Liturgy of The Word for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, July 5th

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.

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.

Liturgy of the Word, recorded, edited and produced by Christian Tulungen

Prelude:  Sonata 2: Four Variations on the National Anthem by Eugene Thayer (1838-1889) with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: By Ian Quinn (b. 1973)  sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; And blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn: 414 “God, my King, thy might confessing” (vv. 1, 2, 6), Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

 1 God, my king, thy might confessing, 
ever will I bless thy Name; 
day by day thy throne addressing, 
still will I thy praise proclaim. 

2 Honor great our God befitteth; 
who his majesty can reach? 
Age to age his works transmitteth;
 age to age his pow'r shall teach. 

6 All thy works, O Lord, shall bless thee, 
thee shall all thy saints adore. 
King supreme shall they confess thee, 
and proclaim thy sovereign pow'r. 

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying

The Collect of the Day

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments
by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your
Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole
heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-12, read by Sammi Muther

Psalm 145:8-15 sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Refrain:“I will exalt you, o God my King, and bless your name for ever and ever.”
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is loving to everyone
and his compassion is over all his works.
Refrain
All your works praise you, O Lord,
and your faithful servants bless you.
They make known the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your power;
That the peoples may know of your power
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Refrain 
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your dominion endures throughout all ages.
The Lord is faithful in all his words
and merciful in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all those who fall;
he lifts up those who are bowed down.
Refrain

Second Reading: Romans 7:15-25, read by Melinda DelCioppio

Gradual Hymn: 302 “Father, we thank thee” (v. 1) sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Father, we thank thee who hast planted
thy holy Name within our hearts.
Knowledge and faith and life immortal
Jesus thy Son to us imparts.
Thou, Lord, didst make all for thy pleasure,
didst give man food for all his days,
giving in Christ the Bread eternal;
thine is the pow'r, be thine the praise.

The Gospel: Matthew 11:16-19,25-30 proclaimed by Mark+

Gradual Hymn: 302 “Father, we thank thee” (v. 2)

2 Watch o'er thy church, O Lord, in mercy,
save it from evil, guard it still,
perfect it in thy love, unite it,
cleansed and conformed unto thy will.
As grain, once scattered on the hillsides,
was in this broken bread made one,
so from all lands thy church be gathered
into thy kingdom by thy Son.

The Sermon: Linda+  (a stand alone sermon recording and text also appear below on this page)

The Nicene Creed:  -(we recite together. Please note italicised 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: “Praise and Honor” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750; arr. Robinson), sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ

“Praise and honor be to the one on high above us. Let all praise him, and adore him. Praise and honor be to him on high. Let all praise and honor him for all that he has given. Honor, glory and all praise to him who gives his love to us.”

Prayers of the People: led by Mark+ ( Please note that since recording we add Jane Hartman’s daughter Jess, her husband Tom, grandson Jack, and granddaughter Liv following a serious road accident in Northern Minnesota. Liv has undergone emergency surgery for damage to her right arm. Jane is member of the office staff)

The Lord’s Prayer

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

Final Hymn: 516 “Come down, O Love divine” (vv. 1, 3) sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

1 Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

3 And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Sonata 2: Final Variation on the National Anthem (Thayer)  Steven Young on St Martin’s organ

“Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.”

Linda’s+ stand alone sermon recording

Body Language

Many years ago (more than I care to count,) my sister and I went together to see the then-brand-new Tony-Award winning musical, 1776. It was unique for the time—no one had ever written a musical about America’s eighteenth-century colonial founders before. What a concept, right?

Even years later, I remember most vividly a particular song sung by the convention delegate from South Carolina to the delegates from New England. John Rutledge skewers the hypocrisy of criticizing the South for promoting slavery, noting that the North’s hands were anything but clean. He sings:

Molasses to Rum to Slaves 
Oh, what a beautiful waltz 
You dance with us, we dance with you 
In Molasses and Run and Slaves

This bitter takedown of the Triangle Trade lays bare the irony of crafting a declaration that, in spite of Thomas Jefferson’s desire to include a mention of slavery (which, given what we now know of Jefferson, is ironic in itself), ultimately omits the issue altogether. 

Where might we be if that argument had turned out differently? We’ll never know.

The founders of our country, grounded in Enlightenment principles and philosophy, pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of independence from England. To freedom. It was bold and courageous, and we rightly celebrate it. But we cannot ignore the fact that the stain of slavery was all over that Declaration, as eloquent and brave and right as it was in so many respects.

Good, flawed, people, with good intentions, do good things. But not always.

Who sail the ships out of Boston
Laden with Bibles and Rum
Who drinks a toast To the Ivory Coast
"Hail Africa, the slavers have come"
New England with Bibles and rum.

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

On this Fourth of July weekend, how does Paul speak to us as a country, a society, and a culture two hundred and forty-four years after our Declaration of Independence, in a time when it is abundantly clear that not all of our citizens can claim equal privilege as a result of that same Declaration?

Paul’s epistle to the Christians at Rome was his longest, and probably the most recent of the letters that we are certain that he wrote. Some scholars have referred to it as his theological “last will and testament”—his reflection on his understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ as he seeks to encourage and instruct his diverse flock of Jewish and Gentile Christians during the reign of Emperor Nero. Paul writes in classic Greek rhetorical style, using the pronoun “I” as a “speech in character” device to connote humanity (specifically fallen humanity) in general, and often transitioning to new arguments with a leading question, like “Did what is good [that is, the law] bring death to me?” followed by an emphatic, “By no means!”

It is this exchange that introduces the passage that we hear today. And it is also this exchange that cautions us that what we may think the passage means, is probably not what it actually means.

A twenty-first century Christian reader focused chiefly on personal salvation may hear this as an individual’s struggle with temptation, and the proposition that the Law of Moses holds the bar for ethical behavior so high that no one can meet its standards. It is only through Christ that we can resist temptation and live a righteous life worthy of eternal salvation—hence the triumphant cry at the end, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

This is a common reading, but it falls short. This is not just about willpower. And here’s why: First of all, it runs the risk of being anti-Jewish. Paul was born and raised a Jew– blameless as to the law, as he put it in his letter to the Philippians. Further, a close reading of Romans and an understanding of its historical context reveal that, rather than denigrating Jews, Paul sought to settle disagreements about religious practices and to calm the waters between Jewish and Gentile members of his flock during a time of simmering anti-Jewish feeling in the wider community, especially among the Roman aristocracy. So, far from denigrating the Jewish faith in this letter, Paul was going to great lengths to honor it, saying that “the law is holy and the commandment is holy, and just and good.”

Ultimately though, a deeper reading of this passage rests on theology. Paul is not talking about a God whose chief concern for humankind is for us to resist sin for the sake of personal salvation as much as he is speaking much more broadly of a God whose ultimate yearning is for the reconciliation and healing of a broken world. Paul speaks of a God whose gift of the Law—Torah—is a gift that both illuminates sin and guides humanity in our daily individual and collective struggles to reconcile the many facets of our identity as children of Creation—our heads, our hearts, our wants, our needs. Or, as Paul puts it, our flesh and our mind. And Paul’s point is that this struggle is one where we all too frequently come up short.

“For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

Paul may not have realized it at the time, but recent research indicates that he may have been on to something. What in his time was reasoned as the classic Greek binary that the body is inherently bad and the mind is inherently good might now be observed as the verifiable reality that historical trauma is handed down in our bodies century by century, generation to generation.

Resmaa Menakem, a therapist who specializes in racialized trauma and healing writes in his book, My Grandmother’s Hands, that both European white bodies and African black bodies carry tremendous burdens of historical trauma. White bodies suffered from war, plague, and violent religious persecution for hundreds of years, going back to the time of the Crusades, before fleeing to the New World. They brought their trauma with them and ultimately transferred the festering wounds of their own oppression onto black bodies, first by enslaving them and then by keeping them oppressed until today when, even after slow incremental progress on civil rights, we still engage in the insane argument over whether it’s appropriate to say that Black Lives Matter.

Our broken common life is evidence that, rather than doing the challenging work of accepting and healing the painful wounds of historical trauma, we have simply, as a society, black and white alike, denied, avoided and inflicted our trauma upon each other and our children in a continuing downward cycle of fear and mistrust of The Other. Our “lizard brain” instinct for safety and security acts more quickly than our “thinking brain”, and thus when a black man sees flashing lights in his rearview mirror he automatically wonders if he’ll make it home alive.

And thus a white couple in St. Louis gets itchy trigger fingers when a nonviolent protest comes through their neighborhood.

For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

Menakem writes, “An African American elder said to me recently, ‘There is a root to the trauma tree, and what we see now is the fruit.’ That tree, which was planted roughly fifteen centuries ago, now casts a shadow across our entire nation. Today, many of us still feed each other its bitter, poisonous fruit.”

You dance with us, we dance with you
In Molasses, and Rum and Slaves.

Wretched ones that we are. Are we fated to a continuing hopeless downward spiral of fear and mistrust? By no means! Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, to the God whose chief yearning for us is for our participation in repairing our broken world; our healing is not just on us.

It’s not solely about our persistence; it’s about God’s persistence. Yes, we do need to educate ourselves, and to engage in practices that equip us, beginning with our bodies–because that is where trauma is first experienced—that equip us to sense–not just think–that we and every one of God’s children are deserving of love and trust.

It’s a huge challenge and a long journey. Centuries of trauma can’t be healed in a weekend or with a couple of webinars. But God calls us to begin now. And God is not going to let us off the hook.  Amen.

Listen here to “Molasses to Rum” from the musical 1776

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 4th Sunday after Pentecost, June 28th

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.

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Pre-recorded webcast of the Liturgy of the Word for Pentecost IV

Prelude:  Variations on “Coronation” by Robert J. Powell (b. 1932) with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Come Ever-Gracious Son of God” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; And blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn: 518 “Christ is made the sure foundation” (vv. 1, 4), Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

 1 Christ is made the sure foundation, 
Christ the head and cornerstone, 
chosen of the Lord, and precious, 
binding all the Church in one; 
holy Zion's help for ever, 
and her confidence alone.  

