Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sorting Sheep.

Matthew 25:31-46
November 26, 2017


We know Jesus as “the good shepherd.”  Most of us are familiar with the picture of smiling Jesus gently carrying a lamb, sometimes on his shoulders.   Shepherd imagery usually evokes care, guidance, leadership, gathering together, and healing.  The text is reminding us that Jesus’ kingship is gentle and selfless, like the oversight of a responsible shepherd.  We are happy to imagine ourselves as the hapless little lamb, always rescued by the good and strong shepherd: Jesus.

I certainly like to focus on these qualities of Jesus.  I habitually associate Jesus with compassion, gentleness, peace, welcome, inclusion, healing, and forgiveness.  Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love.  He is about acceptance, generosity, and joy, building a community of shalom.  We look to him and follow him as our good shepherd.   

At the same time, in todays’ readings, we find this other side of shepherding.  Taking care of the flocks also involves the less benign and more hard-hearted work of sorting, separating, culling, and dividing.  Often the sheep are tagged or branded.  They have to be regularly shorn of their wool.  They may be sold off.  The sheep have to be separated from the goats.  And some animals have to be pulled out of the flock for slaughter.

The shepherd has to make a careful analysis of the sheep’s qualities and characteristics.  A determination has to be made concerning the ultimate destiny for each animal.  How many seasons do they get to enjoy hanging out on the sunny, verdant hillside munching on grass together?  At what point do they end up as someone’s dinner?

Neither Ezekiel nor Jesus, of course, is concerned with giving advice about the shepherding profession.  They are using shepherding as a metaphor to talk about people.  

The prophet Ezekiel in particular is writing about the Israelites who have been scattered by conquering powers.  When Ezekiel was working, the Israelites were either dispersed in disorganized enclaves around the whole Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, or they were crammed in a ghetto in the huge city of Babylon, under constant pressure to assimilate.  

He hears God delivering words of comfort, predicting a miracle of restoration.  “For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.  As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep.  I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered….”  

His word from God is that God is about to do this amazing rescue operation, gathering the scattered sheep of Israel back together in their own land.  “I will… and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land.”  He mentions “feeding,” “good pasture,” and the “mountains of Israel” repeatedly.  “I will feed them on the mountains of Israel….  I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.”  


It is a wonderful vision, offering comfort for people who have been through breath-taking, stomach-turning, mind-numbing horrors beyond our imagination.  They are comfortable words for all who experience the business-end of an economy and political system that is engineered against them

But that’s not the end of what he says.  God does not intend for all the sheep to show up on the green, green grass of home.  This whole exile thing was itself a great sorting designed to work like chemotherapy to kill the cancer of injustice in Israel, the disease of oppression and inequality that got them into this predicament in the first place.  They cannot go back to Israel, God’s land, still infected with the mentalities of domination and self-interest.  They cannot return to the Promised Land carrying the corrupt and violent Babylonian ways of thinking and acting.  God is using oppression to cure the people of their own tendencies to oppression, which got them into this mess in the first place.

God tells them that, while the injured and the lost and the weak will be tended to, they are not usually the sheep that end up on the owner’s table.  That dubious privilege is reserved for the fat and the strong.  So God is going to destroy the fat and the strong, that is to say, those deemed “successful” by the world’s standards.  Those sheep will only be fed with God’s justice.  They will get what is coming to them.  

Because God knows that the fat and the strong got that way by fouling and hoarding the resources — the waterholes and the pasture — that should have been shared in common, and by taking what they want from weaker sheep by sheer, bullying force.  They “pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with [their] horns until [they] scattered them far and wide.”

The godless, dominating, imperialist, conquering powers applied an “every nation for itself,” “survival of the fittest” approach to relationships.  The strong and the privileged decided to do whatever they had to do to keep and increase their own wealth and power.  They invented an economy in which selfish greed, lust, gluttony, resentment, envy are handsomely rewarded, and even threats and violence are excused when exercised by the strong and privileged who make and enforce the laws.  Sound familiar?

I have no doubt that Jesus has this parable of Ezekiel in his mind when he delivers his own parable of the Last Judgment.  It is the culmination of his entire ministry.  It is the last thing he says before the story of the circumstances leading to his death gets rolling in chapter 26.  His entire mission is summarized right here.


The Lord begins.  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.”  Humankind gets separated into two classes, one bound for glory and the other… not.

Only, where Ezekiel focuses on exclusion based on the selfish and violent use of power, Jesus’ attention is on the victims, the people suffering in particular ways from these abuses of power.  He is attending to the people left broken and dying in their wake.  Where Ezekiel says you get culled for being bad; Jesus says you get culled for not being good.  They are largely the same thing, but Jesus shifts the emphasis.  He gets more specific in defining what goodness is.  He says that goodness is ministering to people in need.  Goodness is serving and assisting suffering people.  

