Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
A good reputation is of great value. God made both rich and poor, and those who are unjust will not survive, while those who are generous find happiness. God defends the poor and will stand against those who oppress them.
A prayer of confidence in God’s care and protection of God’s people, and a plea that God would do good to good people, but reject evil doers.
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
To show favouritism is to deny Jesus’ faithfulness, and is to break the law which calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves. It is sinful to favour the wealthy over the poor. Claiming we have faith when we fail to live it out in acts of compassion is meaningless.
Jesus heals a Gentile woman’s daughter after an interesting conversation, and opens the ears and mouth of a deaf-mute man. Jesus then tries to get the people to keep silent about what he has done, but they insist on spreading the news.
(Bible summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
RCL Readings on (A4 landscape/2 column) with brief commentaries.
Call to worship
God of the unexpected moment,
you have gathered us by your Spirit
to serve us and renew us, and surround us.
Break in on our world like hearing to the deaf,
sight to the blind, speech to the dumb;
come in your unexpected hour.
Bring form to our chaos, light to our darkness,
and life to our hearts.
Fill us with your expectant Spirit:
and so transform our gathering to your glory,
and perfect our worship for your praise. Amen
(Source © Jeff Shrowder 2000, 2012)
PRAYERS OF ADORATION (from Proverbs 22) AND CONFESSION (from Psalm 125)
creator and giver of life to all, both rich and poor;
we worship you, LORD God.
Your name is beyond great riches,
By your generosity we are blessed;
we worship you, LORD God.
With manna you sustained your people in the wilderness
and with the bread of life you feed us
in the midst of the adversity and injustice of this world
Your spirit of compassion is beyond silver and gold;
we worship you, LORD God.
You plead the cause of the poor and oppressed,
give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf,
and a song of joy to the speechless.
You create us and accept us as we are, O God:
in the times when we have failed
in our relationship with you and with each other;
in the times when we have passively accepted
injustice done to others;
in the times when we have enjoyed your creativity around us,
but have been afraid to ask for our own healing.
raise us from our pain and brokenness;
touch us, heal us and strengthen us,
so that we may live in the wholeness
to the glory of your name. Amen.
(Source: © Jeff Shrowder 2000, 2012)
Steve Bell (musician) offers an insightful reflection on the gospel here.
A reflection on the gospel reading by David R. Henson
This is very topical….. thanks, Jeff Shrowder!
it was simply a ‘bad hair’ day
he just felt antisocial.
the woman was more persistent
Jesus as good as said,
“We decide… Go back to where you came from.”
she was different:
she was one of them.
“Let the children be fed first…”
There are others more deserving
asylum from the demonic.
But ‘no’ was not an option
even the dogs get better treatment!
Her persistence (her faith?)
She and her daughter
are granted that asylum.
They experience grace.
it took a persistent woman
and a ‘bad hair’ day
for Jesus to appreciate
just how wide
is God’s embracing love.
What might it take
to get to that point too?
© Jeff Shrowder, 2012.
(Jeff has more resources – prayers and contemporary versions of the Bible readings here).
A wonderful contemporary writing linked to Gospel reading in Mark, by Thom Shuman:
we stand, our arms folded tightly across our chests,
letting folks know in no uncertain terms
where they stand with us,
then you accidentally-on-purpose
bump into us,
so we have to reach out to them(!) for help;
putting our stone make-up on,
we slowly turn our chairs away from the other,
convinced no worthwhile words will be spoken,
until you thump us behind the ears, whispering,
‘pay attention; this is important!’
we stand at the desk, scanning the reservations
(and ignoring the folded bills held out towards us),
replying with ice-cold words,
and you come bustling out of the kitchen,
trailing the crumbs of dinner behind you,
shouting, ‘my mistake!
everyone is welcome;
set up more chairs around the table!’ (c) 2012 Thom M. Shuman
A sermon focus, also courtesy of Thom Shuman:
As a second-career pastor, I have experienced different management ‘techniques’ in both the secular workplace and in the church. I have lived through Management By Objectives (MBO), Total Quality Management (TQM), the adoption of Mission statements, then Vision, then the posting of Core Values. Lately, a lot of talk has centered around the used of ‘best practices.’
My cynical side says that in both secular and ‘sacred’ settings, we often spend too much time developing these techniques/statements than implementing them; that the process is more important than the product.
Yet, our readings for this coming Sunday do seem, at least to me, to speak of some best practices that believers and followers might be able to put into practice in their lives, not just preach them.
Proverbs, which in some ways in a textbook of best practices, encourages us to practice generosity, to speak up for justice, to recognize what it is we might have in common with other folks.
The psalmist encourages God’s people to practice trust, to do good, to get back on the pathways which lead to life.
The author of James’ letter cautions us not to show partiality, but to notice those who are overlooked and pushed aside by the powerful/wealthy, and to honor them as much, if not more than we honor those who pay for church organs, new building wings, etc. Another practice is to put hands, feet, muscle and sinew to our faith, so that we work to see that others are fed, clothed, housed, rescued from floods and poverty, built up and not torn
And Mark, with this troublesome passage? Maybe one of God’s ‘best practices’ is the ability to learn and to change. Seems to me that the Bible is full of such stories. I am looking at developing the sermon along the lines of Best Practices.
Quotes relating to James reading:
“Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again – until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.” William Booth
‘Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world’. Nelson Mandela
an image courtesy of CHURCHgalleries.com: