Worship for Sunday, October 11, 2020

Isaiah 25:1-9

1O 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.
2For 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.
3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
  cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4For 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,
  5the 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.

6On 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.
7And he will destroy on this mountain
  the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
  the sheet that is spread over all nations;
  8he will swallow up death forever.
 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.
9It 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.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd;
  I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
  and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
  and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil;
  for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
  you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

Philippians 4:1-9

1My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

  2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, 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.

  4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  8Finally, 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. 9Keep 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.

Sharing our blessings is one of the ways we try to keep on doing the things that we have learned.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 22:1-14

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again 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.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

  11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then 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.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

A feast at Saint Stephen!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What will the future hold?

I think this is a question a lot of us are asking these days.  Maybe even over and over and over again.  (Or that might just be me . . . It could just be me!)

What will the future hold for us and for our loved ones?  For our friends and our neighbors?  For our community and for our country?  For the entire world?

I wonder and I worry A LOT about the future of Saint Stephen . . .I pray too!

What will the future hold? 

We ask this question and we wonder and we worry.  We ponder and we thoughtfully consider.  And then – if you are anything like me – you probably worry some more!

After all – these are really and truly wildly bizarre times we are all living in right now. 

What will the future hold? 

My basement learner . . .

Those of us with children and grandchildren going to school from our dining rooms – basements – and offices wonder when (or if) those great big – beautiful school doors will finally swing open to welcome our precious scholars back for in-person learning.

My little dining room learner

We likely could use a break from each other.  All of this family bonding is taking an emotional toll on some of us.  We love each other more than words can say – but all of this togetherness has gotten pretty intense!

Still others of us are deeply lonely right now and are feeling painfully isolated and alone because of the need to stay safe at home.  Living alone can be really hard these days.

What will the future hold? 

We want to know what the future holds for the economy too.  Many of us are very worried about our jobs. Unemployment remains painfully high.  Furloughs and lay-offs abound.  So many of our friends – neighbors – and families are struggling and we want to know how long this is going to last.  It already feels like it has been going on for 1,000 years now some days!

What will the future hold? 

We are all asking ourselves what Thanksgiving and Christmas will look like in this Covid-19 world?  How will we celebrate?  Can we celebrate?  With whom might we gather safely?  After all – a Zoom Thanksgiving dinner lacks a certain sense of tradition.

I really can’t imagine a major holiday without these nuts!

What will the future hold? 

All of us – no matter our circumstances – wonder when – or IF – we will ever get our former lives back.  Lives that didn’t involve gallons of hand sanitizer – masks – social distancing – quarantines – isolation – and staying safe at home almost ALL of the time!

We want to toss our masks – hug our friends (and maybe even a friendly looking stranger or two) – while singing in public just because we can. 

We want to throw an outrageously huge reunion celebration with no room for social distancing because we invited absolutely – positively everyone we know!

Look at how close we are all standing!!!!!

So what does the future hold?

Well – I can’t tell you when our kids and their dedicated teachers will head back to school for in-person learning.  I don’t know when the economy will rebound.  I have no idea how we are going to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas safely.  (But we are working on a plan for Christmas Eve worship here at Saint Stephen.)

I may not be able to answer those questions – but I do know something seriously awesome about what the future holds.  The prophet Isaiah told us all about it in our first reading when he gave us just a glimpse into what life in heaven is going to be like.

And it is such a gloriously amazing – beautiful – hope filled revelation of what awaits us in the future when we are reunited with our Lord in heaven.

Listen again to the words of the prophet Isaiah as he reveals to us just a glimpse of the awesome glories of heaven.

Let the words sink in . . .  Imagine yourself there . . . Who do you hope will join you?  What will you eat?  What will you choose to drink at the heavenly banquet?

In my mind it looks something like this!

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
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 for ever.
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.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)

I think that it will look like this too!

I don’t know what tomorrow will hold or next month or next year.  But I do know this – even now God is with us because he has promised to be with us always.  God is our refuge and our shelter from the storms of this world.  He is our shade from the scorching heat. 

And this!

And finally – when the dead are raised to eternal life with God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – what an awesome celebration it will be!

And this!

It is going to be like the best family reunion – church supper – great big party you have ever been to!  The food will be amazing.  The wine will be awesome.  And the companions will be simply too delightful for words!  And best of all – death and dying and tears and suffering and pain and sin and disgrace and shame will be no more!

Most definitely like this!

Imagine that!  Just imagine that! Oh what glorious day of rejoicing that will be my sisters and brothers.  And that is what our future holds!  That is what awaits us all in heaven.  Oh what a day of rejoicing it will be!  Truly this is Good News – Amen.

With a TON of this!!!

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