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.


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 10th Sunday after Pentecost, August 9, 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: Praeludium in D, BuxWV 139, by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Bread of the World” (Hymn 301) by Heber/Bourgeois, Amanda Neves, soloist

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

Hymn 388 “O worship the King” (vv. 1, 5), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 O worship the King, all glorious above!
O gratefully sing his power and his love!
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

5 Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
thy mercies how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend! 

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 273, The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Collect of the Day:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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 37:1-4, 12-28, read by David Blake

Psalm 85:8-13

Refrain: Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,
    for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
    and to those who turn their hearts to him.
9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.
Refrain
10 Mercy and truth have met together;
    righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,
    and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Refrain
12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him,
    and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.
Refrain

Second Reading: Romans 10:5-15, read by Laura Bartsch

Hymn 390 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (v. 1), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise Him, for he is thy health and salvation:
Join the great throng, psaltery, organ, and song,
Sounding in glad adoration.

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

Hymn 390 (v. 4)

4 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath breath join with Abraham's seed to adore him!
Let the "Amen" sum all our praises again
Now as we worship before him.

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: “Over My Head,” Black-America spiritual (arr. Clayton White), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Over my head, I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere.
Over my head, I see trouble in the air. There must be a God somewhere.
Over my head, I feel glory in the air. There must be a God somewhere.

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 414 “God, my King, thy might confessing” (vv. 1, 2, 6), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Fantasie über “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,”  by Jürgen Borstelmann (b. 1963), 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:

Taking the Third Step

The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I ’d like to begin with an oldie but goodie; what might be called a parable for hurricane season: Once there was a big storm coming, and the whole community frantically began to prepare. One man, when offered a ride to evacuate inland, told his friends that he was going to ride it out, saying he had faith that God would look after him.  So the wind blew and the rain came, and it began to flood. Some folks came by with a boat and, seeing the man on his front porch looking at the rising water, offered to take him to safety, but he said he had faith that God would save him. And the wind continued to blow and the waters rose still higher until he was up on his roof, and a helicopter came and hovered over his house, lowering a ladder for him to climb up. But he said no, thank you kindly, but he had faith that God would save him. So eventually the storm abated, the water receded, and the man’s neighbors came to his flooded house and found that he had drowned. But his soul had travelled to the afterlife, where he met God face-to-face and said, accusingly, “God! What happened? I had faith that you’d save me, but I ended up drowning!” And God said, “Child, I sent you a ride inland, a boat and a helicopter, what were you waiting for?”

Do we laugh in recognition? Do we see in this silly man our own misunderstanding of faith? Do we see, in his overly specific expectation of what God’s help would look like, our own blindness to God’s saving grace right in front of our noses, if only we would—have faith? 

What does it mean to have faith?

Today’s Gospel passage is one of the most familiar in the New Testament. It is also one of the ones that we think we know: Big storm, Jesus walking on water, Peter jumping out and taking a couple of steps, falling beneath the waves and then saved by Jesus, who tells him he just didn’t have enough faith. So the lesson is that we need to have more faith. Right? But like the man in the hurricane, we might benefit from another look at what we think we see.

Let’s look at the story with fresh eyes, as though we’ve never heard it before. Lay aside all assumptions and begin, not with what we think about faith, but what we know—about fear.

Peter had “little faith.” Just enough to challenge Jesus, enough to get out of the boat, and enough to take a couple of steps on the water.

We surely know, either literally or metaphorically, what it’s like to feel like we’re in a very tiny boat in a very big storm, buffeted by wind and waves, rocking back and forth, to and fro, water splashing over the gunwales, hard to keep our balance. Even for those who–like the disciples who were fishermen—have sea legs for tempestuous times, this is a frightening moment—a storm of day-to-day bad news washing over us, over and over.

For the occupants of the boat it was hard enough just to stay on their feet, so the mysterious appearance of Jesus coming toward them on the water was a new kind of assault. We minimize their terror because think we know the story, but consider the fundamental existential fear that comes from living in unsettled times—when the baseline emotional state for most people is that of deep anxiety. Consider now the disciples, confronted with the possibility that the one person who they had followed, trusted, and given their lives to, wasn’t even real. What a horrifying punch in the gut.

. . . [T]hey were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.

But not Peter. He was the only one with just the right amount of—chutzpah—to actually challenge his Teacher.

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

And Jesus took Peter up on it: “Come,” he says.

And Peter had just enough—chutzpah—to do it. 

Would you? Sit on the gunwale of a rocking boat, lift your legs over, brush the windblown hair out of your eyes, take a deep breath—and stand up?

Stand with Peter for a moment, perhaps ankle deep, lifting one foot and then the other. Does it take your breath away? Feel for a moment the amazement. The joy.

The power.

The power of your small self, accomplishing the seemingly impossible.

