Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, August 14, 2022
Introduction & Welcome
Thank you for accepting God’s invitation to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!
The word of God is a refining fire. Jesus is the great divide in human history. He invites our undivided attention and devotion. Today in worship we are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses.” In the word and in holy communion we are invited yet again to look to Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
whose steadfast love endures forever.
Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.
Silence is kept for reflection.
we confess that we have not followed your path
but have chosen our own way.
Instead of putting others before ourselves,
we long to take the best seats at the table.
When met by those in need,
we have too often passed by on the other side.
Set us again on the path of life.
Save us from ourselves
and free us to love our neighbors.
Hear the good news!
God does not deal with us according to our sins
but delights in granting pardon and mercy.
In the name of ☩ Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven.
You are free to love as God loves.
Prayer of the Day
O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression, and you call us to share your zeal for truth. Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed, and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-29
Because Jeremiah preaches the unpopular message of God’s judgment, he suffers rejection. Today’s reading distinguishes between the true prophet, like Jeremiah, who speaks God’s word, and the false prophet who misleads the people through dreams. One is like wheat; the other like worthless straw.
23Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” 26How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Psalm: Psalm 82
Arise, O God, and rule the earth. (Ps. 82:8)
1God stands to charge the divine council assembled,
giving judgment in the midst of the gods:
2“How long will you judge unjustly,
and show favor to the wicked?
3Save the weak and the orphan;
defend the humble and needy;
4rescue the weak and the poor;
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
5They do not know, neither do they understand; they wander about in darkness;
all the foundations of the | earth are shaken.
6Now I say to you, ‘You are gods,
and all of you children of the Most High;
7nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.’ ”
8Arise, O God, and rule the earth,
for you shall take all nations for your own.
Second Reading: Hebrews 11:29–12:2
The author of Hebrews presents us with rich stories of faith. In a long list of biblical heroes, we find examples of trust in God that enabled them to face the trials of life faithfully. In addition to this “cloud of witnesses,” we have Jesus, the perfect model of faithful endurance.
29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
32And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Alleluia. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. Alleluia. (John 10:27)
Gospel: Luke 12:49-56
Jesus delivers harsh words about the purifying and potentially divisive effects of obedience to God’s call. The way of the cross often leads followers to encounter hostility and rejection, even from those they love.
[Jesus said:] 49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Meditation by Vicar Dave
Have you ever gone to a meeting where everyone in the meeting had a different opinion about something? That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How many times have you and your spouse disagreed about what to do on a particular evening? Should we cook dinner at home, or should we go out? Should we stay home and read books, or should we go to a movie? Disagreements aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as I said. I’ve been to many a church council meeting where not all the participants agreed on everything. In fact, I think that’s the norm. And it can provide for a healthy debate. It becomes a problem when one person gets so entrenched in their ideas that they refuse to consider the possibility that somebody else may have a valid point of view that should be considered. In the political sphere, we debate about things all of the time. It is hoped that when we have these debates, that in the end, we will agree on the best course of action. Lately, however, that hasn’t been the case. Neither side of the debate is listening to the other anymore.
We often think of Jesus as a gentle man with a nicely trimmed beard and curly brown hair and blue eyes who came from heaven like a big hippie to share peace and love to all humankind. That’s a very nice image, but it isn’t altogether accurate. In fact, Jesus probably didn’t have blue eyes, for one thing. And while Jesus did come to bring love to all mankind, what form is that love to take? Is it to be the kind of love that you find in a greeting card or in a Hallmark Christmas romantic comedy of some sort? No. Jesus came to bring us an honest love. The kind of love that Jesus is talking about might be characterized as being tough love. I’m thinking about all the times he called out the Pharisees, or the time he chased the money changers from the temple. Often, he would call the disciples on their baloney, like when they argued about who would sit at his right hand in the kingdom. One of the things he came to do is to change our lives entirely. In fact, that may be the most important thing he’s doing. But change, as we know is hard. Think about all the changes that have gone on in this congregation in the last few years. The changes that Christ is bringing will be much more far reaching than those that happened in our congregation. In fact, you could even call them Earth shattering. It’s only natural that such a big change will cause divisions amongst people.
Jesus said I have come to bring fire on earth and how I wish it were already kindled. I struggle with what he means by this. Could the fire that he’s talking about be that of purification? Could it be the fire of judgment? Or could it be both? I think about how the Holy Spirit came to the apostles “as tongues of fire”, so perhaps this fire could be that of enlightenment. Christ’s words should burn in our hearts like a fire. This is a fire that we should share with everyone else. Jesus says that he wishes this fire were already kindled. When I think about kindling, I think about smaller pieces of wood that serve to get the bigger pieces burning. Taking that analogy a little bit further, perhaps we are the kindling to get the fire going on the whole of the earth. One of the things I’ve noticed about fire though is that it needs more wood to keep going. Just like you need several pieces of wood to have a healthy fire burning, we need each other. We need to be together to help keep our fire going as we try to share God’s word, throughout the world.
I’ve often bemoaned the fact that the church on Earth is so divided. But isn’t that another thing that Christ is talking about in this reading? It seems that those of us that are Christians can’t even agree amongst ourselves how best to worship Christ. I think it’s a very good thing that we talk to each other now rather than take up a sword when we disagree about how to worship. However, we remain divided. Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and many others. And again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have long been convinced that one of the things God loves is diversity. Whether that diversity comes in the form of race or any other factor. I think that God also values diversity in opinions. So I think it’s a good thing that there are places where people who don’t agree with some folks can gather with those that they do tend to agree with. One of my friends from work who is a strong Catholic gets a great sense of peace from going to confession each week. His church teaches him that that’s something that is necessary. Obviously that’s not something that I agree with. However, I am happy that he has somewhere where he can go that brings him peace.
As we meditate on the tough love that Christ talks about in this gospel, I hope that we will, remember that we are all God’s children, regardless of our divisions, and approach each other with love in our hearts.
Prayers of Intercession
Trusting in God’s extraordinary love, let us come near to the Holy One in prayer.
A brief silence.
Arise, O God, and sustain your church. We pray for all who dedicate their lives to serving your people, such as Brenda, our pastor, and Elizabeth and Daniel, our bishops. Renew our commitment to our siblings in faith around the globe, and bless the work of our ecumenical and interfaith partners. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
Arise, O God, and sustain your creation. We pray for all places affected by natural disasters especially those affected by flooding in Kentucky. Transform the devastation of floods and fires into fertile ground for new life and growth. Fill heaven and earth with your life-giving Spirit. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
Arise, O God, and sustain the nations. We pray for all elected officials. Kindle in them a desire to administer your justice. Strengthen their resolve to defend those who are vulnerable and to stand publicly against all forms of oppression. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
Arise, O God, and sustain those who are oppressed. We pray for people harmed by racist discrimination, ableist discrimination, and all people discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. Rescue us from all systems that degrade our fellow human beings. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
Arise, O God, and sustain this assembly. We pray for this community, celebrating with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. In our joy and in our tears, be near us. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, we remember the saints who have gone before us. May we run with perseverance the race set before us until we find our rest in you. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
Receive the prayers of your children, merciful God, and hold us forever in your steadfast love; through Jesus Christ, our holy Wisdom.
God of abundance:
you have set before us a plentiful harvest.
As we feast on your goodness,
strengthen us to labor in your field,
and equip us to bear fruit for the good of all,
in the name of Jesus.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s 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 to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and 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.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
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, for ever and ever.
The God of peace,
Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless you, comfort you,
and show you the path of life
this day and always.
Go in peace. Love your neighbor.
Bless the world and be God’s grace!
Thanks be to God!