August 14, 2022
In Isaiah 5. 1-7 God speaks of Israel as a vineyard that was planted to yield grapes but has produced weeds and bad fruit instead: God asked for justice but the people produced bloodshed. So God wants to dismantle the vineyard.
Psalm 80 likely comes from the time of the exile in which Israel felt God’s “punishment.” Like Isaiah it uses the image of a vine: we are like a vineyard that is being plundered by our enemies, and we cry to God to restore us.
Hebrews 11.29 – 12.2 continues from last week a list of our spiritual ancestors who lived by faith—trusting God’s grace even when they couldn’t see it coming—and describes the power of that faith. Therefore we should have courage and follow Jesus who is the “pioneer of our faith,” going on before us in the way that we should follow.
In Luke 12. 49-56 Jesus warns us that if we follow him in the way of peace and justice, healing and grace, people will be offended; even loved ones will be divided against us. But Jesus urges us to ignore other people’s anxieties and instead stay true to God’s truth and love.
The prophet reminds us that the “chosen people”are not chosen to be God’s favorites: they’re chosen to do a task, which is the work of justice. When we fail that task we betray our chosenness.
The list of heroes and martyrs could include people in our own centuries who have suffered for the sake of justice and healing. Like those in the text, none of them saw the final fruits of their labor, for the struggle for justice continues—and will long after we are gone. “So great a cloud of witnesses” is a fine reassurance, often cited at funerals, but in this context it’s not about people welcoming us into an eternal winner’s circle; it’s our cheering squad urging us on to do what they did: to spread love and work for healing and justice, to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Jesus is not just the object of our faith; he is the pioneer of our faith, the leader we courageously follow behind, joining in his work.
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! — We might be tempted, as James and John were in Luke 9.54, to think of it as the fire of judgment that just happens to favor us and target others—and that we have the power to control. Neither is true. It’s the fire of the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not have kind words for our fondness for conflict, judgment and destructive behavior, even—or especially—in the service of our perceived righteous cause. In the Hebrew scriptures God’s fire isn’t destructive; it’s purifying, like a refiner’s fire. The fire Jesus is talking about is energy, not destruction.
“I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” — We get a glimpse of Jesus’ very human concern to pass on his message and his way of being while he still has time—mindful of what probably awaits him in Jerusalem.
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” — Again our temptation may be to suppose Jesus is asking us to create division, but he’s simply lamenting divisions already among us: the truth is upsetting to people who rely on the accepted illusions of the culture, and they will resist such truth. Think of the pushback against “Black Lives Matter” or the climate crisis. In speaking of family divisions Jesus echoes Micah 7.6: “The son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household.”
Call to Worship
Leader: Eternal God, you set all Creation before us.
All: In wonder we praise you.
Loving Christ, you save us, heal us, lead us and encourage us.
In awe we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your beauty and power.
In gratitude we worship you.
We open our hearts to you. Transform us by your grace. Amen.
Leader: Holy One, you are present for us.
All: We come to be present for you.
You create us and sustain us.
Each of us is your miracle.
By your Spirit help us be true to the miracle you have created.
Shape us, guide us, and fill us with your grace. Alleluia!/
Leader: Creator God, we are the vine you have planted. You created us to bear good fruit.
All: We thank you, and pray that your beauty may ripen in us.
Christ, you are the vine and we are your branches.
We praise you, and pray that we may be faithful to you, deeply rooted in your love.
Holy Spirit, you are the miracle of growth and fruitfulness within us.
Alleluia! We worship you and pray that you will fill us
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You alone are holy, and we worship you.
Glory be to you, O God of all Creation.
Thanks be to you, O Christ, for our salvation.
Strengthen us in our faith, O God,
and stir up our love for you, our passion for life,
and our desire to be present in this moment.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Leader: Creator God, you have made us in your image.
All: Our being is your praise.
Loving Christ, you have blessed us with your mercy.
Our lives are your thanks.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your grace.
Our service is our worship. In the power of your presence,
we bear your grace into the world, in the name of Christ.
