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.

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