As a kid growing up and listening to my dad read this passage in church, I remember feeling impatient because it is so repetitive.  You have to go through each of the 6 classes of suffering person 4 times!  Hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison.  

But that is part of the point.  It is too easy for people to let themselves off the hook and decide that some are “truly needy” and some are not.  We’ll gladly help the homeless or the hungry, but strangers?  Foreigners?  The undocumented?  “Illegals”?  Not so much.  Sick people?  Fine; but prisoners?  Criminals?  Maybe not.  And then only some sick people are worthy; but those with diseases we have attached some kind of moral judgment to, like AIDS or STDs, we’re slower about.  I think Jesus is encouraging us to pay attention to the less popular, even socially outcast and hated, people who are suffering.

But the most important thing here that we have to wrap our heads around is the way that Jesus identifies with these suffering people.  And if Jesus is identifying with them, then God is.  He says that the way we meet him is in the pain and deprivation of needy people.  By extension, we meet him as well in our own broken, weak, and failing places.

So there are two things going on here.  First and most obvious is the imperative for the nations to serve suffering people.  That is the measurement of a nation’s value: the degree to which it lifts up and gives help to those who are downtrodden or victims.  That is how we obtain God’s blessing.  That is how we “inherit the kingdom prepared for [us] from the foundation of the world.”  If we serve such people, and organize our society in this direction, then we are welcome in God’s household.

And there is another less recognized dimension to this.  Jesus says that if we are these suffering people, if we identify with them, if we share in their losses, then we are united with him in God.  That is how we become divine ourselves: by losing what we have.  By embracing this kind of life, which he describes at the beginning of his ministry in terms of poverty of spirit, purity of heart, grieving, gentleness, mercy, needing justice, making peace, and enduring persecution, that we find ourselves blessed.  In these ways we are identifying with God. 


Salvation is about reversal.  It is about identifying where our energy is weak and where is is strong, and then acting to bring that into balance by taking from one place and building up the other.  This is a model that happens in the largest framework of the relationship between God and creation, where God’s goodness overflows in creative, self-emptying generosity.  It happens in the structure of society, as we see in the Torah, which both Ezekiel and Jesus understand as constantly mitigating against corrosive and toxic inequalities of wealth and power.  Violence and injustice separate us from God and leave us lost in eternal punishment.  We are to distribute what we have so that we leave no one in need, in pain, or unfree.  

And it happens even within individuals as we find our real purpose, strength, and life not in our accomplishments and successes.  But the light shines through our broken places, our losses make room for blessings, and our true life emerges when we let go in generosity, goodness, gratitude, and grace.


Let Your Love Grow.

Matthew 25:14-30
November 19, 2017


After the parable about the wise and foolish bridesmaids, and just before his final parable about the Last Judgment, Jesus delivers what would become his most wildly misunderstood parable, that of the Talents.  It is misunderstood because people choose — against everything else Jesus has been teaching and saying and doing for his entire ministry — to read it in a self-serving and literal way, imagining that it is about economics.  Jesus, they insist, is here blessing our efforts to make money.  They even think his last words here, about those having more getting more and those have less losing, are about money.

The Lord was probably hoping that by the time we got to chapter 25 we would have some rudimentary understanding of him and his ministry, so we would not be inclined to interpret him that way.  Jesus has already repeatedly and categorically rejected wealth as something to strive for, culminating with his dismissal of a Roman coin as something Caesar has stolen from God.  

In truth, this parable is no more about economics than the Parable of the Sower is about agriculture or the Parable of the Leaven is about pastry.  In this parable he is simply drawing an analogy from the economic system of the time and using it to talk about the spiritual life in a way people might understand.  Indeed, because of what we know Jesus is about, his use of economic imagery actually undercuts and neutralizes precisely the kind of bullying, acquisitive, extractive behavior he talks about in the parable.

In the parable, he presents the three slaves of a departing Master.  The slaves are left with talents to manage according to their abilities.  A “talent” is a very large sum of money, like perhaps a quarter of a million dollars.  One gets 5 talents to manage, one gets 2, and one gets 1.  He does not tell them what to do with this money.  He simply entrusts his wealth to them to manage while he is away.  Presumably they are to manage it according to the values and example of the Master.  They are to do what he would do.

Jesus is preparing his followers for life after his death and resurrection when they will not have his physical, mortal, temporal presence as a separate individual to listen to.  But, like the Master in the parable, he is leaving with them his “wealth.”  

