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Rev. Dr. Neil O’Farrell

A MEDITATION

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

“The Kingdom of God is like….” This is the basis of many of Jesus’ teachings, and particularly several of the short parables in today’s gospel. The Kingdom is embedded in our creeds and the Lord’s Prayer. The Reformer theologians nailed the crux of the Kingdom by asserting the Kingdom of God has arrived—but not yet. “Really, you say?”

This betwixt and between of the Kingdom is core. In my health care ministry, I don’t know how many times persons will explain tragic occurrences as God’s inscrutable plan. We must not accept the pain of life as being God’s handiwork. The worst example of this belief that everything across the eons has been foreordained by God, including the blasphemy that Jesus suffered and died because God willed it personally. It is held that the suffering and death of his Son was the only thing powerful enough to redeem the world from God’s vengeful righteousness.

We humans can’t seem to bear the counterintuitive complexity that God created time, space, and matter out of the primordial chaos, but God didn’t solve the problem of chaos. The Fall is about chaos entering into God’s perfect garden. The periodic rise and fall of God’s people are about the continued intrusion of chaos into human events. Moreover, history demonstrates up to and including this very moment the power and potency of chaos. We are hesitant to believe that God shares with us the heartbreak of the intrusiveness of chaos. Simply, we should believe that we suffer and God suffers with us. That God feels and helps bear our pain is comforting and true. It’s too inconsistent to believe in a benevolent God, and believe that God is responsible for all the bad stuff and evil. Truly, God did not create the coronavirus, yet God is absolute with us in this pandemic.

As I asked, “Really, you say?” The answer to that question is simply yes. God is gestational. God is still in the process of creating, of being created, of being born, as are we. We can see the outline of the foundation of the Kingdom of God through the teachings, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus. The beautiful structure atop those foundations is still being built. Building the Kingdom of God is a co-creational project of God and humanity. We shortchange God and humanity without understanding the everlasting communion of God and humanity. God’s story and our stories aren’t the same stories, to be sure. But we can’t tell the story of ourselves without also telling the story of God, and vice-versa.

– Pastor Neil

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

 

OPENING COLLECT

O God, you are the protector of all who trusts in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Increase and multiply upon us your mercy. With you as our ruler and guide, help us to pass through our earthly life, with the sure promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

A READING FROM FIRST KINGS, AT THE 3RD CHAPTER

SOLOMON ASKS GOD FOR WISDOM

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”6And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. You have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen—a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word.

Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

 

FROM PSALM 119

Your decrees are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

With an open mouth, I pant, because I long for your commandments.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your custom toward those who love your name.

Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.

Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept.

 

A READING FROM THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, AT THE 13TH CHAPTER

THE RIGHTEOUS WILL DWELL IN GOD’S KINGDOM

Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So, it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?”, Jesus asked. The disciples answered, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

 

A CONFESSION OF OUR SINS TO GOD

 God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you,

opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world, you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on us ☩, forgive us all our sins, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

 

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

 O God of compassion, giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need.

In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—

For all people in our daily life and work; for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone and in danger. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

For this community, the nation, and the world; for all who work for justice, freedom, and peace; health and wellbeing; for those who bind up the wounds of racism and violence, and seek to lead us to the peaceable kingdom. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

For the just and proper use of your creation; For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble; for those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy, particularly in the midst of this worldwide pandemic. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

For the peace and unity of the Church of God; for all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth; for all who serve God in his Church. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

For the heartbreak in our nation and world. For the sins of bigotry and violence; for healing that of a plague that disproportionately ravages people of color, the poor, and the unprivileged. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

For the special needs and concerns of our families and friends, loved ones, and for our congregation. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.

We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life. We will exalt you, O God our King; And praise your Name forever and ever.

We pray for all who have died, that they may have a place in your eternal kingdom. Lord, let your loving-kindness be upon them, who put their trust in you.

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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 forever and ever. Amen.

 

A THANKSGIVING

Loving God, we give you thanks for restoring us in your image and nourishing us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Now send

us forth a people forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim your love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

THE BLESSING

Sisters and brothers, when we go out into the world in peace, we live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, hold on to what is good, return to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Amen.

 

ON THE COVER OF THIS BULLETIN: This painting is fascinating in its troubles, with a background history that is in respects, more important than the painting itself. This painting of the “Parable of the Hidden Treasure” is a curiosity on many levels. The painting was a group effort, a work of art created by a committee. This painting was executed in the workshop of Rembrandt, with the minor artist Govert Flinck given credit. Yet, the overall design and the landscape parts have traditionally been attributed to Rembrandt, the still- life parts to Gerrit Dou, and only the figure of the farmer to Flinck. Yet, Flinck’s name is printed on the label on the wall beside the painting, although the other two artists are the ones with more serious reputations. We might imagine the painting perched on a studio easel, and as the three artists drifted by, they picked up a brush and dabbed some paint on, working on some feature or another, and then moving on. Rembrandt is, of course, Rembrandt. Dou was a painter respected over the centuries, who subsequently fell out of favor, only to be rediscovered about fifty years ago. His paintings hang in the world’s great museums. Flinck was only a serviceable artist. Many of his paintings are deemed not very good. As a person, he seemed to put more energy into social climbing than his art. As a footnote, in 1990 the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum ins Boston suffered a catastrophic theft in which thirteen paintings, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet were stolen—and a painting by Flinck that had been misattributed for much of its history as Rembrandt’s. Art historians only in the 1980s quietly corrected the problem by identifying its painter as Flinck. Isabella Stewart Gardner thought until her death that it was a priceless Rembrandt. The heist involved perhaps $500 million in major artworks, and this sad painting by Flinck, which probably wouldn’t have hung in the museum in the first place, and consequently have been stolen, except for its longstanding misattribution. Social climbing Flinck would have been pleased. Wikipedia