Liturgy of the Word for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, October 18, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: “The peace may be exchanged” from Rubrics by Dan Locklair (b. 1949), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Episcopal Office for Government Relations resources to meet the challenges of the election time.

The Introit: “Vere passum” by Josquin des Prez (c1455-1521), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 686 “Come, thou fount of every blessing” (vv. 1, 3), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Come, thou fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace!
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! O fix me on it,
mount of God's unchanging love.

3 Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee;
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, oh, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 273, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 33:12-23, read by Pat Nolan

Psalm 99, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God, who is the Holy One.

1 The LORD is King; let the people tremble;
    he is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake.
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
    he is high above all peoples.
3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;
    he is the Holy One.

Antiphon

4 "O mighty King, lover of justice, you have established
  equity;
    you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob."
5 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God and fall down 
  before his footstool;
    he is the Holy One.

Antiphon

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among those 
  who call upon his Name,
    they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave 
    them.

Antiphon

8 "O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;
    you were a God who forgave them, yet punished them for 
    their evil deeds."
9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God and worship him 
  upon his holy hill;
    for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, read by Jennifer Kiddie

Hymn 377 “All people that on earth do dwell” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell,
come ye before him and rejoice.

The Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 377 (v. 5)

5 To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the God whom heaven and earth adore,
from men and from the angel host
be praise and glory evermore.

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
        and has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “There Is a Balm in Gilead” (trad., arr. Clayton White), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work's in vain
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again

Don't ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend
And if you lack of knowledge
He'll ne'er refuse to lend

If you cannot preach like Peter
If you cannot pray like Paul
You can tell the love of Jesus
And say, "He died for all".

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 665, “All my hope on God is founded” (vv. 1, 5), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew,
me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown, he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

5 Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ, his Son.
Christ doth call one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Processional March by Samuel Whitney (1842-1914), Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

True allegiance: a matter of the heart or the wallet?

I hate talking about money and you hate hearing me talk about money – esp. in the sermon slot. But let me say two things and then get on with the task in hand.

The first is to say thank you. The good news is that we are within 10% of our achieving our capital campaign target. The mixed news is that 50% of our membership has yet to participate. Just imagine our sense of achievement if we can reach 100% of membership participation.

Spiritually and emotionally, each of us needs to know we have played our part. To those yet to make a gift, we need you to – not because we need the dollars – it looks like we will get these- but because we need your energy and enthusiasm as the real investment in our future. Remember any gift to Opening Our Doors to the Future – capital campaign can be spaced over three years beginning with 2020.

Secondly, today I am announcing the beginning of the five-week annual renewal campaign which focuses each year on recommitting the stewardship resources that will take us through a new church year in 2021. You all know how this works, so I need say no more other than to remind you to look out in the mail for the annual renewal letter and estimate of giving card from the Senior Warden and Treasurer. Both the annual renewal and the active phase of the capital campaign will end on Ingathering Sunday November 22nd – the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Advent Sunday.

So as promised – to the task in hand.

There is a change in tone and feel as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. Fresh from the hopes and excitement of his teaching ministry in Galilee – the mood becomes increasingly confrontational. Jesus’ focus becomes one of avoiding the traps that are being set for him.

images-1

In the atmosphere of religious and political extremes that characterized Jerusalem under the yoke of Roman occupation, there is small wiggle room between blasphemy on the one side, and treason on the other.

In 2020, we are all too familiar with the spectacle of unholy alliances. It’s into the double-bind space of such an unholy alliance that Jesus walks. The unholy alliance Jesus faces is between the Herodian and Pharisee factions. The Herodians were the secular beautiful people; the designer clothes wearing, Jewish jet set; the royalist and collaborationist party. The Pharisees, were the strict, but also interestingly enough, the progressive religious party.

We find the improbable scene of these two antagonistic factions teaming up in a very, very, unholy alliance in order to pose for Jesus the question: is it lawful to pay the poll tax (a flat-rate personal tax) to Rome? 

If Jesus answers yes, he commits blasphemy – for Caesar’s coin bore the inscription son of god. If his answer is no, he commits treason – denying the lawful authority of Rome. Talk about little wiggle room!

How is Jesus to answer them? It’s dangerous to answer yes or no. Yet, so too is any attempt to offer a middle way answer.  As we know only too well from contemporary American political debate, when an atmosphere of fear and mutual contempt characterizes a separation of competing political and religious world views, a moderate view pleases no-one.

With the dexterity of a modern politician Jesus confronts the question by asking a question. He asks his interlocutors: whose, head is on the coin?  It’s they who are now in the jaws of a trap. Jesus’ next move is to state that some things are owed to civil authority and some things are owed to God. It appears simple, honor your obligation to each and don’t get them mixed up.

Jesus’ answer silences his opponents, but we are still left with the unanswered question: what does he really mean?

The health of the American body politic rests upon several neat separations, one of which – the separation of Church and State is connected with today’s Gospel reading. It’s complicated to follow Jesus inference here. Although some of us resent the right of the government to levy taxes, few of us refuse to pay them -we are less clear as to what: render unto God the things of God, means.

Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Great Seal of the United States are all in agreement. Each affirms the truth of the motto on the Great Seal: In God We Trust. It’s an interesting aside to note that from 1782 until 1956 the motto on the Great Seal was : E Pluaribus Unam -out of many, one. In 1957 it was changed to: In God We Trust. It is interesting to speculate on the reason for the change. Maybe it’s time to revert to the earlier tag – but best not go there at the moment.

In other words, while there is a constitutional distinction to be made between Church and State – incidentally, now much under attack – how are we to negotiate between our allegiance to God and duty to civil authority? Here, as in most areas of our lives we play a subtle game of selective cognizance.

There’s a nice story told about the Christian conversion of the Gauls. When the Christian missionaries submerged the Celtic warrior beneath the waters of baptism – he raised his right arm up so that his sword arm and hand remained above the water.  The intent here was clear. The warrior was saying: 

while my heart and soul now belong to Jesus, I reserve my sword arm - at least for the time being - to do with it as I so choose - i.e. to kill and maim.

Whatever the historical veracity of this story – it perfectly captures a common view today. While we may belong to Christ in baptism our money is ours.

That is to say – God can have our hearts and souls but not our wallets.

The heart of this Gospel encounter is not concerned with creating a clean separation between civil and religious authority. The central issue concerns allegiance and ownership. To whom, or to what do we owe allegiance? Over which aspects of our life do we have a right to exercise ownership?

The way we choose to answer these questions reveals the kind of persons we long to be, as well as the kind of community we envision ourselves belonging to?

This is an interesting Gospel for the Sunday that signals the beginning of the ARC for 2021. Several questions occur at this point:

1. The main question is not how much do we need to give to meet next year’s budget? The question before us is to whom do we owe allegiance for everything that is good in our lives?
2. Do we view the use of money in relation to our primary allegiance to God or is money - in effect - our Celtic warrior’s sword arm?
3. Do we think our financial health and security are the fruit of our own achievement, or the grace-filled gift from God?

Jesus’ confrontation with the Herodians and Pharisees challenges our comfortable assumption that our money is the product of our own skillfulness, our own good luck, or from a place of assumed privilege -our ability to command a nice financial reward?

Jesus challenges us to think about our primary allegiances. He also invites us to encounter gratitude as our primary response to God for the good things we have been given to enjoy.

Today, I invite us to enter into an intentional conversation about gratitude and generosity. We might begin our conversation with a recognition of our debt of gratitude to God. Drilling down to the next layer, I invite us to specifically reflect on three further questions:

1. Who are the persons who fill our lives with a joy - who bring us to our knees, overwhelmed by a deep thankfulness to God?
2. How has the generosity of God's providence manifested in our lives - often against all the odds - that brings us to our knees in thankfulness for the reckless generosity of God?
3. Can we go and do likewise, can we risk sharing our experience of gratitude by living lives of reckless generosity?

Jesus answers his opponents by implicating them in the tensions they seek to entrap him within. He does not say that it is easy living in the tension between the things of Caesar, and the things of God. He simply warns us about the competing powers and influences vying to sway us – to capture our hearts – ultimately to own us? 

When we are silent or that good old Episcopalian word, private about the primacy of our allegiance to God, we render ourselves vulnerable. Under the blasphemous illusion of owning ourselves, we become vulnerable to being owned by competing worldly allegiances – over which we really do have no control.

Jesus’ interlocutors in today’s Gospel go away amazed. Where our heart is, so there will be our treasure. Who knows, maybe we too can become amazed by what we begin to glimpse ourselves being capable of?


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, October 11, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Berceuse from 24 pièces, Op. 31, by Louis Vierne (1870-1927), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

As mentioned in my welcome here is the link to Episcopal Office for Government Relations resources to meet the challenges of the election time.

The Introit: “Forgive our sins as we forgive” (Hymn 674), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 309 “O Food to pilgrims given” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O food to pilgrims given,
O bread of life from heaven,
O manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
nor thy delights deny us,
whose hearts to thee draw nigh.

3 O Jesus, by thee bidden,
we here adore thee, hidden
in forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is risen,
we may behold, in heaven,
thy countenance divine.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 279, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 32:1-14, read by David Blake

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: Declare the mighty acts of God our Savior.

1 Hallelujah!
   Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
    for his mercy endures for ever.
2 Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD
    or show forth all his praise?
3 Happy are those who act with justice
    and always do what is right!
4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor 
   you have for your people,
    and visit me with your saving help;
5 That I may see the prosperity of your elect
   and be glad with the gladness of your people,
    that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 We have sinned as our forebears did;
    we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb
    and worshiped a molten image;
20 And so they exchanged their Glory
    for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.
21 They forgot God their Savior,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,
    and fearful things at the Red Sea.
23 So he would have destroyed them,
    had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, 
    to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9, read by Sammi Muther

Hymn 578 “O God of love, O King of peace” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O God of love, O King of peace,
make wars throughout the world to cease;
the wrath of nations now restrain,
give peace, O God, give peace again!

The Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 578 (v. 3)

3 Whom shall we trust but thee, O Lord?
Where rest but on thy faithful word?
None ever called on thee in vain,
give peace, O God, give peace again!

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
        and has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “O for a Closer Walk with God” by Erik Routley (1917-1982), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 362, “Holy, holy, holy!” The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee:
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  “Carillon du Longpont” from 24 pièces, Op. 31, by L. Vierne, Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

Mutual Need

I wrote in the E-News this past week about truth and untruth. I began with Lewis Carroll’s wonderful exchange between Alice and the White Queen about the dynamics of believing in impossible things. As the White Queen tells Alice, believing in impossible things takes some practice. Let those with ears to hear ….

Exodus 32:1-14 recounts the story of the Golden Calf. This is for our society an emblematic story – so much so that the term golden calf has even entered into common speech -used to refer to an alluring temptation or distraction. But is it a true story?

The late and renowned Biblical scholar Marcus Borg noted that the Bible is full of true stories – some of which actually happened. He drew a distinction between truth rooted in historical events and truth as history metaphorized, i.e. stories of events that never happened but nevertheless express a profound truth.

Historical truth and metaphorized truth both share a common feature which is absent in a belief in impossible things. Stories rooted in historical events or metaphorized – both resonate accurately in the reality of our day to day lives. Both address us in the lives we actually are living and offer us something fruitful and meaningful in the face of the challenges and opportunities we face.

Traditionally seen as a story about the sins of idol worship, the Golden Calf story — is at a deeper level – a profound exploration of the tensions within the divine-human encounter. These are tensions concerning the community’s experience of the availability or absence of God. Is God available- able to speak directly to the challenges and opportunities facing a community? At this level – Exodus 32:1-14 speaks directly into our own alienated experience.

Exodus 32:1-14 speaks not only into our own experience but also speaks to God’s suggestibility.

In its projected historical setting, this is a story revealing a mutuality of needs. It’s a story in which God and a community discover each other and find in that discovery that they share the same needs.

Previously – God had been the god of Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, now he’s [sic] the god of Moses. God has yet to fully emerge as god of a whole people – the God of Israel. It’s like the question – who is that man over there? Why that’s no man, that’s my husband, or my father, or my friend. If the Israelites were asked: do you know the Lord God? They would have replied: we don’t know the Lord God personally, but we know a man who does.

If the Israelites were asked: do you know the Lord God? They would have replied: we don’t know the Lord God personally, but we know a man who does.

God has called Moses to meet him on the mountain. Before Moses begins the ascent, God instructs him to tell the Israelites to set camp at the foot of the mountain but not to set foot upon it. Picture the scene. Moses treks up the mountain leaving the people waiting in expectation. They wait and they wait. Each day, the lookouts posted, strain their eyes in the hope of seeing Moses coming home. Day and night the people wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually come reluctantly, to the conclusion that Moses and his god are not coming back.

The Israelites then do what human communities faced with the absence of God have done over time and what we still do today. They look for a substitute. Their request to Aaron – the next best thing to Moses – is instructive. They plead:

Come make us other gods - useful gods - gods who will go before us - because Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt– well we don’t know what’s happened to him and its now clear to us he and his god are not coming back!

This is a story that speaks directly to our most human of needs – the need for an experience of divine intimacy – a god who is accessible to us– a god who is available to hear our concerns – able to protect and comfort us, to give us direction, to strengthen our flagging hope, and give us a sense of purpose.

When God is experienced as absent, we look for substitutes to fill the experience of emptiness left in the gap between us and God. In 21st-century America we try to fill the emptiness with money, or shopping, or a charismatic leader, or even family, or nation, or replacing an absent God with our own narcissistic self-preoccupation.

There is a myriad of golden calves to distract us from the experience of divine absence.

There is a myriad of golden calves to distract us from the experience of divine absence. For many of us today, even when we say we believe in God, God is now remote from us – like the central character in a play who has now left the stage – leaving us center stage – alone and bereft.

This is a story that reveals the truth of our human struggle to find fulfilment and purpose, our need for connection and intimacy and to know ourselves as we really are – relational beings who need relatable images of the unseen God.

But it’s also a story that tells us something about God’s developing needs. The books of the Torah reveal – at least from the human perspective – a God who is far from unchangeable. In fact, God is presented as actually highly suggestible.

The books of the Torah reveal – at least from the human perspective – a God who actually highly suggestible.

In this story we see God coming to realize his [sic] own need for wider relationship. Not for the first time God uses a relationship with a significant human being – this time Moses – in order to become more fully aware of the implications of a tendency to act first and only then to ask questions. When God hears the noise of the Israelite celebration his response is one of roused jealousy with profound genocidal implications.

Moses appeals to God to cool it – by reminding God not to lose sight of the longer and larger objective here in bringing the people out of Egypt. In the process he appeals to God’s past experience with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -who had each played a similar role in moderating and containing God’s hot impulsivity.

The upshot of the action is that God recognizes he [sic] needs to change. After Moses returns to the camp and destroys the idol, God comes down from the mountain top into the camp – to for the first time – dwell among the Israelites. The place of encounter is aptly called the Tent of Meeting. God is now present as a pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day – hovering and when needed – leading the people to the next resting place on their journey.

In the story of the Golden Calf we see God coming to a new realization – the need to become present in the midst of the community of the people.

Throughout succeeding Israelite history God dwells among the people in the Ark of the Covenant that travels about with them before eventually finding a home in the Jerusalem Temple. For Jews today, God remains present through the living tradition of Torah – made real on a daily basis in the practice of the law.

For us, the Christian people of God, God dwells among us through Jesus as the relatable image of the unseen God. The face of Jesus is not simply an historical image, but an image in real time – continually alive in the life of the community through the celebration of the sacraments – the outward and visible signs of God’s inner and spiritual presence.

In a time of pandemic when enforced social distancing easily becomes emotional isolation, our need for the tangible presence of God has never been greater. The question facing us is when it’s no longer safe for worship as a community gathered together – to what extent can God’s sacramental presence be shared virtually? We are going to be working out the implications of that question for the foreseeable future as we struggle to work with God to fashion new versions of the Tent of Meeting. Amen.


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, October 4, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Adagio (Troisième Symphonie, Op. 28) by Louis Vierne (1870-1927), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

As mentioned in my welcome here is the link Episcopal Office for Government Relations resources to meet the challenges of the election-time.

The Introit: “Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains” from Elijah by Felix Mendlessohn (1809-1847), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 639 “Come, O thou Traveler unknown” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
whom still I hold, but cannot see;
my company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee.
With thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.

4 'Tis Love, 'tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart:
the morning breaks, the shadows flee.
Pure universal Love thou art;
thy mercies never shall remove,
thy nature and thy name is Love.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and Everlasting God, you are always more read to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20, read by Fla Lewis

Psalm 19, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: The statutes of the Lord rejoice the heart.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 One day tells its tale to another,
    and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3 Although they have no words or language,
    and their voices are not heard,
4 Their sound has gone out into all lands,
    and their message to the ends of the world.
5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;
    it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
    it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
    and runs about to the end of it again;
    nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;
    the testimony of the LORD is sure
    and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;
    the commandment of the LORD is clear
    and gives light to the eyes.

Antiphon

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;
    the judgments of the LORD are true
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    more than much fine gold,
    sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened,
    and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends?
    cleanse me from my secret faults.
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
    let them not get dominion over me;
    then shall I be whole and sound,
    and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14, read by Melinda DelCioppio

Hymn 308 “O Food to pilgrims given” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O food to pilgrims given,
O bread of life from heaven,
O manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
nor thy delights deny us,
whose hearts to thee draw nigh.

The Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 308 (v. 3)

3 O Jesus, by thee bidden,
we here adore thee, hidden
in forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is risen,
we may behold, in heaven,
thy countenance divine.

The Sermon: Linda+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
        and has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: Spiritual: “My Lord What a Mourning” (trad., arr. Clayton White), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 174, “At the Lamb’s high feast” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 At the Lamb's high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King,
who hath washed us in the tide
flowing from his pierced side;
praise we him, whose love divine
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.

4 Easter triumph, Easter joy,
these alone do sin destroy.
From sin's power do thou set free
souls newborn, O Lord, in thee.
Hymns of glory, songs of praise,
Father, unto thee we raise:
risen Lord, all praise to thee
with the Spirit ever be.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Allegro (Deuxième Symphonie, Op. 20) by L. Vierne, Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

Cautionary Tales

“Wicked Tenants”
The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

At least two things are happening here, and neither of them is for the faint of heart. In one instance we have Jesus invoking the prophet Isaiah for his audience, reminding them of Israel’s history; their rejection of God and God’s Commandments that resulted in destruction and exile to Babylon in 587BCE. Jesus’ implication was that if God did it once, that God could, and would, do it again.

In the second instance we have the author of Matthew’s Gospel invoking more recent history for his first century audience. His implication in relating this story about Jesus’ parable was that God in fact DID do it again, in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, this time by the Romans. So for those with ears to hear this would bode ill for anyone who dared to reject Jesus, the “chief cornerstone” of the true faith.

Jesus’ parable, often referred to as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, seems to have skewered the Temple authorities and Roman collaborators for their lack of faithfulness to God. But the images are more complicated and disturbing than they seem at first. A Jewish audience would have recognized that, under the tenant farming system in first century Palestine, the original hereditary landholders of that region had been pushed off of the land and replaced by Roman colonial outsiders or local collaborators who then leased the land back to the tenants who had formerly owned the land in the first place.

To the people living in the time of Jesus and Matthew, the landowner represents empire, not God. Which is it? God or Rome? Are the tenants wicked, or rebellious?

In other words, imagine someone who is disinherited from their land then being required to send the fruits of their labor to the person who has taken the land from them.

Who is wicked now?

This is really disturbing. The most common reading of this story portrays the landowner as God. This is a fair interpretation, since that’s clearly what Isaiah intended in the passage that Jesus alludes to, where Isaiah speaks of the landowner carefully and painstakingly setting up the vineyard. But, to the people living in the time of Jesus and Matthew, the landowner represents empire, not God. Which is it? God or Rome? Are the tenants wicked, or rebellious?

