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!
James tells us to stop showing favoritism in the assembly, treating the rich visitor with more honor than the poor one. Jesus himself seems to show partiality in his first response to the Syrophoenician woman in today’s gospel. Was he testing her faith in saying Gentiles don’t deserve the goods meant for God’s children? Or was he speaking out of his human worldview, but transcended those limits when she took him by surprise with her reply? Either way, the story tells us that God shows no partiality. Everyone who brings a need to Jesus is received with equal honor as a child and heir.
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
Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform sickness into health and death into life. Open us to the power of your presence and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the whole world, through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.
First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7a
These verses are a word of hope to the exiles in Babylon. Isaiah 35 portrays God’s vengeance on Edom, Israel’s age-old enemy, which makes the path from Babylon to Zion safe for the exiles’ return. The desert itself will flow with water to give drink to the returning exiles.
4Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7athe burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water.
Psalm: Psalm 146
I will praise the Lord as long as I live. (Ps. 146:2)
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3Put not your trust in rulers,
in mortals in whom there is no help.
4When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
5Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
6who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps promises forever;
7who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the captive free.
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9The Lord cares for the stranger;
the Lord sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
10The Lord shall reign forever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah!
Second Reading: James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17
Faithful Christians do not show partiality to the rich and powerful of the world, especially at the expense of the poor and weak. Likewise, faith does not pay mere lip service to God’s will. Instead, a living Christian faith expresses itself in acts of compassion and mercy for those in need.
1My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
8You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. [11For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.]
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Alleluia. Rejoice in the Lord always;* again I will say, Rejoice. Alleluia. (Phil. 4:4)
Gospel: Mark 7:24-37
In Mark’s gospel, encounters with women usually signify turning points in Jesus’ ministry. Here, a conversation with a Syrophoenician woman marks the beginning of his mission to the Gentiles.
24[Jesus] set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
Do you have someone that you look up to? It could be someone in your life such as a friend or coworker that you admire for whatever reason. Perhaps you admire a certain celebrity or even the character they play in a show. I’ve often heard people say they love a particular musician whom they’ve never met. Sports figures also get that kind of admiration after they win a game.
Now think of it another way. Is there someone you look down upon? Perhaps the cousin that never quite lived up to your standard, or the homeless guy who’s asking for a handout. Maybe it’s someone who holds a different political point of view than your own. In my job as a parole officer, it’s easy to look down on some of the offenders because of the bad choices they have made, or even their victims who choose to stand by them. This is common when the victim is a family member. Domestic violence victims often find ways to excuse their loved ones’ actions and it becomes hard for those of us outside that relationship to understand why they stay.
Have you ever been on the other side of that question? Has anyone ever looked down on you or placed you high on a pedestal? Did the treatment you received from that person match how you perceived you should be treated? I think that’s what James is talking about in the second reading. Sometimes we look at others and make judgments without knowing the entire story. The sports figure that we shower with praise may be using dangerous drugs to enhance his or her performance. Often, the domestic violence victim who stays has been conditioned all of their life to think of themselves as deserving of that kind of treatment and has probably grown dependent, either emotionally or financially on their perpetrator. I think James was cautioning us against making these kinds of snap judgments about other people.
Making judgments is a part of life. It is necessary for us to look at situations and decide how to act based on the information available. It’s when we become judgmental towards others that we run into problems. Being judgmental comes into play when we compare ourselves to others. Sometimes we see someone wearing shabby clothing and think we are doing better than her, or maybe someone always dresses better than us and we think they must be awfully successful and then we feel bad about ourselves. I have to admit that I’ve done both of those.
When I worked at the prison it was an easy trap to fall into, to be judgmental about others. I often heard co-workers saying things like, “he’s just an inmate, don’t worry about him”. This was even true among the inmates themselves. Often an inmate who had committed a crime involving children was treated pretty badly by the other inmates because they thought of that crime as being worse than whatever they did that got them locked up. But they all had gone afoul of the law in one way or another. That’s another thing that James speaks about starting at verse 8. He also talks about judging with mercy because “judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy”. By treating the other inmates poorly because of their crime and ignoring their own, they are failing to show mercy themselves. The same goes for the staff that treats inmates without any respect. How can we judge others when we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? I am reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant. Since we have all sinned, when we hold others as less than ourselves because of their sin, aren’t we acting like the servant whom the king forgave his debt, but then the forgiven servant went out and demanded payment from another servant?
I pray that we will not be judgmental, either holding others in contempt when we are just as undeserving of God’s mercy as they are or treating people, we admire with more respect than we treat the least of our brethren in Christ.
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.
Holy One, you bring your people together in worship. Enliven your church. Bless Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor. Guide all evangelists, preachers, prophets, and missionaries who seek to share your love through word and deed. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You provide water for thirsty ground and sunshine to feed hungry plants. Bless all who advocate for healthy forests, unpolluted air, and clean waterways. Inspire all people to show care for the world you have made. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You show no partiality. Increase justice in all nations. Encourage leaders and governments to work with one another for the good of our common world. Especially as we celebrate Labor Day unite us in seeking the health, safety, and dignity of all. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You accompany those who are most in need. Shelter all fleeing violence or persecution, protect any who are in danger, and sustain them through uncertain and unstable times. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You support the work of your disciples. Continue to nurture the leadership and ministries of this congregation. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You embrace all who have died in the faith and brought them into your glorious presence. We thank you for their example and rejoice in their lives. 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.
Thanks be to God.