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3rd Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 7

Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved

 

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; I call upon you all day long.

Psalm 86:3

The arrogant rise against me, O God, and the violent seek my life;
they have not set you before their eyes

Psalm 86:14

 

The Invitatory and Psalter

 

  1. O Lord, open thou our lips,
    R. And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
  2. Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
  3. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Alleluia

 

The Lord is in his holy temple. Come let us adore him.

 

 

Hymn: Praise to the Living God   Medieval. Jewish Liturgy             Hymnal 1982 #372

 

Praise to the living God! All praiséd be his Name

who was, and is, and is to be for ay the same.

The one eternal God ere aught that now appears:

the first, the last, beyond all thought his timeless years!

 

Formless, all lovely forms declare his loveliness;

holy, no holiness of earth can his express.

Lo, he is Lord of all. Creation speaks his praise,

and everywhere above, below, his will obeys.

 

His Spirit floweth free, high surging where it will:

in prophet’s word he spoke of old; he speaketh still.

Established is his law, and changeless it shall stand,

deep writ upon the human heart, on sea, on land.

 

Eternal life hath he implanted in the soul;

his love shall be our strength and stay while ages roll.

Praise to the living God! All praiséd be his Name

who was, and is, and is to be, for ay the same.

 

The First Lesson:                                 Jeremiah 20:7-13

 

7O LORD, you have enticed me,  and I was enticed;  you have overpowered me,  and you have prevailed.  I have become a laughingstock all day long;  everyone mocks me.  8For whenever I speak, I must cry out,  I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”  For the word of the LORD has become for me  a reproach and derision all day long.  9If I say, “I will not mention him,  or speak any more in his name,”  then within me there is something like a burning fire  shut up in my bones;  I am weary with holding it in,  and I cannot.  10For I hear many whispering:  “Terror is all around!  Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”  All my close friends  are watching for me to stumble.  “Perhaps he can be enticed,  and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”  11But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior;  therefore my persecutors will stumble,  and they will not prevail.  They will be greatly shamed,  for they will not succeed.  Their eternal dishonor  will never be forgotten.  12O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous,  you see the heart and the mind;  let me see your retribution upon them,  for to you I have committed my cause.  13Sing to the LORD;  praise the LORD!  For he has delivered the life of the needy  from the hands of evildoers.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: Spread, O Spread, thou mighty  J.F. Bahnmaier      Hymnal 1982 #530

 

Spread, O spread, thou mighty word, spread the kingdom of the Lord,

that to earth’s remotest bound all may heed the joyful sound;

 

Word of how the Father’s will made the world, and keeps it, still;

how his only Son he gave, earth from sin and death to save;

 

Word of how the Savior’s love earth’s sore burden doth remove;

how forever, in its need, through his death the world is freed;

 

Word of how the Spirit came bringing peace in Jesus’ name;

how his never-failing love guides us on to heaven above.

 

Word of life, most pure and strong, word for which the nations long,

spread abroad, until from night all the world awakes to light.

 

The Second Lesson:                              Romans 6:1-11

1What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: Christ for the world we sing      Samuel Wolcott       Hymnal 1982 #537

 

Christ for the world we sing! The world to Christ we bring with loving zeal;

the poor, and them that mourn, the faint and overborne,

sin-sick and sorrow-worn, whom Christ doth heal.

 

Christ for the world we sing! The world to Christ we bring with fervent prayer;

the wayward and the lost, by restless passions tossed,

redeemed at countless cost from dark despair.

 

Christ for the world we sing! The world to Christ we bring with one accord;

with us the work to share, with us reproach to dare,

with us the cross to bear, for Christ our Lord.

 

Christ for the world we sing! The world to Christ we bring with joyful song;

the new-born souls, whose days, reclaimed from error’s ways,

inspired with hope and praise, to Christ belong.

 

The Gospel Lesson:                              Matthew 10:24-39

 

24A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother,  and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;  36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Sermon: Not Peace, but a Sword

I must confess, I thought we’d be back together by now. Certainly by Father’s Day, we’d be able to worship and sing together and have communion together and go to coffee hour, or skip it this week and say we’ll go next week, maybe – certainly by now, we’d get to do these things. By Father’s Day, at least, if not by Mother’s Day or Easter, we’d be back together again in the church buildings we know and love. But, since you’re hearing this at home now, or wherever it is that you are, you know that that isn’t true. Spring will turn to summer this week, and fathers and those who celebrate them, and those who perhaps don’t, will live through this day to the end, we hope, yet our church buildings are still closed, and the virus rolls on. It is in many places being mitigated or suppressed, but in far too many places, appears to be getting worse.

