Liturgy of the Word for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, October 25, 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: “Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein” (from Orgelbüchlein) by J. S. Bach (1685-1750), 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: “I Will at All Times Praise the Lord” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), 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 423 “Immortal, invisible, God only wise” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

4 Thou reignest in glory, thou rulest in light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
'tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 277, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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: Deuteronomy 34:1-12, read by Sarosh Fenn

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Antiphon: We shall rejoice all the days of our lives.

1 Lord, you have been our refuge
  from one generation to another.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born,
  from age to age you are God.
3 You turn us back to the dust and say,
  "Go back, O child of earth."
4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past
   and like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep us away like a dream;
   we fade away suddenly like the grass.
6 In the morning it is green and flourishes;
   in the evening it is dried up and withered.
13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?
    be gracious to your servants.
14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;
    so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us
    and the years in which we suffered adversity.
16 Show your servants your works
    and your splendor to their children.
17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;
    prosper the work of our hands;
    prosper our handiwork.

Antiphon

The Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, read by Joshua Maria Garcia

Hymn 505 “O Spirit of Life, O Spirit of God” (v. 1, 3), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God,
in ev'ry need thou bring us aid,
proceeding forth from heaven's throne,
from God, the Father and the Son;
O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.

3 O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God,
make us to love your sacred word;
the holy flame of love impart,
that charity may warm each heart;
O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.

The Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 505 (v. 4)

4 O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God,
enlighten us by that same word;
teach us to know God's radiant love,
lead us to Christ who reigns above;
O Spirit of life, O Spirit of God.

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: “Lord, I Lift My Soul to You” by G. F. Handel, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

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 537, “Christ for the world we sing!” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Christ for the world we sing!
The world to Christ we bring
with loving zeal;
the poor and them that mourn,
the faint and overborne,
sin-sick and sorrow-worn,
whom Christ doth heal.

4 Christ for the world we sing!
The world to Christ we bring
with joyful song;
the newborn souls, whose days,
reclaimed from error's ways,
inspired with hope and praise,
to Christ belong.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Finale from Variations on Handel’s “The Harmonious Blacksmith” by Edmund Chipp (1823-1886), 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:

Shema Yisrael & Matthew 22:34-46

The early morning sun’s rays pouring through the great east window – bathing the whitewashed interior of the grey stone church in a golden hue -remains an evocative experience from my adolescence. Kneeling in the quiet reverence of the 8 o’clock Communion service – gazing towards the altar beneath the window which seems to be in fire – I watch as the priest enters and approaches the altar where he kneels and completes his preparatory recitation of the Lord’s Prayer – praying sotto voce to begin the 1662 Prayer Book Communion service. Bathed in the warm glow of summer sunlight falling through the stained glass I watch as the priest turns towards this small early morning congregation and loudly proclaims the words:

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;
and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,
and with all thy strength.
This is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
There is none other commandment greater than these.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

to which we all respond

Lord have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.

This is a memory of a seminal spiritual experience – strongly formative in my subsequent development as a liturgical Christian. It is a reminder that I come closest to a sensory experience of God in the company of others for whom the sacramental presence of Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist becomes a tangible reality.

The memory is evoked by reading from Matthew 22:34-46 in which Jesus expands on the Shema Yisrael – the centerpiece of Jewish liturgical prayer – a memory that vividly flickers on the screen of my imagination.

Matthew tells us that this encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees is the last of Jesus’ theological interrogations by them. In response to the question about the greatest commandment Jesus cites the Shema Yisrael – and in combining Deuteronomy 6 you shall love the Lord your God with Leviticus 19:18 – Love your neighbor as yourself – Jesus breaks new ground.

This combination -while novel – cannot be argued with from a religious point of view. Consequently, Matthew reports that from that day – no one dared to ask him any more questions. From a doctrinal angle, there is no further disagreement of any consequence between Jesus and the Pharisees. The combination of the texts – Shema Yisrael of Deuteronomy 6 with Leviticus 19 has silenced them. It’s clear that any further action against Jesus cannot proceed on a doctrinal basis – although the Sadducees will continue with this fig leaf to cover their real motivation –which is political in nature.

