The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
October 11, 2020
19th Sunday after Pentecost
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Holy One, we gather today with our church family in Your presence. We have learned, we have heard, and we have read in our Bibles that You are always with us, Your presence is always near; yet at times we forget. We should know You are always beside us, within us and beyond us, and yet at times we feel alone and abandoned. Help us to remember Your covenants of old are renewed in our hearts. Help us to know Your peace that passes all understanding and help us to trust in Your presence. When we walk through the dark valleys in our lives, help us to remember You are beside us, comforting us, and holding us close. May we seek Your presence in the lives of those around us, our family and friends, our church family, and in those we encounter in the world. May we seek Your face in the face of others, and may our hands and feet be Your hands and feet in this world. In the name of Jesus, our companion on this journey of faith, we pray. Amen.
PRELUDE Chorale Prelude by Healey Willan
CALL TO WORSHIP
Hurricanes and floods and environmental havoc;
drones and IEDs and handguns;
cancer and heart disease and ebola;
poverty and injustice and oppression.
The ways of death in this world are many.
The words of death surround us.
The fear of death envelopes us.
But we come now to hear a different Word,
a true Word
a life-giving Word.
We are here on Isaiah’s mountain
where tears are wiped away,
where a banquet table has been set,
where death has been swallowed up forever.
We do not fully understand it.
We may not fully believe it.
And yet here it is:
the power of Christ’s life within us and among us.
So let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation!
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
We have sinned and fallen short of what God commands and requires of us. We have no excuses, but we have confidence in the Lord’s promises. Therefore, we are bold to confess our sin to God and with one another.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Lord, you see how stubborn we are, how quickly we turn from you toward idols of our own making, how impatient we are when we do not get what we think we deserve. We forget your providential care for us, the countless ways you provide, your gracious response to our cries for help. We do not think on things like justice and goodness. We are not known for our gentleness. We give in to the loud voices that tell us to tend to our own needs only and neglect the very ones you command us to feed. We cannot justify our behavior, we can only confess it, repent and ask again for your mercy. Forgive us, Lord, so that we can bear witness to your character of loving kindness. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The Lord’s wrath relents, and God instead pours out mercy and grace. Our God refuses to give up on us and instead forgives and frees us. Friends, believe the exceedingly good news, in Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen, amen.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
ANTHEM We Will Glorify by Twila Paris
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Gracious God, the news this week disturbs and scares us. The state of the world, the state of our own hearts, frightens and stuns us. We need your transformative word to call us back to you, to remind us of who and whose we are, to shape us for your service in ways that shine Christ’s light in our darkness. Send your Spirit so that we will hear and respond rightly to your word to your people. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Matthew 22:1-14
22Once 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. 8Then 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.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”
SERMON “Kingdom of Heaven Church”
In writing about our passage for today, Sally A. Brown: Elizabeth M. Engle Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Princeton Theological Seminary, asks whether we will let Jesus’ wedding party change our schedule and our lives?
Boy, howdy–have our schedules changed. Our lives have been dramatically altered. It’s been a whirlwind….a time of uncertainty and massive change. Masks to enter stores and businesses. Gathering with friends on Zoom. Very few sporting events to watch on TV, early on. The school schedule changing drastically – hybrid or virtual. Places of worship closed for a time and the body of Christ trying to figure out how we live into the Kingdom of God under pandemic conditions. The metaphor used in Matthew’s text for today is clothing…wedding clothing. There must be a new outfit to enter into this celebration.
In the early church, when new converts to the church were baptized, they put on a new baptismal garment. The old was cast aside, the new garment was worn. The catechumen’s outfit was changed. It was a symbol of claiming a new life in Christ, of becoming a new person — or at least being on the journey to become the person Christ calls you to be. It is this baptismal garment that Ephesians has in mind when it reads, “Clothe yourselves with the new self.” It’s all over the New Testament. Colossians reads, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” And then Paul says in Galatians, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” These are the clothes we wear at the king’s banquet. We change our wardrobe that changes our life as followers of Jesus Christ because we have received this gift of grace.
It would be my prayer that perhaps one day a member might say something like “I am glad I am a part of the life of the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury because it makes me a better attorney.” Or “I am glad I am in worship at the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury because it helps me be a different kind of supervisor at work.” Or “I am glad I wrestle with my faith at the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury because it helps me be a more effective parent or a deeply creative writer or a kinder barista or health-care aide, or a more joyful presence in my office” or whatever our vocation might be the other six days of the week. The point is that while our faith doesn’t change God’s opinion of us—God loves us beyond our imagining and nothing we do or don’t do will change that—but when we take it seriously, our faith does change us.
For example, this change is why Christians and people of other faith traditions have spent these past several months involved in marches and peaceful protests proclaiming BLM. It is why some Christian leaders, including me, are becoming more vocal in speaking out against the evils of white supremacy and the white nationalist movement. This change is why we need to be more intentional about the hard, yet critical, work of becoming an anti-racist institution. We need to be doing this kind of soul-shaping work because we have put on the wedding garments and we cannot remain unchanged.
