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2nd Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 6

Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved

 

Even the stork in the heavens knows its times; and the turtledove, swallow, and crane observe the time of their coming…
Jeremiah 8:7a
…so be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:16b
 

The Invitatory and Psalter

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

The earth is the Lord’s, for he made it. Come let us adore him.

 

Hymn: All People That on Earth do Dwell        William Kethe         Hymnal 1982 #377

All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell, come ye before him and rejoice.

Know that the Lord is God indeed; without our aid he did us make:
we are his folk, he doth us feed, and for his sheep he doth us take.

O enter then his gates with praise, approach with joy his courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless his Name always, for it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good, his mercy is for ever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God whom heaven and earth adore,
from men and from the angel host be praise and glory evermore.

The earth is the Lord’s, for he made it. Come let us adore him.

The First Lesson:                                   Exodus 19:2-8a

2They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn: The God of Abraham Praise         Thomas Olivers      Hymnal 1982 #401

The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days,
and God of love;
the Lord, the great I AM,
by earth and heaven confessed:
we bow and bless the sacred Name
for ever blest.

He by himself hath sworn:
we on his oath depend;
we shall, on eagle-wings upborne,
to heaven ascend:
we shall behold his face,
we shall his power adore,
and sing the wonders of his grace
for evermore.

There dwells the Lord, our King,
the Lord, our Righteousness,
triumphant o’er the world and sin,
the Prince of Peace;
on Zion’s sacred height
his kingdom he maintains,
and, glorious with his saints in light,
for ever reigns.

The God who reigns on high
the great archangels sing,
and ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ cry,
‘Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same,
and evermore shall be:
eternal Father, great I AM,
we worship thee.’

The Second Lesson:                                Romans 5:1-8

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn: Come thou font of every blessing  Robert Robinson    Hymnal 1982 #686

Come, thou fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace!
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! Oh, fix me on it,
mount of God’s unchanging love.

Here I find my Ebenezer;
hither, by thy help, I’ve come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

The Gospel Lesson:                                Matthew 9:35-10:23

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: Sheep Amidst Wolves – by His Command

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them…”

Sometimes, no matter who we are or what we are doing, it all gets to be too much. Ask a nurse, a teacher, a social worker, a poll worker, someone working the line in a meat plant or a car factory – ask a first responder, a server or a cook during rush – a cop, a soldier, a victim of cops or of soldiers, someone marching, working, striving so that justice roll down like waters, or someone who’s just trying to do whatever is necessary to eat this week, make rent, survive – and they’ll tell you: it can all get to be too much sometimes. In the age of the novel coronavirus, with cases and deaths rising worldwide and surging in too many places, and truth about what’s really going on increasingly subject to politicized contestation if not actual fogging, it can all get to be too much a lot of the time.

Today’s gospel speaks to the reality of such times, and to what can happen to you when you try to address those times and their needs, meet them head-on. It shows what it looks like to use all the power God gave you to make a difference in people’s lives, to help them make a difference in their own lives – and it also shows us that, sometimes, it can all become too much. You see, by this point in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’s ministry is in full sway and full swing. Word of his ability to heal people has spread at epidemic rates throughout Galilee, and increasingly in Samaria and Judea. People he has never met come to him, and bring others to him, asking to be cured of skin diseases, flows of blood, neuroses and psychopathologies – they called them demons – blindness, deafness, sinfulness, stupidity, even, and despair. They even call upon him to raise their dead – which he does.

While he’s at it, and while he’s got their attention, he reminds them of what he’s been saying all along: the kingdom of God is at hand, that they should store up treasures not on earth but in heaven, that one cannot serve both God and wealth, that we should forgive others as we have been forgiven, that none of us can add a single moment to our lives by worry, that we should not judge lest we be judged, that the Father will give us what we need when we ask, that we should beware false prophets – who come like wolves in sheep’s clothing – and strive for the kingdom of God, doing unto others as we’d have done unto us, which is message of all the law and the prophets and which he has come to fulfill, speaking with authority and not as did the scribes. They have heard, and people who’ve never seen him have heard, and they have listened, and they are coming.

Why? It’s not only because it makes more sense than anything else they’ve ever heard, though it does. They’re coming primarily because they have needs, and this guy, they heard, knows how to meet those needs. They need something to eat. They need to be healed. They need to be treated with decency and dignity. They need to be set free in body, mind, and spirit. They need hope. They need good leaders – servant leaders, who respond to them, get it, and know what they’re doing. They are, as the gospel we just heard says, “like sheep without a shepherd,” coming to him “harassed and helpless,” and he has compassion on them.

