+ TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
“The Bridegroom Approaches … Keep Watch”
ZOOM SANCTUARY SERVICE
A warm welcome to all who have gathered to worship this morning through our Zoom Service. With God as our Father, we gather as brothers and sisters in Christ in the Name of our Lord by whose sacrifice we have been made saints—forgiven sons and daughters. What a joy to be in God’s presence with angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven!
AS WE GATHER “Keep Watch”
The end of The Church’s Year of Grace leads us one step further away from Christ’s coming in Bethlehem and one step closer to his return in glory as King and Judge of all. Without giving away either the day of the hour, Jesus gives an urgent call to watch and prepare for his coming again, lest we be caught unaware. These words are not to frighten us but to help us. Expecting his return, God’s people anticipate that return with lives of faithfulness and good works as they keep watch for Christ’s return.
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP
O God, you see how busy we are with many things. In this hour of worship and prayer, give us rest from all that would cause us to be anxious. Turn us to listen to you and come to us in Word and Sacrament, assuring us of the peace which passes all understanding; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
+ THE ORDER of CELEBRATING +
WELCOME & THEME of The Day
Today the prophet Amos calls for justice to roll down like waters. Paul urges us to encourage one another with the promised coming of the Lord. Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. Surrounded by the faithful of every time and place, we celebrate Christ’s coming in our midst in the Word of Life and the Feast of Victory—the marriage feast of the Lamb.
ORDER of CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Just as parents have compassion on their children, so the Lord has compassion
on all who fear him.
If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins,
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Lord is coming. The celebration is ready. Are we?
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection +
Most merciful God, we are not worthy of all the kindness and all the love which
you have shown unto your children. We have responded with disobedience
and indifference, allowing our lamps to run dry. We truly deserve your wrath
and punishment. For the sake of Jesus Christ we turn to you for forgiveness. Forgive us, renew us, and let your light shine on upon us, so that we may
delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.
Our heavenly Father does not forsake his dear children. Jesus Christ was given to die for us, that we might be prepared to meet the Lord when he comes. For his sake, your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Bridegroom is coming! Let us go out to meet him! Amen.
In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the peace from above and for our salvation
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of
The Church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray
to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For this holy house and for all who offer here their
worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Help, save and defend us, O God. Amen.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son to lead home his bride, The Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter into
his eternal wedding feast; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Amos 5:18-24
[In this speech, Amos takes up one of the central themes of Israel’s faith and turns it against his Israelite audience. The Day of the LORD was understood to be a day of disaster and judgment for the LORD’s enemies, but of one salvation and deliverance for the LORD’s people. Amos declares, because the people have turned away from God and failed to pursue justice and righteousness, Israel will be numbered among
the LORD’s enemies.]
Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met
him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent
bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offering, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
[The Thessalonians are worried that dead Christians will be excluded from the resurrection to eternal life when Christ comes again. Paul reassures them with the word of hope that all Christians, living or dead, will be raised into everlasting life with Christ.]
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will be no means precede those who have died. For the Lord, himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 25:1-13
[Jesus tells a parable about his own second coming, emphasizing the need for readiness at all times.]
Jesus said to the disciples: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout: ‘Look! There is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.
Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you; I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
HOMILY Faith Keeps Watch
Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim
As we get use to the increasing darkness of November, made all the more grim by the pandemic, it’s nice to remember happier, brighter times … the joy of family get-togethers … barbeques and weddings. Among clergy there’s always a story or two about weddings that went awry. I remember a hot summer day fifty years ago … the guests were dressed in their finest and seated in the pews. The air conditioning system was trying to keep pace … the organist was playing pre-service music. But there was a problem … the wedding rings were missing. And so, for almost two hours the guests sat waiting … and waiting … while the groomsmen searched the gravel parking lot … another driving home to hopefully retrieve the rings … and the bridesmaids attempting to console a distraught bride. And all the while, the organist kept on playing. I took off my vestments and joined the search party in the gravel parking lot. Despite assurances, people began to wonder if there was even going to be a wedding. With borrowed rings from their parents … and a pastoral promise to bless the new rings when the couple returned from their honeymoon … in walked a composed bride and groom, as the organist played Purcell’s “Trumpet Voluntary in C.” I was told afterward no one had ever seen an organist collapse at the organ bench from sheer exhaustion … but then again … there’s always a first time for everything!
Today Jesus tells us a parable about a delayed start to a wedding, except the one everyone is waiting for was not the bride, but the groom! The one everyone in the parable is waiting for is the final coming of the Lord Jesus himself.
For almost 2000 years Christians have read these parables of waiting for the Lord’s coming in these dark weeks at the end of The Church’s Year of Grace, when it seems like the time for waiting must be up. For centuries Christians have asked, “How long, O Lord? How long do we have to wait for you?” We proclaim together the mystery of faith, “Christ has died, Christ is risen,” but sometimes we stumble a little at the final part: “Christ will come again…?” To our shame, not many of us wake up in joyful anticipation wondering if today is the day of Christ’s return. But when we look at this world at war with itself … when we look at our weary nation and broken lives … when we remember those who have died whom we miss more than life itself … when we listen to the cries of the oppressed and those who will go to bed hungry tonight for no good reason, then maybe we wonder sometimes too: “How long, O Lord?” As the psalm of the day puts it, “I am poor and needy, come to me speedily, O God, you are my helper and my deliverer, O Lord, do not tarry.”