To top it all off, the readings in the lectionary today are among the hardest sayings that Jesus ever uttered, at least that have come down to us. Who gets up on a Sunday morning or goes out on a Saturday night to go to church to hear that, well, he’s not hear to bring peace, but a sword, set father against child, brother against brother, daughter against mother, in-laws against in-laws and all the rest of it. You think, that wasn’t what I thought it was all about, Jesus. Whatever happened to “Blessed are the peacemakers” or “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Whatever happened to all the things we thought he was. Whatever happened to what he’d say just a little bit later on, “Peter, put your sword away. This is not the time for violence. The power of darkness may be here, but the triumph of God is sure to come.” What on earth does he mean by telling us that he comes not to bring peace, but a sword?

Before I explain all that, I’ll explain that it does, in fact, get worse. Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me – whoever in fact does not take up the cross and follow me – is not worthy of me. You think, Well, Jesus, that’s a little bit arrogant, a little bit hard for us to hear. It sounds like what I heard you say – you, a fully grown man able to earn his own living and make his own way in the world – need me more than my children do, or my parents. That’s a little bit hard to heard. That’s a little bit hard to accept.

Oh, have said the preachers for generations, what he means is that you should “put God first,” even if all the ones you love come second, just a little bit second. He also doesn’t mean you have to expect to suffer and die as he did, but should pick up your cross, your burdens, your special cross to bear, and do that. Then you’ll be worthy of him.

I always like it when we soften the hard edges of these scriptures, because that makes it easier on everybody. We don’t have to sit and wonder, “Does he really mean that? – and, if he does, what do I think about it? And what am I going to do?” But the sayings of Jesus that are hard do not get easier the more you read them, or the more you preach them. Of all the verses in this gospel, however, the scariest to me is the one about the sparrows. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father,” meaning his father, our Father who are in heaven. The idea that nothing falls to death without God being in charge is scary when you think about it, given all those who die, and the many ways in which they die. There is no way that these deaths that come too early, too violent, too soon, motivated by hate, racism, misogyny, homophobia, or whatever horror it might be – there is no way that these can be the will of God.

Of course, in the larger sense, he made us mortal, once we became subject to sickness and to death. Therefore, all deaths in a way fall at his feet. All suffering becomes the responsibility of God to answer for, even if we cannot make him make it go away.

“Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul – but fear God more?” It sounds incredible, impossible, terrifying, and as though he could not mean it.

One of the most difficult things to get used to in any talk of God, any talk of the Bible, is the idea that God willingly inflicts suffering or even death on people because of their misdeeds, or simply just to make a point. It is very hard to accept that a loving God would do things like that – and, indeed, I do not accept it as stated at all. I do believe that we are worth more than many sparrows – thought sparrows are worth more than we might think. Can you make one? It’s easy enough to hurt or kill one, but can you make one come to be? As Tolkien’s Gandalf says, “Do not be so eager to deal out death and judgment” for those who do not deserve life, or for those whose lives we can take because we want to, for our food or in our defense, or just because we want to. If you cannot give life, how could you possibly ever justify taking it away?

In the midst of my preaching all that, I suddenly got bitten by an insect, and I did what most of us do when bitten by anything: I slapped at it, hurt my leg, and killed the bug. It’s ironic to be preaching on how wrong it is to take lives, and then to take one, though it be but that of an insect. To use my words against me, can I make a new one? Then why can I take this one away? What gives me the right to do so?

Fair enough – but, then, what gives the insect the right to bite me? Its ability is in no doubt, as is mine to respond. It is part and parcel with having life on this earth that means we eat and can be eaten, bite and can be bitten, can give life but can also take it away. We cannot be who we are without consuming something. Even those great sages who are able to survive on walnuts and fresh water, living the extreme ascetic life, must consume something. Without that, we cannot life.

The question becomes what can be consume fairly, and what ought we leave aside. What lives can we fairly take, and what lives must we preserve?

