Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church (ELCIC) Comox BC

Worship and Devotions

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost  - August 7, 2022

Jesus says, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is God’s promise from the beginning—to Abraham, to the early church, and to the “little flock” of which we are a part in today’s assembly. Faith, God’s baptismal gift, trusts the promises of God. Have no fear.

Prayer of the Day 

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church. Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

Psalm 50:1-8,22-23

HEBREWS 11:1-3, 8-16

Abraham and Sarah exemplify the vision of faith that people of God enact in every age. Their hope and trust in God’s promise allowed them to face an unknown future and to receive the promise of God.

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. 8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” 13All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

Gospel - Luke 12:32-40

Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus encourages disciples to invest their hearts and live fully into God’s reign. Instead of facing life with fear, those who know God’s generosity are always ready to receive from God and to give to others.

[Jesus said:] 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Praise to you, O Christ.

Music

God Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens    H God Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens - YouTube

Many and Great, O God    Many and Great, O God, Are Thy Works (LACQUIPARLE) - YouTube

Have No Fear, Little Flock   Have No Fear, Little Flock (with lyrics) - ELW 764 - YouTube

The God Of Abraham Praise    The God of Abraham Praise (with lyrics) - ELW 831 - YouTube

SERMON:

Rev. Jason Zinko, Bishop Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod 

Let me start by thanking you for inviting me into your worship life this morning. I do appreciate this opportunity, and Bishop Susan’s invitation to take part in the Summer Sermon Series again this year. I am joining you from Winnipeg, Treaty 1 – the traditional territories of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, and Dakota Peoples, and the homeland of the Metis Nation. I am grateful for their stewardship of this land and their hospitality which allows us to live, work and serve God the Creator here.

I have a few people in my life who I would describe as… anxious. It’s not that they are always on edge. They don’t look frazzled all the time and they don’t get spooked by loud noises or anything like that. But in some circumstances, their anxiety just rises and rises until it has a negative effect on their ability to cope. And it can impact the people around them.

I find that sometimes, when I’m around these people in my life, my anxiety goes up too. It’s almost as if anxiety makes me anxious. So instead of being a calming presence, I add fuel to the fire. Instead of being a person that can help others cope with anxiety and make things manageable, I sometimes add another layer of anxiety where it is definitely not needed. And, needless to say, that is not always the most helpful way of calming or reassuring people.

Parts of today’s reading remind of that.

Between last week’s reading and this week, we missed an important teaching from Jesus. We missed the section where he tells his followers and the crowds not to worry. He told them not to worry about their lives, what they will eat, or what they will wear. By comparison, he asked them to consider the lilies, and how valuable something as perishable as lilies are in God’s eyes. Maybe that sounds familiar to you.

Our reading today follows on the heels of that. And, to be fair, the first sentence of today’s reading follows very much on that same theme.

But then things fall off the rails a bit. Sell everything we own and give away the proceeds; be on guard at all times; watch out for people breaking into your house; always be alert!

It’s not just today’s reading either. In this whole section of Luke’s Gospel, the part about not worrying is sandwiched between a series of stories of being called an evil generation, warnings against hypocrisy, threats of beatings and rejection, divided families, and repenting… or else.

Sorry, Jesus. I know you said don’t worry, but all that other stuff is making me worry even more. It doesn’t help that we are already in a heightened state of anxiety about many things. How can we not be? Events and actions in our communities and the world around us causes our anxiety to rise and rise. 

Each day we hear news and updates about the war in Ukraine. Not to mention other wars that are ongoing in many parts of the world. We hear about the 100 million people around the world who have been displaced as a result of conflict or persecution. How can we not be anxious about the state of the word?

We hear about wildfires in BC and other regions – evidence of climate change that many decision-makers can’t agree about how to address. We wonder about how changes in policy might affect our livelihoods and how we can care for environment and family at the same time. How can we not worry? 

As we approach the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on Aug 9, we think about the ongoing social and economic issues facing our Indigenous brothers and sisters after generations of racism, abuse, and neglect. We think about how other communities are marginalized – people of colour, people who identify with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, those living with physical or mental disabilities. We wonder about how our communities can include all people, and how that will mean that we need to change. How can we not worry?

Coming off of two + years of uncertainty about employment, we are faced with record-setting inflation and rising housing prices that we haven’t seen in decades. We’re unsure if we have to uproot and move homes, or if we can afford rent and food at the same time. We don’t know how long this will last or what other changes might come as a result. How can we not worry? 