And then the wind, a little loss of balance, a gust of the reality of the challenge you have accepted, and it’s all over; you’re in over your head.

“Lord, save me!”

We think we know the story. We think we hear accusation in Jesus’ voice, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

But that’s not how Matthew says that Jesus describes faith. Jesus says in a later chapter that faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move mountains; that the Dream of God itself is to be imaged in the power of that same mustard seed to grow like crazy into a bountiful shelter for God’s creatures.

Little, for Jesus, isn’t a problem.

Peter had “little faith.” Just enough to challenge Jesus, enough to get out of the boat, and enough to take a couple of steps on the water.

We think we know the story. But what did Jesus first say to the terrified occupants of the storm-tossed boat? Did he mention faith? No.

He said, Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

Here’s another oldie but goodie: The opposite of faith isn’t doubt; it’s fear.

Was Peter afraid he would sink below the waves?

Or was he afraid that he wouldn’t?

Might he have been suddenly overwhelmed by a lightning flash understanding of what it would mean to cross the water to Jesus and stand with him? The sudden understanding of what it would truly mean to realize his full power and potential as a follower of Jesus and partner in the inbreaking Dream of God?

Getting out of the boat, and taking the first and second steps, are part of having faith. The tougher challenge lies in the third and fourth steps, which is being faithful.

Oh, Peter, you of plenty of faith.

Getting out of the boat, and taking the first and second steps, are part of having faith. The tougher challenge lies in the third and fourth steps, which is being faithful.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, puts it in terms of obedience.  He writes, “The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if [people] imagine that they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves…”

Strong words from a man who knew the risk and cost of being faithful.

Bonhoeffer jumps us past what I think is the useless question of the precise quantity of faith we need, and takes us into the much more fruitful territory of how to live out the faith that we have; to ask ourselves what is calling to our deepest and truest selves, challenging us, as individuals, communities, and as a church, to have the courage, not just to have faith, but to be faithful. To act faithfully.

What calls us? What holds us back? Is it fear of failure, or of success? What could this storm-tossed world look like if we took, not just the first and second steps, but the third and fourth, living joyfully into Jesus’ invitation, wherever it may lead?

Take a deep breath.

Jesus says, “Come.”


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 9th Sunday after Pentecost, August 2, 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. Liturgy of the Word podcast was recorded, edited, and produced by Christian Tulungen.

Prelude: Praeludium in C, BuxWV 137, by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Sound Forth the Trumpet in Zion” by Thomas Morley (c1557-1602), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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 280, The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Collect of the Day:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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 32:22-31, read by Sarosh Fenn

Psalm 17:1-7, 16

Refrain: Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings.

1 Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD; give heed to my cry;
   listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.
2 Let my vindication come forth from your presence;
    let your eyes be fixed on justice.
3 Weigh my heart, summon me by night,
    melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.
4 I give no offense with my mouth as others do;
    I have heeded the words of your lips.
5 My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;
    in your paths my feet shall not stumble.
6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;
    incline your ear to me and hear my words.
7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,
    O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand
    from those who rise up against them.
16 But at my vindication I shall see your face;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings.

Second Reading: Romans 9:1-5, read by Joshua Maria Garcia

Hymn 578 “O God of love, O King of peace” (v. 1), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 O God of love, O King of peace,
Make wars throughout the world to cease;
Violent acts, O God, restrain;
Give peace, O God, give peace again!

The Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 578 (v. 3)

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

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: “Ave verum corpus” by Josquin des Prez (c1450-1521), The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Hail, true Body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffering in sacrifice on the cross for humankind.

Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

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 302 “Father, we thank thee who hast planted,” The St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Rondeau (Sinfonies de fanfare) by Jean Joseph Mouret (1682-1738), 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:

A Table in the Wilderness

The Rev. Linda Griggs

My husband’s Uncle Roy died a few years ago, and the scattered extended family gathered in Hartsville, South Carolina. There was a memorial service at the funeral home, followed by a reception at a local Methodist Church. Now how it came to be there is interesting. Because Roy didn’t belong to the Methodist Church. He’d been raised Catholic, spent 17 years as a Baptist deacon, and he and Aunt Jerri had been going to the Episcopal Church for years. But Jerri had been a Methodist when she was younger, and there were a couple of church members who lived across the street from where Roy’s parents had lived for a long time. And that was enough–enough for the Methodist women to put on their aprons and mobilize to serve a bunch of grieving outsiders (including Yankees) who converged on Hartsville to remember and mourn Uncle Roy. And what a feast it was. Home-fried chicken. Cornbread. Green beans and lima beans. Homemade ham biscuits. Pound cake and banana pudding if you had room, and coffee, lemonade and sweet tea (the only kind.)  And in response to the profuse thanks from the family, the ladies simply responded, “It’s our ministry.”

