October 18, 2020 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Worship at Home Guide is a supplement to our worship services. For your convenience, a printable PDF is available at the bottom of this page.
8:30 a.m. Zoom based worship service.
10:30 a.m. Drive-In Church in the church parking lot.
Gathering Question/Gathering Music
Opening Sentences Psalm 78:1
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you created the heavens and the earth, and humankind in your image. Teach us to discern your hand in all your works and to serve you with reverence and thanksgiving. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn #310 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”
I love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood.
I love thy church, O God. Her walls before thee stand,
dear as the apple of thine eye, and graven on thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall; for her my prayers ascend;
to her my toils and cares be giv’n till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy I prize her heavenly ways:
her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise.
Such as thy truth shall last, to Zion shall be giv’n the brightest glories
earth can yield and brighter bliss of heav’n.
Public Domain. One of the oldest American hymn texts in continuous use, this paraphrase of
Psalm 137 was created by Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale. The arranger of the tune, Aaron Williams, was the clerk of a Presbyterian church in London.
Prayer of Confession
God of Grace, help us to admit our sin, so that as you come to us in mercy,
we will grow more and more in your likeness and image in Jesus’ name.
Have mercy on us as we lift our individual prayers to you… Amen.
Hymn #460 “Break Thou the Bread of Life”2
Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me, as thou did break the loaves beside the sea. Beyond the sacred page I seek thee, Lord. My spirit pants for thee, O
living Word! Bless thou the truth, dear Lord, now unto me, as thou didst bless the
bread by Galilee. Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fail, And shall I find my
peace, my all in all.
Public Domain. The phrase “bread of life’ as a metaphor for scripture has misled many people into thinking this hymn as being connected with the Lord’s Supper, when its true subject is Bible study. Both the author, Mary Ann Lathbury, and the composer, William Fisk Sherwin, were active in the work of the Chautauqua Assembly.
Scripture/Meditation Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart ,
for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were
Questions for Reflection and Discernment
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
O Lord, strengthen our faith. Nourish it with passion and love towards you….
Nourish it with passion and love for our neighbors as we offer prayers for them…
Nourish it with passion and love for our enemies as we offer prayers for them…
Nourish it with passion and love for the world…hear now our prayers for the world…
Nourish it with passion and love for ourselves…hear now our prayers for ourselves…
Almighty God, whose Word we trust, whose Spirit equips us to pray, we continue to
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 debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Hymn God, Be The Love To Search and Keep Me
God, be the love to search and keep me; God be the prayer to move my voice; God, be the strength to now uphold me: O Christ, surround me; O Christ, surround me.
Sharing of the Peace: Sharing Jesus’ invitation to his disciples:
Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you!
─ Resources from the Book of Common Worship and Glory to God Hymnal, PCUSA
Interpretation of Matthew 5:1-12
The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew’s first and longest collection of Jesus’ teachings, plays a fundamental role in the First Gospel. Just as Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) is the frontispiece of Luke’s two-volume work, setting the tone for the entire history, the Sermon on the Mount serves as the frontispiece of Matthew. It presents Jesus as Israel’s ultimate, God-authorized teacher and sternly warns the readers that believing in Jesus means doing what he says (7:21-28). It thus anticipates the Great Commission with which the apostles are charged: “Go, enlist all the Gentiles as disciples, …teaching them to observe everything I commanded you: (28:19-20). They are to be enlisted as disciples, not simply as believers, because their faith in Jesus must be actualized in their behavior.
Both Matthew and Luke draw from a common source when it comes to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. Mathew gives the teaching a more important place and role. He shares it as Jesus’ first important act and gives it a special significance by placing it on “the mountain.” Matthew wishes his readers to see the Sermon on the Mount as a definitive interpretation of the Torah delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.
The weightiness of the sermon is further emphasized by the introductory language: Jesus sits, the disciples approach him, and he opens his mouth and teaches. This text tells Christians how to live while emphasizing the importance of Jesus. He is not simply “one of the prophets” (16:14) but he is the Messiah. He sits like a king on his throne, his disciples approach him like subjects in a royal court, and the king delivers his inaugural address, in which he lays out in considerable detail what life in his kingdom will be like.
The question whether the beatitudes are best described as imperatives, demanding obedient action, or are they indicatives, testifying to God’s grace? The answer is probably both/and, we should understand them as both. The translation of the first word in each of the beatitudes is challenging. We know it best as “blessed”. It can also be understood as “how fortunate”, “happy”, and even “congratulations to…”. For Jesus, however the word is translated, its meaning is found in being in a right relationship with God. The meaning is thus understood to be more objective than subjective (Psalm 1:1, 33:12). As a result, the use of “blessed” is appropriate because of the word’s religious associations.
In the wake of World Communion Sunday and the emphasis on the Peacemaking Offering, it is perhaps well to examine the beatitude that addresses the topic. It is clear that “peacemakers” designates not those who live in peace, enjoying its fruits, but those who devote themselves to the hard work of reconciling hostile individuals, families, groups, and nations. It is also noteworthy that this beatitude was first uttered during the Pax Romana. By dint of military superiority the Romans had put an end to small wars between competing states, had rid the Mediterranean Sea of pirates, and had greatly diminished brigandage on land. There was an absence of war for the most part. But peace in the Hebrew sense, shalom, harmonious cooperation aimed at the welfare of all, could not be established by the Roman legions. The creators of shalom will deserve to be called the sons and daughters of God, because they have chosen to imitate God’s magnanimity. They strive to return good for evil and to love those they do not like. They construct bridges rather than build walls.
