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7th Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 11

Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved

 

 

You show the strength when people doubt…and rebuke any insolence…
Wisdom 12:17

All creation pines for the revealing of the children of God.
Romans 8:19

The Invitatory and Psalter

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

 

Jubilate Psalm 100

1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us; we are his *;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age. 

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Come let us adore him. 

 

 Psalm 86:11-17

11.Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; *
knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

12.I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart, *
and glorify your Name for evermore.

13.For great is your love toward me; *
you have delivered me from the Pit.

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

15.But you, O LORD, are gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.

16.Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
give your strength to your servant; save the child of your handmaid.

17.Show me your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Come let us adore him.

 

The First Lesson:                                   Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19

13For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,
to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly;
16For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
17For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.
18Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us;  for you have power to act when you choose.
19Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous must be kind,
and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: Praise to the living God                Med. 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 Second Lesson:                                Romans 8:12-25

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn: Father, we thank thee                   Greek, tr. Bland Tucker    Hymnal 1982 #302

Father, we thank thee who hast planted
thy holy Name within our hearts.
Knowledge and faith and life immortal
Jesus thy Son to us imparts.

Thou, Lord, didst make all for thy pleasure,
didst give us food for all our days,
giving in Christ the Bread eternal;
thine is the power, be thine the praise.

Watch o’er thy Church, O Lord, in mercy,
save it from evil, guard it still,
perfect it in thy love, unite it,
cleansed and conformed unto thy will.

As grain, once scattered on the hillsides,
was in this broken bread made one,
so from all lands thy Church be gathered
into thy kingdom by thy Son.

 

The Gospel Lesson:                                Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

The Gospel of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

 

Sermon: The Righteous Must be Kind – and the Reapers are Angels

One of my favorite jokes, which might now be a bit passé, concerns the differences between heaven and hell explained in terms of as least a few of the countries in Europe. It goes like this:

In heaven, the police are British, the cooks French, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss.

In hell, the police are German, the cooks British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.

I shall leave it to those more worldly-wise than I to know the truth of all that, but if you at least chuckled at the joke, there might be something to it. Suffice it to say that heaven and hell differ, and profoundly, whether either exists in a form that is anything like what we imagine them to be. Which is which, heaven or hell, could depend not so much on who is there, but what they’re doing. Anyone who is trying to do a job out of his or her depth, or out of sync with his or her skill set (or lack of one), as when a fish gets hired as a welder or a con artist lies his way to high political office, is likely to make it hell for themselves as well as everyone else.

Hell may be fire and brimstone, ice and winds howling, with weeping and gnashing of teeth. It may be the total and complete absence of God – with a clear sense of what one has lost and can never find. Heaven may be angels with wings and harps on clouds, with gates of pearl and streets of gold. It may be simply (!) the presence of God, always and everywhere, in a place where sighing and sorrow are no more, and there will be no sea. Whatever they are, each differs profoundly from Earth, where it has pleased God to have us dwell. Each offers a profound insight into what we who dwell on Earth actually hope for, and fear.

For all that, we still might with Mark Twain prefer “heaven for the climate, and hell for the company.” At some point in our reflections, we might realize the wisdom in T.S. Eliot’s observation that, for most people in the modern world, “hell is for other people,” never for themselves – or that in Jean-Paul Sartre’s character’s observation in No Exit, “hell is other people,” never oneself alone, as one might’ve thought. We cannot escape other people’s presence in our lives, or their gaze and judgments, which means that we cannot but see ourselves as we think they see us, even if we know that they see us falsely, and cannot see what we truly are. “We see through a glass darkly,” said Paul, internalizing a similar point. “But then we shall see clearly, face to face.”

When I was a kid I always wondered who was going to heaven, and who was going to hell. The parable of the Wheat and the Tares, which we just heard this morning, is particularly terrifying on the point. We don’t know now for sure, but God will sort it all out in the end – and everyone is going to the one place or the other. This is what the kingdom of heaven is like, said Jesus, by way of explanation. He might as well have said, as the king’s son did, amidst a shipwreck in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

For that is the impact, the message of this gospel. The world, marred, is as though a ship of the damned has been wrecked upon it. All was fine, and we were fine, until the Enemy sowed Bad People into our world. Now we can’t get rid of them without risking hurt to the Good, so we wait, endure the Evil among us, try to beat them at their own game as they grow in the midst of us, stealing the resources we need and then using them against us, always in our way. At least, that’s how it shall be until the end of the age.

The idea that some people are just evil and that there’s nothing we can do about it sounds like a lazy rejection of a core element in Christian doctrine: everyone can be saved. Read correctly, however, it’s a realistic indictment of what people actually are: savable, though many will refuse to be saved. The salvation they reject is not so much a question of belief but of action: did you act to make the world better or worse, to make lives happier or less happy? If you chose to do the former, you are as good seed sown upon good ground. If you chose to do the latter, you are as weeds strewn amidst the good seed, simply making things worse. You could change, but we can’t change you – that if you go on as you are, it’s bad for us all.

What are we – or the good, lest I presume to be among the righteous, growing corn – what are the good to do about it? As he said, and surprisingly: nothing. More precisely: endure. Stay righteous. Remain as those redeemed in body, mind, and spirit, unsullied and unstained by the world, untainted by evil and unmixed with it, with them. Trust in God’s power to save just as we trust in God’s power to create – and we do trust in that in all that we do, in all that we plan for, in all that we hope for. Our faith in the goodness and power of God’s creation, and in ourselves as those made in God’s image, is evident in the fact that we continue to live, to abide, doing good in a world where too many do not, raising families and building communities in hopes that they will inherit or even make a better world. We are not to live seeking vengeance on our foes, but to forgive those who trespass against us, even as we have been forgiven. As adopted children of God, we are to live not in fear, but in hope, not in anger but in forbearance, not in anxiety but in wisdom. In all things we are to be as those whom the Book of Wisdom describes as righteous: those who are so sure of God’s power and goodness that we have the courage, the grace, and the integrity to be kind. All that God has done, wisdom says, teaches us that the righteous must be kind.

