June 19, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world. In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us, and defend us from everything that is evil, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a

1Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. 
  Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
11He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15aThen the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.”

Psalm 42–43

1As the deer longs | for the water-brooks,
  so longs my soul for | you, O God.
2I thirst for God, for the | living God;
  when shall I come to appear before the pres- | ence of God?
3My tears have been my food | day and night,
  while all day long they say to me, “Where now | is your God?”
4I pour out my soul when I think | on these things;
  how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God, with shouts of thanksgiving, among those | keeping festival. R
5Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquiet- | ed within me?
  Put your trust in God, for I will yet give thanks to the one who is my help | and my God.
6My soul is heav- | y within me;
  therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, and from the peak of Mizar among the | heights of Hermon. R
7One deep calls to another in the roar of | your cascades;
  all your rapids and floods have gone | over me.
8The Lord grants lovingkindness | in the daytime;
  in the night season the Lord’s song is with me, a prayer to the God | of my life. R
9I will say to the God of my strength, “Why have you re- | jected me,
  and why do I wander in such gloom while the enemy op- | presses me?”
10While my bones are being broken, my enemies mock me | to my face;
  all day long they mock me and say to me, “Where now | is your God?”
11Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquiet- | ed within me?
  Put your trust in God, for I will yet give thanks to the one who is my help | and my God.
43: 1Give judgment for me, O God, and defend my cause against an un- | godly people;
  deliver me from the deceitful | and the wicked. R
2For you are the God of my strength; why have you re- | jected me,
  and why do I wander in such gloom while the enemy op- | presses me?
3Send out your light and your truth, that | they may lead me,
  and bring me to your holy hill and to your | sanctuary;
4that I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my | joy and gladness;
  and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O | God my God.
5Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquiet- | ed within me?
  Put your trust in God, for I will yet give thanks to the one who is my help | and my God. R

Galatians 3:23-29

23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Luke 8:26-39

26Then [Jesus and his disciples] arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”—29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Wonderful as our Old Testament and gospel stories are today, I’ll be preaching on Galatians this morning and for the next few weeks. I want to get to the heart of the matter and the text, which I believe we find in that now iconic verse, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” We will return to this verse, but let’s first remember a bit about why Paul sent this letter and what he’s trying to accomplish.

Paul is livid. Why? Because the followers of Jesus Christ in Galatia seemed to have turned so easily away from the good news, the gospel. Paul’s frustration is with his opponents, who have placed the observance of the law as central to the marks of faith. At the heart of their preaching is that faith requires obedience to the law. It seems that these opponents have linked the work of the Holy Spirit and promises of Abraham to law observance—or at least to circumcision and food practices. 

Is there a place for the law in the life of faith? Yes. First Paul reminds the followers that God has given the inheritance to Abraham by promise and thus, by grace. It did not depend on Abraham’s ability to follow the law. The law does have an important function. It points out transgressions. The law is not opposed to God’s promises. The law is a guide toward the kind of abundant life God wants for God’s creation. But the law cannot guarantee that life. Put another way, the law directs and instructs people toward abundant life where absolutely everyone thrives. 

The Galatians’ understanding of the law has been muddied. They have placed their future in their ability to follow the law. Paul reminds them that in Christ they are already children of God. They should put their trust in God, not in their ability ot follow God’s good and just law. Why? They, and we, are incapable of withstanding sin’s power. The law can and does point toward goodness, justice, and peace, put it cannot create a peaceable, loving, and just people. I love how one scholar put it: “The law is not in the business of transformation.”

It is only through the cross and resurrection that God has done what neither the Galatians nor we could do for ourselves. Simply by being in Christ, they are heirs of the promise to Abraham—promises which included descendants and land. And in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek. Paul’s opponents encouraged the Galatians to take on the very practices of law observance that would publicly identify them with Jewish people. In contrast, Paul reminds the Galatians that their hope has never been in any act that they have accomplished or their public identity. 

In Christ, the distinctions of being a Jew or Gentile are reframed. They can be one in Christ—as circumcised or uncircumcised. There is unity in the midst of their diversity. These relationships that once contained power dynamics and strife are not relationship of mutual blessing.

One scholar wrote, “Baptism is not the project of shedding all our group-identities until we stand naked and can be clothed in Christ; it is discovering that being a member of the family of God is our true group-identifier. It’s hard to remember this is our modern world which embraces individualism. Being clothed alike in Christ does not mean that distinctions disappear. Distinctions persist but they lack determinate bearing for the faith. 

The Apostle Paul cast a powerful vision, but it was incomplete by the time his lifetime ended. His vision, rooted in the power of the cross, was abolishing the distinctions between slaves, freed people, and free people before God. Paul’s vision was abolishing distinctions in Christian community with regard to giftedness, leadership, and mutual respect. 

While we are right to thank Paul for his vision and for penning Galatians 3, we have to acknowledge Paul’s lack of critique of the institution of slavery as contrary to God’s will. He had ample opportunity, especially in a few of this other letters. 

