13th Sunday after Pentecost
Year C: September 8, 2019
First Reading: Jeremiah 18-1:11
Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox
(Written for ages 4 -7)
Comment: This passage from Jeremiah contains the very familiar imagery of God as potter (verses 1-6), continually shaping us, using our strengths and weaknesses, to create and recreate us into the people God wants us to be. But it also followed by the jarring verses of 7-11 where God’s anger at the Israelites is such that God is ‘planning a disaster’ for them. God’s anger at the Israelites’ failure to be the people God wants them to be is there along with God’s love and continual work to fashion and redeem God’s people. Young Harriet taxes her mother’s patience when she dribbles jam all over her jeans, drips paint on the carpet, pulls the tablecloth – along with dishes – to the ground. In every instance where Harriet has created something of a disaster, the mother doesn’t yell, but refers to Harriet as “my darling child’ while adding a series of escalating statements….”you’ll drive me wild…what are we to do?…..I’m talking to you!” Finally, her exasperated mother loses her patience. The frustration and anger are real, but so is the love, as she and Harriet apologize to each other and work together to clean up the latest mess. God’s anger over the ways we fail to follow God’s commands, and God’s continued efforts to love us and form us as God’s own are both a part of this passage.
Second Reading: Philemon 1:1-21
Restart by Gordon Korman
(Written for ages 8-12)
Comment: Paul’s very personal letter to Philemon reflects his deep love for both Philemon and Onesimus. And although we don’t have a lot of information about the situation here, it appears that Philemon and Onesimus have been in a relationship in which there was both an imbalance of power and they are estranged. Paul asks Philemon to set aside the relationship of owner to slave, to overcome the anger or hurt in the estrangement, and transform that relationship into one that welcomes Onesimus back into his life and community as “a beloved brother”. Chase Ambrose has amnesia, caused by a fall off of his roof. He remembers nothing about his former life, but when he returns to his middle school, he begins to learn who he was. He was a bully. A star athlete who feasted on his own sense of superiority to other students, he was both feared and hated. In his newly forgetful state, he begins acting with kindness and interest to those he had previously bullied. As he learns more and experiences more, he is aware of the chasm between who he was and who he wants to be. By the end of the book, almost every relationship Chase had has been transformed from one of power and fear, to one that recognizes and contributes to the school community. Wonder with your congregation how Christ’s call to transform our relationships into those that reflect Christ’s love can happen in our lives.
Gospel Reading: Luke 14:25-33
Fred Stays With Me! by Nancy Coffelt
(Written for ages 5-6)
Comment: Jesus speaks strong words in this passage. Hate your family, hate your life, give up all your possessions in order to be a disciple – those are hard things for adults to hear, much less children. But at the heart of Jesus’ words is a question about ultimate loyalty and allegiance. Will our loyalty to Christ and his call to follow a way of life that may be difficult be stronger than our allegiance to our own comfort, our carefully planned lives, those things and people we love? A young girl alternates her time between her divorced parents. Fred, her dog, is her constant companion, but he isn’t an easy companion for her parents. Her mother complains about Fred shaking water on her floors and barking constantly at the neighbor’s dog. Her father is exasperated by Fred hiding his socks. Their frustration level grows until they each say, “Fred cannot stay with me!” “Excuse me,” says the child, “Fred doesn’t stay with you. Fred stays with me!” In the face of her parents’ frustrations and demands, the child’s loyalty and allegiance to Fred who offers her so much in her life takes precedence and leads to both parents and Fred creating new opportunities to live together happily. Wonder together how being loyal to Jesus and his teachings might be difficult sometimes.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this year are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Ann Thomas Knox. Ann recently retired as the Director of the Instructional Resource Center at the Union Presbyterian Seminary Library on the Richmond campus, and has been the administrator for Storypath for more than ten years.