Prelude: Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYANPc6_1uw
Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation. Amen
Confession and Forgiveness
Trusting in the mercy of God, let us confess our sin. Reconciling God, we confess that we do not trust your abundance, and we deny your presence in our lives. We place our hope in ourselves and rely on our own efforts. We fail to believe that you provide enough for all. We abuse your good creation for our own benefit. We fear difference and do not welcome others as you have welcomed us. We sin in thought, word, and deed. By your grace, forgive us; through your love, renew us; and in your Spirit, lead us; so that we may live and serve you in newness of life. Amen.
Absolution: Beloved of God, by the radical abundance of divine mercy we have peace with God through ☩ Christ Jesus, through whom we have obtained grace upon grace. Our sins are forgiven. Let us live now in hope. For hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Gathering Hymn: Gather Us In, ELW 532 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbNXqjwh8is
The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And also with you.
Have mercy on us, Lord, and hear our solemn prayer. We come to hear your living word; it saves us from despair.
Have mercy on us, Christ, and wash away our sin. Pour out your grace and make us whole that new life may begin.
Have mercy on us, Lord, make sun and shame depart. Renew us with your saving pow’r, create in us new hearts!
Prayer of the Day: God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself. Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy, we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Selection of the Faithful: There’s a Wilderness in God’s Mercy, ELW 588 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=metLqEhcesY
HEARING GOD’S WORD
First Reading: Exodus 19:2-8a
2[The Israelites] had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”
7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8aThe people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
Psalm: Psalm 100
1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!
2Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with a song.
3Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.
4Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and the courts with praise;
give thanks and bless God’s holy name.
5Good indeed is the Lord, whose steadfast love is everlasting,
whose faithfulness endures from age to age.
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-8
1Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Gospel Acclamation: Alleluia! Lord and Savior; open now your saving word. Let it burn like fire within us; speak until our hearts are stirred. Alleluia! Lord we sing for the good news that you bring.
Gospel: Matthew 9:35–10:8 [9-23]
35Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
10:1Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [9Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
One of my favorite Christmas stories is found in a poem by Helen Steiner Rice that was adapted from an old German Legend. Conrad, an old shop keeper, bereft of family and lonely, heard in prayer on Christmas morning that the Lord would visit him on Christmas day. He was so excited, cleaned and decorated his house. When he heard a knock, he rushed to the door. A shaggy beggar was at the door. Conrad invited him in and gave him a pair of shoes. Early afternoon another knock was heard and Conrad saw an old beggar lady. He brewed a cup of tea for her and spent time with her. Late afternoon, a third knock was heard and he was sure it was the Lord. He opened the door and there was a little lost child looking for his home. Conrad walked him home and realized the Lord was not going to visit. Conrad knelt in prayer by his bed asking the Lord what kept him from calling on him. The Lord replied, “Three times My shadow crossed your floor, Three times I came to your lonely door. For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet. I was the woman you gave to eat. And I was the child on the homeless street.”
Let us pray: The Lord be with you! May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Our text today circles back to the beginning of Matthew. Matthew opens with Jesus’ long Jewish lineage – interestingly traced through Joseph, his adopted father, and the report of his incarnation in Bethlehem, visited by the Maggi. He was carried to Egypt in a time of great political injustice. The family returned later but moved to Nazareth because of political tension and faced the music of his questionable birth. There he grew to adulthood. In Chapter 3, John the Baptist baptized Jesus and he was driven into the wilderness to be tested. Chapter 5-7 share the Sermon on the Mount, his State of the Union Address of what His kingdom is about. Chapter 8 we find him traveling around, collecting disciples, healing, teaching and ministering, to Jews, to the Centurion, calming the waters of illness and despair. Today in Chapter 9 we pick up the story as Matthew shares about Jesus sending forth His disciples into ministry. We are the inheritors of the text today. So let us open our ears!
“he (Jesus) had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Compassion is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and really feeling for them. In the tale, Conrad felt the poverty of the old beggar, the hunger of the old woman and the lostness of the little child. Jesus looks at his people, identifying with them and feeling their situations, their helplessness. I have seen three sheep walk right in front of a charging bus I sat in because the sheep infront of them was crossing the road. They followed. Without a shepherd we have no directional leadership, no goal, no protection and we walk infront of buses. We are vulnerable. Today we often hear, I was a “the victim.” We do not say we are sheep but we do use victim language. People are victims of the establishment, victims of disease, victims of poverty, victims of accidents. We are controlled by circumstances external to ourselves and hence not responsible for our situations.
The question I hear confronting me is not only how I understand myself but also how I understand “the other.” Do I see the other as “the needy,” “the unfortunate”, “the disenfranchised,” or do I see them as partners, as people with whom interactions improve me as well as help them? Is God’s ministry a tax write-off, a responsibility, or is it something I have compassion to walk along side? Jesus assures us the harvest is plentiful but are we willing to labor? What is our motive?
