Call to Worship from Isaiah 35
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.”
Glory be to the Creator, and to the Christ, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.
Opening Scripture: Isaiah 43: 1-3, 16, 18-21
But now thus says the Holy One:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . .
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters.
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Jesus, you are the way through the wilderness: show us your truth in which we journey, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit be in us the life that draws us to God. Amen.
(source: F.B. McNutt, The Prayer Manual [London: Mowbray, 1961], p. 29, adapted)
Scripture: Matthew 22:1-14
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Meditation: from Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder
While Matthew’s Jesus speaks the parable as a means of addressing Roman imperialism and abuse of power, the passage is clearly a polemic highlighting social and class hierarchy. It is a verbal assault against a top-down society. There was no middle ground or middle class. The rich ruler uses those under his authority to advance his personal cause. His subjects lose their lives as a result of their subservience and submission. The slaves are fodder in a fight among the wealthy. They lose their being, perhaps all they have, because one person of means slights another one.
Offering Our Prayers
Holy One, even in the midst of the wilderness, we rejoice with joy and singing. Hear now our prayers of thanksgiving. [offer prayers of gratitude with response: God of life, . . . we give you thanks.]
Holy One, it feels at times as if we must pass through the waters and walk through the fire. Do not let us be overwhelmed. Grant us your peace and receive these concerns we carry in our hearts . . . [offer prayers of intercession with response: In your mercy . . . God hear our prayer.]
Prayer from Hildegard of Bingen
O comforting fire of Spirit,
Life, within the very Life of all Creation.
Holy you are in giving life to All.
Holy you are in anointing
those who are not whole;
Holy you are in cleansing
a festering wound.
O sacred breath,
O fire of love, . . .
enfold those who offer blessing.
Care for those
who are imprisoned by the enemy
and dissolve the bonds of those
whom Divinity wishes to save.
O mightiest path which penetrates All,
from the height to every Earthly abyss,
you compose All, you unite All. . . .
Therefore, praise be to you
who are the sound of praise
and the greatest prize of Life,
who are hope and richest honor
bequeathing the reward of Light.
Benediction from Saint Clare
Live without fear: your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God’s blessing be with you always. Amen.