GOD’S WORK, OUR HANDS – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 10, Year A; Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (RC)

July 16, 2023

Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 25:19-34 or Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 119:105-112 or Psalm 65:(1-8) 9-13
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm 64:10, 11, 12-13, 14 (Luke 8:8)
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-9 (10-23)

Early in their marriage, my mother learned not to send my father to the grocery store. Not only would he return with all kinds of things that weren’t on the list, but he would often fail to bring home one or more of the items that he had been sent to purchase.

Today’s reading from Isaiah declares that the word sent by God—unlike my father—returns only after accomplishing precisely what it was sent to do. God’s word is like the rain or snow that makes growth possible and sustains life on the earth before it completes its cycle of return to the atmosphere.

The prophet we hear from today, whom scholars refer to as Second Isaiah and whose writings are found in chapters 40-55, was addressing a people who were skeptical about God’s care for them after the bitter experience of exile. The entire chapter from which today’s passage is drawn invites God’s people to trust that the Holy One will bring about a new order in which this band of exiles will be restored and become a sign of divine faithfulness for all the nations. He proclaims a word of hope to people who had long known oppression and captivity.

As we look around the world today, we might well wonder if God’s word really makes a difference. How can we continue trusting, proclaiming, and living by God’s word of hope when each day brings news of wars, mass shootings, domestic violence, oppression, starvation, and other instances of human injustice and suffering?

Many among us have devoted ourselves to work in which success is often difficult or impossible to measure. Parents, teachers, social workers, counselors, medical professionals, foreign service officers, artists, musicians, pastors, and others may never know the true impact of their work. Like the sower in today’s Gospel reading, we cannot see below the surface of the ground to know what kind of soil we are planting in. Yet we continue to throw handfuls of seed, hoping that at least some will take root and grow.

Today’s scriptures invite us to trust that God will have the last and decisive word over suffering and injustice. God’s word can and will accomplish works beyond our wildest imaginings.
Our part is to sow the seeds of that word at every moment and in every situation, offering hope and encouragement to others through acts of kindness and service.

God’s work, our hands: We may never know the outcome or impact, but we can find joy participating in the work of the One who brings about a rich harvest. “[S]o shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).

A Hymn for Today: “God’s Work, Our Hands”

This text by Hymn Society member Wayne L. Wold was selected as the winner of a 2019 contest conducted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for a hymn to celebrate its annual “God’s Word, Our Hands” Sunday. Each September the ELCA designates a Sunday to celebrate “one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor.” It is a day to remember that “every act of service, in every daily calling, in every corner of life – flows freely from a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”

Wold’s text is set to David N. Johnson’s vibrant tune, EARTH AND ALL STARS. Listen here as organist and Hymn Society member John Weit leads robust congregational singing of this hymn.

God’s work, our hands: working together,
building a future, repairing the world,
raising up homes, planting new gardens,
feeding the hungry and shelt’ring the cold.
Bless, God, our hands as we work in your name,
sharing the good news of your Gospel.

God’s work, our feet: trav’ling together,
following Jesus to places unknown,
walking as friends, marching for freedom,
running the race with God’s future the goal.
Bless, God, our feet as we follow your way,
sharing the good news of your Gospel.

God’s work, our voice: singing together,
praising, proclaiming to all who will hear,
praying for peace, shouting for justice,
claiming God’s love for the lost and the least.
Bless, God, our voice as we speak in your name,
sharing the good news of your Gospel.

God is at work in and around us:
seedlings are sprouting and bread’s on the rise!
Washed and set free, humbled and honored,
gifted by grace, we respond in God’s love.
Bless, God, our lives as we answer your call,
sharing the good news of your Gospel.

Text: Wayne L. Wold, b. 1954. © 2019, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857

Image credit: Sower at sunset, Vincent van Gogh, 1888

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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