October 8, 2023 - Home Worship

For the week of October 8-14 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer Liberating God, You give us commandments not as a burden to bear but as an invitation to live the life You have for us. Grant us open hearts ready to accept Your invitation, that we might become a people who bear the fruit of the freedom and new life You give us. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #89 Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

  1. Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
    hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
    Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away.
    Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
  2. All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
    stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
    Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
    chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in Thee.
  3. Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
    well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
    Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are Thine;
    teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
  4. Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
    love divine is reigning o'er us, binding all within its span.
    Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife;
    joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.

Psalm 19:1-5

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens He has set a tent for the sun,

which comes out like a bridegroom from His wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

Children’s Time Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His pleasant planting; He expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

Matthew 21:35-39

But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

Children’s Message Do you like to hear stories? When I was a child, I loved it when my parents or my teacher read stories to me. Some of the best stories that I remember to this day are "The Three Little Pigs," "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," "The Ugly Duckling," and "Little Red Riding Hood." Oh, I know those stories are pretty old and you probably have your own list of favorites. What are some of your favorites?

Did you know that Jesus liked to tell stories? The stories that Jesus told were called parables and He used them to teach His followers about right and wrong. The way He did this was by comparing good behavior and bad or using examples of some of life’s hard lessons that we all need to learn. For example, you have probably heard the story that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan. It is a story about how we should be kind to other people. Another story that Jesus told was the story about the Prodigal Son. It is a story about a father who loves his son even when he did wrong. The Bible is full of parables that Jesus told and we can learn a lot by listening to them.

Our Bible lesson today one of Jesus' parables. It is a story about a man who owned some land. He planted some grapes on the land and then rented it to some other farmers who were to work in the vineyard and take care of it for him. Part of the agreement he had with these farmers was that they would give him a share of the crops.

When it came time to harvest the grapes, the landowner sent his servants to collect his share of the harvest. The farmers who had leased the land beat the servants and even killed one of them. They refused to give the landowner what was owed to him.

A second time the landowner sent servants, more than the first time, but again the farmers treated them in the same way.

Finally, he sent his own son, thinking, "Surely they will respect my son."

But when they saw the son coming, they said, "This is the landowner's son, let's kill him and take his inheritance."

Jesus asked the men listening to his story, "What do you think the landowner will do to those men?"

"He will destroy those wicked men, and rent his land to someone else, who will give him his share of the fruit at harvest time" answered his listeners.

In this story that Jesus told, the landowner represents God. God first sent men such as Noah, Moses, David, the prophet Isaiah, and others to tell people of His love for them and to call them to turn away from their wicked ways, but many would not listen. Finally, He sent His own Son, Jesus. You know what they did to Him, don't you? That's right, they crucified Him. God gave them a chance. He even gave them a second chance—and a third. But when they rejected His Son, that was their last chance. He is our last chance too—our only chance to have eternal life in heaven with Him.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight: Thank you for supporting our pastors.  Your offerings fund salaries and benefits so that they can fulfill their unique calling to pastoral ministry. 

Offering prayer: Generous and giving God, You have offered us a deep and soul-satisfying relationship with You, one that extends far beyond our earthly journey; and too many of us have opted for a “faith-lite” experience. One day a week or a couple of times a month has been a better fit. We have rejected what You so generously offer us, even as we dwell in and are sustained by Your vineyard. As we offer our gifts this day, may we better receive the relationship You offer us and may we walk more closely. In Christ’s holy name, we pray.

Hymn #428 For the Healing of the Nations

  1. For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord;

For a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords;

To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word, Help us rise and pledge our word.

  1. Lead us forward into freedom; from despair Your world release,

That, redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace.

Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase,

Fear will die and hope increase.

  1. All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned;
    pride of status, race, or schooling, dogmas that obscure Your plan.

In our common quest for justice may we hallow life’s brief span,

May we hallow life’s brief span.

  1. You, Creator God, have written Your great name on humankind;

For our growing in Your likeness bring the life of Christ to mind,

That by our response and service earth its destiny may find, Earth its destiny may find.

Scripture:  Matthew 21:33-46

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they realized that He was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest Him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded Him as a prophet.

Message:                       Pastor Becky

Jesus in His parable has just given the history of the leadership of Israel’s relationship with God. He has described the past, the current condition of that relationship, the very near future with Jesus’ crucifixion and the future of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus isn’t mincing words. He is pointing to the leadership directly. To this point Jesus is very familiar with the people following the leadership, where it is leading them toward God or away from God.

The chief priests and the Pharisees understand exactly what Jesus is saying, they know He is looking directly at them. The only thing holding them back from having Jesus arrested is one thing – the people regard Jesus to be a prophet. They’re fear has nothing to do with Jesus being the Son of God. They aren’t challenged or fearful of Jesus’ miracles or healings, it is His message of good news to the people.