4 Here vouchsafe to all thy servants 
what they ask of thee to gain; 
what they gain from thee, for ever 
with the blessèd to retain, 
and hereafter in thy glory 
evermore with thee to reign.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying

The Collect of the Day

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord,who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9 read by David Blake

Psalm 13 sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Refrain: I will put my trust in your mercy.
1 How long, O LORD? will you forget me for ever?
    how long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day?
    how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God;
    give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4 Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him,"
    and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5 But I put my trust in your mercy;
    my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt with me richly;
    I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.
Refrain.

Second Reading: Romans 6:12-23, read by Pat Nolan

Gradual Hymn: Hymn 359 “God of the prophets” (v. 1,2) sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 God of the prophets, bless the prophets' heirs!
Elijah's mantle o'er Elisha cast:
each age for thine own solemn task prepares,
make each one stronger, nobler than the last.
 
2 Anoint them prophets! Teach them thine intent:
to human need their quickened hearts awake;
fill them with power, their lips make eloquent
for righteousness that shall all evil break.

The Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: Hymn 359 “God of the prophets” (v. 5

5 Make them apostles, heralds of thy cross;
forth may they go to tell all realms thy grace:
inspired of thee, may they count all but loss,
and stand at last with joy before thy face

The Sermon: Mark+  (a stand alone sermon recording and text also appear below on this page)

The Nicene Creed:  -(we recite together)

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, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
    She 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: “A Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester” by L. J. White (n.d.) , sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ

O holy Jesus, most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly. Amen.

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

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

Final Hymn: “The God of Abraham praise” (vv. 1, 4) sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

1 The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of love;
the Lord, the great I AM, by earth and heaven confessed:
we bow and bless the sacred Name for ever blest.
 
5 The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” they ever cry;
hail, Abraham’s Lord divine! With heaven our songs we raise;
all might and majesty are thine, and endless praise.

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Trumpet Tune by Martha Sobaje (b. 1948) Steven Young on St Martin’s organ

“Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.”

Mark’s+ stand alone sermon podcast and text

By Babylon’s Rivers

I love history as I know do many of you. History is the great teacher if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Much of the Old Testament is Israel’s history book. But from our point of view, it’s a particular kind of history; a history of the ups and downs in the relationship between God and a chosen people; the relationship between human and divine.

We too, are also a people in relationship with the divine, the God of Israel and the God and father of Jesus. In that respect biblical history is our history also. The times and places may change between then and now, but the context for human experience – lived out in relation to the divine presence of God in the world – remains either alarmingly or reassuringly the same. God invites, we sometimes respond, but mostly we go our own way until the disaster forces us back – crying to God for deliverance from the consequences of our own follies.

The prophet Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry to Judah about 627 BC and ended it about 570 BC. His career spanned the period of political turmoil that culminated in Judah’s final defeat by the Babylonians (587 BC) and with it the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and the exile of the significant parts of Judah’s religious and civic leadership. The nation lay broken.

In chapter 28 we find Jeremiah arguing that true prophets have always delivered the hard message of God’s truth as a mirror held up to reveal the real state of things in contrast to the convenient and comfortable message of God’s peace lulling people into believing that all continued to be well. With a hint of sarcasm he chides Hananiah: when we see the peace you prophecy then it will be known the Lord has truly sent a prophet.

The disputation between Jeremiah and his fellow prophet Hananiah can be roughly dated approximately seven years after the exile has begun. Jeremiah and his opponents who are still in Jerusalem offering alternative versions of what God is doing. Hananiah, perhaps to inspire a sense of revolt against Babylon, has prophesied the exiles return in two years. With the full restoration of the temple, God will once again grant peace to the nation. Jeremiah represents the minority opinion – revealing the feel-good message of make Israel great again for the dangerous and ultimately futile distraction for what it was.

Like the profusion of today’s political pundits and religious commentators, at any one-time Israel always had many prophets – whose messages competed for public attention. A common mistake we make is to view the work of Israel’s prophets as predictors of the future. This is a misleading notion. In reality they were less predictors of the future and more promoters of God’s agenda in the politico-spiritual crises facing the nation the present time. They tried to call attention to what God wanted and what God was doing.

Because all prophets claimed to be delivering God’s message, it was always difficult to tell whose message was the true one.  Because we are no strangers to competing truth narratives peddled by today’s politicians – amplified by media pundits and social commentators of all persuasions, the situation outlined in Jeremiah 28 rings with an uncanny familiarity. The point of biblical history is to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun; as it was then, so it is now.

We are hearing at the moment the message America is broken. This is a particularly painful message to hear because it’s a negation of all we want to believe. From the far extremes of right and left and just about every position in between, we hear a similar message: America is broken. However, there is no consensus on what it is that is broken and how to fix it.

Israel had been utterly broken leaving the Jews two possible responses – acceptance or denial of reality. The denial faction led the prophet Hananiah sought to distract public attention with a set of alternative facts that predicted the immanent decline of Babylonian power to be followed by a full restoration of Israel – pretty much as it had been before Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and temple. We know about the wishful thinking of denial in high places – there’s no need to worry, the virus is beaten and we will open up the country to be the best and even better than ever best – the best nation in the history of the whole world!

Hananiah and his cohort circled Jeremiah like gloating vultures, mocking his message of doom and gloom as unpatriotic. They took him to court, they had him imprisoned – all in an attempt to silence him. Jeremiah’s message was – listen up people, the nation really is broken, and this situation is not going to be easily fixed any time soon. For Jeremiah knew that the only true fix was repentance leading to root and branch reform. He also knew that a true fix would take time. He was correct, it took 70 years before the exiles returned.

Sometimes it’s the unpatriotic message that contains the only real seeds of hope.

Sometimes it’s the unpatriotic message that contains the only real seeds of hope. Jeremiah encouraged the exiles in Babylon to build houses, to marry and have children, to serve the city to which they had been exiled, and to get on with rebuilding their lives in as foreigners in strange place. In other words, there was no alternative to getting on with life in changed circumstances and accept of the unpalatable reality: Judah was broken.

Gradually the exiles heard Jeremiah’s message of hope. The community settled down by the rivers of Babylon and while they wept when they remembered Zion, they actually got on with the kind of root and branch religious and cultural reform that laid the foundations that enabled the Jews to survive as a community into modern times.

At the local level –within the maelstrom of the crisis, the prophet’s message sounds dire – some might even say unpatriotic. But crisis -when correctly viewed against the backdrop of God’s intention and purpose for the world – becomes opportunity.

But crisis -when correctly viewed against the backdrop of God’s intention and purpose for the world – becomes opportunity.

The Coronavirus aside, there is nothing in America that is broken which cannot -given courage, hope-filled vision, and perseverance – be fixed. We trust that given time even the virus itself will eventually be neutralized as the eradication of plague, smallpox, polio, measles, AIDS, etc shows.

A modern-day Jeremiah would counsel us to take the crisis of brokenness seriously – not as a counsel of despair – but as the rallying point for the unleashing of the creativity and ingenuity that Americans excel at. The modern-day Jeremiah, a he or she, would counsel us to overcome our sense of helplessness and fear; to give up the illusion of seeing things as we want them to be and begin to see things as they really are. He or she would redirect our attention to the unleashing of American knowhow, the spirit of our creative and bold innovation, our courageous and incurable hopefulness. A modern-day Jeremiah would encourage us to believe that the glaring stain of racism is not stronger than our inherent sense of natural justice, and that when accepted with repentance crisis is reframed as opportunity. Speaking metaphorically, he or she would encourage us to build houses, marry and have children, and serve as agents for the evolution of justice in our society, and the repair of the creation.

By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when remembered Zion. There on the trees along the water’s edge we hung up our harps – and then we got on with the task of fashioning a new future for ourselves in which all our people can flourish.

The Liturgy of the Word for Pentecost III, June 21st

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.

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Liturgy of the Word webcast recorded, edited and produced by Christian Tulungen

Prelude:  Meditation, Op. 39, No 2. Karl Hoyer (1891-1936) with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Praise be the Lord” by Dr. Maurice Greene (1695-1755) sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Praise be the Lord daily,  Ev’n the God who helpeth us,  And poureth His benefits upon us.

Hymn: 372,, “Praise to the living God!”(vv. 1, 4) St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 Praise to the living God!
All praised be his Name
who was, and is, and is to be,
for ay the same.
The one eternal God
ere aught that now appears:
the first, the last, beyond all thought
his timeless years!
 
4 Eternal life hath he
implanted in the soul;
his love shall be our strength and stay
while ages roll.
Praise to the living God!
All praised be his Name
who was, and is, and is to be,
for aye the same.

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; And blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying

The Collect of the Day

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your
holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom
you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-13, read by Fla Lewis

Psalm 69:8-11, 18-20  sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Refrain: Zeal for your house has eaten me up; the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.
 
8 I have become a stranger to my own kindred,
an alien to my mother's children.
 
9 Zeal for your house has eaten me up;
the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.
 
10 I humbled myself with fasting,
but that was turned to my reproach.
 
11 I put on sack-cloth also,
and became a byword among them.
 
12 Those who sit at the gate murmur against me,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
 
18 "Hide not your face from your servant; *
be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.
 
19 Draw near to me and redeem me; *
because of my enemies deliver me.
 
20 You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor;
my adversaries are all in your sight.

Second Reading: Romans 6:1-11, read by meg LoPresti

Gradual Hymn: 296, “We know that Christ is raised” (V1,2) sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 We know that Christ is raised and dies no more.
Embraced by death, he broke its fearful hold
and our despair he turned to blazing joy. Alleluia!
 
