September 9, 2020
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
You may wish to light a candle and place it before you as you begin.
God is our light and our salvation, our refuge and our stronghold.
From the rising of the sun to its setting, we praise your name, O God.
For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see life.
HYMN: God, the Sculptor of the Mountains
FIRST READING: Exodus 13:3-10 (CEB)
A reading from: Exodus
13 3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day which is the day that you came out of Egypt, out of the place you were slaves, because the Lord acted with power to bring you out of there. No leavened bread may be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going to leave. 5 The Lord will bring you to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. It is the land that the Lord promised your ancestors to give to you, a land full of milk and honey. You should perform this ritual in this month. 6 You must eat unleavened bread for seven days. The seventh day is a festival to the Lord. 7 Only unleavened bread should be eaten for seven days. No leavened bread and no yeast should be seen among you in your whole country. 8 You should explain to your child on that day, ‘It’s because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’
9 “It will be a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead so that you will often discuss the Lord’s Instruction, for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with great power. 10 So you should follow this regulation at its appointed time every year.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
PSALM: Psalm 121 (CEB)
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.
3 God won’t let your foot slip.
Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job.
4 No! Israel’s protector
never sleeps or rests!
5 The Lord is your protector;
the Lord is your shade right beside you.
6 The sun won’t strike you during the day;
neither will the moon at night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
God will protect your very life.
8 The Lord will protect you on your journeys—
whether going or coming—
from now until forever from now.
Gospel: Matthew 21:18-21 (CEB)
A reading from: Matthew
18 Early in the morning as Jesus was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 He saw a fig tree along the road, but when he came to it, he found nothing except leaves. Then he said to it, “You’ll never again bear fruit!” The fig tree dried up at once.
20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree dry up so fast?” they asked.
21 Jesus responded, “I assure you that if you have faith and don’t doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree. You will even say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the lake.’ And it will happen. 22 If you have faith, you will receive whatever you pray for.”
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
My first reaction to reading these two texts was, “Huh?”
First, we have the Israelites first experience of the Feast of unleavened bread, which is observed right after Passover. They are getting ready to hit the road, and apparently need to take bread with them. But there is no time to let yeast rise, so there is no challah, only matzoh for the road. And, it’s not just that this is bread for traveling, it’s also a reminder of the reason for traveling. “So y’all remember it is God’s doing.”
Why all this fuss? So we can remember that God provides; God has the power and the desire to provide!
In fact, God has the power to move mountains and give and take life. That’s what Jesus is demonstrating in the Gospel reading. When we rely on God to do God’s work, our hands can perform miracles.
It is probably true that we don’t imagine moving mountains, but miners have been cutting into them at least since the days of King Solomon. And if we want to remove an unproductive tree, it is gone in no time. That isn’t really the point.
The point is that God does have the power and the desire to care for us, to give us what we need. What God asks in return is to give God credit for what happens when appropriate. For example, we give thanks to God for the outpouring of towels and food for Loads of Love. God moves human hearts to provide for others, to be generous, in response to God’s own generosity.
To pull it all together, the psalm is one of my favorites. From where does my help come in the middle of all this mess we are in? It comes from God! God is the provider of all we need, from food and shelter to comfort and a vision of new life. Amen
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,
but in these last days, God has spoken to us by the Son.
For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the health of creation, for abundant harvests that all may share, for plentiful water, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For essential workers, public servants, the government, and those who protect us; for those who work to bring peace, justice, healing, and protection in this and every place, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For those who travel, for those who are sick and suffering, for those who are in captivity, and for those who are living in isolation, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For deliverance in the time of affliction, wrath, danger and need, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
Other prayer petitions may be offered here.
Help, save, comfort, and defend us, Gracious God.
A time of silence
Giving thanks for all who have gone before us and are at rest, rejoicing in the communion of all the saints, we commend ourselves, one another, and our whole life to you, through Christ our Lord. To you, O Lord. Amen
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory, are yours now and forever. Amen.
HYMN: Taste and See, ELW 493
Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, + keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen
Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504