November 18, 2020
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
You may wish to light a candle and place it before you as you begin.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.
Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.
Let your light scatter the darkness and illumine your church.
HYMN: My Faith Looks Up to Thee
FIRST READING: Esther 7
A reading from: Esther
7 When the king and Haman came in for the banquet with Queen Esther, 2 the king said to her, “This is the second day we’ve met for wine. What is your wish, Queen Esther? I’ll give it to you. And what do you want? I’ll do anything—even give you half the kingdom.”
5 King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is this person, and where is he? Who would dare do such a thing?”
6 Esther replied, “A man who hates, an enemy—this wicked Haman!” Haman was overcome with terror in the presence of the king and queen. 7 Furious, the king got up and left the banquet for the palace garden. But Haman stood up to beg Queen Esther for his life. He saw clearly that the king’s mood meant a bad end for him.
8 The king returned from the palace garden to the banquet room just as Haman was kneeling on the couch where Esther was reclining. “Will you even molest the queen while I am in the house?” the king said. The words had barely left the king’s mouth before covering Haman’s face with dread.
ona, one of the eunuchs serving the king, said, “Sir, look! There’s the stake that Haman made for Mordecai, the man who spoke up and did something good for the king. It’s standing at Haman’s house—seventy-five feet high.”
“Impale him on it!” the king ordered. 10 So they impaled Haman on the very pole that he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger went away.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
PSALM: 83:1-4, 9-10, 17-18
83 God, don’t be silent!Don’t be quiet or sit still, God,
2 because—look!—your enemies are growling;
those who hate you are acting arrogantly.
3 They concoct crafty plans against your own people;
they plot against the people you favor.
4 “Come on,” they say, “let’s wipe them out as a nation!
Let the name Israel be remembered no more!”
9 Do to them
what you did to Midian,
to Sisera, and to Jabin at the Kishon River.
10 They were destroyed at Endor;
they became fertilizer for the ground.
17 Let them
be shamed and terrified forever.
Let them die in disgrace.
18 Let them know that you—
your name is the Lord!—
you alone are Most High over all the earth.
Gospel: Matthew 24:45-51
A reading from: Matthew
45 “Who then are the faithful and wise servants whom their master puts in charge of giving food at the right time to those who live in his house? 46 Happy are those servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. 47 I assure you that he will put them in charge of all his possessions.
48 But suppose those bad servants should say to themselves, My master won’t come until later. 49 And suppose they began to beat their fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunks? 50 The master of those servants will come on a day when they are not expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. 51 He will cut them in pieces and put them in a place with the hypocrites. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
There are few stories of women in such leadership roles as we have in the First Reading and the Psalm, so it makes sense to pay attention to them. Four women, Vashti and Esther, Deborah and Jael had the hutzpah to defy tradition and act with faith for their people.
Esther was a beautiful woman chosen by King Ahasuerus after Vashti, his primary queen, refused to obey him. Vashti gets less attention than Esther, but it is her refusal to let her body be shown to a bunch of drunk kings that started the whole thing. She lost her position as queen because of it.
An evil man in the court named Haman hated Jews and got a law signed ordering the execution of all Jews. He did not realize that Esther was a Jew. When Esther’s uncle Mordecai discovered the plot, he told Esther about it. Esther used a dinner invitation to expose Haman’s plan to the King. Instead of Mordecai dying on the stake, it was Haman.
Jabin was the King of Hazor, and Sisera was a military commander. They had been harassing the people of Israel for about 20 years. Deborah was a prophet and a judge, leading the people in the days after Moses and before the kings. Her faith was strong and she believed the time had come to get rid of Jabin and Sisera.
She wanted to send Barak and the army but he refused to go unless she went with him. Together they gathered a large army and conquered Sisera’s army. He fled, and thought he was safe. Jael gave him shelter in her tent and offered him some milk. I think it was drugged, but the text doesn’t say that. After he went to sleep, she drove a tent peg through his skull.
Women are included in the category of faithful servants Jesus praises in the Gospel reading. From their seemingly lowly position as cleaning “ladies”, cooks, seamstresses, launderers, and so forth, they can do wonders.
For example, Annie was the housekeeper for my room in the hospital. It was Annie who made my days easier with her friendly conversation as she mopped the floor and tidied everything.
After surgery to put my ankle back together, I graduated from a bedpan to a bedside commode, but did not have a roll of toilet paper. It seems that in the early days of the pandemic, the rolls of toilet paper in patients’ rooms disappeared. So, nurses had to go into the bathroom and get some from the large TP holder on the wall every time we needed it. Annie, bless her heart, got me my own roll, crafted a holder for it out of a plastic trash bag, and attached it to the arm of the commode. I bragged about her to everyone who came into my room after that! Annie is powerful!
So, beware faith-filled women. They can do anything God calls them to do: lead armies, kill generals, outwit racists, tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the other disciples, carry Paul’s letter to the people of the church at Rome, make the day easier for a hospital patient.
We, too, can be faith-filled servants, defying tyrants, identifying evil doers, and spreading joy and good news wherever we go. We simply have to remember that God empowers us to do whatever we are called to do. 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.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go forth with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only trusting that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our 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: All Earth Is Hopeful
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
Scripture from Common English Bible (CEB) © 2012