Thursday, October 8, 2020

Evening Prayer / Vespers for October 7, 2020


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: Christ Be Our Light, ELW 715

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FIRST READING: Deuteronomy 6:10-25 (CEB)

A reading from: Deuteronomy

10 Now once the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to you—a land that will be full of large and wonderful towns that you didn’t build, 11 houses stocked with all kinds of goods that you didn’t stock, cisterns that you didn’t make, vineyards and olive trees that you didn’t plant—and you eat and get stuffed, 12 watch yourself! Don’t forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 Revere the Lord your God, serve him, and take your solemn pledges in his name! 14 Don’t follow other gods, those gods of the people around you— 15 because the Lord your God, who is with you and among you, is a passionate God. The Lord your God’s anger will burn against you, and he will wipe you off the fertile land. 16 Don’t test the Lord your God the way you frustrated him at Massah. 17 You must carefully follow the Lord your God’s commands along with the laws and regulations he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight so that things will go well for you and so you will enter and take possession of the wonderful land that the Lord swore to your ancestors, 19 and so the Lord will drive out all your enemies from before you, just as he promised.

20 In the future, your children will ask you, “What is the meaning of the laws, the regulations, and the case laws that the Lord our God commanded you?” 21 Tell them: We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. But the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our own eyes, the Lord performed great and awesome deeds of power against Egypt, Pharaoh, and his entire dynasty. 23 But the Lord brought us out from there so that he could bring us in, giving us the land that he swore to our ancestors. 24 Then the Lord commanded us to perform all these regulations, revering the Lord our God, so that things go well for us always and so we continue to live, as we’re doing right now. 25 What’s more, we will be considered righteous if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as he commanded us.

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

PSALM:  Psalm 119:49-56 (CEB)

ז zayin

49 Remember your promise to your servant,
    for which you made me wait.
50 My comfort during my suffering is this:
    your word gives me new life.
51 The arrogant make fun of me to no end,
    but I haven’t deviated from your Instruction.
52 When I remember your ancient rules,
    I’m comforted, Lord.
53 But I’m seized with anger because of the wicked—
    because of those who abandon your Instruction.
54 Your statutes have been my songs of praise
    wherever I lived as an immigrant.
55 Lord, I remember your name at nighttime,
    and I keep your Instruction.
56 This has been my practice
    because I guard your precepts.


Gospel:  John 11:45-57 (CEB)

A reading from: John

45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came with Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

47 Then the chief priests and Pharisees called together the council and said, “What are we going to do? This man is doing many miraculous signs! 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him. Then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our people.”

49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, told them, “You don’t know anything! 50 You don’t see that it is better for you that one man die for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed.” 51 He didn’t say this on his own. As high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would soon die for the nation— 52 and not only for the nation. Jesus would also die so that God’s children scattered everywhere would be gathered together as one. 53 From that day on they plotted to kill him.

54 Therefore, Jesus was no longer active in public ministry among the Jewish leaders. Instead, he left Jerusalem and went to a place near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 It was almost time for the Jewish Passover, and many people went from the countryside up to Jerusalem to purify themselves through ritual washing before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus. As they spoke to each other in the temple, they said, “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where he was should report it, so they could arrest him.

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


God has a plan. We don’t always understand what the plan is, because we live day-to-day lives in the moment. It’s only when we look back a year, a decade, a century, that we can discover God’s plan and purpose.

A popular saying is, “People plan. God laughs. Just wing it.” My favorite version of this is printed on refrigerator magnet of an angel. I couldn’t find that image, but I also like this one: “Leave room for God to send you on detours because the blessings may come on the paths that you didn’t expect to take.”

When Moses first met God, he didn’t realize that God had been watching over him from birth. Now, in final days of his mission to bring the people to a new land, Moses hears about the future. “Remind the people that these laws we have written are for their benefit. Pass them on to the children and let them know they are a reminder of how God took them out of slavery and into a new land. These laws are a reminder of how much God cares for them.

Jesus’ days are also numbered. The plot is taking shape. The Leaders are aligned against him, and are looking for an opportunity to arrest him and get rid of him. So, for now, he and the disciples are away from Jerusalem in a place called Ephraim, which is near Jericho, north of the Dead Sea.

It seems Jesus is only waiting for the right time – Kairos – as we discussed at Bible study yesterday. Close enough to the Passover that it will be God’s time, in conjunction with human plans, that will carry out God’s plans.

Though the disciples are not an active part of this story, it’s not hard to imagine what they are thinking. “We have to keep Jesus away from the city until this cools off.” But, we know that is not God’s plan.

God’s plan for our lives is intertwined with God’s plans for the lives of everyone in the community, the nation, and the world. What seems like tragedy can have a greater benefit. The Priests say this about Jesus. The trouble is they don’t see the whole picture. They don’t know this is exactly God’s plan.

A short recognition is due to Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, whom we celebrate today. In 1742 American Lutheran churches realized they needed someone to organize them, to help them become better at ministry by working together. Muhlenberg came and was instrumental in shaping worship and planting churches in Pennsylvania and beyond. Today he is considered the founder of American Lutheranism. I am sure he had no idea of the impact his years of ministry would have on us 250 years later.

Today, we may rightfully wonder what God’s plan is for this virus, for the political and racial unrest, for climate change. Is God using these disasters to call us all to work together? Will we see greater world and local harmony as a result? In the day-to-day we don’t see it coming. But in the longer term of God’s plan, perhaps it will come to pass.

