Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Evening Prayer (Vespers) for August 26, 2020


August 26, 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: How Majestic Is Your Name

YouTube link:



A reading from: Exodus 2:11-12, 15-22 (CEB)

11 One day after Moses had become an adult, he went out among his people and he saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 He looked around to make sure no one else was there. Then he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

15 When Pharaoh heard about it, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses ran away from Pharaoh and settled down in the land of Midian. One day Moses was sitting by a well. 16 Now there was a Midianite priest who had seven daughters. The daughters came to draw water and fill the troughs so that their father’s flock could drink. 17 But some shepherds came along and rudely chased them away. Moses got up, rescued the women, and gave their flock water to drink.

18 When they went back home to their father Reuel, he asked, “How were you able to come back home so soon today?” 19 They replied, “An Egyptian man rescued us from a bunch of shepherds. Afterward, he even helped us draw water to let the flock drink.” 20 Reuel said to his daughters, “So where is he? Why did you leave this man? Invite him to eat a meal with us.”

21 Moses agreed to come and live with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses as his wife. 22 She gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, “because,” he said, “I’ve been an immigrant living in a foreign land.”

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

PSALM:  Psalm 8 (CEB)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic
is your name throughout the earth!
You made your glory higher than heaven!
From the mouths of nursing babies
you have laid a strong foundation
because of your foes,
in order to stop vengeful enemies.
When I look up at your skies,
at what your fingers made—
the moon and the stars
that you set firmly in place—
        what are human beings
that you think about them;
        what are human beings
that you pay attention to them?
You’ve made them only slightly less than divine,
crowning them with glory and grandeur.
You’ve let them rule over your handiwork,
putting everything under their feet—
        all sheep and all cattle,
        the wild animals too,
        the birds in the sky,
        the fish of the ocean,
        everything that travels the pathways of the sea.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!



Gospel:  Matthew 26:6-13

A reading from:  Matthew

When Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease, a woman came to him with a vase made of alabaster containing very expensive perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ head while he was sitting at dinner. Now when the disciples saw it they were angry and said, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold for a lot of money and given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She’s done a good thing for me. 11 You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me. 12 By pouring this perfume over my body she’s prepared me to be buried. 13 I tell you the truth that wherever in the whole world this good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”

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


The story from Exodus tells us how Moses came to leave Pharaoh’s household. It seems that while he lived at the palace, he also maintained connections with his mother and father and siblings. He knew the conditions of the Hebrew people were becoming intolerable.

Pharaoh had identified the Hebrew people as a threat. He was afraid they may become so numerous that they would take over the kingdom and he would lose his position and power. So, oppression and physical abuse of Hebrew people was common. When Moses witnessed the beating of a Hebrew man, he grew enraged and killed the Egyptian man and hid his body. But there were witnesses, and Pharaoh found out.

And he ran far enough to establish a new identity in Midian. I am always curious about where events happened, where people lived. So, here is a map to show how far Moses was from Goshen and Cairo. It’s about 750 miles away, and instead of living in a palace, Moses was living in the wilderness as a shepherd.

One day, while he was resting at a well, he met his future wife, Zipporah. Here is another woman whose name we know, and another marriage encounter at a well! Of course, first he had to chase away some rude shepherds. Zipporah’s father, Reuel, also known as Jethro, plays a large role in Moses’ life during the wilderness journey.

… In the Gospel reading, Jesus and the disciples are in Bethany, having dinner with Simon, who had a skin disease. While they were there, an unnamed woman enters the room and pours fragrant oil on Jesus’ head.

This oil was not your everyday cooking oil; this is the best stuff she could get. One use of this fragrant oil is intended to cover the stench of decaying bodies. But, when this woman pours the oil on Jesus’ head, I am sure she is not thinking of him dying but rather anointing him for priesthood – or as the Messiah.  

The disciples are upset – they are struggling to survive on more limited incomes since they began following Jesus. Yet, here is this woman wasting all that expensive oil on Jesus hair! They could have bought food and new sandals for the poor people in town. But Jesus tells them to let the woman do as she wished.

… It took me a while to figure out how to talk about these two stories together. What do they have in common? Finally, I realized that I saw in them one person or group of people judging another. Pharaoh judged the Hebrews and found them threatening. Moses judged the Egyptian and believed he deserved to die for beating a Hebrew man. The shepherds judged Zipporah and her sisters as easy targets – women they could overpower and abuse. Moses judged the shepherds as rude and chased them away. Zipporah judged Moses as generous. Jethro / Reuel judged Moses as worthy of marrying his daughter.

Simon-with-a-skin-disease judged Jesus as a worthy guest in his home. Jesus judged Simon as a host whose home he would visit. The woman judged Jesus as a worthy recipient of her precious jar of oil. The disciples judged the woman as a person who wastes money.

Some of this judging is based on the individual attributes or behavior of the person, for example, judging the Pharaoh for his abuse of the Hebrews. Other judging is based only on personal or group prejudice or on some outward appearance or action.

