Worship Service for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, landing on June 2, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You are welcome to download it and use it to follow along with the service, as it has the order and words of liturgy and the full sermon manuscript. Alternatively, you can follow along with the words that will appear on your screen and with the sermon that is on this page below the worship service video.

If you’d like a fuller online experience, you are invited to have a candle in your space, lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished near the end when the altar candles are after the sending hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion if you wish and are comfortable, by having something small to eat and drink ready for the appropriate time in the service. When to actually consume them will be instructed then.

May God’s eternal welcome and love be apparent to you, this day and always!

Shine the light of your love into our hearts, O God, that we might see the wisdom of your ways and have the knowledge of your glory, as you lead us down your paths of righteousness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Those darned Pharisees, am I right?  They’re just not fair, you see.  I mean, every time we hear about them or read about them, they’re always up to no good.  They’re always standing in the way of something new or innovative, or putting others in their place whenever they so much as look at the law the wrong way.  The Pharisees always seem to be throwing their academic prowess around, putting on display their amazing feats of discipline and control, showing all those around them how they and perhaps they alone are the prime example of how to act right and proper, the way God, in their minds, intended.

But if we’re honest here, they aren’t wrong.  I mean from what we know of them, they are well educated, they are very disciplined and knowledgeable, they are widely respected and revered.  So if anyone could ever brag about earning their way into God’s good graces, it would be them.  They were the best of the best, the pious of the pious, the Phariseest of them all.  So when we say “those darned Pharisees” maybe we should be saying “those poor misunderstood Pharisees” for all the hate that they get for just being them.

Now before you think I’m just some Pharisee sympathizer, hear me out.  Whenever we hear or read about them, yes they are doing all those annoying things, but really that it was just what the people of the time expected from them.  They were only ever just doing their Pharisee thing, policing the righteous so they would remain righteous.  Teaching those who aren’t as well versed on the law to know more about the law.  Being sure to point out the faults of others in love so they know not to do it again.  I mean, it was quite a service that these Pharisees would provide.  They help make the world a better place, one non-observer of the law of Moses at a time.  We could only be so lucky to have such dedicated and intelligent people in our lives.

But yet, Jesus rebukes them.  Like flat out tells them what’s up, whenever they try to overstep.   Points out their staunch legalism, their pompous piety, and their elitist attitudes.  Calls them hypocrites and broods of vipers.  Reveals to all how they really aren’t the examples we should be following.

And so we’re back to “those darned Pharisees.”  If only they’d get it.  If only they would use their power and influence for good.  If only they were more like us.  You know, we who, after like 2000 years of scholarship, totally understand what Jesus was about and what he taught.  We who, after years of study or at least listening to those who had years of study, have learned what it means to be righteous and saved.  We who, if we break it down, actually… maybe… perhaps… possibly… aren’t that much different from the Pharisees after all.

Wait hold up, let’s take a step back here.  We can’t be like the Pharisees, can we?  I mean we don’t demand that kind of respect in church.  We don’t shoot our mouths at the lesser learned than us.  We aren’t super disciplined in keeping the commandments because believe me, we’ll work on the Sabbath like no one’s business.  In this economy and social climate?  You better believe we’ll be getting as many overtime hours as we can.  Only the weak and lazy need a day off, right?  So we’re not like the Pharisees?

Well, maybe not exactly in practice.  But I think we can be like the Pharisees with our own brand of legalism.  We might not bat an eye at someone working on the Sabbath (i.e. me), but we might see some traits or practices of others that we’d say would discount them from God’s grace.  We might draw lines between those who we decide are saved and not.  We sometimes size people up and make up our minds about them because of how we feel about what is right and wrong and how they display it.  We sometimes call out the evil when we see it, point out the faults of others, and “lovingly” try to save the world through actions and upholding the rules.  So maybe we’re not that different from the Pharisees after all…

Those poor, misunderstood Pharisees.

I mean, they were just doing their job, right?  They were just fulfilling their duties and expectations.  They were just trying to make the world a better place.  A world where we know who is in and who is out.  A world that segregates those that we can accept to be like us enough and those who are not.  A world that is conformed to give us the most amounts of power and privilege and prestige.

That is just how the world was in those days, wasn’t it?  That’s how it is now, isn’t it?  The world that we’re part of?  The thing is though this is the world that Jesus pushed up against.  Jesus wasn’t against the law by any means, but he understood what the law was about, which was to reveal God in our lives.  He wasn’t against religious piety, but he knew that achieving it wasn’t a means of getting into God’s kingdom.  He wasn’t against people, not by any means, rather Jesus wanted us and showed us how to treat our neighbours, our enemies, all people really, with love.

But, since the world began until now, all it has ever been about was all this name calling and finger pointing.  The world continues to be divided because everyone sees themselves as right and everyone who doesn’t agree with them as wrong.  Pretty much all people of all time end up looking at the other side of whatever side they’re on and labelled them as the antagonist.  The thing is though, whether we’re conservative or liberal, vote left or right, or are from this ethnicity or gender or that one, when we strip away all these labels and lines and definitions, we’ll see that we are pretty much the same. 

The same in that we are broken people in need of a Saviour.

And Jesus comes to us as that Saviour, not to condemn but to help us realise our folly.  Not to punish but teach us community and right relationship.  Not to Lord over us, but to be the Lord of love, the Lord of faith, the Lord of even the Sabbath.  That might not mean much to us these days, because again, we don’t really keep that Sabbath.  But Jesus also says that the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath.

Do you hear that?

The Sabbath was made for us.  The rules and laws are a gift.  We aren’t defined by our obedience or lack thereof, but by God’s love for us.  A love that welcomes, blesses, and saves, regardless of who we are and what we’ve done or left undone.  God loves and saves.

See the Sabbath doesn’t demand you to rest or else God will be mad at you, but it says that because God is already well pleased with you, you are given the gift of rest.  These laws that the Pharisees like to hold onto so tightly don’t need to be followed in order for God to welcome and accept you, but because God already welcomes and accepts us, we are given a description of a life that truly is life.  We aren’t condemned because we don’t understand these things, but God has already decided, since the beginning of time, to graciously love and save us.

See it’s in our non-pious piety, our un-legalistic legalism, our differing but identical attitudes that we are taught where we can find our identity, and so we work harder at it, we try harder to follow the rules and non-rules of our faith, and inadvertently draw that line between us and others and thus with God all the more deeper in the sand.  But we aren’t defined by the law, but by God’s love.  We needn’t be legalistic in our ways and police others to do the same, because none of that could snatch us from God’s hand.  We don’t need to point fingers at each other and cast blame, but instead we can see the beauty in the diversity of creation, where God has already planned out, instigated, and executed this plan of salvation through forgiveness and unconditional welcome and love.  Where we can live as God’s people, never earning that privilege but only accepting it as a gift, and be healed into wholeness of relationship with God and each other.

So as we embark in this season after Pentecost, may we embrace our God-given identities as citizens of God’s kingdom, that we might see the value in all people and learn to accept difference, that we might work together for the better of relationship, community, and the world.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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