Sunday, August 29, 2021
Lectionary 22, Year B
Prayer of the Day
O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures. Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside, and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves, that we may be preserved through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 – God’s law: a sign of a great nation
James 1:17-27 – Be doers of the word, not hearers only
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Authentic religion
Commentary on Our Liturgy
(This commentary narrated our liturgy in an effort to explore why we do what we do.)
Intro to CONFESSION:
We are called to worship by the splash of water, just as we are called to be children of God through the waters of baptism. We enter this holy time at the font, just as we enter the family of God at the font. It is God’s action that brings us to this place and time, God’s grace that draws us to God’s presence, God’s mercy that supplies our every need. We respond to the inviting splash of water by admitting our need for God and hearing again the good news that God comes to us in our brokenness and sinfulness and makes us new creations through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Intro to GATHERING HYMN
Having heard the good news of God’s forgiveness and renewal, all we can do is respond by singing God’s praise with thanksgiving and joy. Then we greet one another in the name of the one who binds us together. And we sing some more. As the favorite hymns says: how can we keep from singing.
Intro to PRAYER OF THE DAY
Our time of praise and singing concludes with the Prayer of the Day. It too rejoices in the goodness of God, and it sets the focus of the day. Each prayer is written with the day’s readings in mind.
Intro to WORD
With the gathering rite concluded, with the assembly gathered from wherever they have come, with the reminder that we are God’s own, and our thankful response offered; we turn to hear again the proclaimed Word of God. To hear of God’s actions in the past. To learn from the witnesses who have come before us. To gain new understandings for the living of our lives and the doing of the ministry that we are called to in Jesus’s name. The Word is proclaimed, read out loud, not silently each to themselves. This reminds us of our oral tradition, reminds us that we are called to proclaim God’s word in this time and place, reminds us that we hear God’s word in community, learning from it and from one another.
The first reading is chosen to connect with the Gospel reading. The psalm connects with the first reading. The second reading is usually a continuous reading over a number of weeks from one of the New Testament letters written by early Christians. Finally, we hear from the one of the gospels (meaning Good News) that bear witness to the earthly life and ministry of Jesus who is the Christ.
Don’t worry. With all the commentary that is included in today’s liturgy, there will not be a usual sermon. So, if you think of this as typically your nap time. Be warned, it’s a short nap today.
On the topic of preaching, Luther said (in a sermon, of course) “It is true, according to reason, God is the greatest of fools for taking care of His cause with the Word and the sermon and undertaking to lead people with preaching.”
And following the leading of our Divine Fool, preachers across time and around the world mount pulpits and take to lecterns hoping to open hearts and minds so that those gathered might hear God’s word again for the first time, might be drawn closer to God’s presence, might see the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ as relevant and meaningful, life changing even, that the listeners might deepen their assurance that the Holy Spirit is at work in them, through them, and in spite of them. Furthermore, that being a child of God, a disciple of Christ, an instrument of the Holy Spirit might bring meaning, purpose, and connection as we journey through this weary and wounded world. Yes, the preacher seeks to speak to the assembly, but also they speak for the assembly- especially when there is a collective grief or anxiety to express. Garrison Keillor once said that the preacher at a funeral is the a designated driver in a room drunk with grief.
On any given Sunday, the preacher’s primary source is scripture, but today’s newspapers and media feeds offer some important material as well. For it is the living word of God. Ancient in its formation, yet timeless in the truths that it speaks and teaches. As Moses says to the people in today’s first reading: 9But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children. There is a past, a present, and a future in the word of God. Even though we do not always see it.
In today’s second reading, James points out that we are wise to not just listen and then walk away, but we are called to respond to the word of God with changed lives. Not for the scoring of points or the escaping of some punishment or to get God to love us more (when love is perfect, more is not possible). We hear the word of God, read and preached, and we respond with thanksgiving through the living of our lives, in all that we say and do.
That is the “what” that comes out of us that Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel.
God calls us to offer our worship and our very lives, not bound to rote and hollow traditions, but vibrant with the new life that God through Christ is giving us through the Holy Spirit. The preacher seeks to illuminate and inspire that new life. But whether it is the words preached or the thoughts in the hearers’ mind, we know it is the work of the Spirit bringing us to faith. Maybe you have experienced it – that profound, most enlightening sermon that was merely inspired by a word or phrase from the preacher but written in the silence of your own Spirit-led imagination.
Of sermons, Frederick Buechner says: Ideally, the thing to remember is not the preacher’s eloquence but the lump in your throat or the heart in your mouth or the thorn in your flesh that appeared as much in spite of what he said as because of it.
The hymn of the day seeks to express in music and verse the themes brought forward by the sermon.
Sing: HYMN OF THE DAY
Intro to CREED/PRAYERS/PEACE
We are reminded that this word has been proclaimed across the ages through the church as we join with witnesses of every time and place expressing the faith, as best as we can, using the words of a historic creed. Even in our differences and our diversity, this is the foundation of the faith that joins us together. It is a record of what God has done for us and for our salvation.
We follow it by adding our voices and our concerns to the constant flow of prayers that flows from the church, praying for the ongoing ministry of Christ, God’s gift of creation, for justice and peace to reign in the nations of the world, for the sick and suffering, for our congregation, and finally, for those departed ones. As one more sign of our unity in Christ, we share a sign of peace with one another in Christ’s name.
Intro to OFFERING
We respond to all that God has done for us by giving of ourselves in the form of time, treasure and talent. It is not only what we put in the offering plate; our offering is also all we do to further God’s reign. Not to win points or God’s love, but all is done in response for what God has done, is doing, and will do. Special music is an example of the offering of talent. All is given to the glory of God.
Intro to COMMUNION
All our praise and prayers, our listening and meditating on the word of God has brought us to this part of the liturgy – the Meal, Holy Communion, the Eucharist (Greek for thanksgiving). More than a reenactment of the last supper. Here we feast on Jesus’ presence in the bread and the wine, his body and blood. His presence is made real through his promise. Yet this is just a foretaste of the eternal feast that awaits us when we will dwell in God’s perfect presence forever.
When we gather for this meal, we are reminded that this table knows no bounds of time, space, or plane. By the promise of the resurrected Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, as we consume the body of Christ, we are joined together as the body of Christ for fellowship and for mission, for healing and for serving, for peace and for hope, for now and for eternity. It is a mystery. We do not strive to understand it completely. We feast on its promise. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Intro to SENDING
Having been fed by Word and Sacrament, having been reminded our identity and calling, having been healed and renewed, we go back into the world in peace. We receive a final blessing, we sing a final hymn, we say a final prayer. As some like to say, the worship has ended, let the service begin.
The Rev. Mark Erson