Lectionary Texts

You are free to reprint these resources for use in worship. Please include the attribution “RootsOfJusticeTraining.org, 2015.” If text is spoken but not printed, we appreciate printing in your bulletin a general “Thanks to RootsOfJusticeTraining.org for some of the [prayers/text/ideas] used in this service.”

This week, there are two wonderful options for Confession/Assurance. The first is longer and requires some logistical set-up. The first could also be adapted into another part of the service (opening, sermon, etc.).

Confession/Assurance I

The prayer of confession is a time for our community to bring to light the actions or inactions that separate us from God. We say the prayer of confession in unison because we know none of us are perfect. We are called to support one another as we bring our burdens, challenges and wounds. We say the prayer of confession towards the beginning of worship because we must acknowledge the burdens and challenges we bring to worship as our whole selves; we say the prayer of confession to bring us into an authentic place of worship. The prayer of confession is traditionally followed by a time of silence, but today that silence will be interrupted. In preparation for this disruption, hear these words from the Gospel of Mark:

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples[a] went out of the city. (Mark 11:15-19 NRSV)

Confession

Please join with me in the call of confession:

Forgive us, O God, when we cling to comfort, when we build barriers to protect ourselves, when we choose the easy way. Our power and privilege so often shields us from seeing the oppressive systems that exploit our brothers and sisters, and yet we know neutrality is not an option. We will have to be willing to radically re-arrange the furniture in our own lives, to give up some of our power and privilege to create a world of justice and equity. We confess we are afraid what this will mean.

Time of silence (not really silent!)

[One by one, four individuals will come forward, say the words spoken by Jesus from one of the gospels and then flip over a small table.]

Mark: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” *flip a table*

Matthew: “It is written, “My house will be a house of prayer for all people,” but you have turned this house of prayer into a den of robbers.” *flip a table*

Luke: “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” *flip a table*

John: “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” *flip a table*

Explanation

We have just heard the words spoken by Jesus in each of the four Gospels as he challenged a system of exploitation. He did this act out of love and anger, forcing his followers, oppressors and bystander to pay attention to an injustice that had been so normalized, they may have been surprised or confused by this action. As Christians we are called to stay in this discomfort, notice our own reactions, and remember that we are never alone in this work. (Silence?)

Words of Assurance

Please join me in the words of assurance.

As Christians we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who heals, comforts, loves, and flips tables. Our journey towards creating a beloved community of justice and equity is not a short or easy path, but we take each step in faith, knowing that God is with us. Systems of oppression hold captive the oppressor as well as the oppressed and we know our liberation is bound together.

Passing of the Peace

Passing of the peace is an opportunity for us to greet the people around us in love and fellowship. In this age of Facebook friends, we are more disconnected from the people around us than ever. This disconnection allows us to emotionally distance ourselves from the injustices happening around us. Passing the peace is a small revolutionary act of connection and love that will help us usher in the Kin-dom of Heaven. In that spirit, please greet the people around you.

– Jenn Hagedorn, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Confession/Assurance II

Prayer of Brokenness

Life-giving God – loving parent who sets firm boundaries for our living, hear us, your children, as we come to you in prayer. We confess, O God, that we have not living according to your ways. We chafe at the boundaries you have provided – wiggling and scratching as if the warm sweater you’ve provided us as a gift were too-tight, too-itchy, too-uncool. Help us, instead, to see that sweater as a warm hug, concern for our well-being, a gift that is intended to keep us warm on the coldest of days. We desire to break free from the chains that bind us as a people – chains of systemic oppression, racist institutions, hatred and fear handed down from generation to generation. Turn us, loving friend, to the warm embrace of your boundaries instead. Help us to loose the chains of oppression and clothe ourselves, instead, with your ways which lead to abundant life for all.

(Moments of silent confession)

Through Jesus Christ our Ruler and Savior. Amen

Words of Assurance

Jesus stormed into the temple and upset the tables of the moneychangers. He had had enough of their greed, their disregard for the ways of his Abba-Father. But Christ did not come merely to destroy. Christ promises, “Destroy this temple, and it three days I will raise it up.” Destruction is never the end. Destruction of oppressive systems, practices and rules that harm….that is only the beginning. The Holy One is working in us and through us to bring about a new day of freedom for all her children. The temple may be razed, but it will also be raised once again. Thanks be to God.