2 We share by water in his saving death.
Reborn we share with him in Easter life
as living members of a living Christ. Alleluia!

The Gospel: Matthew 10:24-39 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 296 “We know that Christ is raised” (v 3-4)

3 The Father’s splendor clothes the Son with life.
The Spirit’s power shakes the Church of God.
Baptized we live with God the Three in One. Alleluia!
 
4 A new creation comes to life and grows
as Christ’s new body takes on flesh and blood.
The universe restored and whole will sing: Alleluia!

The Sermon: Mark+  (a stand alone sermon recording and text also appear below on this page)

The Nicene Creed:  -(we recite together)

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, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son she is worshiped and glorified.
    She 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: “It Is a Precious Thing” by Johann Friedrich Peter (1746-1813) Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ

It is a precious thing when the heart 
is fixed and trusteth in God,
Through the mercy of God 
and our Savior Jesus Christ.
 
My heart is resting, 
O my Savior, in thy loving care, 
my trust is every stayed on Thee.
O hear my earnest prayer that ever faithful I may be, 
and ever do Thy will.
O grant this in Thy mercy still, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

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

Final Hymn: 537, “Christ for the world we sing” (1, 4) sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

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

Final Blessing

The Postlude:  Poco vivace (from Op. 9) by Hermann Schroeder (1904-1984) with Steven Young on St Martin’s organ

It’s a Choice

Mark’s+ stand alone sermon cast

This year the third Sunday after Pentecost is Father’s Day. This is a day on which to show appreciation for our earthly fathers.

Many of us are able to love our fathers and to want to show gratitude for all we have received from them. Not all of us will be so fortunate. Some of us may have had or still have fathers towards whom we have a complex mix of emotions. We can love or hate our fathers – hopefully most of us have experience of loving or at least non abusive fathers embodied by the men who played such a huge role for good or not so good in our childhood lives.

Father’s Day can take on a Hallmark Card sentimentality.  Yet, underneath Father’s Day runs the significant theme of Fatherhood. Fatherhood is the principle of emotional containment and protection. If mother is the primary focus for the newborn and developing infant, then father is the provider of a protective emotional environment that allows mother and infant to bond securely. In Eastern philosophy fatherhood is the Yang energy – the energy of creativity that is balanced by the counterpoint of Yin energy – the energy of receptivity.

As Westerners, we live increasingly into a post gendered world in which the archetypal energies of Yin and Yang – of feminine and masculine – are no longer exclusively associated with gender -with Yang being male and Yin being female. For us the principle of fatherhood alongside that of motherhood can be expressed by both men and women given the appropriate relational context.

I hope for many of us this Father’s Day will be an opportunity to celebrate our human fathers. Yet, it’s ironic the Gospel for Father’s Day contains these words of Jesus:

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…. And one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Jesus’ paints a picture of conflict between the different members of a family and by extended implication, conflict between the members of society. The passage concludes with this dire warning:

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Love is the abiding principle by which Christians should let their life choices be guided. If the social expression of love is justice, then at an interpersonal level the expression of love will take the form of loyalty.

I’ve spoken over last weeks about justice being God’s issue. Justice is the barometer by which we can judge the quality of a society. The quality of our interpersonal relationships can be measured by the expressions of love, but more generally it’s not possible to love everyone quite in the way the world love suggests. As justice is the societal expression of love. Loyalty is the more objective expression of love – by which to measure the quality of our interpersonal relationships.

Reflecting on Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ words in chapter 10, I read them as hinting at the importance of loyalty. Jesus is asking us to examine where we place our loyalty? His words invite us to yet again examine the stories that often inadvertently and with astonishing subtlety, claim us; stories that without our noticing divert our loyalty away from a primary focus on God and the way of love.

In our world so much that is important is presented to us as a set of binary choices. A world split between the crude binary choices of this party or that party, this world view or that world view, either freedom or servitude, rights or obligations. Ours is a world in which the slogan black lives matter is heard by some as only black lives matter and is countered by all lives matter – with the intension of watering down or belittling the urgency of the call for racial justice. On the Sunday after the commemoration of Juneteenth, this should give us all pause for thought.

Is Jesus asking us to make another binary choice; a for Jesus or an against Jesus choice? This cannot be so for such a request smacks too much of the world as we know it and detest it for the way it enslaves our thinking. For Christians, Jesus is not a choice. But the manner of the choosing – how we chose Jesus – is what ultimate matters.

In a world in which we are all increasingly enslaved to partisan rhetoric, Jesus’ request to choose him can play into the hands of those who want to make him an object of partisan choice – like everything else.

We see how turning Jesus into a partisan choice of – for or against – works out. Those who are most vociferously in favor of Jesus often paint a picture of him as someone firmly under their control. Someone who is in lock step with their social world view – Jesus my buddy as well as my savior. They paint a picture of a Jesus who approves of racism – cause after all he’s said so in the Bible; a Jesus who hates homosexuals as much as they do cause after all – he’s said so in the Bible; a Jesus who believes a woman’s place is in the home under the firm thumb of her husband – because hasn’t he said so in the Bible? It’s sobering to recall that Jesus omits to speak on any of these issues.

Whereas those who most vociferously reject Jesus do so primarily as an expression of their rejection of this kind of Jesus acclaimed by the most partisan Christians. For them the whole of Christianity is something to be ejected from contributing to the civic debate of the public square.

Then there are those who don’t outwardly reject Jesus but who proclaim a kind of wishy-washy Jesus. Jesus the lover of little children and champion of doormats – Jesus who always counsels turn the other cheek as a response to abuse. At the most, they portray a Jesus who always seeks to avoid causing offence by asking too much of us. Theirs is a Jesus who wants us never to upset the apple cart by talking religion and politics in polite social settings.

Is this not also a stereotyping of Jesus as worthy of criticism as the partisan image of him? Again, it’s sobering to recall that Jesus speaks most often about social and economic justice and in doing so he projects himself into the heat of controversy in a way that the proponents of wishy-washy- Jesus assiduously avoid emulating.

Jesus continues:

Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

My reading of this text leads me to think that it’s not Jesus who is threatening to bring the sword – as in – I am going to bring violence to the world as part of my doing God’s will. This is an image of Jesus that many of his more militant followers willingly embrace. Yet, this reading flies in the face of everything else Jesus said and did. The point here is that Jesus does not cause division – but that division will inevitably follow from our response to the challenge of his teaching. Jesus, in other words, knows who he is and what he’s come to do, and the likely consequences of being and doing so.  

Jesus’ radical teaching of the way of love is not a gentle, hippie-like creed, but a hard and confrontative message that calls us to be God’s champions of societal justice and prize interpersonal loyalty. It’s a message that like paint stripper, dissolves away the veneer of our self-deception and the easy peace we make with ourselves to avoid the experience of discontent.

We cannot speak of racial oppression of black and brown people without addressing white guilt. We need to become highly discontented with white privilege and the subtle guilt it instills in most of us who are white. Discontent is the first stage in the agitation required to confront our complicities. Our complicity with attitudes and systems that perpetuate the oppression of our sisters and brothers, whether it be on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Our complicity in an unjust society that apportions access to justice and healthcare on the basis of buying power.

To gain life by following Jesus is to love him and to be loyal to his message by putting his proclamation that the kingdom of God is already here – into action.  It’s not a matter of us making crude binary choices for this or for that. Simply following Jesus brings its own rejections.

To lose life is to ignore his message, and thereby remain complicit with the way the values of this world are set up in outright denial of the expectations of God’s kingdom.

On Father’s Day – when we celebrate not only our human fathers but honor the protective principle of fatherhood, this is a timely message.

In 2020, the significance of Juneteenth emerges from the neglect of white history. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, though highly symbolic was in effect only a partial beginning. It freed some slaves and paved the way for the 13th Amendment that freed all slaves. Yet, are we not all still growing into the promise of a freedom for both white and black Americans from the curse of racism?

A Confession
Dear God, we reach out to You to express our wrong. But we pray for more than conviction. We pray, O Lord, for change. Change the easy peace we make with ourselves into discontent because of the oppression of others. Change our tendency to defend ourselves into the freedom that comes from being forgiven and empowered through your love. Change our need for disguises, excuses, and images into the ability to be honest with ourselves and open with one another. Change our inclination to judge others into a desire to serve and uplift others. And most of all, Lord, change our routine worship and work into genuine encounter with you and our better selves so that our lives will be changed for the good of all into a joyful community of justice and peace. In Jesus' Precious Name. Amen
From the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri (Kansas City)

Liturgy of the Word for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 14th

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.

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Webcast Liturgy of the Word for Pentecost II recorded, edited, and produced by Christian Tulunger

Prelude:  Allegro (Concerto in B minor),  Johann G. Walther with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “O frondens virga” by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

O blooming branch, you stand upright in your nobility, 
as breaks the dawn on high: 
rejoice now and be glad, 
and deign to free us, frail and weakened, 
from the wicked habits of our age; 
stretch forth your hand 
to lift us up aright.

Hymn:686, “Come, thou fount of every blessing”(vv. 1, 3) St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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 I'm fixed upon it
mount of God's redeeming love.
 
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, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above

Greeting: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and for ever.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying

The Collect of the Day

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast
faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim
your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with
compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Exodus 19:2-8, read by Laura Bartsch

Psalm 100 sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Refrain: Come before God’s presence with a song.   
1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.               
2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.   
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name.               
4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Second ReadingRomans 5:1-8 read by Samantha Muther

Gradual Hymn: 583, “Fairest Lord Jesus” (V1,2) sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

 Fairest Lord Jesus,
ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown.
 
Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

The Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 583, “Fairest Lord Jesus” (v 3)

 Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heaven can boast.

The Sermon: Mark+  (a stand alone sermon recording and text appears below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem: “Lord, I Lift My Soul to You” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759, arr. Hopson) Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ

Lord, I life my soul to you;
My trust is ever in your word.
O, make me know all your ways.
 
