Worship Service for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost (Thanksgiving Sunday)

Hello everyone!

Welcome to a very special live service that is happening at 10am, October 11, 2020! We are welcoming new members at this service so it is a joyous time indeed!

The worship bulletin can be found here.

Although the format will be slightly different, we will still be having communion and the thanksgiving for baptism. So if you wish to participate you can still have food and drink and a bowl of water nearby for those elements. Also a lit candle is always welcome.

This is our first time going live like this, so I do welcome any comments or critiques you have on the format. I can’t imagine it being like this every week, but perhaps for special Sunday and festivals (like this one).

Thanks for participating in worship!

Due to a minor glitch during the live stream, the embedded video that was here before 12:48pm PST wasn’t working. It should work now though. If by chance it doesn’t, please click here.

O God, may the feast of your Word feed us this day, that as our hearts and minds are opened by your Spirit, we might hear your call and welcome throughout our lives and in the lives of others, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today’s gospel lesson has a story of a wedding feast.  And I’ll be honest, every time I read about a wedding in the bible, I think about my own wedding that happened all those years ago.  I think about all the food that was served that I didn’t have time to eat.  I think about all the guests that my parents invited that I didn’t even know.  I think about all that money that was spent on that one day that really could have been invested in a nice new car instead.

Don’t get me wrong, in spite of the countless hours of planning and preparing and getting those little party favours ready, I still really did have fun at my wedding.  Mostly because I like being the center of attention, even if among strangers.  But throughout the night, it became clear that this celebration was more for my parents than anyone else.  Like I said, I didn’t even know like half of these guests, and to this day I’m still meeting people that I’ve never met before saying, “hey, I was at your wedding.” 

It was still a celebration of course, I mean, my wife and I still love each other (I think), but looking back I just wonder how much of a celebration it was for everyone else.  Like, what do all those strangers who attended care that I was getting married?  Even some of my friends who were there, I wonder how much they even cared to be there.  Some of my friends kids, who were busy playing on their handheld devices, were definitely not interested at all.  So what was the point of all that money spent?

Granted, I know not all wedding celebrations were like the one I had.  I know not all families go all out the way my parents did.  But I’m sure that many if not all of you know what I’m talking about when I say that there are times when we are invited to some kind of celebration but we just don’t want to go because we don’t feel like it’s a celebration at all.  Like, it doesn’t have to be a wedding of a friend’s kid that you’ve never met.  It could be an engagement party for a couple that you really don’t think should be engaged.  Or a birthday party for someone that you don’t really like.  Or a gender reveal party that you don’t really get because you’re going to find out the gender of the baby in a couple months anyway.

Whatever it is, you might have tried to make an excuse as to why you couldn’t make it.  Or you arrive late and “have to leave early”.  Or worse yet you simply don’t go and claim that you just forgot.  Whatever the case, there are reasons for us not to want to celebrate even when others totally do.

This seems to be what is happening in this parable that Jesus gives us today too.  This king is throwing a wedding feast for his son, and all his invited guests really couldn’t care less.  They have excuse after excuse as to why they can’t go, so much that the king ridiculously goes out and kills them and burns their towns (which by the way, by nature of him being king, he was burning his own towns as well).  And he goes and invites just basically anyone to the party, but then kicks some guy out for not wearing the proper attire to a wedding that he was literally just dragged to right after his town was on fire. 

Rude, I know.  And very nonsensical.  But perhaps this is why no one wanted to go to this king’s party, because the dude was nuts.

Some of you very keen church goers might have noticed that this isn’t the usual texts that we get for Thanksgiving Sunday.  Normally we get the story of the 10 Lepers but this year I felt that the regular texts for this 19th Sunday after Pentecost seemed to fit a lot better because I feel like we can relate with those guests who just didn’t want to go to the party.  I gave a bunch of examples of different events that we are invited to but just might not want to go for whatever reason, but another example would be perhaps a Thanksgiving service during a super long pandemic which hasn’t inspired any kind of thanksgiving at all.

Whatever reasons those in the parable had for not going to the wedding, we have a better one.  We’ve had our lives flipped, turned upside down in the past 6-7 months.  We have been told to be afraid of each other, of any kind of physical contact with any person or any thing, or even just being outside of our homes.  We haven’t been able to celebrate anything anyway, as we can’t gather more than 50 people and we need to keep our bubbles small.

Now let’s be clear, I’m not in any way saying that we shouldn’t be following these guidelines or that they are an overreaction, I’m just saying that it has taken a toll on us, our ability to cope, and our views on life and community.  So it wouldn’t a surprise that it’d be hard for us to feel thankful in a time such as this. 

All the other holidays that we got since this pandemic started were weird in a way, sure, but we made do because we were able to find a way to make it fit.  We had Pentecost telling us that the Spirit moves through and empowers us even through the most difficult times.  We had Easter where we emphasized how death couldn’t keep Jesus down, so neither could a virus.  And we had most of Lent during the pandemic which actually helped to make Lent even more Lent than any other Lent that we’ve ever had.

But Thanksgiving?  Seems a bit more difficult.  Sure, Thanksgiving isn’t really a religious time of the year, but the principles of Thanksgiving are.  The principles of… well… being thankful, for one.  But also the principles of sharing and generosity.  The principles of community and relationship.  The principles of appreciating and even celebrating what we have, even when it doesn’t feel like much.

Hm.  Maybe we can fit this holiday into this pandemic. 

Because if you think about it, just because life is different now, there is still much to be thankful for.  Just because we don’t feel like we have much good in our lives, there is still a lot of good that has been given to us.  Just because we don’t want to celebrate the wedding, that wedding is still going to happen.

And that is what the kingdom of God is like.  In the midst of declined invitations and fashion faux pas, the wedding celebration is still on.  Even when this pandemic has taken over so much of our personal, professional, and even religious lives, we are still welcoming 7 new members into our community today.  Even when we don’t feel like giving any thanks for whatever reason, we are still given much to be thankful for, today on Thanksgiving, and always.

See we often equate God as the king in this parable and think that it’s saying how God will kick you out of God’s kingdom if you don’t dress the part.  Or that God will retaliate if you don’t accept the invitation.  Or that God is absolutely nuts enough to burn down whole cities in vengeful anger.  But I don’t think that it is at all.  I think this parable is revealing to us just how absurd the kingdom can be in finding time to celebrate even when things don’t seem all that celebratory.  It is showing us how the reasons for joy and thanksgiving cannot be contained.  It is teaching us to not focus on the difficulties and hardships of life to the point that it drowns everything out, or we might miss the fact that at the center of it all there is a wedding.  A celebration.  A community, a relationship, a union in love.  One that can stand the test of time, or at least, the test of different trials and tribulations and continues to welcome, celebrate, and be joyous and thankful for all that God has done and will do out of grace, mercy, and peace.

And so today, we are given a reason to celebrate.  Today we are welcoming seven new members to our community, that even in a time when we cannot meet in person, sing together or shake each other’s hands, we can still grow.  We can still see God working in our midst.  We can still love.  And that is enough to be thankful for.

So on this day of Thanksgiving may we quite literally give thanks for all that God has done, is doing and will continue to do in this community, in our lives, and among all our relationships.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.