Pentecost +18, Year A

Musical Reflection
A Violent Noise by The XX


God of peace,
sending your word
vulnerable to a violent world:
take us from the closed fist of death;
reveal to us the open arms of love
that we might stumble and fall into your hands,
through Jesus Christ, our victim and saviour.
First Reading

The Bloody Sire
by Robinson Jeffers

It is not bad.  Let them play.
Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane
Speak his prodigious blasphemies.
It is not bad, it is high time,
Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.

What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine
The fleet limbs of the antelope?
What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?
Violence has been the sire of all the world’s values.

Who would remember Helen’s face
Lacking the terrible halo of spears?
Who formed Christ but Herod and Caesar,
The cruel and bloody victories of Caesar?
Violence, the bloody sire of all the world’s values.

Never weep, let them play,
Old violence is not too old to beget new values.

Second Reading
The Synthetic A Priori

by Kathleen Graber

At a church rummage sale, I study the perfection of shadows
in a painting by Caravaggio, although what I hold
is only a small print of Christ—its frame broken—dining
at Emmaus with three of the Apostles. And because the table
is dramatically, if not unbelievably, lit, the bowls & pitcher
& loaves send their dark crescents onto the immaculate
white cloth. When the Savior raises his hand to offer a blessing,
its shade deepens further his crimson smock. Tenebrosus:
that rich, convincing darkness. As though the master understood
that the obscured world only seems to us somehow
even more familiar, as though our sense of our own unknowing
had at last been made visible—even if what we do not know
cannot itself be seen. The future’s drape, the carnival fortunetellers
of my childhood might have called it, but also the now’s,
displayed as it is—so many unmatched cups & saucers, old coats
& wicker baskets—all around us. At a party last week,
someone said verisimilitude. We were huddled on a tiny porch.
It was the first cool night & the wine had no conclusion.

The talk turned quickly to shepherds & the pastoral & then,
to opera, before someone recalled a horror film he’d watched
late one night with his brother. In black & white vignettes,
an evil tree stump possessed by the spirit of an executed prince
hunts the scheming tribal elders who have destroyed him.
A former pro wrestler in a costume of wire & rubber bark
& wearing a permanent scowl lumbers after vengeance
in the confusion & fear of 1957 on a half-dozen root-legs,
driving his victims into quicksand or toppling himself over
upon him. Though here the point is the teller’s small brother
& the boy’s allegiance, even in a state of suspended disbelief,
to what we call sense. How, he wanted to know, suddenly
unusually earnest, did the tree manage to get itself up again?

Yesterday I spoke to a friend who is despairing: back home,
waiting tables, he’s dating a woman whose marriage has only
just come to an end. When he wakes, he discovers he does not
recognize himself. One afternoon, walking home from school,
I hit my best friend in the face with a book. It may well be
that she hit me. Thin pages flew out into the street. More punches
were thrown & I came away bruised. In that book, a novel
by Emily Brontë, the land is violent & unjust & we are violent
& unjust upon it. Even worse, our greatest passions
change nothing at all. Before one of us hit the other,
there must have been a cause, but I can’t recall it, which makes it
seem nonlinear now, &, thus, apocryphal, both impossible
& impossibly real. I failed, though I tried, to offer comfort.

It’s not that our lives don’t resemble our lives. I’ve been alone
so often lately I sometimes catch myself watching myself—
breathing in the fresh spears of rosemary or admiring the shallots,
peeling their translucent wrappers away, centering one on the board,
making the first careful cut, lifting the purple halves.

Before stories, we were too busy for stories, too busy
hunting & suffering to invent the tales of our own
resurrections. Caught out in the kitchen’s brightness last night,
the handle of the skillet cast its simple, perfected form
across the stove—pierced, like the eye of the needle, so that
it can be hung from a hook, as pans, presumably, have always been.

Outside the wind picked up. Thunder. The dog trotted off,
hid her head beneath the chair. But today: a charity sale
at Trinity Chapel & sun on the tar of the buckled walks.
In the cracks, beads of water spin into light. Tell yourself
it’s simple: this is where it’s been heading all along. Tell yourself
something you have no faith in has already begun to occur.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 21:33-46

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. The landowner put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then the land was rented to tenant farmers and the landowner took a trip. When it was time for harvest, the landowner sent aides to the tenant farmers to collect the fruit. But the tenant farmers seized the aides. They beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.

“Again the landowner sent aides, more than the first group. They treated them in the same way. Finally the landowner sent the family heir to them. ‘They will respect my heir,’ the landowner thought.

“But when the tenant farmers saw the heir, they said to each other, ‘Here’s the one who stands in the way of our having everything. With a single act of murder we could seize the inheritance.’ With that, they grabbed and killed the heir outside the vineyard.

“What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do to those tenant farmers?”

They said, “The owner will totally destroy those wicked farmers and rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give the fruit when it’s ready.”

Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the scriptures, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. God has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes? Therefore, I tell you that God’s kindom will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruit. Whoever falls on this stone will be crushed. And the stone will crush the person it falls on.”

Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard the parable, they knew Jesus was talking about them. They were trying to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, who thought he was a prophet.

Musical Reflection
A Violent Yet Flammable World by Au Revoir Simone

by Hazrat Inayat Khan, adapted

Beloved Lord, Almighty God!
Through the rays of the sun,
Through the waves of the air,
Through the all-pervading life in space,
Purify and revive us, and, we pray,
Heal our bodies, hearts and souls.

The Lord’s Prayer

Holy Presence, your name is truly sacred.
May your vision for the world be realized,
and may your will be done in our lives as it is in heaven.
Provide us with the goodness of food
and remind us to enjoy it mindfully.
Forgive us for the times that we have rushed through life,
not noticing the small miracles around us.
And please forgive those who haven’t had enough time to notice us.
Lead us all into abundant life
in the here-and-now of our lives,
and lead us away from the busyness
that makes us live too far in the past or future.
For the here-and-now Kin-dom,
here-and-now power,
and here-and-now glory are yours this moment and forever. Amen!


Musical Reflection
Atoms for Peace by Thom Yorke

Saranam (Refuge) Blessing

Creator God,
All that we love
into your keeping.
All that we care for
into your care.
Be with us by day,
be with us by night;
and as dark closes
the eyelids with sleep,
may we waken
to the peace of a new day.

And may the blessing of God – the Parent, the Child, and the Womb,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.


Artwork by Janne Parviainen

Invocation from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection A Violent Noise by The XX

Poem The Bloody Sire by Robinson Jeffers

Poem The Synthetic A Priori by Kathleen Graber

Musical Reflection A Violent Yet Flammable World by Au Revoir Simone

Prayer by Inayat Khan

Lord’s Prayer by Brian Brandsmeier

Musical Reflection Atoms for Peace by Thom Yorke

Blessing from Celtic Daily Prayer

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