OT 25 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

September 24, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Exodus 16.2-15 — God provides manna for Israel in the wilderness.

Psalm 105. 1-6, 37-45 — Thank God for God’s abundant providence, especially in the miracles in the desert.
Psalm 78 — A long recitation of the wilderness wanderings, the people’s unfaithfulness, but God’s faithful care. See below for an excerpted adaptation.

Philippians 1.21-30 — “Living is Christ and dying is gain”—Paul would just as soon die and be with Jesus. But the important thing is to “live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel.” Even our struggles (“the privilege of suffering for Christ”) are a gift from God. In

Matthew 20.1-16 — The parable of workers who are all paid the same amount regardless of how long they’ve worked.

Preaching Thoughts

       In Hebrew “manna” sounds like “Whatsit?”—or, actually, “Whosit?” it’s a mystery. It will sustain the people throughout their entire 40 years in the wilderness. What sustains us is always beyond our comprehension, not to mention our control.
       It’s a lesson in trust. Also patience. Everybody got a day’s worth of bread, not a weeks’ worth, except on the eve of the Sabbath, when they got two days’ worth. Daily bread. We do not pray for a lifetime supply of bread, but our daily bread, bread for this day, one day at a time. Grace comes to us one breath at a time. Learn to trust it.
       I always include verses 16-18, immediately beyond the lectionary passage: no matter how much people gather, everyone ends up with exactly what they need. It’s a model of justice. In God’s realm justice isn’t that everyone gets what they deserve (since there’s no such thing), but that everyone gets what they need. (It also pairs nicely with Jesus’ parable.) This may be a relevant scripture to ponder on World Communion Sunday next week, offering a vision of a world in which everyone has what they need, without hoarding or want, a world in which everyone is included and worthy and blessed.

Paul would just as soon die and be with Jesus. But the important thing is for all of us to “live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel.” Even our struggles (“the privilege of suffering for Christ”) are a gift from God.

       An employer hires workers in early morning, midday, afternoon, and at the end of the day—and then pays them all exactly the same amount—a day’s living wage— no matter how long they worked. Bitterness ensues. Much like the manna in Gen. 16.16-18, everybody gets what they need, not what they want or expect or what (somebody thinks) they “deserve.” perhaps this is an image of God’s equal love for everyone, no mater how righteous or unrighteous they are. There is no earning, only gift.
       Jesus’ parables often involve wages, savings, stewardship of finances, poverty and riches, managers and employees, landowners and servants, and so on. Whatever else they are about, when Jesus tells stories about economics, we can’t pretend they’re not also about economics. In this story might Jesus be critiquing a system that pits workers against each other? The manager highlights his “generosity” toward the latecomers, but neglects to mention his lack of generosity toward those who worked all day.
      Maybe Jesus is highlighting the way we tend to be jealous of other people’s good fortune—like those who object to college loan forgiveness: “Because I paid mine; they should pay theirs, too,” even though their good fortune doesn’t cost me anything.
       By the way, modern folks sometimes criticize the workers standing around waiting for work to come to them, rather than going out and seeking it. But in Jesus’ culture (and still in many parts of modern US!) that’s how it’s done. Day laborers (especially immigrants) can’t always just go out and “get a job.” They have to wait for employers to hire them, utterly dependent on the employer’s whims.

Call to Worship

Leader: Holy One, Creator of life, your sacred gift, we thank you!
All: Alleluia!
Loving Christ, offering of mercy, we praise you!
Holy Spirit, energy of grace, you make us vessels of your gift.
Alleluia! We worship with full hearts. Alleluia!

Leader: Creating God, you have made us in your image.
All: You have fed us with your blessing.
You have led us through our challenges.
You have granted us grace when we least expected it.
You are the fountain of blessing, the source of unending goodness.
Alleluia! We turn to you. We thank you. We worship you.
Come, Generous Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Amazing God, we praise you!You have fed us in the wilderness.
All: You have given us life when we thought all was lost.
Feed us with your Spirit now, and strengthen us for your service.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Gracious Creator, you shower us with life, anew each day.
All: Risen Christ, your love beckons us to become your people.
Holy Spirit, you call us forth to shine with your light.
Alleluia! We worship as we live, in gratitude and praise! Alleluia!

Leader: Loving Creator, we praise you!
All: Infinite Fountain of Life, we thank you!
Though we wandered hungry in the wilderness, you fed us.
Though our hopes are often dashed, still your loving grace is faithful.

