Pentecost +21, Year A

Musical Reflection
A Love That Will Never Grow Old by Emmylou Harris


Lord of the teasing riddle,
whose questions undo our certainty
and set us on a different path:
give us a heart of passion,
a searching mind,
gentle strength of body,
and unseen depths of soul,
that we might love you wholly
and our neighbour as ourself;
through Jesus Christ, the law of grace.
First Reading

Praying Drunk
by Andrew Hudgins

Our Father who art in heaven, I am drunk.
Again. Red wine. For which I offer thanks.
I ought to start with praise, but praise
comes hard to me. I stutter. Did I tell you
about the woman whom I taught, in bed,
this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form
keeps things in order. I hear from her sometimes.
Do you? And after love, when I was hungry,
I said, Make me something to eat. She yelled,
Poof! You’re a casserole!—and laughed so hard
she fell out of the bed. Take care of her.
Next, confession—the dreary part. At night
deer drift from the dark woods and eat my garden.
They’re like enormous rats on stilts except,
of course, they’re beautiful. But why? What makes
them beautiful? I haven’t shot one yet.
I might. When I was twelve, I’d ride my bike
out to the dump and shoot the rats. It’s hard
to kill your rats, our Father. You have to use
a hollow point and hit them solidly.
A leg is not enough. The rat won’t pause.
Yeep! Yeep! it screams, and scrabbles, three-legged, back
into the trash, and I would feel a little bad
to kill something that wants to live
more savagely than I do, even if
it’s just a rat. My garden’s vanishing.
Perhaps I’ll merely plant more beans, though that
might mean more beautiful and hungry deer.
Who knows?
I’m sorry for the times I’ve driven
home past a black, enormous, twilight ridge.
Crested with mist, it looked like a giant wave
about to break and sweep across the valley,
and in my loneliness and fear I’ve thought,
O let it come and wash the whole world clean.
Forgive me. This is my favorite sin: despair—
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.


Our Father, thank you for all the birds and trees,
that nature stuff. I’m grateful for good health,
food, air, some laughs, and all the other things
I’m grateful that I’ve never had to do
without. I have confused myself. I’m glad
there’s not a rattrap large enough for deer.
While at the zoo last week, I sat and wept
when I saw one elephant insert his trunk
into another’s ass, pull out a lump,
and whip it back and forth impatiently
to free the goodies hidden in the lump.
I could have let it mean most anything,
but I was stunned again at just how little
we ask for in our lives. Don’t look! Don’t look!
Two young nuns tried to herd their giggling
schoolkids away. Line up, they called. Let’s go
and watch the monkeys in the monkey house.
I laughed, and got a dirty look. Dear Lord,
we lurch from metaphor to metaphor,
which is—let it be so—a form of praying.

I’m usually asleep by now—the time
for supplication. Requests. As if I’d stayed
up late and called the radio and asked
they play a sentimental song. Embarrassed.
I want a lot of money and a woman.
And, also, I want vanishing cream. You know—
a character like Popeye rubs it on
and disappears. Although you see right through him,
he’s there. He chuckles, stumbles into things,
and smoke that’s clearly visible escapes
from his invisible pipe. It makes me think,
sometimes, of you. What makes me think of me
is the poor jerk who wanders out on air
and then looks down. Below his feet, he sees
eternity, and suddenly his shoes
no longer work on nothingness, and down
he goes. As I fall past, remember me.

