Liturgy of the Word for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, October 18, 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: “The peace may be exchanged” from Rubrics by Dan Locklair (b. 1949), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Episcopal Office for Government Relations resources to meet the challenges of the election time.

The Introit: “Vere passum” by Josquin des Prez (c1455-1521), 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 686 “Come, thou fount of every blessing” (vv. 1, 3), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 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! O fix me on it,
mount of God's unchanging love.

3 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, oh, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 273, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession 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 33:12-23, read by Pat Nolan

Psalm 99, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God, who is the Holy One.

1 The LORD is King; let the people tremble;
    he is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake.
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
    he is high above all peoples.
3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;
    he is the Holy One.

Antiphon

4 "O mighty King, lover of justice, you have established
  equity;
    you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob."
5 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God and fall down 
  before his footstool;
    he is the Holy One.

Antiphon

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among those 
  who call upon his Name,
    they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave 
    them.

Antiphon

8 "O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;
    you were a God who forgave them, yet punished them for 
    their evil deeds."
9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God and worship him 
  upon his holy hill;
    for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, read by Jennifer Kiddie

Hymn 377 “All people that on earth do dwell” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell,
come ye before him and rejoice.

The Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 377 (v. 5)

5 To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the God whom heaven and earth adore,
from men and from the angel host
be praise and glory evermore.

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: “There Is a Balm in Gilead” (trad., arr. Clayton White), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work's in vain
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again

Don't ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend
And if you lack of knowledge
He'll ne'er refuse to lend

If you cannot preach like Peter
If you cannot pray like Paul
You can tell the love of Jesus
And say, "He died for all".

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 665, “All my hope on God is founded” (vv. 1, 5), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

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 Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Processional March by Samuel Whitney (1842-1914), 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:

True allegiance: a matter of the heart or the wallet?

I hate talking about money and you hate hearing me talk about money – esp. in the sermon slot. But let me say two things and then get on with the task in hand.

The first is to say thank you. The good news is that we are within 10% of our achieving our capital campaign target. The mixed news is that 50% of our membership has yet to participate. Just imagine our sense of achievement if we can reach 100% of membership participation.

Spiritually and emotionally, each of us needs to know we have played our part. To those yet to make a gift, we need you to – not because we need the dollars – it looks like we will get these- but because we need your energy and enthusiasm as the real investment in our future. Remember any gift to Opening Our Doors to the Future – capital campaign can be spaced over three years beginning with 2020.

Secondly, today I am announcing the beginning of the five-week annual renewal campaign which focuses each year on recommitting the stewardship resources that will take us through a new church year in 2021. You all know how this works, so I need say no more other than to remind you to look out in the mail for the annual renewal letter and estimate of giving card from the Senior Warden and Treasurer. Both the annual renewal and the active phase of the capital campaign will end on Ingathering Sunday November 22nd – the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Advent Sunday.

So as promised – to the task in hand.

There is a change in tone and feel as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. Fresh from the hopes and excitement of his teaching ministry in Galilee – the mood becomes increasingly confrontational. Jesus’ focus becomes one of avoiding the traps that are being set for him.

images-1

In the atmosphere of religious and political extremes that characterized Jerusalem under the yoke of Roman occupation, there is small wiggle room between blasphemy on the one side, and treason on the other.

In 2020, we are all too familiar with the spectacle of unholy alliances. It’s into the double-bind space of such an unholy alliance that Jesus walks. The unholy alliance Jesus faces is between the Herodian and Pharisee factions. The Herodians were the secular beautiful people; the designer clothes wearing, Jewish jet set; the royalist and collaborationist party. The Pharisees, were the strict, but also interestingly enough, the progressive religious party.

We find the improbable scene of these two antagonistic factions teaming up in a very, very, unholy alliance in order to pose for Jesus the question: is it lawful to pay the poll tax (a flat-rate personal tax) to Rome? 