A prophet. We talk around the prophets these days. We don’t look too far past Jesus. We see Him as the final word, but before Him, came the prophets. The forerunners of Jesus, giving the same message as Jesus came to finalize. We usually only look to them to see the prophecies of Jesus.

For example, we look to Isaiah and find:

7:14- Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. (CEB)

9:6- A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (CEB)

The suffering servant passages of Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-11 and 52:13-53:12

53:4-6- It was certainly our sickness that he carried, and our sufferings that he bore, but we thought him afflicted, struck down by God and tormented. He was pierced because of our rebellions and crushed because of our crimes. He bore the punishment that made us whole; by his wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all wandered away, each going its own way, but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes. (CEB)

But if we were asked, could we talk about why God caused Isaiah to walk around naked for three years declaring God’s decrees (Isaiah 20) or that God not only gave messages regarding Israel, but also Egypt and Ethiopia?

Earlier in Matthew, we heard the words of John the Baptist – the one heralded as Jesus’s prophet. John calling out to all to Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven!

These are the messages of the prophets that come to our mind when we think of the prophets. We might think about Jonah, but if we are honest, it isn’t necessarily the message or the grace of God that comes to mind. It is the three days in the belly of the great fish.

Our exposure to the prophets, our framing for even listening to them is to: 1- point us to Jesus and 2- look to the final coming of Jesus. For us, we tend to equate the prophets with the good news of Jesus. I don’t think any of us would say Jesus coming, either at His first coming or last coming is anything but good news.

So why aren’t the chief priests and Pharisees excited about Jesus being a prophet or regarded as a prophet by the people? Here’s where our use and understanding of the prophets fail us. Because we don’t read them and focus on why the prophets come to each place with their broad and very specific messages. For the chief priests and the Pharisees, all these messages point back to the Exile and how the covenant with God was broken.

For example, when we hear the name Jeremiah our minds go to 29:11 – I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. But the chief priests and Pharisees are remembering Jeremiah as the one appointed to speak to the demise of the nation. Proclaiming that God was with their enemy, calling over and over for them to repent. All the while, there were false prophets speaking otherwise and speaking of victory over their enemies. Yet, Jeremiah’s message never changed. Babylon would overtake them and exile them. They weren’t to run to Egypt, but the people did and they were still overtaken and exiled. Jeremiah laid this squarely at the feet of the leadership, calling out the broken covenant with God and the fact the people had turned to other gods.

The chief priests and Pharisees are recalling the devastation of their history, but now in what they see as a time of relative peace with the Empire of Rome and power for themselves, they don’t need the people to repent, they don’t need them to act upon what would be required to return to God. This jeopardizes everything they have clung to, power, authority, and status.

The messages of the prophets are like our daily medications. They are prescribed to us once to treat the ailment or condition and they come with refills. These refills are meant to continue to treat us and keep us well. The calls of the prophets are meant to do the same thing. They were valid for their first proclamation and they stand as reminders to use that what angered God before, still angers God today. We have to familiarize ourselves with the ailments and the treatments, the sins and the repentance.

For example, why was Amos sent to the Northern Kingdom by God? He was sent to call for the repentance of the rich in their treatment of the poor. Amos 5:11 “ Truly, because you crush the weak, and because you tax their grain, you have built houses of carved stone, but you won’t live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you won’t drink their wine.” Assyria came through the Northern Kingdom of Israel and devastated it from 744-727 BC and it is no more.

Do you know Hosea? God called him to marry a prostitute and that God was going to use that marriage as a metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel and Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Hosea and Gomer had three children: Jezreel, named after a once beautiful place that was now ruined; No mercy and Not my people. The message of Hosea isn’t necessarily a message of hope in it’s beginning, but God uses them to point to how beautiful the relationship can be, if Israel would return to God.

If you get some time this week, I would suggest you look at Hosea. I find Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Hosea in The Message to be particularly stunning. When you do, read it out loud. The prophecies are meant to be heard, embodied in our speech, hearing and imagination. These are the backdrop to the coming of Jesus. The prophets lift up humanity’s complex relationship with God and reveal to us God’s character and God’s heart. They will show you just how far God will go to see the Creation reconciled and made new.

Hymn: #593 Here I Am, Lord

  1. I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin My hand will save.

I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Refrain: Here I am, Lord.  Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.

  1. I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them.  They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak My word to them.  Whom shall I send?  Refrain:

  1. I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,

I will set a feast for them.  My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied. 

I will give My life to them.  Whom shall I send?  Refrain:

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.