It’s fairly easy to justify taking the life of a walnut or a carrot or a potato. It’s a little harder to justify taking the life of a rabbit or a fish, or one of those birds over there that would roast up well for Christmas dinner – & Lord, forgive me for saying that out loud. It gets even harder to justify taking one of our own lives, the lives of human beings. Ever since there have been people, the arguments against taking any person’s life have been strong. Only in cases of self-defense, of the individual or of the group, can we typically justify taking another human life. On the basis that it almost never right to take another’s life, we work our ethics such that it is wrong to make it easier to do so.

Too much strange fruit has been hanged of late from trees around the country for anyone to feel comfort or at ease. Too many bodies, too many black bodies in particular, have died or have been killed for any to be at ease, now, with the distance between how far we are as a people, as humanity, from where we ought to be, or with how easily too many among us take people’s lives, and how hard it can be to stand up for those lives, and with those who also take their stand, to support those who struggle that none may suffer and die unjustly or because of malice and hate and all that kind of evil.

It is in that spirit that we return to the lessons of the day, the hard words, “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but fear those who can destroy both.” The wisdom in there is deep and it is hard. A body destroyed as it stands for liberty, justice, and all the rest ends a life. When the soul inside that body, however, ceases to belief in the possibility of liberty and justice and gives into despair, someone has killed a soul. When people are killed, we lament them. When people’s spirits are crushed, where’s the law to defend them against that? Where’s the justice for those who lead people into lives of quiet desperation or wanton self-destruction?

Jesus and his followers lived in a place and time in which the forces in power could easily destroy any body they wished, and readily crush the spirits of any in whom they wished to crush all hope. Though one can justly lay at God’s feet our fragility, our frangibility before these things, one lays at the feet of those who are guilty of destroying a body or crushing a spirit or breaking a soul the actual guilt for it. I think the shock in the gospel’s words mean to wake us up to the distance I named between where we are and where we ought to be. As Jesus may have had painful occasion to learn in his own life, the families that shaped people’s lives so forcefully in his world may not have been as compatible with human flourishing and success as we like to believe our own are. Somehow, the people who followed Christ needed to break out of patterns of life and organization which had led the world to be as Jesus found it, and not as the Lord would have it be.

In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth. Christianity, like Islam, is a religion beyond and exceeding the ties of family, of culture, of community, of ethnicity, of race, and even, in a way, of religion. The way, the truth, and the life cannot be housed in any religious or institutional box forever, but always spill over so that the love of God and the justice of God flow down like mighty streams to a sea that is never full. They are always needed, and always in shorter supply than would be ideal.

The shock in Jesus’s words to his disciples, as they remembered them, was to wake people up to care for one another no matter who they were, no matter what they were doing, where they came from, who their parents were, what their job or status was, or what their lives entailed, that we should all be one in Christ, and none fall by the wayside, none be lost to the Father who loved them and made them to flourish in a world he made good. He made them, he made us to have life, and to have it to the full.

So, though at one level what can hurt us is the responsibility of the one who made us, so too are all the things that can heal us. While we may lay at the feet of an inscrutable and mysterious God our ability to despair, our ability to rise from despair and give all we have to hope, to have faith, to believe, to love, even at the edge of the grave, even beyond death, is also among the strange and wonderful gifts of God. They are ours to share, ours by the strange but evident providence of the Almighty.

We have to choose how we live, how we respond to the possibilities that lives can hold, how we spread hope or crush it, have faith or deny it, choose love or choose hate or indifference. All of those are for us to choose. We may indeed have to take up the cross and follow him, bear as Simon of Cyrene did the burden another cannot bear, so that all of us might be saved, and also make the world something worth being saved in, and lives better than they would’ve been without us.