If Jesus answers yes, he commits blasphemy – for Caesar’s coin bore the inscription son of god. If his answer is no, he commits treason – denying the lawful authority of Rome. Talk about little wiggle room!

How is Jesus to answer them? It’s dangerous to answer yes or no. Yet, so too is any attempt to offer a middle way answer.  As we know only too well from contemporary American political debate, when an atmosphere of fear and mutual contempt characterizes a separation of competing political and religious world views, a moderate view pleases no-one.

With the dexterity of a modern politician Jesus confronts the question by asking a question. He asks his interlocutors: whose, head is on the coin?  It’s they who are now in the jaws of a trap. Jesus’ next move is to state that some things are owed to civil authority and some things are owed to God. It appears simple, honor your obligation to each and don’t get them mixed up.

Jesus’ answer silences his opponents, but we are still left with the unanswered question: what does he really mean?

The health of the American body politic rests upon several neat separations, one of which – the separation of Church and State is connected with today’s Gospel reading. It’s complicated to follow Jesus inference here. Although some of us resent the right of the government to levy taxes, few of us refuse to pay them -we are less clear as to what: render unto God the things of God, means.

Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Great Seal of the United States are all in agreement. Each affirms the truth of the motto on the Great Seal: In God We Trust. It’s an interesting aside to note that from 1782 until 1956 the motto on the Great Seal was : E Pluaribus Unam -out of many, one. In 1957 it was changed to: In God We Trust. It is interesting to speculate on the reason for the change. Maybe it’s time to revert to the earlier tag – but best not go there at the moment.

In other words, while there is a constitutional distinction to be made between Church and State – incidentally, now much under attack – how are we to negotiate between our allegiance to God and duty to civil authority? Here, as in most areas of our lives we play a subtle game of selective cognizance.

There’s a nice story told about the Christian conversion of the Gauls. When the Christian missionaries submerged the Celtic warrior beneath the waters of baptism – he raised his right arm up so that his sword arm and hand remained above the water.  The intent here was clear. The warrior was saying: 

while my heart and soul now belong to Jesus, I reserve my sword arm - at least for the time being - to do with it as I so choose - i.e. to kill and maim.

Whatever the historical veracity of this story – it perfectly captures a common view today. While we may belong to Christ in baptism our money is ours.

That is to say – God can have our hearts and souls but not our wallets.

The heart of this Gospel encounter is not concerned with creating a clean separation between civil and religious authority. The central issue concerns allegiance and ownership. To whom, or to what do we owe allegiance? Over which aspects of our life do we have a right to exercise ownership?

The way we choose to answer these questions reveals the kind of persons we long to be, as well as the kind of community we envision ourselves belonging to?

This is an interesting Gospel for the Sunday that signals the beginning of the ARC for 2021. Several questions occur at this point:

1. The main question is not how much do we need to give to meet next year’s budget? The question before us is to whom do we owe allegiance for everything that is good in our lives?
2. Do we view the use of money in relation to our primary allegiance to God or is money - in effect - our Celtic warrior’s sword arm?
3. Do we think our financial health and security are the fruit of our own achievement, or the grace-filled gift from God?

Jesus’ confrontation with the Herodians and Pharisees challenges our comfortable assumption that our money is the product of our own skillfulness, our own good luck, or from a place of assumed privilege -our ability to command a nice financial reward?

Jesus challenges us to think about our primary allegiances. He also invites us to encounter gratitude as our primary response to God for the good things we have been given to enjoy.

Today, I invite us to enter into an intentional conversation about gratitude and generosity. We might begin our conversation with a recognition of our debt of gratitude to God. Drilling down to the next layer, I invite us to specifically reflect on three further questions:

1. Who are the persons who fill our lives with a joy - who bring us to our knees, overwhelmed by a deep thankfulness to God?
2. How has the generosity of God's providence manifested in our lives - often against all the odds - that brings us to our knees in thankfulness for the reckless generosity of God?
3. Can we go and do likewise, can we risk sharing our experience of gratitude by living lives of reckless generosity?

