Liturgy of the Word for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, November 15, 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.

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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: Prelude & Andante from Sonata No. 1 in C Minor by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: “Simple Gifts” (trad.), 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 574 “Before thy throne, O God” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

 1 Before thy throne, O God, we kneel:
 give us a conscience quick to feel,
 a ready mind to understand
 the meaning of thy chastening hand;
 whate'er the pain and shame may be,
 bring us, O Father, nearer thee.

 4 Let the fierce fires which burn and try,
 our inmost spirits purify:
 consume the ill; purge out the shame;
 O God, be with us in the flame;
 a newborn people may we rise,
 more pure, more true, more nobly wise. 

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Judges 4:1-7, read by Beth Toolan

Psalm 123, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Our eyes look to the Lord our God, from whom we seek mercy.

1 To you I lift up my eyes,
     to you enthroned in the heavens.   
2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, 
     and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,   
3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
     until he show us his mercy.   
4 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,
     for we have had more than enough of contempt,   
5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
     and of the derision of the proud.       


The Second Reading: 1 Thessalonian 5:1-11, read by Beth Toolan

Hymn 9 “Not here for high and holy things” (v. 1), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

 1 Not here for high and holy things
 we render thanks to thee,
 but for the common things of earth,
 the purple pageantry
 of dawning and of dying days,
 the splendor of the sea.  

The Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30, proclaimed by Mark+

Hymn 9 (v. 6)

 6 To give and give, and give again,
 what God hath given thee;
 to spend thyself nor count the cost;
 to serve right gloriously
 the God who gave all worlds that are,
 and all that are to be. 

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: “Pie Jesu” by Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948), 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 680, “O God, our help in ages past” (vv. 1, 6), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O God, our help in ages past,
 our hope for years to come,
 our shelter from the stormy blast,
 and our eternal home.

6 O God, our help in ages past,
 our hope for years to come,
 be thou our guide while life shall last,
 and our eternal home. 

The Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Praise to the Lord, the Almighty by Franklin Ashdown (b. 1942), 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:
St Edith’s Church, Bishop Wilton

Risk and Reward

The Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs

“ . . . to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”

Today’s parable from Matthew involves what I call “stupid money”—a large quantity of cash. And when a parable begins with stupid money, you can pretty much bet that it isn’t really about the money. Earlier in his Gospel Matthew relates a parable of a servant who owed an enormous debt—10,000 talents, which is even stupider money. And of course that story wasn’t about the debt; it was about forgiveness. Similarly, today’s parable isn’t about smart investment strategies.

It’s about waiting.

We know a lot about waiting these days, whether it’s for election results or a COVID vaccine or the even larger issues of racial justice and world peace—we know what it is to wonder, “How long?” More important, though, is the question, “How do we wait?” How are we called to live in a time of waiting, especially when God can seem distant and silent?

The Parable of the Talents is part of a long discourse given by Jesus on the Mount of Olives, during which he describes the eschaton—the end of the world, and the coming of the Son of Man. The parables in this long passage are all about people who are awaiting an anticipated arrival of someone—of the owner, the bridegroom, the master, or the king. The folks who are waiting are all confronted with the rewards and consequences of how they have spent their time. Have they been working or carousing? Wise or foolish? Sheep or goats? Matthew has written with vivid urgency spilling over into harshness, threatening those who don’t measure up with outer darkness, eternal fire, or (his favorite) weeping and gnashing of teeth; imagery that has often outweighed the more meaningful lessons that these parables hold for us.

A man prepares to leave town for an indefinite, but presumably extended length of time.  He has a sum of money that he wants to distribute. The audience of this parable is to understand that it is a lot of money—a single talent is worth about 15 years’ wages. Matthew says that the man “entrusts” the money, so it is probably a significant amount to him as well. It’s not petty cash—it matters to him.

Christian ethicist Mark Douglas observes, “Perhaps, for Matthew, the God we face is the one we imagine.”

He looks at his three slaves and evaluates their ability to look after his money. What is he looking for? Trustworthiness? Intelligence? Cleverness? Regardless, he distributes a huge sum among the three: five talents, two talents, and finally, one talent. And then he leaves.  Gone. Incommunicado.

They are on their own.

The first two slaves get busy doubling their money. In order to do this with such a large amount they need to take an enormous amount of risk, but that doesn’t seem to faze them—they just do it. The risk for them is evidently worth the reward. The third slave, though, is chiefly concerned about the final reckoning of accounts. The Talmud says that taking any risk with a master’s resources is a bad idea, and advises burying the money in the ground. So the slave makes sure he doesn’t lose anything by refusing to risk anything. His reasoning for this isn’t just conservative risk aversion; he believes that his Master is harsh and selfish, and presumably not worthy of extra effort on his part. Interestingly, while he says that the Master is harsh and reaps where he does not sow, what we know is that the Master was actually outrageously generous in distributing his property with no expectation as to what should be done with it. So the slave’s resentment of the Master has led him to confuse fear with prudence.

Christian ethicist Mark Douglas observes, “Perhaps, for Matthew, the God we face is the one we imagine.”

Matthew’s community, like the slaves in the parable, were expectantly awaiting their Master’s return. And the feelings with which they anticipated that return were probably connected to how they were waiting, and what they actually believed they were waiting for. In Matthew’s world of religious persecution and suffering an apocalyptic worldview was common; the bad guys were bad, but God would have vengeance, and there would be a painful reckoning for the enemy. So it was best to be on the side of the good guys so as not to get caught up in God’s wrath at the long-anticipated end.

So, there was a choice to be made. What would it be?  The joy of the Master or outer darkness?

How did the slaves in the parable perceive the time of the Master’s absence? The first two “went off at once” and traded with their talents. They acted immediately, as though they had no time to waste, yet their actions looked toward a future reckoning with the one who would welcome them into the joy of their Master. But the third slave disregarded the opportunity of the interim time; taking neither risk nor gain, and simply awaiting a confrontation with his master.

Two embraced their talents, while the third buried his.

And the God they faced was the God they imagined.

Does it seem unfair of the Master to call the slave wicked and lazy? After all he actually preserved his Master’s wealth— every last denarius was protected, wasn’t it?

Yes, but.

That’s all very well and good if we’re talking about money. But we’re not. This is where the metaphor has gotten in the way of the point. We’re talking about waiting. We’re talking about living a life of taking risks—big risks to match generous gifts—in faithful and trusting expectation of a joyful reunion with the Master. To refuse the risk, to bury the gift and to be fearful of the giver is to choose self-imposed exile from the Divine banquet table.

So how shall we wait? How do we transform the world we currently face into the one that we can imagine?

One of the interesting rhetorical things I’ve noticed about this parable is the grouping of the characters. The third slave is separate from the first two; alone in his narrative of fear, resentment and paralysis. Whereas the first two slaves are alike in action, response and reward—they both embrace their talents and go right to work preparing to offer the fruit of their labor to the Master on his return.

One alone, and two together.

The most risky, creative and challenging work of realizing the Dream of God is done with the understanding that the work is never solitary, even though it sometimes feels that way. The beauty of Christian community is our mutual care and interdependence; that when despair looms and God seems distant and incommunicado, there is always an extra hand to help or shoulder to lean on. Always an extra prayer in the darkness until light returns.

Waiting for Jesus isn’t solitary, it isn’t passive, and it isn’t self-protective.  To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it’s about “living every day as if it were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as though there were to be a great future… Thinking and acting for the sake of coming generations, but being ready to go any day without fear and anxiety…”

So how shall we wait? How do we transform the world we currently face into the one that we can imagine?

Courageously, gratefully, faithfully, creatively…

…And together.

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


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

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