Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Evening Prayer for May 5


May 5 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: We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

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FIRST READING: Isaiah 65:17-25

A reading from Isaiah

Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:
past events won’t be remembered;
they won’t come to mind.
18 Be glad and rejoice forever
in what I’m creating,
because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
and her people as a source of gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.
No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
20 No more will babies live only a few days,
or the old fail to live out their days.
The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person,
and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They won’t build for others to live in,
nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people;
my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.
23 They won’t labor in vain,
nor bear children to a world of horrors,
because they will be people blessed by the Lord,
they along with their descendants.
24 Before they call, I will answer;
while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 Wolf and lamb will graze together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain,
says the Lord.

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

GOSPEL:  John 14:18-31

A reading from: John

18 “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot) asked, “Lord, why are you about to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered, “Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word that you hear isn’t mine. It is the word of the Father who sent me.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I am with you. 26 The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 You have heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away and returning to you.’ If you loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than me. 29 I have told you before it happens so that when it happens you will believe. 30 I won’t say much more to you because this world’s ruler is coming. He has nothing on me. 31 Rather, he comes so that the world will know that I love the Father and do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up. We’re leaving this place.

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


It is 4 weeks since Easter, and it’s only a week until Jesus will ascend to God. Our Gospel reading is part of the last evening Jesus has with the disciples. He is preparing them for the time when he will be gone from them. It’s a sort of farewell address, though the disciples don’t yet understand what is happening.

In this portion of the address, Jesus reminds them that he is one with the Father and they are, too. Repeatedly, Jesus focuses on God’s love here. The disciples are loved and so they are to love others just as God loves, so all people may know God’s love.

I suspect the disciples are beginning to be anxious, fearful by this time. Why are you talking of leaving us? And what will we do without you? But Jesus has a plan.

“I will not leave you alone, like orphans. I will send a Companion to be with you, the Holy Spirit. Spirit will teach you everything you need to know and will help you remember everything I taught you.”

… I am trying to put myself in the room with the disciples, as one of the women, Johanna, perhaps. Here is what is going through my mind: “I find I am confused and worried, even scared. Jesus has been such a powerful force in my life for years and I can’t imagine life without him. What does he mean he is leaving? Who will this Companion be? I am freaking out! My mind is in a whirl! … Then Jesus tries to calm us down with the word ‘Shalom. Peace.’ And I am able to take a breath and calm down a bit.”

… Shalom is a Hebrew word that means peace, but peace that implies more than a lack of war. It means divine peace, total, worldwide, all of creation, peace. One way of describing shalom is this: If there is a lack of shalom anywhere, there is no shalom everywhere.

As a world, as a country, as a community, we have certainly been lacking in shalom lately. We can make a list that includes local and global poiltics, the lack of respect by many people toward people of color, and everything that has been disrupted by COVID. And then we can add our own personal concerns and crises – things like a broken ankle or a congregation in transition awaiting its new pastor.

While only God can make shalom happen, we can work together to bring a sense of shalom to our little corner of the world. We can be kind to all people, inviting them and welcoming them among us. We can share God’s love by providing what they need, if we can do so – some socks or a bag of food. We can speak out against injustice, with letters to congresspersons or the newspaper, or in person as appropriate.

We can work to do what Jesus tells us to do here: as Jesus has loved us, so we are to love one another. 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:  Praise and Thanksgiving

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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 and Abingdon Worship Annual 2021


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Branches of the Vine

 Acts 8:26-40; John 15:1-8

While I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, I have a long connection with Michigan. My grandmother (Mormor) lived there so my family was in Michigan often. Then, after college, Jim (my ex) and I settled in southwest Michigan and raised our boys there. I often describe the area as a few small cities surrounded by corn fields, orchards, and vineyards.

At harvest time, the vines look like this, lush and green, loaded with fruit. For some grapes, the leaves are placed over the fruit clusters to protect them from the sun. Other grapes do best with more sunlight.


