11th Sunday after Pentecost
Year A: August 20, 2017
First Reading: Genesis 45:1-15
The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: In The Darkest Dark, young Chris Hadfield wants to be an astronaut but he is afraid of the dark. In the darkness, he sees aliens, monstrous eyes, scary things. He is very afraid of the dark and worries that it will prevent him from being an astronaut. But when he watches the Apollo 11 moon landing, he sees the dark of space is beautiful and interesting. Back in his own bedroom, the dark now doesn’t seem scary anymore; it seems fascinating and mysterious. In the passage from Genesis, Joseph’s brothers cruelly sell him into slavery, and it seems like his life is at an end. But through miracles and opportunities from God, it isn’t. He could have been bitter, vengeful and angry toward his brothers, but he isn’t. Joseph sees something else in the terrible and scary circumstances of his life; he sees God’s presence and action throughout everything. Chris Hadfield and Joseph both saw something different in what had been terrible or scary and ultimately it changed their lives. We may not get to decide what happens to us, and we may live through terrible or scary things, but God is present in those circumstances with us, too.
Second Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
The Hard Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers
(Written for ages 5-8)
Comment: In Romans, the apostle Paul posits an argument that might be leveled against him, that God has rejected God’s people. In response, Paul argues that no, God’s people have not been rejected. In fact, the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable for God’s people. He then goes on to say that though things may look different, though there may have once been disobedience, with God there is always mercy, there are always God’s irrevocable gifts. With God, what seemes to have been lost is not. In The Hard Times Jar, Emma wants to save enough money to buy books of her own. She believes she’ll be able to do this because she and her family are migrant workers and she’ll be able to save her wages from working. But then her mother tells her that Emma will be going to school instead so she won’t be able to work and, therefore, won’t be able to save any money. But at school, Emma discovers that there is a library full of walls and walls of books. But instead of borrowing them at school, Emma takes some books, thinking no one will notice. Her mother discovers what she’s done and makes her admit it to her teacher. Emma is worried, afraid of what will happen, but her teacher is kind and forgiving and her mother, seeing how important books are to Emma, gives her some money to buy a book. It seemed like Emma might be rejected by her teacher, it seemed like she would never have what she wished for, but her teacher understood. The library was still available and she would have books of her own, too. Amazing as it is, like Emma, like it says in Romans, God has not rejected us, and even though we may be disobedient, God is merciful, and God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable through every season of our lives.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:21-28
A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems
(Written for ages 6-8 )
Comment: This is a difficult passage because Jesus seems so very unkind to a desperate woman. Other commentaries can provide insight into Jesus’ response, but one thing that is clear is that Jesus ultimately responds to the woman advocating for her child. In A Big Guy Took My Ball, Piggie tells Gerald that a big guy came and took her ball. Gerald is angry for his friend, and goes to stand up for her against this big guy and to get her ball back. When he does so, he finds that the big guy is a very big guy, a whale, in fact, but Gerald, though daunted, confronts him and advocates for Piggie and her ball. The big guy, it turns out, is sorry, and meant no harm, and the three animals end up playing together with the ball instead. One of our calls as disciples of Jesus Christ is to look out for each other and advocate for each other, just as the woman did for her daughter, just as Gerald did for Piggie, knowing that Jesus will respond to our cries.
Thanks to Sara Anne Berger, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Nachitoches, LA, for writing the Lectionary Links this week.