Here is our worship service for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, August 22, 2021!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin has the order of worship, the words and responses for the liturgy, the hymn/page numbers that correspond with the ELW, and the sermon in full. Alternatively, all the words you need to know will be on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page below the video.
For an enhanced worship experience, you may have some elements in your space that will hopefully help with that. For the Thanksgiving for Baptism, you can have a small bowl of water to interact with. For communion, you can prepare something small to eat and drink. And for the duration of the service, you can have a lit candle that can be extinguished with the altar candles during the sending hymn. Please feel free to use these ideas or whatever else you are comfortable with.
May God’s blessing of truth and peace be upon you!
O God, your Word gives us life, that just being in your presence is food for our souls. Feed us this day with your truth, and bring us up to see your face in a hurting world, in the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
I’m sure many, if not all of you have heard what is happening over in Afghanistan right now. After almost 20 years of war, President Joe Biden has pulled out the American troops, allowing the Taliban to basically take over everything. And while I haven’t kept up much with that news, what I’ve seen is pretty horrific. This action of course fuelled the fires that were already splitting the political left and right in the States, and the comments sections on the various articles and posts were going crazy.
I know, I know, don’t read those comments but ugh, I just can’t help it sometimes. It’s like a deer in headlights, I know the danger is coming but I just can’t look away. And lately, I’ve found that reading the comments, seeing some people’s unfiltered rants, checking out the often enraged opinions of others, helps me to learn. It helps me to open my horizons, it helps me to remember that there isn’t only one train of thought out there, and perhaps most of all, it helps me to wrestle with my own beliefs and work on myself.
I’m not saying that my mind is totally changed on anything from reading the comments, but it allows me to understand more fully why I believe what I believe and perhaps some insight on why those of differing opinions believe what they believe. And to be honest with you, I’m starting to think that many people believe what they believe because they simply want to.
Yup. It has nothing to do with logic, ethics, or even common sense. It is just the desire for the right to stay on the right, and the left to stay on the left. Meaning that those on your side can’t do anything wrong, and those not on your side can’t do anything right. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same doggone thing that they’re doing, it’s only good if they are rooting for the same colours as you, and it’s definitely bad if they aren’t. It’s mind boggling.
On every major issue that has happened at least since I’ve started to pay attention, you’ll see people on either side of the fence, strongly in support of only their side. And some people take it really personally, as they start to actually hate those on the other side. Like, the actual people. They don’t hate just the side or the opinion, but suddenly everything about everyone on that side is somehow evil and wrong. It’s like their whole opinion about an individual is centered solely on their opinion of this one particular matter. And it’s disturbing. Not surprising at all, unfortunately, but disturbing.
We see this kind of polarization in today’s gospel lesson, which is a direct continuation of last week’s text. They actually could have included a “last week in John’s gospel…” as this week starts with the same bit that last week ended with. And just as last week, what Jesus says is tough to swallow, as tough as swallowing human flesh as it were. Jesus is still saying that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
But this time around, we get a reaction from the people. A reaction that perhaps we could relate to if we were first time hearers of this text: disbelief, disgust, and offense. This resulted in some of those disciples just getting up and leaving Jesus because this was the final straw for them.
Is it really that easy to just leave Jesus like that? Or has their doubt and unbelief of who Jesus is been percolating just under the surface for a while? Was this really the deal breaker for them that moved them from followers to deserters, or was it just the excuse big enough for them to hightail it out of there? Did this very obvious metaphorical statement from Jesus actually colour Jesus completely for them?
Or, as in the case with those modern issues I was just talking about, was this particular issue just reaffirming what they had already assumed about him this whole time?
I mean the text does say that Jesus knew from the get go that some of them didn’t believe, and so I do think that this polarization is what is going on here. And so we can really see that this whole “I believe it, that settles it” mentality is present, even these ancient people.
So what should we do then? Just discard all of our beliefs and start from scratch? Believe only what comes from those sources that don’t already agree with what you already believe? Or worse yet, make no decisions for ourselves but allow everyone else’s opinion do it for us? No, of course not, but I definitely think that we need to stop shooting first and not bothering to ask any questions after because the answers wouldn’t make any different anyway.
Rather, I think we can take a page out of our second reading for today, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he advises the people to put on the whole armour of God. Off the bat, we think that this armour is to protect us from “spiritual attacks” as Satan and whatever demons come at us with flaming arrows and stuff. But upon closer inspection, it seems like each of these pieces of armour are designed to help us in our discernment and views on the world and life in general. I mean, that is what the satan, the adversary’s M.O. is, to confuse our minds to the point where we can’t tell the difference between good and evil. So have the belt of truth around your waist, that the support of all that heavy lifting would be rooted in our unchanging position in God’s love. Put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect your heart from the evil desires of judging others and placing yourself and your opinions over all. Wear the shoes of the good news of peace, that you are able to walk away from the conflicts and distractions that take us away from our mission to proclaim God’s gospel. And be sure to be armed with the shield of faith, that your trust in God’s presence and mercy separate you from all the others who claim dominion over you. And lastly, don the helmet of salvation and be armed with the sword of the Spirit, that your mind is always on God’s grace for us all, and you are able to lean on God’s Word to take down the lies of the enemy.
So you see, this armour of God works together to help us in our discernment. These tools that God gives us grant us strength to withstand the conflicting arguments of the world. These very gifts from God bestow upon us a wisdom, a wisdom of humility and trust in God’s will and guidance for our lives.
I know, easier said than done. It’s not like we purposely walk around without any armour on, it’s kind of a foreign concept for us in the western world. But at least we can be aware of what lenses we have at our disposal to help us in our discernment. These pieces of armour are there to help increase our faith. Paul is walking us through, step by step, how we can learn to see what God is doing in the world, and how we can jump on board.
Still, it is hard for our minds to change once it’s made up. I know that because I’m like that. But it takes a great deal of humility and faith to allow God into the inner workings of our mind, where we can reflect, we can listen, and wrestle with the truths that we tell ourselves compared to the absolute truths of God. The absolute truths of love, grace, and mercy.
And by God’s grace we can, in that humility, more easily see Jesus in the midst of the nonsense and conflicting arguments of the world. We can hear more clearly the truths of Jesus spoken to us in the midst of our confusion and maybe even in our certainty in our own opinions. Perhaps we can trust and have faith that it is Jesus who has the words of eternal life, and there is no one else to whom we can go.
So in this season after Pentecost, a season of church growth and ministry, may we lean on the wisdom of God, the faith of Christ, and the discernment of the Spirit as we continue to love and serve all of God’s people even in this continuing pandemic. Thanks be to God. Amen.