Lord, I claim your boundless love;
Your deeds are known from days of old.
You guide the humble in peace, truth, and light.
 
Those who revere the Lord live in joy.
Peace shall be upon their way;
The Lord will be their constant hope;
The Lord is ever their guide and stay.

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Peace

Final Hymn: 377, “All people that on earth do dwell”  sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the LORD with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
come now before him and rejoice!
 
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
To God whom heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

Final Blessing

The Postlude: Prelude in D minor, Opus 7a, Richard Bartmuss with Steven Young on St Martin’s organ

New Beginnings

Stand alone sermon podcast

We now enter the second half of the Christian Year. We refer to this period as the Sundays after Pentecost or Ordinary Time, meaning that period outside the great cycles of Christmas, Lent, and Easter. We sometimes refer to this as the green season because the liturgical color of hangings, frontals, and vestments shifts to green.

On a more personal note Al and I moved home this last week. We have enjoyed being the curators of a 200-year-old house with an extensive and labor-intensive garden, but enough is enough, and having made considerable improvements to the house we felt it time to hand on to the next curators of this beautiful example of a Rustic New England Colonial.  

Beginning Ordinary Time and moving to a new house may seem to be only tangentially connected. Yet, for me, they both represent new beginnings – and it’s about new beginnings I want to speak.

Each Sunday the Ecumenical three-year lectionary appoints three texts and a psalm – not of our own choosing. This means that each Sunday we receive an invitation from God through the appointed readings to engage in a conversation of God’s choosing and not ours. Otherwise we would tend to only self-select readings that support us in the comfortable conversation we always prefer to have with ourselves.

In the readings appointed for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, God seems to invite us into a conversation about new beginnings. Excluding the psalm, which is more of a liturgical text, we normally find the clearest and most obvious connections lying between the Old Testament and Gospel readings. Jesus’ teaching found in the Gospels either affirms or challenges the Old Testament theme. The function of the New Testament reading is to act as a kind of side-ways commentary on the nature of living the Christian life. Thus, its content sits in a less direct relationship with the more narrative oriented readings on either side of it.

So, let me begin with Exodus and Matthew, before going onto Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Exodus, chapter 19 opens with Israel’s arrival at the foot of Mt Sinai. Israel’s arrival at Sinai constitutes a new beginning. It’s here that we glimpse the beginning of the slow and painful transformation of Israel from a loose and chaotic collection of kinship units into a nation. However, it’s not nationhood like that of other peoples. It’s a nationhood specifically defined by the centrality of Israel’s relationship with God – enshrined in a constitution known as the Covenant.  

It’s a new beginning, but what is a beginning if not to set out on a road where each obstacle along the way invites two possible responses -either a challenge to be daunted by or an opportunity through which to grow. In response to God’s invitation the Israelites -with one heart and one voice respond – yes, everything that the Lord has spoken we will do. Oh, that life was so simple.

The point about Israel’s constitution as a priestly kingdom and a holy nation is that in return for God’s love and protection the people are expected to follow a particular way of life guided by the laws and ordinances that will lay the foundations for a unique experiment in a society based on principles of social justice.

In Matthew 9:35 we find Jesus teaching and preaching about the good news of the kingdom. This is not just any good news of any kingdom but the good news of God’s kingdom – rooted in Israel’s foundation experience recorded in the book of Exodus. In his selection of the 12 disciples we find the echo to the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus, at this stage of his ministry, draws a tight connection between the work of the 12 disciples and the reclaiming of the lost among the 12 tribes of Israel. He instructs them to go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

When we read Matthew, we need to bear in mind that his is the Gospel most concerned with Jewishness and the renewal of the covenant between God and Israel. For Matthew the covenant made through Moses is being renewed through Jesus, who for him is the new Moses, come not to abolish but to perfect the Law given by God to Israel.

The direct connection between Matthew 9 and Exodus 19 lies in the notion of a new beginning. By sending out the disciples, Jesus is inaugurating a new beginning with the disciples instructed to share their peace – their shalom with those in any house they enter.

The concept of shalom is the sharing of peace. But sharing requires reciprocity and so Jesus tells his disciples – where their shalom is not received, they are to shake the dust from their feet and move on – for not only are the laborers of the harvest too few in number, but there is no time to be lost in staying where you are not received.

Hence the wider commission to go to all nations with which Matthew concludes his gospel in chapter 28 is foreshadowed here by the failure of many in Israel to receive Jesus’ shalom.

The challenges along the road for any people as they grope towards nationhood hinge on the caliber or deficit of leadership. Jesus, drawing on the image of God as shepherd of his people – imagery which abounds throughout Exodus and the Old Testament – gives voice to what he finds. He finds not a priestly kingdom and a holy nation, but a people harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd – a people failed by their leaders – a condition arousing in him the deepest compassion.

The conversation God is inviting us into through the relationship between Exodus 19 and Matthew 9 concerns the nature of a new beginning. We find we have awoken to a new world in which the failure of leadership confronts us like a bucket of ice-cold water thrown in our faces. With few exceptions, across the world the cliché of the emperor’s new clothes exposes the nakedness of populist leaders. Nature is a great leveler. The illusion of the populist leader’s appeal with its crude manipulation of a people’s discontent lies naked and exposed before the ravages of nature’s onslaught.

In today’s America the picture is reassuringly mixed. Jesus’ description of a people harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd describes our experience as we witness the disarray of presidential leadership. Yet, at state and local levels, leaders are stepping up, offering imaginative and courageous responses that address the needs of the common weal – a society defined as a commonwealth.

At a time when we are exposed and helpless before the Coronavirus onslaught, millions are rallying to the call for racial and economic justice. In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, the energy for new beginnings is powerfully astir.

If the Sunday lectionary enables the conversation God is calling us to have with ourselves, the connective outlines of that conversation can usually be found in the dialectic tensions between the Old Testament and Gospel texts. Between them sits the New Testament text which I have described as a kind of side-ways commentary on the nature of living the Christian life.

On the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, through the dialogue between the Exodus and Matthew texts, God is inspiring us to recommitment to the divine vision of a just and equitable society. For justice is not simply a political or an economic issue – it’s a God issue – and God is calling us to address the hunger in our society for justice and equality, and thereby to make yet again, a new beginning.

Into this conversation Paul’s letter to the Romans defines the Christian response in amidst the uncertainties of new beginnings. Confronting the widespread suffering of his Roman Christian readers, Paul reminds them that in the face of their tremendous suffering it is the centrality of character that matters. He writes: Suffering produces endurance, and endurance builds character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Historically, as a people we bear many sins. We are currently being reminded that the blot of slavery and its legacy of racism is a sin that keeps on revisiting us until we have the courage to finally atone for its evils.

Yet, historically speaking, the relatively short experiment known as the American Republic has built a unique national character forged through endurance and convinced by hope. Where we find ourselves – amidst the dislocation and tumult of the present time – is simply the place to commit ourselves to making a new beginning, empowered by the qualities of Christian character inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.

But what is a new beginning if not to set out on a road where each obstacle along the way invites two possible responses -either a challenge to be daunted by or an opportunity through which to grow. In response to God’s invitation, infused with the qualities of our Christian character may we echo the Israelites cry and with one heart and one voice respond – yes, everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.

Liturgy of the Word for Trinity Sunday, June,7th

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 Trinity Sunday
Recorded, edited, and produced by Christian Tulungen

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Prelude:  Sarabande (Suite for Organ), Gerald Near with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “I Will at All Times Bless the Lord”, F. Handel (1685-1759), Soprano, Lori Istok, St Martin’s Chapel Consort

I will at all times bless the Lord,
My voice shall sing his praise.
I sought the Lord, God heard my prayer.
Let all exalt God’s name.
O taste and see the Lord is good!
In God is lasting hope, in God is joy,
My voice shall sing God’s praise.
I sought the Lord, God heard my prayer.
Let all exalt God’s name.

Hymn:48, “O day of radiant gladness” (vv. 1, 4), St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

1 O day of radiant gladness, O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright;
this day the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
sing "Holy, holy, holy" to the great God Triune.
4 That light our hope sustaining, we walk the pilgrim way, at length our rest attaining, our endless Sabbath Day. We sing to thee our praises, O Father, Spirit, Son; the Church her voice upraises to thee, blest Three in One.

Greeting: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and for ever.

Collect for Purity

The The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying

The Collect for Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us
your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to
acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the
power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep
us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to
see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with
the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:4 read by Beth Toolan

Canticle: 2 (Pg 49 BCP) sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, read by David Whitman

Gradual Hymn: 362, Holy, holy, holy! vv1-2, sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

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,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

The Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20 proclaimed by Mark+

Gradual Hymn: 362, Holy, holy, holy! vv1-2, vv3-4

3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in pow'r, 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 Sermon: Linda+  (a stand alone sermon recording and text appears below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem:  “Let all things now living” txt/arr. Katherine Kennicott Davis, 1892-1980, Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ

Let all things now living To God the Creator triumphantly raise, Who fashioned and made us, Protected and stayed us, Who guides us and leads to the end of our days. God’s banners fly o’er us; God’s light goes before us, A pillar of fire shining forth in the night, Till shadows have vanished And darkness is banished, A forward we travel from light into light.   His law he enforces The stars in their courses, The sun in his orbit obediently shine. The hills and the mountains, The rivers and fountains, The deep of the ocean proclaim Him divine. We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing; With glad adoration and song let us raise, Till all things now living Unite in thanksgiving To god in the highest, Hosanna and praise!

Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Peace

Final Hymn: 368, “Holy Father, great Creator vv1,4 sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

1 Holy Father, great Creator,
source of mercy, love, and peace,
look upon the Mediator,
clothe us with his righteousness;
heavenly Father, heavenly Father,
through the Savior hear and bless.
  
