We are from small apartments and expansive houses.
We are from big families and dinners made for one.
We are from stages of grief and stages of love.
We are from rainy days and sunny days.
We are from new places, new spaces, and the making of new memories.
We are from kitchens with passed down recipes, and front porches with old, familiar swings.
We are from the dust of the earth and the stars of the sky.
We are from a lot of places, but today we are here.
Today we are together.
ALL: HOLY GOD, GATHER US IN.
Call to Confession1
In this moment for truth telling, for reflection and honesty, to be honest about the places we want to grow and the way we need God’s help, let us pray together.
Prayer of Confession was taken directly from Worship Words from A Sanctified Art for this series
Assurance of Forgiveness1
If you ever ask yourself, “Can anything good come from this messy and human life of mine?” remember God always answers, “Yes.” You were created in the image of God. Your origin story is one of goodness and love from the very beginning. So hear and believe the good news of the gospel: God is here. God is at work among us. Thanks be to God for the Good News of God’s love: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
Prayer for Illumination1
O God, where we come from there are so many distractions. Where we come from there is so much noise. Where we come from there is too much silence. Where we come from there is too much emptiness. Find us. Hold us. Be in these words. Help us hear. Amen.
Old Testament Scripture: Genesis 2:4b-15
New Testament Scripture: John 1:35-51
INVITATION to THE LORD’S TABLE
The Creator of North, South, East, and West, invites us to come and see—
P: Lift up your hearts. C: We lift them up to the Lord
P: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. C: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
O God, open our lips and fill our hearts to say thank you.
Thank you for scooping up the dirt and breathing life into it.
Thank you for forming this body and this life.
Thank you for creating this world and these people.
Thank you for drawing us in, for holding us up.
Weave us together with all people from all times and places
who forever sing the glory of your name
All: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven
and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!
When people ask, “Where are you from?” we speak of geography—
yet we must also always sing your name.
for you are our past, our present, and our future.
Great is this mystery of faith:
Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.
As we lift this bread and cup before you, lift us up.
Scoop us up like you scooped up that dirt on that first day.
As you breathed life into the first human being,
breathe upon us and fill us with your Spirit.
Feed us that we may be full.
Nourish us as only you can
and make us at home in you. Amen.
Confession of Faith (adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism Questions 26-28 )
God created us good and in his own image. God created us in true righteousness and holiness. God created us that we might truly know God our creator. God created us to love God with all their heart. God created us to live with God in eternal happiness, and to praise and glorify God. God out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them. God still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence. God is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.
God will provide whatever I need for body and soul. God will turn to my good whatever adversity befalls me. God is able to do this because he is almighty God. God desires to do this because he is a faithful Father. We can be patient when things go against us. We can be thankful when things go well. We can have good confidence for the future that nothing in creation will separate us from his love. Thanks be to God.
Family of faith, God stir you up with the curiosity to counter assumptions. God beget in you the vulnerability to befriend. God excite in you the bravery to speak your truth. God develop in you the wisdom to listen. God engender in you the strength to ask for help. God give rise to the resiliency that makes you able to choose love. In the name of the One who made you, the One who redeems you, and the One who accompanies you. Amen.
 Adapted from a prayer by Rev. Sarah Are | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org
While most versions title this pericope “Jesus’ Resurrection,” this is a Monday-morning quarterback viewpoint. The Message more accuratelycalls this “Looking for the Living One in a Cemetery.”The women are looking for Jesus’ body to finish what they couldn’t before the Sabbath. They find the body gone and they are “perplexed” (NRSV). This sounds like a puzzle that leads to reasoned consideration in an easy chair with your pointer finger by your mouth, but the Greek means they are thoroughly perplexed and at a complete loss.
While in this state, the women are confronted by two men in blindingly white, glowing clothing. Like all meetings between humans and God’s messengers, the encounter makes them afraid. They bow down, and the two messengers remind them how Jesus spoke of his resurrection. And the women remember Jesus’ words. The women then tell those words to the disciples. The term for the “words” of Jesus and the “words” of the women about their encounter is the same (rhema, v.8 and v.11). Thus, the Greek appears to indicate that the women used the same words as the two messengers did–that they spoke as Jesus spoke and they tell what Jesus had said.
