Thursday, October 03, 2013

God Helps Us through Life's Tests -- Alternative Lectionary for Proper 23 (David Ackerman)


Life is not a bed or roses.  Simply being a Christian doesn't preclude being tested by the realities of life.  God doesn't necessarily deliver us from all manners of discomforts and problems, but surely God is present with us.  In the three readings for Proper 23 (October 13), we're given a glimpse of that presence -- even if the message may confound us!  If you're seeking an alternative to the three year lectionary cycle, or at least expand beyond it to readings that don't make it into the lectionary, you will want to check David Ackerman's selections and insights provided at Beyond the Lectionary and reposted here each Thursday.  They may just take you to new places of discovery.    


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Proper 23


October 13, 2013
“God Helps Us through Life’s Tests”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:121-128 NRSV
One:  I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
Many:  Guarantee your servant’s well-being; do not let the godless oppress me.
One:  My eyes fail from watching for your salvation, and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
Many:  Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
One:  I am your servant; give me understanding, so that I may know your decrees.
Many:  It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken.
One:  Truly I love your commandments more than gold, more than fine gold.
Many:  Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts; I hate every false way.
Gathering Prayer:  We have gathered here, God, having endured many tests in life.  Help us through every challenge that we face, and teach us not to put you to the test.  Amen.
Confession:  Holy One, we have wrongly tested you time and time again.  Meanwhile, we have failed life’s tests over and over.  Our moral character is lacking, as we have shrunk back in fear when we should have stood up to do what we know in our hearts is right.  Have mercy on us.  Teach us to value your praise over the praise of the world.  Amen.
Assurance:  God has not abandoned us in our times of trial, and even when we fail, God does not.  Let us together praise God, who gives us life and hope in abundance.  Amen.
Scriptures:  Job 40:15-41:11 – “God’s Answer to Job”
2 Corinthians 13:5-10 – “Examine Yourselves”
John 8:48-59 – “Jesus Tested by Leaders”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection Questions:
In Job 40-41, God answers Job’s complaints about the injustice of life by pointing out the wonders of creation.  God uses the figures of “Behemoth” and “Leviathan” to represent the glories of the most amazing of creatures on land and sea.  Does this really answer Job?  Why or why not?  Does setting our own problems in a cosmic perspective sometimes help us to get a better grasp on them?
In today’s epistle, Paul calls on the Corinthians to examine themselves.  Do you think he is being paternalistic here?  Is self-examination always helpful?
When Jesus confronts his opponents in John 8, he talks about seeing Abraham.  What do you make of his statement, “Before Abraham was, I am” (v 58)?  What do you make of the crowd’s response to it?  How well do you think Jesus handled this confrontation?
Have you ever put God to the test?  Do you ever feel like God is testing you?  How do you make it through the hardships and challenges of life?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  When we look inside ourselves, God, we see our faults all too clearly.  We’re grateful for the grace that you show to us and thank you for being with us through all of life’s tests.  We pray that you would continue to lift us up when the challenges of the world knock us down.  Amen.
Benediction:  We are sent into a world of difficulty and danger with a message of hope and life. Let us remain steadfast in our faith as we go out to proclaim this good news today.  Amen.

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