19th Sunday after Pentecost
Inscrutable Mercy III
Morning Prayer with Sacrament Reserved
The Lord is my shepherd Psalm 23:1
Rejoice in the Lord, always Philippians 4:4
The Invitatory and Psalter
V. O Lord, open thou our lip
R. And our mouths shall show forth your praise.
V. Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Alleluia
Jubilate Psalm 100
1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness and come before his presence with a song.
2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us; we are his *.
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.
( Click on the “+” as you go to show each part of the service )
[acc_item title=”Psalm 23″]
23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
The mercy of the Lord is everlasting. Come let us adore him.
[acc_item title=” The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 25:1-9″]
25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
25:2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt.
25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
25:4 For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
25:5 the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.
25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
25:7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
25:8 Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
25:9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.[/acc_item]
[acc_item title=”Hymn: Christ whose Glory fills the skies – Charles Wesley – Hymnal # 7“]
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise!
Triumph o’er the shades of night:
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.
Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
Visit then this soul of mine!
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!
Fill me, radiancy divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.
[acc_item title=”The New Testament Lesson: Philippians 4:1-9″]
4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
4:3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
4:9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you..
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.[/acc_item]
[acc_item title=”The King of love my shepherd is – Henry Williams Baker – Hymnal 1982 # 646“]
The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine for ever.
Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth,
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
thy unction grace bestoweth;
and oh, what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
thy goodness faileth never:
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house for ever.
[acc_item title=”The Gospel Lesson: Matthew 22:1-14″]
22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
22:3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’
22:5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,
22:6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
22:9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
22:10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,
22:12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Christ. [/acc_item]
[acc_item title=” Sermon: The Invited Were Not Worthy“]
A good friend of mine likes to tell the story of how she got used to diminishing returns, and to having to lower her expectations. “You know the old saying about how what if you gave a party and nobody came?” she asked me once. “I do. That actually happened to me.”
I had not known her at the time, of course, so I have but her word to go on. But as no-one has ever found this person to be untruthful, I do not doubt her word. Indeed, it was her very candor, she said – and I witnessed – that could cost her friendships. A highly-trained professional who works in an intense, emotionally taxing industry where lives are often at risk, this friend of mine does not suffer fools. Who presents to her as a fool, whether as a colleague, a fellow professional, or a friend, can expect to have their foolishness arraigned at the bars of both logic and wit, and to be found wanting. Some persons, though not I, have found this sort of tongue-lashing to be too much, and have ended their connection, to which my friend typically responds, “Good riddance.”
Anyway, she once gave one of those parties homeowners in a neighborhood were once expected to give, and perhaps still are, inviting one’s neighbors over for a drink and some hors d’oeuvres. My friend and her partner had been to several of these, out of a sense of duty, if not quite joy. She had thought she’d behaved in a friendly manner at these events, checking her watch only every now and then, not scarfing all the best canapés at once, and not tugging on her partner’s arm to leave until at least an hour had passed. But she must’ve said to one too many neighbors “Don’t you just hate these things? I can’t believe people go to all this fuss,” or “I’m no good in the kitchen. Just ask our dogs; they eat most of it” for people to doubt that they’d enjoy a gathering at her home, should the occasion arise. Thus, when it did arise – it was her turn that month, as it were, everyone on their little cul-de-sac having already taken theirs – she dutifully sent out invitations, made (or otherwise obtained) acceptable fare, and sat, party dress on, waiting on the appointed evening for the guests to arrive.
They did not arrive.
After ten minutes, she was not too concerned. Some of these people, she reasoned, were Episcopalians, and showing up just a little later than is fashionable is rather our speciality. But after twenty minutes, she began to wonder. After thirty minutes, she began to wonder more. After forty minutes, a sinking feeling began to sink in her stomach, and it began to occur to her that now she had dozens of store-bought treats to eat, and no-one but her partner to eat them with – well, her and the dogs. Carpaccio, chicken tenders, bruschetta, the fried mushrooms, even the Malakoff she swore were just as good as her Mémé used to make in Valais – they ate them all. My friend and her partner then drank themselves into not caring anymore, and she wrote the whole thing, and her neighborhood, off as “Ah, well. Who needs ‘em?”
Later on, of course, she said to her partner, full of doubt, “Is there something wrong with me?”