Jesus, of course, has virtually nothing that we would consider material wealth.  He has no money that we know of.  He does not own any property.  Neither does he even have much in the way of possessions.  So what is this “wealth,” what are the “talents,” that he leaves in the charge of his disciples?  What are the assets or properties of Jesus?  What does he give us “to trade with” while he is gone?

Based on Jesus’ last words before his ascension, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” I suggest that Jesus leaves us himself in a different form.  Of course, we have memories of him and of his example of how to live.  What we also now have is the message of good news for the world about God’s love which he embodies.  And this is not just words, but a way of life.  So that the “wealth” he leaves us with is the ability to live as he lived.  The “talents,” in other words, are the specific things that Jesus does in his life and ministry that he gives to his disciples to embody as well.


We see one listing of these qualities in the Beatitudes back in chapter 5.  They include spiritual poverty, grieving, hungering for righteousness, a gentleness, peacemaking, mercy, purity of heart, and the endurance of persecution.  We might also add the things in chapter 11 that Jesus himself does that he says verify his identity: “the lame walk, the blind receive their sight, lepers and cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to them.”  These are the among “talents” that Jesus bestows upon the church at his resurrection.  We are given these kinds of things to do in his name.

Some disciples, perhaps farther along in their spiritual journey, receive a 5-fold package of these blessings.  Some only get a double share.  And some receive them but in a small degree.  What they get is based on their ability, or power.  They receive what they are able to handle.  They receive what they are able to process and transmit according to their repentance and their faith.

First, I need to say a word about the fact that these were the Master’s slaves.  Jesus is not condoning slavery as an economic and social practice.  No one steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures, which are the record of a band of liberated slaves and their descendants, could ever give any kind of approval to slavery.  But he is saying that while perfect obedience to an earthly master is a deep, corrupt, lethal, and perverse evil, perfect obedience to God is the highest good.  To be God’s slave is to be the slave of no one; it is to find absolute freedom to be your true self in God.

The first slave “went off at once and traded with” what he receives.  That means, he reflects and expresses in his life and relationships these qualities of love and goodness we see in Jesus.  He spreads the good news.  He is an agent of healing and reconciliation, compassion and justice, peace and blessing in the world.  He functions like salt and light in bringing balance and truth into people’s lives.  To trade with something is to give it away, to exchange it, to plant it in the soil so that it grows, to invest it, to let it shine so that people will desire it and give of themselves in order to receive it.

Again, in his final words, Jesus tells us what this looks like.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  We make disciples by sharing these gifts, these talents, and letting them shine.

We make disciples by being disciples.  Indeed, we make disciples of Jesus by being Jesus.  That is, we allow his light to shine in our lives by doing the kinds of things he does.  We exhibit humility, simplicity, generosity, and forgiveness.  We welcome the outcast and unpopular.  We give to those in need.  We call out hypocrisy.  We live in prayer and joy and equality with all.


The slave who gets the 5 talents generates 5 more, which is to say that these qualities of Jesus are infectious.  Like the seeds in the parable of the sower, they grow and bear fruit.  In this case, the investment of goodness and blessing doubles.  The slave who gets the 2 talents has the same result, a rate of return of 100%.  There is no economy of scale here, in which the greater investment gets a higher rate.  But forgiveness inspires more forgiveness, simplicity more simplicity, justice and compassion and non-violence return more justice, compassion, and nonviolence.

Because of the way Christians live, there is less hatred in the world.  Because of the way Christians live, there is less fear and anger stifling people’s lives.  Because of the way Christians live, people are less prone to act out of greed, gluttony, lust, envy, or the other sins.  Individuals, families, and communities are healthier.  The earth is less abused and exploited.  Slavery is rarer, as are war, torture, imprisonment, and bigotry.  Walls come down.

That’s how it’s supposed to work when the followers of Jesus function like leaven or salt or light, and start influencing the whole society with Jesus’ way of life.   

When Jesus returns, what the disciples have to show for their application of what he places in their care is a better world.  More people follow Jesus, which means that the example of the disciples moves others to live in the same way.  Because of their work with what they have been given the world looks just a little more like Jesus.

The third slave, however, does not take the blessings of repentance and discipleship into the world.  He does not apply Jesus’ teachings in his relationships.  He does not advocate for Jesus’ principles in his life.  He keeps it a secret.  He “dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”  He hides the light God gives to him under a basket.  He continues in the world according to the world’s standards, and only holds Jesus’ Way in his mind as an idea.  It does not get put into practice.

