Thursday, October 10, 2013

See the Eternal in the Transient -- Alternative Lectionary Proper 24 (David Ackerman)


Where do we find God present?  Do you feel sometimes that if God is present, then you're not catching on? Do you want something permanent -- static to hold on to?  Or can you find the presence of God in the transient moments of life?  In these alternative lectionary options, David Ackerman, a pastor within the United Church of Christ, offers opportunities to reflect upon such questions -- including our own places of doubt.  Whether looking for preaching alternatives, study opportunities, or simply resources for spiritual reflection, I invite you to take a look here and at David's website -- Beyond the Lectionary.  


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Proper 24


October 20, 2013
“See the Eternal in the Transient”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:145-152 NRSV
One:  With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord.  I will keep your statutes.
Many:  I cry to you; save me, that I may observe your decrees.
One:  I rise before dawn and cry for help; I put my hope in your words.
Many:  My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
One:  In your steadfast love hear my voice; O Lord, in your justice preserve my life.
Many:  Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near; they are far from your law.
One:  Yet you are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true.
Many:  Long ago I learned from your decrees that you have established them forever.
Gathering Prayer:  At this moment in time, Creator God, you have brought us together from so many different walks of life.  Time passes so quickly, and we are often amazed by how things change as the days, months and years go by.  Be with us, God, in this time and place, and lead us into your realm which is without end.  Amen.
Confession:  When we reflect on our lives, God, we realize how we have stumbled so many times.  We have not loved you or our neighbors as we should.  We have not taken advantage of the opportunities you have given us to live justly and follow you faithfully.  Forgive us, God.  Remind us that today you give us the chance to change and to be the people you call us to be.  Amen.
Assurance:  In God’s eyes a moment is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a moment.  In this time and place, God has let go of the wrongs of our past so that we can look to the future with hope.  May we praise God with our whole lives for this gift of grace!  Amen.
Scriptures:  Ecclesiastes 1:3-11 – “What Do People Gain?”
James 1:2-11 – “Beauty Perishes”
John 10:31-42 – “You Are Gods”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection Questions:
The author of Ecclesiastes is often called Qoheleth, or “the Teacher” (or “the Preacher”).  Here in chapter 1, do you think he sounds cynical?  Do his words seem out of place in the Bible?  Why do you think they were included in it?
In James 1, the author uses a wave of the sea to describe doubters and a fading flower to describe the rich.  Do you think he is being fair to those who have doubts or money?  He says these things right after talking about trials.  What kinds of trials might James’ church be facing?
In John 10:34, Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6.  Do you think he is making a credible case for his divinity when he says, “You are gods”?  When the crowd accuses Jesus of blasphemy, do you think they might have had a point, considering Jesus’ words here and their understanding of things?
Mystics sometimes use the term “thin places” to describe experiences of the intersection of the human and the divine.  Have you ever had a spiritual experience of God that seemed to lift you out of time?  What was that like?  Do you think God ever breaks through and intervenes in time?  Why or why not?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  Time goes by so quickly, God.  Help us in the time you have given us to truly show gratitude to you for all of your blessings.  Amen.
Benediction:  We have a message to share about a God who breaks through in all of life’s changes to show us the path to a life beyond this world.  As we go out today, let us look to God and move forward into every twist and turn of the lives we have been given.  Amen.

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