Years after, you could tell, she was still disappointed, and still was not sure how to answer that question. Her neighbors had replied “Yes” to the invitation, see, or at least “I’ll try to make it, sure. We’ll see what we can do. Thanks so much for doing this and for thinking of us, really. We do appreciate it.” When she re-read their messages, she saw how each meant to be polite, but also had little intention of actually showing up. She wondered again, “Is it me? Is it me they don’t want to see, after all?”
It was the last time my friend ever planned a party; once bitten, twice shy, as it were. Yet, sharp of tongue as she could be, she never went to the extremes that Jesus, in this parable, attributes to the king of heaven. How are the guests who won’t come to the heavenly prince’s wedding banquet treated there? Well, it depends on the degree of their refusal. The ones who blow the invitation off, say they’re busy and go on with their farm work or business – them the king pretty much leaves alone. However, in response to those who killed the slaves that brought the invitation, the king sends out his stormtroopers and fire brigades with orders to put to death the murderers and burn down their city.
First of all: just how many guests had been invited to the royal wedding? Did king invite into his home a whole city? That’s a lot of carpaccio and canapés. Furthermore, what on earth made some of those invitees to kill the ones who brought the RSVP card? What kind of people – ?
The wrong kind of people, according to the king – the king of heaven, as I said. One can see his point: anyone who would kill a messenger delivering an invitation would be hard to call worthy of much of anything save a murder conviction and a long prison term. But try as I might, I cannot imagine any such person actually existing, and for metaphors like this to work, they have to be believable. The murderous invitees are clearly meant to represent those who abused and killed the prophets of God, much as were the wicked tenants in the restored 2nd Temple vineyard in last week’s gospel. But they abuse the vineyarders’ slaves and then murder his son when he comes to collect. Here, the king of heaven seeks to give and is ignored or refused, and one can sympathize with his frustration while finding the parable difficult – and we’re not done yet.
It’s interesting that those who ignore the invite are themselves ignored, even though the king sees them as unworthy in their refusal. It seems to me that glossing over their decision to get on with the haymaking, cow-milking, and inventory rather lets the king off the hook. Because of the wickedness of the murderers, the king doesn’t have to ask himself, as my friend did, “Is it me?” or “Is there something wrong with me?”
The next set of guests invited to the banquet might wish that the king had been a little more self-reflective and self-aware as well. They are those whom the slaves gather from wherever they happen to be, all but dragging them to the king’s palace for what must by now be quite a cold plate of fatted calf and oxen. The new invitees are the good and the bad, some of whom you’d want in your home and some of whom you might just as happily leave to drink in quiet desperation on the street corner, but they come nonetheless. Except they, too, have standards they’re meant to meet about which no-one told them. Pity the poor sudden-guest who hurries to the royal palace as commanded, but then gets thrown out by the king himself for having arrived without a wedding robe. Where was he supposed to get a wedding robe? Though the other new guests apparently manage to get one – and how? Is there a store? An Amazon quick-drop site? An all-night, while-you-wait tailor’s? – as I say, though the other new guests manage to get a wedding robe, this one fellow does not, and is treated like a leper for it, and cast out to wail, rope-bound and hungry, in the cold night air. What gives?
Well, the moral of the parable appears to be: “When asked to come to dine in the kingdom of heaven, you better come, and you’d better make sure you bring your wedding robe – or else.” Also: “Ignore the invitation and you’re on your own. The king wants nothing more to do with you.”
That is: “Show up right, or don’t show up at all.” Also: “Don’t kill anybody. That’s my job.”
Some king. Some heaven.
One wonders whether the king really should’ve asked, “Is it me?”
And, while we’re at it – where’s the prince in all this? After all, it is his wedding, and presumably he and his bride (or groom, sister; let us not presume) have some say in what goes on, some reaction, something to say? Not the way Jesus tells it; here, it’s all king, all Daddy, and Daddy-the-King will have his way, come what may. Y’all better get used to it.
“I mean,” Jesus might’ve added, “I’ve talked to the Man.” The Lord will have his way, will we or nill we. It’s enough to make you say, “Whatever.”