4 God the Lord, through every nation
let thy wondrous mercies shine.
In the song of thy salvation
every tongue and race combine.
Great Jehovah, great Jehovah,
form our hearts and make them thine.

Trinity Blessing

The Postlude: Final (Suite for Organ), Gerald Near with Steven Young on St Martin’s organ

Stand alone podcast of Linda’s+ sermon

Invitation to the Dance

May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

In the beginning, God. In the beginning, God; pouring forth God’s Self, divine into the material—the first incarnation—the holy spark infused into every atom, every particle of stardust. In the beginning, God; loving Creation into being; light and dark, day and night, sun moon and stars commencing their eternal dance; sea and land ebbing and flowing with the tides; plants and all creatures brought forth into their own rhythms of birth, death and renewal.

In the beginning, God; breathing life into God’s first human children:  “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”

and indeed, it all was very good.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?  What does it mean to be created in the image of the loving, outpouring, life-giving source of All That Is?

Early Church theologians wrote of Perichoresis—an articulation of the way the three divine Persons dwell within and between one another in perpetual fellowship and intimacy.

In the beginning was Relationship.

Humankind was created in relationship. We were born into relationship. We were baptized into relationship—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit–and welcomed into the Household of God.

The fourth century Cappadocian Fathers of the Eastern Church used the metaphor of a flow of love and communion between coequal, coeternal, yet separate Persons of the Trinity. Picture them endlessly giving and endlessly receiving, subject-to-subject, I to Thou, again and again and again. The movement is not hierarchical, it is circular; one part does not dominate the others at any point. Richard Rohr calls this a Divine Dance and cites the beautiful icon by Andrei Rublev—the figures perpetually gesturing and gazing lovingly toward one another.

We’re part of the Divine Dance. And on this Trinity Sunday of 2020 there is a lot riding on how we understand this reality—this image in which we were created– and how seriously we take its challenge and invitation.

The Holy Trinity is a paradigm, a template, for Beloved Community; a community of love, generosity, creativity and healing. To be in God’s image is to be in community. There is no true community where there is no mutual respect, trust, compassion and justice. There is no community in the person who is unaware of their own vulnerability, dependence upon and responsibility for the well being of others. If we envision being in the image of God as being a mirror of God’s self then a community without mutual respect, trust, compassion and justice is like a broken mirror—skewed, fractured, incomplete, with shards that slice, leaving deep scars.

Where to begin with how this image of fracture and wounding reflects our own communities now? Where to begin when stories of violence, injustice and hubris pummel us faster than we can take them in and process them? Where to begin when a parishioner sends me a cartoon of a white policeman smiling down at a small Black child, asking, “So, young man, what do you want to be when you grow up?” and the child looks up, raising his hands in the air, and says, “Alive.”

Where to begin?

In the beginning, 1619. The year the first enslaved children of God came to our shores. It is our country’s original sin, with a four-century legacy of cruelty, bigotry and system-spanning injustices that have continued long after Emancipation; Jim Crow laws, lynchings, housing and employment discrimination, mass incarceration, voter suppression, health care disparities, especially in the context of COVID-19, and name after name after name of Black men and women victims of police brutality.  “I can’t breathe”.

God’s image is broken in pieces.

I keep hearing these words from James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

We need to look in the mirror and see where we have fallen short of the image of God. We need to confront, and be confronted by, the reality that the edifice of white privilege has been built upon the backs of our Black brothers and sisters. We need to repent our country’s blindness to the worth and dignity of Black children of God, and, in the words of the Center for Reconciliation, the sinful pattern of “treating Black lives and Black bodies as criminal, disposable, and outside of the human family. “

The voices of protest and anguish in our streets are calling us to get back in step with the Divine Dance; to remember who and whose we all are.

Not everyone has forgotten. Even among the chaos we see people joining the dance—sometimes literally. In Flint Michigan, the Genesee County Sheriff laid down his baton and helmet and joined the march. At a Newark protest law enforcement officers joined the crowd kneeling in a moment of silence. As the gathering gradually transformed into a community dance party, a police officer joined in. In Minneapolis Ruhel Islam, a Bangladeshi immigrant, heard that his restaurant was on fire in the protests, and said, “Let the buildings burn. Justice needs to be served.” Standing amid the ruins he said, “We can rebuild a building. But we cannot give [George Floyd] back to his family.” And then he and his daughter went to work in the Interfaith Garden that they had planted nearby. Tending to the cilantro and bean plants, he said, “I’m going to plant in the garden and pray for everyone.”

We can remember the Dance. We can march in our holy anger at injustice. We can step forward to learn the name and story of our neighbors. (We may be wearing masks, but that doesn’t stop us from looking people in the eye and seeing the spark of the Divine.) Moving harmoniously, acknowledging each other subject to subject, I to Thou, we can draw the circle wider and wider until all of God’s children are part of the flow of mutual respect, trust, compassion and justice.

“Let us make humankind in our image.”

What does it mean to be made in the image of the Trinitarian God in this shattered time?

It is to hear the invitation to the Dance. It is to know that we have been baptized into a faith that has called us into this moment; to be a community of love and compassion; to be agents of holy listening, truth-telling and reconciliation.

It is to become what we believe.

May we dance in the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love-Sharer, 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

Liturgy of the Word for Pentecost Sunday

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

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Webcast recorded, edited and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

Prelude:  Variations on “Amazing Grace” (4)  Denis Bedard with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: Spiritus Domini/Psalm 68:1 sung by Gabe Alfieri, Choral Director

The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world, alleluia; 
And that which contains all things, knows every language spoken by men, alleluia. 
Let God arise; let his foes be scattered. 
Let those who hate him flee from his presence. 
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; 
Like wax that melts before the fire, 
So the wicked shall perish at the presence of God.

Hymn:225 “Hail thee, festival day,” vv. 1, 4, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The The Gloria S278, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying

The Collect for Pentecost Sunday

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful
people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:
Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all
things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.

First Reading: The Book of Numbers, 11:24-30 read by Marty Flaherty

Psalm 104:25-35, 37 (Pg 735 BCP) sung by Gabe Alfieri, Lori Istok, Jacob Chippo

Second Reading: The Acts of the Apostles, 2:1-21 read by Sammi Muther

Gradual Hymn: 751 (WLP) “Ev’ry time I feel the spirit” v. 1, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Gospel: John 7:37-39 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 751 (WLP) “Ev’ry time I feel the spirit” v. 2

The Sermon: “God’s Grandeur”, Mark+  (a stand alone sermon recording and text with a link to God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins appear below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem:  “Come with Hearts and Voices Sounding” J. S. Bach (1685-1750) Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ

Come with hearts and voices sounding; 
Raise to God a hymn resounding: 
God alone rules over all; 
Let us now before God fall. 
O be joyful and enter with singing; 
Ever praise God with voices ringing; Alleluia! 

Great is God whose name is wondrous; 
God’s great power is known among us; 
Give the worship due God’s name; 
Spread abroad God’s glorious fame. 
Laud, O angels, with loud anthems soaring; 
Join all people in praise adoring: Alleluia!

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Peace

Final Hymn: 516 “Come down, O Love divine,” vv. 1, 3 sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

Pentecost Blessing

The Postlude: Finale from Variations on Amazing Grace”  Denis Bedard with Steven Young playing

Mark’s+ stand alone sermon podcast

God’s Grandeur

Week after week, I approach the task of sermon preparation not knowing what to do with my feelings. I know what my task is. It is to bring the events and experiences of our community life into dialogue with the overarching Biblical Story. In performing this task my tools are Scripture, Tradition (how the community of the Church interprets scripture), and Reason (the self-evident virtues of love, truth, and justice). However, in performing my task as preacher, I worry that my feelings will get the better of me – making my words a stumbling block for some.

In these days we all have a desperate need to hear words of hope and where possible, words of comfort. At the very least my aim is to offer words that speak meaningfully of our shared experience as members of the Christian community.

As we approach the celebration of the great feast of Pentecost, all of us are struggling to process our feelings after this dreadful week – which is just one week in a long procession of dreadful weeks stretching back into months. However, let me try to find the ground on which to stand, a footing from which to speak to all of us today.

In the beginning the Spirit of God hovered over the void breathing life into Creation. On the Day of Pentecost, Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit who for us, is no longer the impersonal Spirit of God, but is now inextricably linked with the Spirit of Jesus, the Messiah. For Christians, the Holy Spirit is personal – as she breathes life and energy into our individual lives – empowering us together, to become the Christian people of God

I use the term – the Christian people of God or God’s Christian people because I believe that God has other people as well. God has a Jewish people, a Muslim people, a Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and a Bahai people.

Pentecost, the celebration of the 50th day after the resurrection is a celebration of the birth of God’s Christian people. Like all good birthday parties this day was accompanied by pyrotechnics, the scale of which, pushes Hollywood into the shadows. 

Pentecost is not a celebration of the Christian people as a new chosen race. It is a confirmation of the radical nature of the age-old inclusive vision of Israel’s prophets –embracing all peoples, respecting and reconciling all differences. It is this vision to which God’s Christian people are called upon to bear particular witness through the quality of our lives.

On this Pentecost weekend in 2020 we approach the festival with a sense of urgency. The pandemic which is reshaping human priorities over the entire face of the planet, has for America in particular, laid bare our systemic injustices and inequalities.

It has laid bare the recent legacy of a growing inequality and disparity of wealth that has directly contributed to the stagnation and decay of our social institutions and the reduction of social mobility at the heart of the American dream. But, the pandemic has inflamed and exposed older legacies as well. In particular it has exposed the rawness of our centuries-old legacy of racial injustice.

We approach the festival with the knowledge of 100,000 souls having perished over the course of three months. In grappling with this reality, we can no longer hide from the fact that the death toll has been hugely exacerbated by the cancerous legacies of inequality and injustice eating away at the heart of our society.

