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The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.
Prelude: Allegro (Concerto in B minor), Johann G. Walther with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ
Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector
Introit: “O frondens virga” by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort
O blooming branch, you stand upright in your nobility, as breaks the dawn on high: rejoice now and be glad, and deign to free us, frail and weakened, from the wicked habits of our age; stretch forth your hand to lift us up aright.
Hymn:686, “Come, thou fount of every blessing”(vv. 1, 3) St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it mount of God's redeeming love. Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee: prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above
Greeting: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and for ever.
Collect for Purity
The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying
The Collect of the Day
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
First Reading: Exodus 19:2-8, read by Laura Bartsch
Psalm 100 sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort
Refrain: Come before God’s presence with a song. 1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song. 2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. 3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name. 4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-8 read by Samantha Muther
Gradual Hymn: 583, “Fairest Lord Jesus” (V1,2) sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
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. 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 9:35-10:8 proclaimed by Linda+
Gradual Hymn: 583, “Fairest Lord Jesus” (v 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 text appears below)
The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)
The Anthem: “Lord, I Lift My Soul to You” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759, arr. Hopson) Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ
Lord, I life my soul to you; My trust is ever in your word. O, make me know all your ways. Lord, I claim your boundless love; Your deeds are known from days of old. You guide the humble in peace, truth, and light. Those who revere the Lord live in joy. Peace shall be upon their way; The Lord will be their constant hope; The Lord is ever their guide and stay.
Prayers of the People: led by Linda+
The Lord’s Prayer
The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)
Final Hymn: 377, “All people that on earth do dwell” sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ
All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the LORD with cheerful voice. Serve him with joy, his praises tell, come now before him and rejoice! To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, To God whom heaven and earth adore, From men and from the angel host Be praise and glory evermore.
The Postlude: Prelude in D minor, Opus 7a, Richard Bartmuss with Steven Young on St Martin’s organ
On a more personal note Al and I moved home this last week. We have enjoyed being the curators of a 200-year-old house with an extensive and labor-intensive garden, but enough is enough, and having made considerable improvements to the house we felt it time to hand on to the next curators of this beautiful example of a Rustic New England Colonial.
Beginning Ordinary Time and moving to a new house may seem to be only tangentially connected. Yet, for me, they both represent new beginnings – and it’s about new beginnings I want to speak.
Each Sunday the Ecumenical three-year lectionary appoints three texts and a psalm – not of our own choosing. This means that each Sunday we receive an invitation from God through the appointed readings to engage in a conversation of God’s choosing and not ours. Otherwise we would tend to only self-select readings that support us in the comfortable conversation we always prefer to have with ourselves.
In the readings appointed for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, God seems to invite us into a conversation about new beginnings. Excluding the psalm, which is more of a liturgical text, we normally find the clearest and most obvious connections lying between the Old Testament and Gospel readings. Jesus’ teaching found in the Gospels either affirms or challenges the Old Testament theme. The function of the New Testament reading is to act as a kind of side-ways commentary on the nature of living the Christian life. Thus, its content sits in a less direct relationship with the more narrative oriented readings on either side of it.
So, let me begin with Exodus and Matthew, before going onto Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Exodus, chapter 19 opens with Israel’s arrival at the foot of Mt Sinai. Israel’s arrival at Sinai constitutes a new beginning. It’s here that we glimpse the beginning of the slow and painful transformation of Israel from a loose and chaotic collection of kinship units into a nation. However, it’s not nationhood like that of other peoples. It’s a nationhood specifically defined by the centrality of Israel’s relationship with God – enshrined in a constitution known as the Covenant.
It’s a new beginning, but what is a beginning if not to set out on a road where each obstacle along the way invites two possible responses -either a challenge to be daunted by or an opportunity through which to grow. In response to God’s invitation the Israelites -with one heart and one voice respond – yes, everything that the Lord has spoken we will do. Oh, that life was so simple.
The point about Israel’s constitution as a priestly kingdom and a holy nation is that in return for God’s love and protection the people are expected to follow a particular way of life guided by the laws and ordinances that will lay the foundations for a unique experiment in a society based on principles of social justice.