Yes.

Did Jesus’ and Matthew’s audiences feel a knot in their stomach as they experienced this contradiction? Did they rebel inwardly at the lack of expected clarity; the lack of distinction between Us and Them? Who is the good person here?

This is really messy. That may be the point.

Just like the Jews of the first century, not even what we have most in common can hold us together.

The author of Matthew’s Gospel was writing in the late first- early second century. This period, following the crush of a Jewish revolt and destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, was a time of tremendous conflict between different Jewish groups as they sought to clarify their identity as a people who were now living without the Temple that had been the center of their faith. The Jewish followers of Jesus disagreed with the Jewish non-followers of Jesus over issues of authority, interpretation of the Law, and of course the identity of Jesus himself. And ultimately the Jewish Christians were excluded from the synagogue by the Jewish non-Christians, which was a major source of the contentious tone that Matthew often used in his Gospel.

The important thing to remember here is that they were all Jews.

The split that ultimately took place between these groups was like a really messy divorce.

And the rest of the people of God at that time were witnesses to that trauma, as the parties hurled insults, prophecy, and threats at each other, angrily barreling down the road to complete alienation and fracture.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

To be honest, I’m not sure where else to go with this passage beyond how, once it’s been parsed out, it resonates today. It’s possible that Matthew, in addition to communicating his disdain for opposing parties, also expressed the grief and confusion of one whose family is being torn apart. And maybe that’s all we’re meant to understand with this reading, in this October of 2020, when everywhere we turn we see outrage and reasons for outrage, verbal and literal violence, and the fracturing of communities and families as lines are drawn and sides chosen, even between people of faith. Just like the Jews of the first century, not even what we have most in common can hold us together.

This past Wednesday I observed the dazed look on people’s faces as they remembered, or for those who couldn’t stomach seeing it, heard details of Tuesday’s presidential debate. Eyes widened, brows furrowed, and shoulders tensed as they contemplated the rabbit hole.

They said:

“What in the world just happened?”

“I got NO sleep last night…”

“I don’t recognize this country anymore.”

“I can’t take any more of this.”

“I’m afraid for us.”

There is nothing I would love more than to stand here and say the magic words of comfort, wisdom and healing that would make this all vanish. It hurts to feel powerless to fix things that feel just too big and beyond our control as individuals.

It’s our desire to control the uncontrollable that is often the source of so much anxiety, tension and worry. But the fact remains that God is God and we are not, and the only thing that God calls us to do is what we can do. As people of faith we are not without resources, and we are certainly not without hope. St. Paul, suffering “the loss of all things,” still held fast to his belief that he was Christ’s own, as we all are. And as Christ’s own we are called to not give in to fear and worry; not to let the rabbit holes suck us in. We belong to Christ, the chief cornerstone of our faith.

“If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it…”

Friends, I’m preaching to myself. I have to remind myself every day that worry is a failure of imagination. And the best way to counteract worry is to replace it with prayer. Even if it is just to breathe. Because, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Prayer is a connection to God—tapping in to the flow of love, compassion, healing and renewal that are part of the God who sustains us.

It is easy to forget in times of chaos that prayer is truly powerful. It may not always ‘work’ in ways that we expect, but we can always count on it to change us by releasing our fear and worry into the hands of the One who is the gracious lover of souls, renewing us for whatever challenges confront us. One of my favorite quotes is from activist and educator Vida Dutton Scudder, whose feast day is coming up on October 10. She believed that prayer was a mighty force for social change, and said, “If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it…”

Indeed.

So let us pledge to get busy with it. Let us pray.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is discord, union; 
where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope; 
where there is darkness, light; 
where there is sadness, joy. 
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, September 27, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Prelude on Rhosymedre by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: Introit by Iain Quinn (b. 1973), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 309 “O Food to pilgrims given,” (vv. 1, 3), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O Food to pilgrims given,
O Bread of life from heaven,
O Manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
nor thy delights deny us,
whose hearts to thee draw nigh.

3 O Jesus, by thee bidden,
we here adore thee, hidden
in forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is risen,
we may behold, in heaven,
thy countenance divine.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 279, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 17:1-7, read by Marty Flaherty

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Our forefathers have told us of the power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done.

1 Hear my teaching, O my people; *
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; *
    I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3 That which we have heard and known,
    and what our forefathers have told us, *
    we will not hide from their children.
4 We will recount to generations to come
    the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD, *
    and the wonderful works he has done.
12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers, *
    in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He split open the sea and let them pass through; *
    he made the waters stand up like walls.
14 He led them with a cloud by day, *
    and all the night through with a glow of fire.
15 He split the hard rocks in the wilderness *
    and gave them drink as from the great deep.
16 He brought streams out of the cliff, *
    and the waters gushed out like rivers.

Refrain

The Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13, read by Amy Esposito

Hymn 690 “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand;
bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.

The Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 690 (v. 3)

3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side;
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee.

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: Benedictus by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 686, “Come, thou fount of every blessing” (vv. 1, 3), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Come, thou fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace!
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! O fix me on it,
mount of God's unchanging love.

3 Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee;
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, oh, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Postlude by Norberto Guinaldo (b. 1937), Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

Christ-mindedness

Common Mind in Action -[My title] from the Murals at Coit Tower by artists of the Diego Rivera School, 1934, San Francisco

Despite our huge polarization as a society, that we are living through tumultuous days is perhaps the one of the things we can all agree on. Another is the question on all our lips – can we survive the days leading up to November 3rd and at the same time maintain our sanity? Following the President’s dark and veiled warnings about election fraud the prospect opening up for all of us is the realization that November 3rd may not put paid to our state of heightened anxiety.

The dilemma we face is that we have become a society so deeply divided on the picture of the change we want to see. Christians of all persuasions believe the Christ of Faith is on their side. Even non-Christians and secularists take Jesus teaching in the gospels to be the inspiration for why they are in the right.

In the epistle for this week Paul encourages the Philippians to:

work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you!

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is most probably a compilation of a series of letters written over time and brought together by him some ten years after his first momentous visit to Philippi. Writing probably from his prison cell in Rome and facing a sentence of death, Paul encourages them to:

let the mindset of Christ be yours as you draw your life from him by letting him live in you.

What does this mean?

Paul warns the Philippians to proceed with fear and trembling. Be careful about the attitudes you hold, the choices you make, and the actions you take, and esp. the reactions you express. Consider the what if –two little big words – what if, you’re wrong?

Our attitudes form and inform the choices we make, the actions we take, and the reactions we express. To a very large extent our attitudes are based on life experience. When our attitudes are influenced by misleading information, driven by inflated fears stoked up by malignant forces – then our choices, our actions and our reactions will follow suit. We need to be increasingly aware of how vulnerable we all are to malignant forces that sow discord and exploit us through the unregulated saturation of social media that now colonises even the most private spaces in our personal lives.

Paul’s warning to approach the most important aspect of our life [my paraphrase] with fear and trembling is an encouragement for us to pause and lower the I-me quotient in order to make room for the Christ of faith through the power of the Holy Spirit to be at work in us.

What are the characteristics of Christ-mindness? It’s helpful to listen to an unusual Bible translation to surprize us out of the way we only half hear words that have become too familiar. Paul’s warning takes on greater forcefulness in the less familiar cadences of The Message’s idiomatic translation of Philippians 2:1-13 this way:

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Here’s the answer to my question. These are the qualities that characterise the mindset of Christ or what I’m calling Christ-mindedness.

Paul’s words then soar to the height of poetic eloquence in his moving hymn to Christ which begins:

Though in the form of God Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself – and being born in human form – humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.

Here in Jesus’ self-emptying of ego we find the best description of what Christ-mind looks like in action.

Many of us believe that living the Christian life is to live our lives with the inspiration of the Jesus’ example before our eyes. This is a fine way to live but it’s actually not what being a Christian is about. Many non-Christians are inspired by the pre-Easter Jesus and fold his influence into their lives.  

Paul encourages us in his letter to Philippi to take a bigger step than this. For to be Christian is to live not simply inspired by the historical example of the man Jesus of Nazareth – the prophet of God’s justice. It is not enough to carefully work out our salvation with our own discernment and astuteness – which smacks too much of progressing under our own steam and not through God’s grace. Paul is asking a simple question: who is in the driving seat?

Paul and the early Christian communities he writes to – experience the power of the Christ of Faith who turns all our worlds upside down. Our power to change the world flows from our shared experience of the mind of Christ so that it’s no longer me, us, we who are in the driving seat but God working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ mindedness is not a state of emulation or imitation, a kind of pretending to be Jesus. It’s allowing the working of the Holy Spirit to de-center our preoccupation with me, mine, and I in the service of a larger truth working for good beyond that which we are able to see.

It’s very hard to empty myself of myself. It’s even harder to do so without the reassurance that another who threatens me by the attitudes she holds, the choices he advocate, the actions he or she takes – will do likewise and empty him or herself- so that together we may discover that our differences are simply the product of different life experience dressed up as ideology. Christ-mindedness is the antidote to all ideology.

Currently so much about religion recast as some kind of ideology seems to be getting in the way.

Christ-mindedness emerges within and between us when we recognize that the other is not the enemy. I’m not saying there are no bad actors or movements that are evil in nature and effect. I’m just pointing out that generally speaking the other – normally defined as someone different from me – who holds a different worldview from mine – is not by default my enemy. We share the same desires to love and be loved, the same need to console and be consoled, the same love of family, community, and country; the same need for encouragement and empathy to contain the fears that push us to protect ourselves through self or group assertion and dominance.

To become empty of the highly self-protectionist part of our minds – is very hard and risky and I am not sure I can do it – at least not on my own.

Paul reminds us that if we approach the task of ultimate meaning and purpose with hesitancy – not assuming we are right – with fear and trembling – then God – inspirited within us – does the heavy lifting, A question is do we have the will to relinquish self-serving and passionately held certainties and projected fears to make room for the Christ of faith to take the wheel?