Collect / Prayer of the Day
God of abundant grace, you spread out Creation like a feast before us. You pour out your love like rain upon us. You stir in our souls like the molten earth beneath our continents. Help us to receive. Help us to trust. Help us now to listen for your Word, and be renewed in your Spirit. Amen.
true to your love, true to the glory that is our own souls. Bless us that we may not conform to this world, but be transformed by a new mindfulness, the mind of Christ. We pray in the grace of your Spirit. Amen.3.
God, we know how to pay attention to many things, to all sorts of news and noises. Help us now to pay attention to you, to pay attention to the present moment, to listen for the truth in scripture, in our worship, and in ourselves. Amen.
God of Truth, you are who you are, not who we want you to be. Jesus was who he was, not who others pressured him to be. Your Spirit is in us as it is, not as others wish. You know us as who we are, not what others think of us. Speak to us now your truth; call us to your Word, that coming close to you we may come close to ourselves, and live out our true calling in this world. We pray in the name and the company and the courage of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of abundant life,
we are the vineyard you have planted to bear fruit,
but we are full of weeds.
Pull our weeds, strengthen your vine,
and make us more fruitful,
by your loving grace. Amen.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]
God of grace,
we confess that like uprooted vines
we are not grounded in your love;
that we do not know how to live.
Our faith is weak; our vision is dark;
our hearts are wounded; our desires are amiss.
Receive us with mercy, God;
forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
and restore in us your Spirit,
so that we may be rooted in your presence,
and bear the fruit of your love.
God, we surrender to your perfect grace.
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
we are your vine,
planted in your love
and rooted in your grace.
We sink our roots deep in you,
that your Spirit may flow through us,
and your love bear fruit in us.
Response / Creed / Affirmation
We trust in you, God, Creator of all; you have made each living being as an utterance of your Word; you call us to be true to the Word in which you have created us.
We follow Jesus, who fulfilled his calling as your Anointed One and embodied your love. He fed the hungry and healed the broken. He taught your truth when others did not want to hear; he loved and forgave those whom others rejected. He stood against systems of injustice, and for his resistance he was killed. But you raised him from the dead, and he reigns with you, and his mercy is our only judge.
We live by the power of your Spirit, enabling us to forgive unendingly, to trust radically the power of resurrection, to serve the world humbly yet fiercely as the Body of Christ. We thank you and we give ourselves to you, that in all things we may be true to the Gospel, by your grace. Amen.
[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
God of the swirling stars, the flowing brook, the loving heart,
you call us to your table.
God of the awakened soul, of healed flesh and forgiven hearts,
we come with joy and thanksgiving.
You create all things in your love. You claim us in love. You set us free for love.
And so we come to this table, a table like no other,
that unites us, blesses us, and makes us new.
So we sing your praise, with joy and gratitude,
in one voice with all creation.
Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved and taught, healed and blessed all people.
True to your love and grace alone,
and not conforming to the fears and desires of those around him,
he embodied your grace, and gave himself in love.
[The Blessing and Covenant….]
Whenever we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, that receiving the Body of Christ,
we may become anew the Body of Christ.
By your Spirit in us, may we be shaped by your Word,steadfast in your truth and living with your love.
Make us one with Christ, one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
to your glory and your delight.
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]
On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Prayer of Dedication / Sending
Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in these gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You have given us all we need to face our challenges, to live with courage and beauty, and to work for justice and healing for the sake of the wholeness of all Creation. Send us now to do your will, by the power of your Spirit, in the name of Christ. Amen.
(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)
Vine and Branches (Original song)
You are the vine and we are your branches,
one with your life and rooted in your heart.
Flowing with grace, with life you fill us,
strengthened that nothing can break us apart.
You are the vine and we are your branches.
Deep in our hearts your life is flowing through.
Rooted in you, we grow and flourish.
You live within us, and we live in you.
You are the vine and we are your branches.
One common blood flows though all of our veins.
We all are part of one another.
We all are branches of one living vine.
You are the vine and we are your branches,
flowing with power greater than our own,
bearing your fruit to all Creation,
till all the seeds of your love have been sown.