Saturday, August 30, 2014

God the Verb

RCL Proper 22A
31 August 2014

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

         At an early age I learned the importance of names.  This learning came from my experience within my immediate family circle.  My father and I share the same first name, but my dad was always ‘Dick’ and I have always been ‘Richard’.  However, visiting my grandparents in New York brought a shift in names.  For reasons that are still unknown to me, my grandfather, whose given name was ‘Donald’, was known in town as ‘Geyser Dick’.  This meant that in Saratoga Springs my father went from 'Dick' to ‘Richard’ and I became either ‘young Richard’ or ‘RG’, my initials.

         My sister and I also had family nicknames that are used only within the family circle.  A university friend of mine once visited my parents and overheard them using my family nickname.  During his visit he used that nickname several times.  After he left, my mother was quite put out and poor Dan was in the doghouse for some time.  Unfortunately, he never knew exactly why and I was ordered to keep silent!  Even Paula did not use my nickname until we were well and truly married.

         Names, whether our given names or nicknames, are deeply symbolic.  To speak someone’s name is to do more than simply identify one person from another; a name tells a story and describes an identity.  My children tell me that their close friends who have come to know our family and who have been part of many family dinners, car pools and just ‘hanging out’ at our house have a verb:  to leggett’.  ''To leggett' has a variety of meanings:  ‘to have spirited discussions’ or ‘to seek clarity of language’ or even ‘to form a united front within two seconds of having just had an argument with each other’.

         In the ancient world to know the name of a god or gods meant to know something about the character of the god and, in some cases, to have a lever to persuade the god to act in a particular way.  In a world where gods were numerous and each family or tribe or nation had its own gods, it was not enough to say simply, ‘God says this or that’; people wanted to know which god and whether the name of that god indicated that ‘this or that’ were actually in that god’s power to perform.

         So is it any wonder that Moses, when faced with the burning bush and the divine voice commanding him to undertake an extraordinary mission, would ask, in so many words, ‘Who are you?  Do you actually have any power to help me do what you are asking me to do?’  After all, this God is asking Moses to free the Hebrews from their slavery to the mightiest monarch of the time and to bring them into a new country which is already occupied by many tribes and peoples who are not likely to pack up and move because Moses comes and says, ‘Move.  God says this is our land.’

         What is most important in this revelation to Moses is that God does not give a noun as the divine name; God gives a verb.  The God who appears to Moses, the God who will save the Hebrews and the God whom we believe was present and active in Jesus of Nazareth and who continues to be present and active in the Spirit is a God who acts.  This is what is crucial to know about God:  we know God by what God does in time and space.

         To know this God, though, requires a relationship of trust.  Over the centuries scholars and teachers have wondered why the noun ‘God’ is repeated in the opening words:  ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ (Exodus 3.6a)  In one Jewish commentary on the Jewish prayer book the repetition of ‘God’ is understood to mean ‘that each person should believe in God on the basis of personal investigation, not merely tradition’. (The Jewish Study Bible, 111)  If we want to know God, we have to take a risk and enter into the challenges of life, trusting that we will find the strength, the help and the vision to do what must be done in order to work with God in making the divine vision reality.

         Think of it this way.  The first step in the liberation of the Hebrews is taken when Moses leaves the burning bush and turns towards Egypt.  How difficult a step that must have been, leaving family and security behind in order to pursue what most would consider a foolhardy if not suicidal mission.  This God has that effect on people; one burning bush and they’re off to save the world!  As we follow the story in Exodus, we will learn that Ha Shem, a Hebrew phrase meaning simply ‘the Name’, will be saviour, healer, revealer, covenant maker and more (The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, 91).  But every time the Hebrews think that they have put God in a convenient box, God breaks free and wreaks havoc with the status quo.  This is definitely not a 'tame' God (cf. C. S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia)

         If anyone wants to know who God is, then one must look aback at one’s own life and ask the question, ‘How has God acted in my life?’  This will not give you or me a ‘name’, but it will tell us something about the mystery of the Holy One who chooses to be with us and to be for us.  In remembering what God has done, we are presented with opportunities to act in our present as God has acted in our past.  It is not a matter of believing in God because of tradition; it is the personal commitment to choose to act like the God who will be who God will be, the God whose nature becomes evident from the actions that God does (The Jewish Study Bible, 111).

         As I grow older, I have become more reluctant to use the adverbs ‘always’ or ‘never’.  I have learned that when I use either in the context of my relationship with God, I am quickly confronted with a situation or a question where my ‘always’ or my ‘never’ are put to the test.  To be sure, there are some constants:  God expects me to act justly, to be steadfast in my relationships and to avoid thinking that I am the centre of the universe.  I have learned that ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ is generally a quality of God’s relationship with creation.  I have found that God is more alluring because God is elusive.  Each day I realize that entering into the mystery of God is  like peeling an onion that becomes bigger rather than smaller with each layer (cf. C. S. Lewis).  What God asks of you and me is that we examine our own histories and then decide whether this God, this mysterious God, is worth trusting.