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, September 20, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Adagio from Sonata I, Op. 10, by Henry M. Dunham (1853-1929), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: “Now that the daylight fills the sky,” The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 343 “Shepherd of souls,” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless
thy chosen pilgrim flock
with manna in the wilderness,
with water from the rock.

4 Lord, sup with us in love divine,
thy Body and thy Blood,
that living bread, that heavenly wine,
be our immortal food.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 277, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 16:2-15, read by David Blake

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Remember the marvels God has done.

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name; *
    make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
    and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
    let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Search for the LORD and his strength; *
    continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
    his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
    O children of Jacob his chosen.

Refrain

37 He led out his people with silver and gold; *
    in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad of their going, *
    because they were afraid of them.
39 He spread out a cloud for a covering *
    and a fire to give light in the night season.
40 They asked, and quails appeared, *
    and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water flowed, *
    so the river ran in the dry places.

Refrain

42 For God remembered his holy word *
    and Abraham his servant.
43 So he led forth his people with gladness, *
    his chosen with shouts of joy.
44 He gave his people the lands of the nations, *
    and they took the fruit of others' toil,
45 That they might keep his statutes *
    and observe his laws.
    Hallelujah!

Refrain

The Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30, read by Laura Bartsch

Hymn 307 “Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor,
first-begotten from the dead.
Thou alone, our strong defender,
liftest up thy people’s head.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Jesus, true and living bread!
Jesus, true and living bread!

The Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 307 (v. 5)

5 Life-imparting heavenly Manna,
smitten Rock with streaming side,
heaven and earth with loud hosanna
worship thee, the Lamb who died.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Risen, ascended, glorified!
Risen, ascended, glorified!

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “Come Sunday” by Duke Ellington (1899-1974), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

*Among the remembrance of the dead we recall Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who has died since the pre-precording of this service on Friday.

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 414, “God, my King, thy might confessing” (vv. 1-2, 6), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 God, my king, thy might confessing,
ever will I bless thy name;
day by day thy throne addressing,
still will I thy praise proclaim.

2 Honor great our God befitteth;
who his majesty can reach?
Age to age his works transmitteth;
age to age his pow'r shall teach.

6 All thy works, O Lord, shall bless thee,
thee shall all thy saints adore.
King supreme shall they confess thee,
and proclaim thy sovereign pow'r.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Postlude on Redhead 46 by Eric H. Thiman (1900-1975), Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …. Read On

Labor Dignified -[My title] from the Murals at Coit Tower by artists of the Diego Rivera School, 1934, San Francisco

The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early to hire laborers for his vineyard.

Setting the scene

The Thomas Avenue Home Depot car park in Phoenix AZ around 6 am. Men – one or two African looking but mostly Central American in appearance squat in ones or twos or small groups seeking whatever shade the sparse Acacia trees of Phoenix’s ubiquitous car park desert plantings are able to provide from the sun which even at this hour of the day grows hot. Every so often a pickup truck drives slowly by – stopping at a group of men – and after a brief exchange of words – the men climb into the back and the pickup drives off.   Maybe the driver of the pickup is in construction, maybe he’s a farm foreman – either way he’s on the lookout for day laborers who can be found at any number of carpark rendezvous that dot the Phoenix landscape.

At whatever time of day you can find scatterings of such men –seeking the only work easily available to them as below minimum wage – undocumented – day laborers. Numbers throughout the day fluctuate, yet, even towards the end of the working day some still patiently wait for the ever-decreasing possibility of finding a day’s hire. What of those who are not hired as the sun sets?

For anyone who has lived in the Southwest this experience will not be new to you. The scene I describe is a symptom of the huge upheaval as Central American populations of men, women, and of course children escape the grinding poverty and violence of civic breakdown – the causes of which we in the US – continue to pretend has nothing to do with us.

To have nothing but your body to sell is the dehumanizing condition we impose on those who have no power, no voice, no country. That this continues in today’s America should be a matter for great shame on the part of those of us – who despite our recognition of the urgency for change – are still complicit if not by intention at least by default- in our tacit support the status quo.

And so – it was ever thus – as we plainly see from Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20 – in which Jesus addresses the economic consequences for the class of Jewish tenant farmers and landowners who had become the losers in the 1st-century’s increasingly global economic and social upheavals.

Jesus

Listening to the strident White Evangelical and single-issue Catholic voice, an observer unfamiliar with the teaching of Jesus might conclude that the exclusive focus of his teaching concerned individual sexual behavior. Yet, Jesus never speaks about this area of social life. The closest he comes is in his parable about the woman taken in adultery and we know upon whose heads his judgment is heaped here. The other example is his teaching on the indissolubility of marriage – but this is a teaching honored mostly in the breach. 99.8% of Jesus teaching directly addresses the socio-religious and economic issues of his day.

To exclude the entirety of Jesus teaching on social and economic justice would reduce the gospels to stories about his birth and death devoid of the larger context that demonstrates the significance of these events.

Uncomfortable though it is for many Christians, the historical record shows clearly that Jesus was among other things – a social justice prophet agitating for religious, social, and economic change. His challenge to the religious authorities is not theological but one of economic justice. It is this challenge to the Temple authorities at the center of the domination system that will ultimately bring about his death.

Marcus Borg observes Jesus’ passion for social and economic justice arising from the observation or experience of injustice firsthand. Of being:

from a marginalized social class in a marginalized village in Galilee, an area undergoing rapid social change and social dislocation in his time. He would have seen injustice happening all around him, and whether or not he was personally a victim of it, he had an unusual sensitivity to the poor and marginalized. (The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions pg 65)

His context

Jesus lived in a time of economic and social upheaval not dissimilar to our own. In the 1st-century – Galilee was a cosmopolitan soup where Syro-Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Jews mixed freely. It was the most fertile and productive agricultural region in the Middle East. Therefore, Galilee was also at the heart of the social upheavals that accompany any agrarian revolution.

Jewish tenant farmers and some larger landowners were being displaced by the influx of Roman new money. The Roman new money wanted to amalgamate land holdings to create larger farms to form more economic units to maximize the agricultural production necessary to feed the Empire’s rapidly increasing population. This is not an unfamiliar story in American history. As a result the dispossessed tenant farmers were reduced to the status of day laborers – many of whom Jesus would have encountered standing idle in the marketplace awaiting hire to work the land they had once farmed.

Jesus’ parable of the landowner is clearly about a man with a strong social conscience – acting to do what he could to stem the tsunami of injustice afflicting his society. He not only pays his laborers above the daily minimum wage but is concerned for the plight of those who as the day progresses have still not been hired. He goes out at intervals and hires them in batches, promising them the same daily rate as those he had engaged in the early morning. At the end of the day he surprisingly pays everyone the same amount regardless of the hours worked. I mean, who does that?

He’s accused of being unfair by the laborers who had toiled all day and – and I’ve little doubt that we share their indignation. His counter is why accuse me of being unfair when I am actually being generous. Those who have worked since sunrise receive exactly the wage I’d promised. In effect, my generosity is my own business and not your concern.

You and me

There are few at St Martin’s who would be offended by my presentation of Jesus as a prophet for social change. We can tolerate or even embrace such a presentation – until that is – we unpack what following Jesus the prophet for social and economic justice might mean when we take a closer look at our place in the world.

We are those who in current terminology enjoy the benefits of white privilege. Some of us willingly accept this designation while some of us are becoming somewhat fed up with it – at least secretly so. Yet, white privilege is a term that is still only breaking into our consciousness.

Drinking the koolaid is a pervasive metaphor for denial of reality.

White privilege can be enjoyed with an untroubled conscience only by imbibing regular drafts of the koolaid – as the President referred to it in an interview which Bob Woodward reports in his latest book Rage.

When we wean ourselves off the daily dose of the koolaid we are likely to experience a growing discomfort. Some of us may choose to express our discomfit in constructive ways by acting to combat racial, social, and economic injustice. Another option is to hit out angrily at those whom we perceive to be out to make us feel guilty.

We should welcome our growing discomfort because it indicates a slow but exorable – as in being capable of being moved by entreaty – shift in our personal attitudes. What was once invisible to us, is now creeping into peripheral vision and soon it will be impossible for us to pretend not to see.

Putting aside the politicization of labels for a moment- let’s recognize that Jesus’ parable of the just landowner – like all his parables relies on its counter-intuitiveness. In its reversal of what we normally consider fair – we are challenged to take a hard look at our assessment not only of what is fair but also what is just.

Our construction of what is fair and who qualifies as deserving of reward – is often unjust in the way it obscures the need for change in our society.

It’s increasingly a truism – a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new – that the pandemic is exposing the underlying structures of injustice, exclusion, and exploitation in our society. Jesus’ parable challenges us to reassess our concept of fairness and square it with justice. When we divide the world up between the deserving and undeserving we ignore the plight of the Hispanic day laborers who gather in the modern-day equivalent of the market square to await the luck of chance for hire. After all they’re illegals, and like all the poor – undeserving of the privilege of justice that we consider our birthright.

Perhaps a koolaid free diet will reveal to us the surprising truth that there is no lasting benefit for us in a system in which there is not justice for all.

I quoted on Labor Day Weekend the three core requirements considered essential  for human flourishing; someone to love and be loved by, a safe place to live, and the dignity of work. What something like a pandemic exposes – as nothing else could – is that no one is safe until all are safe; no one is protected from the risk of infection until all are protected from infection; that the boundaries erected to protect those included in privilege from those excluded from privilege are illusory – they function only to hide from us the uncomfortable realization that we are all in the soup- together!

Jesus said: So the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Like the day laborers who had toiled in the vineyard since sunrise, we must also discover that God’s view of justice is not fairness but generosity!


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, September 13, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Prelude in A flat by Jan Koetsier (1911-2006), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: “If Ye Love Me” by Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 48 “O day of radiant gladness,” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O day of radiant gladness, O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright;
this day the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
sing "Holy, holy, holy" to the great God Triune.