We turn to you again in gratitude and trust.
Feed us again as we worship with joy. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Merciful God, the world often seems unfair, confusing or threatening You are our solid ground, our mercy, our hope. Speak to us your peace. We open our hearts to your grace. Fill us with your Spirit, in the presence and love of Christ. Amen.2.Gracious and generous God, you provided manna for the Israelites in the desert. You sent Christ for our hungry souls. Feed us now with your Word: nourish us with your Spirit and delight us with the taste of your grace. As your scripture are read and your Word proclaimed, feed our hungry souls. Amen.

God of Mercy, Hand of Love, you have led us through the wilderness and fed us miraculously. Lead us now by your Spirit. Feed us with your wisdom and your truth. May our souls drink deeply of your grace and your presence. Speak to us, for we are listening with hungry hearts. Amen.

Holy One, in your grace you give us all that we need, each moment, each day, to live as your beloved ones. Grant that we may always be mindful of your Spirit, alive in us and in all. Amen.

God of love, in the wonders of Creation
you feed our souls.
In the gifts of community, and those we love,
you feed our souls.
In your forgiveness, and the nourishment of your grace,
you feed our souls.
Through the gifts of prayer and scripture and worship
you feed our souls.
God, we thank you and turn to you again.
Help us be thankful and attentive and to trust that always,
no matter how bleak it may seem,
you feed our souls.

Loving God, many voices outside us tell us what is worthy, and voices within us name what is desirable. But knowing you is our only treasure. Only love is worthy of our lives. Open our eyes to your truth; open our ears to your beckoning; open our hearts to your voice calling to us now in scripture, so that we might die to old lives, and rise in new life, the life that you give us. In the arms of Christ, bear us near to you. Amen.

Faithful God, our lives are so full of our own expectations, our minds so occupied by our plans, that we often do not hear you. Free us from our attachments and empty us of our desires, so that we might be ready and wiling to hear your Word, and to live it, by the grace of your Spirit. Speak to us now, God, for your servants are listening. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

In the desert a subtle mystery:
manna for nourishment.
In the wilderness of our prayer
we gather the manna we find,
and share with you
in this feast of attentiveness.

Prayer of Confession

God of mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you.
We have distrusted your providence
and sought life elsewhere when we should have turned to you.
We have feared for ourselves and held onto things
when we should have shared.
And now the fruit of our fear has rotted in our hearts.
Forgive our sin, heal our fear, and wash us clean.
Start us anew: remade by your grace, hungry for you alone,
and ready to receive and to share your love
in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.



What gets you through the desert?
What gets you through?
What gets you through the chemo,
the healing from abuse, the bad marriage,
what gets you through
the job that tries to kill you,
the dark alley of the shadow of death,
the rotten places, the placeless places,
the evil you fear, the evil you’ve done,
what gets you through?

Some will call it courage or stamina,
luck or faith or reaching down deep.
But you know it’s not you, not yours.
It’s given. To you. For you.
From the Holy One.

You find it anywhere—
the usual, the impossible.
You learn to recognize it.
You learn to receive it.
That grace that gets you through,
you learn to say thank you.


     [from Psalm 78, adapted. Stanza breaks are appropriate places for sung responses.]

Listen, O people, to this teaching;
pay attention to these words of truth!
         We will tell a story that is rich with meaning,
         and utter sayings with truth hidden in them,
an ancient story that we have heard,
because it is a story about us.
         We will not hide these stories from our children,
         but tell them to the next generation:
         the glorious deeds of God, and God’s power,
         and the wonders that God has wrought.
God made this promise to us,
         so we would never forget God’s grace.

In the sight of our ancestors—
in your own memory—God worked miracles in Egypt.
         God divided the sea and led them through it,
         making the waters to stand like a heap.
God led them by a cloud in the daytime,
and all the night with a fiery light.
         God split the rocks in the wilderness,
         and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep,
         made streams to come out of the rock,
         and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

