WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Through an observance such as World Communion, God reminds us about the wide reach of God to create and include people in a community that is both centered and diverse.
Christian communities around the globe today will gather around the center of God’s gracious love in Jesus, who is the host for the Lord’s Supper, our communion with God and with one another. Yet the forms of that table and meal will vary greatly. Not just in materials, but in what people believe they are gathering around – and how.
We think of some ‘differences’ in belief that might forbid or exclude participation if one does not believe exactly the same way. What does that say about the Christian family? How might someone see and think about such exclusions or non-inclusions at Jesus’ Table?
A few years ago I had the privilege of co-officiating at a wedding of two graduate students. The groom was a Lutheran from Wisconsin; the bride was a Roman Catholic from Mexico. The wedding was going to be in her hometown, in the Cathedral -- on the day before Reformation Sunday. The abbot of the Benedictine order there was the co-officiant. I was staying at ‘his’ monastery.
I did not meet him until right before the wedding. He was sitting in the sacristy calmly in his vestments, including a simple, lovely, white chasuble. When I entered to get vested, he got up, shook my hand, and gave me an identical chasuble to wear for the service. My Spanish is not good; his English also not so extensive. But he said two words in English I will never forget as he gently handed me that chasuble. He looked me in the eye and said to me: “Same. Equal”. To me it said, “welcome, brother!”
During the service, for the sacrament of the altar, he went to the Table. He turned and with his hand motioned me to join him, to stand with him, beside him. After he said the words in Spanish, he gave me, in turn, the bread and the cup to hold and to lift up. Then he and I stood side-by-side to share the very presence of Jesus with people. For me, it was an experience of the Kingdom of God. It was a communion I will never forget.
For further reflection:
How do we greet one another around Jesus’ Table of Grace: same, equal or . . . . . . ?
PRAYER OF THE DAY
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them,
keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
LESSONS AND PSALM
Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32
CHILDREN’S SERMON: “Right”
SERMON: “A Shift in God – or in Us?
WORD OF THE WEEK – from Ezekiel 18
25Yet you say, "The way of the Lord is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
FIRST LESSON from Ezekiel 18: 1-4, 25, 32
The word of the LORD came to me: 2What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? 3As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
25Yet you say, "The way of the Lord is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29Yet the house of Israel says, "The way of the Lord is unfair." O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.
SECOND LESSON from Philippians 2:1–13
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 21:23–32
When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" 24Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 26But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." 27So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
28"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
OCTOBER 8, 2017
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
We are privileged to live, work, or go to school in a lovely part of God’s vast vineyard. We can visit, tour, and sample at lots of wonderful vineyards throughout the Finger Lakes. Which are your favorites and why: the types/taste of the wine, the view of the lake, the people, the food?
People come from far and wide to visit these wineries in our backyard. What a delightful ‘at home’ privilege we have that they are here.
Of course, you have been at a winery and encountered some people who may not have been behaving so well. That makes it tough for other guests, as well as for the staff.
The lessons this week share images of vineyards and of people not behaving so well, not being responsible to the vineyard owner.
In the gospel Jesus tells a story that is shocking and absurd. Tenants kill the owner’s son, imagining they will get to keep the vineyard for themselves. It’s all about them. As it too often is.
Jesus warns there will be a reckoning. Those tenants will be reminded that the vineyard is not theirs, but belongs to another. The owner will remove those bad tenants and bring in new tenants who may be better at taking care of the owner’s wonderful vineyard – and share it’s fruit.
For further reflection:
Who do you think are good or bad tenants in the Lord’s vineyard and why?
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Beloved God, from you come all things that are good. Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right, and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
LESSONS AND PSALM
Psalm 80: 7-14
CHILDREN’S SERMON: “Grapes”
SERMON: “What is worse than Trespassing?”
WORD OF THE WEEK – from Matthew 21
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
FIRST LESSON from Isaiah 5: 1-7
Righteousness, but heard a cry!
Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
2He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
SECOND LESSON from Philippians 3:4b–14
[Paul writes:] If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 21:33–46
33 [Jesus said to the people:] "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.' 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40 "Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41 They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time."
42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures:
'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes'?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
OCTOBER 15, 2017
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
We come to the Ides of October. Campuses are re-populated after Fall Break. That means we are over half-way through the semester. Really?
For some students, faculty or staff that may be a little shocking. It may be a rude reminder that finals are coming sooner than expected. What would happen to a student who was too busy to show up for finals?
We have a similar question in the gospel lesson today. The occasion is not something anxious like finals though. The occasion is something wonderful and joyous: a wedding feast.
In Jesus’ parable the potential guests are not so well mannered as to just decline the invitation. They ridicule, mistreat, and kill the ones bringing the invitation from the King. Justice will be served. The king sends his army to balance the equation by taking out the evildoers.
But now there is room for more people at the wedding feast. The king sends out servants to invite people in from the streets. Many pour in. But the king kicks out one guy who is not wearing a wedding garment. What? Does that sound a bit unfair?
After all, this guy sets out that day to go to work or do his shopping and all of a sudden finds himself in a wedding feast. Just because he didn’t put on his tux that morning to get groceries, now he is being kicked out?
When people entered such weddings in Jesus’ day, I am led to understand that the host provided a party ‘robe’ of sorts for each guest. Maybe it protected the clothing of the guests. Maybe it signaled that all were there on the same foundation – i.e., as guests and recipients of the host’s hospitality. Maybe it covered up the different kinds of clothing and bling the guests wanted others to see about them.
The one who did not accept or wear such a gift was asked out of the event. A similar message was conveyed last week through the story of the tenants of the vineyard who did not accept their relationship with the vineyard owner. As if saying, “I do not need, I do not want, I will stand on my own, not as a guest/tenant of another.”
What are the implications for our lives? Do we not want to cover up our fine clothes which we like and have bought and are proud of and look great in – and feel better than others? Do we not want to put on that robe because it will cover up the medals we have earned, the status to which we are entitled by the fruit of our labors?
Okay, this parable suggests. Cling to not putting on the alien robe (of righteousness) and you will not be at the feast.
For further reflection:
What does this hard parable suggest to you?
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples and poured out your life with abundance.
Call us again to your banquet. Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure, and transform us into a people of righteousness and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
LESSONS AND PSALM:
CHILDREN’S SERMON: “Companion ”
SERMON: “ God’s Guard of Peace ”
WORD OF THE WEEK – from Philippians 4
7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
FIRST LESSON from Isaiah 25: 1-9
O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
it will never be rebuilt.
3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
5the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
6On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
7And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
8he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
9It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
SECOND LESSON from Philippians 4:1–9
My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Matthew 22:1–14
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
8"Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
14"For many are called, but few are chosen."