Proverbs 31 for July 31. Proverbs 31 is famous for its second two-thirds dedicated to the characteristics of a “wife of noble character who can find?” Does she shed light on God as our first priority? Starting at the top of the chapter, the mother of King Lemuel (lemu-el i.e. the one devoted to God) gives advise to her son. Avoid loose women, alcohol, and ignoring those who have no voice is her sage advice to her son. Then comes the description of the good wife or godly woman, focusing on her actions and her fortitude of heart in the face of adversity. Many love the closing verse 30, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and et her works bring her praise at the city gate.” For many, these are comforting words to know our eternal value is not in our youth, our beauty, our intelligence nor wealth. The fear of the Lord, making God our first priority, results in praise. Since we are gender conscious today, I would add that this is not just for women. Fear of the Lord is spoken of generally through out the Bible for men and women, for all. Perhaps the question of what this means is the real issue. I again come to the conclusion that prioritizing God is lived out in the arena of daily decisions. Our lady rises early to go to the market to feed her family. She makes clothes for them with her hands. She serves, invests, trades and is resourceful. She is one busy person but always it is serving those she cares for and not self. We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves and so I do not think our woman sees herself as useless but realizes her importance in the lives of others. So we come round circle to the beginning of the chapter. Prioritizing God is not being flirtatious and deceptive. It is not idling our time and energy in revelry. It is not closing our eyes to the needs of others. But neither is it being great and pompous. Serving those God puts in our path today and using the talents He has given us in the arena before us is prioritizing God. He is faithful and will use our humble offerings. Blessings.
“Two things I ask of you, O Lord…(Prov. 30:7)” Yup, we are back to Proverbs 30 and this bit of wisdom always grabs my heart. What two things does the writer request? He does not want to be too rich lest he forget that God is his first priority and his source of blessing. He does not want to be too poor so that he is tempted to steal his daily bread (Les Miserables), not trusting God to provide. He also asks that falsehood and lies be kept far from him. Perhaps these three things draw us away from God as our first priority. When we are so content we forget our creator. When we are so needy, we offend our creator. When we are so deceived, we do not recognize our creator. Riches, want, and deceit draw us away from truth. Our blessings come from God. God walks with us in our time of need. Lies convince us that we can be God and control our lives as seen in the Garden of Eden. The truth is that life works best when God is our first priority. Blessings as you weave through the temptations of today. May you not “disown” your maker nor “dishonor” Him.
8 In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me at first. 2 In the vision I was looking and saw myself in Susa the capital, in the province of Elam, and I was by the river Ulai. 3 I looked up and saw a ram standing beside the river. It had two horns. Both horns were long, but one was longer than the other, and the longer one came up second. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. All beasts were powerless to withstand it, and no one could rescue from its power; it did as it pleased and became strong.
- Daniel has yet another dream while serving King Belshazzr. Again we suspect that Daniel is deeply distressed about the future of the Jewish people in exile in Babylon. Perhaps the ram represents powers Daniel sees as impossible to fight or stop. It makes me think of the forces impacting our world today and vying for our attention. How would you prioritize the following, 1 is most and 5 is least? Environment______ presidency______ Covid 19______ racial equality______ economic stability______
- What are some of the powers offering answers? ____________
5 As I was watching, a male goat appeared from the west, coming across the face of the whole earth without touching the ground. The goat had a horn between its eyes. 6 It came toward the ram with the two horns that I had seen standing beside the river, and it ran at it with savage force. 7 I saw it approaching the ram. It was enraged against it and struck the ram, breaking its two horns. The ram did not have power to withstand it; it threw the ram down to the ground and trampled upon it, and there was no one who could rescue the ram from its power. 8 Then the male goat grew exceedingly great; but at the height of its power, the great horn was broken, and in its place there came up four prominent horns toward the four winds of heaven.