– Caela Simmons Wood, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Responsive Reading

One: We seek release. Freedom from the oppression all around us. Freedom to be honored and affirmed. Freedom to make a new and better choice; to break down the systems of evil that permeate our society.
Many: We seek the Lord our God, who brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
One: We seek healing. A balm to soothe the pains that afflict us, those we care about, those we do not even know. The true healing that comes through diligent labor to make changes, deal with unpleasant side effects, and the miraculous intervention of the Holy.
Many: We seek the Lord our God, who brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
One: We seek the gift of stamina. The tenacity to go the distance as we struggle for justice. The wisdom to remember we are not alone.
Many: We seek the Lord our God, who brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
One: Gather us in, O Holy One.
Many: We, your people, have arrived to hear the good news and to proclaim it to the world.

– Caela Simmons Wood, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Children’s Sermon Ideas

The lectionary passages for today provide an opportunity to have a conversation with children about rules – why we have them, where they come from, and how we can as a church and society best respond to people who break the rules.

You can ask the children to name where in their lives they encounter rules (at home, in school, in town/city where they live, at playgrounds, in movie theaters, skating rinks, at stores, in sports teams or other groups are some answers they might give or you could help prompt).

Introduce the idea that a good rule is one with the purpose of helping people, maybe giving some examples of rules that help keep us safe and in good relationship with one another.

You could also have a conversation about how sometimes there are unfair rules, like Jim Crow laws. When rules are unfair, people work to change them. If there’s time, you could give examples of social change movements that have addressed unjust laws.

If you have time, you could ask the children what rules they wish we could have at church or other places.

Talk about how when people break rules, that doesn’t mean that they are bad or don’t deserve to be loved or cared for. Everyone makes mistakes and even good people break rules. God forgives us and we can follow God’s example. We shouldn’t just throw people away, but we can work to help them understand the mistakes that they have made and how those mistakes have hurt other people or themselves, and help them do better the next time.

– Pam Nath, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Preaching Ideas

Exodus 20: 1-17 and Psalm 19

The Ten Commandments were a central element in the covenant that brought Israel together as a people after God had freed them from slavery. The very notion of a covenant relationship between God and God’s people represented something new in the ancient world. The way the story is told in Exodus, these commandments were given by God to God’s people through God’s servant Moses after God had liberated the people from slavery in Egypt to create a new social order of peace, justice and harmony. So it is that in Exodus 20:2, God begins with the reminder, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Psalm 19 begins with a song of praise to God the Creator of beauty in nature and then moves to a song extolling the beauty of the law of the Lord. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honey comb.” Both God’s natural creation and the law of Moses were experienced as gifts freely given and received by God’s liberated people. I can readily identify with a song of praise to the God of Creation, but it is much more difficult for me to identify with a song that talks about how the ordinances of the Lord are more to be desired than gold. I suspect that this has to do with my social identity as a white, middle class North American. For the people of Israel liberation from oppression and the covenant were all a part of the same experience.

The challenge for us today is to recognize those places where God is still liberating the enslaved and the oppressed as well as the enslaver and the oppressor in a never-ending effort to create a new social order. When I first attended the Damascus Road Antiracism Training back in 2000, I was challenged to think about how racism had damaged me as a white person, how it had dehumanized us collectively as white people even while we benefited from it in so many ways. It was then that I realized that working to undo the sin of racism was a matter of our collective liberation as white folks and not only a matter of liberation for communities of color. Perhaps recognizing our need for liberation and healing would also enable us to appreciate the beauty of the law of the Lord, whose intent is not to burden us with all kinds of dos and don’ts, but provide us with the opportunity to build communities of love and justice and peace.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Probably more than any other book or author, Neil Elliott has pushed me to re-read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in his book LIBERATING PAUL: THE JUSTICE OF GOD AND THE POLITICS OF THE APOSTLE. Elliott refers to the work of Antoinette Clark Wire in her book THE CORINTHIAN WOMEN PROPHETS where she observes the parallel between Paul’s view of his own loss of status following his Damascus road experience and his theology of the foolishness of the cross, summarized in both this text and in Philippians 2:5-12, where Paul talks about how Christ emptied himself – of his status, power, and privilege – and became obedient unto death. Elliott goes on to suggest that the thrust of this letter challenges the ideology of privilege at play among the Christians in Corinth who carried social status. In fact, states Elliott, Paul is calling on the rich and powerful to “take conspicuous actions to renounce the privileges granted them within the city’s sacred order of honor and power.” What does this mean for someone like me – white, straight, middle class, male – today? What does it mean for us collectively, that is, those of us who are in predominantly white churches? Can we talk about following Christ – see Caela Simmons Wood’s preaching ideas on last week’s Mark 8 text – without taking conspicuous actions to renounce our unearned privileges?

