Do Not Test God -- An Alternative Lection for Proper 11 (David Ackerman)

David Ackerman offers an alternative set of texts for use on July 21st -- Includes the story of Gideon, the story of the sons of Sceva who seek to manipulate the name of Jesus for their own purposes, and Jesus' challenge to the Sabbath laws -- claiming to have divine authority to do so.  These are interesting texts we lectionary preachers often avoid.  David offers us an opportunity to expand our horizons.  Use if you would like:


Proper 11

July 21, 2013
“Do Not Test God”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 61:1-5 NRSV
One:  Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint.
Many:  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
One:  Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
Many:  For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Gathering Prayer:  Lead us, God, and help us to find our comfort in you.  Calm our fears and quiet our doubts so that we may respond to you this day in faithfulness and love.  Amen.
Confession:  God, we confess that we have failed to trust in you and have put you to the test time and time again.  Our lack of faith has caused us to wander from you, and we have lacked the moral and spiritual courage that we need to stay focused on you.  Have mercy on us and transform us by your grace.  Grant us the gift of authenticity, so that we may be true in turning to serve you as your disciples.  Amen.
Assurance:  The Holy One has not abandoned us or turned away from our cries.  God knows us as we are and accepts us and loves us.  Let us give thanks this day for the new opportunity that is before us to be the people God calls us to be.  Amen.
Scriptures:  Judges 6:11-18, 36-40 – “Gideon and the Fleece”
Acts 19:11-16 – “The Sons of Sceva”
John 5:10-18 – “Equal to God”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection Questions:
Have you ever been afraid and prayed for protection?  Did God help?
What do you make of Gideon’s encounter with the angel in the winepress?
Several times in today’s selection from Judges 6, Gideon questions God and/or God’s angel.  Do you think Gideon is testing God?  If you were in his shoes, do you think you would have done something similar?
What do you think is the point that Luke wants his readers to get in telling the story of the sons of Sceva in Acts 19?  How do you reconcile this with the story of the strange exorcist in Luke 9:49-50, where Jesus says, “Whoever is not against you is for you”?
Read over John 5:1-9.  How does this help to explain what follows in today’s selection?
There are dangers of anti-Semitic misinterpretations of today’s New Testament texts.  Why do you think Jesus’ alleged Sabbath-breaking was difficult for people in his time?  What do you make of John 5:18, where Jesus is charged with “making himself equal to God”?
Do we ever test God?  How?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  Thank you, God of grace, for delivering us even when we doubt you and put you to the test.  Show us the way of faith, so that we might grow into holiness.  Amen.
Benediction:  Let us now go to live out our faith with boldness and love, trusting in God’s deliverance and believing that God’s unfailing presence goes with us.  Amen.

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