- Suddenly another force, the goat, appears that defeats the unbeatable ram. Something totally unpredictable happens that impacts the direction of history. Can you think of historical times of great change e.g. the Beattles, the invention of the credit card or ________________________
- What were the characteristics of this change, what happened?______
9 Out of one of them came another horn, a little one, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the beautiful land. 10 It grew as high as the host of heaven. It threw down to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled on them. 11 Even against the prince of the host it acted arrogantly; it took the regular burnt offering away from him and overthrew the place of his sanctuary. 12 Because of wickedness, the host was given over to it together with the regular burnt offering; it cast truth to the ground, and kept prospering in what it did. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one that spoke, “For how long is this vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled?” 14 And he answered him, “For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”
- This phase of the dream is clarified. So go back to question four. Of the major world view changes in our lifetime, how did it specifically impact your life? ______________________________________
15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I tried to understand it. Then someone appeared standing before me, having the appearance of a man, 16 and I heard a human voice by the Ulai, calling, “Gabriel, help this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, “Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
- Daniel lacks knowledge and perspective to understand the dream about the future. Often we are so emersed in the events of the day and all the interpretations offered by social media that we feel lost. Probably we have not been visited by the angel Gabriel but we might have turned to the Bible or church or friend to help us understand the situation we are struggling with. How did that help? __________________________________
- Ultimately prophecy deals with a future that has not unfolded. In Daniel’s case it was called “end of time.” There are many unknowns in our future and how the issues we pondered in question 1 will resolve. Global warming, will it destroy the world or will we be responsible? Pick one of those issues and spin a resolution you would like to see come about.
18 As he was speaking to me, I fell into a trance, face to the ground; then he touched me and set me on my feet. 19 He said, “Listen, and I will tell you what will take place later in the period of wrath; for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The male goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.
23 At the end of their rule, when the transgressions have reached their full measure, a king of bold countenance shall arise, skilled in intrigue.
24 He shall grow strong in power, shall cause fearful destruction, and shall succeed in what he does. He shall destroy the powerful and the people of the holy ones.
25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall be great. Without warning he shall destroy many and shall even rise up against the Prince of princes. But he shall be broken, and not by human hands.
26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 So I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days; then I arose and went about the king’s business. But I was dismayed by the vision and did not understand it.
- Gabriel clarifies the vision for Daniel. Most of those names mean little to us but possibly for modern day people who live in that area of the world, it is their history. Gabriel affirms the truth of the revelation and tells Daniel to seal the vision because it is about the future. I suspect worrying about a future that is unknown to us is unproductive. We can chase many rabbit trails in our mind. But we can turn our worries over to God in prayer. Return to the issues of question 1 and perhaps list three things that might impact the direction of each issue and commit it to the Lord in prayer. Then seal it, arise and “go about the king’s business.”
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) This verse sets the tone for my thinking today. I turned to the Sunday text in Matthew 14:13 that starts, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew…” What might Jesus have heard that would lead him to withdraw to solitude, I pondered. His cousin, John the Baptist, had just been beheaded because King Herod, compromised by a need to keep a drunken promise to his seductive step-daughter who danced for him had to choose between what he knew was right and presenting John’s head on a platter to the young lady. He caved. “Fear of man (or woman)” led to his compromise. How tragic and Jesus grieved. Meanwhile John, a prophet, spoke truth to power and paid with his life. How was he “kept safe”? Both men, Herod and John, were listening to other authorities. Herod listened to his fear of people. John listened to God as his first priority. John paid with his life but entered the kingdom of heaven. Choices we make at the moment have consequences and often only the long term consequences reveal the priorities of our heart.