Must. Not should. Not ought to. Not if they feel like it, are in a good mood, got their coffee on time or their wine on time (depending on the time). Must. Have to. Because of who God is and what God has done. Because of who we are and what we have to do.

It takes faith to be kind. It takes faith to believe the words of the Gospel, that in the end, at the final harvest, the reapers will be angels. It takes courage as well as faith to endure the presence and persistence of the evil among us, expecting that in God’s good time, they will face such consequences for their actions as have not already emerged as a natural result of their doing what is wrong. It’s not quite clear to me why the reapers in this instance could not do as had those who enforced the final plague in Egypt, the targeted killing of the non-Hebrew firstborn – but, then, those so killed were as innocent as those whose blood Pilate mixed with their own sacrifices, condemned not by their own fault or failing but because of a wicked Pharaoh whose heart the Lord himself had hardened, or weakened, or whatever it was.

No, prudence concurs with experience on this: the vengeance of the Lord, the reaping of the angels, if let loose in the midst of time before the end would be as brutal as the flood that only Noah and his kin survived, and that only by the grace of the ark beneath them, and the fact that the rains stopped and the land appeared before the food ran out. (Do you ever wonder what they ate on the ark, btw.? I mean, if the animals came in, two by two, did they bring extra hogs and sheep and chickens so that the various carnivores got what they needed?) The power of God, unleashed, it appears would affect us rather as does the weather, or the forces of the Earth, the earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as the tempests and frosts and heat, the fires and the floods, the pandemics and the various hurts and decays to which the body is subject, whether that body is of a good person or an evil, one of the righteous or one of the wicked. Best wait for the harvest in God’s time, not ours, and not pine for release too soon from the world as it is and deliverance into the world God has to come.

It takes faith to live that way, trusting in God to judge in equity the peoples of the world and make righteous all creation. It takes faith to trust that God is working out the salvation not just for us, but for all people – and that that takes time, and asks of us patience, which is another form of kindness. Few of us would be where we are without people having been kind to us along the way, probably before we had any idea who they were or why they were treating us that way. None of us would be anything at all had not those who raised us cared enough to do so, and learned enough to do so, when we could not do so for ourselves. We owe God, ourselves, and our fellow human beings that much: to be kind, show compassion, heal the hurts of the world, ease the burdens, hold the hands and the hearts of those who grieve, and those who suffer, bind the wounds of the wounded, set the captives free – do all, that is, that Jesus did.

Sometimes we might also have to do as Jesus did, in terms of speaking truth to power, correcting wrongs out loud, overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple as it were, without threatening their actual lives. Jesus, though kind, is not without his edges, and not always meek or mild. Forbearance, forgiveness, kindness, charity, and compassion do not require that we be doormats, turn our eyes away from injustice, not get involved as agents of positive, progressive change. If we are to be kind to victims of abuse, we must stop those who abuse them. If we are to be makers of peace, we must stop those who would make war. This is not always easy and may not always seem kind, but it is. What it is not is vengeful, for that power is best reserved to God and God’s timing. Jesus only said not to rip out the tares the Enemy had sown. He said nothing about doing what we could to out-grow them, out-shine them, throw a little righteous shade upon them in the fields of the Lord, out-root them, beat them at their own game if they’re going to try to beat ours at ours. Shrewd as snakes, he said to be, if also as innocent as doves. Know what we’re doing, do it well, be righteous, and be kind, because of who God is and who we are. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Don’t worry: in the end, the reapers shall be angels. They’ll know what they are doing, and to whom, and why.

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 7th Pentecost (Proper 11)
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son 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 Saints of God
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and 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 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: God, who stretched the spangled      Catherine Cameron         Hymnal 1982 #580

God, who stretched the spangled heavens
infinite in time and place,
flung the suns in burning radiance
through the silent fields of space:
we, your children in your likeness,
share inventive powers with you;
Great Creator, still creating,
show us what we yet may do.

Proudly rise our modern cities,
stately buildings, row on row;
yet their windows, blank, unfeeling,
stare on canyoned streets below,
where the lonely drift unnoticed
in the city’s ebb and flow,
lost to purpose and to meaning,
scarcely caring where they go.

We have ventured worlds undreamed of
since the childhood of our race;
known the ecstasy of winging
through untraveled realms of space;
probed the secrets of the atom,
yielding unimagined power,
facing us with life’s destruction
or our most triumphant hour.

As each far horizon beckons,
may it challenge us anew,
children of creative purpose,
serving others, honoring you.
May our dreams prove rich with promise,
each endeavor well begun:
Great Creator, give us guidance
till our goals and yours are one.

Blessing

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

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 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost leads us through some of our most beautiful and beloved scriptures, including the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, Paul’s continued meditations on sin and salvation in the Epistle to the Romans, and the connection made in the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon between the awesome power of God and the need for those who follow that God faithfully to be, above all things, kind. There is much food for thought and reflection, and we hope that you enjoy our Morning Prayer service, and find it nourishing, engaging, and good.

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, Mala Rowland, for our organist and music director, Beresford Coker; and for 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, now and forever. Amen.