God Deliver Us -- Alternative Lectionary Reading -- Epiphany 4 (David Ackerman)

The message we share is one of salvation and deliverance. Jesus came to find the lost and deliver them.  The texts David Ackerman has chosen for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany highlight deliverance.  There is the story of Rahab saving the spies from the Jericho authorities, which in turn brings salvation to her house on the day of the cities fall.  As in the story of the spies, who are let out of a city by window, so it is with Paul in Damascus -- allowing him to continue with his ministry.  The story of the blind man takes us in a slightly different direction, but he too experiences salvation (healing).  May these expressions that take us Beyond the Lectionary,  be a blessing.  


Epiphany 4

“God Delivers Us”

Call to Worship:  Psalm 117 NRSV

One:  Praise the Lord, all you nations!  Extol him, all you peoples!

Many:  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord!

Gathering Prayer:  We thank you God, for bringing us to this time and place together.  Help us to see the ways that you have rescued us over time, and teach us how to show our gratitude to you as we worship you today.

Confession:  We have willingly shut our eyes, Holy One, to the ways in which you have saved us from times of trial.  We are so tempted to think that we are self-made, and our pride too often goes before us.  So we ask for your forgiveness and pray for your help.  We humbly look to you now in the hopes that you will deliver us from the dangers of our world.

Assurance:  God makes us new people today, so that we might face our fears with faith.  Let us genuinely show our thanks, then, for God’s wonderful gift of saving grace.

Scriptures:      Joshua 2:1-9, 12-16 – “Rahab Rescues the Spies”
Acts 9:23-31 – “Paul Let Down to Safety”
Mark 8:22-26 – “Jesus Heals a Blind Man”

Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.

Reflection Questions:

  • In Joshua 2, what risks did the spies take in going to Rahab’s house in Jericho?  What risks did Rahab take in protecting them?  What does it mean to you that a prostitute is shown to be a righteous Gentile who helps to deliver Israel?
  • What are some of the difficulties in thinking about Joshua 2 as a story of military conquest?  What do you think is the relationship between God and the battlefield?  How does a story like this complicate a simplistic understanding of God’s relationship between Israel and the nations?
  • Look at Luke 19:1-10.  What connections do you see between this and Joshua 2?  Has God ever come to your house as a stranger or guest?  Were you welcoming?  Did the experience change you?
  • What similarities do you see between the story of Rahab lowering the spies to safety and the disciples lowering Paul in Acts 9?  Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to be rescued?  Who delivered you and how?  Where was God in such a time?
  • In today’s reading from Mark 8, why do you think that Jesus needed to lay hands on the man twice in order for him to see clearly?  What might be significant about how Jesus took him out of the village and told him not to go back to it?
  • Has life ever seemed unclear to you?  Are you going through such a time now?  What might it take for you to get things back into focus again?

Prayer of Thanksgiving:  You have revealed yourself to all peoples, God, and in showing yourself to us we give you thanks and praise.  For the gift of your salvation, we are truly grateful.

Benediction:  God sends us out this day as a people set free to reveal new life to others.  Let us go out, then, and share the good news of God’s deliverance with a world that longs for the freedom that God gives.  Amen.

Scripture citations linked to  http://www.biblegateway.com/


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