It’s been seven years, and that story of Roy’s funeral is still told among our family with reverence, and even a tear or two. It’s pretty special when compassion, a little teamwork, and some home cooking come together in such a way that it touches the heart. When the ordinary takes on the aura of the sacred like that, the feeding becomes a kind of Eucharist.

You give them something to eat.

Today’s story of the feeding of the multitude is the only one of Jesus’ miracles to be included in all of the canonical Gospels. All four Evangelists found profound meaning in this layered episode of feeding–this intersection between hunger and abundance, need and blessing, desire and action.

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd…

After Jesus had learned of the brutal murder of John the Baptist, he withdrew to grieve. But no kindly church ladies came along with baskets of fried chicken and banana pudding. Nor was he to find rest; the crowd followed him—they didn’t care how far they had to go, they just kept walking until they found him, out in the middle of desolate deserted nowhere. They brought nothing for the journey but their hunger for healing, comfort and good news. And in spite of his grief Jesus had compassion on them. So he went to work. It was his ministry.

The hour grew late, stomachs began to grumble, and the disciples wanted to send the people away to find their own dinner. Isn’t that the way it is sometimes; when confronted with a big problem, it is easiest to just try to make it go away to fend for itself. Don’t get too close; don’t get involved. But that’s not Jesus. Jesus, instead of sending the problem away, brought it closer.

You give them something to eat.

As many times as I’ve read and heard this passage I’ve never until recently noticed the grass. In three out of the four Gospel accounts Jesus receives the bread and the fish, and then has everyone sit down in the grass. Not on the ground. Not in the dirt, or on a rock. In every translation I checked, it says grass—the Greek chortos—grass, herbage, hay, or provender. Maybe not a lush lawn of Kentucky fescue, but neither is it arid and infertile. It makes you wonder.

The disciples wanted to send the people away to find their own dinner . . . Jesus, instead of sending the problem away, brought it closer.

Matthew tells us this is a desolate, deserted place. We equate it with the Wilderness where the Israelites wandered and complained, or where Jesus was famished and  tempted after his Baptism. Yet Matthew also implies that it is pasture where animals graze. Perhaps it’s both– an ironic intersection of wilderness and growth. Of hunger and abundance. Need and fulfillment.

We have nothing but five loaves and two fish.

Nothing. But…

We can spend all the time in the world asking how or whether Jesus actually multiplied the loaves and the fish. But we might instead consider that this story is inviting us, today, to see two things in relationship: the hungry multitude nestled in the grass, the abundant compassion of God in the form of bread, and at the intersection of the two, we see Jesus. Blessing, and inviting and challenging us.

Jesus didn’t distribute the food. His disciples fed the multitudes from the prodigious bounty that God provided.

You give them something to eat.

The miracle of the loaves and fishes shows us how we as children of God are bound to each another and creation by both our need to be fed and our potential for compassion and generosity in feeding one another. Jesus didn’t distribute the food. His disciples fed the multitudes from the prodigious bounty that God provided.

And we are called to do the same. Especially now.

Nearly eleven percent of our neighbors in this country say that their households don’t have enough to eat. The Census Bureau reports that more than 25% have missed housing payments—rent or mortgage. People are choosing between food and medication more than ever. Oh, and the children: Over 20% of children face food insecurity at some point during the year. The pandemic has closed schools and summer camps that are sources of physical as well as intellectual nourishment.

And as of this writing the folks in Washington are ready to let vital unemployment benefits to 30 million unemployed children of God lapse rather than risk giving some of them too much money. More than they deserve. Too much of what can be made available for everyone in need if our priorities were straight.

Jesus, send them away to fend for themselves.

But Jesus says no.

Jesus assures us that it is safe to look at the world through the eyes of compassion instead of political expediency. Through eyes of abundance instead of scarcity.

Jesus has us all sitting in the grass—we just can’t collectively seem to see what that means. Jesus assures us that it is safe to look at the world through the eyes of compassion instead of political expediency. Through eyes of abundance instead of scarcity.

There’s a table grace that I learned a few years ago:

Lord, to those who have hunger, give bread; to those who have bread, give a hunger for justice.

What is our ministry to our neighbors who hunger? What shape can our hunger for justice take in this moment?

Listen to the vision of Isaiah:

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. …Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”

The prophet envisions a heavenly banquet. Every time we feed each other, whether it’s food pantry volunteers making take-out meals, Methodist ladies serving fried chicken to out of town strangers, or citizens protesting and flooding legislators’ inboxes with demands for economic and social justice—every time we draw closer to another in compassion and generosity, we participate in a foretaste of the heavenly banquet—a table set for Creation since the beginning of time. We just need to open our eyes to where we are sitting. 


