Liturgy of the Word with Sermon for Easter IV

Order of Service

Prelude: ‘Variations on “Bunessan” Robert J. Powell with Steven Young is at the console of the St Martin’s organ

Service begins on pg 355 of the Book of Common Prayer

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed!

The Introit: I got me flowers a George Herbert poem set by R. Vaughan Williams’ in his Easter Mystical Song Cycle and sung by The Men and Boys of St Matthew’s Church with Gerald Finley, Baritone. This song cycle is part of our choral repertoire which Gabe Alfieri sang at Easter, 2019

I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

The Gloria: Healey Willan, Mass XII, sung by the St Martin’s Choir, recorded last Christmas Eve, directed by Gabe Alfieri with Steven Young, organist.

The Collect: for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

The Readings: Here is a link to the Preparing for Sunday Lectionary page

Acts 2:42-47, proclaimed by Laura Bartsch

Psalm 23: pre-recorded by St Martin’s Chapel Consort

1 Peter 2:19-25, proclaimed by Elizabeth Welshman

Gradual hymn: 440 vv 1-2, St Martin’s staff singers w/organ

The Gospel: John 10:1-10 proclaimed by The Rev. Mark Sutherland

Gradual hymn: 440 v 3, St Martin’s staff singers w/organ

The Sermon: The Rev. Linda Griggs -(the text appears below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem: There Is a Balm in Gilead, St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Prayers of the People: Linda+

The Peace

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP) and Easter Blessing

The Postlude: Trumpet Tune in C by Michael McCabe with Steven Young is at the console of the St Martin’s organ

The service was recorded, edited, and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

Service Audio cast including the Sermon
Stand alone Sermon Audio

On Deployment

 “The Church is not empty; it has been deployed. “

This is a social media meme that became viral (pardon the pun) about a month ago, as clergy frantically pondered how to do Church during Holy Week and Easter, grieving with our parishes as we faced a time that is traditionally filled with hectic activity, high attendance, and high expectations, all the while knowing that no virtual/online/ webcast/livestream/zoom liturgy could possibly substitute for the visceral experience of being together and worshipping together during one of the most important seasons of the Church Year.

As I noted in my Good Friday meditation, this is not a situation any of us wanted, but it is where we are, and with God’s grace we are called to understand how to make meaning from this moment.

“The Church is not empty; it has been deployed.”

The flock has until now been safe within the sheepfold, protected by the walls and the gate from all who wish it harm. But now the gate has moved aside and the flock has been called reluctantly out of the fold into open land and uncertain territory. We blink in the harsh light of this new time and long to turn around and head back to our comfortable shelter. But instead the Shepherd insistently calls us onward, away from the fold. We are on a new journey.

Even as the restrictions of the past weeks are gradually lifting in the community, we still face an indeterminate amount of time before we can be back in the church, and even then we need to be realistic about the fact that there may be new resurgences of the virus before a vaccine is ready. This will probably mean that this will not be the last time we will be confined to our homes, unable to gather for worship in person.

So for now the sheepfold remains off limits, and we don’t know for how long, or when we will be called away again once we are back. We can’t really conceive of what “normal” will look like.

We are in a liminal place, trying to understand our identity in new circumstances, when we have only our old circumstances as a frame of reference.  Who are we now, and is that different from who we were several weeks ago?

What does it mean for the Church to be deployed?

In order to understand this we need to go back to the beginning.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. 

Acts 2

Scholars differ as to whether Luke, the author of Acts, was writing this iconic passage descriptively or prescriptively; was he telling how it was, or how he wished it to be? Regardless, what we have here is a Gospel vision of a community saturated by the Holy Spirit and living out its call to follow Jesus in a particular way, in a spirit of faithfulness, fellowship and generosity. This early Church was in liminal space–a period of transition from being a group of Christian Jews still meeting in the Temple to being a separate community that would eventually move beyond those walls with a new understanding of itself and how to live out its faith.

Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… 

Those of us who have been baptized, or been part of a liturgy of Holy Baptism, will (I hope) recognize this description of the new community; this verse is the primary template of our identity as followers of Christ. As baptized Christians we have entered into a covenant of engagement with scripture and the traditions of the Church, and to worshipping and praying together for ourselves, each other and the world.

This is who we are. And it is really important to remember that we have been called into this identity and that it has stood in some form or another for two millennia, through the ups and downs of countless historical upheavals and crises. The Church can withstand a pandemic. This may even be our opportunity to thrive. Not that we are casting off those crucial marks of our identity that remind us who we are, but that we have learned to experience them in new ways. Through technology we have managed to remain in contact with one another, and even to increase our reach—this past week we were joined at Zoom Morning Prayer by a worshiper calling in from Athens, Georgia. Our online Meditation classes have gone from 5 to 20 attendees.  I’ve noticed from our Zoom Coffee Hours that we are gradually learning to listen in a different way because only one person can speak at a time in a large group and we must pause more often, and think a little more carefully before speaking. Technology definitely has its frustrations, and these are well documented, but it elicits gifts as well.

Yes, we miss Eucharist—the “breaking of bread” at God’s Table and meeting together at the altar rail.  Bishop Knisely has called this moment a time of fasting, and I think this is helpful. Fasting is a discipline intended to bring us closer to God. When we remember what it is we are missing through our fast, we remember the One who created, liberated and sustains us. We can remember that the sacred can be found in the ordinary; that invisible grace permeates the outward and visible world. We can learn to seek the holy where we are.

Which brings us back to where we began a few minutes ago. Where are we? We are deployed. We are a flock cast out of our fold and led into an uncomfortable landscape. We are finding new ways to do old things. But our Shepherd wants more from us than that. If we are to live out our Covenant fully where we are, we need to remember who we are. And who we are lies not just in how we worship, but in what that worship, through the Spirit, calls us into.

The landscape into which we have been led is admittedly pretty bleak. This time of pandemic has laid bare the issues of economic, social, and environmental injustice that have plagued this country and our world for decades and more, but now are more starkly evident than ever. The catalogue of bad news, especially for our most vulnerable neighbors, is heart wrenching and frightening for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. But this is not a time to be fearful. The Good Shepherd’s call to compassion, justice and healing is the same as it ever was; nothing has changed. What has changed is the urgency of the call and the opportunity of this liminal moment. We can’t pass it up.

I came across a series of questions that may help to equip us for this landscape; questions that we might bear in our hearts and minds as we engage, not only with our spiritual world, but with our secular and civic worlds as well. Think about the decisions and priorities we set as individuals and communities. As we do so, ask:

Does it heal?

Does it bring hope?

Does it remake a part of the world so that people can rebuild their lives?

Does it invite us to participate in God’s work of transformation?

We are deployed.  We are called to courage by a Shepherd who walks with us through this Valley, and when we return to the fold, whenever that will be, it will be a different place because we are different; because we will have remembered who we are; the Body of Christ empowered by the Spirit, and renewed in faithfulness, fellowship and generosity. A transformed people, as ready now as the early Christians were to move beyond the walls and to transform the world. Amen

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