The pandemic is not simply a medical issue. It’s not simply a political issue; although failures in both these areas impact us all hugely. The pandemic is a justice issue; justice to one another and justice to the planet. The Bible speaks repeatedly of justice -for justice is God’s issue.

In his poem God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins proclaims that:

The World is charged with the grandeur of God. 
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; 
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil – crushed.

Yet, against the background of this optimistic proclamation Hopkins questions why humanity is so reckless of God’s gift of creation:

Why do men then now not reck his rod? 
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: 
The soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

We have become insensible to the feel of the earth, to the harmonies of nature, to a balanced and right relationship with other species. The result is – we no longer feel our abuse of creation- our feet being shod. 

Our social relations are mired: 

seared with trade, bleared, smeared, with toil wearing man’s smudge and sharing man’s smell. 

Luke describes the birth of God’s Christian people in Acts 2. We are likely to miss point, however, if we only pay attention to the wind, sound, and fire –the pyrotechnics of this day – and not to his description of the effects of these mighty forces upon the God’s Christian people. At the end of the chapter he writes:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

We come to celebrate the birth of God’s Christian people with so many questions. Some are answerable. We know about the failure of national leadership and its role in exacerbating the still mounting death toll. We recognise the dire effects of our failure to create a joined up national health system accessible to all and free at the point of use. We plot the trajectories of an uneven distribution of government financial aid as an inevitability in a society where money means power and where money has so corrupted every aspect of political life.  

Perhaps the most difficult of the unanswerable questions is – will we learn from this experience so that things might really begin to change?

Some of our questions remain unanswerable – answers still awaiting to be revealed with the passage of time. Will there be a vaccine or even an effective treatment and if so when? Perhaps the most difficult of the unanswerable questions is – will we learn from this experience so that things might really begin to change?

This Pentecost, we are not simply celebrating the birth of God’s Christian people. Working with all God’s peoples we are called upon once again:

to let the whole world know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by God through whom all things were made. Solemn Collects
Vada Roseberry’s Creation Rose Window, Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix.
 And for all this, nature is never spent; 
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 
And though the last lights off the black West went - 
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.



God’s Grandeur  Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J.

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 Liturgy of Remembrance for Memorial Day

Recorded, edited and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

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

DONATE HERE

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

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Prelude:  Variations on the “Navy Hymn” Michael Joseph with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Let all the world in every corner sing” George Herbert’s poem set to music by R. Vaughan Williams as part of his Five Mystical Song Cycle. Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort, Gabe Alfieri, St Martin’s Choral Director accompanied by Steven Young, St Martin’s Organist

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
“My God and King!”
The heav’ns are not too high,
God’s praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
God’s praises there may grow.
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
“My God and King!”

2 Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
“My God and King!”
The church with psalms must shout:
no door can keep them out.
But, more than all, the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in ev’ery corner sing,
“My God and King!”

Hymn 578 vv 1&3 St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with human hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf .

Alleluia. Christ the Lord has ascended to the heavens: Come let us adore him. Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The Trisagion : S102, sung by St John’s Girls Octet, St John’s Orthodox Church, Warren, Ohio

The Collect for Heroic Service

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision gave their lives for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: The Book of Wisdom, 3:1-5,9 read by Lauren Hill

Psalm 46, pg 649 BCP sung by Lori Istok, staff soprano

Second Reading: The Book of Revelation, 21:2-7 read by Sarosh Fenn

Gradual Hymn: 719, “O beautiful for spacious skies vv1&2, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Gospel: John 10:11-16 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 719 v3

The Sermon: “To Remember in 2020”, Mark+ (a stand alone recording and text appear below together with a Memorial Day tribute “I vow to thee my country”)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem:  J.A. Korman, “Pie Jesu” sung by Jacob Chippo, staff tenor, with Gabe Alfieri, baritone and Steven Young organ

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Peace

Final Hymn: 307 “Lord enthroned in heavenly splendor” sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

Easter Blessing

The Postlude: Fugue on “America” (Second Sonata)  W. Eugene Thayer with Steven Young playing

Mark+’s stand alone sermons and youtube tribute for Memorial Day “I vow to thee my country”

To Remember in 2020

The calendar cycles through. The yearly cycle of the calendar rolls alongside the annual cycle of the church’s kalendar; both herald the passage of the year’s progress; both signal the passing of time.

Time, so often appearing to move in a straight line from past through present to future, is in reality also a cycle. The months of the year commemorate the cycling through of festivals and seasons.

We arrive at the Memorial Day Weekend, which falls at the same place in the calendar’s cycle as it did last year. Since the 1968 passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for federal employees – and now many others- with the last Monday designated as a federal holiday.

Each year we arrive at the same place, i.e. the Memorial Day Weekend. Yet, with each revolution of the cycle the context of our arrival changes. We arrive at the Memorial Day Weekend in 2020 – within the contextual game changer of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The Memorial Day Weekend still betokens the promises of summer. Each year we arrive at this three-day holiday in a state of some exhaustion. We are exhausted by the long, grueling New England winter; exhausted by an unremitting workaholic culture that despite its rhetoric despises and works against the interests of an effective work-life balance for the majority of workers. Our kids arrive at the end of the academic year exhausted by an outdated culture of teaching to tests, aided and abetted by helicopter parental anxiety that results in overscheduling and piling stress upon stress upon our children and teens.

Therefore, the three-day weekend is a godsend for many of us, the first intimation of the change of pace as we wind down into summer; a season pregnant with the promise for families and friends of badly needed time for recreation.

Although in a normal year amidst the excitement of summer, beaches, and barbeques – the Memorial Day Weekend also commemorates a more solemn theme. Memorial Day is a day for remembering – a day of remembrance – an invitation to a grateful nation to honor the men and women who have paid with their lives the ultimate sacrifice in our service.

But this year we arrive at the three-day holiday after the three month lock-down that has seen all our lives changed – perhaps unalterably changed by the sudden plunge into fear, grief, and an acute uncertainty that leaves none of us unscathed.

The context in 2020 profoundly mutes our longing to celebrate the official arrival of summer. The annual commemoration of the fallen in 2020 carries the painful poignancy of finding ourselves embroiled in a different but equally deadly kind of war. The fallen in this war are not only names from the distant or more recent theatres of war in far flung places. They are the names of healthcare workers and first responders; of teachers and unsung service-sector workers upon whom we find ourselves even more reliant to keep us in our much reduced lives; they are the names of those who have sacrificed their lives by simply doing their jobs in the war against the virus. These are the names of the newly fallen who have given their lives in our service.

And so, in 2020, the commemoration of the nation’s fallen in war evokes added emotional complexities. The great national emergencies of the First and Second World Wars alongside the Korean War make it easy to feel proud of our experience of war because these wars were fought in pursuit of a noble cause, with victorious outcomes. However, the Vietnam War together with today’s continuous low level conflict in the Middle East evoke more ambivalent feelings in us about the merits of war. It is yet too early to assess the longer-term impact of the virus’ effects on our collective remembrances.

Today, Memorial Day, we are newly mindful of the fault-lines that lacerate our society. As in former years we are aware of a largely hidden veteran presence among us; a population of minds and bodies scarred by the trauma of war no longer as an epic struggle involving the whole nation, but of war as an interminable state of low level conflict the brunt of which is born by members of racially and economically deprived sections of society. So it is with the virus. Across the land, the Coronavirus strikes at the heart of poor, black and hispanic communities. In a just published statistic from Kansas one third of deaths are among the black community which makes up only 5% of the State’s population.

The virus is forcing us to confront these systemic indicators of racial and economic injustice as never before, challenging us to the urgent need for a society-wide new deal.

In 1912, Sir Cecil Spring Rice was appointed British Ambassador to the United States. He was hugely influential in persuading Woodrow Wilson to commit to America’s entry into the Great War. In 1918 he was recalled to Britain. Before he left he penned the words to the text that became the poem  I vow to thee my country. Rice’s words were later set by Gustav Holst to the hymn tune Thaxted, taken from the Jupiter Movement of his Planets Suite.

The two verses of the poem are juxtaposed, voicing the tension between love of country and love of God. In contemporary America we have conflated love of country with love of God to disastrous effect.

In his first verse, Rice penned:

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice
.

We are newly mindful of the tragic consequences for the fabric of The Republic and for the integrity of our democracy of the love that asks no question; of a love that over and over again manifestly fails to stand the test; that is too swift to lay upon the altar the dearest and the best, heedless of the consequences.

Remembrance of the casualties of traditional war alongside the remembrance for the casualties from the virus war reminds us of the love that never falters, of the love that pays the price – for a chronic lack of preparedness, for federal neglect of national leadership and a partisan disregard for the common good.

We are no longer so confident that the recent sacrifices – be they of the continued sacrifice of our young men and women in the theatres of low level conflict – or in the ER’s and nursing homes of a largely for profit health care system that has built shining medical edifices as temples to technology while denigrating the vital networks of public health-care provision built up over generations to deal with the very crisis that leaves far from undaunted the final sacrifice.

However, in the second verse Rice’s tone shifts:

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

The love that leads women and men to sacrifice their lives in war; the love shown by countless doctors, nurses, healthcare and support workers; the love shown by first responders, and service sector workers – leads them to sacrifice their lives in the line of simply doing their job in the face of the onslaught of the virus .

With gratitude we remember those who willingly – yet never forget regrettably – have been called upon to give their lives simply because they were unfortunate enough to live in a time when this sacrifice was asked of them. We must never forget that their loss is also our loss for:

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

John Donne

In our countless acts of remembrance on this year’s Memorial Day, let us confront the urgent need to redouble our commitment to working tirelessly to ensure that our future – the world of our children and their children will not be a mere repetition of our doleful and shameful past.

And of the fallen?

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. 