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 8th Sunday after Pentecost, July 26th, 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. Liturgy of the Word podcast recorded, edited, and produced by Christian Tulungen.

Prelude: “Prière” from 24 pièces en style libre by Jean Langlais (1908-1992), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector.

Introit: “If ye love me” by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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

Hymn 388 “O worship the King” (vv. 1, 5), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 O worship the King, all glorious above!
O gratefully sing his power and his love!
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
 
4 Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
thy mercies how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Collect of the Day:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon
us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so
pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal;
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 29:15-28, read by Marty Flaherty

Psalm 119:129-136

Refrain: Steady my footsteps in your word.

129 Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130 When your word goes forth it gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant;
I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me in mercy,
as you always do to those who love your Name.
133 Steady my footsteps in your word;
let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,
and I will keep your commandments.
135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.

Steady my footsteps in your word.

Second Reading: Romans 8:26-39, read by Ian Tulungen

Gradual Hymn 488 “Be thou my vision” (vv. 1, 2), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
all else be nought to me, save that thou art--
thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
 
2 Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my great Father; thine own may I be;
thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

The Gospel: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52, proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn 488 (v. 3)

3 High King of heaven, when victory is won,
may I reach heaven's joys, bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever befall,
still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

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: “Blest are they whose spirits long” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759, arr. Hopson), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Blest are they whose spirits long, whose trust is in the Lord, and on whose lips is praise unending. They shall mount up like eagles, lofty on high. They, too, shall walk and not be weary.

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 Hymn 635 “If thou but trust in God,” St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 If thou but trust in God to guide thee,
and hope in him through all thy ways,
he'll give thee strength whate'er betide thee,
and bear thee through the evil days,
who trusts in God’s unchanging love
builds on a rock that nought can move.

2 Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving;
so do thine own part faithfully,
and trust his word, though undeserving
thou yet shalt find it true for thee;
God never yet forsook in need
the soul that trusted him indeed.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Fugue (excerpt) from Sonata XI, Op. 148 by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901), 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 Rev. Mark Sutherland

Listening For

I keep wondering if I should be worrying more about the future of the Church and in particular the future of our parish? Since the 3rd Sunday in Lent this March when in the face of an escalating public health crisis I took the decision to stop in-person worship – everything about being Church has changed. Since then, we have been on a steep social and virtual media learning curve. We’ve been learning how to be a virtual church – using virtual tools that are now thankfully, available to us at a time of greatest need.

Signing in – logging on -whether it be to a medium like Zoom – something completely new to most of us – or recalibrating our brains to think of the St Martin’s website rather than our red doors as the portal through which we enter into an experience of weekly worship – the challenge has not only been a technical one. Having logged-on or signed-in –we negotiate our way through the digital red doors where our expectations of what it feels like to be a church are challenged by new frustrations but also new discoveries.

Once through our digital red doors we are presented with the challenges of operating in digital meetings, groups, and fellowships where if too many people speak up at once no one gets to hear what is said. Once logged on to the Sunday morning Liturgy of the Word – both a different and yet familiar experience of the Sunday morning worship – how do we orient to an experience of corporate worship when there’s only ourselves and whoever else may be in the room listening along with us; when no matter how distracted we might have felt sitting in the pews, no matter how much our minds used to wander, the temptation of multi-tasking while participating in virtual worship is something quite other?

New questions arise. What is the correct body posture for virtual worship? Should I sit upright, alternating between standing, sitting, maybe kneeling, or is it ok to slouch in the armchair or even remain in bed? Should I bother to get dressed or is worshiping in my PJ’s acceptable to God?

Episcopalian brains have been conditioned by the centrality of the Eucharist as our principal experience of worship. Eucharist is a form of worship that demands not only presence but more importantly, communal participation. It’s hard to feel engaged when the visual cues are not the priest at the altar and the people around us – but the webpage on the screen in front of us and the sounds of worship reduced to an audio experience of worship pre-recorded by others. Adjusting to these changes requires a deeper and more careful listening – a creative use of imagination –capacities we may not have engaged much when worshiping in the past.

Sacramental worship is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace? The movement from outward action to inward grace is a journey that has always been taken in the imagination – the experience of creative and deep listening.

One way I suggest approaching the Sunday webcast of the Liturgy of the Word is not to participate in the structure of the service as if you were in church, but to close your eyes and simply let the experience speak through your senses and imagination. Worship – whether virtual or in-person remains for us not only the time we enter into the conversation God wishes us to have, but an invitation to listen more deeply to the needs of a world – to use Paul’s language in Romans 8 – to listen amidst the labor pains for the hope that heralds rebirth.

Br. Keith Nelson SSJE asked in a posting this week:

Are you listening? I hear you, even as I type this, and I know that you are. Somehow, I hear us, gathered in our listening. It is the sound of a single heart learning, re-learning to listen to the Word, and to the world. 