It is tempting to elaborate on the Exodus story as an example of race prejudice by Pharaoh and other Egyptians. The Egyptian man beating the Hebrew man saw someone disobeying the law of the land, while Moses saw excess punishment. And, it is equally tempting to judge the disciples for criticizing the woman – she sees generosity and hope, they see waste. So, let’s not judge either of them.

In these days of isolation and frustration, it is easy to judge those who won’t wear masks. And it is easy to judge those who see danger everywhere. The truth is that we all judge others in some way. We all see some flaws in others while neglecting to see our own flaws. Or, we focus on our own flaws and don’t see the love and generosity and goodness that we have hidden within.

It’s impossible to not judge, either ourselves or others. So let’s work on countering that judgment with loving ourselves as God loves us, and on loving others as God loves them. 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:  Abide with Me, ELW 629

YouTube link:


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


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Faith in Action


Exodus 1:8-2:10; Matthew 16:13-20

This story from Exodus is such a familiar story, I want to start with something you may not have noticed. The women in this story have names! Men often have names in scripture, but not women. If a woman is named, she is very important!

We know the names of the midwives who lied to Pharaoh: Shiphrah and Puah. In Exodus 6 we learn that Moses’ mother is named Jochebed. We even know the name of Moses’ sister, Miriam, who accompanies Moses and Aaron during the Exodus.  

Pharaoh’s daughter is not named in Exodus, but in Chronicles she is called Bit-Yah, which is Hebrew for daughter of God, because she became the mother of Moses and that made her part of the Israelite family. We often hear her name as Bithia, an adaptation of Bit-Yah.

 I am amazed by the faith of these four women, Shiphrah and Puah, Jochebed, and young Miriam. They all risked their lives defying Pharaoh because they feared God more than Pharaoh. Their fear of God, and their faith in God, led them to take action.

Bit-Yah, the Egyptian princess draws an Israelite baby out of the water and assumes responsibility for him. Why was it that Moses was allowed to grow up in the palace as Bithia’s child? Why wasn’t he cast out or even put to death when he was discovered? Instead, he was raised as an adored son. Was this also faith in one or more of the Egyptian Gods? If so, this, too, was faith in action.

… The Gospel story is about men who will soon put faith into action.

They are in Caesarea Philippi, where a mountain cave leads to a deep spring that seems bottomless. It is called the Gates of Hades, or the gates to the place of the dead. In the wall around the cave opening are niches that once held idols, gods. It is a very pagan, very non-Jewish place.

Jesus starts the conversation by asking what people are saying about him. The disciples list a few well-known prophets, including the recently executed John the Baptist. When Jesus pushes the disciples to tell him what they are thinking, they are all silent. Finally, Simon speaks up and says what they have all been thinking or saying privately. He alone has faith enough to blurt out the hope. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”  

 Jesus praises him. “God has revealed this to you! Because of that, I am going to give you a new name. From now on you will be called Peter, which means Rock. And on this rock, I am going to build my church.” Here scholars disagree. One group insists that Jesus means to build his church on the person Simon Peter (Rocky), while others insist that the church will be built on Peter’s rock-solid faith.

The Greek text helps us sort this out. Jesus says next “I give ‘you’ the keys to the dominion of heaven and the authority to make rules and change them. Any rules that you make on earth will be respected by God.”

 The ‘you’ in this section is plural in each case. Jesus will give the keys to “you-all” (or “y’all” or “youse-guys”), not just Simon Peter. The church Jesus builds through the disciples will be so strong that even the Gates of Hades will not defeat it, and it will stay strong because you will occasionally need to make changes in the rules. The first disciples will need strong faith, and to build the church, they will need to put faith in action.

… How do you put your faith into action? What are your passions? Are they based on a response to God’s love for you? Are they based on the gifts God gave you, like teaching or compassion or evangelism? Let me tell some stories:

In a previous congregation Kelly had always been passionate about justice for poor people. In her younger days, she walked in picket lines, she held signs on street corners. She told me in 2011 that if her health had permitted, she would go to New York for the Occupy Wall Street movement. She  spent her life putting her faith into action.

Many years ago Dan got involved in a church ministry using his passion for poor people as well. His church had a truck that was filled every week with food and diapers and cleaning supplies. On Fridays, they would go to a housing project and go door to door asking everyone if they needed anything. Dan loved doing this, working directly with people in need. He put his faith into action.

 Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, (actually, in southeast Michigan) there was a church secretary named Jane with a passion for making bulletins perfect and ensuring that everything in the church ran smoothly. She worked extra hours if needed, and helped me understand how the congregation operated. This was her faith in action.

I encourage you to find ways, even in this COVID mess, to follow up on your passions and put your faith into action. It may be by sending extra donations to causes you care about, like Lutheran Disaster Relief, World Wildlife Fund, or Hospice House. Invite friends to our online worship, to our Zoom gatherings and Bible studies. Write letters to the editor of the local newspaper. It may be that you are called to show up as an essential worker, facing the risk of Coronavirus every day.

Whatever your interests or passions are, I hope you look for ways to put them into action along with your faith. Amen