For the Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon

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

DONATE HERE

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

Ascension Day

We trust you will enjoy this special webcast for the Ascension of Our Lord. Ascension is one of the major festivals of Jesus but because it always occurs on a Thursday (technically the 40th day after Easter) and is not transferred to the following Sunday – it often passes many of us by. This is a pity because the Ascension is theologically significant and in my reflection below I will explore the practical daily living implication of a theological tension running through how we can think about the Ascension.

Reflection in Music and Word for the Ascension of Our Lord

Webcast produced by Christian Tulungen

Reflection Structure

Prelude: Allegro from Symphony II by Louis Vierne, Stephen Young, organist.

Hymn 494 “Crown him with many crowns” Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA

The Readings

Acts 1:1-11 read by Linda+

Psalm: 93 Choir of King’s College Cambridge

Ephesians 1:15-23 read by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 460 vv. 1-2 “Alleluia! sing to Jesus” Rowland H. Pritchard · William C. Dix · Robert E. Kreutz · Randall DeBruyn

Gospel: Luke 24:44-53. proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 460 v. 3

Reflection Theology Matters: Mark+

Anthem: “God has gone up”, words by Edward Taylor set to music by Gerald Finzi, sung by the choir of Wells Cathedral, England. Taylor’s text appears below.

Anthem Text

Edward Taylor (1646? – 1729), “Meditation Twenty”

God is gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpets’ melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphicwise!
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down him to attend,
And hear Heart-cramping notes of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their Music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.

The First Collect for the Ascension of Our Lord

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

Hymn 450 “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, NE

The Postlude: Scherzo by Edouard Commette, Steven Young organist

Stand Alone Reflection Podcast and Text

Theology Matters

Mark’s+ stand alone reflection on the Ascension

Theology matters because theology maps out our view of the world- dictating the values we hold and the way we chose to live our Christian lives.

When we look at the collects for the Ascension we find there are two, not one. My concern is that the thrust of each collect sets different priorities for living the Christian life.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

compare

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your
only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended
into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend,
and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I think you get a sense of what I’m getting at.

The Ascension is the pivotal transition point between the earthly and post resurrection ministry of Jesus and the empowerment of the community of the Church to carry on the work Jesus began. It is most fully fleshed out by Luke who develops a chronological view – rather like a chapter book: Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and then his ascension. With his ascension Jesus leaves the stage of salvation history making way for God’s next great move – the sending of the Holy Spirit. Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit the Church – community of believers becomes literally the Body of Christ in the world.

Q: I can’t really take seriously the idea of Jesus floating up through the clouds with feet dangling into a separate realm three miles above the earth.

A: Yes, some very bad Ascension-tide theology in prayers and hymns pictures Jesus jettisoning his humanity like a discarded suit of clothes as he ascends through the clouds to heaven where a fine new set of divine clothes await him. This image is not only unhelpful for most of us today. In the language of the second collect above it encourages us to focus on our spiritual ascending away from the focus of this world in the here and now. The Ascension is actually the opposite from the popular image of Jesus floating heavenward – shedding his humanity like his garments in the process. Instead I encourage you to think of it in these terms. The Ascension of Jesus is God incorporating the fullest expression of being human – now represented by the post-resurrection human Jesus –  into the divine identity.

Q:  Where exactly does Jesus go?

A: The first Christians didn’t think about heaven as somewhere up there. This is a later medieval idea. They pictured heaven being all around them. They made a distinction between heaven and earth or put in more contemporary language a distinction between God-Space and Our-Space. The first Christians understood heaven and earth, God Space and Our Space, not simply as different places but as interleafing and interpenetrating dimensions.

Today, we no longer possess a Medieval imaginary. A better inspiration for our imaginations is drawn from the world of science fiction. To make a contemporary Sci-Fi analogy, God-Space and Our-Space are parallel dimensions occupying the same place or location. I like this Sci-Fi notion of parallel dimensions because it bannishes the unworkable imagery of the Middle Ages and brings us closer to how the writers of the New Testament understood the relationship between heaven and earth.

Q: Wow, so, when I die, I will cross over into God-Space in the same way as Jesus at the Ascension?

A: Yes, you could put it this way. But being with God in God-Space is not the ultimate goal of our living. Our goal is to work tirelessly to implement the expectations of God-Space within Our-Space before we die. The human Jesus passed through the interdimensional boundary – from Our-Space to God-Space, in order that the dynamic Spirit of God could move back across in the other direction – from God-Space to infuse Our-Space to equip us to collaborate with God in the real time healing of the world.

Q: Is that not quite a responsibility?

A: That’s well put. Through being God’s agents in Our-Space we are assisting God in preparing for an eventual time when Our-Space and God-Space become One-Space. God’s incorporation of Jesus’ full humanity in the Ascension is a foretaste of what the Bible refers to in the language of a new heaven and a new earth.

Q: So the Ascension really sets-out the Our-Space agenda then?

A:  It clears the stage for the next act -so to speak – coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the everpresent, dynamic expression of the Divine Community – a concept we will revisit when we come to celebrate the Holy Trinity.

The Irish poet John Donohue in his final stanza of Morning Offering captures it the Our Space agenda:

May [we] have the courage today

To live the life that [we] would love,

To postpone [our] dream no longer

But do at last what [we] came here for

And waste [our] heart[s] on fear no more. Amen

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

DONATE HERE

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

Liturgy of the Word for Easter VI, May 17th

Webcast of The Liturgy of the Word for Easter VI
recorded, edited and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

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

DONATE HERE

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

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here

Prelude: Prelude in G Major, Felix Mendelssohn with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “The Call” George Herbert’s poem set to music by R. Vaughan Williams as part of his Five Mystical Song Cycle. Sung by Gabe Alfieri, St Martin’s Choral Director accompanied by Steven Young, St Martin’s Organist

THE CALL.   

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life :
Such a Way, as gives us breath :
Such a Truth, as ends all strife :
And such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength :
Such a Light, as shows a feast :
Such a Feast, as mends in length :
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart :
Such a Joy, as none can move :
Such a Love, as none can part :
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

Hymn: 204 “Now the green blade riseth”, 1st and last vv, staff singers with organ

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The Gloria: S280, sung by St Martin’s staff singers, Steve Young, organ

The Collect for the Sixth Sunday after Easter

You can find a link to the readings for the day here

First Reading: Acts 17:22-31 read by Pat Nolan

Psalm 66:7-18, sung by Jacob Chippo, staff tenor

Second Reading: 1Peter 3:13-22 read by David Blake

Gradual Hymn: 390 v1, “Praise the Lord, the Almighty” staff singers

The Gospel: John 14:15-21 proclaimed by Mark+

Gradual Hymn: 390 v2, staff singers

The Sermon: Orphaned? Mark+ (a stand alone recording and text appear below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem:  “If ye love me, keep my commandment” Thomas Tallis, The Cambridge Singers with John Rutter

Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Lord’s Prayer

The Peace

Final Hymn: 385 “Many and great O Lord, are thy works”, A Native American Melody sung by the staff singers with organ

Easter Blessing

The Postlude: Allegro Maestoso (Sonata II), F Mendelssohn with Steven Young playing

Stand alone Sermon Recording

Orphaned?

It’s 4:41am on Saturday morning. Covid-19 has changed everything about doing church. It’s not only doing church that has changed. It seems there isn’t one aspect of our former lives that remains unchanged by the arrival of the virus. But it’s the change to doing church that preoccupies me at the present moment.

I note the time -early Saturday morning – because having made numerous false starts on this sermon throughout Friday, in the pre-virus world I would still have a full 24 hours to get it right. However, one of the aspects of doing church that has changed is that Ian, our virtual Sunday Service webcast producer needs my completed product by midday at the latest for editing into the webcast that will go live at 7am tomorrow, the 6th Sunday after Easter.

I’ve italicized doing because there is something odd about it. Doing and its cognates is frequently used today. We ask one another are you done?, when what we really mean is have you finished? Doing-do-done are very American colloquial usages which as a self-respecting speaker of the Queen’s English is a good reason for me not to use them here. A better verb might be being church. It’s more inspirational, somehow. And if nothing else language’s power to inspire us amidst all the chances and changes of this world – to borrow from Archbishop Cranmer’s knack for the inspirational phrase -takes on a greater not lesser importance.

It’s now 5:01am on Saturday morning. Covid-19 has changed everything about doing Church. Much may have changed in the last two months about doing church, yet, the challenge of being church remains unchanged. Being church has always been challenging, if by this we mean being Christian. Changing worldly circumstances do not fundamentally alter the task of being Christian – as the writer of John’s gospel puts it: in the world.  

The World?

As spring finally seems to have secured a late toehold on wintry southern New England, we are all so very conscious of the world burgeoning with the glorious expression of the goodness of the Creator. But as we struggle to come to terms with all that has recently changed for us, we are very aware of this natural world as also a threatening place, always potentially hostile to human flourishing.

Then there’s the world- as in worldliness – the short-sighted politics of the moment, the manipulation of the national need by the rich and powerful for their own ends and the rest of us be damned.

Let’s not overlook the world as a place where challenge provokes human beings to innovate -turning challenges into opportunities for new and imaginative solutions capable of taking us to the next level of our social evolution.

At 5:32am, I must finally get to grips with the text from John 14 as the gospel pre-ordained to be read on the sixth Sunday after Easter.

At the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries of the common era in Jerusalem a community of Christians had coalesced around the teaching of one who is known as John the Evangelist. This is not John the Beloved Disciple of Jesus (JTBD) for he would have been long dead by this time. John the Evangelist (JTE) is one who as a young man must have known JTBD. Having been profoundly shaped by his teaching, JTE now presents JTBD’s teaching to his community – a community made up from disparate and hard to hold together factions. Jewish followers of Jesus, some out and proud but many still hiding in the Jewish closet; the remnants of John the Baptist’s followers; a large group of Samaritans, and a smattering of Greeks formed the nucleus of what came to be known as the Beloved Community. JTE wrote his gospel for them. This helps go some way to explaining why John’s gospel is so different from the other three gospels. The community for whom John wrote was so very different.

