Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Evening Prayer 06 03 2020

June 03, 2020
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
You may wish to light a candle and place it before you as you begin.

Jesus Christ is the light if 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: You have come up to the lakeshore, ELW 817 (though slightly different lyrics)

FIRST READING: Numbers 11:24-29

A reading from: Numbers
24 So Moses went out and told the people the Lord’s words. He assembled seventy men from the people’s elders and placed them around the tent. 25 The Lord descended in a cloud, spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and placed it on the seventy elders. When the spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but only this once. 26 Two men had remained in the camp, one named Eldad and the second named Medad, and the spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they hadn’t gone out to the tent, so they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua, Nun’s son and Moses’ assistant since his youth, responded, “My master Moses, stop them!”
29 Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets with the Lord placing his spirit on them!”
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
PSALM 104:24-34 Common English Bible (CEB)
24 Lord, you have done so many things!
    You made them all so wisely!
The earth is full of your creations!
25 And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,

    with its countless creatures—
    living things both small and large.

26 There go the ships on it,
    and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!
27 All your creations wait for you
    to give them their food on time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!
29 But when you hide your face, they are terrified;
    when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to dust.
When you let loose your breath, they are created,
    and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.
31 Let the Lord’s glory last forever!
    Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made!
He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes.
    God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
Let my praise be pleasing to him;
    I’m rejoicing in the Lord!

Gospel: John 7:37-39 Common English Bible (CEB)

A reading from: John

37 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted,
“All who are thirsty should come to me!
38     All who believe in me should drink!

    As the scriptures said concerning me,
        Rivers of living water will flow out from within him.”
39 Jesus said this concerning the Spirit. Those who believed in him would soon receive the Spirit, but they hadn’t experienced the Spirit yet since Jesus hadn’t yet been glorified.

Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.

When we are baptized, we recognize that we are children of God, and that we are forever afterwards bearers of God’s Holy Spirit. Sunday was Pentecost, so we should be feeling the Spirit more, right?

While we may wish the fire of the Spirit were present more often in our lives, we tend to quench it, flood it with the quietness of our baptismal waters. It takes some doing to set aside our Lutheran, Northern European manners. We have been taught to sit quietly, to pay attention, to stand at the right time, to sit at the right time, to not pray as though the Spirit were speaking.

Instead of being filled with the exuberance of Spirit, I am feeling weariness, frustration, anger, pain. I am speechless and yet full of words. I am a preacher, after all! The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd would have been called lynching if they had used ropes strung from a tree. I guess those feelings are the movement of the Spirit, in response to the accumulated deaths. Why, I wonder, has it taken so many deaths to make my blood boil over?

We in the ELCA have been working on anti-racism for decades. And while some things have changed, there is a long way to go until our denomination is really anti-racist, really free of the sense of white supremacy.

America is ill. Our president speaks the words of many Americans – calling the protestors “thugs”. Whether he meant all or only some of the people in Minneapolis, the attitude is still there. Black people are thugs, in the eyes of many white people.

We in America criticized and boycotted South Africa for Apartheid, bragging about our own laws. But in truth, we have been doing the same thing, and it’s legal. White people decide who will get permits and who will get loans and who can buy a house. The poverty of people of color means that more black and brown people end up in prison than white people because they can’t afford good lawyers. And so forth.

So, what does Spirit have to say to us about this? What can St Matthew’s do to make changes in our community? This may be the moment where we decide: “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired” of the way people of color are treated in America.

My first thoughts about this reflection were about how Spirit inhabits us and invites us to use our gifts for God’s purposes. I began with the thought of lifting up various spiritual gifts.

Instead, I am wondering, “Is today – or last week – the time when we are called to pay attention to the cries of the poor? How will we allow or even push the living waters of justice to flow in Ocala?”

It will be a project we work on together, if we choose to respond at all.


Jesus said, I am the light of the world.  
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.

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 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 or have been prevented from traveling, 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.

For those who are suffering the injustices of racism and white supremacy, Lord have mercy.

Merciful God, we know that your heart overflows with compassion for your whole creation. Pour out your Spirit on all people living with this virus, or who are living with anxiety about this illness, for which there is not yet a cure. Be with those who tend to the needs of the sick. Strengthen us all in body and spirit, console us when anxious, comfort us in grief and hearten us in discouragement. Help to remind us that you claim us as your own and are with us wherever we go. Through Christ, our healer and 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: Send us your Spirit, by David Haas

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, + keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504

Sunday, May 31, 2020

In their own language

Acts 2:1-21; 20:19-23

Today we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost. The word Pentecost is from the Greek word for fiftieth. It has been 50 days since the resurrection.
Originally this was a Jewish harvest festival, called The Feast of Weeks but in later times it came to be called Shavuot. The Jewish festival celebrates the giving of the Torah as a gift to the people of Israel. Torah expresses the relationship between God and God’s people, which begins with God telling Abraham “you are blessed so you can be a blessing to others.” In many and various ways, this relationship has continued for thousands of years, all the way to us.

