A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin.

Gathering

PRELUDE                                                        “Largo”                                               Woldemar Bargiel

CONFESSION & FORGIVENESS 

GATHERING SONG                            “As We Gather at Your Table”                       red book # 522

GREETING               

KYRIE                                                                                                     red book pg. 147               

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                                                                  red book pg. 149

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ISAIAH 25:1–9                                                 

PSALM 23

PHILIPPIANS 4:1–9                                  

MATTHEW 22:1–14

SERMON                                                                                                        Pastor Chris Halverson

The End
Both our reading from Isaiah and our reading from Matthew deal with
the end. The end of an era, the end of a way of life, even the end of
the world.
And this subject, the end is often something mainline churches don’t
talk about. Either we are embarrassed about the very idea of the End
that we hide it, or we are so confused by it we say nothing.
And because of our hesitance to talk about the End—Evangelical
Christians from one particular seminary in Texas—espousing a theory
about the End that has only been around since the 1950’s—have been
able to define how Christians deal with, and talk about, the End.
Their view of the end has been popularized by books such as The Late
Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series.

But there are two things about the end that I believe are missing in
how they and, because of their influence, how we, talk about the End.
Firstly, we need to come to grips with what the point of the end of
the world is. We need to ask ourselves, and ask of scripture, “What is
the end—what is the point—of the end?”
Secondly, we need to recognize that, for Christians, the End isn’t the end!
So the two things missing in American Christianity when we talk about
the End are:
The Question Mark:      What is the end of the End?—And — the Exclamation
mark: The End isn’t the end!
Let us pray

This week, we mourn the death of two giants—two men who shaped our age.
Civil Rights leader Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and inventor Steve Jobs.
As I looked at the obituaries of these two men, I can’t help but
notice how clarifying the end of a person’s life is to the totality of
that life. It is as if you can’t see the sum of Shuttlesworth’s life
until you look at it from the end—you don’t see how spectacular Steve
Jobs was until you read it in the obits.
After all, the end clears away the mundane details, the day-to-day things.
You see—at the end we can look at a life without the small stuff.
For example, there is no mention in Steve Jobs’ obituary that he ate a
fish sandwich on October 10th, 1985—but there are mentions of the big
things I-pods, I-tunes, I-phones, I-everything.
The end sifts a person’s life and what remains is gold and gall… the
anguish and the ecstasy.
In 1957 Rev. Shuttlesworth and his wife marched right up to a
segregated school in Birmingham and tried to enroll their daughter in
it—that’s the gold—the ecstasy.
They were then beaten with brass knuckles and led pipes and stabbed
with a knife by a mob of klansmen—that’s the gall—the anguish.
Yes, when we ask the question, “What is the end of the end” we must
recognize that the end contains—is fundamentally about—anguish and
ecstasy. The end, like a refiner’s fire, purifies life down to anguish
and ecstasy.

The end purifies our lives down to anguish and ecstasy.
Both Isaiah and Matthew lived during the ends of eras. Both, in fact,
could say the eras they lived in, “felt like the end of the world.”

Isaiah lived through the scattering of 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel
by the Assyrians. He witnessed the first siege of Jerusalem.

Matthew, 700 years after Isaiah’s time, experienced the second siege
of Jerusalem, the complete destruction of that city as well as the
destruction of the Temple, the holiest place in the religious life of
his people—the Jews.
The Temple was said to be the center of the world—the navel—the
bellybutton—of the universe—the center of gravity of all things
spiritual.
Now, people often try to explain the horror of this experience by
using analogies from American history. They say the destruction of the
temple was the equivalent of 9/11, or Challenger exploding, or the
assassination of Kennedy, or Pearl Harbor.
Yet, none of these quite get there.
Perhaps, if we had lost the Cold War, and Russia bulldozed Washington
DC, made it into a mass grave filled with government officials and
clergy, renamed it Marxville, and repopulated it with people from
Siberia, we would be getting close to what Matthew experienced—this
end of an era that Matthew lived through. The end of the Temple in
Jerusalem.