Worse, he might call himself a “Christian,” while in his actions he upholds hatred, inequality, division, and exclusion.  He has stuffed God’s gift of love where it can do no good, and returns it only to God perhaps in the form of worship.  But worship without discipleship is empty.  Several of the prophets rail unambiguously against piety that does not bear fruit in justice.  That’s what this guy does.

He does what he does out of fear.  He says he is afraid of the Master, that is, God, but in reality he is probably afraid of what others will think of him.  Perhaps he is afraid of failure… but he seems to indicate that he is also even more afraid of success and what that will require of him.  

If we who claim to follow Jesus are indistinguishable from everyone else in the rat race, we are not effective.  We have buried our gift.  We have let the world stay as  broken, hurt, violent, lost, and enslaved as ever.  We have succumbed to fear and not trusted the perfect love that it casts out all fear.


In order for us to understand Jesus we have to realize the importance of flow.  The spiritual talents are not static, solid, material things; they are the only experienced as the flow of God’s love into the world.  It is dynamic and always moving.  If you try to hold onto it, you lose it; but if you let it go you receive even more.

When Jesus says: “to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away,” he means those through whom more of God’s love flows, will receive more.  God’s love will pour through them like a firehose!  But those who have blocked their own receptivity out of fear receive nothing because they have no flow.  Even what little they have will just evaporate.

What God gives to us — love, compassion, mercy, healing, acceptance, justice, and joy — is intended to be given away, and if it is given away it increases.  We need to become clear channels for God’s goodness and truth to flow.  These talents are more like nozzles, openings, conduits, spigots.  The more open we are, the more we experience the joy of the Master, the Lord Jesus, our God.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Stay Oiled.

Matthew 25:1-13
November 12, 2017


Matthew 25 is the last chapter before the Passover comes and Jesus enters his final week in Jerusalem.  Jesus appears to get less “nice” the closer he gets to his death.  In the previous chapter He delivers these dire predictions about the days to come and the end of the world.  Here, where we might expect Jesus to gently remind the bridesmaids to share with each other because there will always be enough lamp oil in God’s Kingdom, he delivers a stark and harsh message.  If you don’t prepare and make sure you have enough oil to last, you will be shut out of the Bridegroom’s banquet.  We want Jesus to be all forgiving and welcoming; but here he is slamming the door in the faces of people who profess to love him, just because of their absentmindedness and forgetfulness.  Why is he so mean?

Jesus reminds us here that grace isn’t cheap.  He is indeed all about acceptance, welcome, mercy, and forgiveness.  But Jesus is not going to adapt the laws of nature and God to accommodate us if we have not taken him seriously and engaged in a discipline of repentance, that is, if we haven’t sought with all our heart to see our way of thinking and acting change.  There is a certain quality of receptivity which is required from us.  The classic example is Mary, when she agrees to the angel’s plan that she bring the Messiah into the world.

The fact is that we can still block and obstruct the flow of God’s grace into our lives and into our world through us.  One of the ways we do this is by reducing discipleship to a personal hobby we do on the side but which does not transform our whole life.  It is very easy to forget the magnitude and significance of what faith is about, and fall back into a complacent, unconscious, clueless, carelessness.

In Jesus’ parable, we find 10 bridesmaids waiting together for the bridegroom.  (They are probably accompanying the bride, but she is not mentioned.)  In this case the wait is drawn out, night falls, and the bridesmaids all fall asleep.  The bridegroom finally shows up in the middle of the night.  The bridesmaids awake and get themselves ready to escort bride and groom to the wedding, but half of them don’t have enough oil in their lamps to light their way.  The other 5 have enough oil, but not enough to share without risking all the oil running out before the get to the wedding.  The other 5 have to resort to the market in the middle of the night and find someone willing to sell them some oil.

The bridesmaids, all 10 of them, represent us, the disciples, the followers of Jesus, the people of God.  The long delay could be this time of our mortal existence in the faith, when we remain in the world, but know that Jesus is calling us not to be of it.  It is when we are striving to live according to values and practices that are completely out of synch with what is considered normal in society.  It is the time in which we await and seek to resonate in advance with the fullness of the Lord’s appearance and reality to us.  In other words, the situation of the bridesmaids is the existence we lead now.
The falling asleep is the encroachment of normal sleep-walking existence we all undergo, even as believers.  None of us are fully awake to the Presence of the Lord while we are in this mortal/temporal life.  But this is not a problem.  All the bridesmaids fall asleep.


How do we awaken to the Presence of the Bridegroom in our lives and in our world?  When do we hear the voice calling us, “Look!  Here is the Bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!”?  In other words, when do we realize the truth that Jesus Christ is here, in our lives, in our world, in creation, with us, among us, around us?