The reactions of the women and the disciples are, of course, quite different. The women appear to believe the messengers, going forward to share this nascent Good News. The text specifically reports that the disciples do not believe the women, thinking their words (rhema) an idle tale. This disbelief is in accord with the legal and cultural norms of biblical times when women were not accepted as witnesses in court and life.
In this part of Luke 24, there are not as yet any eyewitnesses to the risen Christ himself. Jesus does not appear to anyone. The eyewitnesses have only, as of now, beheld the absence of Jesus’ body. The women find that the body missing and are perplexed. Peter finds the graveclothes empty and is amazed. What we have are eyewitnesses to the sharing of the news. We have messengers (the two men and the women). We have the word of the two messengers reminding the women of Jesus’ words. We have the word of the women telling the disciples what happened. What we have is words about the Word.
This is in some ways just the beginning of the story. The Word is told, it is shared, before it is experienced. It is heard before it is understood. Jesus’ followers have been told the Good News; and shortly they will see and experience the resurrected Jesus themselves. They have been telling Good News and soon they will be living into (but not solving) the mystery of the resurrected life, of new life. But in this passage, the words predicting and proclaiming the resurrection and the absence of the body are what they have.
Since the Resurrection, we too are witnesses who share words about the Word. Since the Ascension, while believing in the Resurrection, we too are witnesses to an “absent” Jesus with regard to his body. In the Church, we live out the words about the Word through the preaching of the Word. In the Church, we participate in the absent, ascended, resurrected Jesus through sharing in the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. And, in the world, we live out our witness to the Word and to the resurrected Christ by speaking of God’s selfless love and by acting in selfless love as the body of Christ.
What does it mean to look for the living among the dead?
How do we use Jesus’ words when we tell the Good News?
Where do we see legal and cultural disbelief of groups of people today?
What does it mean that Jesus’ body is absent but present?
What are the next steps in our own journey to knowing the resurrected Jesus?
How can the church more fully witness to that journey?
Also published on RevGalBlogPals, which encourages you to share blog posts via email or social media. RevGalBlogPals do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back to the specific post. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
Barb Hedges-Goettl is a Presbyterian pastor and liturgical scholar recently moved to Rehoboth Beach, DE. She works with middle school special ed students in between writing liturgy, spending time with her husband Len, and training their new puppy, Cocoa.
The arresting aspect of the text for me is that it stops short of where we usually go on Easter. The aspect of the incredulity of the resurrection and what they have to go on in these first verses from Luke 24 is taken up at minute 3 of the NL podcast listed above. What is it that the disciples and Peter have in this pericope? They are given an empty space into which a testimony/the word comes. Circling back to the tomb and finding nothing, they are called to go and tell others. This is also what we have—testimony to share. Doubt on Easter (and not just by Doubting Thomas!), with an emphasis on the Greek is addressed at http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2013/03/luke-241-12.html For more on this, see my separate post “Perplexed, Afraid and Amazed.”
The podcast* also addresses the role of the women (beginning and end of the podcast) and “on the first day of the week,” echoing Genesis to talk about a new creation, in which the future re-creation breaks into the now. (minute 6)
1: How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word What more can He say than to you He hath said To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled
2: Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed For I am thy God and will still give thee aid I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand
3: When through the deep waters I call thee to go The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress
4: When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine
5: The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to its foes That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake I’ll never, no never, no never forsake
Call to Confession: Let us ask for God’s forgiveness for not believing God can handle whatever we are experiencing.
Prayer of Confession: When we are ashamed of how we feel and try to hid it from you, forgive us.
When we act like all is well when things are far from well, forgive us.
When we don’t believe that you love us no matter what, forgive us.
When we don’t believe that you love others no matter what, forgive us.