Jesus answers his opponents by implicating them in the tensions they seek to entrap him within. He does not say that it is easy living in the tension between the things of Caesar, and the things of God. He simply warns us about the competing powers and influences vying to sway us – to capture our hearts – ultimately to own us? 

When we are silent or that good old Episcopalian word, private about the primacy of our allegiance to God, we render ourselves vulnerable. Under the blasphemous illusion of owning ourselves, we become vulnerable to being owned by competing worldly allegiances – over which we really do have no control.

Jesus’ interlocutors in today’s Gospel go away amazed. Where our heart is, so there will be our treasure. Who knows, maybe we too can become amazed by what we begin to glimpse ourselves being capable of?


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 19th Sunday after Pentecost, October 11, 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: Berceuse from 24 pièces, Op. 31, by Louis Vierne (1870-1927), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

As mentioned in my welcome here is the link to Episcopal Office for Government Relations resources to meet the challenges of the election time.

The Introit: “Forgive our sins as we forgive” (Hymn 674), 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 309 “O Food to pilgrims given” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O food to pilgrims given,
O bread of life from heaven,
O manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
nor thy delights deny us,
whose hearts to thee draw nigh.

3 O Jesus, by thee bidden,
we here adore thee, hidden
in forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is risen,
we may behold, in heaven,
thy countenance divine.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 279, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to 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 32:1-14, read by David Blake

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: Declare the mighty acts of God our Savior.

1 Hallelujah!
   Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
    for his mercy endures for ever.
2 Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD
    or show forth all his praise?
3 Happy are those who act with justice
    and always do what is right!
4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor 
   you have for your people,
    and visit me with your saving help;
5 That I may see the prosperity of your elect
   and be glad with the gladness of your people,
    that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 We have sinned as our forebears did;
    we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb
    and worshiped a molten image;
20 And so they exchanged their Glory
    for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.
21 They forgot God their Savior,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,
    and fearful things at the Red Sea.
23 So he would have destroyed them,
    had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, 
    to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9, read by Sammi Muther

Hymn 578 “O God of love, O King of peace” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O God of love, O King of peace,
make wars throughout the world to cease;
the wrath of nations now restrain,
give peace, O God, give peace again!

The Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 578 (v. 3)

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

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: “O for a Closer Walk with God” by Erik Routley (1917-1982), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

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 362, “Holy, holy, holy!” The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee:
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  “Carillon du Longpont” from 24 pièces, Op. 31, by L. Vierne, 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:

Mutual Need

I wrote in the E-News this past week about truth and untruth. I began with Lewis Carroll’s wonderful exchange between Alice and the White Queen about the dynamics of believing in impossible things. As the White Queen tells Alice, believing in impossible things takes some practice. Let those with ears to hear ….

Exodus 32:1-14 recounts the story of the Golden Calf. This is for our society an emblematic story – so much so that the term golden calf has even entered into common speech -used to refer to an alluring temptation or distraction. But is it a true story?

The late and renowned Biblical scholar Marcus Borg noted that the Bible is full of true stories – some of which actually happened. He drew a distinction between truth rooted in historical events and truth as history metaphorized, i.e. stories of events that never happened but nevertheless express a profound truth.

Historical truth and metaphorized truth both share a common feature which is absent in a belief in impossible things. Stories rooted in historical events or metaphorized – both resonate accurately in the reality of our day to day lives. Both address us in the lives we actually are living and offer us something fruitful and meaningful in the face of the challenges and opportunities we face.

Traditionally seen as a story about the sins of idol worship, the Golden Calf story — is at a deeper level – a profound exploration of the tensions within the divine-human encounter. These are tensions concerning the community’s experience of the availability or absence of God. Is God available- able to speak directly to the challenges and opportunities facing a community? At this level – Exodus 32:1-14 speaks directly into our own alienated experience.

Exodus 32:1-14 speaks not only into our own experience but also speaks to God’s suggestibility.

