Word for the Week and Seasonal Theme

Word for the Week -Sunday, October 18, 2020 – Lectionary 29, Year A

In today’s first reading God uses the Gentile ruler Cyrus to accomplish divine purposes. When the Pharisees try to trap Jesus, he tells them to give the emperor what belongs to him and to God what belongs to God. To gather for worship reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is to God rather than to any earthly authority. Created in the image of God, we offer our entire selves in the service of God and for the sake of the world.

Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts. Created by you, let us live in your image; created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 45:1-7
1Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: 2I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. 5I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, 6so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.

Psalm: Psalm 96:1-13
1Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2Sing to the Lord, bless the name of the Lord; proclaim God’s salvation from day to day. 3Declare God’s glory among the nations and God’s wonders among all peoples. 4For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, more to be feared than all gods.5As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; but you, O Lord, have made the heavens. 6Majesty and magnificence are in your presence; power and splendor are in your sanctuary. 7Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord honor and power. 8Ascribe to the Lord the honor due the holy name; bring offerings and enter the courts of the Lord.9Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; tremble before the Lord, all the earth. 10Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is king! The one who made the world so firm that it cannot be moved will judge the peoples with equity.” 11Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; let the field be joyful and all that is therein. 12Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy at your coming, O Lord, for you come to judge the earth. 13You will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with your truth.

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22
15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Theme for the Season of Pentecost (Autumn/November)

Teach me, Give me understanding, Lead me in spirit and truth
The season of Pentecost is long. From Easter to Advent, we spend time hearing stories of Jesus’ life and ministry, inspiring us to deeper faith and discipleship. We also learn about the struggles of God’s people throughout history, and the difficulty of building faith based on the seemingly impossible love and grace the Creator showers upon us.

Jesus teaches his disciples and followers through stories and parables. Most of the time, these illustrations of the Kingdom of God fly right over their heads… until Jesus takes the time to gently, clearly, and compassionately open their eyes and hearts to the wondrous love and grace shining right in front of their eyes.

This is true for us even today. As disciples of a risen Lord and Savior, we hear the stories of miracles, signs and wonders, and the everyday teachings of the Rabbi who gathers children at his feet. So often, we seek ways to stuff the Kingdom of God into our own molds. As we approach the end of the long Pentecost season, we are challenged to let God open our hearts to the amazing things he has in store for us. The Kingdom of God is here, today, all around us. May we be faithful disciples and stewards of God’s gifts of love and grace.

The theme for worship this season is a prayer, in three simple phrases. Teach me, give me understanding, and lead me in spirit and truth. May this prayer guide us in our study, inspire us in our worship, and fill us with God’s love and grace to share with the world.