Thursday, June 25, 2020

Vespers for June 24

June 24, 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 life flows on in endless song, ELW 763
FIRST READING: Jeremiah 42:18-22 (CEB) 
A reading from: Jeremiah 
18 The Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims: Just as my fierce anger was poured out on the people of Jerusalem, so it will be poured out on you if you go to Egypt. You will become an object of cursing, scorn, shock, and disgrace. And you will never see this place again. 19 You who survive from Judah, the Lord has told you: Don’t go to Egypt. Know without a doubt that I have warned you this day. 20 You are putting your lives at risk by sending me to the Lord your God, saying, “Pray for us to the Lord our God; tell us everything the Lord our God says, and we’ll do it.” 21 Today I have told you, but you still haven’t obeyed all that the Lord your God has sent me to tell you. 22 So know without a doubt that you will die by war, famine, and disease in the place you yearn to go and live.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God. 
PSALM 86:11-17 (CEB) 
11 Teach me your way, Lord,
        so that I can walk in your truth.
    Make my heart focused
        only on honoring your name.
12 I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,
    with all my heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever,
13     because your faithful love toward me is awesome
    and because you’ve rescued my life
        from the lowest part of hell. 
14 The arrogant rise up against me, God.
    A gang of violent people want me dead.
    They don’t give a thought for you.
15 But you, my Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy;
    you are very patient and full of faithful love.
16 Come back to me! Have mercy on me!
    Give your servant your strength;
    save this child of your servant!
17 Show me a sign of your goodness
    so that those who hate me will see it and be put to shame—
        show a sign that you, Lord,
        have helped me and comforted me.

Gospel: Matthew 10:5-20 (CEB)

A reading from: Matthew 

Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. Workers deserve to be fed, so don’t gather gold or silver or copper coins for your money belts to take on your trips. 10 Don’t take a backpack for the road or two shirts or sandals or a walking stick. 
11 Whatever city or village you go into, find somebody in it who is worthy and stay there until you go on your way. 12 When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace!’ 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if the house isn’t worthy, take back your blessing. 14 If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city. 15 I assure you that it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than it will be for that city.
16 “Look, I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. 17 Watch out for people—because they will hand you over to councils and they will beat you in their synagogues. 18 They will haul you in front of governors and even kings because of me so that you may give your testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 Whenever they hand you over, don’t worry about how to speak or what you will say, because what you can say will be given to you at that moment. 20 You aren’t doing the talking, but the Spirit of my Father is doing the talking through you.

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

Jeremiah discovered it. The Psalmists discovered it. The disciples were about to discover it. Being faithful to God is not always easy, and it is not always physically safe. 
This incident told in Jeremiah happens after some Israelites have been taken to Babylon. Others remained in Israel, where a Governor was appointed by Nebucharedrezzar.  Jeremiah is trying to warn the Governor and the people that an alliance with Egypt is not in Israel’s best interest. “Don’t do it. There will be consequences” the Word of the Lord says, through Jeremiah. But they didn’t listen, and there were military consequences. 
The Psalmist is being bullied and his life is at risk. If David is the author of this psalm, then his enemies abound and some of them are family members! In spite of the danger, he remains faithful to his mission and asks for God to help defeat the enemies and keep him safe. In all of life, no matter what is happening, the Psalmist praises God. 
Jesus sends the disciples out on a mission. It is just the twelve apostles, those who have had the most training. It is time for them to put their training into action. They are sent out into various cities. This text doesn’t say they go two by two, but like that is likely. 
Jesus encourages them to find a home to stay in that welcomes them and to offer a blessing to the household. Jesus says they should depend on the people they encounter to support them. Itinerant preachers are usually given offerings of some sort – food, sandals, tunic, whatever people have a bit extra. They are to tell people about the kingdom of heaven, which is coming near them. This is good news in a time when there is little good news.  
Jesus warns them that they won’t always be treated well. As they travel, they should be wise, be careful of traps. Some people will harm them or arrest and try them. At those times, they can trust Spirit to give them the words to say. This last warning sounds more like what happened to the disciples after the resurrection, but the disciples put their lives at risk on this missionary training tour as well. 
We know that many people have lost their lives over the centuries as a result of following Jesus and teaching and preaching about him. Today we commemorate John the Baptist who lost his head for challenging the powers that be and for supporting Jesus as one sent by God. 
In my lifetime, Bishop Oscar Romero, four Maryknoll missionary sisters, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, all were killed because they preached and taught Jesus’ message. But if we asked them if they would do anything differently, they would all have said no. They were all committed to following Jesus, even if it meant dying for his message to be heard. 
In May of this year, in a town in Egypt, the Christian church was growing in numbers. They sought and received permits to construct an addition to their building for fellowship and Sunday school. But a group of Muslim extremists objected and Egyptian authorities bulldozed the building. The group of church members who stood in front of the building to protect it were tear-gassed and beaten. They were arrested and their injuries were not treated. There is no word yet about a new place for worship. But they will continue to worship Jesus. 
We are all sent, one by one, two by two, to tell the message of Jesus’ love and mercy for us. Chances are, our lives and freedom will never be at risk for speaking about Jesus. Our biggest challenge is the possible shame of talking about Jesus to someone who doesn’t want to hear. I believe that is a risk worth taking. 
Let’s put our trust in Spirit to provide the opportunity and the words to offer a little Jesus to those we encounter. Many are waiting and hoping for some good news. Who but us can deliver it to them? 

