Prayer of the Day
O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen (ELW)
1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
1How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4lest my enemy say, “I have defeated you,” and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6I will sing to the Lord, who has dealt with me richly.
40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Sermon – Pastor Meggan
When Edith and I talked about which day her grandchildren would be baptized, looking to see if the scripture was appropriate was not the first thing I thought of. And yet, this morning’s gospel text, short as it is, speaks a word of promise and welcome for the newly baptized.
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Jesus is placing his hearers not in the place of the ones offering the welcome. He is placing them, and us, including you four baptized today, in the place of the ones receiving the welcome. He says in effect, “Whoever welcomes you all welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the Father who sent me.” This text is a promise.
Whenever we witness a baptism, it is an invitation to recall our own baptisms and our own baptismal identity. Through the waters of baptism, we are welcomed into the Body of Christ and invited into a new way of living. To switch metaphors, we are grafted to Christ through holy baptism, marked with the cross of Christ forever, commissioned to follow Jesus daily.
Our three verses from Matthew’s gospel today come at the end of a long discourse by Jesus. All of Matthew chapter 10 is Jesus sending out the Twelve Apostles in mission. Sometimes this chapter is called the “missionary discourse.” Jesus offers words of guidance, warning, and promise about the disciples’ mission.
Here’s a summary: These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions (5). If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town (14). See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves (16). So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered (26). Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me (34). Whoever welcomes you welcomes me (40).
In other words, Jesus is sending them into a dangerous world as part of his mission to love, save, bless and be reconciled to that world. But the disciples will find welcome. Those who welcome them also welcome and receive Jesus.
This morning we recognize that your four baptisms are like all other baptisms, traced back throughout the history of the Christian church. The same Triune God was named today as was in the early church. Water was used then as it was today. The journey of discipleship began for you four as it has for so many others.
We also recognize that this is a unique time. The Body of Christ to which you belong has gone through many transformations throughout history. I think we are currently undergoing yet one more. If congregational leaders were being encouraged to get out of their buildings and encounter people in society in 2019, then COVID-19 made us leave the buildings at a rapid pace, at least temporarily.
What can learn in this time and space? What happens when we listen and look at Jesus’ teaching and example in light of our current context? Jesus never invited people to the synagogue or temple. Nor did he instruct his disciples to give such invitations. Instead he met people in their homes, in the public square, at banquets. Rarely did he even tell stories or parables which were set in synagogues or temples.
I am not suggesting that we get rid of our church building or quit inviting people into this space for worship, or Al-anon meetings, celebrations, or learning opportunities. One thing I have always appreciated about Trinity is how we think about our building. We appreciate its functionality, but rarely do I hear it idolized. It is never the thing we worship; it is simply one of our tools for worshiping God. It is this resource for which we are caretakers and it is a resource not to be hoarded, but one to be shared, with all sorts of groups. Our perspective on this space is one of the reasons leaving the building was hard but not devastating.
We have our own local context, and yet we are part of a larger body of mainline Christians. And this church, particularly those congregations that are predominantly white, in in the United States, are used to being in positions of power. Most of our ancestors may have come to this country as immigrants, but they were not the marginalized for very long. And most of us were taught in school that we can trace our individual histories back to the people who settled this country. But settled is actually a polite word for colonize.
Why is it, I wonder, that I critique the colonizers and missionaries who pillaged Africa, Asia, and Latin America but I forget that those stars in our flag were colonies and that this whole country was colonized. Land was taken from countless Native Americans, including the Shoshone, Bannock, Paiute, and Nez Pearce here in Idaho. The church and state worked hand-in-hand to set up schools where kids were taken from their families. Everything connecting them to their culture was stripped.
The church, instead of walking alongside people and learning what all of God’s children had to share in our reign of God work, said it knew all that was true. Instead of waiting to be welcomed, the institutional church and its members claimed power and control, and frankly abused them both. We may not have been there, but all of this is part of our larger history.
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me.” As one pastor put it, “Jesus’ words make me realize that I have a privilege his early disciples did not have. I have power. I have the power to welcome others—or to turn my back. This is true not just in my church, but in my community and country, where we cannot decide whether we are going to receive refugees or not. I think that Jesus’ words here apply to those refugees more than they apply to me. I don’t need to be welcomed like they do.”
She continues, “Jesus never meant us to be powerful. Jesus never meant us to hold all of the cards—just this one card, this ace in the hole. We are to go out without weapons but with hands that heal like Jesus’ hands, with words that cut and cure like his. That’s it.”
Here is something true, we do not have to wield power like the church has in the past. Through water and the word, we are freed of sin, freed to follow Jesus’ way of love and vulnerability. This way of life is not dependent on buildings or even the institutional church. Thanks be to God. It is not about us having all the answers and control.
This new way of life is dependent on the Holy Spirit showing up where people gather (both online and in-person). Jesus gives no clear script to the disciples during his missional discourse. I think that as we encounter people who are not members of our congregation, as we await a welcome, our job is primarily to listen. We might be so bold as to ask, “How can I pray for you?” We might ask, “What is weighing on your heart or mind today?” We do not have to fix things. We do not have to hold all the truths. We could let go of the church’s tendency to wield power and control. We could simply listen.
And if we seem to be welcomed, we might remember that following Jesus is also dependent on telling our particular story—a story of a God who created the universe and is still creating. We have had some amazing sunsets in Nampa this past week. I think it’s worth knowing the story of the God who ends each day with those beautiful colors.
It is a story of one who is redeeming our broken world, who knows what it is like to walk around as a human being because that’s what Jesus did. Can we tell a story of God bringing about spiritual, physical, emotional wholeness in our personal or communal lives?
It is a story of the Holy Spirit, still moving among us, giving us life and hope for each new day. Are you living a story that bears any hope? Finally, it is a story about God at work in each one of us and in the strangers we have not yet encountered.
I do not know exactly how the Holy Spirit is going to use this time, but I think there is something to learn during the displacement from our buildings and as we undertake the task of deciding what is essential. It may all take us back to the core of our faith. We are followers of Jesus, sent out to neighbors and strangers, telling the story of the God who loves the world.
Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)
Called into unity with one another and the whole creation, let us pray for our shared world.
A brief silence.
God of companionship, encourage our relationships with our siblings in Christ. Bless our conversations. Shape our shared future and give us hearts eager to join in a festal shout of praise. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of abundance, you make your creation thrive and grow to provide all that we need. Inspire us to care for our environment and be attuned to where the earth is crying out. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of mercy, your grace is poured out for all. Inspire authorities, judges, and politicians to act with compassion. Teach us to overcome fear with hope, meet hate with love, and welcome one another as we would welcome you. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of care, accompany all who are in deepest need. Comfort those who are sick, lonely, or abandoned (especially). Strengthen those who are in prison or awaiting trial. Renew the spirits of all who call upon you. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of community, we give thanks for this congregation. Give us passion to embrace your mission and the vision to recognize where you are leading us. Teach us how to live more faithfully with each other. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of love, you gather in your embrace all who have died (especially Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon). Keep us steadfast in our faith and renew our trust in your promise. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you for these thought-filled words, Pastor Meggan.