In its projected historical setting, this is a story revealing a mutuality of needs. It’s a story in which God and a community discover each other and find in that discovery that they share the same needs.

Previously – God had been the god of Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, now he’s [sic] the god of Moses. God has yet to fully emerge as god of a whole people – the God of Israel. It’s like the question – who is that man over there? Why that’s no man, that’s my husband, or my father, or my friend. If the Israelites were asked: do you know the Lord God? They would have replied: we don’t know the Lord God personally, but we know a man who does.

If the Israelites were asked: do you know the Lord God? They would have replied: we don’t know the Lord God personally, but we know a man who does.

God has called Moses to meet him on the mountain. Before Moses begins the ascent, God instructs him to tell the Israelites to set camp at the foot of the mountain but not to set foot upon it. Picture the scene. Moses treks up the mountain leaving the people waiting in expectation. They wait and they wait. Each day, the lookouts posted, strain their eyes in the hope of seeing Moses coming home. Day and night the people wait, and wait, and wait, and eventually come reluctantly, to the conclusion that Moses and his god are not coming back.

The Israelites then do what human communities faced with the absence of God have done over time and what we still do today. They look for a substitute. Their request to Aaron – the next best thing to Moses – is instructive. They plead:

Come make us other gods - useful gods - gods who will go before us - because Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt– well we don’t know what’s happened to him and its now clear to us he and his god are not coming back!

This is a story that speaks directly to our most human of needs – the need for an experience of divine intimacy – a god who is accessible to us– a god who is available to hear our concerns – able to protect and comfort us, to give us direction, to strengthen our flagging hope, and give us a sense of purpose.

When God is experienced as absent, we look for substitutes to fill the experience of emptiness left in the gap between us and God. In 21st-century America we try to fill the emptiness with money, or shopping, or a charismatic leader, or even family, or nation, or replacing an absent God with our own narcissistic self-preoccupation.

There is a myriad of golden calves to distract us from the experience of divine absence.

There is a myriad of golden calves to distract us from the experience of divine absence. For many of us today, even when we say we believe in God, God is now remote from us – like the central character in a play who has now left the stage – leaving us center stage – alone and bereft.

This is a story that reveals the truth of our human struggle to find fulfilment and purpose, our need for connection and intimacy and to know ourselves as we really are – relational beings who need relatable images of the unseen God.

But it’s also a story that tells us something about God’s developing needs. The books of the Torah reveal – at least from the human perspective – a God who is far from unchangeable. In fact, God is presented as actually highly suggestible.

The books of the Torah reveal – at least from the human perspective – a God who actually highly suggestible.

In this story we see God coming to realize his [sic] own need for wider relationship. Not for the first time God uses a relationship with a significant human being – this time Moses – in order to become more fully aware of the implications of a tendency to act first and only then to ask questions. When God hears the noise of the Israelite celebration his response is one of roused jealousy with profound genocidal implications.

Moses appeals to God to cool it – by reminding God not to lose sight of the longer and larger objective here in bringing the people out of Egypt. In the process he appeals to God’s past experience with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -who had each played a similar role in moderating and containing God’s hot impulsivity.

The upshot of the action is that God recognizes he [sic] needs to change. After Moses returns to the camp and destroys the idol, God comes down from the mountain top into the camp – to for the first time – dwell among the Israelites. The place of encounter is aptly called the Tent of Meeting. God is now present as a pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day – hovering and when needed – leading the people to the next resting place on their journey.

In the story of the Golden Calf we see God coming to a new realization – the need to become present in the midst of the community of the people.

Throughout succeeding Israelite history God dwells among the people in the Ark of the Covenant that travels about with them before eventually finding a home in the Jerusalem Temple. For Jews today, God remains present through the living tradition of Torah – made real on a daily basis in the practice of the law.

For us, the Christian people of God, God dwells among us through Jesus as the relatable image of the unseen God. The face of Jesus is not simply an historical image, but an image in real time – continually alive in the life of the community through the celebration of the sacraments – the outward and visible signs of God’s inner and spiritual presence.

