Jocelyn Breeland, Sunnyvale, CA

Warm-up Question

What is your congregation or community doing to help the poor?

Priority of the Poor

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) launched the Poor People’s Campaign, a multiracial effort to address the causes of poverty in America and achieve economic justice. Dr. King was in Memphis, Tennessee to support the sanitation workers strike – a major element of the campaign – when he was assassinated in April of that year.

The campaign continued after his death, advocating an Economic Bill of Rights, eventually erecting Resurrection City, a shantytown where thousands of people lived on the National Mall in Washington, DC while demanding economic justice. Resurrection City lasted six weeks. The campaign did not achieve adoption of the Economic Bill of Rights, but did result in some lesser victories such as additional funds for free and reduced school lunch programs and Head Start.

Fifty years later, Rev. William J. Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis have launched a new nationwide effort called The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. (You can learn more by visiting their website here.) The new campaign’s website calls out the “distorted moral narrative” that perpetuates systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and militarism.

Earlier this year, the campaign held rallies and organized groups of supporters in communities across the country, believing that many of the solutions can be achieved locally. More recently, the campaign has added a focus on voter registration. The founders are committed to non-violent action to finally achieve Dr. King’s vision. Like the original, this new campaign is a multi-faith, multi-racial effort.

Discussion Questions

  • King, Barber and Theoharis are all ministers. Do you believe it is appropriate for religious leaders to engage in local and national politics?
  • What does your faith suggest can or should be done to end poverty and economic injustice?
  • Our nation’s leaders have historically been overwhelmingly Christian. According to the Pew Research Center, more members of the current Congress consider themselves Christian (91%) than do American’s as a whole (71% of US adults). Serving the poor is such an important part of Jesus’ ministry, why do you think it is so difficult for Christians to make more progress on alleviating poverty?
  • Can Christians disagree about how to solve the problems of the poor and still remain faithful?

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The disciples were surely special people. They were chosen with care to provide important support to Jesus’ ministry, and were essential to spreading the gospel after his ascension. Today’s scripture suggests that, at times, they are a little too impressed by just how special they are. In verses 33-37, the disciples confess they’ve been discussing who among them is the greatest.

Jesus calls the disciples to focus on what’s really important – doing the Lord’s work. And he reminds them that others, even some unlikely individuals, have a part in God’s plan. Casting out demons in Jesus’ name will be rewarded, even if you’re not a follower.

He also warns that even followers can commit errors that cause them and others – like children – to go astray. But it’s not just children who can stumble, and Jesus goes on to encourage the disciples to be ruthless in rooting out anything in their own lives that might distract them from fulfilling God’s purpose.

The language is harsh, but it’s balanced by a message of comfort. Because it’s clear that a necessary part of doing the Lord’s work is caring for his people (v. 41), it is a particular joy to be part of a Christian community where we are blessed to offer and receive support and comfort in Jesus’ name.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some modern equivalents of those who cast out demons in Jesus’ name, but are not followers?
  • If even those who do not follow Jesus will receive their reward, what is the value of belonging to the community of followers? Are we special?
  • Hand. Foot. Eye. Why do you think Jesus chose these particular body parts?
  • What does Jesus’ caution mean to you? What are some of the ways a hand, foot, eye – or something else – might cause you to fall?

Activity Suggestions

Today’s Gospel is a warning about the ways our bodies, and other parts of our lives, can distract us from God’s plan and lead us astray. Now, though, focus on ways these same things can be part of serving our divine purpose:

  • List a hand, foot and eye in your life and, for each, list a way you can use it to act on your faith in the next week.
  • Share this list with the group.
  • Next week, begin your time together by sharing the results of putting these plans into action.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank you every day for this community of faith. Help us always to share your love with each other, and as important, with those outside our community. Deliver us from evil, Lord, and make us ever diligent so that our hands, feet and eyes do not lead us astray, but are instruments we use to serve you. We delight to do you will; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.