14th Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 18A)
September 10, 2017
I am posting this worship service and sermon online because we at St. Matthew's Church in Savannah are unable to gather together in person this week. Hurricane Irma has affected and/or will affect our city and large parts of the Caribbean and southeastern USA. Most of us followed the City's recommendation to evacuate Savannah and are spending this weekend in another part of the world. Those who remain in Savannah are likely without power and utilities, and are advised to remain indoors.
I offer the following service specifically for those who cannot safely leave their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma but still want to take some time with God on this Sunday morning. Morning Prayer is a daily worship service from The Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer. It may be said together in church or at home, by individuals or by small groups. You do not need a clergy person present to say these prayers. Page numbers from The Book of Common Prayer are listed in parentheses after each section heading using the abbreviation “BCP."
May God protect you in the storm, heal you of your afflictions, and comfort all who mourn. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda
Opening Sentence (BCP, p. 78)
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. (Psalm 43:3)
The Confession (BCP, p. 79)
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.
Invitatory (BCP, p. 80)
Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever Amen.
Venite (Psalm 95:1-7) (BCP, p. 82)
The mercy of the Lord is everlasting:
Come let us adore him.
Come, let us sing to the Lord; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.
Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
The mercy of the Lord is everlasting:
Come let us adore him.
Psalm 149 (BCP, p. 807)
1 Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; *
let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his Name in the dance; *
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people *
and adorns the poor with victory.
5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; *
let them be joyful on their beds.
6 Let the praises of God be in their throat *
and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To wreak vengeance on the nations *
and punishment on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings in chains *
and their nobles with links of iron;
9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
this is glory for all his faithful people.Hallelujah!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
A Reading from the Book of Exodus (12:1-14)
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Canticle 16: The Song of Zechariah (BCP, p. 92)
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old, that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (13:8-14)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Canticle 21: You Are God (BCP, p. 95)
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord; we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.
A Reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew (18:15-20)
Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
"Grace in the Storm" by Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda
This is a time when things feel uncertain. In the face of hurricanes like Irma, Harvey, and others on the horizon, we are forced to confront our powerlessness and finitude. We feel captive to changing meteorological models and predictions, government-issued evacuations, empty gas stations and grocery stores, and power outages. Life feels topsy-turvy at a time like this. Even Sunday morning church services (usually an unwavering constant) have been canceled for most of us!
But despite all these variables, and all the changes and chances of this life, there is one thing that remains stable for us: the grace of God.
Grace is the center of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He came preaching and proclaiming the Good News of a different kind of Kingdom, where despots don’t lord over their servants, but rather kings become servants of all. In God’s Kingdom, we don’t get what we deserve. We don’t get punished and hurt in exchange for all the ways we hurt one another. Instead, we receive forgiveness. God pays us good for our evil.
In the Kingdom of God, Jesus humbles himself to come as one of us and is willing to die on a cross to save all creatures. That is a free, undeserved gift. That is grace.
God continues to make grace known to us in small and big ways every day. We see God’s grace in spouses who forgive each other after a long fight. We see it in neighbors who share a meal during a storm. We see it in churches and community shelters welcoming evacuees and refugees across the country. We see it when strangers are willing to lend a hand to those stuck on a crowded interstate highway, trying desperately to make it to safety.
And we can even see it in the church, when we heed Jesus’ commands about conflict. Jesus begins, “If someone sins against you…”, and everything that follows is gracious, generous, and loving (Matthew 18:15). It’s certainly a firm love that has some boundaries, but it is not in any way vindictive or retributive. We’re not trying to kick anyone while they’re down. Instead, we try to handle our differences one-to-one, and at best in small groups.
And even when things come to their worst and the disagreements and sins seem irreconcilable, Jesus says, “If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.” (Matt 18:17b, Common English Bible). If that sounds harsh, you may be forgetting how Jesus himself treated Gentiles and tax collectors.
The culture around Jesus considered Gentiles and tax collectors to be unsavory low-lifes who you should avoid at all cost. But he didn’t go with the flow. There are many stories in the Bible in which Jesus sits down for a meal with tax collectors and Gentiles. He invited the tax collector Matthew to be one of his 12 apostles (and now he is the patron of our church). He spoke generously with the Samaritan woman at the well and healed the sick in Tyre, Sidon, the Decapolis, and other predominantly Gentile regions outside Judea (e.g. Mark 5:1-20; 7:24-8:10).
Jesus made friends with Gentiles and tax collectors. He offered charity when they were in need. He spent time with them. He certainly did not ignore them or spit in their faces as we often do when there’s a fight in church. In other words, Jesus treated the “outsiders” with as much or more grace as he treated the “insiders.”
While we often fail at it, God has given human beings a huge capacity to show grace. God calls us to “live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2), and Jesus taught us to “be merciful [i.e. gracious], just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Whatever ethics we try to live by as Christians is always derived from God’s character. God forgives us of our sins and so we too can live as merciful people in a very unmerciful world.
The Roman Catholic Church spells out a few concrete ways for Christians to behave mercifully and graciously. They are called the "Works of Mercy" and they are typically broken down into two categories: (1) Corporal (Physical) Works of Mercy and (2) Spiritual Works of Mercy. Check out the graphics below to see all the list of good works and click the bold links above for more details.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, but it is useful because it summarizes a lot of the basics found in Scripture and it is widely accepted by many different kinds of Christians. The point is to recognize the type of behavior that mirrors God's mercy.
That said, becoming a gracious person who lives by these works of mercy is hard. It takes time, practice, lots of mistakes, and lots of patience. It also takes a little bit of awareness, especially in times of urgent need.
For instance, it may be tempting to squirrel away as much as we can and look out only for “my and mine” during the evacuation and fallout from Hurricane Irma. But Jesus points us to something bigger. Instead, be on the lookout for opportunities to show mercy to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Let’s strive to pay attention the needs of those around us.
Even in diaspora, spread out as we are away from our homes, God is gracious to us and the Spirit is prodding us to show mercy to others. So let’s not abandon others to the hand they’ve been dealt or to what we think they deserve. God is so much better to us than that, and let’s try to do likewise. Amen.
The Apostle's Creed (BCP, p. 96)
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He 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,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again 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.
The Lord’s Prayer (BCP, p. 97)
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us 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 trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Suffrages B (BCP, p. 98)
V. Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance;
R. Govern them and uphold them, now and always.
V. Day by day we bless you;
R. We praise your name for ever.
V. Lord, keep us from all sin today;
R. Have mercy upon us, Lord, have mercy.
V. Lord, show us your love and mercy;
R. For we put our trust in you.
V. In you, Lord, is our hope;
R. And we shall never hope in vain.
The Collect of the Day (BCP, p. 233)
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A Collect for Sundays (BCP, p. 98)
O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Collect for Mission (BCP, p. 100)
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A Collect for Protection (BCP, p. 832)
Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of your servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Collect for Hurricane Irma (by the Rev. Canon Frank Logue)
Almighty God, who calmed the storm tossing the disciples' boat, calm the fears that beset us as we await Hurricane Irma: Grant us the peace that comes from you alone as we sit with the uncertainty of evacuation and in fear of damage to our homes and our communities, draw us ever closer to you, and give us the grace to comfort and aid others in need; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
Offer your own prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.
The General Thanksgiving (BCP, p. 101)
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
A Prayer of St. Chrysostom (BCP, p. 102)
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.
Concluding Sentences (BCP, p. 102)
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15:13)