Today we all face decisions. Is fear driving our heart or faith and trust? Our safety does not rest in approval of man. That’s a snare. Our safety rests in the hand of God who carries us for eternity. May we make God our first priority today and we deal with our situations! Blessings.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is one of my beloved videos, all versions but especially the newest, more musical. Proverbs 28:21 shares, “To show partiality is not good—yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.” My mind immediately leapt to Jean Valjean who stole a loaf of bread to help his starving sister’s family, was caught and thrown into jail for 19 years. He is released but must make a life as a marked felon. Early in the movie, a priest gives him a bed for the night and Jean Valjean steals the silver. Caught again, the priest covers the offense with the police and gives Jean Valjean two silver candlesticks and tells him his life has been spared by God, so live honestly. A plot unfolds of the tension between law and grace, the police representing law and our hero showing kindness to the daughter of a woman, Fantine, wronged in his factory. The book is considered one of the great classics – as is the Bible.
Reading about the book, the article pointed out that the purpose of the book is in the prologue. Hugo shares what he considers “the three problems of the age – the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night” – social asphyxia create the need for his book in all ages. Proverbs, I think, says a similar thing succinctly, partiality is not good and drives people to steal to survive. When God is not our first priority but self, we diminish the other’s humanity and create the problems facing our age, which I find to be exactly the same as Hugo’s, degradation (racism), poverty, and ignorance. In the end of Les Miserables, the policeman who represents law, kills himself, taking on the judgment Jean Valjean deserved, and giving to our hero life. Jesus goes to the cross that we might have life.
Perhaps we are not tempted to steal bread today but the temptation to cut corners, to forget someone else’s humanity, to fight for self is always there. It is only as we choose God’s way that grace blesses and gives hope. Lord help us in our decisions today.
Johnny Wooden is a famous basketball coach of UCLA that I knew about as I am a UC graduate. What I did not know is that he is a graduate of Purdue, a Hoosier! One of his famous sayings I was tempted to use yesterday to introduce my sermon was, “When times get tumultuous, get back to the basics.” He was known for starting training by going over with his winning teams how to put on their socks, or how to tie their shoelaces. Players cannot be at their best with blisters or loose shoe laces tripping them up. Go back to the basics in tumultuous times! Certainly these days feel tumultuous to me as there are riots, illness, and political posturing. Proverbs 27:18 caught my eye this morning with a similar message, “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.” Making first things first, reminds me of going back to the basics of faith and making sure God is my first priority. Perhaps the putting on of shoes is starting the day with prayer or Bible reading. Tying my shoe laces may be a quick mental check to see what the loose strings of anger or bitterness that I need to deal with, forgive, and not let me trip on today. Taking care of the fig tree, that which feeds us and is life to us, is first importance or we will run out of energy to engage in the game of life. Perhaps we need to ask who the master is that we will be serving today – the Lord or the doctor or the family or the job. Putting God as our first priority may not be easy but it is going back to the basics and we will be honored! Blessings as you put on your socks and tie your shoe laces today!
Prelude: “Come into His Presence Singing Alleluia”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtWEngoMdBE
Blessed be the holy Trinity, +one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.
Confession and Forgiveness: Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation. Amen.
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: ELW 526 God is Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbkNXq71iis
Greetings: 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: Beloved and sovereign God, through the death and resurrection of your Son you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy. By your Spirit, give us your wisdom, that we may treasure the life that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Selection of the Faithful: WOV 783 Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsBpM9IcBts
HEARING GOD’S WORD
First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5-12
5At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
10It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.”
Psalm: Psalm 119:129-136
129Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130When your word is opened it gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
131I open my mouth and pant
because I long for your commandments.
132Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
133Order my footsteps in your word;
let no iniquity have dominion over me.
134Rescue me from those who oppress me,
and I will keep your commandments.
135Let your face shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
136My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your teaching.
Second Reading: Romans 8:26-39
26The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Alleluia. Many will come from east and west* and will eat in the kingdom of heaven. Alleluia. (Matt. 8:11)
Gospel: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
31[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Children’s sermon: poppet bead: part of necklace, morani on end of ear
Today our text gives us five images of the kingdom of heaven. Just to give a little context, we are in the season of Pentecost, the season when we review earlier texts not to learn who our God is but to ponder what difference that makes in our lives. We are looking through the eyes of the apostle Matthew. Matthew was one of the twelve apostles, a former tax collector known as Levi. As a tax collector he would have known Greek and Aramaic and been despised for his profession. Jesus called him in Capernaum. Matthew followed and in response gave a banquet for his “friends” thus labeling Jesus as someone who ate with sinners and tax collectors. It is this Matthew whose life was turned around that gives us five pictures today of the kingdom of heaven that has come near. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, like yeast, like a hidden treasure, like a pearl of great value, and like a net used in fishing.