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. 
Merciful God, we know that your heart overflows with compassion for your whole creation. Pour out your Spirit on all people. 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: Precious Lord, take my hand, ELW 773
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, + keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen 

Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Fatherly love

Here is Intern Lori's sermon for June 21.

Matthew 10:24-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[a] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Not Peace, but a Sword “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

7 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

What a shock that must have been for Jesus’s disciples  (and us) to hear Jesus say, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. What you mean Jesus did not come to bring peace but sword?!This is some unusual scene. What did it mean for the disciples and us? 

Let us explore this scene a little more together. We know it is not easy following Jesus in today’s world. It is challenging and can lead to uncomfortable moments. We can lose friendships, our family, endure hardships and heartaches, etc. Same for the disciples and for us when we follow Jesus. It did when Jesus was here on earth during his ministry. But never less, Jesus continues by telling us the cost of following him. Jesus further says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” It is clear, we are to pick Jesus and His ways every time. Of course, that does not mean we cannot love our parents or children. It simply means we need to love Jesus MORE. We cannot control how people react when we choose Jesus. 

Thankfully, it does not end there. We read further in the text, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. “When we choose Jesus, and the relationship changed because of that. What can we do next? Notice when Jesus says, “whoever loves father or mother…and whoever loves son or daughter.” We are still to love them. We love them and love Jesus MORE. We are to make a loving witness to them while they are angry with us. We are to show love when people are upset, and when things are awkward and tense because of this division. We show that person that Jesus has love not only for us, but for them as well. Another thing we can do is pray for them. We cannot make hearts change but Jesus through the work of holy spirit can. We pray for patience as we wait, and we ask for God’s peace and comfort as we do. We are to love Jesus more than these incredible relationships that we have in our lives.
Now I want to take a moment to talk about something else. Fathers. Today is Father’s Day. This is a day to celebrate fathers in our lives. Like I did for Mother’s Day, I am going to give a little background on how Father’s Day started in America. Father’s Day was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd in 1910. The reason for this was to honor her father, who was a Civil War Veteran William Jackson Smart. He was a single parent who raised his six children because his wife passed during childbirth. The family attends church regularly and were active. This all started when Sonora Smart Dodd heard a sermon at her church about Anna Jarvi’s promotion of Mother’s Day. Sonora told her pastor that fathers should have similar holiday honoring them. Unfortunately, there was some resistance from Americans during a few decades as it did not want to make this about commercialism as it did for Mother’s Day.

I am in awe of this man, William Jackson Smart. He was a single parent who raised six children. In the early 1900’s that could not have been easy.  What is even more amazing is a “man” who chooses Jesus MORE than their relationships with their loved ones.  That includes not only biological fathers but any man role models including step fathers, teachers, mentors, even brothers. The possibilities are endless. 
Now it’s been a while since we last met in person but picture this as Sophia from Golden Girls would say, “In Sicily 1910 …just kidding….But seriously think the last time you were in St. Matthew’s Church. Who tends to sit here, who tends to sit there? Now there are many men in this amazing community that chooses Jesus first. Who prays for others, who shows love as Jesus would, my kids not only have an amazing father, Curt but also other men at St. Matthew’s who shine with their love for Riley and Eve. When we have someone such as John Corneilson who sometimes sits behind us in the pews, teasing, laughing and stirring up trouble perhaps while my children laugh their heart out of joy. Or run down the aisle of church to run into the arms of John Baker. How many more Johns are there in our church? Haha! But seriously, many incredible brothers of our church who give high gives to the girls when they see them on Sundays.  That my friend shows what it looks like when you put Jesus first. 
Just like people before us did including William Jackson Smart, and even those in the bible such as Joseph, Jacob, Abraham, and so on. 

So today, we celebrate our earthly fathers, but we love our heavenly one more.