Resist Multiplying Evil -- Proper 6 Alternative 4th Year (David Ackerman)

For those who seek an alternative to the three year cycle of the lectionary, I again bring you David Ackerman's liturgical materials, with a link to his book where you'll find sermon materials.  Remember that this is for the following week (June 16th).  The purpose of adding a fourth year to the lectionary is to pick up texts ignored in the three year cycle.   The chosen texts for this round include the story of Onan and Tamar, Ananias and Sapphira, and a story of a demon-possessed man.   David, who is a Harvard educated UCC pastor, includes insightful reflection questions that raise important questions about these difficult stories..  


Proper 6

June 16, 2013
“Resist Multiplying Evil”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 35:19-25 NRSV
One:  Do not let my enemies rejoice over me, or those who hate me without cause wink the eye.
Many:  For they do not speak peace, but they conceive deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land.
One:  They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha, our eyes have seen it.”
Many:  You have seen, O Lord; do not be silent!  O Lord, do not be far from me!
One:  Wake up!  Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord!  Vindicate me, O Lord, my God, according to your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me.
Many:  Do not let them say to themselves, “Aha, we have our heart’s desire.”  Do not let them say, “We have swallowed you up.”
Gathering Prayer:  God, we live in a world that sometimes seems like it’s nothing but “dog eat dog.”  As we come together today, remind us that you call us to a greater way of life than the paths of self-interest and greed.  Amen.
Confession:  We confess, God, that in our efforts to “get ahead” we have had few qualms about putting other people down in order to make ourselves look better.  We have done what is wrong and lied about it to protect ourselves, and in doing so we have heaped hurt on both ourselves and others.  Forgive us, God.  Help us to resist the temptation to add evil onto evil.  Amen.
Assurance:  God knows the inclinations of our hearts and the evil that is in us.  When we think of ourselves as unlovable, God wipes away our delusions, forgives us, and loves us.  Let us respond to this good news with thankfulness and with a new resolve to resist the forces of evil at work in our world.  Amen.
Scriptures:  Genesis 38:1-26 – “Judah and Tamar”
Acts 5:1-11 – “Ananias and Sapphira”
Matthew 12:43-45 – “The Unclean Spirit”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection questions:
The story of Onan in Genesis 38 has been viewed by some as a prohibition against masturbation, but this is not what the story is about.  What is really going on here?  What points do you think the author is trying to make in the story of Judah and Tamar in the same chapter?  Is there a consistent theme throughout this chapter, and if so, what do you think it is?  What do you make of the “family values” of Genesis 38 and the way Tamar is treated here?
In the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, does the punishment fit the crime?  If this reading makes us cringe in the 21st century, is there anything about it that you think would have made it compelling to readers in the 2nd century?
The readings for the day continue to perplex, with the story of the return of the unclean spirit in Matthew 12.  How is a 21st century, western perspective on the subject of “demonic possession” radically different from that of a 1st century, Near Eastern perspective?  Is there any way to bridge the gap between the two?
How can we keep evil from “swallowing us up” or from being multiplied in our lives?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  We thank you, God, for giving us the power to resist the forces of evil in our lives.  Help us to do so, strengthened as we are by the grace of our savior, Jesus.  Amen.
Benediction:  Let us now go forth with a new resolve to resist evil and embrace the good news of Jesus wherever we witness it in the world.  Amen.


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