Because Jewish festivals meant – and still mean – family gatherings, there were always thousands of extra people in Jerusalem at festival time. These folks came from around the whole Mediterranean Sea. Many had lived so long in these foreign lands, they no longer spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. They all spoke their home languages as their first language.

Let’s put this language “thing” into context. While some of us are Americans with deep roots in our country, many other families came to the US more recently. Three of my four grandparents came here from Sweden in the early 1900s, so I am third generation American.

My grandparents were all determined to be American, and they worked hard to learn English, but they also continued to speak Swedish at home. My father and my uncle were both born in Minneapolis and spoke Swedish as their first language until they went to school and had to speak English.

By the time they were adults, their speech had no trace of Swedish, but my grandparents all spoke with that lovely Swedish accent. My parents spoke a bit of Swedish to say things they didn’t want me to understand, but otherwise, English was the language we all spoke. So, in just two generations, the language and culture of my heritage has been lost to me.
An important factor in the language we speak is cultural and regional. Even when we all speak English, we have different ways of expressing ourselves. Some of say, “She and I went to the Regal theater and watched a romantic comedy movie.” In contrast, others say, “Me and her saw a romcom.” 

In addition, every generation, every group, has its slang and its idioms, its figures of speech. Younger people write messages in emojis, a whole new language of pictures that carry their own meaning. Sometimes, that slang or idiom or emoji needs to be translated for people who aren’t in that group. There are so many variables to language, it’s not just the words in a dictionary that matter, it’s also the way the words are used.

… So, now, getting back to the story of Pentecost and all those languages. The story from Acts portrays Spirit causing a wild scene, with wind and noise and fire. And then, Spirit enables everyone in the plaza to understand what the disciples were saying. The disciples spoke Aramaic with a Galilean accent, yet people from Rome and Arabia and Egypt and Cyrene all understood what was being said. They all heard the message in their own language, their own slang, their own accent. We know they didn’t all believe what was told to them, but they all understood what was said.

…Whether it is American Sign Language, Spanish, Swedish, Japanese, or emojis, if we are going to tell others about Jesus, we need to speak their language. I know this whole idea of telling others about Jesus frightens us. In the 1950s especially, people were taught that telling other folks about Jesus was for the professional ministers: the pastors and trained evangelists. Regular church people were taught that they didn’t have the skills to talk about Jesus, so they didn’t have to do it.  In fact, they shouldn’t do it! And, in the 1960s, we had people shoving Jesus down our throats. “Have you been saved?” Most of us aren’t professionally trained ministers, and we don’t want to shove Jesus down anyone’s throats. So, we are reluctant to talk about Jesus.

Except, this is exactly the opposite of what these two Bible passages today tell us. In John, on the evening of Easter Day, Jesus breathes on the disciples. Receive the Holy Spirit. We note that it’s not an option, it’s a command. “You, my beloved disciples, are getting my Spirit. I am breathing my Spirit into you and sending you out with a sufficient amount of my power so that you will carry on with my mission of forgiving people.”

In Acts, 50 days later, after Jesus has had time to teach the disciples more about how they are to continue his mission, the Holy Spirit is sent into thousands of people. Spirit descends, not just on the disciples, but on thousands of people.
And, now it is not just the trained disciples who have Jesus’ Spirit, but thousands of people, most of whom who are hearing about him for the first time. And what do you suppose they did? They believed and were baptized. And, they went and told their friends about Jesus and what happened that day. And the friends told other friends, who told other friends, who told other friends.

What it takes to share Jesus with others is a willingness to trust that Jesus’ Spirit will put words in our mouths, trust that the language we speak is the right one for the person we are talking with, and that through Spirit our speaking will be translated into hearing and understanding by the one with whom we are talking.

A speaker at a conference on prayer once said, “If you feel your heart pounding, and words coming into your mind, speak them. It is Spirit nudging you to say something.”

I know that you don’t have many opportunities to do this right now, so I ask you to pray that God will make you ready to speak. You can trust that God is right now filling you with the courage, the faith, and the recognition of someone who needs to hear the words that are filling your heart.

Let us not be afraid to tell the stories of Jesus that someone needs to hear. God will help break whatever language barrier there is. It is up to us to speak the words. It is up to Spirit to make sure the words get translated into a meaningful message. And don’t worry about immediate results. Some translations take time.