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No End to the Violence Toward the Poor

A Meditation by Pastor Neil  

Occam’s razor, something we encounter in Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries, states that the simplest explanation for an occurrence is likeliest the truest. In effect, rococo conspiracy theories fail Occam’s razor and should be discarded quickly. However, conspiracy theories inhabit and thrill the human brain, certainly in our own age, but also in the time of Jesus. King Herod fabricated—based on the slimmest reed—that Jesus had been born to dethrone him. Herod had to strike first by killing all the infants and young children in Bethlehem and its surroundings after the visit of the Wise Men, who came to honor this newborn, who was going to be the future king of humankind. Cruel, mad King Herod had a plan for his ruthless blood-thirst that could only be satisfied by the carnage of unspeakable pathology—the martyrdom of countless infants and children.

We have seen many examples of the ghastly ways we treat children across the globe. There was a headline in last week’s New York Times that stated that starving children don’t cry. Tyrants falsely claim that pictures of brutality and neglect don’t depict what they clearly do. UNICEF and the Save the Children fund exist because of the way we treat the most vulnerable amongst us.

In the birth stories of the Bible, many details are phantasmagorical. But some are rock-solid real. Someone who is poor and who is also homeless rings true. A powerful man driven to the extremes by fear of the loss of prestige and power goes down as very familiar. Merciless strongmen are at the foundation of Jesus’ first days on earth and last days. Their terrible evil power will haunt Jesus’ life through to the end, as they have haunted humanity both in the past and now.

Jesus’ story is how the meek and modest can’t expect kindness from those to whom the world has given so much. It’s not so much that these, the powerful, merely ignore those at the bottom of life’s necessities. Rather, it seems that powerful forces actually seek out persons to treat even more miserably. Life continues to be cruel to those who have already been most cruelly treated.

Jesus and Mary have to take their baby into exile to be safe. Do we doubt it? This story from time immemorial has the familiarity of truth because it’s the simplest explanation for how so many experience human life. Now, we are immolating our planet just because of the powerful can and seem not to care.

Pastor Neil

Sign of the Cross

Celebrant  We gather together, as we live, …

People        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant   Blessed be God.

 People         And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen.

 Celebrant    Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our

hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name.

People         Amen.

Opening Proclamation

Celebrant    Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy, which will come to all the people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.   (Luke 2:10, 11) The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Collect of the Day

Celebrant    O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Opening Dialogue

Celebrant   Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the almighty,

People         Just and true are your ways, O Sovereign of the nations.

 Celebrant   Who shall not revere and praise your name O Lord, for you alone are holy.

People         All nations shall come and worship in your presence for your just dealings have been revealed.

Celebrant    To the One who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb,

People         Be blessing and honor, glory, and might, forever and ever. Amen.


Celebrant    Now we shall turn our hearts and minds to God, praying for mercy.

People         If we claim to be sinless, we are self-deceived and strangers to the truth. If we confess our sins, God is just and may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every kind of wrong.

(silence for reflection)

Celebrant    Spirit of God, search our hearts. (pause) We must love one another for love is of God, and whoever loves is born of God and knows God. (pause) Spirit of God, search our hearts.

People         God of mercy, we have sinned against you and against others. We have sinned in what we have done, and in what we have failed to do. We are truly sorry. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ who died for our sins, forgive us all that is past and raise us to newness of life. Amen.

Celebrant   Almighty God, who pardons all who truly repent, forgive us our sin, strengthen us by the Holy Spirit, and keep us in life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

People                   Amen.

Steadfast Love

Celebrant    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: God’s mercies never come to an end.

People         They are new every morning; your faithfulness, O Lord, is great.

 Celebrant    You are all that I have, and therefore I will wait for you.

People         You, O Lord, are good to those who wait for you, to all who seek you.

Celebrant    It is good to wait in patience for the salvation of the Lord.

People         Glory to the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever. Amen.

A Reading from Isaiah at the 60th Chapter

Seek God in the Sunrise

Reader        A Reading from Sirach

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall be acceptable on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows? For the coastlands shall wait for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from far away, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you.

Reader        The Word of the Lord.

 People         Thanks be to God.


Reader        Psalm 72 proclaimed responsively 
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.


 Celebrant    The holy gospel according to Matthew

People         Glory to you, O Lord.

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, at the 2nd chapter

 There is profound weeping across the lands

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Celebrant    The Gospel of the Lord.

People         Praise to you, Lord Christ.


Psalm 34 said responsively

I will bless the LORD at all times;

God’s praise shall continuously be in my mouth.

 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;

          let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt God’s name together.

I sought the LORD, and God answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to God, and be radiant; so, your face shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear God and delivers them.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

On Behalf of The People of God

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,  praise him, and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous, praise him and highly exalt him forever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord, praise him, and highly exalt him forever.

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; praise him and highly exalt him forever.

In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord,  praise him, and highly exalt him forever.

 Glory to God    Gloria in excelsis

Celebrant and People

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,

 we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. 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,
for ever and ever. Amen.


Celebrant       Show us your mercy, O Lord;
People              And grant us your salvation.

Celebrant       Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
People              Let your people sing with joy.

Celebrant      Give peace, O Lord, to all the world;
People             For only in you can we live in safety.

Celebrant      Lord, keep this nation and world under your care;
People             And guide us in the way of justice and truth.

Celebrant      Let your way be known upon earth;
People             Your saving health among all nations.

Celebrant      Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
People             Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Celebrant      Create in us clean hearts, O God;
People             And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.


Celebrant              Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray to you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you and may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Celebrant              Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Celebrant              O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The General Thanksgiving

Celebrant and People

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Celebrant    Let us bless the Lord.
People        Thanks be to God.

The Blessing

Celebrant             Sisters and brothers, 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, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an 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 Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant    Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

People         Thanks be to God.


MORE ON THE ARTWORK ON THIS BULLETIN’S COVER Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the only child of Daniele Reni and Ginevra Pozzi. At the age of nine, he was apprenticed to the studio of prominent, local master painter. When Reni was about twenty years old, Reni and two painter colleagues migrated to a rival studio, known for its progressivism. They went on to form the nucleus of a prolific and successful school of Bolognese painters who migrated to Rome for a time. This painting is based on the biblical episode of the Massacre of the Innocents from the Gospel of Matthew. Two killer soldiers, one portrayed from behind while rushing on a screaming woman, and one kneeling towards the mothers with their children, holding knives. The mothers are reacting in different ways: screaming, attempting to escape the soldiers who have grabbed her hair, another is fleeing towards the right while embracing her child, while another, in the lower left corner, is holding her child on her shoulders; another mother tries to stop a soldier with her left hand, and a kneeling woman is praying towards the sky above the children which have already been slaughtered. While the painting depicts a ghastly biblical episode with enormous narrative importance, the painter is profoundly aware of composition and technique. Before a landscape bathed in light, but set with dark and heavy architecture, a group of eight adults and eight children (including the putti distributing the palm fronds of victory) has been skillfully arranged. The unusual vertical format, rarely used for this theme, and above all the symmetrical structure of figural counterparts indicate that Reni was particularly interested in composition of the various elements, color, action, architecture, and setting. He became one of the premier painters in Rome during between 1607–1614; he was one of the painters most patronized by the Borghese family, a member of which was the pope. Returning to Bologna after 1614, Reni established a successful and prolific studio there. Reni’s themes are mostly biblical and mythological. He painted a few portraits. There are a few self-portraits from both his youth and his old age. Reni’s technique was used by the Bolognese school and was the standard for Italian printmakers of his time. He died in Bologna in 1642. He was buried there in the Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico.