Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, July 31, 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!
Today’s texts offer instruction and encouragement for all who are occasionally overwhelmed by the “unhappy business” of life. Jesus urges us to take care and be on guard against all kinds of greed. We who have died with Christ in holy baptism have also been raised with him and are encouraged to elevate our thinking, seeking the “things that are above.” To that end, we seek the sustenance of the Lord’s supper and the encouragement of God’s word.
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
Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives. Teach us to love what is worth loving, to reject what is offensive to you, and to treasure what is precious in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
The teacher of wisdom who wrote Ecclesiastes sees that working for mere accumulation of wealth turns life into an empty game, a “vanity of vanities.” Nevertheless, he asserts in the next verse, it is good to find enjoyment in one’s work because such enjoyment is a gift from God.
2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
2:18I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
Psalm: Psalm 49:1-12
My mouth shall speak of wisdom. (Ps. 49:3)
1Hear this, all you peoples;
give ear, all you who dwell in the world,
2you of high degree and low,
rich and poor together.
3My mouth shall speak of wisdom,
and my heart shall meditate on understanding.
4I will incline my ear to a proverb
and set forth my riddle upon the harp.
5Why should I be afraid in evil days,
when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
6the wickedness of those who put their trust in their own prowess,
and boast of their great riches?
7One can never redeem another,
or give to God the ransom for another’s life;
8for the ransom of a life is so great
that there would never be enough to pay it,
9in order to live forever and ever
and never see the grave.
10For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stupid they perish
and leave their wealth to those who come after them.
11Their graves shall be their homes forever, their dwelling places from generation to generation,
though they had named lands after themselves.
12Even though honored, they cannot live forever;
they are like the beasts that perish.
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-11
Life in Christ includes a radical reorientation of our values. Just as the newly baptized shed their old clothes and put on new garments, so Christians are called to let go of greed and take hold of a life shaped by God’s love in Christ.
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Alleluia. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Alleluia. (Matt. 5:3)
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
In God’s reign, the “rich will be sent away empty.” Jesus uses a parable to warn against identifying the worth of one’s life with the value of one’s possessions rather than one’s relationship with God.
13Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Meditation by Vicar Dave
When reading Ecclesiastes today, I was thinking about the generational aspect of all the things we do (or don’t do). Shortly after this nation was started, some pretty smart guys tried to put together some guidelines for how it should be run into the future. They probably had no idea if it would last or not. That may be why it’s long been referred to as “the American Experiment”. It almost fell completely apart a few generations later when the Civil War broke out. I wonder what they would say about the state of our nation today. Have those who’ve taken up their work been wise or foolish? Has this experiment been nothing but vanity?
Greed is a vanity. I think that’s what Christ was trying to say in Luke 12 when telling the story of the rich man whose land had produced abundantly. This man chooses to think of himself as he built larger barns to store all his accumulated wealth, thinking that it will last for him for years into the future. But it is all for naught when the man dies shortly after he finishes the work of accumulating his possessions and storing them securely. His efforts at providing, not for his needs into the future, but for his wants and continued comforts, were all in vain because they did him little or no good. Christ ends the story by saying “so it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God”. I think the point of this story is that we should be focusing on things that store up treasures in the coming Kingdom of God. Things like generosity, caring for those in need and spending our time in worship to Him. Not building up possessions that will only benefit us for a little while and ignoring the things that are eternal.
Right now, this world is at a point where we need to make some decisions. What are we going to do about the future? How will we meet the challenges that are yet to come? There’s climate change to consider. Whether you think it’s just part of nature or it’s caused by humans, the fact is that it’s real and it will affect the way all of mankind lives on this planet that we share. Parts of the world have already seen some extreme weather, such as in the Gulf Coast area, where hurricane season tends to last longer these days and produces larger storms than what we’ve seen in the past. In the American West, wildfires have become larger, due to the lack of rainfall in the area, and areas that were once fertile farmland, are in the process of losing their ability to grow the crops we need to feed ourselves. Right now, we have lots of very smart people trying to find ways to mitigate the effects of climate change or even reverse it. Their work will be generational in nature. We will probably not know the results of it in our lifetimes. Will succeeding generations be wise enough to evaluate our work and decide if it should be continued as is, tweaked a bit, or discontinued altogether. Perhaps it is just a vanity. I prefer to think that God will smile on our efforts to leave this world a better place for the generations that follow us.
Since our beginnings at the corner of Fender & Missouri streets, Grace Lutheran Church has had lots of folks trying to care for the church and its mission. The church has been successful in growing for several generations, largely due to the efforts of its members in those early years, but more importantly, due to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Guided by that Spirit, the church moved to its current location and continued to thrive. We have inherited from those early members a rich history and an important mission, to serve the people of Toledo and to bring them the good news of the Kingdom of God. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in an ever-changing world as we seek to find our place. I don’t think that Pastor Brenner nor those early members could have foreseen how things have changed over the years to where they are now, but I wouldn’t consider their work to be nothing but a vanity project. They did important work while they were here, which continues to touch lives today. They’ve left it for us to continue that work into the future.
May the Holy Spirit guide us and comfort us so that we don’t become discouraged and start to think of the work we do for Him as being in vain.
Prayers of Intercession
Trusting in God’s extraordinary love, let us come near to the Holy One in prayer.
A brief silence.
O God, you are wholeness. Where there is division in your church, bring reconciliation and healing. Guide the work of Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Brenda, our pastor, and theologians, Sunday school teachers, seminary professors, and all who provide instruction for the building up of your church. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
O God, you are the source of all life. Where creation cries out in distress, bring relief and renewal. Bless farmers, ranchers, distributors, and all who provide our food. Nourish the land and all its inhabitants. Send your Holy Spirit to inspire us to be good stewards of the world that you have so graciously lent to us. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
O God, you are wisdom. Where nations and communities yearn for peace, bring justice. Strengthen those who toil for the welfare of others, especially military personnel, police, first responders, and activists, and for the healing of the nations. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
O God, you are life. Where your people are overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life, bring encouragement. Accompany all who experience emotional, mental, or physical distress especially those we remember on our prayer list and those we bring before you now, either silently or out loud. Renew us at your table of mercy. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
O God, you are our treasure. Where scarcity and anxiety pervade your church, bring abundance and vitality. Guide the work of church councils and committees and give them clarity for the work of ministry in this place, especially as we begin again to work with Graceful Friends and as we continue to work with the Children’s Rights Collaborative. Merciful God,
receive our prayer.
O God, you are resurrection. We give you thanks for all your saints. Inspire us by their example of faithful living to set our minds on things above and to be rich in love toward 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!