The upheaval of our world in the wake of Covid-19 presents us with a demand to reimagine ourselves as a people – a society – a nation – a community – and to my point this morning – as a church. The upending of old familiarities and comfortable certainties demands a revitalizing of a capacity to listen with imagination.

Of the need for such listening Br. Keith writes:

I am listening more deeply, more intently, and with a greater sense of urgency, than I have ever listened. I am listening to the lonely cry out for human touch and the holy cry out for sacraments shared. I am listening to words of joy and lament from the masked mouths of strangers and friends alike. I am listening to Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American people cry out afresh an old, old song of unspeakable trauma, yet refulgent with hope. I am listening to slow-motion sounds of collapse as political maneuvers falter and fail. I am listening to ice melting beneath the paws of the polar bear. I am listening to the inhalation and exhalation of breath, rhythmically reminding me that every moment is precious, and none is a given. I am listening to the heart of God beneath it all. 

The Apostle Paul, in our continued reading from Romans 8 – building on his description of nature and humanity groaning in labor pains (see last week’s entry Labor Pains) awaiting new birth speaks of:

the Spirit help[ing] us in our weakness: [speaking to us through our imaginative listening] for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words – and God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for [energizes and inspires to action] the saints according to the will of God.

Paul proclaims that no amount of hardship and suffering, no degree of uncertainty and fear can separate us from the love of God in Christ:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, … nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, height, or depth – not anything in all of creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In facing up to new ways of worshiping together, new ways of being church, we are those whom Jesus in Matthew 13 identifies- as scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven? The scribal person spec. calls for skills to fashion new responses from the rich storehouse of old experience.

We are learning to listen in new ways. Along with the familiar fearful questions: how long will we endure present sufferings – Paul’s things present); how will we manage the anxiety of growing fearfulness – Paul’s things to come? – we begin to hear another quality of voice sounding deep within us saying: thank you! We hear a voice that reminds us that this crisis is what we’ve been waiting for.

For some time, many of us have been waiting with a growing apprehension – waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop – that is, waiting for what we know has been coming. This crisis is nothing short of a rude awakening to our dangerous complicities with multifaceted social and environmental injustice and oppression, corruption and greed. Paradoxically it comes as a relief when God calls us out and tells it how it is. Through our imaginative awareness – our deeper listening – in the amidst of our present suffering and future fear we are also learning to hear – thank you – as we listen with increased longing for the God of unchangeable power to change our hearts so that we can let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new!

As we question what it now means to be a people of God – to be the church – in a world that has precipitously shifted on its axis our listening takes on new urgency.

If you’re hearing what I’m hearing, maybe we’re listening to the Church becoming more. In this place “within listening distance of the silence we call God” (R.S. Thomas) and within shouting distance of one another, we are finding something precious: a deep church. Br. Keith Nelson, SSJE.

A deep church is a woke community – with a courage to imagine what it’s been told cannot be. A deep church is a woken community charged for action. 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 7th Sunday after Pentecost, July 19th, 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.


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.

Prelude: Pastorale, Op. 33, No. 5 by Aloÿs Claussmann (1850-1926), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit by Ian Quinn (b. 1973), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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

Hymn 423 “Immortal, invisible” (vv. 1, 4), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, your great Name we praise.
 
4 Thou reignest in glory, thou rulest in light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
'tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ.

The Collect of the Day

First Reading:

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Refrain: In your mercy, you show your strength, O God.

Your care, O God, encompasses all creation!
      Nor is there any god besides you.
To whom do you need to prove
      that your judgments are just?
For your righteousness comes from your strength,
      and your dominion makes way for your mercy;
for you show your might when mortals doubt your sovereignty;
      you rebuke those who treat it with contempt.

In your mercy, you show your strength, O God.

Although you rule in boundless power,
      you administer justice with mildness;
you govern us with great forbearance
      though you are free to act without constraint.
You have taught your people by such deeds
      that all who would be righteous must be kind.
You have filled your children with good hope
      by stirring them to repent for their sins.

In your mercy, you show your strength, O God.

Second Reading:

Gradual Hymn 593 “Lord, make us servants” (vv. 1, 2), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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: proclaimed by +

Gradual Hymn 593 (vv. 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: “I Love You, O My God Most High” by David Hogan (1949-1996), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

I love You, oh my God most high,
For first Your love has captured me;
I seek no other liberty;
Bound by Your love, I shall be free.
 
All mine is Yours; say but the word,
Say what You will, it shall be done;
I know Your love, most gracious Lord, I
know You seek my good alone.

May memory no thought suggest,
But shall to Your pure glory tend,
May understanding find no rest,
Except in You, its only end.

Apart from You, nothing can be,
So grant me this, my only wish,
To love You, Lord, eternally,
You give me all in giving this.