I think that realization can and does happen at any time.  For it is not Christ who is absent; it is we who are not recognizing him.  It is we who forget that he is always here, and so stop seeing him.  

Part of the purpose of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is this remembering of Jesus.  In the Sacrament we are to bring back into our minds this fundamental truth of the faith, which is that Jesus is here, all the time.  We just have to open our eyes and wake up to his Presence, in the same way that we discern his Body in the Sacrament — in the bread and the cup, in the gathering of God’s people, in the words of Scripture, even in the world.  

What we do in the Sacrament is supposed to give us the tools to extend that interior way of seeing and perceiving outward into the rest of our lives.  The whole world and all our experience becomes sacramental when we realize that it’s not just about this few moments around this table, but it is really about taking this broadened awareness away with you so that you begin to be awake to Jesus’ saving Presence in everything.  

The parable goes on to focus on our capacity to respond adequately to his Presence.  Do we have enough oil in our lamps to take advantage of those peak moments when we do finally get it?  Do we have enough resources to be able to tell the good news of God’s love?

The “oil” that Jesus is talking about is the fruit of repentance in our life.  That is, it is the love, compassion, blessing, and peace that comes over us when we engage in the life of transformation in Christ by the Spirit.  It is the ability to trust in Jesus with our whole lives.  

Can we keep the light of faith burning brightly all the while?  Did we cultivate all along the new way of thinking and acting that repentance is about, thus building up a kind of reserve in our hearts to fall back on when we need it?  Are we in the habit of living forgiving, welcoming, accepting, liberating lives in Jesus’ Name?  Are we enough in the habit of repentance and discipleship, that our peak experiences don’t just quickly dissipate into forgetfulness?  

Or do we find ourselves not in the Presence of the Lord Jesus, but stuck on line in exactly the opposite place: the market, where we are trying desperately to buy from someone else what we could have been generating for ourselves by our own faithfulness?


We will see in a couple of weeks, with the magisterial culmination of chapter 25 in the parable of the Last Judgment, where Jesus says exactly  where we find his living Presence among us.  He says we will find himself in the needy, broken, lost, and hurting people around us.  Serving them is serving him.  Becoming one with them is becoming him.  His whole ministry is bookended by the lifting up of poverty of spirit, humility, gentleness, and grief in the Beatitudes back at the beginning in chapter 5, and the lifting up of the poor and the suffering at the close of his ministry at the end of chapter 25.

This is how the Bridegroom shows up among us.  We see him in the people in need whom we meet in the course of our day.  We perceive him as well in our own inner places of raw pain, loss, weakness, and vulnerability.  Here’s how we will know whether we have oil in our lamp:  Are we able to bring God’s light into others’ darkness?  Are we able to be the light illuminating the way for love to proceed into the world, and into the lives of people?  

Or are we still stuck at the store trying to buy it… which is not how we acquire it anyway?  This only reveals that we didn’t know what the oil really was to begin with.  If we imagined it could be bought at all, we have missed the point.  This oil does not come through the machinery of the secular  economy.  We do not acquire it from dealers.  It is more like the living water Jesus talks about: it wells up from within us.  

For the oil only runs out for us if we block it by our hardheartedness,  carelessness, and forgetfulness.  If we show judgment and condemnation, if we cave in to our anger and fear, if we reject and exclude, we block the light that wants to shine through us into the world.  If we are lost in selfishness and greed, that only sees others as means to accomplish our self-serving agendas, then our spiritual fuel is completely depleted, and we are only stumbling around in the darkness.    

But if we live lives of compassion, following Jesus in generosity, humility, gentleness, and empathy, that oil will continually refill within us like the bottle that belongs to the widow in the story about Elijah.  You’ll always have more than enough to light the way to Jesus’ banquet; you’ll never have to go to the store to buy for lamp oil.  This kind of oil the store doesn’t carry.

In the end the foolish and late bridesmaids show up at the wedding with  store-bought oil fueling their lamps, and they are not admitted.  The bridegroom says he doesn’t know them.   


The moral of the story, Jesus says, is: “Keep awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  It is an odd ending since all the bridesmaids fell asleep, and had they all stayed awake it would not have changed the lamp-oil situation at all.

It is more like he means “stay prepared.  I may show up in your life at any time.  Keep on being the light of the world as I called you.  Realize that the oil I give you keeps flowing and replenishing the more you use it.  This is the oil of compassion and justice, peace and love.”