Chapters 14 -17 cover Jesus’ extended farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper. Since Easter we have been working through mostly John’s recording of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances. But now we are coming to the end and our attention focuses on Jesus’ words of farewell in which he prepares his disciples for what was to follow after his death, resurrection, and ascension from this dimension of time and space.

Because of the privacy of the setting and the often-close relationships between the table companions, dinner table conversations can be both intimate and fraught affairs.

14:15-21 offers a rare glimpse into the tender intimacy that can accompany a family conversation around the dinner table – a conversation in which like a 5th grade teacher of a class with a very limited attention span, Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what is to follow. Of course, at the time they don’t really get him. They have their own dreams. But in time – through the disillusionment and loss of their cherished dreams, they will come back to Jesus’ words with the same dawning understanding as we are doing now.

Jesus, around the Last Supper dinner table shares his vision for the world and their place in it. We note that he speaks to them no longer as servants but calls them friends. Jesus’ vision centers on the love that unites him and the Father together in a unity of being. By extrapolation, this love becomes the template that unities Jesus and his disciples also in a unity of being – not quite the same as Jesus and the Father, but pretty close and certainly a very provocative-inspirational notion. Jesus’ ultimate point is that being his friends, the disciples now also become God’s friends.

Through Jesus we remain God’s friends. For we are those who are challenged to respond to the commandment to love. And as Jesus had earlier demonstrated when he took the towel and washed their feet, the love he speaks about has little to do with the sentiments of liking one another. The kind of love Jesus commands them to practice is the love of service in action.

Being friends of God is fleshed out as Jesus speaks about his imminent departure. He tells them that his going from them will not leave them orphaned, for God will send something else to sustain them; an advocate to support them as they face the challenges of being his inspired followers in the world, living lives of love as service in action.

Grappling with this text at what is now 6:03am on a wet Saturday morning with a pre-recording and editing deadline looming – the word orphaned jumps off the page and smacks me in the face in a way it never has before.

Isn’t being orphaned our experience in these early months of a covid-19 changed world? The metaphor of being orphaned is an experience of being abandoned and left unprotected.

We find ourselves adrift, unprotected in a world that fills us with grief at the loss of so much we took for granted. Of course, there is real grief and worry for so many as they survey the damage to their livelihoods caused by the economic fallout from the virus. There is the grief of helplessness as we watch loved ones succumb to the virus, isolated and separated from us at such a time of dire need for human love and touch. Then there’s the rage at our leaders, who at the federal level have the power to make our situations so much more bearable but lack the will to do so because they remain afflicted with a virus even worse the covid-9 – the virus of political short-termism; a different kind of killer – an affliction of the imagination that eats away at the capacity for courageous and far-sighted leadership.

Much may have changed in the last two months about doing church, yet, the challenge of being church remains unchanged. Being church has always been challenging, if by this we mean, being Christian. Changing worldly circumstances do not fundamentally alter the task of being Christian it in the world.  

At 7:57am and I am more and more convinced of the truth that challenge is also opportunity. That no matter how it feels to us at the moment as we struggle to cope with our sense of loss, being Christian in the world is to show that God has NOT be left us orphaned. We are reminded of Jesus’ words: You may no longer see me, but I continue to live in you through your commitment to live lives of love as service in action. Or to borrow from Archbishop Cranmer once again – we are currently being called to rally together to let the whole world know that things that were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new.

I’m excited by the challenge and prospect before us of being church – being Christian and making a better world!

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

DONATE HERE

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

The Liturgy of the Word for May 10th, Easter V

This Service Webcast with Sermon was recorded in St Martin’s Church and produced by Ian Tulungen

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

DONATE HERE

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

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer     

Prelude: Cantilene (Sonata XI) Josef Rheimberger, Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome

Introit: “Love bade me welcome” George Herbert’s poem Love III set to music by R. Vaughan Williams as part of his Easter Mystical Song Cycle. Sung by Gabe Alfieri, St Martin’s Choral Director accompanied by Steven Young, St Martin’s Organist

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
            Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
            From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
            If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
            Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
            I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
            “Who made eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
            Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
            “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
            So I did sit and eat.

First Hymn: 455 first and last verses sung by the St Martin’s Staff Singers, Steve Young accompanying

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The Gloria: S280, sung by St Martin’s Staff Singers, Steve Young, organ

The Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

You can find a link to the readings for the day here

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60 read by Meg LoPresti

Psalm  31:1-5, 15-16, sung by Lori Istok, Staff Soprano

Second Reading: 1Peter 2:2-10 read by Fla Lewis

Gradual Hymn: 518 v1, Staff Singers with organ

The Gospel: John 14:1-14 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 518 v4

The Sermon: Reflections from Mark+

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem: Schubert, Benedictus “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” sung by Jacob Chippo, Staff Singer and Gabe Alfieri with Steve Young, organ

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Peace

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

Easter Blessing

Final Hymn: 194, Staff Singers with organ

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

DONATE HERE

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

The Postlude: Fugue (Sonata XI) J Rheimberger with Steven Young playing

Words Matter

Stand alone Sermon Recording

In this week’s E-News message I wrote about the Golden Calf story in the daily Exodus readings as an example of what we human beings – left to our own devices – will do. We make gods in our own image, to create for ourselves comfortable gods; gods who are immediately to hand and can be molded to support our social world views; gods who reassure us in the face of universal anxieties.

It’s natural to want to feel that we are the special ones, the ones who fall under the protection of a merciful God. However, we cannot shelter under the protection of a MERCIFUL God if we exclude someone else from this same protection because they hold a worldview different from us. We cannot claim the protection of a God whose name is MERCY if we remain blind to our collusion in systems that:

  • devalue those lower down on the economic and social ladder
  • discriminate against others on the basis of race or ethnicity
  •  oppress and exploit others’ relative powerlessness.

Today’s gospel passage comes from a section of John’s Gospel known as the Farewell Discourses which take the form of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples immediately following the Last Supper. John 14 is a favorite at funerals, speaking as it does about prepared rooms in God’s heavenly mansion.

On Mother’s Day 2020 when many of us will be experiencing the bitter sweetness of expressing our love for the mother’s we are prevented from being with because of the Virus, in this reflection entitled Words Matter I thought we might take a little more time to delve beneath the surface of John’s words in chapter 14.

The text emphasizes what the old Prayer Book version of the Nicene Creed referred to as the consubstantiality between Jesus and God. Jesus and God are of one substance or shared identity. Thus, for John, Jesus is more than the Son of God, the title used by the other gospel writers. For John, Jesus is God the Son, the Word preexistent with the Creator before the beginning of time. Thus, John’s Jesus proclaims to his disciples that to know him is to know God, and vice versa – if you have seen me you have seen the Father, for the Father and I are one. Through this portrayal of Jesus’ teaching John is warning those members of his Beloved Community who felt they could bypass Jesus because they had accessed the higher knowledge (gnosis) that gave them direct access to God.

However, it’s when Jesus talks about going ahead to prepare a place for the disciples before coming back to take them with him, that John presents one of the most controversial of all Jesus’ teachings.

I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This is a favorite text for those who long to restrict access to God only to others who are like them.

In capitalizing I AM we are reminded of Exodus 3:14 when God tells Moses to say to the Israelites when they ask who sent him: tell them I AM sent you. In Chapter 14, by deliberately evoking the ancient form of the divine name, John’s Jesus is including himself within it.

That Jesus says: I AM the way, the truth, and the life is taken by the Christian Right to mean unless you are a Christian, God is not interested in you. Only by saying Jesus is my Savior, will God accept you. John 14 is used as a way of telling us that God is only interested in Christians. It forms the bedrock of the hard and exclusive message that we are so used to hearing from the religious right. For if you can exclude others (Jews, blacks, women, LGBTQ persons, immigrants) from inclusion within God’s grace, by extension, you can justify attempts to marginalize and exclude many others because they don’t share the values of the comfortable god you have made in your own image.

Richard Swanson in his commentary on this text reminds us that the rabbis say that the Divine Name -I AM which is translated as LORD in our English Bibles appears only when God is acting to rescue, nurture, claim, and protect. In John 14, Jesus is not seeking to narrow the divine life’s entry qualifications. He’s doing the opposite. He’s deliberately invoking God of the Exodus who rescues, nurtures, claims, and protects –in other words, the merciful attributes of God. Swanson suggests we might better read John 14 as: MERCY is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by way of MERCY.

When Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for his disciples, he’s not telling them that this place will be exclusive to them. He’s saying the opposite when we remember that John’s Jewish Christians had been excluded by the Jerusalem authorities from Israel’s covenant with God. Bearing this in mind we can see that John’s Jesus is seeking to reassure his followers that of-course, there will be room for them – alongside Israel, i.e. everyone else.

The essence of MERCY is that we don’t get to decide who is in and who’s out.

In today’s America we cannot hide any more from the ugly truth that we are implicated in a system that teaches some that it’s OK to kill a black man for being in a place they don’t think he has a right to be in. Those of us who enjoy easy access to health care are conspirators in a system that questions this as a basic human right; something dependent on ability to pay. Those of us who have the financial capacity to send our children to the best schools are implicated in a system that denies quality public education to everyone else. The essence of MERCY is that we don’t get to decide who is in and who’s out.

The danger for us lies in remaining complicit with:

  • an economic order that exploits most of the population by depriving them of the necessity of a living wage
  • a system driven by the principle of uncontrolled consumption that has led us to the brink of environmental and ecological catastrophe
  • our sleep walking through election cycles that return a political philosophy that has actively eroded our precious public institutions and civic protections; that has shrunk government to the point that it is incapable of a nationally coordinated response to a health pandemic like COVID-19

Words matter, and the word that matters is MERCY. MERCY is the way, the truth, and the life, for no one can come to the Father except by way of MERCY.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