When we give up instead of listening for your call, forgive us.
When we cease to believe you are at work, forgive us. (Silent confession)
Assurance of Pardon: Throughout all time, people trust in God and are delivered; they cry to God and are saved; they trust in God and are not put to shame. Our God is with us in every circumstance, loving us. Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I fleefrom your presence?8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide meand the light become night around me,”12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him. (interlude)
That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth: Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His Kingdom is forever.
The above reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE #A-733426. All rights reserved.
Psalm 22:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. 10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
I’m not a complainer. I don’t mean to complain. I shouldn’t complain. I have nothing to complain about really. Stop whining and complaining!
We have all probably heard or even said one of these sayings. Complaining is often considered a weakness or personality flaw. Long-suffering without complaint is often held up as a virtue. Some Christians even believe that complaining is bad
or disrespectful and to “just suck it up and take it” is a Christ-like virtue.
Think of the Hymn: They crucified my Lord, and He never said a mumbalin’ word. They nailed Him to a tree and He never said a mumbalin’ word. They pierced Him in the side, and He never said a mumbalin’ word. The blood came trickalin’ down, and He never said a mumbalin’ word. He bowed His head and died, and He never said a mumbalin’ word. Not a word, not a word, not a word.
But then why does the opening of psalm 22 sound so familiar? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Maybe the hymnist had it wrong after all!
Jesus is the perfect model for our behavior in this life. He prayed, He healed,
He loved, He spoke out against injustice, He praised people for their faith.
AND He cried out in complaint.
The Bible has many complaints or “laments” as they are called. You find them in the stories of the Israelites, you find them in the psalms, you hear them throughout the book of Job, there is even a whole book called Lamentations, and we hear it from the mouth of Jesus as he hung upon the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He cried out and breathed his last, but not until after he cried out in lament.
Rev. Lynn Miller, the author of the Presbyterian Women’s Horizons Bible Study for this year, which is titled “Into the Light: Finding Hope Through Prayers of Lament,” writes: the perceived absence of God is the heart of lament. Lament
is an emotional statement of sorrow or grief concerning an event in time – past, present, or future. “Lament is not whining” she writes. “(It) is not a pat on the head for people who are suffering or preyed on. Lament is not venting or blowing off steam.”
Instead, lament is communication with God that connects us to the world and the God who loves it and us. Lament helps us focus on actual situations. Lament is a prayer and lament is an opportunity to confess our faith in God whose promises are trustworthy. We lament IN ORDER TO HOPE.
The world is steeped in illness and economic distress. The world is suffering grief from the loss of hundreds of thousands, many who died without families saying goodbye. The world is dying from pollution and global warming. The world is shaking from racial injustice and bigotry and the suffering of the poor.
We have reason to wonder: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We have reason to lament! WE NEED TO HOPE!
So this summer, Barb and I will be reaching for hope through some of the laments of the Bible. And the first lament is one of the bleakest. “My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words
of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night,
but find no rest.”
Have you lost sleep these past weeks? Has the news in the papers, on the television, online or even over the phone from those we can’t be with unsettled your heart so much that you found no rest? It is time Church to raise our lament!
First, we need to address God, to take our complaint to the One with power
to rescue, heal, comfort and to change this world. We address God and announce the relationship between God and us, who are His people. We don’t address our complaint to God but to my God! The God we cry out to is the same God who is
in covenant relationship with us, the same God who claims us for His own, the God who loves us so much that we are called the children of God… AND SO WE ARE! God is our Father and we are calling on the head of our family in a time of distress.
Second, we describe our grievance or injustice to our God. We let God know exactly what is going on. In the psalm the one praying says “I am a worm, and not human; Scorned by others and despised by the people. All who seek to mock me; They make mouths at me, they shake their heads.” He is made to feel like a worm, like not even human. There are those even today who are treated like animals,
who feel less like “essential” and more like “disposable.”
