Worship Service for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

The worship service for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost is ready to go live at 10am on October 4, 2020!

The worship bulletin can be found here and it will have the order of worship, the words of the liturgy, and the full sermon manuscript on it. The sermon can also be found below the video.

If you wish to have a more full at-home worship experience, you may have a bowl of water, something small to eat and drink, and/or a lit candle in your space. Each of these are optional, of course, and with hopes that they would be of assistance.

May your time of worship bring you the joy in the hope of Jesus our Lord!

If the video doesn’t work, please try clicking here.

God of all wisdom, give us your Word and send us your Spirit, that we might know, see, and hear Christ in our lives.  Amen.

At the time of me writing this sermon, the news of threats of violence, death, and even worse directed toward BC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is still fresh in the news.  And while Dr. Henry seemed to be taking it all in stride, I am appalled with nerve of the people who seem to think that such behaviour is ok.  Now it’s important to note that we don’t know who they are, what they’re about, or why on earth they’re doing these things, but it’s clear to most people, hopefully all you who are watching, that it’s wrong, wildly inappropriate, and in my mind, evil.

And it’s unfortunate that Dr. Henry isn’t the only one.  I remember hearing near the beginning of this pandemic Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Health Officer of our country receiving similar threats and insults.  What on earth, Canada?  Aren’t we supposed to be the friendly ones?  Oh sorry, I meant the apologetic ones.

But seriously, what on earth? 

Dr. Henry says that because she is a woman that is educated and in power, she is more susceptible to such abuse.  And she definitely has a point, which is sick enough, but at the same time I think there is more to it.  Some people have a problem with women in leadership, yes, but I think the double whammy against Dr. Henry is that people also have a problem with news that they don’t want to hear.  And perhaps to escalate this into triple whammy status, as we’ve learned these past few months, people have a problem with this pandemic and the lockdown imposed on us because of it, and the implications it had on our business, schools, and community on the whole.

So pile these things on top of Dr. Henry, and I hate to say it, but that puts a target on her back.  Not because she is doing something wrong, but because people suck.  She didn’t create the virus, nor is she the one spreading it.  She only comes out in front of the cameras almost every day with her calm and collected demeanor and brings to us the news, the recommendations, and wishes only that we stay safe and protect the most vulnerable among us.  Is that worthy of harassment and death threats?

Well, according to the evil in the world, yes.  And yet… Dr. Henry still holds her position.  She continues to care about the health and safety of our province.  She keeps speaking to us, day after day, announcement after announcement, outbreak after outbreak, imploring us to stay safe, stay calm, and perhaps above all, stay kind. 

All of this “shooting the messenger” mentality reminds me of the parable that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel lesson.  This episode comes right after last week’s failed “by whose authority” trap set by the religious leaders against Jesus.  In typical Jesus fashion, they were put in their place by the incredible insight and wisdom akin to the actual Son of God, and we get more of that this week.  To elaborate on this extreme inability to understand God’s kingdom, Jesus gives another somewhat confusing story.  This one is a bit more malicious than last week’s.  It’s a bit more telling and straight forward.  It’s also more dark than a son saying he won’t but then does and another that says he will but doesn’t. 

This poor (but really rich) landowner just wanted his produce from his land.  He just wanted what was rightfully his.  But his employees kept killing those sent by the poor but rich landowner to collect, including the landowner’s own son.  What did they want to accomplish?  What would they gain in this?  What did they think was going to happen from the senseless killing?

Well, we know what the religious leaders thought would happen.  They thought that those evil tenants will get what was coming to them.  They were going to pay at the hands of the landowner.  Those who were murdered will be avenged and justice will be served.

And if we’re honest, we’re probably thinking the same thing.  At least, I know that’s what I’d make happen if I were the landowner.  I’d make sure that there will be consequences for that kind of evil.  I’d put a bounty on their heads so big that there’ll be a line up around the block of people who would to take care of those marks.  I know I would do this, because that’s what I want to do to those who are harassing Dr. Bonnie Henry.  That’s what I would want to do if someone were to threaten my own children.  That’s what I want to do when someone crosses me, harms me, or maybe even looks at me the wrong way.

Suddenly I sound more like a petty thug than a pastor.

But you must know what I mean to a certain extent.  It is our natural reaction to retaliate when something bad happens to us.  Our first thought after being wronged is revenge.  We just want to hurt those who have hurt us.  Sure, we’re church-going folk, so maybe we’ll let the first wrongs slide, maybe even the first 7 of them.  But after that?  Well, then the gloves come off. And they better watch their backs.

But is that what Dr. Henry did?  Is that what the landowner did?  Is that what God does?

See Jesus didn’t confirm that the assumption of retaliation was correct.  He didn’t say that those who killed the son would pay.  He didn’t say that the landowner even hated those evil tenants.  If anything, Jesus said that even though the landowner knew of all the killing, he kept sending more and ultimately his own son.  The landowner kept reaching out to the tenants even in the face of evil.  The landowner, which we can safely assume is God, forgives. 

Sure, Jesus says stuff like the kingdom will be taken away and the one who falls will be broken, but he doesn’t say that all that is God’s doing.  He doesn’t say that God will retaliate and inflict harm.  He doesn’t say that God will punish.

But you know who did?  The religious leaders.  And thus that is where that punishment comes from.  See, they were trapped by and in their own mentality of their rights and privilege.  They were blinded by their own assumptions of superiority and entitlement.  They were so deafened by the cries of their own power and prosperity that they couldn’t even hear the truth of Jesus’ words of grace and mercy, and immediately began plotting Jesus’ arrest and perhaps death, thus living exactly as the parable explained.

See this parable isn’t one that is telling us that we need to shape up or we’ll face the consequences.  It isn’t one that warns us that we’ll reap what we sow.  It isn’t even one that describes to us the wrath of God.  Rather, this parable is about God’s love and forgiveness.  It explains how God continually reaches out to us, giving us more and more chances, and will not write us off.  It tells us how our worst enemy isn’t God and God’s laws and ways, but it’s ourselves, our attitudes, and our inability to really grasp the gospel of Christ.  This gospel that is all grace, all mercy, all love, revealing the truth of God’s salvation, welcoming all people into God’s kingdom and propelling us into the hope of peace and joy.

The amazing thing about all this isn’t that God is awesome, as true as that is.  The amazing thing isn’t that God continues to send prophets and messengers to reveal the new things that God is doing in our church and in our world, although God does that as well.  The amazing thing isn’t even that God is forgiving, which God totally is.

The amazing thing is that God forgives us.  Us.  We who don’t even know that we’re sinning.  We who cannot always admit that we have the capacity of evil.  We who don’t always recognise ourselves as the ones who nailed Jesus to that cross.  God forgives, yes.  But let’s not forget that God forgives us.

Because we need it.  Oh man do we need it.  And admit it or not, God forgives.  God welcomes.  And God loves.

In this season after Pentecost, may we continue to recognise God’s grace in our lives, freeing us from our guilt and shame and pushing us into the future of ministry, community, and service.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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