Holy Eucharist, Rite II, the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday, November 8, 2020
Foolish and Wise
The Celebrant and LEM stand, maintaining physical distance. There is no procession.
Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
LEM: And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.
Celebrant: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you 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 Christ our Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
LEM: Have mercy upon us.
[acc_item title=”The Collect”]
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
The Celebrant says the Collect.
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
( Click on the “+” as you go to show each part of the service )
[acc_item title=” The Old Testament Lesson #1: Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16″]
12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
14 One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
15 To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
[acc_item title=” The Old Testament Lesson #2: Amos 5:18-24″]
18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
19 as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
[acc_item title=”The New Testament Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18″]
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Then, all standing, the Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying
Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
LEM: Glory to you, Lord Christ.
[acc_item title=”The Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25:1-13″]
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Deacon or Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
LEM: Praise to you, Lord Christ.
[acc_item title=” Sermon: Foolish and Wisw”]
Foolish and Wise
23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A 2020
Odds are, you’ve never been to a wedding like this. First of all: ten bridesmaids? Ten? That’s a seriously high number of bridesmaids – enough, if they were men, to make a minyan, form a new synagogue, and for either gender one shy of what you need to field a ball team. We won’t even get into the ratio of foolish to wise, except to note that weddings in my experience rarely bring out the wisest choices in people, particularly when the time for feasting comes around, but this is Jesus and he brings the wine or makes sure there’s plenty, so maybe he knows better. Second of all: if each of these bridesmaids has a corresponding groomsman, you’re looking at a bridal party of at least twenty souls, not counting the preacher or the organist, the flower girl and the ring-bearer, and whoever it is will get roped into singing “O Promise Me” or “The Wind Beneath My Wings”. Clergy cringe at the thought of over-the-top weddings with too many amateurs performing life-changing rituals while under stress, to quote Robert Fulgum on the matter. We all learn, and most of us counsel, that when it comes to weddings, less is more, simpler is better, and that anything that distracts from the couple making their lifelong promises is out of place.
So, by all means, make them responsible for bringing their own lamps, and enough oil to keep them lit, in case the bridegroom is delayed for some undisclosed, but presumably bachelor-party related, reason, and then make them find the all-nite olive oil dispensary when it turns out the foolish ones, at least, didn’t. But why would they have? No matter how many weddings you, as a bridesmaid, may attend, it’s rarely more than, say, three per particular bridegroom, so how where they to know he’d be as a late to his own party as I hope to be to my funeral, or as my Aunt Bert and Uncle Bob were to pretty much everything. Those two, now of blessed memory and may God love them to bits, were the types of people that if you wanted them to be at an event by, say, 7:00 pm, you best tell them it started at 5:00 pm, and if they showed up by 7:30 you counted yourself lucky. I still think their children, my cousins, were deeply scarred by the fact that their parents never arrived at a school concert or play until intermission, and left them more than once waiting for a ride after the ball game or at the mall till security was locking everything up and wondering if there wasn’t someone they maybe should maybe call, you know, kids, it’s getting late. By 8th grade they were used to it, so by 10th, 11th grade, whenever it was, they were first in line to get their driver’s licenses and then their own car, rust-bucket or jalopy, knowing that if they didn’t get somewhere on time after that, it was on them, or the carburetor, which was much easier to say than that “My parents are lame.” Part of what led these people to be so conservative, I think, were these formative experiences of always being anxious because someone with power and authority over their lives simply couldn’t get it together consistently enough to be reliable, and such foolishness cost them dearly.
Foolishness is like that, of course. It hurts far more than the fool in question. From Proverbs to Psalms to Wisdom we hear lesson after lesson on this score – and what is the famous line: “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
It is a fool who says that, by the way. Touchstone, in Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It – a wise fool, an honest fool, as well as that most valuable of fools, “a fool to make me merry.” I would’ve paid good money this week to have such a fool about, watch the vote counts for me, make me merry by whatever means necessary, take my mind off things.
But back to our wedding: Weird Point #3: why is the groom going to see all these other women that late on the night of his own wedding – and what kind of stag night was it that made him late for that? Point #4 is like unto it: is anyone else troubled by the absence of a bride? Could not at least two of the bridesmaids be, I don’t know, tasked with making sure she’s alright, isn’t worried about Where Is He Now? or What Is He Doing? or (gasp!) Who is it This Time? It’s her wedding night, after all, and the bridegroom who shows up oil-lamp-draining late to that is…well…let’s just say, as I once had to say to a heartbroken bride the morning of, once, who’d just gotten That Text, I kid you not – not everybody, really, is worth waiting for.
