Thursday, September 10, 2020

Evening Prayer for September 9


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

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FIRST READING: Exodus 13:3-10 (CEB)

A reading from: Exodus

13  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. Today, in the month of Abib, you are going to leave. 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. You must eat unleavened bread for seven days. The seventh day is a festival to the Lord. Only unleavened bread should be eaten for seven days. No leavened bread and no yeast should be seen among you in your whole country. 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.’

“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?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the maker of heaven and earth.
God won’t let your foot slip.
    Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job.
No! Israel’s protector
    never sleeps or rests!
The Lord is your protector;
    the Lord is your shade right beside you.
The sun won’t strike you during the day;
    neither will the moon at night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
    God will protect your very life.  
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.”

They are on this physical and spiritual journey because God heard their cries and is helping them leave the land of slavery and misery. So, today, along with the feast of Passover, the lamb roast and its storytelling, the observation continues with a week of unleavened bread. Before the Passover cooking can begin, the cupboards and closets are all swept free of any possible crumbs of yeast bread. The Passover meal itself begins with a ritual sweeping of the tablecloth with a feather, and a saying – any crumbs that have been missed are hereby excused.

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.  

We can take that farther and imagine a world in which there is justice for all, an end to poverty, racism, sexism, ageism, and so forth. If we believe we must make these changes by ourselves, the work becomes an unmovable mountain. But if we involve God in our planning and in our working, that mountain becomes a molehill we can fill in with a swipe of our foot.

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

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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, September 6, 2020


Exodus 12:1-14; Matthew 18:15-20

Each year at Thanksgiving many families tell the stories of past Thanksgivings. “Remember when Uncle tucked the tablecloth in his waist instead of the napkin? Wasn’t that a disaster?!” “Remember when Mom forgot to make the stuffing?” “Remember … ?” as we make lists of those who are now missing from the table.

We tend to forget things, events, people, so we have established rituals to help us remember the events and the meanings behind the events.

… It was just so in ancient Israel. Before they even left Egypt, God ordained a ritual to help them remember. God said: “Prepare a meal. Take the blood and paint it on your doorway. Share the meal, but eat it standing up. Do this every year, so you remember how I took you out of slavery and into your own land.”

Anyone who has attended a Seder meal knows how this story is told at length, with symbols to help them remember. A lamb bone, a dish of bitter herbs, a bowl of water, 4 glasses of wine, a basket of matzoh. As the meal is shared, it is as if the Passover were happening again, at that moment. Remember.

… As a Lutheran Church, we follow a Lectionary, a set pattern of readings. Some texts we read every year – Luke’s telling of the birth of Jesus. John’s telling of the crucifixion. Other readings are chosen to tell the story of Jesus and his teachings, so we get to know a lot about him. We read in this pattern, so we remember.

One of the things we tend to forget is how to get along together as a community. We want to take sides. We think we are right, and you-all are wrong. We draw lines in the sand. Our partisan politics, our redness-or-blueness, gets in the way of our remembering we are all family, God’s family.

So, this reading of Jesus’ instructions for making peace in congregations and other organizations serves as a welcome reminder for us. As we read through the step-by-step process, I suggest we are all pretty good, but not perfect, with the one-on-one step. Most of the time, we can say to another, “You hurt me.” And work together to find a solution.

We are perhaps better with step 2, working in a group. “You hurt us. Let’s see how we can find a way to reconcile our differences.” Maybe we can work our way to a win-win, or even a win-win-win. Step 3 involves more people, the church council or even the whole congregation, always with the same goal, resolving the conflict for everyone.

But, what if we can’t find a solution? Jesus says we are to treat that person like a Gentile and a tax collector. “Aha!” we think, “we can just ask them to leave.” But wait a minute. We are caught remembering how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors. He talked to them, welcomed them, helped them become part of the group. Now we are stuck. We have to find ways to bring this person back into the congregation. We are required to keep trying. We have to remember.

… I know it is not easy to do this. In a previous congregation, John was a handful. He really meant well, but he was persistent in getting his own views across. He prefaced everything with four letters: IMHO. In my humble opinion. Except his opinion wasn’t so humble!

People began to complain and threatened to use this Gospel text “on him,” as he put it. John felt threatened that the council would vote to remove him from the congregation.

I believe that John mostly wanted to be valued. So, I did my best to pay attention to him. I was just being myself, doing what I always do. Unconsciously, I was working on the third step in Jesus’ process. I was helping John feel like a child of God, with his own ideas and idiosyncrasies.

When we have disagreements in the congregation, in the denomination, or even in our families, it is important to remember that Jesus has a recommendation for conflict resolution. It doesn’t fit all situations, especially abusive ones, but it does apply to most conflicts.

… These days we are remembering what it used to be like when we worshiped. We were all together, we touched and hugged, we sang with our beautiful and not-so-beautiful voices blending together to make a very joyful noise. I promise, it will be that way again, some day.

Worshiping together through computers is not the same. It does feel different. But when we gather today in front of computers, we are also together in Jesus’ family. Sunday comes with its rituals, its songs, its readings, and its prayers. We gather each week so we remember that we belong to God, and God wants to be with us. This has been true since creation and it will continue long after this virus ends and we can be together in person.

We remember that God was with Noah, and Abraham and Sarah.

We remember that God spoke to Moses and Samuel.

We remember that Jesus is God incarnated, God-with-skin-on.

We remember that an un-named woman anointed Jesus with fragrant oil. We remember that the tomb is empty.

We remember that God hears, pays attention to, our prayers. At the end of Matthew, Jesus says, “And remember, I am with you always.”

Let’s remember that we are family, ancient and modern, together in our love for God, and loved and cared for by God. Let’s remember that we are not alone, even in these strange times. Let’s remember that we believe in an amazing God.

Now is a good time to remember. Amen