one brand of people, relegating the rest to second-class or worse (dogs!), requires no less change in heart, and so in action, than whether one keeps kosher or eats with unwashed hands.
In Your Planning Team
How you handle this week’s worship planning depends in part of what you’re doing next week. If you’re intending to move to another stream (the beginning of the Moses story in Exodus, for example), you’ll likely want to make a harder point of the learning about mission and discipleship Jesus and his disciples experience in this week’s reading. If you’re continuing in Matthew next week, with the story of Peter’s confession, then this week becomes more of a pointer along the way to what it means that Jesus is Lord and Christ—for all people.
For this week’s reading, do consider the “parallel reading” model offered above for how the gospel is presented and unpacked in preaching. These two stories really do illuminate each other when placed side by side in this way.
As you consider how to help your congregation get into the text throughout worship, whether in song, reading, preaching, or prayer, discuss the following sets of questions.
1. Who are the “Canaanites” where you live and work, the folks you think you dismiss or at least should not respond to? With whom may they be calling you to be in mission? How will you reflect the voice of these Canaanites where you and your faith community live, work and play? Where are the places where you and your faith community, like Jesus, are being called to make a radical break with the limitations you may have placed on the boundaries of your mission? How can you expose those places in worship today? How will you help to lead worshipers to a place where they, like Jesus, are challenged and then, following him, move boldly forward?
2. One possible tack for atmospherics suggested by this text: images and soundscapes that speak of vacation for your congregation. It was, after all, on a vacation from mission that this dramatic change in Jesus’ ministry occurred. Where do your folks go on vacation? What music and sounds do they associate with such places? (Keep in mind that this week’s Ecumenical Prayer Cycle focuses on the South Pacific—see below). Do they go there expecting to learn anything or do very much, or simply to get away from it all? How do they respond if, on vacation, they discover themselves being asked to help others in some way?
Embodying the Word: Responding to the Word for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost 2014
Genesis: This would be a great Sunday to acknowledge varieties of ways that people in the congregation are in ministry in their daily lives—on the job, in the places where they shop, learn, hang out and play, and with their families—and to acknowledge that the primary ways Christians can be in ministry are exactly by such daily means in all the missional contexts in which we find ourselves. If we do the simple math—like, where do Christian people actually spend the vast majority of their time (hint: NOT inside the church facilities, unless they’re hired to do so!), this should be a no brainer! This might be a day especially to highlight persons whose jobs or avocations involve saving or preserving the lives of others, and commissioning them to continue to do so in all the places they do it. In so doing, they are fulfilling the baptismal vow to serve as Christ’s representatives in the world (UMH 34) and the local church membership vow to faithfully participate in the ministries of the congregation “by your witness.” See resources for such commissioning in UMBOW 591-592.
Romans: Acknowledging and embodying our status as wild olive grafts. One idea (and I’m sure you can think of better ones, especially if you work this out together with local Jewish leadership!) might be to invite people to write one commitment they will make to re-connect with our Jewish heritage in the short term and bring that forward to “graft in” to a Styrofoam formed olive trunk. (This might be done either with paperclips attached to a piece of paper and stuck into the Styrofoam, or using something like Post-It® notes) as they bring the offering forward that morning.
Matthew: Where did you need to focus today? On the teaching about what defiles, or the persistent faith of the Canaanite woman, or the turn-around that happens in Jesus’ own attitude and ministry that calls us to do the same?
The focus on what defiles parallels closely two elements of the baptismal covenant (Renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness and resisting evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves) and the first of the General Rules—“Do no harm.” Changed hearts from which evil no longer flows involve God’s commitment, first, to “deliver us from evil” and our continuous response to God’s grace by our commitment to do no harm. Committing ourselves to doing no harm in turn involves us acknowledging that, in fact, by our action and inaction we often do harm of many kinds to many people every day. Consider offering a time for extended meditation and reflection of the whole of the First General Rule, reproduced below, and for people to make commitments at two levels— for themselves and with one other person (perhaps in front of, alongside, or behind them) with whom they’ll check in during the coming week to see how the commitment is going.
There is only one condition previously required of those who desire admission into these societies: "a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins." But wherever this is really fixed in the soul it will be shown by its fruits.
It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as:
The taking of the name of God in vain.
The profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling.
Drunkenness: buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity.
Slaveholding; buying or selling slaves.
Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling.
The buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty.
The giving or taking things on usury—i.e., unlawful interest.
Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers.
Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.
Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, as:
The putting on of gold and costly apparel.
The taking such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus.
The singing those songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God.
Softness and needless self-indulgence.
Laying up treasure upon earth.
Borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.
If the focus is on the persistent faith of the Canaanite woman, consider how a response to the word for today may be a direct response by the congregation to some of the more persistent “outsider” voices your congregation hears. For this to have maximal impact, consider inviting a representative of such outsider voices to be present both to press their case and to hear your response. In other words, make this real. Don’t just “say it in church”—DO it in church, too!
If the focus is on the radical change in Jesus’ ministry that follows this encounter, consider what radical change you will help your congregation make as their response to the word. This is one of those rare occasions where Scripture demands that the radical change start happening immediately, beginning right now. In other words, this is something that needs to be sprung on folks—a confrontation with the limits of their vision and mission followed by a commitment to overcome that limitation beginning that very day, with follow up to make sure you stay on course with that commitment going forward. As you are planning worship around such a theme, get good input from the many kinds of voices on your worship planning team about what such a radical reorientation might look like where you are. Is it about racism? Classism? Failure to evangelize? Environmental insensitivity? Poor stewardship? You and your team know what it is where you are. It may be more than one thing. Pray, listen, and then commit to act!
- The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when we live together in unity!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life for evermore.
From Psalm 133: 1, 3b
- Romans: BOW 456
- Matthew: BOW 453
- Or use this call to worship:
To you, O Lord, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my supplication,
as I cry to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.
From Psalm 28: 1-2
- "Act of Centering," 471, BOW (connects with Genesis and Joseph weeping)
- BOW 456 (Romans)
Concerns and Prayers:
- BOW 522 (Matthew)
- BOW 518 (Romans)
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: The Pacific islands: Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Western Samoa and the French Overseas Territories of New Caledonia (Kanaky) and French Polynesia (Tahiti)
- BOW 479 with words of assurance and pardon as at number 477 (Romans)
- BOW 478 — as long as it is understood as the prayer of Christians as well as Jews (Romans)
The Great Thanksgiving: 70-71, BOW
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion:
- BOW 552 (Genesis)
- BOW 550 (Matthew)
- Sing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again," 672, United Methodist Hymnal (Genesis)
- “As We Go” Worship& Song 3183
- BOW 559 (Genesis, Matthew)