There is a spirit abroad, as various parts of the world reopen their lives and economies while the pandemic rages, that would suggest to us that we have responsibility primarily or indeed only for ourselves, not for one another. “It is your responsibility,” goes such logic, “to protect yourself from this virus that has no cure and not much in the way of treatment. It is not our task to protect you, but yours.” While we each must take responsibility for our own lives, our health, our safety, and all the rest, it cannot be compatible with the will of God or what Jesus has said in this gospel that each must only care for him or herself. We also must care for one another no matter who we are, or where we’re from. If caring for all the people in the world, particularly those who are most vulnerable, who have the least, or are most susceptible to the hurts of the world – if doing all that drives a wedge between us and those who are supposed to be closest to us – well, Jesus said, that’s what I told you could happen, or would happen. Love has that effect on any system that is not full of love. He does not want to bring a sword, but he knows that bringing hope to people brings violence out in those who would deny hope. He does not want to divide father from child, mother from child, but knows that if you bring hope to those whom others misuse or would hold back, division would come, and cannot be prevented. Jesus came to change the world, that the world might be saved. He knows better than any, as do we who follow him, that one cannot save the world for free. It costs no less than everything.

Fortunately, he bore the burden for us. What burdens he would have us bear we take, as another gospel says, as a yoke that is easy, and a burden that is light. It may cost us everything to be people of love, but it would cost far more not to be.

Amen.

A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love (1 John 4:7-11)

 

Beloved, let us love one another, *

for love is of God.

Whoever does not love does not know God, *

for God is Love.

In this the love of God was revealed among us, *

that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us *

and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, *

we ought also to love one another.

For if we love one another, God abides in us, *

and God’s love will be perfected in us.

 

A Collect for 3rd Pentecost (Proper 7)

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

A Collect for Worth 

Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

A Collect for the Renewal of Life 

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the  night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive  far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your  law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having  done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may,  when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus  Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A Collect for Social Justice[1]

Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image. Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression. Help us, like those in generations before us who resisted the evil of slavery and human bondage in any form and any manner of oppression. Help us to use our freedoms to bring justice among peoples and nations everywhere, to the glory of your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A Prayer after St. Alphonsus

O Jesus, you are present to us in the blessed sacrament. We love you above all things, and desire to receive you into our souls. Since we cannot at this time share your sacrament, let your spirit dwell within our hearts. Let us welcome you as one already with us, making us one body and one spirit, never to be parted from you. Amen

 

Words of Reflection[2]

“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world. Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave.” – Harriet Tubman.

 

“Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the most dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if people are allowed to reason… Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as the speaker.” – Frederick Douglass.

 

 Hymn: They cast their nets   William A. Percy                 Hymnal 1982 #661

 

They cast their nets in Galilee just off the hills of brown;

such happy, simple fisherfolk, before the Lord came down.

 

Contented, peaceful fishermen, before they ever knew

the peace of God that filled their hearts brimful, and broke them too.

 

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail, homeless, in Patmos died.

Peter, who hauled the teeming net, head-down was crucified.

 

The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for but one thing— the marvelous peace of God.

 

Blessing

The Lord bless you and keep you. Amen.

 

The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. Amen.

 

The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.

 

Hymn: Spirit of the Living God    Daniel Iverson, alt.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

 

 

About Episcopal Worship and this Pentecost Service

 

The Third Sunday after Pentecost leads us through some of the most challenging words in the Gospels – words that, though they come from Jesus’s own lips, can be hard to hear as good news. This year, this Sunday falls on Father’s Day, and close to Juneteenth, for which they may seem ill-suited, though one hopes to let them lead us to God’s blessings and healing power on this day.

Blessings to all fathers, to all who will be fathers, to those who have lost their fathers, and to those whose relationships with their fathers, or with their children, have become complicated. We pray that God will bring healing where it is needed, peace where it is wanting, and grace to abide in all things. In a tradition which often imagines one of the persons of the Trinity as God the Father, Christians have an particular duty to uphold loving, caring, and gracious models of fatherhood, and to take especial care for those who fathers have been absent, neglectful, distant, or abusive.

Christian worship is designed to have the congregation gather for prayer, lessons, the Eucharist, and song. In times of contagion and quarantine, the community may not gather or share the Eucharist. We have adapted this service to the conditions of the time, celebrating Morning Prayer in the Presence of the Reserved Sacrament, honoring God with our daily office prayers, thanksgivings, lessons, canticles, and hymns.

We give thanks this morning for our reader, Janis Smith and our video compiler and editor, Gabriel Wilkins.

Resources (available for free online)

Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org

Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf

Enriching Our Worship 2,

https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf

These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.

The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/

This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.

Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982

Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org

St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org

 

A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, no

[1] Source: “Worship Resources: Juneteenth,” © 2019 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

[2] Source: ibid.