This is our calling while we are waiting for the Bridegroom.  It is to shine his light into the world in his name, so that when we see him, he may see and recognize us, and welcome us into his wedding banquet.  And may we see him soon.  In the faces of friends and neighbors, in the face of the beautiful and abundant creation, and even deep within our own hearts.  May we hear the call, and go out to meet him with joy!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Services for November

The Service for the Lord’s Day
11/5         All Saints’ Sunday
11/12 The Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost 
11/19 The Twenty-fourth Sunday After Pentecost
11/26 Christ-the-King

Music: PH/G2G


Gathering Music:
Welcome & Announcements 
Entrance Song: 

11/12, 11/19, 11/26
“All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Psalm 100 220/385 

“My Lord, What a Morning” 449/352
Call to Worship 

The time is fulfilled!
The Kingdom of God has come near!
Repent, and believe the good news! Mark 1:15
Filling the Baptismal Font 

11/12, 11/19, 11/26
As many of you as were baptized into Christ 
have clothed yourselves with Christ. 
There is no longer Jew or Greek, 
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female; 
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27, 28

Remember your baptism, and be thankful!

After this I looked, 
and there was a great multitude that no one could count, 
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, 
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, 
robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.  
They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, 
and to the Lamb!” 
And all the angels stood around the throne 
and around the elders and the four living creatures, 
and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,
Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving 
and honor
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! 
Then [one of the elders] said to me, 
“These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; 
they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat; 
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-17

*Hymn/Psalm/Praise Song:

11/5 “For All the Saints” 526/326
11/12 “For Everyone Born” ——/769
11/19 “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” 551/367
11/26 “Praise, My Soul the King of Heaven” 478/620

Prayer for Wholeness 


Eternal God,
in every age you have raised up men and women
to live and die in faith.
Keep us from being indifferent to your will.
You call us to proclaim your name,
but too often we are too busy.
You call us to do what is just,
but we follow our own self-interest.
You call us to live faithfully,
but we are paralyzed by fear.
In your mercy, enable us to follow your way
of justice and peace.
Empower us with courage and commitment
to be your disciples,
that joined with those from ages past 
who have served you with faith, hope, and love,
we may inhabit the kingdom 
you have promised in Jesus Christ. PfR

11/12, 11/19

God of abundance:
in these grey days of increasing chill
let us not forget your overflowing blessings.
For you give us more than enough for all to share.
Keep us from the lie of scarcity.
Rather, let us arrange for fair distribution of your gifts.
Keep us from the obscenity of waste.
Let us bring food to all, that none may go hungry.
Keep us from hoarding, and taking more than we need.
Give us a spirit of generosity.
Keep us from poisoning the land, or modifying life beyond your intent.
Give us a spirit of wisdom and wonder, humility and respect.
Keep us from imagining we have earned what you freely give.
Give us a spirit of gratitude and sharing. PfR  


O Christ our God, you are the true Ruler of our lives.
Yet we slavishly obey our ego-centric fears and desires,
then loudly proclaim how free we are.
You are the Ruler of all creation!
Yet we act like it all belongs to us to dispose of as we please.
You are the Ruler of all nations!
Yet we plan for and threaten war,
depending on weapons for our security.
You are the Ruler of society!
Yet we judge and fear our neighbors who are different.
You are the Ruler of all rulers!
Yet we follow clowns and celebrities,
letting them have power over us.
You rule our miraculous bodies!
Yet we poison ourselves
with noxious chemicals and ideas.
You rule in Truth!
We prefer the delusion that you are distant
and we are on our own.
Reorient our hearts to you, O Christ our God;
and may our lives reflect your peace, justice, and love. PfR

Invocation of the Trinity

Gracious God:
By your Word and Spirit 
you create, redeem, and sustain the whole universe,
holding all things in being, 
bringing life out of death 
and light into darkness.
You carefully and wonderfully fashion us in your Image.
You embrace us and encircle us
in yourself as this timeless and universal dance 
of overflowing love and joy: 
The Holy Trinity.
You are the God who brings forgiveness and peace.
And so we offer our own voices in praise and thanksgiving of you:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

*Gloria: “Glory Be to the Father” 579/581

TF *Procession of the Word

TF A child processes into the Sanctuary carrying a Bible, as the people sing or say the Gloria.
*The Peace

Christ is in the midst of us.
He is and ever shall be.
May the grace and peace of Christ our God be with all of you.
And also with you.

The people exchange words and signs of God’s peace.

*Response: “Halle-, Halle-, Halleluia” (refrain only) ——/591

Halle-, Halle-, Halleluia!
Halle-, Halle-, Halleluia!
Halle-, Halle-, Halleluia!