Prayers of the People: led by +

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 665 “All my hope on God is founded” (vv. 1, 5), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Pasticcio (Organbook) by Jean Langlais (1908-1992), 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 and text

Labor Pains

For two weeks Matthew’s gospel has given us Jesus’ ecological teaching delivered through farming parables drawing on the themes and images of sowing, harvesting, seed, and soil. In Seeds, I last week referred to God’s depiction of the virtuous cycle of sustainability.

Speaking through Matthew this Sunday Jesus continues to expand his ecological teaching with a further parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds) – reminding us that pull up the weeds too soon and you will only damage the wheat growing alongside them.

Each Sunday through the assigned readings we catch a glimpse of the conversation God is seeking for us to have as a community. The shape of this conversation most often emerges through the relationship between the OT and gospel readings. Last week, I explored how a conversation on the virtuous cycle of sustainability emerges out of the juxtaposition of Isaiah 55 with Matthew 13.

Often times, the NT reading seems to hang freely in the wind, outside the broad sweep the OT and gospel call and response. I find it helpful to view the NT reading as a side commentary that explores the practical implications for Christian living flowing from the wider conversation with God.

Accompanying Matthew – over these past several weeks we have heard the Apostle Paul speaking to the small and struggling house churches in Rome, sometime in the early years of the Emperor Nero’s reign – so somewhere between 56-58AD. I want to delve below the surface of Paul’s words today.

Paul’s words relate to the broader theme of sustainability by pointing in the direction of the concrete responsibilities the virtuous cycle of sustainability places on the way we live as Christian people.

As modern readers and listeners, we often find Paul’s writing style impenetrable and his language and concepts foreign to us. For instance, centuries of narrow and puritanical interpretation have obscured the richness of his concept of the flesh – reducing it to an impoverished condemnation of sex and sexual desires.

Set in his context, Paul shared the Jewish transgenerational expectation of the ultimate fulfilment of God’s promise to renew the face of the creation. The thorny question for the Jews, for Paul, and now for us concerns timing. When will God’s promise come to fulfilment?

In Romans 8 when Paul speaks of the whole of the creation, he is specifically referring to one aspect of it, i.e. nature or the natural world of land, sea, and sky. According to Genesis God did not create nature but ordered it from the swirling matter of the abyss. God then created nature’s inhabitants: vegetation, insect, bird, and marine life; animals and human beings. Thus, Paul makes a clear distinction between the natural world and the human world when he writes:

we know the whole of creation (nature) has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the nature, but we ourselves (created beings), who have the first fruits of the spirit groan inwardly while we wait for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

In the phrase: the whole creation groaning in labor pains, Paul astonishes us with the evocative imagery and power of his language.

Paul understands human beings to be pulled in two directions. We are stretched in a tension between being heirs of the spirit and debtors to the flesh. Spirit and flesh are a favorite oppositional for Paul. By spirit he is referring to the new life of our yearning to be more fully the people God made us to be – i.e. heirs of the spirit or children of God. By the flesh he is referring to the old life of our tendency to willfully go our own way -resulting in our bondage to futility.

Our attachment to futility, i.e. the dead end values of a world we create for ourselves – a world corrupted by human oppression, violence, and greed – not only has damaged us by trapping us in bondage to futility, but has damaged nature itself, as together human beings and nature both lie in bondage to death and decay.

Yet, in painting so dire a picture of the status quo – the existing state of affairs, especially regarding the environment and our social and political lives of suffering and futility, Paul boldly proclaims:

I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is about to be revealed to us.

What’s really exciting about this new line of argument is that even though human activity has desecrated and degraded nature – subjecting it to futility, the glory to be revealed is not just something God will show to us. It also results from our active participation with God as we claim full possession of our inheritance as the children of God. Then:

nature itself will [also] be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain [with us] the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

For Paul, humanity and nature stand or fall together.

Thus, Paul does not consider the suffering of the present time – the whole creation’s groaning in labor pains – to be anything other than the sign of the eventual glorious liberation of the whole of the creation from the death pangs of human created futility.

Casting patriarchal taboo aside, Paul draws on women’s experience of childbirth as a metaphor for the rebirth of a new creation – that like a physical birth the rebirthing of creation is preceded by the pains of suffering. Rebirth is God’s work and God alone will bring it to completion, yet, an integral part of God’s process requires us -led by the Spirit of God – to grow away from our own willful attachments – towards our true destiny in the final act in God’s three act drama of creation.

The Jewish transgenerational expectation of the fulfilment of God’s promise was not that God will discard the present creation and make a new one – but that God will renew the face of the earth, i.e. liberate the present created order into the fullness of God’s original intentions. To live the life of the spirit is to actively participate – in real time – in the ongoing process of liberation by loving that which God from the outset has loved in declaring the whole of the creation to be good.

