Proper 7A

June 15, 2020

The Proper 7A Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Matthew 10:24-39 from the Lectionary Gospel; Genesis 21:8-21 from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Romans 6:1b-11 from the Lectionary Epistle.

Related Reformed confession: Lectionary Epistle: Heidelberg Catechism: Q&A 88 (Lord’s Day 33)

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 10:24-39

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Genesis 21:8-21

    Author: Stan Mast

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

    Author: Scott Hoezee

    If this were a typical year, an ordinary summer season, probably not too many preachers would gravitate to the somewhat plaintive, somewhat brooding 69th Psalm.  In the Year A Lectionary for this particular year, this also falls on Father’s Day for those who observe this.  It’s getting to be summer, vacation season, a time for sweet corn, strawberries and BBQ picnics.  In a typical year, Psalm 69 would not be most people’s first choice.

    But to state the merely obvious: 2020 is not a typical year and this is not an ordinary summer season (even if in the church we are in the Season of Ordinary Time).  We are more in a Season of Extraordinary Time, a combination of an abiding pandemic of COVID-19 and a time of great civil unrest due to several racist killings this Spring, the most famous of which was the on-camera death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

    Thus, in the year we actually have and not the typical year we might wish we were having, maybe Psalm 69 strikes a chord after all.  Maybe this would be a good preaching text for June 21, 2020.  Maybe the plaintive notes of distress here capture what a lot of people are feeling.  Some feel trapped by racism, surrounded by the enemies of an unjust system, of cops gone bad, of even whole systems of healthcare delivery and access to resources that feel stacked against them.  There are most assuredly more ways than one to feel surrounded by foes the way this psalmist clearly felt.

    Others of us may feel trapped in systems of privilege we don’t want but that we know contribute to the suffering of our sisters and brothers of other ethnic groups or skin colors or races.  We are wounded by comments on social media that only confirm the worst stereotypes of, say, white people, and when we participate in marches or protests or do other things to agitate for a change we passionately believe in, we are made sport of by some (sometimes maybe even by fellow family members or coworkers or former friends).  It seems like for the poet of Psalm 69, the more pious he tried to be to atone for sin and beg God for change, the more some people poked fun of him.

    Oh yes, Psalm 69 may speak to this moment.  Perhaps it will be the wise preachers—but also the bold and the brave preachers in some places—who will proclaim how both this Psalm’s message of lament and fatigue fits our present moment but also how its call for justice to rain down from God fits this moment.  As usual the Revised Common Lectionary stops up short on this reading before we get to the less pleasant parts about wishing various forms of calamity to fall upon the psalmist’s enemies.

    And, of course, as people who now follow the Prince of Peace in the Person of Jesus Christ the crucified, we cannot wish for destruction of our enemies but rather for their forgiveness—by us and by God.  This psalm reading pairs with a reading from Matthew 10 and as this week’s sermon starter on that passage reminds us, disciples of Jesus may expect trouble in the world and scorn and persecution but that is no reason to abandon the Gospel’s core message of love, grace, and forgiveness.  We cannot witness to a Gospel whose very ethos we obscure in how we behave in our own lives.

    Still, we can cry for and call for justice.  We can expect God to do the right things in the long run, including on those fronts that right now have us sore distressed racially and in terms of other social disparities that the COVID-19 epidemic have laid even more bare than they were before.  It’s not just that we want to be personally delivered—and many Psalms of Lament sometimes give off such individualistic pleas for deliverance—but we want also systemic change, societal change, and yes, let’s confess it: we need reform in also the community of God’s people that just is the Church.

    In fact, that would be the place to begin our reflections on Psalm 69: with the fact that we have those who seem to oppose the Gospel not just “out there” in the big bad world but “in here” within the fellowship of believers where too often we also participate in and contribute to patterns of privilege that only perpetuate wider abuses against people whom we are supposed to regard as our sisters and brothers in Christ.  And maybe this fits with Psalm 69 too: after all, from the looks of things, the people who most mocked this poet’s attempts at piety were fellow Israelites, fellow citizens of Jerusalem perhaps who sat at the city gate, drinking and mocking all day long.

    At any given moment in the history of God’s people, we have all had work to do to follow God’s ways, to avoid the ways walked by the mockers and the revilers.  We all need divine deliverance for our own sinfulness but we also need to ask God to look down on this world and bring the justice and—through that—to bring the shalom for which God designed life in the first place.

    Psalm 69 may not feel terribly rosy at first glance.  It might seem like a bad fit for summer or Father’s Day or . . .  whatever.  But it fits quite well.  May we find the courage to proclaim both its message of condemnation for those who mock and its message of salvation for those who hope.

    Illustration Idea

    Sixteen times across the better part of 10 sickening minutes George Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe.”  Not surprisingly, his cry became the rallying cry of the protests against police brutality and a racist system just generally.  More, it became a metaphor for how many people of color feel all the time.  “We can’t breathe.”  The boot of the oppressor remains on the necks of too many people.

    The Lectionary begins its reading of Psalm 69 at verse 7 for some reason.  But I would like to suggest that it is the opening few verses that capture something that needs naming in this moment: for too many people, they can’t breathe.  They feel like the poet of Psalm 69:

    Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
    I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
    I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
    I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.


    We can’t breathe.  Save us, O God.

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    Romans 6:1b-11

    Author: Doug Bratt