In a time of pandemic when enforced social distancing easily becomes emotional isolation, our need for the tangible presence of God has never been greater. The question facing us is when it’s no longer safe for worship as a community gathered together – to what extent can God’s sacramental presence be shared virtually? We are going to be working out the implications of that question for the foreseeable future as we struggle to work with God to fashion new versions of the Tent of Meeting. Amen.


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Liturgy of the Word for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, October 4, 2020

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

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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 (Troisième Symphonie, Op. 28) by Louis Vierne (1870-1927), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

As mentioned in my welcome here is the link Episcopal Office for Government Relations resources to meet the challenges of the election-time.

The Introit: “Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains” from Elijah by Felix Mendlessohn (1809-1847), 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 639 “Come, O thou Traveler unknown” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
whom still I hold, but cannot see;
my company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee.
With thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.

4 'Tis Love, 'tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart:
the morning breaks, the shadows flee.
Pure universal Love thou art;
thy mercies never shall remove,
thy nature and thy name is Love.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and Everlasting God, you are always more read to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20, read by Fla Lewis

Psalm 19, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: The statutes of the Lord rejoice the heart.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 One day tells its tale to another,
    and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3 Although they have no words or language,
    and their voices are not heard,
4 Their sound has gone out into all lands,
    and their message to the ends of the world.
5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;
    it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
    it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
    and runs about to the end of it again;
    nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;
    the testimony of the LORD is sure
    and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;
    the commandment of the LORD is clear
    and gives light to the eyes.

Antiphon

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;
    the judgments of the LORD are true
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    more than much fine gold,
    sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened,
    and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends?
    cleanse me from my secret faults.
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
    let them not get dominion over me;
    then shall I be whole and sound,
    and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14, read by Melinda DelCioppio

Hymn 308 “O Food to pilgrims given” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O food to pilgrims given,
O bread of life from heaven,
O manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
nor thy delights deny us,
whose hearts to thee draw nigh.

The Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 308 (v. 3)

3 O Jesus, by thee bidden,
we here adore thee, hidden
in forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is risen,
we may behold, in heaven,
thy countenance divine.

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: Spiritual: “My Lord What a Mourning” (trad., arr. Clayton White), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

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 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.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Allegro (Deuxième Symphonie, Op. 20) by L. Vierne, 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:

Cautionary Tales

“Wicked Tenants”
The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

At least two things are happening here, and neither of them is for the faint of heart. In one instance we have Jesus invoking the prophet Isaiah for his audience, reminding them of Israel’s history; their rejection of God and God’s Commandments that resulted in destruction and exile to Babylon in 587BCE. Jesus’ implication was that if God did it once, that God could, and would, do it again.

In the second instance we have the author of Matthew’s Gospel invoking more recent history for his first century audience. His implication in relating this story about Jesus’ parable was that God in fact DID do it again, in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, this time by the Romans. So for those with ears to hear this would bode ill for anyone who dared to reject Jesus, the “chief cornerstone” of the true faith.

Jesus’ parable, often referred to as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, seems to have skewered the Temple authorities and Roman collaborators for their lack of faithfulness to God. But the images are more complicated and disturbing than they seem at first. A Jewish audience would have recognized that, under the tenant farming system in first century Palestine, the original hereditary landholders of that region had been pushed off of the land and replaced by Roman colonial outsiders or local collaborators who then leased the land back to the tenants who had formerly owned the land in the first place.

To the people living in the time of Jesus and Matthew, the landowner represents empire, not God. Which is it? God or Rome? Are the tenants wicked, or rebellious?

In other words, imagine someone who is disinherited from their land then being required to send the fruits of their labor to the person who has taken the land from them.

Who is wicked now?