For now, today, we can be sure that God has not abandoned us. We can be sure that God weeps with us over every death and rejoices over every healing. God cries out in dismay at every unjust action and cheers when laws and policies are changed. God longs for the day when humans recognize the created world is on the brink of destruction.

God’s Spirit is actively working in human hearts to awaken us, to help us discover new ways of being community, new paths to a better world, together. Let’s be part of implementing God’s plan for a healthier, more just, greener world. 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:  Thy Word

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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, October 4, 2020

Living the Commandments


Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Matthew 21: 33-46



The Ten Commandments have been part of Jewish history since Moses led the people through the Wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt. As a whole, the Commandments describe the kind of relationship God wants with God’s people – between God and humans, and among humans. We revere God and remember God gives us what we need. We treat each other with respect.

Fourteen hundred years after the Exodus, by the time of Jesus, the Ten Commandments were part of the catechism of life. Everyone knew them. Rabbis and priests also knew the 603 others in the Hebrew Scriptures and many of them knew the Talmud, which helped them interpret the ancient commandments for the modern day.

They also knew the Shema, a ritualized prayer prayed by Jews daily. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” The shema continues with a statement we hear Jesus give when he is questioned about the commandments. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

However, just like today, people of Jesus’ time chose which parts of the Commandments they wanted to obey and which ones to ignore. Jesus frequently gives the people lessons on God’s kind of justice compared to human justice.

One of those lessons is in this parable.  But it is a challenging one. Who is who in the parable? Is it as simple as the priests and Pharisees seem to believe it is? Why is the murder of innocent people justified? Or is it? Who are these tenants?

The usual interpretation says that it is a simple allegory. The vineyard has been a symbol of the Jewish people for centuries. The tenants are the leaders of the Jewish people, who again and again have refused to listen to the prophets’ call to obey the Commandments. The landowner is God, who sent the servants (the prophets) to collect the rents and the tenants (the leaders) killed them. Finally, they killed the son (Jesus). And God removed the leaders and put new ones in their place.

This is probably how the priests and Pharisees understood the story. The leaders are trying to figure out how to get rid of Jesus. They wanted to arrest him, but they didn’t dare do it so publicly. They know he sees their real intent and they are terrified of the consequences.

It is often said that the best interpretation is often the simplest, so let’s accept that this is a simple allegory. But, then how does the parable apply to us today? Let’s go back to the Commandments. The tenants – the leaders of the Jewish people – were not taking very good care of the vineyard – the people. They were not obeying the Commandments.

The Commandments are structured so that if we obey the first commandment, the rest all fall into place. When we are grateful for what we have, we revere God’s name and allow ourselves to take time off to spend time with God. When we trust God to provide, we don’t need to steal, covet, lie, or abuse others to ensure we will have enough stuff, enough power. If we put God first in
everything, we don’t need much else.

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest Commandment, he responded with part of the Shema: “Love God with all your heart, soul, and might.” And he added, “And the second is, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love God. Love others. These two commandments are so simple to memorize, we don’t even have to figure out which number it is in the list of ten. “Hmm, is stealing number 5 or number 6?” time for reflection. Actually, it’s number 7.

When we live our lives based on the two Greatest Commandments, it shows, and it makes a difference. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died a few weeks ago. I was struck by this comment I heard about her on a news program. This person said: Ruth loved the Constitution and always remembered that it began with the words, “We the people …” Ruth spent her life making the word “we” more and more inclusive. In her decades of justice work, she lived out the commandments of loving God and loving neighbor.

… Today we also remember Francis of Assisi, who died on this day in 1226, 800 years ago. Francis was called by God to rebuild the church. At first he took that to mean repairing buildings, but he soon figured God meant for him to rebuild human hearts and help them turn toward God.

Though he wanted to be a solitary monk and to live in a cave, he knew he was called to a greater purpose. He spent his life drawing people back to these two basic commandments of loving God and loving each other.

He especially focused on not owning anything, not even a prayer book. He reasoned that what we own, we want to protect, and if we own one thing it will lead us to owning more. And if we own something, others will want to own – covet – what we have, and that leads us into breaking a commandment. Francis was so detached from things, he regularly gave away the tunic he was wearing to someone who didn’t have one. The Brothers always found him another one – see? God provides.

How well do you do with obeying the Commandments? Is there one in particular that gives you problems? When I ask this question, many people say they have a problem with swearing. We know when we stub our toe we should not say God’s name in an angry way. But let’s go beyond that. How well do you trust God? Enough that you can let go of your “stuff” and be sure that you will have enough? How well do you love and respect others? All others, or just some others?

These days, our country, indeed the whole world, is having problems. Besides the virus which has drastically altered our way of life, the inequities experienced by many people of color has been exposed like a bandage being ripped off and exposing a pus-filled wound.

I know some of you disagree with me, and say that racism is not a problem. But I encourage you to imagine yourself and others differently. An old Native American saying says to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before criticizing them. Another saying I have heard is, “How many days have you spent as a person of color, or as a homeless person or as a disabled person or as a person who calls God by a different name?”

Until we hear and understand the stories told by other people, we have no right to do anything except love them. They are as much God’s children as we are.

I haven’t given homework lately, so here is an assignment. This week, I suggest you think about your relationship with God and with God’s people. How well do you put God first? How well do you love others? All others?