And, I believe, these experiences deeply shaped both Isaiah and
Matthew. For them these ends, felt like the end of the world.
These ends, brought them to the same place that all endings do.
It was as if they, in writing scripture, were writing a sort of
obituary. These ends remove precious details, and focus us on the
anguish and the ecstasy of their eras.
Isaiah cries out for blood, he calls the destruction of cities of
non-Jews a wonder of God. If the lectionary let us read the last 3
verses of chapter 25 of his book, we would see him direct his anguish,
and his anger, to a particular enemy—to the Moabites, his neighbors to
the Northeast and sometimes allies of the Assyrians, who destroyed
Israel.
At the same time, the tension of this, the end of Isaiah’s age—brings
forth the ecstasy of the moment—salvation in spite of savagery.
It causes him to sing of God as refuge for the poor, shelter in the
time of storm, shade in oppressive heat,
And more than that, he looks through his end of the age, onward to
the end of all the ages
–to a time when all peoples will feast upon a spectacular life giving meal
—a time when death itself will be no more
—when obituaries will be obsolete
—when God will wipe away all tears.

And then there is Matthew. If you don’t believe that the violent
siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple—his end—shaped
his understanding of Jesus’ words about the end of time, just compare
his Gospel to how Luke tells the story!
In Luke’s version of this parable people make excuses for not coming
to the king’s banquet, so the king gets angry and invites the lost and
the least.
And that’s it.
Not so with Matthew. Matthew’s guests kill the king’s people, and the
king responds by laying siege to the people’s city and killing them.
Then, even the people he invites are disinvited, are kicked into the
outer darkness.
Yes, Matthew’s account is filled with the anguish of his era. The
anguish of the end.
But, there is, at least a sliver, of ecstasy as well. He is, after
all, telling his story about Jesus,
about the bridegroom at his banquet.
That oxen and calves have been slaughtered for a feast of plenty.
A feast that we are all gathered in
—the good and the bad.

The end is about anguish and ecstasy. And we need to ask, what is the
end of the End? What is the point of the end of the world?
Is the point that Moab will be destroyed?/Or that death will be destroyed?
Is the point that those without wedding cloaks are banished?/Or that
there is a party open to all?
If you buy into the view supported by a majority of American
Christians, it is ambiguous—its unclear.
For example, in the Left Behind videogame you can choose to either
pray for those who persecute you, or shoot them. Both anguish and
ecstasy are valid. Both destroying death, and destroying the Moabites
is considered good. Both banishment and open invitations to the
Bridegrooms party are the point of the end.
But, I don’t think they’re right. I believe the thrust of what God is
doing both inside and outside history is the ecstasy of relationship,
not its destruction. Our salvation, not our damnation!

And I believe this because the end isn’t the end!
The end isn’t the End.
What do I mean by that? I mean the end of the world isn’t something
we are waiting for. No, the end of the world already happened in the
life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let me say that again—the end of the world happened the moment Jesus
came for us and for our salvation!
Why do you suppose we have a cross at the center of our
worship?—because through that cross we step into the end of the world.
Why do you suppose we read the gospel every week?—because we are
telling the story of the end of an old world and the beginning of a
new one.
Why do you suppose that banner has symbols of baptism?—because in
baptism God washes away the mourning tears, we become a new
creation—part of a new world.
Why do you suppose this other banner has the symbol of
communion—bread and wine, on it?—because as we eat and drink we eat
and drink the banquet that swallows death and feeds us with good
things.

We do not gather together here, huddled hiding, waiting for the end
of the world—no—
We come here to celebrate the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom through his
son Jesus Christ.
The end was, the end is, and the end is to come.
A+A

HYMN of the DAY                               “Now We Join in Celebration”                            red book # 462

APOSTLES CREED    

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE                                         

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM                            “I Asked the Lord”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

LORD’S PRAYER   

COMMUNION SONGS   “Lamb of God” red pg. 154, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, also red #491, red #531

Sending

BLESSING

SENDING SONG                                “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing”                            red book # 547

DISMISSAL   

POSTLUDE

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