4 That light our hope sustaining, we walk the pilgrim way,
at length our rest attaining, our endless Sabbath day.
We sing to thee our praises, O Father, Spirit, Son;
the Church her voice upraises to thee, blest Three in One.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 278, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 14:19-31, read by Sarosh Fenn

Psalm 114, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord. Hallelujah!

1 Hallelujah! When Israel came out of Egypt, *
    the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,
2 Judah became God's sanctuary *
    and Israel his dominion.
3 The sea beheld it and fled; *
    Jordan turned and went back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams, *
    and the little hills like young sheep.
5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled? *
    O Jordan, that you turned back?
6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams? *
    you little hills like young sheep?
7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, *
    at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water *
    and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Refrain

The Second Reading: Romans 14:1-12, read by Amy Esposito

Hymn 383 “Fairest Lord Jesus” (v. 1-2), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Fairest Lord Jesus,
ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown.
 
2 Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

The Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 383 (v. 3)

3 Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “Pie Jesu,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 537, “Christ for the world we sing!” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Christ for the world we sing!
The world to Christ we bring with loving zeal;
the poor and them that mourn,
the faint and overborne,
sin-sick and sorrow-worn, whom Christ doth heal.
 
4 Christ for the world we sing!
The world to Christ we bring with joyful song;
the newborn souls, whose days,
reclaimed from error's ways,
inspired with hope and praise, to Christ belong.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Fugue in A flat by Koetsier, Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

Trusting

St. Martin’s Parish Gathering

Last week, Linda+ quoted from Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who survived her time at Ravensbrueck concentration camp where she was sent after she was arrested for sheltering Jews in WWII. In her book, The Hiding Place, she offered this advice for perilous times:

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

Ten Boom’s words resonated deeply for me. They are one of the clearest affirmations of my understanding of the workings of divine providence.

The 12 months between Homecoming in 2019 to Homecoming this year offers us a snapshot on the operation of divine providence in our common life together. So, for the moment hold that thought.

In my sermon Restoration for Homecoming 2019 I expressed some amazement with the gospel from Luke 14 which read:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish it, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying “this fellow began to build and was not able to finish”.

Having begun the costly $1.2 million restoration project in the spring of that year – a project we had had to embark upon before fully securing the necessary funds – receiving Jesus’ words at that time was both unnerving and at the same time spookily prescient.

At the time I noted the tension between Jesus’ words in Luke 14 and the predominant operational mode in his ministry. The message of prudent preparation contrasted with his more typical approach to events. For Jesus, life was not a dress rehearsal and his ministry was one of taking risks and then dealing with the consequences.

On Homecoming last year, it certainly felt to me and to others in parish leadership that we had taken a substantial risk – the consequences of which would be judged by the success or failure of a capital campaign I was about to officially announce.

I consider it providential that six years into my tenure as rector I was greatly blessed with having the right people with the right skills stepping forward at the right time to undertake the restoration project. Looking back, it seems something of a miracle to have had the team with the right skill mix in place. Who knew? Well the point is this – that unbeknownst to us, God knew! A courageous Vestry and finance subcommittee with the holy trinity of Bracken, Brookhart, and Lofgren – enabled me to focus on my responsibility to set the restoration and the following capital campaign within the spiritual context of our refusal to be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

It’s a peculiarity of our language that the word church refers to both the building and the community that flourishes under the protection of its roof in order to announce God’s presence in the world.  Viewed from the perspective of divine providence the elemental disaster of a massive rainstorm presented challenge as opportunity. The challenge of repairing the damage became the opportunity to restore – not only the building but also the community thriving under the protection of its roof. The cosmic conspiracy of the elements presented the perfect spiritual catalyst for God to nudge us beyond the boundary of complacency.

The spiritual life has a variation of the old maxim no pain, no gain no risk, no gain. To realize the next stage in St Martin’s spiritual journey required us to be open to the thrill and terror of taking the risk to do the right thing with future generations in mind.

Fast forward one year. Our courage to entrust an unknown future to a known God, has enabled God’s providence to bless us. Opening Our Doors to the Future – capital campaign is the providential outworking of the cosmic conspiracy between God and Nature.

Facing into an opaque future, our steps are illuminated by the light of experience pouring through the rear window view of where God has – in the past – been with us – and can be expected to continue to remain faithful to us.

 Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

In about ten days or so you will receive information detailing the launch of the public phase of Opening Our Doors to the Future – capital campaign. The last thing many of you may recall hearing about the capital campaign was 12 months ago at the end of the discernment phase when in small cottage gatherings we shared together our future hopes and expectations for St Martin’s. In January we followed up with an electronic feasibility questionnaire which informed us that it was within our reach to aim for a campaign goal of at least $2 million with a stretch target of $2.2 million.  

Since then it may seem that all has gone quiet on the campaign front. In a manner of speaking this is the nature of the quiet phase for a capital campaign. However, the quiet phase is only quiet in terms of wider public awareness. Since February, when Mary Gray agreed to step into the role of campaign consultant – a new providential combination of the right people, with the right skills, stepping up at the right time – with Mary as chair, the campaign committee has throughout the spring and summer been quietly translating God’s providence into fruitful campaign action.

At Homecoming in 2019 I predicted that the challenge of storm, restoration project, and capital campaign would be the catalyst we needed to harness our energy to propel us across the threshold of complacency into the next stage of an exciting future.

On Homecoming 2020 I can report that my theological radar was spot on. Opening Our Doors to the Future – expresses the essence of our our concern is to ensure that as good stewards – we can pass onto future generations the providential legacy – bequeathed to us.

We are now able to launch the public phase of the campaign bolstered by the progress made during the quiet phase. The success of the quiet phase has rested on four elements:

  • the hard work of the committee
  • the generosity off a small number of members approached during the quiet phase
  • a generous estate legacy resulting from Al Howes untimely death
  • a hard-won storm insurance payout

These four factors when taken together now allow us to launch the public phase of the campaign having already received pledges for 85% of our campaign goal.

Every campaign has a narrative. This campaign is deeply rooted in St Martin’s historical story. You can visit the campaign cast statement here or go to stmartinsprov.org. Emily Gray has taken her creative red doors logo and reinterpreted it as the campaign barometer – depicting our progress measured in both dollar amounts pledged – and – the degree of member participation.

The focus and emphasis of the public phase is to achieve 100%-member participation!

This means that whatever the dollar amount you pledge – your pledge represents your desire to be a part of ensuring that our doors will remain open to the future. Structured over three years – some of us will be able to pledge from financial resources that are surplus to our daily needs. For others among us, our pledge will represent a sacrificial investment.

The spiritual significance for your gift lies in your participation as a measure of your courage to entrust our unknown future into the care of a known God.


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, September 6, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcasts produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Chant de Paix (Neuf pièces) by Jean Langlais (1907-1991), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: “A Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester,” L. J. White (pub. 1919), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 174 “At the Lamb’s high feast,” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 At the Lamb's high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King,
who hath washed us in the tide
flowing from his pierced side;
praise we him, whose love divine
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.

4 Easter triumph, Easter joy,
these alone do sin destroy.
From sin's power do thou set free
souls newborn, O Lord, in thee.
Hymns of glory, songs of praise,
Father, unto thee we raise:
risen Lord, all praise to thee
with the Spirit ever be.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 279, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 12:1-14, read by Pat Nolan

Psalm 149, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Sing to the Lord a new wong.

1 Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song; *
    sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; *
    let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his Name in the dance; *
    let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people *
    and adorns the poor with victory.
5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; *
    let them be joyful on their beds.
6 Let the praises of God be in their throat *
    and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To wreak vengeance on the nations *
    and punishment on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings in chains *
    and their nobles with links of iron;
9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
    this is glory for all his faithful people.
    Hallelujah!

Refrain

The Second Reading: Romans 13:8-14, read by Jennifer Kiddie

Hymn 518 “Christ is made the sure foundation” (v. 1/tune by Henry Purcell), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the Church in one;
holy Zion's help for ever,
and her confidence alone.

The Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 518 (v. 4)

4 Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain;
what they gain from thee, for ever
with the blessèd to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.

The Sermon: Linda+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “How Beautiful Upon the Mountains,” by John Stainer (1840-1901), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,
that publisheth peace; that publisheth salvation;
that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

The Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 593 “Lord, make us servants of your peace” (vv. 1, 2, 4, 5), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Lord, make us servants of your peace:
Where there is hate, may we sow love;
Where there is hurt, may we forgive;
Where there is strife, may we make one.
 
2 Where all is doubt, may we sow faith;
Where all is gloom, may we sow hope;
Where all is night, may we sow light;
Where all is tears, may we sow joy.

4 May we not look for love's return,
But seek to love unselfishly,
For in our giving we receive,
And in forgiving are forgiven.

5 Dying, we live, and are reborn
Through death's dark night to endless day;
Lord, make us servants of your peace,
To wake at last in heaven's light.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Fugue in D minor, Opus 7b, by Richard Bartmuß (1859-1910), Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

Coming Home

St. Martin’s Parish Gathering

The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

Homecoming Sunday is next weekend. A harbinger of fall after a long strange trip of a summer.  In the past six years that I’ve been at St. Martin’s I’ve come to appreciate the energy and bustle of the preparations for the annual ministry showcase and first-of-the-season Coffee Hour in the Great Hall, signing up people for our programs and, especially, greeting friends we haven’t seen in a couple of months.

Of course this year it’s different. Homecoming is different because spring and summer were different; not so much relaxed and renewing as it was difficult and anxiety-filled, leaving many of us in a state of exhaustion rather than anticipation. Our new program year will be marked by hand sanitizer, masks, Zoom, and live-stream video instead of crowding around the coffee urns and trying to get a good parking space on Orchard Avenue. To be fair, planning around COVID has challenged us to thrive as we learn new technologies and discover new gifts and possibilities for engaging in the life of the community. But there is still a wistfulness that we won’t be as fully together as we would like to be. When I think of the people that I haven’t seen since March, and probably won’t see for several more months, I feel a little sad, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

We need to recommit, this year more than ever before, to our church Home. Because it is our Home that forms and equips us for the work we are called to do.