And every time we listen to world leaders and government party spokespeople, we hear more extremism; more volatility; more inflexibility; more grandstanding and self-interested decisions; more people claiming to speak for everyone when they do not. We wonder why our leaders seem unable to work together for the benefit of all, rather than for their own agenda. We wonder if or when there will be an end. So how can we not worry? 

Well… Jesus’ response through most of today’s Gospel reading is not an explanation of why we shouldn’t worry. Instead, it is a call to action. He asks us to be alert and to do something. But it’s really important for us to understand that that call to action is based on a fundamental promise from God. No matter what might be going on around us – no matter what threats or challenges may cause us to worry – God’s desire and pleasure is to give us the kingdom. (I use the word kingdom here because it is the word used in the reading. Feel free to substitute with ‘realm’, ‘territory’, ‘reign’, or other word appropriate to your context) Before anything we do, we first hear the promise that God gathers us and gifts us something that can help ease our worry.

We need to remember that in Luke’s Gospel, the kingdom of God is not a far-off destination or something we only encounter after death. The kingdom is the constant, small but powerful ways that God breaks into this world to show us glimpses of God’s intention for all of creation. It is how we see God’s work of creation continuing to unfold and overcoming the sin that distorts and attempts to ruin what God has made.

So Jesus says don’t worry. Yes, there will be threats. And yes, we will be asked to live out our faith in action. But those actions are a response to and are rooted in God giving us the kingdom just as a loving parent finds joy in giving good gifts to their children. We inherit this gift in our baptism as we are named and claimed by God. We are given this gift when God makes a covenant with us in the water and the word. And when we go to live out our part – “to proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace” – we know that God has already promised to be part of that work with us. We are reminded that Jesus is the shepherd of this “little flock” that God has gifted and promised with the kingdom.

So let’s do that. Let’s work for justice and peace knowing that God allows us and invites us to do so. Be leaders in your congregations and ministries who reach out to the people who have been excluded from our communities. Knowing that God has generously given us gifts, let’s let go of some of our own things that keep us from doing ministry in the places where God is leading us.

Let the Spirit of God speak to us and through us into the world. Let it change us and move us so that we are ready and able to serve the people and communities that God has placed in our path.

Because we won’t lose anything by doing that. 

We won’t lose anything by doing that – because God has promised us the kingdom already, and no one will ever take that away.

I pray that this day you find peace in God and understanding in God’s word. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Trusting in God’s extraordinary love, let us come near to the Holy One in prayer.

A brief silence.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your church. Fill all who proclaim the gospel with your Spirit. Equip your flock to speak your word of promise and hope in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your creation. Dwell among us and sustain our earthly home. In places of famine, provide nourishment. In places of plenty, fashion us to be good stewards of your bounty. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your world. Be our helper and our shield in places torn by strife and violence. Raise up courageous leaders to govern with compassion and justice. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

O God, you are gracious and merciful. We pray today for the Ukrainian people and ask for Your intervention in this senseless war levied against them by Russia. We pray, O God, for protection and that there would be peace, restoration, and renewed hope. We pray for the families, especially the children, living through the horrors of war and all the upheaval and tribulation it brings. We also pray for those protesting in Russia against these violent acts by their government. We ask that You protect, cover and keep these protesters as they put their bodies on the line in the name of what is just and righteous. We pray for the entire world community, including the leaders in our own country. Give them wisdom and ingenuity to respond in ways that ends this war and moves us all to a world where Your peace abides. Hear the cries of Your people, O God. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Merciful God, receive our prayer.* (Adapted from Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary, Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations: Prayers for Ukraine (nationalcouncilofchurches.us)

Let your lovingkindness be upon your children, Look upon all who wait for your steadfast love. Console those who grieve and embrace those who cry out to you for healing. Help us to rest in your promise and not be afraid. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon this community. Fashion our hearts to strive for the way of peace. Strengthen the outreach ministries of this congregation (specific ministries may be named) and all who care for those in need. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

With thanksgiving we remember all who have died in faith and now rest in you. As they placed their hope in you, so strengthen us to trust in your promise of new life. Merciful God, receive our prayer.

Receive the prayers of your children, merciful God, and hold us forever in your steadfast love, through Jesus Christ, our holy Wisdom.

Amen.

(From Sundays and Seasons © 2021 Augsburg Fortress)


Blessing

The God of peace, Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you, comfort you,  and show you the path of life this day and always. Amen.

(From Sundays and Seasons © 2021 Augsburg Fortress)

Go Now In Peace   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQg2XqZcZjI

Season of Pentecost Devotional Practices

Sunday, August 14 Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56

During this week, you may wish to read them ahead of time especially the Gospel.

Where did you stop?    

What questions, thoughts arose as you read?    

Where may the Spirit be nudging you?