And so it’s incredible to listen to the joy in the parable today, when all the wedding guests who have been waiting … and wondering … and falling asleep … finally hear the cry, “Look, here is the bridegroom, Come out to meet him!” Can you imagine?! It’s a cry of completion … of hopes finally fulfilled … that everything we’ve been waiting for and couldn’t even imagine is finally here. He who once cried out from the Cross, “It is finished,” now has come to finish the job … to bring all things to completion … to heal what is broken … to forgive what has gone astray … to make right what has gone wrong … to make of this old world a new creation … to bring this dark, dying world into the bright dawning of his own Easter morning.
This is what St. Paul is trying to encourage us with in his letter to the Thessalonians today. “I don’t want you to be uninformed about those who have died,” he says. Sometimes it seems like our waiting is for nothing and that those who have died are just lost to us, and we worry that when our little lives run out we too will just disappear into darkness. “No,” Paul says, the Bridegroom Jesus Christ himself will descend from heaven. God will finish what he started … for God will raise the dead just as he raised up his Son on Easter morning. The Second Coming of Christ is just the echo … just the aftershock of Easter Morning, and when it washes across us we will meet the Lord and be with him forever. So, Christ has power even over our death. On the Cross he died your death for you. His empty tomb means your tomb and my tomb will be empty too! The bridegroom will show up for us. He won’t leave us standing at the altar, and the great wedding feast will begin, and with all those we have loved we will be the Lord forever.
For God provides all that is needed as we wait. God gives the oil of faith … and hope … and love. God pours out his oil of grace and blessing upon you more richly than you or I can imagine. Don’t fool yourself … it’s not from you … but a generous gift from him. St. Augustine once said, “Yes, you made the oil, but who made the olive?” And when the moment of judgment comes … when push comes to shove … will you have put to use all that God has richly given? The five foolish bridesmaids that Jesus warns us of today were generously offered as much as the wise bridesmaids … they just didn’t think they needed it! How often do we think we don’t need God’s loving grace in our lives, until we really do! So “stay awake,” Jesus says. Or better yet, “be prepared.” Amidst these dark days let the riches of his grace … the brightness of his light … the depths of his healing and sanctifying oil soak into you. Soak it up like a sponge … store it up … he has an infinite supply for your need and mine.
For the mystery of faith is true: Christ has died … Christ is risen … Christ will come again in final glory … to make all things new … to bring all things to completion. But he also comes again and again in the faces of your family … your friends … your neighbors … strangers … those in need. Every encounter you have this week is an opportunity to serve him as he comes in others. But he also comes to us now, in bread and wine, his body and blood, the bridegroom who gives himself as the main course of his wedding supper. The old Germans used to call this the Abendmahl … the Evening Meal … the Last Supper. A meal where those who wait late into the night for the bridegroom … wondering and waiting … receive him ahead of time in joy.
So, while we wait amidst the lengthening darkness these winter days … come and soak up his oil … let your lamps be filled and recharged. Until the great day when the bridegroom comes, the wedding begins, and in his bright courts let us rejoice in him and with him now and forever.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come 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.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
Longing for Christ’s reign to come among us, we pray for the outpouring of God’s power on The Church, the world, and all those in need.
A Brief Pause
Holy God, we pray for The Church that through its proclamation and witness it may be a lamp of hope for all who live with dark-ness and despair. Rouse us to deep praise as we gather for
worship, and sustain the work of all church musicians and artists who lead us in praise and prayer. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of every place, the universe proclaims your greatness from generation to generation.
Bless the work of naturalists, conservationists, and park rangers who train our attention to the wonders of the world you made and how to manage it well for future generations. Provide the needed rains and weather conditions to bring all wildfires under control. Protect all firefighters and first responders as they seek to manage any further devastation. Bring strength, comfort, and relief to those affected and displaced by Hurricane Delta and the Almeda Fire especially: Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandra, Richard & Doris, Norm & Marilyn, Pam, Sharon, and Linda (Vernia’s caregiver), together with those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of every nation, guide this country in these post-election days. Kindle hearts eager to
understand our common needs and seek our common good. During these post-election days,
calm our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can
give. Grant that all world leaders seek your wisdom and guidance for the good and welfare of
all people so that divided nations and communities may be restored with your reconciling truth.
Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.Hear our prayer.
God of life, shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit especially your servants: Kristel (whose surgery was postponed), Steve (lymphoma), Marguerite (MaryAnn’s mother), Rusty (under hospice care), and Shari, together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are homebound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God our protector, be with all observing Veterans Day. Guard the lives of active duty and retired military personnel. Comfort all who mourn those who have died in the line of duty. Heal the wounds, both physical and mental, experienced by service members. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of every blessing, we pray for ourselves and this congregation that we may seek to be wise, living with our eyes open, watchful, and alert to the signs of your grace in the world and in our lives. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Holy and immortal God, we pray in thanksgiving for the lives of all the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith and now rest in your loving arms. Remind us of the frailty and shortness of our own live and inspire us to use them for the building up of your Kingdom. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior, until that day when you gather all creation around your throne where you will reign forever and ever. Amen.
OFFERING (At this time the offerings are brought forward)
God of every generation, we offer you our praise and thanksgiving and
bring you these tokens of our talents and lives. Help us to use our gifts
so that justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like and
ever-flowing stream. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take and eat; this is my + body which is given
for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
And gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my + blood
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness
of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.
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.
The peace of the Lord be with you always. And also with you.
PRAYER of THANKSGIVING
Shepherd of Israel, you have gathered us and fed us richly with the bread
Of life and cup of blessing. Open our eyes to all who hunger and thirst for
food and justice, that in them we may care for Christ, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.
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