It’s not just missing the faces (and the smiles and the hugs). It’s this tiny irritating mosquito buzz of fear that this time of COVID will cause our community to drift apart, leaving us diminished. But that will only happen if we let it. Which is why Homecoming is so important this year, even if in a non-traditional guise. It’s important to remember that whenever—and however– we gather as community—two or three in Jesus’ name– we are strong and filled with potential. We support one another. We affirm and challenge each other.  We heal one another, and we reach out to heal the world. All of this is vital for our individual and communal well-being and flourishing. So how do we keep those bonds strong, especially in the coming months? How does a worshipping and serving community retain its identity during a time when worshipping and serving together are difficult and, for some of us, impossible?

This isn’t an idle question. We are in truly perilous times. And that isn’t a hyperbolic statement, though make no mistake, for the marginalized in our country and our world the times have been perilous for longer than, and in ways that, we privileged can’t fully imagine. And that’s the point. Many of us are at a time of awakening to suffering and injustice like we haven’t seen in decades, and thus the vitality and resilience of our communities and institutions are in need of shoring up and encouragement.

We need to recommit, this year more than ever before, to our church Home. Because it is our Home that forms and equips us for the work we are called to do.

And recommitting means remembering who and whose we are.

“The Lord said… This month shall mark for you the beginning of months”

The Israelites had been in bondage for generations. As God had promised, they had multiplied like the stars in the sky and grains of sand on the shore. And now the time had come for liberation from Pharaoh. God spoke to the people and instructed them in their first communal liturgical act; the sacrifice of the lamb, the marking of the doorposts with blood, the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, the girded, hurried eating; all a collective act of remembrance and witness that would be reenacted for millennia, reminding them, year after year, of the God who fought evil on their behalf and liberated them from slavery.

Paul tells us to wake up from complacent dreaming and open our eyes to the life-giving work of love that lies before us.

It is this perpetual ordinance–this remembering– that formed the Israelites as a people exhorted to love God, love their neighbor, and in so doing to be part of the healing of the world. And the Christian household is part of that legacy, loved into being and called to reconciliation with God, one another, and Creation.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wove these traditions together as he alluded to Jesus’ summary of the Law: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”  This is not sentimentalized love. It is the love that challenges us to surrender the tyranny of self-interest and selfishness to the good of another—ultimately to make existential decisions about how we live our lives individually and communally: If we are not to kill our neighbor, how do we rationalize capital punishment, or war? If we are not to steal or covet, how does that affect our decisions about how we earn and spend our money, and how we treat those whose livelihood is bound up in our political and fiscal choices? Paul tells us to wake up from complacent dreaming and open our eyes to the life-giving work of love that lies before us.

For Paul, the church was not just a voluntary association of autonomous individuals; it was a body, joined limb to limb, member to member, by Christ. Matthew saw it the same way. Matthew was the only Evangelist who used the term, “church” in his Gospel, and both times he put the word in Jesus’ mouth, first speaking of a community strong enough to withstand the gates of Hades, and in today’s passage, speaking of a community that, for all its strength, still must deal with conflict, just like any family. In the original translation Matthew says, “If a brother [or sister] sins against you” rather than “another member of the church.” The nature of the Christian community is one of deep kinship; a reflection of the Trinitarian

relationship that defines God’s interrelated Self. And it’s important to know this because this relationship informs Jesus’ instructions concerning conflict: Speak the truth in love, and always seek reconciliation. This instruction, which immediately follows the parable of the lost sheep—leaving the ninety-nine to bring back the one—this instruction’s focus is on reclaiming the offender, not on punishment. Even in the final instance, in which Jesus says, “…if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”, even here it can be argued that, knowing Jesus’ compassion for Gentiles and tax collectors, even at the last instance the church was still called to remain open to reconciliation. Because it was bonded by Christ. Bonded by love.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

So. Where does all of this leave us as we approach Homecoming Sunday, a Homecoming Sunday like no other in memory, when we will gather in different and disparate ways, wondering how our ministries will be called to respond to the storms that swirl around us?

That, friends, is totally up to us. But if we remember whose we are, we will find ourselves enfolded and emboldened by the God who is our Home: The God of creation and liberation. The God of compassion and justice. The God of healing and reconciliation.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who survived her time at Ravensbruck concentration camp where she was sent after she was arrested for sheltering Jews in WWII. In her book, The Hiding Place, she offered this advice for perilous times:

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

This is the God we know, and who knows us. This is the God in whom we hope, from whom we draw courage, and in whom we will always find our true Home. 


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of the Word for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, August 30, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Podcast produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Fugue and Finale (Sonata VI) by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: “Ave verum corpus” by Josquin des Prez (c1450-1521), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 401 “The God of Abraham praise,” The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of love;
the Lord, the great I AM, by earth and heaven confessed:
we bow and bless the sacred Name for ever blest.

5 The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” they ever cry;
hail, Abraham’s Lord divine! With heaven our songs we raise;
all might and majesty are thine, and endless praise.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 3:1-15, read by David Blake

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Sing to the Lord, and remember the marvels he has done, hallelujah.

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name; *
    make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
    and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
    let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Search for the LORD and his strength; *
    continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
    his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
    O children of Jacob his chosen.
23 Israel came into Egypt, *
    and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.
24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful; *
    he made them stronger than their enemies;
25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people, *
    and dealt unjustly with his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant, *
    and Aaron whom he had chosen.

Refrain

The Second Reading: Romans 12:9-21, read by Sammi Muther

Hymn 593 “Lord, make us servants of your peace” (v. 1-2), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Lord, make us servants of your peace:
Where there is hate, may we sow love;
Where there is hurt, may we forgive;
Where there is strife, may we make one.

2 Where all is doubt, may we sow faith;
Where all is gloom, may we sow hope;
Where all is night, may we sow light;
Where all is tears, may we sow joy.

The Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 593 (v. 4-5)

4 May we not look for love's return,
But seek to love unselfishly,
For in our giving we receive,
And in forgiving are forgiven.

5 Dying, we live, and are reborn
Through death's dark night to endless day;
Lord, make us servants of your peace,
To wake at last in heaven's light.

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “Let All Things Now Living” (text/arr. Katherine Kennicott Davis, 1892-1980), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Let all things now living
A song of thanksgiving
To God the Creator triumphantly raise,
Who fashioned and made us,
Protected and stayed us,
Who guides us and leads to the end of our days.
God’s banners fly o’er us;
God’s light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
Till shadows have vanished
And darkness is banished,
A forward we travel from light into light.
 
His law he enforces
The stars in their courses,
The sun in his orbit obediently shine.
The hills and the mountains,
The rivers and fountains,
The deep of the ocean proclaim Him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration and song let us raise,
Till all things now living
Unite in thanksgiving
To god in the highest,
Hosanna and praise!

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 48 “O day of radiant gladness” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O day of radiant gladness, O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright;
this day the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
sing "Holy, holy, holy" to the great God Triune.
 
4 That light our hope sustaining, we walk the pilgrim way,
at length our rest attaining, our endless Sabbath day.
We sing to thee our praises, O Father, Spirit, Son;
the Church her voice upraises to thee, blest Three in One.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” arr. Franklin D. Ashdown (b. 1942), Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:
Charlie Girl contemplating the cost of discipleship
Exploration of Matthew 16:21-38

I last preached on the readings for Pentecost 13 in 2016. The Lectionary repeats over a three-year cycle. Rereading my response then –

I am struck by how differently the experience of living in 2020 demands a different response.

In 2016 I preached on the Exodus reading variously playing with the themes – firstly, of experience in the place beyond the wilderness – a place where we encounter God because it is devoid of the usual signposts that insulate us with the familiar – and secondly, the pulsating, humming nature of the divine name – which in the nature of Hebrew – allows the meaning of the divine name to oscillate between I am, who I am, and I will be, who I will be – an oscillation between present-time reality and future-time potential.

These themes, important as they remain, seem somewhat abstract in the brutal rawness of the time we now find ourselves living through. My search for a more visceral response directs me to a continuation of the exploration begun by Linda+ a fortnight ago and continued by me last week of Matthew’s depiction of Jesus as the messiah.

How did Jesus come to the realization that he was the messiah? Most of us – if we think about it – labor under the impression that he always knew from a very early age that he was the messiah. Confident in this knowledge – revealed to him through his unique relationship with God – he then proceeds through the events of his life – knowing at each step of the way -the shape of the future.

Omniscience – all knowingness – is the quality we so admire in our superheroes. So much of the Tradition plays into this theme of Jesus as a 1st-century superhero who moves through his life like an actor playing the role of Son of God – fully aware at each stage of how the story will end. Of course, it’s easy for us to collude with this presentation of Jesus. Like him, we also are all knowing –

for we too know how the story will end – coloring the way we experience each event the life of Jesus of Nazareth -AKA (also known as) the Messiah.

Last week Jesus’ true identity is starkly revealed in Simon’s confession of him as the Son of God, the Messiah. In the audience, we at this point smile knowingly – aha we knew so! But on stage, the secret is out even though for some mysterious reason – for the time being it must remain secret.

Now the disciples know his true identity. Has Jesus always known it or has he step by step, discovered it? Well this is the question but more to the point why does it matter?

Events move forward to the pivotal point in Matthew’s story with Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain witnessed by Peter, James and John – and not to forget, by us as well.

It matters how Jesus comes to his realization as the messiah because it goes to the difference between Jesus as superhero actor – playing out the roll of messiah on the world stage – and the human Jesus who is like you and me is someone who is not all knowing –

and has instead to learn through experience what God wants of him -as he goes along.

In Matthew’s telling of the story we are now reaching the midpoint in Jesus’ ministry between his Galilean preaching and healing ministry and turning is face towards Jerusalem where like all good superheroes he knows what’s awaiting him.

