January 20, 2021
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.
The Word became flesh, and lived among us, and we have beheld Christ’s glory.
To us a child is born, to us a Son is given. In the Word was life and the life was the light of all people.
HYMN: Children of the Heavenly Father
FIRST READING: Genesis 16:1-14
A reading from: Genesis
Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to have children. Since she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar, Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from giving birth, so go to my servant. Maybe she will provide me with children.” Abram did just as Sarai said. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took her Egyptian servant Hagar and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when she realized that she was pregnant, she no longer respected her mistress. Sarai said to Abram, “This harassment is your fault. I allowed you to embrace my servant, but when she realized she was pregnant, I lost her respect. Let the Lord decide who is right, you or me.”
Abram said to Sarai, “Since she’s your servant, do whatever you wish to her.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she ran away from Sarai.
The Lord’s messenger found Hagar at a spring in the desert, the spring on the road to Shur, and said, “Hagar! Sarai’s servant! Where did you come from and where are you going?”
She said, “From Sarai my mistress. I’m running away.”
The Lord’s messenger said to her, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her harsh treatment of you.” The Lord’s messenger also said to her, “I will give you many children, so many they can’t be counted!”
messenger said to her, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son.
You will name him Ishmael because the Lord has heard about your harsh treatment. He will be a wild mule of a man; he will fight everyone, and they will fight him. He will live at odds with all his relatives.”
13 Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El Roi” because she said, “Can I still see after he saw me?” Therefore, that well is called Beer-lahai-roi; it’s the well between Kadesh and Bered.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
PSALM: Psalm 86:1-10
closely to me and answer me,
because I am poor and in need.
Guard my life because I am faithful.
Save your servant who trusts in you—you! My God!
Have mercy on me, Lord,
because I cry out to you all day long.
Make your servant’s life happy again
because, my Lord, I offer my life to you,
because, my Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of faithful love for all those who cry out to you.
Listen closely to my prayer, Lord;
pay close attention to the sound of my requests for mercy.
Whenever I am in trouble, I cry out to you,
because you will answer me.
My Lord! There is no one like
you among the gods!
There is nothing that can compare to your works!
All the nations that you’ve made will come
and bow down before you, Lord;
they will glorify your name,
because you are awesome
and a wonder-worker.
You are God. Just you.
Gospel: Luke 18:15-17
A reading from: Luke
People were bringing babies to Jesus so that he would bless them. When the disciples saw this, they scolded them. Then Jesus called them to him and said, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.”
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
The readings today remind us of the value of children in ancient times and in Jesus’ time. Sarai (Sarah) was a barren woman, even though God had promised her and Abram (Abraham) that they would have a child and too many descendants to count. According to the Bible chronology, it was 25 years that they waited for a child. By now Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90.
In the meantime, Sarah thought she would try something else – she offered her servant Hagar as a concubine, thinking that she would claim the child as her own. Today, such a thing is unthinkable, but in that culture it was her right to do so. However, it didn’t turn out so well. Hagar did become pregnant, and probably became what some folks would label, “uppity.” It drove Sarah nuts, and she complained to Abraham. He refused to get triangled into the argument, and told Sarah to figure it out. So, she was mean to Hagar.
Fed up, Hagar ran away. Alone in the wilderness, God sent an angel to her to tell her everything would be ok. The angel gave her a promise that God would bless her child, too. Hagar is the first woman to see God in scripture, and names this God, El Roi, God Who Sees. She then returned to Abraham and Sarah.
Children in these ancient times are the heirs to the land, the livestock, and the promises of the parents. They work the land, shepherd the sheep, manage the business. Women who are childless are looked down on, because their only job in the marriage is to produce heirs, especially male heirs. Until adulthood, children are property, just as wives are. Girl children are pawns, property, meant to enlarge land holdings and cement relationships with other landholders through marriage.
So, imagine how stunned the disciples and folks in the crowd are when Jesus says to let the children come to him. He tells them that children know how to enter the reign of God better than adults do. Adults make up complicated rules, but children accept things more naturally, more easily.
For Jesus to say we need to be childlike in our approach to God turns everything upside down in their world. Everything they believe about God is cast aside by his remark. The priests and rabbis, the Pharisees and the Saducees, the Essenes and the Zealots, all have opinions about how to revere and fear God.
They honor God by obeying the rules, the 613 commandments in scripture and the oral and written traditional interpretations of these commandments. None of these rules says that children are equal to adults in faith matters.
The only rule that Jesus seems to have for who can be in the reign of God is to believe in him. Believe that God loves us as a parent, even more than most parent love their children. God forgives us as simply and quickly as most parents forgive their children. We are children of God, loved and forgiven. Believe it. Accept it as true. Amen
Jesus said, I am the Light of the world,
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.
In peace let us pray to the Lord, saying, “We pray to you, Lord.”
That this evening may be holy, good, and peaceful, We pray to you, Lord.
That the work we have done this day and the people we have met may bring us closer to you, We pray to you, Lord.
That we may be forgiven our sins and offences, We pray to you, Lord.
That we may hear and respond to your call to peace and justice, We pray to you, Lord.
That you will sustain the faith and hope of the weary, the lonely, and the oppressed, We pray to you, Lord.
That you will strengthen us in your service, and fill our hearts with longing for your kingdom, We pray to you, Lord.
Other prayer petitions may be offered here.
For all this and more, We pray to you, Lord. Amen.
Let us pray as Jesus taught us. Please mute yourself and pray the version you prefer.
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: Go, My Children, with My Blessing
May the Lord of peace give us peace in all ways and at all times. Amen
Scripture from Common English Bible © 2012
Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504