Thursday, September 12, 2013

In Times of Loss, God Helps Us -- Alternative Lection Proper 20 (David Ackerman)



Facing loss is never easy.  It doesn't matter if it is a death in the family, the loss of a home to a fire or flood, or loss of relationship.  We grieve.  We also seek solace and if possible restoration.  David Ackerman's alternative lectionary readings for September 22nd invite us to consider the role God plays in sustaining us in our times of loss.  Perhaps you would be blessed by making use of this material.  For more please consult David's website and book -- both entitled Beyond the Lectionary.  




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Proper 20


September 22, 2013
“In Times of Loss, God Helps Us”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:81-88 NRSV
One:  My soul languishes for your salvation; I hope in your word.
Many:  My eyes fail with watching for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
One:  For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
Many:  How long must your servant endure?  When will you judge those who persecute me?
One:  The arrogant have dug pitfalls for me; they flout your law.
Many:  All your commandments are enduring; I am persecuted without cause; help me!
One:  They have almost made an end of me on earth; but I have not forsaken your precepts.
Many:  In your steadfast love spare my life, so that I may keep the decrees of your mouth.
Gathering Prayer:  Sometimes, it seems like life is one big lesson in learning how to lose.  As time goes by, we lose things time and time again, and dealing with this is very hard for us.  As we come together today, God, teach us how to see your redemptive hand at work in our lives, even in the midst of our losses.  Amen.
Confession:  Holy One, we confess to you that we have been judgmental and hypocritical.  We have turned away from you and have no one to blame for our choices except ourselves.  So we look to you now and ask your forgiveness.  We seek grace beyond our deserving, and we have come to see that we have nowhere else to turn.  So, hear our prayer, God.  Amen.
Assurance:  God delivers, restores and redeems us.  Even in those times when God was outside of our awareness, we were in God’s awareness and never beyond God’s reach to save us.  With our whole lives, let us show thankfulness for this amazing gift.  Amen.
Scriptures:  Jeremiah 36:1-4, 20-32 – “The Burnt Scroll”
2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 – “I Also Forgive”
John 8:21-30 – “When You Have Lifted Me Up”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection Questions:
The burning of the scroll in Jeremiah 36 is a powerful image of how excessive pride keeps people from hearing God’s message to them.  What do you think of Jeremiah’s response to the destruction of his writing?  Have you ever lost something you worked very hard on?  Did you start again from scratch?  How did it go?
Today’s selection from 2 Corinthians 1-2 is a follow-up on the situation that Paul wrote about earlier in 1 Corinthians 5, in which a man is living with his father’s wife (see Proper 14).  How has he changed his tone and his message?  What do you think happened that caused him to change?
Jesus talks about his death in John 8.  What meaning is he making out of his death?
Have you faced any losses recently that were hard for you?  How did you cope with them?  Where was God in the midst of them?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  Thank you, God, for changing our sorrow into joy and transforming our grief into hope.  Teach us to look to you whenever we face losses in life, and help us to know that in your realm we gain the eternal gift of your presence.  Amen.
Benediction:  God has wiped away our tears and given us new life this day.  May this good news inspire us to go out into the world and live courageously, now and always!  Amen.

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