Sanctification is not a future goal but a present time process by which God transforms us to act now – as if we are already made complete – as when the creation is finally glorified.  Since God’s promise is to repair the damage imposed on nature by the actions of a violent and greedy humanity – trapped in a futility of its own creating, we must now reflect the divine solidarity with nature. We Christians must dedicate ourselves to the repair in real time of our damage of the natural world – because being the stewards of creation is one of the essential attributes of our becoming the children of God.

Future hope drives our actions in the present. In this way that which is to come is already realized in us through the actions we take.

Sanctification is not a future goal but a present time process by which God transforms us to act now – as we will act when the creation is finally glorified.

Ecology defines the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. We need to foster not only an ecological approach to nature but redouble our efforts to address a sound ecology of society. There is and inextricable independency between the ecology of human society and the ecology of nature. Nature and Society – desecration of one is desecration of both. Repair of one is repair of both.

Today we face into multiple crises linking environment, economy, pandemic, and the social evils of poverty and racism – all forming a multifaceted whole. Two quotations from articles in the NYTimes seem appropo in conclusion.

Nicholas Kristof’s wrote in: Interrupt this Gloom to Offer Hope

Perhaps today’s national pain, fear and loss can also be a source of hope: We may be so desperate, our failures so manifest, our grief so raw, that the United States can once more, as during the Great Depression, embrace long-needed changes that would have been impossible in cheerier times.

But the final word must come from a tweet from John Lewis who sadly left us Friday night.

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

I rather think St Paul would agree. So to all would-be children of God – time to roll up our sleeves, no?


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Liturgy of The Word for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (July 12th, 2020)

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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.

Prelude: Prelude from Suite No. IV in E flat by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Consuelo Sherba, viola

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Lord of Life and King of Glory” by Michelangelo Grancini (1605-1669), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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

Hymn 512 “Come Gracious Spirit” (vv. 1, 4), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove,
with light and comfort from above;
be thou our guardian, thou our guide
o'er every thought and step preside.
 
4 Lead us to heaven, that we may share
fullness of joy for ever there;
lead us to God, our final rest,
to be with him forever blest.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ.

The Collect of the Day

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13 read by David Blake

Psalm 119:105-112, St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Refrain: Your word is a lantern to my feet, O Lord, and a light upon my path.
 
105 Your word is a lantern to my feet
and a light upon my path.
106 I have sworn and am determined
to keep your righteous judgments.
107 I am deeply troubled;
preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,
and teach me your judgments.
 
Your word is a lantern to my feet, O Lord, and a light upon my path.
 
109 My life is always in my hand,
yet I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a trap for me,
but I have not strayed from your commandments.
111 Your decrees are my inheritance forever;
truly, they are the joy of my heart.
112 I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes
for ever and to the end.
 
Your word is a lantern to my feet, O Lord, and a light upon my path.

Second Reading: Romans 8:1-11, read by Pat Nolan

Gradual Hymn 48 “O day of radiant gladness” (v. 1), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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.

The Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn 48 “O day of radiant gladness” (v. 4)

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 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: “Ave verum” by Edward Elgar (1857-1934), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Ave, verum corpus
natum de Maria Virgine,
Vere passum immolatum
in Cruce pro homine,
Cujus latus perforatum
unda fluxit sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.

Hail, true body
born of the Virgin Mary,
Who truly suffered, sacrificed
on the Cross for man,
Whose pierced side overflowed
with water and blood,
Be for us a foretaste
In the test of death.

Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

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 505 “O Spirit of Life” (vv. 1, 3, 4), St. Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God,
in ev'ry need thou bring us aid,
proceeding forth from heaven's throne,
from God, the Father and the Son;
O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.
 
3 O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God,
make us to love your sacred word;
the holy flame of love impart,
that charity may warm each heart;
O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.
 
4 O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God,
enlighten us by that same word;
teach us to know God's radiant love,
lead us to Christ who reigns above;
O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Courante from Suite No. IV in E flat by J. S. Bach, Consuelo Sherba, viola

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


Mark’s+ stand alone sermon podcast and text

Seeds

Prior to modernity, most people lived in agricultural societies. Accordingly, the Bible abounds with spiritual metaphors from agrarian life – in particular the spiritual metaphors of planting and harvesting. In the readings for Pentecost 6 from Matthew 13 and Isaiah 55 it comes as small surprise that each employs the spiritual metaphors of planting and harvesting – or sowing and reaping.

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that the readings each Sunday provide a platform for God to invite us into conversation. In discerning the nature of this conversation, we look, in the first instance, for clues in the relationship between Gospel and O.T. readings. On Pentecost 6 it’s hard not to miss the connections that lead us to conclude that the conversation God invites to have concerns sustainability.