This is really disturbing. The most common reading of this story portrays the landowner as God. This is a fair interpretation, since that’s clearly what Isaiah intended in the passage that Jesus alludes to, where Isaiah speaks of the landowner carefully and painstakingly setting up the vineyard. But, to the people living in the time of Jesus and Matthew, the landowner represents empire, not God. Which is it? God or Rome? Are the tenants wicked, or rebellious?

Yes.

Did Jesus’ and Matthew’s audiences feel a knot in their stomach as they experienced this contradiction? Did they rebel inwardly at the lack of expected clarity; the lack of distinction between Us and Them? Who is the good person here?

This is really messy. That may be the point.

Just like the Jews of the first century, not even what we have most in common can hold us together.

The author of Matthew’s Gospel was writing in the late first- early second century. This period, following the crush of a Jewish revolt and destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, was a time of tremendous conflict between different Jewish groups as they sought to clarify their identity as a people who were now living without the Temple that had been the center of their faith. The Jewish followers of Jesus disagreed with the Jewish non-followers of Jesus over issues of authority, interpretation of the Law, and of course the identity of Jesus himself. And ultimately the Jewish Christians were excluded from the synagogue by the Jewish non-Christians, which was a major source of the contentious tone that Matthew often used in his Gospel.

The important thing to remember here is that they were all Jews.

The split that ultimately took place between these groups was like a really messy divorce.

And the rest of the people of God at that time were witnesses to that trauma, as the parties hurled insults, prophecy, and threats at each other, angrily barreling down the road to complete alienation and fracture.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

To be honest, I’m not sure where else to go with this passage beyond how, once it’s been parsed out, it resonates today. It’s possible that Matthew, in addition to communicating his disdain for opposing parties, also expressed the grief and confusion of one whose family is being torn apart. And maybe that’s all we’re meant to understand with this reading, in this October of 2020, when everywhere we turn we see outrage and reasons for outrage, verbal and literal violence, and the fracturing of communities and families as lines are drawn and sides chosen, even between people of faith. Just like the Jews of the first century, not even what we have most in common can hold us together.

This past Wednesday I observed the dazed look on people’s faces as they remembered, or for those who couldn’t stomach seeing it, heard details of Tuesday’s presidential debate. Eyes widened, brows furrowed, and shoulders tensed as they contemplated the rabbit hole.

They said:

“What in the world just happened?”

“I got NO sleep last night…”

“I don’t recognize this country anymore.”

“I can’t take any more of this.”

“I’m afraid for us.”

There is nothing I would love more than to stand here and say the magic words of comfort, wisdom and healing that would make this all vanish. It hurts to feel powerless to fix things that feel just too big and beyond our control as individuals.

It’s our desire to control the uncontrollable that is often the source of so much anxiety, tension and worry. But the fact remains that God is God and we are not, and the only thing that God calls us to do is what we can do. As people of faith we are not without resources, and we are certainly not without hope. St. Paul, suffering “the loss of all things,” still held fast to his belief that he was Christ’s own, as we all are. And as Christ’s own we are called to not give in to fear and worry; not to let the rabbit holes suck us in. We belong to Christ, the chief cornerstone of our faith.

“If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it…”

Friends, I’m preaching to myself. I have to remind myself every day that worry is a failure of imagination. And the best way to counteract worry is to replace it with prayer. Even if it is just to breathe. Because, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Prayer is a connection to God—tapping in to the flow of love, compassion, healing and renewal that are part of the God who sustains us.

It is easy to forget in times of chaos that prayer is truly powerful. It may not always ‘work’ in ways that we expect, but we can always count on it to change us by releasing our fear and worry into the hands of the One who is the gracious lover of souls, renewing us for whatever challenges confront us. One of my favorite quotes is from activist and educator Vida Dutton Scudder, whose feast day is coming up on October 10. She believed that prayer was a mighty force for social change, and said, “If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it…”

Indeed.

So let us pledge to get busy with it. Let us pray.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; 
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is discord, union; 
where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope; 
where there is darkness, light; 
where there is sadness, joy. 
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 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.

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