In all stories the writer has an interpretation to be shared by the story’s hearers or readers. Matthew, writing after the fact – knows what Jesus’ prediction of this suffering, death, and resurrection at Jerusalem mean. For him it’s now historical fact.

But what if we read the story a little differently and see Jesus’ prediction not as an expression of his all knowingness, as in, now let me tell you all how this story ends – but as simply a prediction of probability? Living in this period of time, Jesus would have to have been extremely naive to think that his radical challenge to the status quo would go unanswered by a violent show of force. As we are currently uncomfortably aware, this is the response of all dictators or wannabe dictators to any kind of challenge or threat – let those who have ears to hear! Jesus was clearly a threat to the power structures within the Jerusalem beltway. He would have been deluded not to have had a pretty good idea of how – without a change of direction in his message -this was likely to end.

I want to invite us to reject our traditional interpretation of Jesus as superhero with special powers of all knowingness.

I want to invite us to reject our traditional interpretation of Jesus as superhero with special powers of all knowingness. I’m much more attracted to the interpretation – fully supported by a closer reading of Matthew chapters 15,16 and 17 – of Jesus learning along the way – of Jesus like all human beings – learning to piece together the fragments of his experience as he goes along – interpreting the future as the events of the present come to be better understood. This different reading of Matthew reveals that from his encounter with the woman in Sidon onwards, we clearly see Jesus coming to more fully understand what God wants of him.

As with Moses after his encounter with God in the burning bush – in the place beyond the wilderness – Jesus is coming to more fully understand and accept the mission God has for him.

For both Moses and Jesus – accepting God’s mission is a real challenge to their own constructed self-images – of who they might prefer to be  – that is if God had no other plans for them.

And here we come to the gist of Matthew 16:21-28. Acceptance of Jesus messiahship is not only a challenging task for him, but also for his followers. Simon’s OK with recognizing Jesus as messiah, but he’s definitely not up for going along with what this is going to mean for him and the rest of the band. His protest at Jesus’ prediction Lord forbid earns a sharp rebuke from Jesus to the effect of: wake up Simon and smell the roses -following me is not going to be a breeze.

Jesus spells out for the disciples what will be required of those who follow him. Eugene Peterson in his Bible translation known as The Message has an uncomfortable way of putting this when he has Jesus say:

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am. I am – get it? I am who I am/ I will be who I will be.

For most of us the NRSV translation:

If any want to become my follower, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me -

slips off the page – in one ear and out the other. That’s the problem with challenging words whose difficulty becomes smoothed over by our over familiarity with them.

Speaking personally, I’ve been struggling with what will it mean for me if I give up my self-help and accept self-sacrifice to – in the words of the Carrie Underwood song Let Jesus take the wheel?  

I am daily torn between gratitude and guilt. In the midst of the pandemic and its dire economic fallout – I and my family are well and financially stable. But it’s my very gratitude that is also the source of my guilt.  I and my family are well and financially stable when many people around us are at dire risk from the virus’ devastating effect on either their health or their livelihood – or both.

To this tension I can add a feeling of pervading anxiety. We all may be well and secure in my immediate family bubble but for how long? Although Al and I are likely to be OK, unless one of comes down with Coronavirus – as men we are in the dangerous age bracket. But what of the kids who like the vast majority of all Americans still in work are only one or two wage cycles away from financial peril.

The NRSV:

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life 

becomes in The Message:

What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? 

I know in my heart of hearts that Jesus’ call to follow him requires more than I am comfortable giving.

What does the call to discipleship as Jesus spells it out in Matthew 16 mean for those of us who remain comfortably insulated at a time of unprecedented crisis for society and the planet? I don’t have an easily packaged answer and I suspect if I am honest – I’m not going to like the answer anyway. But what I do know is that I am deeply troubled by the question. I politely suggest we all should be. Amen


If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of The Word for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, August 23, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcast produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Prelude on Converse by John. G. Barr (b. 1938), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: Introit by Iain Quinn (b. 1973), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 302 “Father, we thank thee who hast planted,” The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Father, we thank Thee who hast planted
Thy holy Name within our hearts.
Knowledge and faith and life immortal
Jesus Thy Son to us imparts.
Thou, Lord, didst make all for Thy pleasure,
didst give man food for all his days,
giving in Christ the Bread eternal;
Thine is the pow'r, be Thine the praise.

2 Watch o'er Thy church, O Lord, in mercy,
save it from evil, guard it still.
Perfect it in Thy love, unite it,
cleansed and conformed unto Thy will.
As grain, once scattered on the hillsides,
was in this broken bread made one,
so from all lands Thy church be gathered
into Thy kingdom by Thy Son.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 277, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Grant, O Merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 1:8-2:10, read by Fla Lewis

Psalm 124

Refrain: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

1  If the LORD had not been on our side,
    let Israel now say;
2 If the LORD had not been on our side,
    when enemies rose up against us;
3 Then would they have swallowed us up alive
    in their fierce anger toward us;
4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us
    and the torrent gone over us;
5 Then would the raging waters
    have gone right over us.
6 Blessed be the LORD!
    he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;
    the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,
    the maker of heaven and earth.

Refrain

The Second Reading: Romans 12:1-8, read by Melinda DelCioppio

Hymn 522 “Glorious things of thee are spoken” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode;
on the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
thou may'st smile at all thy foes.

The Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 522 (v. 4)

4 Blest inhabitants of Zion,
washed in the Redeemer's blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
makes them kings and priests to God.
'Tis his love his people raises
over self to reign as kings:
and as priests, his solemn praises
each for a thank-offering brings.

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “Come, Ever Gracious Son of God” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Come, ever-gracious Son of God, come,
And with Thee bring Thy joyous train.
For Thee we long, and cry for Thee,
With whom eternal peace doth reign.

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 343 “Shepherd of Souls” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless
thy chosen pilgrim flock
with manna in the wilderness,
with water from the rock.

4 Lord, sup with us in love divine,
thy Body and thy Blood,
that living bread, that heavenly wine,
be our immortal food.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Mvmt. III from Concerto in B minor after Vivaldi by Johann G. Walter (1684-1748) , Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

On the Way to Something New

Charlie Girl hard at work
An exploration of Identity in Matthew 15 & 16
The Rev. Mark Sutherland

In Matthew 16 :13-20 Jesus asks his disciples who do people say the Son of Man is? It’s an interesting posing of the question which is less who am I, and more who do others think I am? Whatever the question meant for Jesus – we are reminded that any question of identity is as much about how others experience us as it is to do with anything we think or feel about ourselves.

Last week we read the story from Matthew 15 in which Jesus leaves Jewish Galilee and crosses the border into the area of modern Lebanon where he encounters a woman from Sidon who confronts him with a request. I say confronts him because her request is a direct challenge to his identity. To add insult to injury, the challenger was not only a Gentile – bad enough – but a woman to boot – something damming according to the attitudes of Jesus’ time.

However, this gentile woman is the first person in the Gospels who addresses Jesus as Lord, Son of David, which is historic code for Jesus the messiah. Recognition of his historic Jewish identity by a Gentile evokes within Jesus a conflict of identity. Here he is for the first time recognized as the Messiah by a gentile woman who asks for his help. We saw him struggling with a dilemma.

If he is the Jewish messiah, what business has Jesus being among Gentiles?

In her very fine exposition of this last week, Linda+ explored the theme of walls segregating who’s in from who’s out. Jesus belongs to those who are inside the wall and this woman – she’s definitely part of those who are outside God’s dispensation – at least according to traditional Jewish thinking. Jesus’ first response is awkward and signals his inner conflict as the collision of expectations within him brings the wall of expectation separating Jew from Gentile, crashing down.

The scene is now set for the exchange between Jesus and Peter in chapter 16 where Jesus is back in Jewish Galilee, among his disciples. Fresh from the explosion of self-understanding that took place in Sidon – he poses the question – so who do the Jews say I am? Only Simon Peter gets it right. You are – Peter says – the Messiah, Son of the living God.

Jesus is no longer Lord, the Son of David – that is the historic messiah – an image loaded with historic expectations of warrior liberator. Peter proclaims that he is none other than Son of the living God.

Son of the living God represents a crucial shift in understanding, i.e. he is no longer a prisoner of exclusive Jewish expectations predicated on the segregation of Jew from Gentile but the agent of the God of living who is constantly evolving in real time.

Jesus’ messiahship is the mark of God speaking in a new way – into the challenges and opportunities of a world in turmoil – a world on its way to becoming something new.

The question of identity is the central question that is very much of the moment for us in the United States.  We are asking ourselves the question: what kind of nation do we see ourselves being? Beneath the blanket of nationhood, comes the deeper more problematic question: who are we as communities of people?  

There are historic answers to that question – some inspiring and some shameful. Our current struggle is to find a contemporary answer to the question of identity– an answer in living time within a world in turmoil on the way to becoming something new.

Matters of identity are simple if we think of ourselves as members of like minded communities – communities where we all look the same, think the same, act the same. And the trend of recent times has been to simplify the questions of identity by increasingly corralling ourselves into communities of likeness. But our society is a patchwork of communities of mixed likeness, within which values, patterns of living, attitudes and world views are sharply contested along lines of race and class, privilege and deprivation, power and powerlessness. In short, our society is a broken society – an expression of a world out of whack (Richard Swanson).

A broken society offers a powerful invitation for unleashing the enormous potential for healing and change.

Of course, at the core of our identity lies the personal question: who am I / who do others see me as? That’s a very difficult question to answer indeed.

If I take myself as an example. I like to think of myself as someone who believes in kindness and compassion, and the maxim moderation in all things. My experience of my own – usually well-hidden vulnerability – leads me to instinctively resonate with Paul’s plea in Romans 12 to not think of myself more highly than I ought to think, but to think with sober judgement according to the measure of faith God has given me.

I try to think about others as well as myself and try to moderate my self-interestedness so as to recognize and make space for other’s self-interests. I have a generous spirit. I am also passionate about many things and often unsure how to correctly channel my passions. In an unjust world I oftentimes fear the intensity of my passionate hatred for injustice.