Isaiah pictures the fruitfulness of God’s word – the seed – that goes forth from God’s mouth to accomplish a tangible harvest of environmentally friendly fruitfulness: the rain and snow do not evaporate before watering the earth – bringing forth a wild and extravagant fruitfulness that gives both seed for sowing and bread for eating. From seed – to bread – to seed -for future bread – the virtuous cycle of fruitful environmental sustainability stares us in the face.

This Isaiah, for he is the third prophet by this name, draws upon a powerful relationship between ecology and spirituality when he proclaims: the very mountains and the hills shall burst into song and the trees of the field shall clap their hands. The word of God’s mouth returns to God through a full-throated affirmation of divine fruitfulness – the product of a profound harmony between divine and human endeavor, in sync with the natural world.

Whatever the harvest produced by modern humanity’s intensive industrial farming methods it is not a rich harvest as God anticipates. We plough the land with chemicals, planting to produce a harvest -the abundance of which needs to be measured against the cost of environmental desecration and ecological degradation. The trees of the Amazon rainforest can hardly be pictured as clapping their hands in the face of slash and burn practices that strip the land for planting – land that after its first harvest – lying nakedly exposed to the elements of nature that no longer water the earth bringing forth fruitfulness but erode the leach the soil which quickly loses it fertility without further chemically enhanced help.

The conversation with God that emerges from Isaiah 55, challenges our current agricultural practices of land management and factory farming – practices that destroy the harmony of the natural order through the forces unleashed by greed driven, human endeavor.

In Matthew 13 we find the image of the sower – a farmer or farm hand who squanders his precious seed -recklessly scattering – seemingly heedless to the fact that much of it will land among rocks and weeds – marginal land inhospitable for a rich harvest.  

Following on from Isaiah 55, Matthew 13 pictures the seed being scattered as a metaphor for God’s word that goes out from God’s mouth. It’s perplexing that God seems not to mind the inefficiency of seed wasted by being scattered among rocks and weeds. Yet, maybe in this perplexing disregard God’s rich purpose is still accomplished in ways beyond our limited imagining.

The focus on the seed of God’s word having been scattered far and wide – now shifts to the nature of the soil in which the seed takes root – a metaphor for people who with varying capacities for fruitfulness respond to God’s word in different ways.

Matthew’s parable of the sower directs us to a conversation with God about the fruitfulness of our own lives. Fruitful lives embody sustainability.  In nature sustainability means planting seed that bears a harvest abundant enough to ensure we have bread to eat- but just as importantly, seed for further sowing. From planting to harvest – seed to bread for today – to seed for tomorrow’s bread we see the clear outlines of what I am calling the virtuous cycle of fruitful environmental sustainability.

It’s not enough that we find our fruitfulness in self-contentment, self-fulfillment. Our fruitfulness must be directed towards agitating for a much wider systemic fruitfulness in the life of our society. This agitation for changes in the direction of a greater systemic fruitfulness benefiting the many and not just the few is now a matter of some urgency in these stressful days of society-wide challenge and opportunity.

To live fruitfully requires three things: the capacity to be receptive, the openness that comes with understanding, and quality of action. Receiving refers to a life-long attention to nourishing the rich soil of our life so that the seed sown in us sprouts a rich harvest of understanding. However, understanding is not about our mental comprehension. Matthew elsewhere reminds us to be doers of the word and not simply passive hearers. Understanding derives from the rain and snow of God’s grace watering the fruit of our lives of action.

Action becomes visible when we participate with God in the bringing about of God’s rich purpose in the world – a purpose manifest in the virtuous cycle of sustainability.

Sustainable agriculture that provides for our daily bread – i.e. bread for eating -while taking care to ensure we have seed for the bread of tomorrow is a rich metaphor for our conservation of earth’s precious resources. However, humans are also social creatures and sustainability applies as much to our societal structures as to our agricultural practices.

Sustainable society is one in which justice rains down like dew from heaven –creating and protecting social environments within which individuals and communities are able to flourish and produce a harvest of unimaginable diversity and variety.

The parable of the sower is finally a parable about a risk-taking God who also expects us to be risk taking people. God the sower scatters the seed of the word willy-nilly – scandalously heedless of where the precious seed will land – a far cry from today’s profit driven efficiencies. Yet, the seed that lands among infertile rock is far from wasted. It becomes food for the birds who through their digestion cycle carry and deposit the seed in new and surprising places beyond the range of a single sower’s planting.  

Like the farmer in Matthew’s parable of the sower, if we risk scattering far and wide without regard for efficiency or short term profit – we will most likely be surprised by the unexpected results. If there was ever a time for us to be bold and to take risks with sowing tomorrow’s seed – it’s now. The challenge of risk is none other than the rich soil of opportunity.


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.

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