Yet they tested God in their hearts,
by demanding the food that they craved.
They spoke against God, saying:
         “Yes, God, you struck the rock
         so that water gushed out and torrents overflowed.
         But can you spread a table in the wilderness?
         Can you give bread, and provide meat for your people?”
Yet God
commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
God rained down on them manna to eat,
and gave them the grain of heaven.
         With upright heart God tended them,
         and guided them with skillful hand.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       Creator God, we trust in you, maker of all, source of all life, giver of all blessings. You are the water of life flowing from the rock of all things.
       Loving Christ, we follow you: embodying God’s love, you healed the broken, taught those who were open, and fed the hungry. You blessed and raised up all who were faltering. You walked with us in our struggles and even our death, crucified on a cross. But God raised you from death, for yours and ours is a story of grace.
       Holy Spirit, we live by your grace. By your light in us we trust in God for life, for guidance, for power to serve in love. You make us vessels of your mercy and hope. Help us, God, to trust you and to serve you with our whole lives, with gratitude, courage and love, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

       We believe in God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come. I believe God has provided for me abundantly, and for all God’s creatures, so that all have enough.
       We follow Jesus, who showered God’s abundant grace upon us, bringing healing to the sick, forgiveness to the guilty and food when there was none, bringing hope to the hopeless and life even to the dead. He was crucified and raised again, and lives among us, still showering us with abundant grace and infinite life.
       We live by the Spirit, together with all followers as the Body of Christ, proclaiming the good news and spreading the grace of God to all people. We trust in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection and the mystery of eternal life. We devote ourselves to the sharing of earth’s goods and God’s blessings, so that all may have enough, to the glory and delight of God. Amen.

       We believe in God, who creates us, who sustains us each moment, who is our life and our breath.
       We follow Christ, who showed us God. He received and shared God’s grace. He trusted God in everything. He let go of things so that he might cling to Life. He let go of life, so that he might hold onto Love. He gave of himself, even his very life, for the sake of the healing of the world. And though he was killed, God have him life again; and he rose and is still among us in a new way.
       We live by the Holy Spirit, which alone gives us life. We rejoice in the church, the Body of Christ, and in the oneness of all life, the gift of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, and the mystery of eternal life. By the power of that Holy Spirit, and in the name of Christ, we devote ourselves to give generously of all that we receive, for the sake of the healing of the world, and the eternal glory of God. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
Out of chaos you made a world, unprecedented, and full of blessing.
and though we imagine other worlds, worlds of despair,
you surprise us with this one.
You defy our expectations and confound our understanding:
when we wander in the wilderness, you give us manna;
you feed us, and we are saved.
In the depth of our dismay, you send us Jesus.
And so, with the people on earth and all the company of heaven,
we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, the Bread of Life,
who healed the sick, and raised the dead,
who ate with the poor and the outcast,
and fed the multitudes when they were hungry.
who taught us to trust your grace.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
As your children gathered manna in the wilderness,
may we gather your grace from this feast.
By your grace may this bread become
imperishable food that sustains us for eternal life
and strengthens us for service in your name.
God, you provide for us in all circumstances.
Bless us that we may share your grace with all the world,
in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit.
All glory and honor is yours, almighty God, now and forever.

     [Spoken or sung]

* 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 / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
You feed us with the mystery of your grace. It sustains us every day. You who fill us with love, fill us also with trust and gratitude, that we may live in peace, serve with joy, and share with the confidence of your children, in the name of Christ ans the power of your Spirit, Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
You have provided for us in unexpected ways; help us to trust your providence, to receive your gifts, and to share willingly with others for the sake of the healing of the world. We give you thanks, and pray that we may be your living manna for the world, in the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Every Moment Is Manna      (Original song)

God of love, you have given to me
all I needed, abundantly
I was afraid, but you have made a feast for me.
Every moment is manna! By your grace I live.
So I sing Hosanna! I will abundantly give.

Turn my thanks for what comes to me
into deep generosity.
I will not cling, but everything I give with joy.
Every moment is manna! By your grace I live.
So I sing Hosanna! I will abundantly give.

I will not be afraid to part
with what’s in my hands or heart,
for I believe I will receive your grace again.
Every moment is manna! By your grace I live.
So I sing Hosanna! I will abundantly give.

Manna (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, in our wandering, when least we could see,
all you provide, and you set us all free.
God, in your mercy you open your hands,
granting us manna we don’t understand.

We are the captives whom you have released.
We are the poor you have brought to your feast.
So by your bidding we come to this place, in
awe and thanksgiving for your saving grace.

God, like the manna that we did not earn,
here are our lives that we give in return.
Make us ourselves like the manna you give:
given to others so that they, too, may live.

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