         I hope that we will all be like Moses and take the risk of faith in this God of the burning bush.  That faith will take us places that we never imagined; that faith may cost us some of the certainties we have always held.  But that faith will lead to genuine freedom, the freedom to be passionate for the well-being of all God’s beloved, the freedom to be compassionate to all those in need and trouble, the freedom to be who we are rather than who we are not.  Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Order for the Eucharist on Pentecost 12 (31 August 2014)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
17 August 2014

The Gathering of the Community

Entrance Hymn

‘Lord of All Hopefulness’  Common Praise #506


Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God,
the fountain of living water,
the rock who gave us birth,
our light and our salvation. [i]

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


‘Glory, Glory in the Highest’  Common Praise #366

Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

O God,
whose word burns like a fire within us:
grant us a bold and faithful spirit,
so that in your strength we may be unafraid
to speak your word and follow where you lead;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen. [ii]

The Proclamation of the Word of God

The First Reading

A Reading from Exodus (3.1-15).

            After a long time the king of Egypt died.  The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out.  Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God.  God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

            Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  Then he said, “Come no closer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

            Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.  Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.  So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you:  when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

            But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”  He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘am has sent me to you. ’”

            God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:  This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Psalm of the Day

Psalm 105.1-6, 23-27, 45b (NRSV) from Songs for the Holy One

Praise the Holy One,
invoke the great Name;
proclaim among the peoples God’s amazing deeds.
Play and sing to the Holy;
meditate on all the wonders.
Glorify the Holy Name!
You who seek God,
rejoice with your whole heart.

Depend upon the strength of the Holy One,
always seek the Presence.
Remember the great miracles,
the wonderful signs and just judgements.
Yes, you, offspring of Abraham, servants of God,
descendants of Jacob, chosen of God.

Then Israel came to Egypt,
Jacob became an alien in the land of Ham.
The Holy One made them very fruitful,
more powerful than their enemies.
God made Egypt hate the chosen people,
treat abominable the holy servants.

The Holy One sent Moses,
and Aaron the chosen one.
They performed God’s signs,
miracles in Ham’s country.

Praise the Holy One!

The Second Reading

A Reading from the Letter to the Romans (12.9-21).

            Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

            Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn before the Gospel

‘Take Up Your Cross, the Saviour Said’  Common Praise #431 (vv. 1, 2, 3 before the Gospel; vv. 4, 5 after the Gospel)

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew (16.21-28).
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord!  This must never happen to you.”  But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

            Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?  Or what will they give in return for their life?

            “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.  Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

The Gospel of Christ.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

The Sermon

An Affirmation of Faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

We believe in God,
the Source of all life and love,
from whom every family
in heaven and earth is named.

We believe in God,
the eternal Word of redemption,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with steadfast love.

We believe in God,
the Spirit of wisdom and truth,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.

We believe in one God:
Source of all being,
eternal Word and Holy Spirit.  Amen. [iii]

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings

The Exchange of the Peace

May the peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.

The Holy Communion

Offertory Hymn

‘For the Fruit of All Creation’  Common Praise #259

The Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Holy God, gracious and merciful,
you bring forth food from the earth
and nourish your whole creation.
Turn our hearts toward those
who hunger in any way,
so that all may know your care;
and prepare us now
to feast on the bread of life,
Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [iv]

The Thanksgiving at the Table

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Blessed are you, gracious God,
creator of heaven and earth;
you are the source of light and life for all your creation,
you made us in your own image,
and call us to new life in Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Therefore we praise you,
joining our voices to proclaim the glory of your name. [v]

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might. 
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. 
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 
Hosanna in the highest. [vi]

Holy God, you alone are holy, you alone are God.
The universe declares your praise:
beyond the stars; beneath the sea; within each cell; with every breath.
We praise you, O God.

Generations bless your faithfulness:
through the water; by night and day;
across the wilderness; out of exile; into the future.
We bless you, O God.

We give you thanks for your dear Son:
at the heart of human life; near to those who suffer;
beside the sinner; among the poor; with us now.
We thank you, O God.

In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: 
Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. 
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
and gave it for all to drink, saying: 
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. 
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Remembering his love for us on the way,
at the table, and to the end,
we proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

We pray for the gift of your Spirit:
in our gathering; within this meal;
among your people; throughout the world.

Blessing, praise and thanks to you, holy God,
through Christ Jesus, by your Spirit,
in your church, without end.
Amen. [vii]

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught us, let us pray,
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread

Creator of all,
you gave us golden fields of wheat,
whose many grains we have gathered
and made into this one bread.
So may your Church be gathered
from the ends of the earth
into your reign of justice and peace. [viii]

The gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.


Hymn after Communion

‘Bread of the World in Mercy Broken’  Common Praise #54

The Sending Forth of the Community

The Prayer after Communion

God of abundance,
with this bread of life and cup of salvation
you have united us with Christ,
making us one with all your people.
Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit,
so that we may proclaim
your redeeming love to the world
and continue forever in the risen life
of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  Amen. [ix]

Glory to God,
whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine. 
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

Closing Hymn

‘The God of Abraham Praise’  Common Praise #347

The Dismissal

The Deacon sends the People forth with a Dismissal for the occasion.

[i] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 95.

[ii] Liturgy Task Force, ‘Trial Use Collects for Year A:  Pentecost to the Reign of Christ’, 8.

[iii] ‘Affirmation of Faith 6’ in Common Worship (2000), 148 alt.

[iv] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 107 alt.

[v] The Book of Alternative Services (1986), 218.

[vi] Common Praise #719.

[vii] ‘Thanksgiving at the Table IX’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 68.

[viii] The Book of Alternative Services (1986), 212 alt.

[ix] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 114 alt.