For Matthew, Jesus is the new Moses who has come not to abolish the old law but to fulfil it by expanding its coverage – opening us to the heart of what Christianity in practice looks like. Nevertheless, despite wide agreement on the centrality of this text, a survey of current American Christianity reveals sharp divergence on the implications to be drawn from it for Christian practice.

Love of God conditional on love of neighbor as oneself.  

Jesus’ genius is to summarize the Mosaic law by combining three hitherto separate elements into one great commandment encompassing love of God, love of neighbor and love of self. By linking these as he does, he not only affirms the centrality of the Shema Yisrael but makes love of God conditional on love of neighbor as oneself.  

Yet much current Christian practice easily gives the impression that the distinct elements of the unified commandment are optional alternatives. There are those who emphasize love of God as the primary duty. Others counter this with an almost exclusive emphasis on love of neighbor – popularized as the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And then there are those whose disordered love of self – too much or too little violates their love of neighbor and of God.

Christians are fond of repeating Jesus’ Summary of the Law while mentally noting reservations.

The duty to love God extends only to loving certain neighbors. Reactions to Pope Francis’ recent statement of his support for the Church’s recognition of legal protections for members of the LGBTQ community starkly exposes the hypocrisy of contemporary Catholic practice – which is to exclude LGBTQ people from the love of neighbor – even suggesting their exclusion from the love of God. Of course, Catholics are not alone here. The recent decision by the Polish Constitutional Court in abolishing all grounds for abortion is the fulfilment of the a mostly white male dream much favored by Republican legislators in this country – whereby women as persons with reproductive rights become an excluded category to which love of neighbor no longer applies.

Despite the copiousness of a florid rhetoric designed to smoke screen this paradox at the heart of much Christian practice, the rub of Jesus’ words here means you cannot love God unless you love your neighbor – and not only love your neighbor but love your neighbor as yourself. You cannot love God and discriminate against certain categories of neighbor on the basis that they are other as in not me.

The corollary is also true that from a Christian perspective love of neighbor is incomplete unless it is reflected in -and is a reflection of – love of God. For a Christian’s love of neighbor is rooted in the love of God in whose image we are all created.

A number of further implications flow from Jesus summary of the law. You cannot love God and neighbor without honoring the integrity of the creation -i.e. the environment. Environmental desecration and degradation constitute a serious sin against neighbor and are inconsistent with a purported intention to love of God. Our actions and failure of action in the environmental sphere enshrine deep seated systemic discrimination against neighbor – damaging communities of the poor – white as well as black and brown – where life and health is blighted by having to live near sites of major pollution or in locations now completely vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate – processes of desertification, rising sea levels, and deforestation.

Our actions and failure of action in the environmental sphere enshrine deep seated systemic discrimination against neighbor.

Our purported love of God is just so much pious hot air if our political voting record testifies to a separation of love of neighbor from love of self. Evidence of this separation can be found in our refusal to extend to our neighbor the privileges and protections we demand as our birth right – things like well-funded kindergarten to college education, health care for all free at point of use, access to justice that is money blind. And then there are the hot button topics of the moment – political support for the restriction of voter rights, and the militarization of the police as agents of a racist criminal justice system. If our political preferences and voting record supports either of these – then we might consider a need for a deeper meditation on severing love of God from love of neighbor – our neighbor as someone conceived as someone different and from – and of less value as oneself.

There is a virtuous cycle that reveals the interconnections between love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self. All three are mutually interdependent points in a unbroken circle. We cannot privilege one without adversely affecting the other two. It is impossible to love God more while neglecting to love our neighbor. How can we know what love of neighbor looks if we have impoverished or disordered love of self?

Jesus understands love to be something far greater than a subjective individual feeling. The objective expression of love – its outward working in the world – is justice and a commitment to the ethical principle of justness.

Our love of God must be obvious through the way we treat our neighbor. Our love of neighbor must be as focused will often require a continual reordering of the way we love or don’t love ourselves.

Food for thought and an imperative for self-examination in prayer.


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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