John 2: 13-22

This story of Jesus driving those selling sacrificial animals out of the temple and overturning the tables of the money changers has become one of my favorite Lenten stories. It is significant that all four gospels include a version of this event. Matthew, Mark, and Luke include this story at the beginning of their description of passion week, a clear indication that this was one of the actions that led the ruling elites – both the Roman overlords and the temple establishment – to condemn Jesus to death as a threat to the status quo. Interestingly, the writer of John’s gospel decided to include this story very close to the beginning of the gospel, setting the stage for all that would follow. The temple represented not only the center of religious life in first century Palestine, but also the economic and political center, so by engaging in this action Jesus was clearly disrupting the status quo and challenging the structures of his day, structures that were exploiting the poor and marginalized. See Ched Meyers’s discussion of Mark’s version of this story in pp. 299 – 304 of his commentary entitled BINDING THE STRONG MAN: A POLITICAL READING OF MARK’S STORY OF JESUS.

There are many examples of how the religious, social, economic and political systems of our day exploit the poor and marginalized. The mass incarceration of black and brown people – see Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – in the context of a rapidly growing for-profit prison industry, the mass arrests and deportations of undocumented workers – mostly Latino – over the past number of years, the ongoing genocide of the Native American population as evidenced by recent revelations that the state of South Dakota, for example, makes $70,000 off of every Native child that they remove from their homes and place in what is almost always a white foster home, and Islamophobia are just some of the current examples of systems in our day that profit from the exploitation of those on the margins of our society. Many of those advocating for these policies identify as Christians. Who are we in these situations and what is our role? Are we among the money changers, or those selling sacrificial animals? How do we respond when other disrupt the status quo? And how can we be transformed from active participants in these systems, or perhaps passive bystanders, to those who are willing to disrupt these structures?

I am part of a group of white anti-racist organizers in Seattle called European Dissent. Another group that I am honored to be a part of – called Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) and led by youth of color – has called on European Dissent to organize in predominantly white faith communities during this Lenten season. In response to that request we are engaged in an organizing effort leading up to TURNING TABLES MONDAY at the beginning of Holy Week, where we hope to apply our faith in action at the office of the company that recently won a contract to build a new $210 million juvenile detention center in a county where African American youth represent 8% of the youth population, but well over 40% of those in detention at any given time. This is one small way in which we hope to challenge the status quo. No doubt there are plenty of opportunities for you to challenge the status quo in your community. How can your faith community support communities of color led movements such as BLACK LIVES MATTER, NOT 1MORE DEPORTATION, or other movements to undo systemic oppression and create alternative communities? How can you disrupt the status quo, not just for the sake of disrupting the status quo, but in order to build a new community based on the vision of a new society introduced by Jesus? Can it happen without fundamental change? If we are called to follow Jesus, doesn’t that mean that we are called to be table turning disciples? One way to help people remember this story and its significance for us would be to find a creative way to dramatize it, either during the sermon or at some other point in the worship service. (To give credit where credit is due this idea came up in a conversation of clergy and lay leaders here in Seattle as we were discussing the story).

– Rick Derksen, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015

Contributors

Rick Derksen is a trainer with Roots of Justice and serves on the ROJ board. He’s an antiracism organizer with several Seattle-based activist groups including European Dissent, EPIC (Ending the Prison Industrial Complex), and the Seattle Race Conference committee. His identities include white, male, partner of 40 years, parent, grandparent, ordained Mennonite minister, and part of Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church.

Jenn Hagedorn is a member and staff person at Plymouth UCC in Seattle, Washington. She is a white antiracist organizer with European Dissent, the People’s Institute, and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC).

Pam Nath is a Roots of Justice trainer. She has been living and working in New Orleans for the past eight years and loves being surrounded by water (the Bayou, the Lake, the river), by massive Oak trees, pelicans, and egrets, and by people who work passionately for a better world and who strive to live in Beloved Community with one another.

The Rev. Caela Simmons Wood is pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Manhattan, Kansas. Pastor Caela is passionate about racial justice, LGBT rights, and gender equality. You can read her sermons at her blog.

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