Today, I am going to use a little literary freedom to dig into our text but at the same time draw parallels to the celebration we are having today in the baptism of Alexander. I think this gives us a key to unlock truth for today.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. It starts very small but grows into a great tree that gives refugee and a place for birds to build nests. Now I’m just say’in that it seems very similar to baby Alexander who began life as a tiny being, unknown, unseen but slowly growing to birth and life with his family. What will he become? We do not know. Baptism draws Alexander closer to God, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit from within him while parents, godparents, and church family nurturing him from without to become some day a mighty tree. As Lutherans we do not believe this is just a naming ceremony, nor just a tradition we go through to keep grandparents happy, nor the whisper of a prayer. Baptism, we believe, is a sacrament. The vows we make today are sacred. It’s not standing before the DMV to get a driver’s license. Or changing your driving from the kingdom of Minnesota to the kingdom of Indiana. Baptism is seeking the power of the Holy Spirit to dwell in Alexander, guide him and form him. This is serious business. We are not talking to a judge, we are talking with God.
Not all mustard seeds grow to maturity and perhaps modern day science would tell us that the mustard seed is not really the smallest seed but that does not matter. A seed contains potential that needs care and nurturing, that grows into something not yet predictable. Even so our faith starts as a small seed in our soul and grows. If we don’t water it, prune it, train it, faith can become not much more that a misshapened plant, crawling around in the dirt like a tomato plant for whom no one has built a climbing frame.
The kingdom of heaven has come near and it enters our life as a small seed that grows and changes us. Our lives will never be the same because of Alexander and our lives will never be the same because of faith. Our prayer is that Alexander is nurtured and becomes a large bush where people find refugee and where friends can build their homes.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast. With covid and sheltering, many of us ran to the grocery store and bought yeast to make our own bread so I do not think this is an unfamiliar picture. That spoon of yeast put into three cups of flour mixture, does it’s magic and gradually in about an hour you peek under the towel and the dough has swollen. In fact I had to punch it down and shape it into a loaf or ball and it rose a second time before I baked the bread. There is no finer smell, I think, than bread cooking in the oven.
A child comes into our lives, crying, wanting to eat in the middle of the night, pretty helpless. That baby’s presence permeates our whole life. Even if we go out for a date with our husband, we worry how the little guy is doing. That child grows and we grow with him. Our world expands as we start going to PTA or manage daycare. We watch their values form as children, talents develop in high school, and we anticipate their future choices of jobs and friends. Our lives expand and expand. The church grows too as that child blesses it with it’s cries, laughs and challenges. Babies are a blessing – no matter what bad choices they make or detours they take. Today we pray the Holy Spirit to guide that growth and we commit ourselves to this process. We will never be the same as a community.
The kingdom of heaven is just like this also. It starts small in a location but then grows and expands its impact. Our community garden was an idea that came out of the CONNECT process. It has grown, expanded our vision and impacted our lives. The same is true for the child care center here. Yeast untended can come to naught. My first try at bread, I either put the yeast in too hot water or too cold. It didn’t work. Yeast is not magic. Growth takes kneading, the right environment. Baptism is not magic, is not an automatic guarantee of happy ever after. We have witnesses here today to pledge support. Please do not take this pledge lightly. Forming faith and future is a wonderful trust given you.
The kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure. We do not know what Alexander will become. That is hidden from us. My son once looked at me and asked if I would regret having him if he made wrong choices. I did not know the mistakes he would make nor the struggles I would grieve as he walked through them. When he developed juvenile arthritis at age 4, we cried together – why Lord?? I suspect it is good we do not know the future or we might loose heart. It is hidden but Alexander Is a treasure given to us. We will fly across the country to visit that child when he becomes old and count the money well spent. We will buy clothes, pay dental bills and on and on. The cost to us to develop this treasure is well worth it. Likewise the treasure of faith requires we invest – time in the Word, time in service, time in prayer, time in caring, the resources we use to support faith are well invested.
Jesus continues, it is like finding one pearl of great value we sell all to buy. This image is very similar to the hidden treasure but there is a slight difference. “One pearl” makes me think of the many imitations there are for the one true faith. If we turn on the TV there are so many promises of fulfillment, of a future without wrinkles, without fat, without what or what – we are offered health wealth and prosperity. But in fact there is one pearl of great value. There is only one who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No other name is given among men whereby we may be saved.” As parents, godparents, congregation we pledge ourselves to help direct Alexander to that one pearl of great value. We are not pledging fantastic youth programs. We are not pledging entertaining sermons. We are pledging to hold fast to the truth of the Gospel and to guide Alexander and each other to that one great truth: We can face tomorrow because Christ lives, God holds Alexander’s life in God’s hands, not the next president of the USA, not the IRS, not even the loving parents and grandparents. The kingdom of heaven is one pearl of great value that we stay focused on and help Alexander to grow into.
Lastly I read that the kingdom of heaven is like a net that is cast out and pulls in a catch of fish, good and bad. The bad are sorted out and destroyed. The good are saved in a basket. As I read this it made me think of the many memories that come with the gift of life. Alexander is going to do some very disappointing things. I remember when my twins had ecoli. I put twin 1 on the counter to change his diaper and poop shot out, the length of the bath tub, hitting the far wall. We were in the bush in Africa, two days trip from Nairobi, a radio call away from a nurse and a long way from a pharmacy. How grossed out was I and how scared? Those are the bad fish days that need to be gathered and discarded. We call it forgiveness. God is not committed to Alexander because he is the fantastic prodigy of your fertility but Alexander is God’s creation and God wants to walk with Alexander through the events of his life. The good fish, the blessings and good memories, we save and cherish. The hard times we forgive and release to the past. As we pointed out last week, we do not know the good fish from the bad fish, the wheat from the weeds, that is God’s job at the end of time. As we stand before the baptismal font today, we pledge to walk with God as Alexander’s parents, godparents, grandparents, relatives and congregation. He is a tiny mustard seed that will grow. He is yeast that will change our lives forever. He is a treasure that will unfold before us. We desire he be part of the one pearl of great price and we commit to work towards that, and lastly we promise to forgive that which needs to be forgotten and to cherish his life as it unfolds.
Jesus closes, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Everyone here today is the master of his or her household. We have been trusted with lives around us. We are charged to help develop the new and future even as we cherish the old wonderful memories of their blessing. Thank you Lord for that trust.
Hymn of Day: ELW 603 God, When Human Bonds are Broken https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iyT4rVI7jI
The Apostle’s Creed:
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 sins, 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: Confident of your care and helped by the Holy Spirit, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
Merciful God, your reign is revealed to us in common things: a mustard shrub, a woman baking bread, a fishing net. Help your church witness to the surprising yet common ways you encounter us in daily life. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
When your word is opened, it gives light and understanding. Increase our understanding and awe of your creation; guide the work of scientists and researchers. Treasuring the earth, may we live as grateful and healing caretakers of our home. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
As the birds of the air nest in branches of trees, gather the nations of the world into the welcoming shade of your merciful reign. Direct leaders of nations to build trust with each other and walk in the way of peace. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Your Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for the saints according to your will. Help us when we do not know how to pray. Give comfort to the dying, refuge to the weary, justice to those who are oppressed, and healing to the sick. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.
