Friday, October 25, 2013

God Helps Us in Our Grief -- Alternative Lectionary -- Proper 26 (David Ackerman)

We return to the alternative lectionary with the guidance of David Ackerman.  For many this will be an opportunity to observe All Saints Day.  We are enabled to delve into the path of grief and faith through these texts.  May they prove to be a blessing.

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Proper 26


November 3, 2013
 
“God Helps Us in Our Grief”
 
Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:161-168 NRSV
One:  Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.
Many:  I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
One:  I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
Many:  Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.
One:  Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Many:  I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I fulfill your commandments.
One:  My soul keeps your decrees; I love them exceedingly.
Many:  I keep your precepts and decrees, for all my ways are before you.

Gathering Prayer:  In the midst of our days, you gather us, and we pray that in the time that we spend together we might look to you as our help and our hope.  Amen.

Confession:  So often, God, we are unaware of the passing of time or the things that are happening all around us.  We rarely reflect on our own breathing and are too often inattentive to your presence among us.  Our ignorance has caused us to wander away from you, so as we turn to you now, we ask your forgiveness.  Change us, so that we might look to you in all of life’s circumstances and give you honor, praise, and glory.  Amen.

Assurance:  God is nearer to us than our closest breath and releases us from the sins of yesterday.  As a people who have been set free by grace, let us lean into these coming moments confident that the Holy Spirit is indeed present to us.  Amen.

Scriptures
Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 – “The House of Mourning”
James 4:11-17 – “You Are a Mist”
John 11:55-57 – “That They Might Arrest Him”

Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.

Reflection Questions:
All Saints’ Day often falls around the time of this Sunday.  Can you recall going to a funeral (or making a visit to a funeral home) for someone who died who you thought of as a saint?  What was that like?  Do the words of Ecclesiastes 7 make sense in a place like that?

Carefully read through the proverbs in Ecclesiastes 7:1-14.  Which ones stand out for you?  Are there any that you disagree with or really like?  Why do you like or dislike them?

Consider James 4:11-17.  If you can remember someone who died who was like a saint to you, how did you make it through that time of loss?  Was it a reminder to you of how quickly things can change or how short life can be?

Some leaders plan to arrest Jesus in today’s selection from John 11.  Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus when he was arrested?  Have you ever been in a prison or visited anyone in prison?  What was that like?

In the southern hemisphere, the days are getting longer and spring is in full bloom.  How will today’s readings on the passing of life sound to those for whom life is budding all around?

Does time go fast or slow for you?  Do you sometimes feel trapped in time?  How do reminders of our mortality cause us to reflect on how we live the days we have been given in this world?  What might it mean for us to live “saintly” lives in the here and now?

Prayer of Thanksgiving:  In the time you have given us, God, help us to show genuine gratitude for the opportunity we have to live and breathe in this amazing world.  Amen.

Benediction:  Now is the time to go and share with the world the good news of a time outside of time, a realm of possibility where God offers new life, love, and hope.  Let us go, giving thanks to God who is with us in life, in death, and in life beyond death.  Amen.

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