That’s how you can tell a good person, and a good leader: when you are weak, when you are in need, when you feel like there’s nowhere to turn and no way to get out, she or he responds to you with compassion. The good leader does not try to exploit your need, does not try to deny your need, does not try to make it all about himself or herself, does not try to tell you it’s all in your head, or what did you expect, or that’s life, suck it up buttercup, or to just get lost. The good leader listens, sympathizes, perhaps even empathizes, says the truth out loud, and then does what she or he can to solve the problem, and empower others to do so.

There’s a pattern to it, an order, and it comes straight from this gospel:

Step One: look and listen: “When he saw the crowds…”

Step Two: have compassion: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them.”

Step Three: tell the truth: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Ain’t that the truth whenever there’s something we really need done: never quite enough hands to do it, and never quite enough time.

By the way, and just as an aside, this line reminds me of something we often forget: Jesus has a wry sense of humor. People are not wheat, and they are not sheep, but he uses these metaphors because he knows that when they are in need, when we are in need, we kind of are – helpless, like sheep before a knife blade or wheat facing a scythe, when those who have the power over us can do what they like. He has that power, and is about to give it to others, and he hopes he can trust them, He’s pretty sure he can trust them, and he’ll feel better about trusting him if they get his jokes and quirky little sayings, but he knows something they don’t yet: that the power to heal is one step away from the power to hurt. Think of the surgeon with a blade, and the sheep-killer with a blade: both are sharp, both know what they’re doing, both draw blood, but to very different ends. Jesus, like any good leader, knows that the closeness required to cure someone of blindness is equal to the closeness you’d need to blind them, and that serving people’s needs can be too much sometimes, like looking at a big, wide field ripe for harvest, and realizing that it’s all up to you to get it done before darkness falls or the rains come. That wheat’s not going to scythe itself, and people in need aren’t in a position to save themselves, so let’s get on with it.

Step Four, and to that end, empower others: “He summed his twelve disciples and gave them authority.” This applies even to the one who would betray him. Judas, like the rest, cast out demons and cured people of every disease and sickness. Judas did the work, worked the harvest, labored in the fields and vineyards of the Lord. He knew the power, and used it well – this time. The depths, and perhaps the necessity, of his betrayal, become all the more poignant when you think about that.

Step Five: give clear instructions: “As you go, proclaim the good news,” cure, raise, cleanse, cast out, take nothing, ask for nothing, let them give you what they will – if food, eat it; if peace, accept it; if disdain, accept that, but shake off their dust when you leave.

Step Six: warn them but reassure them: “I send you as sheep amidst wolves.” Sometimes it’ll hurt. Sometimes they’ll get you, throw you in prison, bring you up on false charges, knee you down, tear-gas you off the plaza, array liars against you. But don’t worry. I got this, Jesus says – but I’m not gonna lie to you: sometimes doing the work of the kingdom, telling the truth, preaching the word, healing the sick, setting the captive free, speaking truth to power can hurt. Indeed, it can even get you killed.

But Step Six has a second part to it – use your head, that is: “be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves.” Now, I’ve seen doves do wrong and snakes act dumb, but the power in this saying should not be missed or denied. You have to know about all manner of evil, chicanery, trickery, and wrong to minister to people, bring them the good news, heal them, make their lives better, if you’re actually going to help them avoid getting hurt, used, mistreated, and abused. You have to be smart, think ahead, anticipate your opponent’s next moves and counter them, seize the initiative and never let it go, wrong-foot them if you can, all without doing anything wrong. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t give people false hope or empty promises, but sometimes, when you have to truth, do what Emily Dickinson wrote: tell it slant, make it so people can hear it, absorb it, really get it. Get your mind, and those of the people you’re trying to help, to understand the world as it is, as well as the world as it could be, as God wants it to be. Hope, but smartly. Have faith, but insightfully. Trust, but verify. Know the difference between a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a sheep in sheep’s clothing. Above all, do not be afraid. Be wary – that’s a form of wisdom – but do not be afraid.

Step Seven: tell the truth, slant or not, even when it hurts: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child,” and vice versa, and so forth, and so on. This was more a warning in the time the gospels were written down, some 40 – 60 years after Jesus left on clouds ascending, and the temple was destroyed, Judea captured and put yet again in chains. By that time Christians, as they were becoming known, partisans of Christos, faced increasing interest, and increasing opposition, wherever they went. It surprised them, or most of them, I think. They thought they had news so good that any but the devil himself would be glad to hear it, but they found out that was not so. Some people, it is true, thronged to them as they had to Jesus, and let them teach them, heal them, free them, and empower them to do likewise. Some, however, told them, loudly or quietly, to shut up and get lost – even set the cops on them, or threw stones, called them names, deliberately misunderstood them, or saw how good they were and chose, because of that, to do them harm. It even split families, and when the times of persecution came, one person in a family might well betray the others – either on purpose or just by making a mistake. It happens in every persecution, no matter over what or who’s leading it: people get weak, act in fear, make mistakes, or simply err. They become harassed and helpless yet again, or appear to be so, which takes us right back to the beginning and asks us to do again what he did: have compassion upon them, and make it stick.

