Worship Service for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship this 15th Sunday after Pentecost, September 18th, 2022! We are glad that you are here!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin of course will have the order and words of worship, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The words of the hymns as well as your responses will also be on your screen, and the sermon can be found on this page below the video.

If you’d like to enhance your worship experience at home, you are welcome to have a lit candle for the duration of the service and extinguish it with the altar candles at the end of the service. You are also welcome to join in communion with something small to eat and drink or in whatever way speaks to you the most.

May God’s grace and mercy move you into love and community with God and the world, now and forever!

If the video doesn’t work, please click here for a list of all our videos and hopefully this one can be found there.

God our Saviour, send your Spirit to us, that we might faithfully hear your Word spoken and realise your call for our lives and community, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So I guess tomorrow is a day off for many of us here in BC so we can properly mourn Queen Elizabeth on the day of her funeral.  Personally, I think I’d be sleeping when the funeral is actually happening at something like 3am for us, so honestly I don’t think it makes much sense that the kids get this extra day off school.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good time to talk about the Queen and how all that stuff works, but then that means I’ll have to learn it myself in order to teach it to our kids properly.

Because I’ll admit it, I don’t really keep up with the news around the Royal family other than the really big front page stuff.  So last week when I made a quick remark about the queen being “pretty cool,” I probably should have qualified that with “from what I heard” because I honestly don’t really know if she is or not at all. 

But then this past week on Twitter I saw a video clip of an interview with Prince Harry where he talks about why he and his family stepped down from their Royal duties and all the hate he received because of it, and it’s all pretty sad.  Basically he explained how they were facing hate way before they decided to leave, mostly because his wife Megan, comes from a mixed ancestry and isn’t in any way British.  They have been hounded because of her background since they started dating.  If this sounds racist, it’s because it is.  Being one who has faced a fair amount of racism in his life, I know the frustration and difficulties that come when people can’t see past your ethnicity and everything you do is under a different kind of scrutiny.

So they really left for her sake, in fears that history would repeat itself and she’d be killed like how his mother was from the pushy and intrusive attitudes of the paparazzi and the drama-hungry media consumers.  Apparently Megan was already acting severely depressed and even suicidal at times although she kept her composure from what I saw, and Harry did what he could to protect her and their children by leaving the Royal family.

And many might be thinking, that’s what they signed up for as celebrities.  Paparazzi and media meddling is expected for any member of the Royal family.  Some might even say that it’s their duty to endure that limelight and fame. 

But at what cost?  This prince had already lost his mother to this, and I would imagine that he wouldn’t want to lose his wife as well.  He saw that the system was broken and he knew that even with all the supposed power of royalty, he couldn’t fix it.  So he did the next best thing, he removed himself from it.

And that takes guts.  It takes guts to stand up for your spouse like that.  It takes guts to stand up against the system and protect the ones you love.  It takes guts to stand up above the crowd and the “way things have always been” and move for real change toward justice for all.

This interview with Prince Harry actually helped me to see this parable that Jesus gives us today in a new light.  This parable, which has always confused me in the past, seems really uncharacteristic of Jesus as at first glance it seems like he is commending us to cheat our bosses for our own gain.  Of course that kind of dishonesty would be frowned upon in pretty much any organization and would very likely be grounds for termination or at very least a public shaming of some sort.  But instead, Jesus was like, “way to go, shrewd manager, you did the right thing!”

Weird, huh?

Well, maybe not so much if we understand what the manager was really doing.  Sure, the story sounds like he was just looking out for his own butt as he wasn’t strong enough to do any kind of physical work and too proud to do any panhandling work.  So if he were to be fired, he knew he had no way of sustaining himself so he had to rely on the kindness of others to take him in and maybe even give him a job that didn’t involve physical labour or panhandling.  So yeah, it sounds like his motives were selfish. 

And maybe they were at the beginning.  But I think something clicked in the manager when he got fired.  He understood what was happening to him and how corrupt and unfair the system that we’re all a part of is.  See, the manager’s job was to shake down payments from the farmers to the rich man for “protection” so to speak.  So, extortion basically.  The manager made the farmers pay or they’d lose their farm.  The manager would likely collect more than required and take a “commission” for himself, and the rich man, well, all he had to do was sit there and get richer.

We are all part of this system and maybe even buy into it, thinking that the rich are rich because they deserve it for their hard work and smarts and the poor are poor because they don’t work quite as hard or aren’t quite as smart.  But the thing is I’m pretty sure those farmers worked hard too and plenty smart.  But they aren’t given the same opportunities as those who were just born with certain privileges, such as the colour of their skin, their gender, or behind what borders they happen to have been born.

The manager might have thought that he was above the system as he worked for this rich guy, but he was still fired for doing his job.  He saw how he also was a victim of the system, and suddenly he saw how this system that he so bought into was hurting others and ruining lives.  He didn’t want to be part of that anymore.  Ironic though, that it took him losing his job for him to want to quit.

With his newfound insights, he wanted to rectify the situation, maybe make a difference in some way.  Shake up the system a bit.  So instead of collecting everything he was supposed to, he charged the people a more reasonable and fair price, something that wouldn’t break the bank for them.  He did what he could in his limited and temporary power to foster relationships, create community, and instill hope.

See Jesus wasn’t commending this manager for ripping off his boss, he was commending him for no longer ripping off the poor farmers.  He was commending him for standing up for what is right and good and acceptable.  Jesus was commending this shrewd manager siding with justice, looking out for the least of these, and working towards serving God rather than the system which is run by the greed of money.

And this is what I see Prince Harry doing by stepping down from the Royal family.  Yes, it looks bad like he’s deserting his family but he is actually removing himself from a corrupt system that doesn’t accept outsiders and shuns those that it doesn’t like.  A system that exploits people for profit until there is nothing left to take.  A system that took his mother and nearly his wife away from him and sensationalized it as entertainment for the masses.

This broken system that plagued biblical times continues to plague us today.  Even in this day and age we still face the evils of greed and the love of money, on top of a whole bunch of other injustices that we can’t even count.  We continue to exploit the land and resources and even other humans in the form of unfair wages and treatment.  It is often so overwhelming just to think about all the ways we completely and utterly fail God’s vision of community and unity in God’s kingdom.  It is deflating to see how this world is so run by selfishness and the want of more and more material gain.  It is heartbreaking to see how quickly people in general would serve money over God.

We can see the difference in our motivations.  We can tell who we serve by the way we treat each other.  We know God’s love in our lives when we love others as brothers and sisters in Christ, made equal by God’s grace, and together welcomed to live in community and right relationship.

See by God’s grace, we look for what is good, right, and acceptable in God’s eyes.  We can, by God’s strength, exercise our own influence and privilege to make small changes here and there.  We can, by God’s love and mercy, make a difference perhaps not for all of society bound by this system, but for the individuals that we meet, both known and unknown, with our counter cultural kindness and compassion we can instill hope in others, showing everyone that there is another way of grace and mercy where we all can strive to live in harmony.

I know, still overwhelming.  But we can rejoice in that a lot of the work has already been done through cross and the promises of Christ.  We have been granted the Spirit to guide us and our hearts to love our neighbour and proclaim God’s grace.  We have been taught, equipped, and anointed to be God’s people in the world, not to be perfect but to reveal just how big and wide God’s grace can be for us and all people of all times and places.

So in this season after Pentecost, may we continue seeing the church in the world and our participation in it, and find new ways of revealing God’s love and peace for the world.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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