Worship Service for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, landing on November 13, 2022! Thank you for choosing to worship here this day. We had some technical difficulties last week with the stream, but hopefully they won’t be repeated this week. As usual, if the video doesn’t work at the intended time, then try looking at the list of our videos here and maybe the stream landed on a different link for some reason.

You can find a copy of the bulletin here. It will have the order and words of worship, the liturgy music out of the All Creation Sings hymnal, the hymn numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. The words that you need to know will also be on your screen and the sermon is included on this page below the worship video.

For an enhanced online worship experience, you can have a candle in your space lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished with the altar candles after the sending hymn. And if you wanted to participate in communion you can do so with something small to eat and drink ready and you will receive further instruction during the service.

May God’s steadfast grace and love bless you with joy and peace, this day and always!

Almighty God, reveal to us the way of salvation through your Word and the power of the Spirit, that we be strengthened by the hope in your promises and energized by your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So it’s been a while since I talked at all about the Marvel movies, and so it’s probably high time that I do.  The second Black Panther movie finally came out this past week after being pushed back a few times due to lot of drama around the production of the movie.  There were some disagreements and friction among the cast, the pandemic of course slowed things down quite a bit, but the main reason that production was delayed was the untimely death about 2 years ago of Chadwick Boseman, who played King T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, who obviously is the titular character in these movies.  His death was a huge surprise because he kept his health issues a secret from the masses.  And because he was so perfect in the role and played it so well, Marvel Studios announced that they wouldn’t tarnish his memory and legacy by recasting the role or bringing him back with CGI or whatever, meaning that the character of T’Challa dies in the MCU along with the actor that played him.  This then of course called for a complete rewrite of the script, and pushed everything back until this past week.

I’ll be honest though, I thought their decision to not recast was pretty weird. 

I mean, the MCU has done a bunch of recasting of characters over the years, and the most recent one that I know of, welcoming Harrison Ford into their ranks, was due to a death as well.  And I get that Chadwick Boseman is a really good actor and all, but to just hang up the character of T’Challa like this seems like such a shame because there is just so much story left to tell about him.  He and the Black Panther are like main characters in the comics, so it’s hard to imagine a Marvel Cinematic Universe without him.  I mean, it can be done, but I can’t see it being as good.  The overarching stories might still be captivating, but it just won’t seem complete.  I might still be a huge fan of it all, but I feel like it’d be different enough to know that it’s just not right.  It’d be like having your favourite meal but missing a key ingredient, like maybe peanut butter with no jam, cereal with no milk, or ham with no burger. 

You know what I mean, don’t you?  We get accustomed to something or the way things are, that a disruption seems almost too jarring to handle.  Any kind of change to these things could bring too much discomfort and leave us disoriented.  When they get too different, then we get anxious and maybe even afraid because suddenly the future becomes unpredictable and out of our control. 

In this case it was the death of a very talented actor and thus a beloved character, but it could also be the death of a person that we actually know and love, or the end of a relationship (even a bad one), or maybe being put in a position where we need to close some kind of chapter in our lives.  It could be a move into a different home, a different city, or a different country.  It could be a change in our status in society from a good one to a not as good one.  It could be the loss of a job, our sense of security, or even our church.

Now, I know we just celebrated our 70th anniversary last week and I did wonder out loud how many more milestone anniversaries we have left in us, but I assure you that I’m not in any way hinting that we should be closing our doors any time soon.  But I’m referring to today’s gospel lesson, when Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and just a whole lot of bad times to follow.  Actually, it isn’t even a prediction as much as it’s Jesus telling them that this will happen.

I don’t know if we can ever truly appreciate how scary this is for the disciples to hear.  Think about how scary it is for us to even think about losing our building, this building that we’ve spent so much time caring for, all the memories that we share of this church from the past 70 years, all the faces that have come through this sacred space and have met the living God here, and then ramp that up by about a thousand.  I mean, for the ancient Jewish people the temple was the centre of not just religious life, but it was the centre of all life.  It was the epitome of who they worship, who they identify as, who they are.  It was to them the embodiment of all that God is, all that God does, and all that God had promised to them.  To them, the temple was everything.

So even just the thought of it no longer being there would have rocked them to the core.  The idea of life without the temple would have been unbearable.  The prospect that this centre of all that they were, all that they are, and all that they hope to be, might no longer exist would have just ripped their hearts into shreds.

And Jesus tells them just that.  He warns them of all that is to come after the temple’s destruction, the wars and insurrections, the natural disasters and famines, the plagues and signs of the end times.  All this would have been really scary stuff, but Jesus tells them that they will endure it and that endurance will save their souls.

Uh what?  I don’t think the disciples were even over the temple being destroyed part.  They weren’t even ready to hear the endurance part.  But the worst part of it all was that it all happened.  All of it.  The temple was destroyed.  There were wars and famines and earthquakes.  There have been signs in every generation reminding us all just how much we’ve fallen, how broken we’ve become, just what sins we were capable of.  It all happened.  Jesus’ words came to pass and continue to be true to this day.  We still hear of wars and threats of violence.  We still suffer division and political turmoil.  We still mourn the loss of church buildings and congregations both in our Lutheran church and other denominations.  Everything Jesus said was and continues to be accurate… all the bad stuff of course, but also the good… our endurance, our resilience, our salvation.

See Jesus was telling his disciples and us that bad times are brewing, kingdoms and nations will fall, lives will be lost, worlds will end.  But in the midst of it all, God’s faithfulness and grace prevail.  God’s strength in us will help us weather these storms of life.  God’s Spirit residing in all of us will allow us to see the joy and hope in life.

In spite of all my reservations around Black Panther 2, I still did see it on opening day as I normally do with all the new Marvel releases.  But I went in thinking that I wouldn’t like it because Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa wouldn’t be in it, and they were planning on continuing the universe without him.  I was thinking that my nerdy comic inaccuracy radar would be blaring because they’d have to change the story too much for me to really appreciate it.  I was expecting to be disappointed by yet another Marvel franchise because of them not wanting to change and recast the role and character. 

But I was pleasantly surprised.  While still not at all comic accurate, the story that they told was phenomenal and the themes of succession, healing, and growth were all true.  Yes, T’Challa wasn’t in it and he isn’t coming back, but the Black Panther and all that the title stands for remains.  The movie was named Wakanda Forever, Wakanda being the fictional country that the Black Panther is from, but title could have been “hope forever”, as the story pushed past the change, grew bigger than a single character, and brought out a message that even though things don’t always stay the same and can even get really bad, hope can remain, hope can endure, hope can be forever.

And with the nation of Israel and all of God’s people, the message of hope has survived through the centuries of change, of destruction, and of pain.  We, as the messengers of this hope have endured through persecution, oppression, and ostrasization.  The Spirit of hope living in us has strengthened us, redeemed us, and continues to save us.

So the world around us might look like it is ending.  Our own personal worlds might have ended a few times over.  Life as we know it might feel like it’s crumbling away leaving us broken and in despair, without a name or a place to call our own.  But in the midst of it all, God remains true.  God remains to be all love and peace.  God remains as our hope.

As we approach the end of this season after Pentecost and look forward to the season of Advent, may we hold onto the hope of God’s promises, God’s love, God with us.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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