Sometimes, when I’m in yet another seminar, training, or now a Zoom meeting, that’s trying to figure out how the church can grow, stay relevant, give people the experience they’re looking for or should be, make the song and dance accessible but still inspiring, the pews comfy enough, and the teachings on point but not too sharp, I wonder what the man himself would make of it all. Mindful not to judge, though, lest I be judged, I find myself coming back to the words the man said, or at least what they remembered of them, and what they tell us he did and how it changed people. Literally: when I come back to his words, I find myself, and remember what it is I am, and we are, to do.

This week we celebrated the Feast of St. Barnabas, one of the first to become a disciple, indeed an apostle, after Jesus’s time on earth was through. What drew him to Christ, to Jesus, to all that he was, was not a mystical experience, a great liturgy, or a once-in-a-flash conversion on the road to Damascus where he was bent on doing more evil. It wasn’t because of something he read, or something he heard, or even an invitation from a friend, as helpful as those things can be. It wasn’t a pretty song or the sweet reflections on a beautiful sunrise. It wasn’t that he hit bottom and realized there was no way to go but up. It was because he saw what Jesus had inspired people to do: give all they had to make a community exist, to help one another out when it was obvious no-one else was going to, and to bring healing and the gospel truth to everyone. He joined a community of people who loved one another and cared for one another in ways that no-one else in his world had ever done, and did far more for those in need than did the Temple in Jerusalem, where he worked. He joined a community of people who acted as Jesus had his disciples act in today’s gospel, and leaders who followed the steps he outlined – leading people, as best they could, as he would’ve done.

In short, Barnabas showed the compassion he’d seen Jesus’s followers show, and taught others how to do it. He became as wise as a serpent and stayed as innocent as a turtledove, went out to the plentiful harvest, always with too few with him to help. He lived the rest of his life as a sheep amidst wolves, too, and paid a price for that. May of them did in those first centuries. But above all, he showed us, as Jesus did, how to live and what to do. He showed us, as Jesus had, the truth of what Paul wrote in Romans: “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us,” because God’s love has been given to us, and God’s grace poured out upon us. None of them would have us glorify or seek suffering – heavens no. But they were wise enough to recognize that, if it must needs come, we must not let it not overwhelm us. We must endure so that we might triumph, cultivate in ourselves and our communities the strength of character that knows how not to give into anger, bitterness, paranoia, frustration, or despair. We must hone in ourselves the virtues and the ways of thinking and living, of acting and deciding, that produce hope – produce it with all the wonder and regularity of a fig tree producing good figs, or a nice laying field a rich harvest of wheat or barley.

When we do that, we bring forth in ourselves the capacity for compassion and for change, can get over feeling overwhelmed and as though it’s all too much, and continue to do the work he has given us to do, without fear and in the power of the Spirit and the grace of God, which never fail.

May that be our blessing today and every day. 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 2nd Pentecost (Proper 6)

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Collect for Grace

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. 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.

Hymn: Come, labor on         Jane Borthwick                     Hymnal 1982 #541

Come, labor on.
Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain,
while all around us waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
‘Go work today.’

Come, labor on.
The enemy is watching night and day,
to sow the tares, to snatch the seed away;
while we in sleep our duty have forgot,
he slumbered not.

Come, labor on.
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
by feeblest agents may our God fulfill
his righteous will.

Come, labor on.
Claim the high calling angels cannot share—
to young and old the Gospel gladness bear:
redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on.
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
and a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
‘Servants, well done.’

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 Service

The Second Sunday after Pentecost is the start of the church’s longest season, and often comes close to the longest day of the year – which is really the day in the northern hemisphere when it is light the longest; each day is as long as every other day. Therein lies a lesson: it doesn’t matter how long the day is, but how much light shines in it. As with days, so it is with life. The season after Pentecost focuses heavily on Jesus’s deeds of healing, and on his incredible teachings, as they’ve come down to us.

Today’s lessons are a good example: he send his closest followers out as sheep amidst wolves, told them to take nothing with them, to accept what people gave them, and to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves. That’s a tall order! We hope that our worship this morning will help you discern what all this means in your own life and for those whom you love.

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, Chuck Smith and our video compiler and editor, Gabriel Wilkins.

This booklet is designed for you to use on your own, in addition to being a guide to worship online. The readings, prayers, and liturgies are taken or adapted from those in The Book of Common Prayer, The Book of Occasional Services, Enriching Our Worship 1, and the hymnals. You will find links to these resources below.

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, now and forever. Amen.