That reminds me of a happier story, in terms of what’s worth waiting for. Two women who’d been together for about twenty years came to me one day after church, two or three parishes ago. They were nervous, a bit, but then couples often are, and they gently asked me if I would consider letting them get married in the church. Weddings for same-sex couples had just recently been approved and affirmed by the church, the state, and the Supreme Court, meaning that these two could finally get married under law in a way that matched how they’d long since been married in the eyes of one another, of their families, their friends, and of God. Could they have that ceremony here. Yes, of course, I said. And, um, would you do it? “Would I marry you two in church?” I repeated, making sure I’d understood. “Of course, of course. It would be my pleasure.” I must’ve seemed a little to eager on the point – I love weddings, and they always make me cry – because one of them remarked, laughing, “We just mean, um, would you perform the ceremony,” and I had to laugh along with her, puns being what they are. “Yes, of course,” I said. “It would be my honor.” It was a beautiful community celebration – say what you will about the South; from time to time it can surprise you, and people know and love their own sometimes in ways you least expect it. This couple has been together nearly thirty years by now, their youngest just got his driver’s license, and I’ve never seen a happier wedding.
Weird Point #5: Share and share alike – not. “If I give you some, there won’t be enough for me.” Jesus, come on. The kingdom of heaven is like five wise bridesmaids refusing to do what we all learned to do in kindergarten, share what we have with those who have less? Oh, but they should’ve been prepared, foreseen the unforeseeable, known better than to expect to be treated well if they got into a pinch. Really? Whatever happened to two fish feeding 10,000 so long as you also have five loaves of bread and – conjured from thin air, too – the hundreds of baskets necessary to distribute them. Whatever happened to blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom?
Poor is one thing, it would seem, but foolish another. You want to get into my kingdom, Jesus seems to say, you better expect the unexpected, and bring a light, to make sure you can shine your own way in.
Which (point #6) leads us to ask why? Why did they all need to bring a lamp? I like the symbolism of wedding fires burning all night long, sucker for romance that I am, and of no woman being left outside in the cold and also the dark of night. Yet there’s something about improvidence equaling imprudence that I find unsettling about this parable, though I ever find (cold) comfort in its final line, “you know not the day nor the hour.”
Except we usually think that line refers to the hour of our death – and sweet Mary, pray for us at that hour as at this – not to the bridegroom’s any-day-now arrival. But, again, why do we need a lamp? What is it we need to see?
Oh, certainly not the kingdom of heaven that shall be in the world to come when we are caught up in our Jesus loop-de-loops, meeting the Lord in the air like so many zeppelins while the dead rise at the last trumpet, the seals are broken, the skies darken, or whatever it is comes on that last day, “Dies irae, dies illa, day of wrath, of doom impending, David’s word with Sibyl’s blending, Heaven and earth in ashes ending.” That will be when it will be, and as it will be, will we or nill we, and pray for us sinners then as now, I repeat, sweet mother Mary. As Amos reminds us, “the day of the Lord is darkness, not light, as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear.” But reminders of eschatological hopes or fears, as Paul in his typical fever on the topic reminds us in 1st Thessalonians this morning, are at best coping mechanisms to help us get through times of loss or anxiety on all the nights and days before that last one as we try to make it through in this world, and in this life, as it is. Focus too much on the end times and you miss all the in-between times, the right-now times, the what-shall-we-do-with-the-time-that-is-given-to-us times, as well as the times of celebration and beginning, which is surely what a wedding banquet refers to, if it refers to anything.
What it means, I think – what it must mean, I think – we can see as we remember that the key distinction in the parable is between the foolish and the wise. How one shows that one is wise – all that folderol about who remembered her oil jar and who did not – is less important than the idea that one shows that one is wise, and refuses to help the foolish if it puts one in peril of not being able to see any further along the path of wisdom. Who falls behind, stays behind, on that stony path to glory. For if we do not have enough light, or all lights go out because we did not kindle the flame of wisdom, did not remember that we have to, that it does not kindle itself anymore than the words of the Bible, the Quran, Torah or any book read, interpret, or justify themselves. No-one can treat the path of wisdom for you, light the path of wisdom before you, oil the lamp of the light of wisdom for you, if you do not do so yourself. Call it grace, call it salvation, call it blessing, as you will, the power to do so and the will to do so must come from within, by choice, on purpose, and with intent.
God has created us and in Christ saved us and set us free, but what comes after that, what God’s Spirit does with that, we know most through the choices we make when we are alone, when no-one is watching – and when we think for ourselves, make up our own minds, understand that freedom in Christ is not so much freedom-from as it is freedom-to. We are set free from the powers of sin and death no merely so we can avoid the fires and pits of hell and the sneers of an angry God who made us in his image and then got mad about what we did with it. We are set free from those powers in order to do something – to do what it good, and all that is good, to love, to set free, to break bonds, soothe hearts, pronounce good news to the poor and set the captive free, smash the mind-forg’d manacles that keep people in so many places chained to their own warped, limited, self-stifling ways of thinking, of foolishness, of limitation. We are set free to be wise, and as those who follow the paths of wisdom, who love wisdom – are philosophers, so to speak, by definition, those who love wisdom because it is good – we set others free as well.
Also, when we live and govern wisely, we let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. That’s what God wants to see and hear, the prophet Amos says, not our festivals and assemblies, our offerings, the song-and-dance routines by which we celebrate our salvation or even its memorial. Those are for us, not for God – and if they do not inspire us to do justice, walk in mercy, spread righteousness, heal conflict, make peace, and light the ways of the paths of wisdom, then we’re doing something wrong.
