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Year A, Ordinary 14, 2017 – Faithful

July 4, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Hey everyone! Have you ever needed to make a long trip with an uncertain outcome at the end of it? Have you ever struggled to break a bad habit? Have you ever given up in weariness and frustration? Have we got a show for you! In Genesis, Abraham’s servant makes a long distance trip back to Abraham’s hometown to find a wife for Isaac. By the time he reaches his destination, he has a plan but it will only work if God is faithful. In Romans, Paul touches on the universal struggle to do the right thing even though our reflexes and impulses have the upper hand. The only way to break through the hopelessness of failure is to rely on God’s faithful deliverance through Jesus. And in Matthew, Jesus, frustrated with misunderstandings and mistrust, reveals himself to be faithful and the one to lighten burdens and partner up with us in our living. The only thing we need to do is trust him. So, drop what you’re doing and call now! This is not a limited one time offer and no special rates apply. 


This week’s texts are: 

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 [01:59] 

David and I despaired about whether there was anything to mine in this straightforward narrative for illustrations and special effects. It turns out, there is a more than we initially thought. For example, the entire text is rich in WORD smart; you could tell this story as a reader’s theater or even as a family history. Gather your readers/actors and present the story as a drama or gather your young’uns around you up front and tell the story as if you were sitting around a fireplace. The reader’s theater doubles as EYE smart, and if you choose not to do it, don’t fear! You could break out the maps and show the distance the servant travelled or show a painting of Isaac praying in the field as the servant returns with his bride, Rebekah. BODY smart also has some overtones of NATURE and PEOPLE smart, since the well in the city is an important place to gather, get water, and is where the servant makes plans with God to see the mission through to its successful conclusion. Plus, how strong must Rebekah have been to water all those camels with just a water jar? Impressive.

  • Smarts – Word – [04:23], Eye – [06:25], Body – [09:09]
  • Genesis 24 worksheet   
  • Links in Genesis   
    • WORD smart –
    • EYE smart –
      • The Telegraph, an article about a pilgrim trail tracing Abraham’s journey
      • a map showing the distance between Hebron and Haran 
      • a painting of Isaac praying in the field
    • BODY smart –


Romans 7:13-25 [11:33] 

We are still traveling through Paul’s letter to the Romans as he argues the case for Jesus Christ. This week, he continues to correct misunderstandings about the nature of sin and grace. Here, he addresses the pervasive and invasive nature of sin as something that we might say is at a molecular level in all of humanity. It seems to be connected to the subconscious reflexive part of the brain (See SELF smart) and makes us act in ways we think we did not intend to (unless you are Captain Kirk and then you meant to do that.) (See MATH smart) How might you present this dilemma to your congregation? Would you believe you could use a commercial for IBS? No? Take a look at EYE smart, then!

  • Smarts – Eye – [13:40], Math – [15:21], Body – [18:22], Self – [20:37]
  • Romans 7 worksheet
  • Links in Romans   
    • EYE smart –
      • That​ irritating commercialabout irritable bowel syndrome works well as an illustration. Also can be used in BODY smart
    • MATH smart –
      • commentary by William Loader    
      • Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (warning: clicking a link to Pinterest may suck time out of your life)
      • A video of “NO!” turning into a game
      • More struggles with “NO!”
    • SELF smart – See this ​parallel rendering of Romans 7 in biblical and psychological language


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 [23:29] 

Previously in Matthew, Jesus has sent the twelve out in his name to heal and proclaim. Here in chapter 11, we are beginning to see the clear effect of this ministry. People are confused and not willing to trust what they see. *(Jesus responds to that mistrust in the section the Lectionary leaves out, but we have some ideas if you choose to keep it in. See the bottom of the notes for several ideas.) Even though there is some good PEOPLE smart material in this mistrust, we decided to look at it in terms of MUSIC smart. This is not so unusual considering some of the biggest fights in churches happen over music preferences. Be careful not to re-open old wounds if you choose to use this intelligence! Jesus’ promise of an easy yoke that fits prompted a lot of ideas for BODY smart, and we have some truly intriguing thoughts from Taizé to ponder in SELF smart.

  • Smarts – Body [25:40], Music [28:34], Self [30:14]
  • Matthew 11 worksheet
  • Links in Matthew   
    • BODY smart –
      • Ever thought of pulling a plow? Here is a helpful discussion about good ways to do it.
      • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has some guidelines for safe lifting and pulling
      • Health care workers have tips, too
      • A video to help you do the Special Effect
      • and another if you just want to do some weight training!
    • SELF smart – commentary from Taize



*Notes on non-lectionary section of this reading:

If you choose to preach on the “woe” passage, we had a thought or two about how you might use the intelligences in those verses. The Jewish cities of Corazin, Bethdsaida, and Capernaum should​ have recognized Jesus’ ministry and identity as Messiah but they did not. It could have been they did not trust him; who could blame them when he did not fit their ideal of what Messiah would look like or do?  The people who could not or would not trust Jesus became infected with a poison that permeated everything and rippled outward to affect the lives of others in the cities who might have been able to trust if they had been given the chance. Jesus gives three Gentile, hedonistic cities known to the audience of his day a kinder, gentler word than these three Jewish cities.

Hedonism and living for the day have their own harmful effects but they may be focused simply on the person indulging in them; mistrust seeps outward and infects the atmosphere, poisoning everyone. So, you could illustrate and / or demonstrate this idea in the following ways:

Logic Smart – recognize the social and psychological effects of extreme division; illustrate it with recent political campaigns (also EYE smart – show slogans, signs, and video. Be careful to set it up as an illustration, not an endorsement.)

Body Smart – recognize the effect of toxic doubt/mistrust in your own body as it relates to stress, anger, resentment, and other harmful behaviors. Bring in charts to illustrate how long term exposure to stress, etc., affects the body’s systems and overall health. Interview a medical professional. Have tips on how to reduce this stress, emphasizing prayer/meditation.

Nature Smart – the effects of dumping toxins in the air, soil, and water are illustrations from the natural world. Know anyone who works for the Environmental Protection Agency or has done clean up work at spill sites? Invite them to share their insights.

People Smart – the effects of being around cynical/toxic people can be harmful to you. Break into groups and discuss how negativity makes you feel and how it affects the Body of Christ. Is the Body ill because of this toxin? How would you go about healing the Body? 

Self Smart – recognizing that an inability to trust hurts more than just you. Make a list of people you find difficult to trust and why. Imagine taking this yoke of mistrust to Jesus. What does he do with it as he is fitting you with a new yoke? 


Image credit: Eruption of Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.

Copyright: lorcel / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


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