Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Evening Prayer for April 28

 04 28 2021

Evening Prayer (Vespers)

You may wish to light a candle and place it before you as you begin.



Answer us when we call, O God.
Be gracious to us and hear our prayer.
When we are in distress, you make space for us.
You put gladness in our hearts,
as with a fine feast.
When we are disturbed, may we not sin,
but ponder things on our beds, and be silent.
We will lie down and sleep in peace.
For you alone, O Lord, make us lie down
in safety.

HYMN: Thy Holy Wings

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FIRST READING: Micah 7:14-20 (CEV)

A reading from Micah


Lead your people, Lord! Come and be our shepherd. Grasslands surround us, but we live in a forest. So lead us to Bashan and Gilead, and let us find pasture as we did long ago. I, the Lord, will work miracles just as I did when I led you out of Egypt. Nations will see this and be ashamed because of their helpless armies. They will be in shock, unable to speak or hear, because of their fear of me, your Lord and God. Then they will come trembling, crawling out of their fortresses like insects or snakes, lapping up the dust.

The people said: Our God, no one is like you. We are all that is left of your chosen people, and you freely forgive our sin and guilt. You don’t stay angry forever; you’re glad to have pity and pleased to be merciful. You will trample on our sins and throw them in the sea. You will keep your word and be faithful to Jacob and to Abraham, as you promised our ancestors many years ago.

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

GOSPEL:  Mark 14:26-31 (CEV)

A reading from: Mark


Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus said to his disciples, “All of you will reject me, as the Scriptures say, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

But after I am raised to life, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Peter spoke up, “Even if all the others reject you, I never will!” Jesus replied, “This very night before a rooster crows twice, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” But Peter was so sure of himself that he said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never say that I don’t know you!” All the others said the same thing.

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


This is Mark’s version of when Jesus predicts Peter’s denial. They are among the olive trees on the Mount of Olives, outside the city. Notice that it is not just Peter who will reject him, but all of them. They will all scatter, like sheep without a shepherd scatter in fear.


Despite his professions that he won’t, Peter does deny that he knows Jesus. As soon as he heard the cock crow, he remembered the conversation, and he wept with grief and shame. Where are the disciples during the crucifixion? Not there. They are in hiding out of fear. They don’t trust enough to be seen by the Jews or the Romans.

Mark’s gospel doesn’t include stories of the resurrection beyond the women discovering the empty tomb. So, we need to look at other gospels. In this case, I was thinking about the story in John where Jesus charges Peter with loving the sheep.

This picture gives us the sense that Jesus takes Peter aside for a private conversation. Jesus makes it clear that Peter is forgiven. But we know human nature, and that for the rest of his life, Peter will be haunted by these denials. Jesus knows this, and wants Peter to know that he is really and truly forgiven.

In our own lives, there are always moments that we wish we could take back. There are things we have said, things we have done or failed to do, that bring shame to our hearts. They haunt us, and remind us we are sinful beings. We may even have encountered consequences for these regrets, these sins.

Jesus wants us to know that we are no different from Peter. We are forgiven; our hearts should let these regrets go, accept God’s grace, and be free of guilt and shame. Let’s believe in the promise Micah declares: God freely forgives our sin and guilt. God doesn’t stay angry forever; God is glad to have pity and pleased to be merciful. 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.



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.



Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


HYMN:  There Is a Balm in Gilead

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Christ is alive and has met us here.
Now let us meet God’s Spirit + among friends, strangers,
and in all of creation. Amen.

Scripture from Common English Bible © 2012

Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504


Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Good Shepherd’s Hired Hand


04 25 2021

Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

I spent some time this week learning about what modern shepherds do. Here is a little of what I learned. They make sure there is good grazing, including checking for harmful plants or animals. They watch for the health of their sheep, offering medical care as needed. They shear the sheep and prepare the wool for sale, or use it themselves. They haul sheep to market or auction. Of course, first they have to convince the sheep to get into the truck!

Often, shepherds help with lambing, as I found out in person.
My friend, one-time boss, classmate, and colleague, Cathi was a shepherd. I met Cathi at seminary, and worked with her at Women of the ELCA in Churchwide headquarters in Chicago.

I was moving from internship in Iowa to my new home in Michigan, and stayed at her place over night. First, she cooked dinner for us, and then we put on warm clothes and went out to the barn where a ewe was in labor. Cathi placed herself at the tail and told me to stand at the ewe’s head. In just a few minutes she was handing me a tiny lamb and a towel. “Here,” she said. “Dry him off while I catch his twin.” It was an unforgettable moment in my life.   

The image of God as shepherd is about as old as the Hebrew Bible. In Psalm 23, we see how well God takes care of us. God has called God’s people “God’s flock,” and does everything possible to keep us well-fed and safe.   

Jesus claims this familiar image for God for himself. “I am the Good Shepherd,” he says. “You are so important to me that I willingly give up my life so you may live well. I care for you much better than a hired hand does.”   

I read a lot of commentary this week about the term “hired hand”. I suspect most, if not all of us, have had our times of being the hired hand. And we have given our particular assignments the best we had to offer. Honesty and speed as a grocery cashier. Accuracy as a factory assembler. Thoroughness as a lawn mower. And so forth. We were well-respected hired hands.

I also suspect we have known people who did as little as possible at whatever job they had. They always had something else to do. The boss picked on them. The equipment was busted. And so forth. They were the type of hired hands Jesus is referring to. They will not protect the sheep from the wolves; instead, they will run away at the slightest sign of danger.

In John’s first letter to his congregation, he makes it clear that Jesus is about love. Jesus laid down his life for us, and we should be willing to do the same in return. The way we behave should be a reflection of our awareness of Jesus’ love for us. John doesn’t put it this way, but we could say that we aren’t supposed to act like the hired hands who run away. If we have the ability to help someone in need, it’s our job to do so.

When followers of Jesus work to make life better for any members of the flock, they are more than hired hands. They are even more than good Hired Hands. They are called by name through their baptism to be God’s hands and feet and mouths for God’s purposes on earth. So, maybe we could say they are God’s Called Hands.

What kind of things might God’s Called Hands do? At St Matthew’s, of course, we would continue to feed hungry people. We would continue to provide hygiene items and toiletries to people in need in the area. We would continue to welcome all people into our midst. Assuming COVID permits, we would continue to invite our neighbors to know Jesus at the Live Nativity.

God’s Called Hands are always looking for more ways to show Jesus’ love. For example, here is a story.

[Video summary: The most compassionate pizza shop invites those who have the funds to pre-pay for a slice to feed someone who can’t pay for it.]

Jesus loves us as a Good Shepherd loves all the sheep in the flock. We are not hired hands who run away when the wolf appears. We are God’s Called Hands, called to serve God’s people with love, because we have been loved first. We are called to love, as we also have been loved.