I spoke to a Director of Nursing in a nursing home this week. She described the suffering of the past months and the heart-wrenching scenes of multiple deaths each day, the grief and exhaustion of the staff, and the ache of contacting families who could not be with the dying. So for this and for so many other reasons we pray a lament today to the God who is our Father. We cry out to our God who is family.
Finally, we include in our prayer of lament a statement of trust in God. Not a false trust or trust with no reason, but trust in God based on God’s saving actions in the past and trust in the relationship with God that still exists. Based on this trust we find HOPE that GOD WILL ACT! The God who always was and always is faithful!
The one praying the psalm says: “Yet is was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me YOU HAVE BEEN MY GOD. Do not be far from me for trouble is near and there is no one to help” and eventually the one prays:
“O my help, come quickly to my aid!”
We all have reason to trust in God whose Holy Spirit moved within us and
brought us to faith. We can all no doubt name times in the past when God acted
in our lives. In the eyes of the world my life, your life, our lives so far may look like the result of happenstance and chance. But when we look back in the eyes
of faith we can know times when God acted. God acted in my life, in your life,
in our lives to rescue, to comfort, to heal, to correct, TO GIVE HOPE.
God may seem absent at times but God is always with us.
His rod and his staff, they comfort us!
Or as Psalm 139 says:
Where can I go from you Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the mourning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Take heart people of God, HAVE HOPE children of our Father.
Eight worship service outlines on the theme of creation (from “Reformed Worship”)*
Week 1: In the Spotlight of God’s Love (Matt. 10:28-31)
Week 2: Taste and See that the Lord Is Good (John 4:46-53)
Week 3: Wondrous Time (John 2:1-12)
Week 4: God the Gardener (Gen. 2:4b-15; John 6:1-15)
Week 5: The Gift of Community (Gen. 2:15-25; Ps. 92; John 5:1-18)
Week 6: Communion with God (Gen. 3:1-8; Ps. 23; John 14:15-24)
Week 7: The Challenge of These Days (Prov. 30:18-19, 24-28; Ps. 104; John 3:1-8)
Week 8: The Wonder of the New Creation (John 11:1-7, 17-25)
Opening Prayer adapted from the Book of Common Worship (1993)
O God, we believe you still create. You still speak. You still guide. You still are with us. You still breathe life into the world. You still provide for us what we need. We want to see more clearly. We want to listen more carefully. We want to walk more faithfully. We want to breathe more deeply. We want to trust more completely. Empower us this hour to see and to hear, to walk and to breathe, and to trust you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Call to Worship
Original Resource by Barb Hedges-Goettl. Please give credit if using/adapting.
One: O God, we come one by one. Many: O God, we come together.
We come because it is not good to be alone. We come because we need companionship on the journey. We seek communion with you. We seek communion with one another. Provide us today with the helps and companions we need, that we may walk faithfully and joyfully in your way. ALL: IN JESUS’ NAME, AMEN.
Rite of Confession Original Resource by Barb Hedges-Goettl. Please give credit if using/adapting.
*Call to Confession: At times we forget—or do not believe—that God has called us to live together in harmony. Let us ask God to forgive and re-direct us.
*Prayer of Confession
O God, it is hard to journey together. This one complains too much. That one goes too fast. This one gets on my nerves. That one slows me down. We don’t agree on where to go and how to get there. Yet you created us to live together and to help one another. Forgive our disbelief. Redirect us so that we see your image and your gifts in each person. (Silent confession)
*Assurance of Pardon: God created us to live with one another in harmony and without shame, relying on God’s grace and mercy. Together, we share—and give thanks for—the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
Prayer of Dedication adapted from the Book of Common Worship (PC-USA 1993)
O God, you greatly love us. You ever seek us. You mercifully redeem us. Give us grace that in everything we may yield our gifts and ourselves, our wills and our works as a continual thank-offering to you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Prayer of Great Thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer)
One: The Lord be with you.
Many: And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
O God, you created the vast universe and called it good. You made us in your image and called us very good. And then you declared that it is not good for us to be alone. You give us all of creation, each other and your Son as companions on our journey. And so we thank you, O God.