I can be prickly too, easily bored and frustrated. I can be sharp tongued and withering in judgement. In short, I’m a jumble of seeming contradictions which I seek to smooth-out beneath the practiced cultivation of quiet non anxious presence.

Perhaps there’s enough contrast in this rather simplified self-description for you – those who know me – to be able to verify some elements of my self-description as true to your experience of me.

Each of us is in reality a bundle of mixedness which we struggle daily to hold together within a constructed shell of our persona – a term for the carefully cultivated image we want to hold of ourselves and represent to the world. Lurking beneath that shell of persona is the fear, that if our jumbled-up mixedness is discovered – will others accept and tolerate the fragmentation of our brokenness?

I believe that even Jesus’ sense of identity evolved and developed as he learned from his experience. As Americans we are facing with an unprecedented urgency the question of identity – who are we and who do we aspire to be? I’ve contrasted the collective identity with how the question of identity might operate at the personal level because I believe that the root of the answer to the question who are we as a people lies in each one of us addressing the question: who am I / what kind of person do I aspire to be?

The answer to this question will tell each of us something about our fears and longings as we select the man not simply as the next President, but the man most able to build the qualities of governance that personify the values that we as individuals aspire to – and seek to live out in our own lives. Amen.

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

Liturgy of The Word for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 16, 2020

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter we invite you to

DONATE HERE.

Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

You can also view our return to eucharistic worship by clicking here.


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here. Podcast was recorded, edited, and produced by Christian Tulungen.

Prelude: “Prière a Notre Dame” (Suite gothique) by Leon Boëllmann (1862-1897), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “O frondens virga” by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 307 “Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor” (vv. 1, 5), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor,
first-begotten from the dead.
Thou alone, our strong defender,
liftest up thy people’s head.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Jesus, true and living bread!
Jesus, true and living bread!

5 Life-imparting heavenly Manna,
smitten Rock with streaming side,
heaven and earth with loud hosanna
worship thee, the Lamb who died.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Risen, ascended, glorified!
Risen, ascended, glorified!

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 277, The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Genesis 45:1-15, read by Marty Flaherty

Psalm 133

Refrain: How good and pleasant it is when breathren live together in unity!

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
    when brethren live together in unity!
2 It is like fine oil upon the head
    that runs down upon the beard,
3 Upon the beard of Aaron,
    and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
4 It is like the dew of Hermon
    that falls upon the hills of Zion.
5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:
    life for evermore.

Refrain

Second Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, read by Amy Esposito

Hymn 690 “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah” (v. 1-2), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim though this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand;
bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.

2 Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through;
strong deliverer, strong deliverer.
be thou still my strength and shield,
be thou still my strength and shield.

The Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 390 (v. 3)

3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side;
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee.

The Sermon: Linda+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Anthem: “Gaelic Blessing” by John Rutter (b. 1945), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 537 “Christ for the world we sing” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Christ for the world we sing!
The world to Christ we bring
with loving zeal;
the poor and them that mourn,
the faint and overborne,
sin-sick and sorrow-worn,
whom Christ doth heal.

4 Christ for the world we sing!
The world to Christ we bring
with joyful song;
the newborn souls, whose days,
reclaimed from error's ways,
inspired with hope and praise,
to Christ belong.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  “Menuet gothique” (Suite gothique) by Boëllmann , Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

Outside/In

The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

In 1914 Robert Frost wrote:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

what I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

At the risk of ‘Frost-splaining’ to a bunch of New Englanders, the beauty of the poem, “Mending Wall” is the way it speaks a universal truth about insiders and outsiders. Human beings have always seemed to find ways to “other” one another—even to go so far as to question each other’s worthiness to stand on this earth.

Frost continues,

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Perhaps. But that “something” isn’t human nature at its most broken. Sadly, at our worst, we’re all about walls. Somebody always has to be Out.  Because, apparently, somebody always has to be In.

And we tend to establish rules that govern which is which. Those rules are the walls that we build based on our assumptions, right or wrong—rules of behavior, of physical characteristics, or even of our opinions. We have come to litmus-test each other seemingly on everything, even to the point, for example, that we have turned a face mask into a political value judgment rather than an objective health measure.

We’re walling ourselves to death, if we’re not careful.

Sadly, at our worst, we’re all about walls. Somebody always has to be Out. Because, apparently, somebody always has to be In.

In the verses just prior to our Gospel passage this morning, the Temple authorities criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before they ate. While we can definitely identify with concern for hand washing as a matter of hygiene (especially now,) Jesus zeroed in on the more pressing point, which was that the authorities had let their purity codes become a purity wall.

The Pharisees weren’t evil—they were completely sincere—they believed that adherence to the Law brought them closer to God’s promise. But Jesus was frustrated that they had substituted external cleanliness for internal godliness; they had lost perspective of what true spiritual health looks like. Purity codes had become a substitute for right relationship with one’s neighbor.

“. . . what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft…. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Jesus, ever the outsider on the side of the outsiders, vividly reminded his hearers of the spirit that undergirds the letter of Jewish law, taking aim at the purity wall with a verbal sledgehammer about sewers that makes Sunday school kids stifle a giggle. Crude, yes, but it makes the point, doesn’t it?

But then something strange happened.

Jesus turned right around and modeled the exclusive behavior that he had just criticized in the Pharisees.

First, he entered the Gentile neighborhoods of Tyre and Sidon, where he was immediately approached by what Matthew calls, “a Canaanite woman.”

Which is interesting.  Canaanites had lived in that area in the past, but by this time the Canaanites were long gone by centuries.

So why would Matthew call her Canaanite?

Hold that thought.

Jesus turned right around and modeled the exclusive behavior that he had just criticized in the Pharisees.

Let us digress to Egypt, where we see Joseph in a tearful reunion with the brothers who had faked his death and sold him into slavery. The story of Joseph and his brothers serves an important function in the history of Israel. It acts as an etiology—an explanation of how things came to be—of why the Israelites of the Exodus had come to be in Egypt in the first place.

“Hurry and bring my father down here.”

It’s all right there in Joseph’s command to his brothers.  Jacob, also known as Israel, and his sons who would be the founders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, relocated to Egypt . . .

. . . from . . . Canaan.

Almost everything about the Patriarchs is about Inside and Outside. Jacob’s family was not Canaanite, but his family had lived there as aliens—Outsiders—for a generation. They were outsiders in Canaan, who became outsiders in Egypt. And generations later they would be oppressed slaves who God would liberate through Moses. They would wander in the Wilderness for forty years and then enter the Land of God’s Promise…

. . . Canaan.

They would be Outsiders once again. But in a brutal chapter of Israel’s history as recorded in the book of Joshua they would effectively exterminate the Canaanites and take possession of their land. Because God had promised that Israel would be the Insiders–and the Canaanites would be Outsiders–in the worst possible way: By genocide.

Now, let us return to Jesus.

Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

Matthew wants us to know that the one who approached Jesus was part of the remnant of Israel’s attempt to eliminate those who were Outside of God’s Promise. She was an Outsider of historic and traumatic proportions. And she called him—what?

“. . . Lord, Son of David . . . ”

Son of David. Have mercy. Heal my daughter of a demon.

She—a Canaanite–believed.

And this is where it gets strange. Jesus, the outsider on the side of outsiders, ignored her. He treated her as an Outsider. And his disciples reinforced him—“send her away.” She’s shouting. She’s rude. She isn’t one of us.

This seems particularly harsh considering what we know about Jesus and his compassion for the marginalized. But it’s important to understand Matthew’s overall dual projects in writing his Gospel. First, he wanted to reassure his Jewish readers of God’s Promise to them that they were God’s People. This is why the imagery that Matthew often used portrayed Jesus as the New Moses. In first rebuffing the woman, then in cavalierly saying that he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel, and finally by calling her a dog, Jesus starkly attended to Matthew’s first priority, even as he had just chastised the Pharisees for their wall-building. It was all of a piece in reassuring the Jewish community of God’s deep desire for right relationship with them.

God had promised that Israel would be the Insiders–and the Canaanites would be Outsiders–in the worst possible way: By genocide.

But that wasn’t the end of it.  The second objective of Matthew’s project was to expand God’s promise to the Gentiles. At the end of his Gospel, in The Great Commission, Jesus will say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” This is crux of it: Jesus, the New Moses, came to liberate all people. No more Insiders. No more Outsiders. No more walls.

So in this encounter, when the Canaanite woman kept hammering at the multi-layered wall of religion, ethnicity, gender, and propriety—this moment when she finally broke through to Jesus with her persistent faith, not only in his identity as Messiah but in her own worthiness as part of God’s Promise; this was the pivotal moment of Jesus’ conversion. Where his ingrained assumptions about her worth and worthiness were shattered.

“Woman, great is your faith!”

And her daughter was healed instantly. Not at the moment when she acknowledged Jesus’ identity, but when she asserted her own.

“I am not an Outsider.”

And down comes the wall.

Biblical scholar Richard Swanson writes: “…this [is] a scene of historic repentance: the Canaanites are shown to be capable of real faithfulness, and as such, should not have been slaughtered…[T]he argument for that slaughter ([that Canaanites will lead Israel] away from true faithfulness) is revealed to be false, at best mistaken, and more likely ignorant and inexcusable.”

And her daughter was healed instantly. Not at the moment when she acknowledged Jesus’ identity, but when she asserted her own.

This was, in Swanson’s words, a moment of remembrance—a convicting moment that turned everything inside out for Jesus and his mission. Inside. Out. When Jesus—even Jesus—received the gift of an opportunity for repentance, he made good use of it. He—even Jesus—responded by expanding his worldview and perspective in such a way that his Great Commission would change the world.

When we think about the walls that we have built—are building–and how we have found more and more ways to alienate each other, Insiders versus Outsiders, might we find hope in this encounter?

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

With God’s help, may we take down the walls around and between us, and become part of the mending of the world.


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