The line that follows in the gospel only makes it worse, giving aid and comfort to Calvinists only: “Many are called; few are chosen.” If many are called to the banquet, be it the first time or the second, but then few are chosen in the end to eat of it, one questions the skill and intentions of the inviter, not the invitees. This is not an audition, but a celebration, after all. One might say with conviction “Many are called, but few respond,” and be on point. But to have more come to dine at your banquet than you will eventually let do so seems rum indeed. Except in the limited sense that all who accept salvation were meant to, one cannot let this little bit of the gospel sit easily with one’s understanding that salvation is for all, an oblation once offered, a sacrifice made once and once only. But these are the words that have come down to us. As another has said, with brutal resignation, “It is what it is.”
In the demotic: “Call many, choose few. Always paddle your own canoe.”
It is what it is.
Mark Twain once famously said that in the life to come you want “heaven for the climate, but hell for the company.” Sartre once famously wrote that “hell is other people.” I’ve met other people, and I can report that sometimes it is. T.S. Eliot once wrote that one imagines hell for other people, never oneself, though in his case, as in Dante’s, that was not quite true. One can imagine oneself cast out, and one can imagine oneself welcomed in. One might be able to imagine oneself as welcomed in but then cast out for doing something wrong, even if one didn’t know it was wrong at the time. It is, however, hard for me to imagine the king of heaven wanting that done, or the prince his son and heir.
No, for all the prince’s frustration in the gospel with the world his father has sent him to save and die in, I would much rather find myself at the banquet set forth in Isaiah 25 for us this morning. Oh, sure, lands have been laid waste, cities cast down, and temples overthrown, but all is made right at the end. The Lord who is the refuge for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the Lord who is the storm and also the shelter from the storm, has laid out food rich with marrow, and well-aged wines, and has dried the tears of those whom the world despised and whom its kings and their servants have abused. Even death is, by verse seven, gone, and along with it the shrouds of anxiety and sheets of fear and despair laid over us, and the wretched refuse of the world’s teeming shore no longer refused their place on the heavenly mountain, the dangerous one, redolent of fire and law, of stone tablets and shining faces, full to overflowing with the Lord’s power and will and appearing. Salvation is at hand, so rejoice in the Lord, rejoice always. It is what it is.
But – do not be like the king of heaven. He seems dangerous and unpredictable, for all his grace and blessings. Be, instead, better than that. Be the people Paul told the Philippians to be: people of gentleness and peace. Also, as he wrote, “Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” and then live by means of them, unsullied by and unbusied by the world. Do not be eager to death out death and judgment. Ask, when disappointed or let down, “Is it me?”
But: when you set off for that holy mountain, don’t forget your wedding robe.
[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]
[acc_item title=”A Collect for 19th Pentecost (Proper 23)”]
Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and
follow us, that we may continually be given to good works;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.[/acc_item]
[acc_item title=”A Collect for Peace“]
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know
you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend
us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that
we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of
any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.
[acc_item title=”A Collect for Compassion“]
Creator God, you call us to love and serve you with body, mind, and spirit
through loving your creation and our sisters and brothers.
Open our hearts in compassion and receive these petitions
on behalf of the needs of the church and the world.
Holy One, hear our prayers and make us faithful stewards
of the fragile bounty of this earth so that we may be entrusted with it
and with the riches of heaven. Amen.[/acc_item]
[acc_item title=”A Prayer After St Alphonsus”]
O Jesus, you are present to us in the blessed sacrament. We love you above all things, and desire to receive you into our souls. Since we cannot at this time share your sacrament, let your spirit dwell within our hearts. Let us welcome you as one already with us, making us one body and one spirit, never to be parted from you. Amen.[/acc_item]
[acc_item title=”Closing Hymn: Jesus, Lover of my soul – Charles Wesley – Hymnal # 699“]
Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters still, while the tempest still is high:
Hide my, O my Saviour hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into thy haven guide, O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul with thee;
Leave, ah! Leave me not alone, still support and comfort me!
All my trust on thee is stayed; all my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing.
Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to cleanse from every sin;
Let the healing streams abound, make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of thee;
Spring thou up within my heart, rise to all eternity. [/acc_item]
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.
Hymn: Spirit of the Living God Daniel Iverson, alt.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
About Episcopal Worship and this Service
We give thanks this morning for our reader, Kim Hazel, for our organist and music director, Beresford Coker; for our website and post-production team: Linda Lee, Lee Mericle, and Joyce, Walker, and for our stills compiler and video editor, Gabriel Wilkins.
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
A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 Or Venite, Psalm 95