Second Reading
I’m not a religious person but

by Chen Chen

God sent an angel. One of his least qualified, though. Fluent only in
Lemme get back to you. The angel sounded like me, early twenties,
unpaid interning. Proficient in fetching coffee, sending super
vague emails. It got so bad God personally had to speak to me.
This was annoying because I’m not a religious person. I thought
I’d made this clear to God by reading Harry Potter & not attending
church except for gay weddings. God did not listen to me. God is
not a good listener. I said Stop it please, I’ll give you wedding cake,
money, candy, marijuana. Go talk to married people, politicians,
children, reality TV stars. I’ll even set up a booth for you,
then everyone who wants to talk to you can do so
without the stuffy house of worship, the stuffier middlemen,
& the football blimps that accidentally intercept prayers
on their way to heaven. I’ll keep the booth decorations simple
but attractive: stickers of angels & cats, because I’m not religious
but didn’t people worship cats? Thing is, God couldn’t take a hint.
My doctor said to eat an apple every day. My best friend said to stop
sleeping with guys with messiah complexes. My mother said she is
pretty sure she had sex with my father so I can’t be some new
Asian Jesus. I tried to enrage God by saying things like When I asked
my mother about you, she was in the middle of making dinner
so she just said Too busy. I tried to confuse God by saying I am
a made-up dinosaur & a real dinosaur & who knows maybe
I love you, but then God ended up relating to me. God said I am
a good dinosaur but also sort of evil & sometimes loving no one.
It rained & we stayed inside. Played a few rounds of backgammon.
We used our indoor voices. It got so quiet I asked God
about the afterlife. Its existence, human continued existence.
He said Oh. That. Then sent his angel again. Who said Ummmmmmm.
I never heard from God or his rookie angel after that. I miss them.
Like creatures I made up or found in a book, then got to know a bit.
Gospel Reading
Matthew 22:34-46

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. One of them, a legal expert, tested him. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbour as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Now as the Pharisees were gathering, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose descendent is the Messiah?”

“David’s,” they replied.

Jesus asked, “Then how is it that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls the Messiah ‘Sovereign’? For he says, ‘The Most High said to my Sovereign, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your foot.”‘ If David calls the Messiah ‘Sovereign,’ how can the Messiah be the descendent of David?”

Nobody was able to answer him. And from that day forward nobody dared to ask him anything.


Musical Reflection
Who Do You Love by Mojave 3

Prayer of Practice for the Golden Rule
by Eusebius of Caesarea, adapted

Creator God,
May we be enemies to no one and
friends of what abides eternally.
May we not quarrel with those nearest us, and
be reconciled quickly when we should.
May we never plot evil against others, and
if anyone plots evil against us,
may we escape unharmed and
without the need to hurt anyone else.
May we love, seek, and attain only what is good.
May we desire happiness for all and harbour envy for none.
May we never find joy in the misfortune of those who
have wronged us.
May we not wait for the rebuke of others,
but always rebuke ourselves until we make reparations.
May we gain no victory that harms us or our opponents.
May we reconcile friends who are mad at each other.
May we, insofar as we can, give all necessary
help to our friends and to all who are in need.
May we never fail our friends in trouble.
May we be able to soften the pain of the
grief-stricken and give them comforting words.
May we respect ourselves.
May we maintain control of our emotions.
May we habituate ourselves to be gentle, and
not angry with others because of circumstances.
May we never follow the wicked or what they have done,
but know good people and follow in their footsteps.

The Lord’s Prayer

Blessed be your working;
Soon be your appearing;
Done be your desiring.
Our bread provide us;
Our debts forgive us;
From trials free us.


Musical Reflection
Love Like You by Rebecca Sugar


May God give us to drink of God’s cup;
may the sun be bright upon us;
may the night call down peace;
and when we come to God’s household
may the door be open wide
for us to go in to our joy.

And may the blessing of God – the Creator, the Saviour, and the Sanctifier,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.


Artwork by Eiko Mori

Invocation from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection A Love That Will Never Grow Old by Emmylou Harris

Poem Praying Drunk by Andrew Hudgins

Poem I’m not a religious person but by Chen Chen

Musical Reflection Who Do You Love by Mojave 3

Prayer by Eusebius of Caesarea

Lord’s Prayer from The Covenant of Peace: A Liberation Prayer Book

Musical Reflection Love Like You by Rebecca Sugar

Blessing from Celtic Daily Prayer

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