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

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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.

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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