You show steadfast love and direct us to ask of you what we need. Help this congregation ask boldly for what is most needed. Refresh us with new dreams of being your people in this place and time. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In you our lives are never lost. Strengthen us by the inspiring witness of your people in all times and places. Embolden our witness now and one day gather us with all your saints in light. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the certain hope that nothing can separate us from your love, we offer these prayers to you; 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 blessing of them. Peace!
SHARING GOD’S MEAL
Offering Prayer: 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.
The Great Thanksgiving:
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We left them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
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: ELW 547 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q9HOEDvBwI
Dismissal: Go in peace. Christ is with you. Thanks be to God.
Baptism is one of the first sacred acts we do as parents when our children are born. Tomorrow in worship we will see proud parents, godparents, grandparents, relatives and congregation raise their voices together praying for God’s presence in a young child. It is an action we prioritize in our faith journey. By our actions, our prayers, our faith, we proclaim God as a first priority. I do not usually talk from the Psalm reading but as I reviewed my plan for tomorrow, I was touched by the Psalm.
129Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore I obey them with all my heart.
130When your word is opened it gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
Baptism is not a “decree” invented by people even though literally it means, a washing and setting aside for a special use, but it is part of the Great Commission of Jesus, go and make disciples baptizing them… Tomorrow we will come before God with “all my heart” to pray God’s presence and blessing in a young life. We pray for “light” during our confusing day, for wisdom for parents and family who guide the child. Our hearts’ prayer is for understanding as the child grows from a “simple” child to a wise elder taking a place among peers. One of the ways we show God as a first priority is living into his decrees with joy, obedience and faith in his faithfulness. We need light and understanding! Blessings as you prepare for tomorrow.
Trying to get my mind around our theme for the month, “God, our first priority,” I looked up priority and Matthew 6:33 came up. “But first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We know this verse. We’ve made this verse into a song. When putting the verse in context, the verse right before explains that pagans run after all sorts of earthly things but our “heavenly Father knows that you need them.” The verse after admonishes us against worry.
Of course, we would never call someone a “pagan” in today’s culture. The Message, a more modern day interpretation, talks about people who do not know God who fuss and worry over things. “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving.” “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out.” We are advised to look to the beauty of wild flowers that are so beautiful and often are unseen in their short life span. I am also struck by the use of the word “Father” as in the Lord’s Prayer. When I put seeking in the context of family, the advice softens.
So I ponder if I am seeking to get or seeking to see my “Father’s” gifts to me today. The frustrations and challenges of today perhaps are calls to focus on God and not on my unmet wants. The image of all of us like little flowers blooming on a hillside is fun. Our first priority is to check our focus and make sure we are tuned in to God’s presence in our life today. Your blooming blesses my life. Thanks.
“What is the greatest commandment?” Asked an expert in the law to test Jesus that last week of his life on earth. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:34)”
Love is such a slippery word these days. As a young adult, it was code for “I want to sleep with you, no strings attached.” Perhaps as middle aged spouses, the pain of divorce scarred your life and left a sour taste in your mouth for “love.” Is love something like “magic” as in the movie Sleepless in Seattle? You just know because of a feeling somewhere in a place Americans identify as the heart. At a Marriage Encounter weekend I attended back in the early 70s, we were told that love is a verb, not some feeling floating inside our mind, and thus love is a commitment that comes from the will.
As we ponder this month God as our first priority, it seems that is only possible because we are a first priority to God. We love because he loved us first. We hang in there with that wayward teenager, negligent spouse who doesn’t appreciate us, and forgetful friend, because God gives us the strength to do so. We hang in when things don’t go the way we want and bear that pain. 1 Corinthians 13 has a whole chapter on the characteristics of love, and ends, “Now faith, hope and love abide but the greatest of these is love.”
We started thinking about the command to love God but really, love is not something I can manufacture. I believe love is not magic but a gift. Love is not floating in the air like covid but is embedded in life choices to respond to God and to others. Love is a decision to forgive and persevere. Today as you face challenges to your capacity to love, do not look to self but to God who is love! Blessings.