─ from Matthew, A Bible Commentary For Teaching and Preaching, Douglas R.A. Hare
Meditation on Matthew 5:1-12
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Blessings in God’s name on this 20th Sunday after Pentecost, or the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We are coming to the end of the most extended time in the church year, the time referred to as Ordinary Time, so named not because it is a time of low expectations but because it is a time that does not have a holiday, like Christmas or Easter, or the context of a specifically devoted season, such as Advent or Lent. It is a season of growth and the liturgical color is green.
In the Sundays of Ordinary Time that remain ahead of the new church year beginning with the First Sunday of Advent on November 29th, we will be reading and reflecting on texts from the Gospel of Matthew which serves as the primary Gospel for Year A. Jesus’ teachings that Matthew has arranged into five sections. The first of these chronologically is perhaps also first in everyone’s awareness, the so called “Sermon on the Mount”, for it contains some of the most poetic and powerful words in the Gospel of Matthew, including the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are rich in meaning and long in our memory. A question Professor Hare asks is, “Are they imperatives (you must), or indicatives (you’re invited)? Another way of asking is, “Are we paying lip service or life service to the teaching?”
Scholars have identified the five teaching sections in Matthew (5:1-7:27; 10:1-42; 13:1-52; 18:1-35; 24:1-25:46) by identifying the similar language that precedes and follows them. In each case, Jesus calls/gathers his disciples to him prior to and Jesus departs the place where he has been at the conclusion of the teaching. Scholars have further postulated that the five teaching sections have been arranged by Matthew to complement the five “books” of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) traditionally attributed to his authorship. In this way, Jesus is pictured as the “new Moses” or a fulfillment of Moses as not only a teacher of God but as the most complete example of God’s teachers.
Where does your mind go when you hear this familiar text read? Where do you find yourself in the story? Are you one of the disciples? Are you one amongst the crowd that Jesus sees before he went up the mountain? Do you ever imagine yourself within earshot of Jesus as he was teaching during his missionary days? Do you understand yourself to be blessed or happy or fortunate or worthy of being congratulated by Jesus’ words, whether you understand them to be an affirmation or an invitation, or both? These words have never meant as much to me as when I have heard them put to music and sung by Sweet Honey In The Rock, an acapella women’s choir based out of Washington, D.C. If you have any interest, I invite you to look them up. The group as it exists now is not the original group, as founding members have died and been replaced, but it consistently is recognized as a soul-full group. The last time I heard the Beatitudes sung by them was on a Sunday afternoon early in this century in the chapel at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Their singing that day, as always, brought me to tears. I believe that is one of the blessings (no pun intended) of this text, that it has the power to move one deeply.
I invite you to listen to them once again: “Blessed are…the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; those who mourn, for they will be comforted; the meek, for they will inherit the earth; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled; the merciful, for they will receive mercy; pure in heart, for they will see God; peacemakers, for they will be called children of God; those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”…. Blessed are. Who? In some cases, those who are afflicted in one way or another. This makes hearing the Beatitudes an additional challenge over simply listening to them. Everyone can identify with mourning; it is a condition that life brings to each one of us. Many of us can testify to being poor in spirit, which makes Matthew’s version of this saying easier to hear than Luke’s “blessed are the poor…”. Most of us would like to be acknowledged as merciful, if for no other reason than we appreciate being the recipient of mercy. But what of being honored for being meek? It gets even more challenging to hear Jesus commend blessings on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Each one of these requires an intention, a desire, an action, and Jesus does not promise only goodness and light for those who choose to live into these.
Then, the language changes. The first eight Beatitudes speak about “those”, the ninth shifts to “you”, spoken directly rather than indirectly to the disciples. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Both Matthew and Luke (6.22-23) share this Beatitude. Can Jesus really mean this? Can he shift his direction from disciples in general to me specifically? Can he really want me to understand myself as blessed when I am being criticized verbally and emotionally, subject to name calling because of my witness to God in the person of Jesus? Really? Is this reasonable? What is the “therefore” with this Beatitude? “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” While experiencing persecution, I am to look forward to my reward in heaven and take comfort in how others have experienced such persecution in the past.
Professor Hare suggests that we should not understand these blessings as either imperatives, demanding action, or indicatives, testifying to God’s grace, but as both. As with all of Jesus’ teachings in the gospels, they are addressed to the disciples, and given how Matthew writes to a community that extends beyond the original disciples, they are addressed to you and to me. Another both/and challenge that exists for persons who profess the Christian faith is whether one is a member of a church or a disciple of Jesus. The answer is both, and if it is not both, the correct answer is that of being a disciple, for that is the basis for everything else, just like the second half of each Beatitude builds on the first. One receives mercy because one is merciful. Discipleship is more than a profession of faith; it is a witness with one’s ways and one’s words. It is more than lip service; it is life service. Jesus is inviting me and you to live as fully and faithfully as we can as his disciples, as those who are blessed. Who does not want to be blessed?