Today, we and many other ELCA Lutherans commemorate the Emmanuel Nine, martyrs. On June 17, 2015, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, the Rev. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, and the honorable state senator and pastor of the church, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney were murdered by a self-processed white supremacist, a member of an ELCA Lutheran congregation, while they were gathered for Bible study and prayers and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2019, a resolution to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance for the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine was adopted by our ELCA churchwide assembly. Today, we remember the Emmanuel Nine, we pray, and we commit to repenting of the sins of racism and white supremacy that continues to plague the ELCA. 

The tragedy of 2015 can feel quite distant. We might wonder how it is relevant to our congregation in Southwest Idaho. I think two things are helpful to remember. First, that the ELCA is a web of systems made which include 65 synods, thousands of congregations, and many thousands of individual members. We are not just part of the ELCA. We actually are the ELCA.

Second, the sins of racism may look different in Idaho than they do in South Carolina, but that does not mean they do not exist. We can look back at our history—learn the stories of African Americans in Idaho but also the Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanics. Racism, manifested in individual acts or structures exists as well today. 

And racism exists alongside every other ism that divides—there is neither native born nor illegal immigrant, there is neither monied nor working class nor poor, there is neither black nor brown nor white, there is neither Republican nor Democrat nor Independent, there is neither male or female, there is neither Californian nor Idahoan. 

The Apostle Paul may not have lived out his own words exactly as we might have wished, but he certainly gave us something to work towards. Martin Luther King Jr picked many of them up when he wrote “Paul’s Letter to American Christians.” King wrote, “Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but you have failed to employ your moral and spiritual genius to make it a brotherhood.” 

Further on, he writes, speaking for Paul as he does throughout the letter, “I understand that there are Christians among you who try to justify segregation on the basis of the Bible. They argue that the Negro is inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham. Oh, my friends, this is blasphemy. This is against everything that the Christian religion stands for. I must say to you as I have said to so many Christians before, that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Moreover, I must reiterate the words that I uttered on Mars Hill: “God that made the world and all things therein . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

King’s appeal to Galatians 3:28 stresses further that in Christ all divisions are eradicated despite what some may say. We are called then to do two things at once—to see that in Christ all divisions are eradicated and at the same time to recognize diversity. This means recognizing, for example, that we all have hardships, but that my hardships are not caused by the color of my skin. It means that there has been progress from the founding of our country, through the Civil War, through the Civil Rights Movement, through the last decade, but there is still much work to do—individually and as a society.

The law will not save us, not heal us. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, or maybe by Jesus’ own faith itself. What matters is that we are freed to love our neighbor. From the point of view of a twenty-first century democracy, Paul’s radical reordering of human relationships before God does not now seem nearly radical enough. To understand ourselves as clothed with Christ, who risked himself entirely for God’s purposes, is to apprehend our full responsibility as adult heirs of God. 

We are people with both the grace and the responsibility to discern the implications of Paul’s vision in ever-widening circles. We are preparing the world for the fullness of God’s presence. Since the day of the cross, the power of God has been on the move: calling people into dynamic relationship with God; inviting us into communities of well-being; and effecting freedom, full agency, and respect for all people. Today we remember that we are called into this work as well, with a great cloud of witnesses. Thanks be to God.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Prayers of Intercession

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

God, our truth, through the ages you have spoken through prophets. Stir up in your church a passion for your word revealed in Jesus, that following the witness of the Emanuel Nine, your church studies the scriptures, shows hospitality, prays without ceasing, and embodies prophetic justice in community. Embolden church leaders and all the baptized to remember the lives of the Nine, repent of racism and white supremacy, and renew our commitment to your word revealed most fully in Jesus, our way, truth, and life. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You hear the cries of the earth. Restore places where land, air, and waterways have been harmed. Guide us to develop and implement sources of energy and food production that do not destroy the earth. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You hear the cries of those who are marginalized or cast out. On this Juneteenth observance, guide us continually toward the end of oppression in all its forms, especially white supremacy. Bring true freedom and human flourishing to all your beloved children. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Immanuel, God with us, you embrace in love those who cry out to you. Lift up all whom hatred has cast down; embolden those who need courage to speak and act against oppression; sustain those who are weary from efforts that bring no end to injustice. Comfort parents weeping for children, children who have been separated from parents, and families in crises of any kind. Restore hope where it has been lost, so that all may trust your love that reaches to the depths of pain and suffering. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You hear the cries of those who celebrate and those who grieve on this Father’s Day. Nurture mutual love and tender care in all

relationships. Comfort those for whom this day brings sadness or longing. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We give you thanks, Holy God, for the faithful life and witness of Clementa, Cynthia, Daniel, DePayne, Ethel, Myra, Sharonda, Susie, and Tywanza, the Emanuel Nine. May their faith and witness to your forgiving love in Jesus Christ inspire all people to pursue paths of justice, courage, and self-giving love. God of grace, hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

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