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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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to
Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.