Now, let me just add one more thing. While putting on this garment changes every single one of us, for those of us who are white, when it comes to issues of race, we have some additional work to do. For instance, we need to do some deep soul searching about how often, deep inside, we feel like we belong at the center of power, that we deserve to be at the center of all decision-making. For those of us who are white, putting on the wedding garment means we have got to do the challenging work of actively becoming anti-racist people. It is one of the changes the wedding garment requires.
Here is how preacher David Buttrick put it:
What does [this parable] mean for you and for me? Nothing but a new life. If you come into the kingdom of God, do you think you can wear the same old prejudice you wear now? . . . And do you really think you can get away with occasional charity? No, dress up. You will want to match God’s own unlimited generosity with an extravagant love for others, particularly those in need. Anything less would be out of place in the kingdom. Anything else will seem old and shabby. Put on the new—new attitudes, new compassion, new loves. Your old life doesn’t belong at God’s great party.
Remember the story within the story. Jesus wasn’t telling this parable of warning to those who had no idea about God’s claim on their lives. He wasn’t telling this parable of warning to those we might call unchurched or seekers. No, Jesus was telling this parable of warning to the insiders, to those who never missed a Sunday service, to those who volunteered to teach Sunday school, to those who served on the Stewardship Task Force, to those who donated through the Alternative Christmas Bazaar. Jesus was challenging those who thought they already had it figured out as well as those who had put their discipleship on cruise control.
In this last week of his life, in his last visit to Jerusalem, Jesus wanted to wake them up, to shock them into remembering that a life following him could be so much deeper and fuller and more liberating and transformative than they had ever imagined. He wanted them to see that they were barely skimming the surface of what could be. But he also wanted them to know that that kind of transformation and newness would require work on their part. That kind of transformation and newness would require openness and the willingness to be uncomfortable. That kind of transformation and newness would require a commitment to change. It would require nothing less than a whole new wedding garment.
For as Rev. Tom Are has preached, while God’s grace is absolutely unconditional, it is not without expectation (Tom Are, “We Just Wanted a Simple Wedding,” 3 July 2016 sermon, Village Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, Kansas). This parable of Jesus told in Matthew’s church claims that the question is NOT whether we can manage to fit this unexpected yet amazingly extravagant party into our schedule and our lives. The question is, as Sally Brown puts it, whether we will let this party change our schedule and our lives (Sally Brown, p. 187). For the party has started. What will we wear? Amen.
Commentary provided by Sally Brown, David Buttrick, Erik J. Thompson, Jim Zazzera, Tom Long, Shannon J. Kershner, Scott Hoezee, Karoline Lewis, Jill Duffield, David Lose, & Sharon H. Ringle.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen
THE PRAYER’S OF THE PEOPLE
Lord, we rejoice in you always. Even in times of trial and despite seasons of doubt and pain, we rejoice. We come to you pleading on behalf of the world you so love, asking for signs of your grace, interventions of your mercy, transformation that reflects your goodness. When we grow weary and bereft, send your Spirit to encourage and uphold us. When we are tempted to give in to violence or force, remind us that we, your people, are to be known for our gentleness. Be near to us that we might know your peace.
Grant us the strength of faith not to worry, but to instead think on things that are honorable. Help us to live with integrity, showing respect to your creation and love to our neighbors. May our actions reflect your character, the body of Christ an extension of Jesus’ earthly ministry until he comes again.
Give us the courage to not only think about justice, but enact and embody it. Aid us in our work for equity and our honest accounting of past wrongs and present oppression. Knowing that we are united in Christ and called to a ministry of reconciliation, empower us to do the hard, tangible work of repairing the breach and restoring the streets.
Reveal to us that which is pure, those things that speak of your holiness and point to your will. Do not let us be overtaken by cynicism or despair. Give us eyes to see you present and at work, ears to hear your voice however and through whomever you choose to speak, hearts inscribed with your word and moved to do your work.
Teach us to recognize that which is pleasing in your sight so that we can name it, emulate it, expand it. In the suffering so pervasive and varied in our world, call forth hope and embolden us to be bearers of it. Surround those bent over in grief and pain with disciples who refuse to turn away, people committed to sitting in the darkness until the dawn comes.
Open our mouths to proclaim your praise. As our anxieties grow and our divisions increase, send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all Jesus taught us, give us the right words to speak at the right time, turn our thoughts to you so that we will think and act on your loving kindness, your free-flowing justice, your pursuit of goodness and mercy. We pray in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught us to say when we pray…
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Mr. And Mrs. Lawrence Diehlman and Family in loving memory of her parents Dr. Chris and Betty DiPietro and in memory of Tooie on her 96th Birthday, Love her Family.
MINUTE FOR STEWARDSHIP “Moments” Kristen Franchetti
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
God’s love for us never ends. God’s mercies are new every morning. When we consider God’s goodness and mercy, we are humbled and awed. In gratitude and joy we give to God our morning’s offering. Let us worship as we give.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise God, all creatures high and low. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise God, in Jesus fully known: Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Almighty God, you invite us to the banquet, welcome us to your table, send your prophets with your instructions and your Son to save us from our sin. The depth and breadth of your compassion cannot ever be earned or repaid, hence we call it grace. Accept, we pray, these gifts, given in thanksgiving and in the hope that you will bless and use them to call others to the heavenly banquet. Amen.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.