You gave Adam and Eve the food and water of the garden, providing for their needs. So, too, you provide for us through this meal. You join us to creation. You join us to you. You join us to each other and to all the faithful in every time and place. And so we thank you, O God.
When we are rebellious, rejecting your help and the help of others, you do not leave us alone. Instead, you faithfully pursue us, calling and claiming us as your people, made in your image. You call us to live in harmony with creation. You call us to live as neighbors and family. You call us to live united to you. And so we thank you, O God.
Let your Holy Spirit move over us and over these earthly gifts of bread and cup. Join us together in the communion of the body and blood of Christ. Join us together with another and all your people in anticipation of the heavenly banquet, in which all creation will join in your praise, all divisions will be healed and we will be united with you forever. Amen.
This Sunday we will have a baptism; the verses in this Psalm about enemies, which are omitted from the RCL, align themselves as a compare/contrast to the psalmist’s statements about God. For me, this will be fodder for talking about which kin(g)dom we are choosing by choosing baptism and what we mean by rejecting sin and evil.
There are all kinds of parallels/contrasts in the language used for enemies and for God, such as
salvation has an overtone of freedom, being set loose v. the word for enemies, which has the sense of being hemmed in/in a tight spot
trembling/revering/fearing God v. trembling/revering/fearing enemies
war being lifted up v. the psalmist being lifted up onto the rock and having his (her) head lifted up
the enemies encamping in a temporary sense v. the psalmist dwelling in the house of the Lord foever
the Lord as the heart of the psalmist’s life v. the enemies coming to eat the flesh of the psalmist (this “flesh” can be a euphemism for the genitals as the source of life)
יָשַׁעyâshaʻ, yaw-shah’; a primitive root; properly, to be open, wide or free, i.e. (by implication) to be safe; causatively, to free or succor:—× at all, avenging, defend, deliver(-er), help, preserve, rescue, be safe, bring (having) salvation, saving
יָרֵאyârêʼ, yaw-ray’; a primitive root; to fear; morally to revere; causatively to frighten:—affright, be (make) afraid, dread(-ful), (put in) fear(-ful, -fully, -ing), (be had in) reverence(-end), × see, terrible (act, -ness, thing).
חַיchay, khah’-ee; from H2421; alive; hence, raw (flesh); fresh (plant, water, year), strong; also (as noun, especially in the feminine singular and masculine plural) life (or living thing), whether literally or figuratively:— age, alive, appetite, (wild) beast, company, congregation, life(-time), live(-ly), living (creature, thing), maintenance, merry, multitude, (be) old, quick, raw, running, springing, troop.
צַרtsar, tsar; or צָר tsâr; from H6887; narrow; (as a noun) a tight place (usually figuratively, i.e. trouble); also a pebble (as in H6864); (transitive) an opponent (as crowding):—adversary, afflicted(-tion), anguish, close, distress, enemy, flint, foe, narrow, small, sorrow, strait, tribulation, trouble.
v.2 foe(s)- one who hates/persecutes the other as an enemy, adversary, foe
כָּשַׁלkâshal, kaw-shal’; a primitive root; to totter or waver (through weakness of the legs, especially the ankle); by implication, to falter, stumble, faint or fall:—bereave (from the margin), cast down, be decayed, (cause to) fail, (cause, make to) fall (down, -ing), feeble, be (the) ruin(-ed, of), (be) overthrown, (cause to) stumble, ×utterly, be weak.
לֵבlêb, labe; a form of H3824; the heart; also used (figuratively) very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the centre of anything:—care for, comfortably, consent, × considered, courag(-eous), friend(-ly), ((broken-), (hard-), (merry-), (stiff-), (stout-), double) heart(-ed), × heed, × I, kindly, midst, mind(-ed), ×regard(-ed), × themselves, × unawares, understanding, × well, willingly, wisdom.
inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding
inner part, midst
midst (of things)
heart (of man)
soul, heart (of man)
mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
heart (of moral character)
as seat of appetites
as seat of emotions and passions
as seat of courage
בָּטַחbâṭach, baw-takh’; a primitive root; properly, to hie for refuge (but not so precipitately as H2620); figuratively, to trust, be confident or sure:—be bold (confident, secure, sure), careless (one, woman), put confidence, (make to) hope, (put, make to) trust.
