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

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

A note about the structure of this webpage:

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

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


Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

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

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

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

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

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

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

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

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

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 277, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

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

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

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

Refrain: Remember the marvels God has done.

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

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

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

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

Hymn 307 (v. 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

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

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

The General Thanksgiving

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

The Peace

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

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

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

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

The Final Blessing

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

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


Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …. Read On

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

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

Setting the scene

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

His context

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

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

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

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

You and me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

DONATE HERE.

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

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