Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Today we hear James warn against selfish ambition, while the disciples quarrel over which one of them is the greatest. Jesus tells them the way to be great is to serve. Then, to make it concrete, he puts in front of them a flesh-and-blood child. We are called to welcome the children God puts in front of us, to make room for them in daily interaction, and to give them a place of honor in the assembly.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
whose teaching is life,
whose presence is sure,
and whose love is endless.
Let us confess our sins to the one who welcomes us with an open heart.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God our comforter:
like lost sheep, we have gone astray.
We gaze upon abundance and see scarcity.
We turn our faces away from injustice and oppression.
We exploit the earth with our apathy and greed.
Free us from our sin, gracious God.
Listen when we call out to you for help.
Lead us by your love to love our neighbors as ourselves.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
By the gift of grace in ☩ Christ Jesus, God makes you righteous.
Receive with glad hearts the forgiveness of all your sins.
Prayer of the Day
O God, our teacher and guide, you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children. Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition, that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Jeremiah 11:18-20
Today’s reading tells of the suffering of the prophet Jeremiah, who announced God’s word to Judah but was met with intense opposition and persecution. Jeremiah continues to trust in God in the midst of his suffering.
18It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew;
then you showed me their evil deeds.
19But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
And I did not know it was against me
that they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will no longer be remembered!”
20But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously,
who try the heart and the mind,
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
Psalm: Psalm 54
God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life. (Ps. 54:4)
1Save me, O God, by your name;
in your might, defend my cause.
2Hear my prayer, O God;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
3For strangers have risen up against me, and the ruthless have sought my life,
those who have no regard for God.
4Behold, God is my helper;
it is the Lord who sustains my life.
5Render evil to those who spy on me;
in your faithfulness, destroy them.
6I will offer you a freewill sacrifice
and praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.
7For you have rescued me from every trouble,
and my eye looks down on my enemies.
Second Reading: James 3:13–4:3, 7-8a
The wisdom God gives unites our hearts and minds. Instead of living to satisfy our own wants and desires, we manifest this wisdom in peace, gentleness, mercy, and impartiality toward others.
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.4:
1Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8aDraw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Alleluia. God has called us through the proclamation of the good news,* that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia. (2 Thess. 2:14)
Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
Jesus’ teaching and action in this text are directed to the church whenever it is seduced by the world’s definition of greatness: prestige, power, influence, and money. The antidote to such a concern for greatness is servanthood.
30[Jesus and the disciples went on] and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
I have an offender on my case load who is charged with assault. Several months ago, it seems that he had gotten into an argument with his then girlfriend and beat her up pretty badly. He never reported this incident to me, and I only recently found out about this it due to him being arrested on an unrelated matter. Since that time, he has been seeking counseling, going to anger management classes and trying to set right what damage he had caused. My question becomes this: was he going to those classes because he had a desire to do the right thing or because he wanted to stay out of trouble. I might be more convinced of the former if he had told me about the incident and the subsequent police contact when it happened, rather than trying to hide it from me. I was reminded of him while reading James this week. James is concerned that the community he is writing to is doing good works for the wrong reason.
I know I’ve been in that situation before. When I was in high school, we lived in a very nice house on the St. Clair River. We even had a boat house in back of our home. One year, when my parents had gone on a vacation and left my older brother in charge, I got into some trouble with him. I don’t remember what I did, but I remember that he offered to not tell our parents about it if I painted the boathouse, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t doing it out of some desire to make my father’s life easier, but in an effort to stay out of trouble. I believe that James would have said my motivation came from selfish ambition.
Who among us hasn’t done something similar in their youth? I think at times we have all acted in some form of “selfish ambition”, doing something that may appear to be a good deed, but is motivated by the wrong reason. I almost always find myself suspicious of someone who brags about the good they have done. Jesus also counsels us against being boastful about our deeds. In Matthew 6:1 He says to “be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven”. Instead, Jesus says, we should do our giving in secret so that our “Father who sees in secret will reward” us. I think the point here is that when we do good, it should not be in order to gain praise or to be looked upon as righteous. Rather, it should be done for the sake of doing good. James counsels us that good works should be “done with gentleness born of wisdom”.
However, there are times when doing good should be done in a public manner. In Matthew 5:15, Jesus points out that no one lights a lamp and then hides it so it can’t be seen. Rather, it should be put on a lampstand so that it’ll give light to everyone in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” So it’s okay to do good in public if the point of it is to lead others to salvation, not for your own praise. But it’s almost impossible for us, as human beings, to have completely pure motivations. Often, our primary motivation may be to just do good, but yet there’s at least a little corner of our heart that wants people to notice and think well of us as a result. I think it’s important for us to be aware of this and try to minimize it.
What would the world be like if everyone put this teaching into practice? If we all decided to do good for others with no expectation of reward or recognition? Some may think that the recipients of our kindness may be ungrateful or become lazy, and that may be true to a certain extent. But I think that a good deed done for one person may lead them to do a good deed for another, and then another and so on. But even if I’m wrong, our Father in heaven sees and knows. He even knows what’s in our hearts as we do these deeds. And while our salvation is not dependent upon us doing good deeds for the right reasons, I’m certain that God smiles when we treat any of His children with the kind of gentleness that James is speaking of.
Prayers of Intercession
Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
God of community, we pray for the church around the world. Unite us in our love for you. Help us overcome our divisions, that we are encouraged to work together for your sake. Bless Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, and all bishops and pastors as they strive to do your works with their hands. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of creation, we pray for this hurting earth. Awaken in us a new desire to care for this world and empower us to support agencies, organizations, and individual efforts to heal our environment. Make us aware of the blessings you have given us in this part of the world. Blessings like clean, fresh water, bountiful fields in the farmlands and all of the natural beauty that surrounds us. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of cooperation, we pray for nations of the world embroiled in conflict, especially Afghanistan and other nations in that region. Inspire leaders to listen to each other and work towards peaceful solutions to disagreements. Protect the vulnerable, especially children, who cannot find safety in their home or country. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of comfort, we pray for all who live with mental or physical illness, especially those on our prayer list. Help them find appropriate care. Bring healing and wholeness when the path forward seems bleak. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of compassion, we pray for the young people of this congregation. Renew in us your call to welcome the children in our midst. As they grow, strengthen their faith and our commitment to them. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of consolation, we give you thanks for our loved ones who have died and pray for all who grieve today. Shine your grace on all your saints. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
People of God,
you are Christ’s body,
bringing new life to a suffering world.
The holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
bless you now and forever.
Go in peace. The living Word dwells in you.
Bless the world by being God’s grace.
Thanks be to God.