סֵתֶרçêther, say’-ther; or (feminine) סִתְרָה çithrâh; (Deuteronomy 32:38), from H5641; a cover (in a good or a bad, a literal or a figurative sense):—backbiting, covering, covert, × disguise(-th), hiding place, privily, protection, secret(-ly, place).
רוּםrûwm, room; a primitive root; to be high actively, to rise or raise (in various applications, literally or figuratively):—bring up, exalt (self), extol, give, go up, haughty, heave (up), (be, lift up on, make on, set up on, too) high(-er, one), hold up, levy, lift(-er) up, (be) lofty, (× a-) loud, mount up, offer (up), presumptuously, (be) promote(-ion), proud, set up, tall(-er), take (away, off, up), breed worms.
Note that the enemies rising up in war is kuwm in v.3, a rhyming that would echo in Hebrew for the listeners, who are used to the word play made possible by the various vowel pointings for shared tri-literal roots in Hebrew
5 rock-also strength
צוּרtsûwr, tsoor; or צֻר tsur; from H6696; properly, a cliff (or sharp rock, as compressed); generally, a rock or boulder; figuratively, a refuge; also an edge (as precipitous):—edge, × (mighty) God (one), rock, × sharp, stone, × strength, ×strong. See also H1049.
Not specifically mentioned anywhere I found is baptism/renewal of baptism, which my husband used preaching a first-person sermon on this passage many years ago. He notes that washing 7 times can be seen as reflecting the 7 days of creation ending with the new/re- creation.
My own take is heading toward who Namaan was. He is an example of intersectionality, which notes that we are not monolithic beings. He is admired, famous, accomplished as a military leader and he is despised, rejected, unclean as a leper. And yet neither of these apparent polar opposites ultimately define him—ultimately he is a person in need of God’s mercy and healing, which he receives—as we all are. See Twila Paris’ song, “The Warrior is a Child.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRNFf3ykQvM
Themes in online resources include health care, power dynamics, the witness of the unnamed servants, healing, etc.
BOW – The United Methodist Book of Worship
CLUW – Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)
MVPC – Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)
SOZ – Songs of Zion
TFWS – The Faith We Sing
UMH – The United Methodist Hymnal
URW – Upper Room Worshipbook
WSM – Worship & Song, Music Edition
WSW – Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition
SoG – Songs of Grace
(Prayer of Great Thanksgiving still in process; check back later)
Call to Worship (from Psalm 30, The Message translation)
All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
Thank him to his face!
The nights of crying your eyes out
give way to days of joy.
God, our God, we can’t thank you enough. We can’t keep quiet about you. You change our wild lament into whirling dance. You strip us of our black mourning clothes and deck us with wildflowers. Fill us with bursting song.
Hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
Prayer of Confession
O God, we don’t know how to look at ourselves and each other.
Sometimes we get lost in our own desire to be great and successful, forgetting that all we are and all we have comes from you.
In your mercy, forgive us, O Lord.
We want to figure out who is important, to listen to the big and powerful, to be on the side of the winners.
In your mercy, forgive us, O Lord.
Sometimes we get lost in our own brokenness and hurt, defining ourselves by our losses instead of your grace.
In your mercy, forgive us, O Lord.
We don’t use the power you give us, to speak to the big and powerful, to be on the side of the Kingdom.
In your mercy, forgive us, O Lord.
