Sept. 27, 2020

Prayer of the Day

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Exodus 17:1-7

1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Psalm 78: 1-4, 12-16

1Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2I will open my mouth in a parable; I will declare the mysteries of ancient times—

3that which we have heard and known, and what our forebears have told us, we will not hide from their children. 4We will recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD, and the wonderful works God has done.

12God worked marvels in the sight of their ancestors, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan, 13splitting open the sea and letting them pass through; making the waters stand up like walls;

14leading them with a cloud by day, and all the night with a glow of fire; 15splitting the rocks in the wilderness and giving them drink as from the deep;

16bringing streams out of a rock, making them flow down like a river.

Philippians 2:1-13

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Matthew 21:23-32

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Every profession has its own medium. Farmers have crops and livestock.   Engineers have mathematical equations. Teachers have the minds and emotions of children and teenagers. Carpenters have wood. Worship planners have poetry. As we have become better equipped to tell our faith stories the past few years through workshops and training and practice, I have become so aware of the power of language and words. I am ever thankful for the language in Scripture and the language in our liturgy.

What of the music?  Yes, the music adds texture.  But the music, both in the liturgy and in the hymns we sing, is secondary to the words, the phrases, the poetry.  What is liturgy?  It literally means “work of the people.”  It is the work of the people put together in a certain order–an order that has been passed down from the early church.  The poetry of the liturgy and hymns is our medium as worshipers.   It instructs our week. As we learn more and more about the dangers of singing, I am thankful that we can still have music and we can still have poetry in this new season. When worship ends, we are called to our words into action.

Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees a parable about a man who had two sons.  He sent the older son to work in his vineyard, but the son refused to go, then later changed his mind and headed for the fields.  Not knowing this, the father sent his second son to do the work his older brother had refused to do.  This son said he would go, but then changed his mind and never set foot in the fields.  “Which son did the will of the Father?” Jesus asked.  Which of the two boys obeyed?

The chief priests and the scribes knew the answer to the question–it was the son who headed for the fields.  But Jesus interpreted his own parable for them.  He told them that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter the kingdom before they did.  Why?  Because as religious leaders, the priests and scribes were known for their words, but were short on deeds. Jesus says that the tax collectors and harlots who believed John the Baptist repented of their sins and underwent baptism.

Jesus’ parable of the two brothers points out that we answer yes and no with our actions as well as with words. We can say yes with our mouths, but live a no, as the one brother did. A person might say no, but in the end discover that she has lived a yes, as the other brother did.

The chief priests and scribes wanted to use words as a way to trap Jesus with embarrassing questions. Jesus can play that word game, too. But Jesus does more than speak with authority; he lives it! He places his entire life behind his words. He walked the path of obedience to a cross and through an open tomb. His yes and no can be poured into a chalice, broken as bread, authenticated in a cross and empty tomb.

Accompanying our gospel text from Matthew is a beautiful text from Philippians—seriously, read the text again. It is often referred to as “The Christ Hymn,” supposing that the Apostle Paul is quoting at least in part a very early hymn from the worship of the church. It ends with these verses:

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

What does it look like to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling?”   As one pastor says, “it means going about our everyday tasks and duties with the conviction that the gospel is true—that is, that love is stronger than hate, that life is stronger than death, and that God’s promised future is bigger and better than either the past we’ve created or the future we deserve.  And because the gospel is true, we are free to regard others, treat others, and care for others as Christ did.”

We are loved so much—so much that Jesus came and lived as a human being—flesh and bone—experiencing all that we experience. Hearing this, knowing this, how is it possible, Paul wonders, that we would not regard others in the same way—brothers and sisters deserving our love. What’s more, he writes, “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.”

Every Sunday we hear echoes of the “Christ Hymn” in our own worship service.  We begin every service with the Confession and Forgiveness. Our Confession ends with us asking God to “renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.” How will we live renewed?  How will we walk in God’s ways?

In the Kyrie, we pray for the peace of the whole world.  How will we bring peace to our small corners of the world–in communities, in the workplace, in the home, in the schools?

When we confess our faith in the words of the Creed, we say we believe in one God?  How will we put our trust only in God and not in something society tells us to worship like power or wealth?

Every week we pray the Lord’s Prayer together.  This prayer alone can inform our whole lives.  We pray that we will keep God’s name holy.  We will be ready for opportunities when we can bring God’s kingdom into the here and now.  We will forgive one another.

We read the Psalm responsively nearly every Sunday. I do not know about you, but for me the poetry of the Psalms has been especially helpful/comforting/relatable (I am not sure what word best describes it) during the pandemic. I am not necessarily ready for prose or narrative. The language of the prose frees my soul and imagination and connects me to the thousands of people who have prayed to God using these same psalms or songs. They are our most ancient songs. The psalms are filled with action words like worship, trust, turn again, endures.

We have a treasure of hymns written more recently, and the words found in them also give us guidance for our living. In our hymn of the day today we will plead, “As you, Lord, in deep compassion healed the sick and freed the soul, by your Spirit send your power to our world to make it whole.” That phrase reminds us that when we try to walk the talk, when we attempt for our actions to match our words, we are never alone. The Holy Spirit moves through our actions. God truly is at work—redeeming our world, equipping you and me both to will and word for God’s good pleasure.

Prayers of Intercession – Adopted from Sundays and Seasons by Mary Braudrick

Drawn together in the compassion of God, we pray for the church, the world, and all those in need. 

Gracious God, In all the world, give your church unity. Inspire all the baptized, everywhere, with the grace-filled mind of Christ. Where the church is powerful and where it struggles, shape us with humility and obedience so that your love may be at work in us. Lord in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER

Creator God, Your Son took on all bodily life in our world, even to death. Preserve and keep your perfect creation, O God. Mend and redeem places that are polluted and damaged, so that all of creation confesses you as Lord. Empower us each to do our part to protect our precious, unique environment. Lord in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER

Loving Holy Spirit, Turn all the nations toward life. Where our ways are unfair, give us clear vision, new hearts and new spirits. Where sin permeates our cultures and institutions, change and enlighten our minds and teach us to trust your authority. Lord in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER 

Our lives are yours, O God of healing. Relieve the suffering of those who are ill in body, mind or spirit. Bring light to those who are dealing with the very real darkness of depression in these difficult days of pandemic, fires and floods. May they reach out for help, but also look to BE helpers, as that can bring light, too. Defend the lives and welfare of children who are abused or neglected, hungry or exploited, bullied or lonely. Lord in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER 

O God our helper, Turn this congregation away from our self interests toward the interests of others. Fill us with your compassion and sympathy. Bless ministries of care in our community, especially through Trinity Gardens, the residents of New Hope Housing and our connections to the children of West Middle School. Make us into signs of your mercy and justice for our neighbors. Lord in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER

Giver of Grace, Thank you for those who have gone into the kingdom ahead of us: tax collectors, prostitutes, the likely and the unlikely, obedient and slow to learn, faithful and not. By their witness, teach us to confess Jesus Christ as Lord in this life and in our death. Lord in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER 

All these things, and whatever else you see that we need now, or will need, We entrust to your mercy; Through Christ our Lord. AMEN

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