But before the new growing season, the vines are all pruned back. It seems cruel. But it is the best way to care for the vine and to have an abundant harvest each year. There is a skill to trimming grape vines, cutting back just enough and not too much. Grape vines grow whether we want them to or not; but they produce the best fruit if they are trimmed regularly, carefully.

This is what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. Jesus wants us to stay connected to the vine; at the same time, he recognizes there may be times when we need to be trimmed, pruned, in order for us to be the healthiest branches.

We all have had experiences that have shaped us. Sometimes these experiences have helped us grow in faith, sometimes these experiences have turned us away from God. We have habits and attitudes learned from childhood, some of them good, some of them harmful to ourselves and others.

For example, one day at seminary in Chicago, I was walking to the grocery store a couple blocks away. As I looked toward the corner, I noticed a cluster of young black men in hoodies standing and talking on the corner. Just to be safe, I crossed the street before I got to the corner.

Was I being safe? Or was I exhibiting prejudice? This moment plays in my mind regularly to remind me that I have prejudices, and that I am not always proud of the way they make me act. I think of it as God’s way of pruning me. God’s pruning helps me remember that God loves young men in hoodies as much as God loves me.

… The Book of the Acts of the Apostles could easily, and perhaps more appropriately, be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to see evidence of Spirit on every page. Today, we have the story of Philip and his encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch.

Philip is a deacon, a new order of church workers that arose when the first disciples learned they were not able to serve all the widows in town. We are more familiar with the name Stephen, a deacon, and the first believer to be killed for his faith in Jesus. Philip has been spreading the good news in Samaria, east and north of Jerusalem.  

The eunuch is on his way from Jerusalem back to Africa, by way of Gaza. We know a few things about him. We know his body is different, so most people would have seen him as imperfect, damaged. He is an official – so he has power, despite his lack of social power as a eunuch in the Roman Empire. He has the use of a chariot, so he is an important person in Ethiopia. He was in Jerusalem to worship, but he would have been prevented from entering the Jewish temple because his body was imperfect.

Here’s where Spirit enters the story. The eunuch happens to be traveling and reading the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. Philip is nearby, thanks to Spirit, and Spirit says to Philip, go and join the man in the chariot. Philip joins the eunuch in the chariot and begins the conversation. “What are you reading, and do you understand it?” “No, I need someone to explain it to me.” So, Philip connects the dots between the scripture and Jesus and baptism.

They are on a wilderness road, going through the desert, but Spirit provides water! The eunuch sees the water and asks to be baptized right that minute. Philip does the baptism and then disappears, because Spirit needs him in Azotus, a city on the Mediterranean Sea. The eunuch takes the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s grace to Africa where many come to believe because of this eunuch.

The book of Acts demonstrates that Spirit welcomes all people, even those who have traditionally been left out: women, foreigners, non-Jewish people, people of all ages and abilities and shapes and colors. It is because of people like the eunuch sharing the good news that Christianity spread around the world.

Jesus welcomes and loves all people – anyone who chooses to follow him is welcome. He offers himself to all people by extending a branch of the vine. All we have to do is grab onto it.

When you came in, you received a piece of grapevine. Notice that there are tendrils on the vine. They serve to seek out and maintain a hold on the fence or on other sections of the vine. These tendrils are so persistent that even detached from the fence, even though the vine is dead wood, the tendrils are designed to connect with something. That’s why each piece had to be in a separate bag, otherwise Julia would have had a challenge handing out just one piece of vine.

I think Jesus may be just as persistent in trying to keep a connection with us. He will grab on to us so he can love us and offer us mercy. He will remind us that we are his branches.

Let this piece of vine be a symbol for you, a reminder that you are connected to Jesus the Vine. Maybe this piece of vine can be a conversation starter, a way to talk about Jesus with someone who needs to know Jesus loves all people, no exceptions. It is through us, the branches, that the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s grace continue to spread. It is with the tendrils that we make connections with each other and with God, connections that are quite hard to break.  Amen