Assurance of Forgiveness
God gives us a new identity as people re-formed by grace and mercy. Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
Naaman’s personal leprous disaster drives him to plan a trip to Israel, but this time not as conqueror but as sickened supplicant. But first he must go through the hoops of ancient channels of diplomacy. He asks his king to write a letter of introduction to the king of Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel, to smooth his way into the presence of the mighty prophet, Elisha, fabled for his miraculous abilities to effect cures. The king of Aram agrees to write the letter, while Naaman prepares to depart, assembling a vast caravan of silver and gold and festal garments, stacked on numerous carts, guarded by a phalanx of his finest soldiers. No general would or could do less!
Unfortunately, the king’s letter, though intended to assuage any fears the Israelite monarch may have as he watches the general and his enormous train approach, instead terrifies the king due to its straightforward, though perhaps ambiguous prose. “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). What, shouts the king, tearing his royal robes in horror. “Am I God to give death or life, that this man sends me word to cure someone of leprosy” (2 Kings 5:7)? This letter, reasons the king, is nothing more than a ruse to start another war. Once I fail to effect the cure, which I surely will, the Arameans will think I do not care about their general, and will come at me again with force of arms.
[Another rendering of this part of the story from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1747%5D The message to the king is a bit like a medical referral getting lost en route, Naaman’s case is held up by bureaucratic twists and turns. Israel’s king panics when he receives the letter — how in the world is he supposed to cure leprosy? And if he doesn’t, will Aram attack again? Is this some kind of trick? Interestingly, the King of Aram could have asked for almost anything else, and the King of Israel would have figured out some way to handle it. But curing leprosy was not an option for him. Elisha, upon hearing of the King’s anxiety, tells the King to send Naaman to him.
Fortunately, the prophet hears that the king has torn his clothes in terror, and himself sends a letter, calming the king and suggesting that he send Naaman to him; that way all will know “that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8). So, after receiving Elisha’s address from the king, and coordinating his GPS, Naaman heads toward the house of the prophet. He brings all of his entourage with him and draws up to the entrance to Elisha’s house, horses stamping and wheezing, chariots squeaking and creaking in the dust. And then another improbable emissary appears.
Instead of Elisha, an unnamed messenger steps from the house and announces to the great throng, and especially to the general, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). And with that he turns and heads back through the door. And Naaman is enraged, commanding that all the chariots and horses turn around and head for Aram. “Does this so-called prophet not know who I am,” he fumes? I thought he would come out with magic robes whipping in the wind, wave his arms about, calling on the name of his God, YHWH, point at my skin and cure the leprosy. And the Jordan River? I know the Jordan River; we have just passed through that muddy creek. There are fabulous, rushing clear streams in our own land that make the Jordan look pathetic! I will not stand here and be treated like this. We are not amused! We are going home!
[Also from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1747%5D Being treated as a nonentity by rude or busy practitioners and then being subjected to strange and distasteful procedures — this is very much the stuff of life on the other side of health and wholeness. Losing his identity, becoming a number, and feeling foolish and desperate at the same time proved overwhelming to Naaman. How could he possibly trust the prophet’s strange prescription relayed through a lowly underling?
And still one more improbable emissary shows up in the story. Again, some servants (the third time servants have delivered the powerful truths of the tale) admonish their leader, saying that if the messenger had asked Naaman to do something really hard, he would have done it, thinking that a cure can only come through arduous trial. How much more should he do this simple thing, dipping his body into the Jordan? The general again listens to a servant, takes his Jordan bath, and comes out clean as a baby (2 Kings 5:13-14). This grand story is driven by improbable emissaries at every crucial turn.
Note, the methods prescribed for the healing of the leprosy of sin are so plain that we are utterly inexcusable if we do not observe them. It is but, “Believe, and be saved”—”Repent, and be pardoned”—”Wash, and be clean.”
Now the United States of America was commander of the free world. She was a great country, in her own sight and in the sight of others, highly regarded, because through her the Lord had given victory. She was a valiant warrior, but she had leprosy.
Nearly everyone needs some kind of healing. It may be from physical or mental illness. Or perhaps it’s from haunted memories or grief. Yet while God’s people know to look to God for that healing, we don’t always get to choose its method. So we may not always particularly like the way God chooses to heal us.