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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