In Matthew 9:35 we find Jesus teaching and preaching about the good news of the kingdom. This is not just any good news of any kingdom but the good news of God’s kingdom – rooted in Israel’s foundation experience recorded in the book of Exodus. In his selection of the 12 disciples we find the echo to the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus, at this stage of his ministry, draws a tight connection between the work of the 12 disciples and the reclaiming of the lost among the 12 tribes of Israel. He instructs them to go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
When we read Matthew, we need to bear in mind that his is the Gospel most concerned with Jewishness and the renewal of the covenant between God and Israel. For Matthew the covenant made through Moses is being renewed through Jesus, who for him is the new Moses, come not to abolish but to perfect the Law given by God to Israel.
The direct connection between Matthew 9 and Exodus 19 lies in the notion of a new beginning. By sending out the disciples, Jesus is inaugurating a new beginning with the disciples instructed to share their peace – their shalom with those in any house they enter.
The concept of shalom is the sharing of peace. But sharing requires reciprocity and so Jesus tells his disciples – where their shalom is not received, they are to shake the dust from their feet and move on – for not only are the laborers of the harvest too few in number, but there is no time to be lost in staying where you are not received.
Hence the wider commission to go to all nations with which Matthew concludes his gospel in chapter 28 is foreshadowed here by the failure of many in Israel to receive Jesus’ shalom.
The challenges along the road for any people as they grope towards nationhood hinge on the caliber or deficit of leadership. Jesus, drawing on the image of God as shepherd of his people – imagery which abounds throughout Exodus and the Old Testament – gives voice to what he finds. He finds not a priestly kingdom and a holy nation, but a people harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd – a people failed by their leaders – a condition arousing in him the deepest compassion.
The conversation God is inviting us into through the relationship between Exodus 19 and Matthew 9 concerns the nature of a new beginning. We find we have awoken to a new world in which the failure of leadership confronts us like a bucket of ice-cold water thrown in our faces. With few exceptions, across the world the cliché of the emperor’s new clothes exposes the nakedness of populist leaders. Nature is a great leveler. The illusion of the populist leader’s appeal with its crude manipulation of a people’s discontent lies naked and exposed before the ravages of nature’s onslaught.
In today’s America the picture is reassuringly mixed. Jesus’ description of a people harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd describes our experience as we witness the disarray of presidential leadership. Yet, at state and local levels, leaders are stepping up, offering imaginative and courageous responses that address the needs of the common weal – a society defined as a commonwealth.
At a time when we are exposed and helpless before the Coronavirus onslaught, millions are rallying to the call for racial and economic justice. In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, the energy for new beginnings is powerfully astir.
If the Sunday lectionary enables the conversation God is calling us to have with ourselves, the connective outlines of that conversation can usually be found in the dialectic tensions between the Old Testament and Gospel texts. Between them sits the New Testament text which I have described as a kind of side-ways commentary on the nature of living the Christian life.
On the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, through the dialogue between the Exodus and Matthew texts, God is inspiring us to recommitment to the divine vision of a just and equitable society. For justice is not simply a political or an economic issue – it’s a God issue – and God is calling us to address the hunger in our society for justice and equality, and thereby to make yet again, a new beginning.
Into this conversation Paul’s letter to the Romans defines the Christian response in amidst the uncertainties of new beginnings. Confronting the widespread suffering of his Roman Christian readers, Paul reminds them that in the face of their tremendous suffering it is the centrality of character that matters. He writes: Suffering produces endurance, and endurance builds character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Historically, as a people we bear many sins. We are currently being reminded that the blot of slavery and its legacy of racism is a sin that keeps on revisiting us until we have the courage to finally atone for its evils.
Yet, historically speaking, the relatively short experiment known as the American Republic has built a unique national character forged through endurance and convinced by hope. Where we find ourselves – amidst the dislocation and tumult of the present time – is simply the place to commit ourselves to making a new beginning, empowered by the qualities of Christian character inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.
But what is a new beginning if not to set out on a road where each obstacle along the way invites two possible responses -either a challenge to be daunted by or an opportunity through which to grow. In response to God’s invitation, infused with the qualities of our Christian character may we echo the Israelites cry and with one heart and one voice respond – yes, everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.