Jesus’ motive was compassion and his method was people, you and me. What do you notice about the list of 12 disciples? I noted that they are listed two by two, in pairs: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James and Thaddeus, AND Simon and Judas. 12 men changed the world. So who is your partner? Can you hear the voice of God in Genesis saying, “It is not good for man to be alone’”? It does not have to mean marriage but it does means community and teamwork. Bethany is a team serving God and when we grumble with each other we diminish our effectiveness. We are God’s method, not the TV or Face Book or Twitter. We are God’s method, not the campaign. We express the community of the Godhead and communicate, proclaim the good news.
“The kingdom of heaven has come near!” What does that mean. “Come near” implies to me that we see a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom in the actions of the disciples, the people who represent Jesus. We see healings (hospitals), education (schools), respect for all races and genders, compassion for the struggling and for people who have gone through divorce, abuse, and displacement. We reach out to “the other” through our professions as farmer, doctor, policeman, fireman, and parent. Luther believed that all vocations were opportunities to bring the kingdom of heaven near. We are Christ’s compassion coming near and touching lives.
I remember as a young adult pondering what profession or husband or location, I should choose. As I look back I tend to believe that God worked through and with me in all situations as I was yielded to Him. There was not a magic “right answer” that I had to prepare for but it was in the flow of everyday life that God worked. My message to young people would be “God provides” so do not worry about your provisions but keep connected to your provider, the Lord. Conrad, in our tale, responded to each knock at the door with what he had and in doing so, welcomed the Lord.
The last thing I notice is that our message is a message of peace. I am so grateful for my son in the army who fights for my freedoms and protects helpless people around the world. I am thankful for police and fire and EMTs, all who are there to help in time of need and chaos. I shake the dust off of my feet for those who would lead me into anger and hatred and gossip. That’s not a popular message today but I see it in this text and we must decide for ourselves how to apply it to our situations.
Jesus concludes with the major misunderstanding by others of his motive, his method and his message. He is sending workers, you and me to the harvest not so we become loved and rich but because he has compassion for the lost. We will not be applauded. His message is counter cultural. This world is not the kingdom of heave but “the kingdom of heaven, near” We use our hearts and hands in God’s service. It is not easy to love the dirty, those different from ourselves, and those who do not believe as we do. It is not easy turn the other cheek, to forgive, or to share. We bring peace. Conrad came to the end of his day and fell on his knees believing he had been passed by, not good enough. He had not seen the Lord. The story did not unfold the way Conrad expected. The story unfolded as God wanted.
Hymn of Day: Will You Come ad Follow Me, ELW 798 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liUlxlaCRT0
Apostle’s Creed: Let us join our voices virtually confessing our faith:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of s ins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Or you can listen to the Creed in vocal form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuDI-sk2nJU
Prayers of Intercession
Called into unity with one another and the whole creation, let us pray for our shared world.
Holy One, you bring us together and call us your own. Bless theologians, teachers, and preachers who help us grow in faith. Guide your church, that we might be a holy people. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Holy One, the whole earth is yours. Where there is fire, bring cool air and new growth. Where there is flooding, bring abatement. Where there is drought, bring rain. Inspire us to care for what you have provided. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Holy One, we have created divisions you will not own. In places of conflict , raise up leaders who work to develop lasting peace and reconciliation. Encourage organizations and individuals who care for all forced to leave their homes. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Holy One, you care for those who are harassed and helpless. Protect and defend those who are abused. Heal those who are sick. Feed all who hunger. Empower all whose voices go unheard, and help us respond to the pressing needs of our neighbors. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Holy One, you provide a plentiful harvest of gifts and resources. Prepare us to labor and gather the fruits of this congregation, that we might discover new ways of living. Minister to us in our work, that we do not lose heart. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Holy One, you bring all people to yourself. We give thanks for the holy people who have gone before us. Sustain us in your mission until the day you bear us up to join the saints in light. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Peace: If you are worship with someone else, turn and share, “The peace of Christ be with you always.” Response, “And also with you.” You might use your finger to mark you children or loved one with a cross on their forehead. If you are practicing social distancing, put your palms together in-front of your chest and open them outward to the other to show your blessing of them. Peace!
SHARING GOD’S MEAL
God of goodness and growth, all creation is yours, and your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Water and word, wine and bread: these are signs of your abundant grace. Nourish us through these gifts, that we might proclaim your steadfast love in our communities and in the world, through Jesus Christ, our strength and our song. Amen.
Invitation to Communion
Friends of Jesus, come to the table. Receive nourishment for your journey.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Communion: I invite you to talk a little piece of bread and eat it. Christ is as close to you as the bread in your mouth and stomach. Always remember. Now take a sip of your drink. Christ is as close to you as the blood in your body, strengthening you. Always remember.
Prayer after Communion
God of the welcome table, in this meal we have feasted on your goodness and have been united by your presence among us. Empower us to go forth sustained by these gifts so that we may share your neighborly love with all, through Jesus Christ, the giver of abundant life. Amen.
Blessing: Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God, the creator, ☩ Jesus, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the comforter, bless you and keep you in eternal love. Amen.
Sending Hymn: Holy spirit, Ever Dwelling, ELW 582 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PF6osB4ud8&t=1s
Dismissal: Go in peace. Christ is with you. Thanks be to God.