As 1st Peter puts the point, a little differently: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (4:8). If anything we say or do about salvation does not end in that kind of love, in openness of heart and of mind, as well as justice and righteousness, then we’re doing something wrong.
Wisdom is actually easy to find if you look for her, the Book of Wisdom says, if you rise early while the light is fresh – and if you want to find her, want her to find you. Look: there she is, at the city gate, it says, waiting for those who come in and those who set forth, meeting them in every thought, and setting free from care, worry, and anxiety those who make sure they let her, see her, follow her paths. No-one else can do it for you, and you can do it for no-one else, but you can bear witness to it, to her, to the path of wisdom and to wisdom herself by how you live, what you choose, what mind-forg’d manacles you break, or any other chains that bind, and how and whom you choose to set free.
Because of their prudence and preparation, which accommodated someone else’s choices and enabled them to expect the unexpected, the wise got to go to the wedding banquet, the place to celebrate love above all things; the foolish did not. In the kingdom of heaven, it would appear, where love reigns, even if it comes late, one can expect to meet the wise, not the fools. But who is the wise one, and who the fool? Recall Shakespeare’s reminder, through the fool Touchstone: “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Follow the path of love, as God loves, and wisdom will follow – indeed, will have been beside you all the time.
The Deacon or Priest prepares the altar and sanctuary for the Eucharist.
There is no passing of plates and no reception the collection or other gifts.
After the offering, the Celebrant continues, saying
A Statement of Faith
The Celebrant says
[acc_item title=”A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love – 1 John 4:7-11″]
Beloved, let us love one another, *
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, *
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us, *
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us *
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, *
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us, *
and God’s love will be perfected in us.[/acc_item]
The Prayers of the People
The LEM prays. In the silence after each bidding, the People offer their prayers without speaking.
[acc_item title=”Prayers of the People“]
I ask your prayers for all God’s people; for our bishops, our clergy, and this gathering, and for all ministers and people. Pray for the Church.
I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations; and for the well-being of all. Pray for justice and peace.
I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.
Pray for those in any need or trouble.
I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of God.
Pray that they may seek, and pray that they might find.
I ask your prayers for the departed [especially N.N.]. Pray for those who have died.
I ask your prayers for those on the prayer list of this parish, and those whose needs are known to you alone.
The Celebrant adds a concluding collect.
The People stand.
Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you,
LEM: And also with you
The Ministers and People greet one another in silence while keeping physical distance
The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
LEM: We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
LEM: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds
[acc_item title=”The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving”]
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, for you are the source of light and life, you made us in your image, and you call us to new life in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the host of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to the glory of your Name:
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.
The people stand or kneel. The Celebrant continues
[acc_item title=”The Celebrant continues…”]
Holy and gracious Father: In love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin, evil, and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you. He offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.
On the night he was handed over, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.”
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith: [/acc_item]
LEM: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
The Celebrant continues.
[acc_item title=”The Celebrant continues…”]
We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O God, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.
Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.
All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.
Now, as Christ taught us, we are bold to say,
The LEM prays
[acc_item title=”The LEM Prays”]
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread, and then keeps a period of silence.
The Celebrant continues
[acc_item title=”The Celebrant continues…”]
Celebrant: [Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
LEM: Therefore, let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]
Celebrant: The Gifts of God for the People of God.
The people come forward to retrieve the hosts, maintaining physical distance. They consume the hosts upon returning to their seats.
After Communion, the Celebrant says
Let us pray.
The Celebrant prays
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen.[/acc_item]
Blessing and Dismissal
The Celebrant says
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
The LEM says
Let us go forth, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
The Celebrant, the LEM, and the People depart, maintaining physical distance.
We hope that today’s service has been a blessing to you.
We are here to serve you, and hope to see you again.
Please feel free to call us, email us, or visit us online.
About Episcopal Worship and this Service
The audio and video of this service will be posted to the church website after the service. Please join us, either in person or online, as you are able. Commitment Sunday, when we celebrate our pledge givers for 2021, is November 8, 2020. We are grateful for your pledge support, and hope that you will continue it.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Fairland, MD
12621 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
firstname.lastname@example.org * 301-622-5860 ext. 1002
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wilkins, Priest-in-Charge
email@example.com * 301-622-5860 ext. 1001
Linda Lee, Parish Administrator
firstname.lastname@example.org *301-622-5860 ext. 1004
Beresford Coker, Musical Director
Joyce Walker, Administrative Assistant
Charles Smith, Senior Warden
Lee Mericle, Junior Warden
For information about St. Mark’s, please visit our website:
Resources (available for free online)
These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.
Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org
Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf
Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf
Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982
Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993
Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997
This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.
Links to church websites – National, Diocesan and our church’s website.
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org
Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org
St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org
The table for readings in Year A for the Season After Pentecost may be found at: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=A&season=Season%20after%20Pentecost