Worship Service for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, which is on July 9th, 2023!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. It has the order of worship, the words of the liturgy, and the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW and one hymn from ACS. Most of this stuff will be on your screen, so you can follow along that way. The bulletin also has the full sermon, that is found on this page as well below the video.

For an enhanced worship experience online, you can have a lit candle in your space for the duration of the service and put it out at the same time the altar candles are after the sending hymn. And if you want to participate in communion, you may do so by having something small to eat and drink ready to consume at the appropriate time in the service. Further instruction will be given at that time.

May God’s welcoming and inclusive love fill you with joy and peace, now and always!

Comforting God, by your Spirit may the burdens of our souls be lifted, that we might see and experience the support and joy in living in your community, with your holy people, in your holy name.  Amen.

So earlier this week my friend had alerted me to a Lutheran Church down in the States that was using a new Creed instead of the regular Apostle’s Creed that we pretty much use every week here.  This isn’t an unusual practice to change up the Creed by any means, often churches would update the words of their liturgy to have more inclusive and perhaps modern and clear language.  This Creed that my friend told me about and I subsequently read, was no different in that respect. 

It talks about God not having a gender, how Jesus sees everyone as a child of God, and how the Spirit is not tied to any one ethnicity but is here for all.  It talks about the church being a diverse multi-faceted people with many gifts and talents that works together for God’s glory.  And at the end of it, it says that love is love is love, and asks God for help in increasing our faith.

Nothing wrong with it, right?  Theologically sound, talking about the main points of our faith that should be mentioned in a Creed, and uses language that is… on the most part… appropriate for worshipping communities.  But as it is with a lot of “new” things in the church, the critics come out of the woodwork. 

Like I said, I never heard of this Creed before my friend told me about a few days ago but it apparently was written like two years ago.  And after doing a quick search I was bombarded with articles upon articles, TikToks over IG reels over YouTube shorts, and just endless reactions, all saying how this Creed is heretical, theologically incorrect, and an abomination.  One comment even said something like “calling the Holy Spirit by anything other than the Holy Spirit is the unforgiveable sin.”  Ok, even if that is how he understands that passage out of Matthew, this somewhat new Creed doesn’t say anything about the Spirit other than the Spirit being welcoming to all people.  I don’t see the basis of his calling out the unforgiveable sin.

So why all the hate?  It’s just that… this Creed is called… the Sparkle Creed.

And here is where the controversy comes in.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally fine with people changing words around to suit their own contexts.  I’m ok with seeing and recognising the needs of your congregation and trying to meet them.  I would even encourage that we study the landscape of our neighbourhoods and surrounding areas and figure out how to make the face of God more apparent in it.  And aside from a couple iffy words and terms here and there, this Sparkle Creed is fine.

It’s just that… I think it’s a really poor choice in names.   Like with a name like that, of course the haters are going to hate.  And that’s a shame, because all of the goodness of this Creed is now lost because as soon as many people hear the name, the words are now falling on deaf ears.  I mean, just looking at that unforgiveable sin comment and others like it tells me that people have already made their mind up about the Sparkle Creed before even reading it.  They look at the title and figured that it would be something that is against what they already believe and threw away any possibility of learning something new.  They had already decided that they didn’t like it before even giving it a chance.

And that is sad.  It’s sad that all the work put into crafting a new, more inclusive-languaged creed could be somewhat wasted because people couldn’t see past the title.  It’s sad that we can’t be more open-minded to things that might land outside the scope of our understandings and predetermined beliefs.  It’s sad that this generation is like children sitting in the marketplace, complaining that the world isn’t catering to them.

And I guess not just this generation, but maybe every generation ever since Jesus first said these words some 2000 years ago.  So maybe I’ll challenge Jesus’ choice of words here, the generation he was talking about wasn’t acting like a bunch of children, but they were acting like a bunch of adults as this seems to be how adults actually are throughout history.

This believing that we’re always right.  This idea that we are owed the world or at least the utmost respect from everyone around us.  This notion of privilege, thinking that we just inherently deserve everything we want because of we are the ones who just know better.

This what Jesus talked about, isn’t it?  He’s talking about the complaining around the progression of faith that was going on.  He was talking about the decided unbelief and rejection of God’s inclusive message in the world, and the messengers sent to deliver it.  He was talking about how the powers that be had already decided that they didn’t like John the baptizer or Jesus for no other reason other than they already decided that they didn’t.  They made their decision first, they can validate them later.

And so we, sitting comfortable in our Lutheran chairs, confident in our progressive and inclusive faith, almost certain in our views of God’s love and grace, look at that perverse generation of Jesus’ time and we feel bad that they just didn’t get it.  We, in our modern-day times and understandings of the world are so advanced that surely Jesus would be proud of us, right?  We, knowing what we know and what we know being right would mean that there is no way that Jesus was talking about us.  Or so we’d imagine.

See if I’m being honest, when I heard of the reactions to the Sparkle Creed, I decidedly reacted toward these reactions in my own way.  I read some titles of the articles and already I expected my eyes to roll more than once while reading them.  I sized up my friend who told me about it in the first place and assumed what he’d have a certain attitude toward it and felt like I didn’t need to engage with that type of closed-mindedness.  So really, how am I any different?  How am I any better?  How am I not included in this rebuke from Jesus?  It’s like we’re all the same foul-smelling substance, but just a different pile.  We share the same closed minds, assumptions, and pretentions.  We are all like children.

But the kicker here is that Jesus tells us that we need to have attitudes like infants in order to see God’s message and presence in the world.

Infants, who are innocent and unjaded by the hardships of life.  Babies, who don’t really have the capacity to hold grudges but would be a sucker for anyone who would show them love and a smile.  Children, who would never shoot first and ask questions later, but might ask questions upon questions, even ad nauseum, out of a pure curiosity of their surroundings, of community and relationships, and of how we can live better in the world.  See, It isn’t their decisions that determine their faith, but their faith that determines their decisions.  This is what Jesus is calling us to be like.

But we will fail.  We won’t get it right.  We will continue to do what we don’t want to do and not do what we know we ought to do and feel bad for it.  We will stay in sin because we can never live up to the standard of perfection, we can never achieve the goal of holiness, we can never bear the burden of righteousness.

But even in that, Jesus tells us to come to him, all who are weary and in need of rest, for his burden is light and yoke easy.  In Jesus, the pressure of being right, holier-than-thou, and acting not like children, is lifted and we are graciously forgiven and loved anyway.  By the Spirit we are given new life and opportunity to see and recognise the presence of God in the world, in our communities, and in our very selves, bringing us up out of the guilt and shame of our shortcomings, and reminding us of our belonging in God’s family of the fallen but lifted, broken but healed, sinners but forgiven.

And so I think that it’s ok to use the Sparkle Creed in worship.  I also think that it’s ok to not.  I think it’s ok to have an opinion.  And it’s ok to not.  It’s ok to be weighed down by the burdens and worries of the ways of the world, but we are encouraged to acknowledge Jesus in our lives, offering us rest and support, reminding us that we are all dearly loved by the God who created the universe, welcoming us into the everlasting kingdom that is open to all and receives us just as we are.

So as we continue in this season after Pentecost, may we see each other as God sees us, sinners in need of rest, and bring glory to the same God for so graciously providing us just that, in the name of Christ, by the power of the Spirit.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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