LW Time With Young Disciples

TF (Our young disciples continue worship and learning downstairs.)


Prayer for Understanding

Enlighten our hearts and minds by your Word, O God.
Open our eyes to the truth of your saving love, revealed in Scripture,
Move our legs to walk in your way of peace.
Open our hands to do your work,
and our arms to welcome others in your name.
For you are the enlightening of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, 
and to you we give glory, now and forever.  

Hebrew Scriptures 

11/5 Micah 3:5-12
11/12 Amos 5:18-24
11/19 Zephaniah 1:7, 12-28
11/26 Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24


Give judgment for me, O God,
and defend my cause against an ungodly people; 
    deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my strength;
why have you put me from you? 
    and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, 
    and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness; 
    and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God. Psalm 43

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; 
    O LORD, make haste to help me.
Let those who seek my life be ashamed
and altogether dismayed; 
    let those who take pleasure in my misfortune
    draw back and be disgraced.
Let those who say to me "Aha!" and gloat over me turn back, 
    because they are ashamed.
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; 
    let those who love your salvation say for ever,
    "Great is the Lord!"
But as for me, I am poor and needy; 
    come to me speedily, O God.
You are my helper and my deliverer; 
    O Lord, do not tarry. Psalm 70

Lord, you have been our refuge 
    from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, 
    from age to age you are God.
You turn us back to the dust and say, 
    "Go back, O child of earth."
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past 
    and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream; 
    we fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; 
    in the evening it is dried up and withered.
For we consume away in your displeasure; 
    we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
Our iniquities you have set before you, 
    and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; 
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; 
    yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
    for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath? 
    who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days 
    that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Psalm 90:1-12

11/26 “O Come and Sing Unto the Lord” Psalm 95:1-7a 214/638


11/5 Matthew 23:1-12
11/12 Matthew 25:1-13
11/19 Matthew 25:14-30
11/26 Matthew 25:31-46


*Affirmation of Faith

The Nicene Creed TF p. 15, “Ecumenical”; LW p. 34

11/12,11/19, 11/26
The Apostles’ Creed TF p. 14, “Traditional”; LW p. 35

Prayers of God’s Creation and People

O Great Healer:
let your Spirit swing 
around us and through us,
over us, under us, and among us,
with healing in her wings,
making us whole
and restoring us to our created goodness.

O Deep Mystery:
Bless all of us here today, 
as we offer our worship and praise to you,
and for all those baptized into your Name of every time and place
who have sought to trust and follow you.

We pray for this holy Earth,
the beautiful garden you have placed in our care:
give us the wisdom and will to conserve it.

And as we gather we also represent our whole community, especially: 
those serving in government…
and all first responders…
travelers and workers… 
the aged and infirm…
the grieving and abandoned…

the sick and the addicted…
the poor and the oppressed…  

the unemployed and the destitute…
the prisoners and captives…

the undocumented, all migrants, and refugees…
indigenous peoples…

victims of war and violence… 
victims of natural disasters…
victims of domestic abuse…
victims of slavery and human trafficking…

and all who remember and care for the needy among us…. 

As you commanded, O Lord,
we pray for our enemies and those who wish us harm….

We pray for all who are persecuted for their faith….

We gather as well with all those who have died in the hope of resurrection,
and are now at rest….

Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord.
In the communion of all the saints, 
we commend ourselves, one another, 
and our whole life to you, O Christ our God,
and to you we render glory,
now and forever.



The Earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof,
the world and all that dwell therein.            Psalm 24:1 

Offertory Music: “” 

*Doxology: “Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow” 592/606

When we do not celebrate the Sacrament we skip to the Prayer of Thanksgiving, below.


Invitation to the Lord’s Table

This is the meal of paradise!
The foretaste of the blessings coming to us,
a sign of abundance and generosity,
forgiveness and deliverance. PfR 

This is the Lord’s table.
Our Savior invites those who trust in him
to share in the feast
which he has prepared.

Let us pray:
We give you thanks, O God,
lifting up our hearts to you in gratitude,
for your love and justice,
your beauty and joy,
revealed and given to us in Jesus Christ.
Give us the vision 
of the commonwealth of peace he establishes. 
Let his resurrection life permeate all we are and do,
as you gather us in holy community.

In Christ we see who we truly are in your eyes:
blessed, holy, good, and precious,
made to be a blessing to
your whole creation. PfR


And so we join our voices 
with those of all your people
in every time and place,
in the angels’ song of praise to you:

Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he,
O blessed is he 
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna in the highest! “St. Anne Sanctus”

Eucharistic Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
TF p. 16, “Traditional”, LW p. 35

Gracious God of life,
in the beginning, 
by your Word and Spirit,
you created the universe 
and declared it very good.
You have fashioned a perfect space for life,
this holy and blessed Earth,
which you designed in balance and grace.
You placed us in this beloved garden, 
to care for it 
and to live in love with you and each other.
You provide for all our needs
and give us an over-abundance of good things to share. 

In the fullness of time 
you came among us in Jesus Christ.
He walked lightly on the Earth,
bringing good news to the poor,
proclaiming release to the captives
and remission of debts,
giving sight to the blind,
liberating the oppressed,
making the lame walk,
welcoming the outcast,
forgiving sinners, 
and even raising the dead.

By giving himself up to death
at the hands of fearful human authorities, 
he identifies with the victims of power:
the colonized and the incarcerated,
the raped and the tortured,
the dispossessed and the marginalized,
the slaves and the exploited,
the lynched and the executed…

But, resurrected by the power of your infinite love,
he overcomes violence and evil,
conquering the power of death.
By the power of your Holy Spirit
his life now spreads over the whole world,
healing, purifying, and protecting, 
reconciling us to you, to each other, 
and even to our true purpose and destiny,
and gathering a holy people
to serve as your witnesses, 

Send your Spirit, O God, upon your holy people,
called out from the world and gathered together,
and upon these holy gifts,
fashioned from the fruits of the Earth,
revealing here and now 
the living and saving Presence of Jesus Christ
with us, within us, around us, and among us.

Through Christ,
with Christ,
in Christ,
all glory and honor are yours,
almighty God,
and to you we render glory,
now and forever,
on behalf of all and for all.

O God,
like a mother hen you are always gathering your children,
and so we are bold to pray the prayer that Jesus taught us,
saying: Our Father….

The Breaking of Bread

The Lord Jesus 
took bread, 
and when he had given thanks, 
he broke it.
and gave it to his disciples, saying, 
“This is my body.  Do this in remembrance of me.” 

The minister takes the loaf and breaks it in full view of the people.

In the same way he took the cup, saying, 
“This is the new covenant in my blood
which is poured out for many 
for the forgiveness of sins.” 
Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

The minister fills the cup and lifts it in the view of the people.

Behold the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.
He restores and makes holy
all those who share in him.

The Holy Communion of the People

With hearts trusting in an awesome God, 
come to the Table.  
Blessed is the one 
who comes in the name of the Lord.
Receive the Body of Christ:
taste the fountain of immortality.
Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

The people come to the Table to share in Christ’s body and blood by intinction:
taking a piece of bread, dipping it into the cup, and eating it.
TF Those who wish to pray with the pastor before or after communion
may meet with him to the side.

May the Body and Blood of Christ our God bring you to everlasting life.

Communion Music: 

Closing Prayer 

Gracious God,
we give you thanks
that in Jesus Christ,
who is your Word,
you have emptied yourself,
becoming flesh to dwell among us
full of grace and truth.
In giving his life for the life of the world
he sets us free from sin and death,
and shows us your holy way of love.
He gives us your Holy Spirit
by whom he is present with us even now,
gathering us into one beloved community.
and sending us into the world
with the good news of your love.

Or, if we do not celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the service resumes here from the Doxology, above:
11/12,11/19, 11/26

*Prayer of Thanksgiving and the Lord’s Prayer

Gracious God,
we give you thanks
that in Jesus Christ,
who is your Word,
you have emptied yourself,
becoming flesh to dwell among us
full of grace and truth.
He brings good news to the poor,
proclaims release to the captives,
gives sight to the blind,
liberates the oppressed,
makes the lame walk,
welcomes sinners, 
and even raises the dead.
In giving his life for the life of the world
he sets us free from sin and death.
And he gives us your Holy Spirit
by whom he is present with us even now,
gathering us into one beloved community.
and sending us into the world
with the good news of your love.

O God,
like a mother hen with her chicks,
you are always gathering your children.
And so we are bold to pray in the words Jesus taught us,
saying: Our Father….


11/5 “What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine” ——/837
11/12 “O What Shall I Render?” 557/——
11/19 “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” ——/647
11/26  Crown Him with Many Crowns” 151/268



God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord your God.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol....
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet... anything that belongs to your neighbor.         From Exodus 20:1-17

11/12, 11/19
“Hear, O Israel:
the Lord your God is one!
And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Jesus says this is the first and the greatest commandment;
and that the second is like it: Mark 12:29-31
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18 

May our lives shine in obedience to these two commandments.


The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord be kind and gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor,
and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

*Choral Benediction: “Goodness Is Stronger Than Evil” —-/750



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