Monthly Archives: August 2022

Digital Worship August 7, 2022

Both the contemporary online service and the sermon from this service are embedded at the bottom of the post.

9th Sunday after Pentecost, August 7, 2022

We are gathered in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy   Spirit.

Amen

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the            inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for his sake God forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire  forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Greeting:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Prayer of the Day

Let us pray. Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church. Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 First Reading: Genesis 15: 1-6

1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Psalm: Psalm 33: 12-22

 12Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD,
 the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
 13The LORD looks down from heaven;
 he sees all humankind.
 14From where he sits enthroned he watches
 all the inhabitants of the earth —
 15he who fashions the hearts of them all,
 and observes all their deeds.
 16A king is not saved by his great army;
 a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
 17The war horse is a vain hope for victory,
 and by its great might it cannot save.
 18Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
 on those who hope in his steadfast love,
 19to deliver their soul from death,
 and to keep them alive in famine.
 20Our soul waits for the LORD;
 he is our help and shield.
 21Our heart is glad in him,
 because we trust in his holy name.
 22Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
 even as we hope in you.

 Second Reading: Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
13All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Gospel: Luke 12: 32-40

[Jesus said:] 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Sermon: Pastor Neil White

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He 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, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again 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. Amen.

Assisting Minister

Let us pray:

Creating God, source of all life, we rejoice in the incredible creation that you have given us to watch over. As you continue to renew your creation day by day we ask that you grant both your people and leaders, global and local, a heart to care for the earth. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord God, ruler of all the earth, where nations and communities yearn for peace and justice we ask for your steadfast love and righteousness to guide those working for peace. Watch over those who dedicate their lives to the protection and service of others including: Ben, Brycen, Christian, Clayton, Daniel, Dillan, Ethan, Evan, Luke, Michael, Spencer, Sydney, Tyler B. and Tyler G. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Healing God look on your children with compassion and ease the suffering of those dealing with emotional or physical pain. Have your healing hand upon:  Aaron, Avery, Aubrey, Austin, Betsy, Billie, Bob D., Bob S., Brandi, Brandon, Brenda, Cohen, Dan, Darla, Dave, Deanne, Dennis, Dorothy,  Eliza, Francis, Gary, Jamie, Jan, Jerry K., Jerry N., Kathie, Kelly, Ken, Laurie, Makayla, Matt, Maureen, Mia, Mike, Nolan, Patrick, Pete, Sandy, Scott, Shae, Susan, Tom and Wayne and console the friends and family of Bill Brisbane Charlotte Huddleston, Pastor Doris Harris, Tim Nicholson and William Shook as they grieve

Lord, we pray for the ministries of the ELCA and the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, we also lift up in prayer today: St. John’s Lutheran Church, Dallas, King of Glory Lutheran, Dallas  and Hospice & Hospital Chaplains.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Leader: In trust and hope, we commend to you, O Lord, all for whom we pray. Amen.

Sharing of the Peace

Highlights

Offering Offering may be given in the offering plate or electronically through the Tithe.ly app. If you want to honor your electronic gift during the offering there are cards on the usher’s table for that purpose.

Words of Institution

Lord’s Prayer

 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, forever and ever. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

A: Let us pray. Lord Jesus, in this sacrament you strengthen us with the saving power of your death and resurrection. May these gifts of your body and blood create in us the fruits of your redemption and grace in our lives, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessing

DiscipleLife

L:    As God has claimed us as his own in Christ,

       we seek to follow Christ with these marks of DiscipleLife:

§Praying Daily

§Worshiping Weekly

§Studying the Bible

§Serving Others

§Building Spiritual Friendships

§Giving to God and our Neighbors in Need

§Engaging God’s Mission

Dismissal: “Go in peace, serve the Lord. Thanks be to God” Alleluia

Judges 19 The Levite, the Concubine, and the Violence of Gibeah

The Levite of Ephraim, A.F.Caminade (1837)

Judges 19

 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite, residing in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. 3 Then her husband set out after her, to speak tenderly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. When he reached her father’s house, the girl’s father saw him and came with joy to meet him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days; so they ate and drank, and he stayed there. 5 On the fourth day they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Fortify yourself with a bit of food, and after that you may go.” 6 So the two men sat and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man, “Why not spend the night and enjoy yourself?” 7 When the man got up to go, his father-in-law kept urging him until he spent the night there again. 8 On the fifth day he got up early in the morning to leave; and the girl’s father said, “Fortify yourself.” So they lingered until the day declined, and the two of them ate and drank. 9 When the man with his concubine and his servant got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Look, the day has worn on until it is almost evening. Spend the night. See, the day has drawn to a close. Spend the night here and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get up early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”

10 But the man would not spend the night; he got up and departed, and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was far spent, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites, and spend the night in it.” 12 But his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel; but we will continue on to Gibeah.” 13 Then he said to his servant, “Come, let us try to reach one of these places, and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin. 15 They turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. He went in and sat down in the open square of the city, but no one took them in to spend the night.

16 Then at evening there was an old man coming from his work in the field. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was residing in Gibeah. (The people of the place were Benjaminites.) 17 When the old man looked up and saw the wayfarer in the open square of the city, he said, “Where are you going and where do you come from?” 18 He answered him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah; and I am going to my home. Nobody has offered to take me in. 19 We your servants have straw and fodder for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and the woman and the young man along with us. We need nothing more.” 20 The old man said, “Peace be to you. I will care for all your wants; only do not spend the night in the square.” 21 So he brought him into his house, and fed the donkeys; they washed their feet, and ate and drank.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. 24 Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 As morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

27 In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 “Get up,” he said to her, “we are going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out for his home. 29 When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 Then he commanded the men whom he sent, saying, “Thus shall you say to all the Israelites, ‘Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day? Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.'”

Israel stands on a razor’s edge. The action of a tribe of Israel has become indistinguishable from Sodom. It is an environment when women are surrendered to unspeakable physical and emotional torment, the expectation of hospitality is met with violence, and heroes and judges are absent. It is a time when men (and I do mean primarily males) do what is right in their own eyes and the ways of God are abandoned. Phyliss Trible named this as one of her ‘texts of terror’ and it is, “a story we want to forget but are commanded to speak.” (Trible, 1984, p. 65) This is an unpleasant story that is told unlike the countless untold stories of violence towards women in places where they should expect safety. A story of a woman without a name, without a voice, and with no agency to protect herself or guardian to shield her from those who claim her. The final story in Judges places Israel in a precarious position where a reckoning is needed to reclaim their identity as a covenant people and to be a place where women and men can live in safety.

The narrative begins with the ominous reminder of this being a time without a king and even though the second half of the refrain that, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” is not repeated at the beginning of the story it emerges throughout the narrative and will be restated at the end. This story has a number of connections to the previous story of Micah’s idol and several other important stories throughout scripture. The narrator in crafting this retelling of this story has obviously wrestled deeply with its meaning in light of both its construction and its inclusion in the book of Judges and scripture. We wrestle with this story in remembrance of the unnamed concubine and the unnamed six hundred women who are taken from their families along with the countless women and children killed in the conflict later in the story. The story begins with a single relationship but will expand into a conflict which threatens to destroy one of the tribes of Israel.

A certain unnamed Levite and his unnamed concubine form the two primary characters of this initial chapter. The Levite is living in Ephraim, where the Levite of the previous story moves to initially in the story of Micah’s idol. There is not a direct connection between the two Levites, but the resonance links the two stories, especially when we learn the concubine is from Bethlehem, where the previous Levite came from. Both stories leave Bethlehem for Ephraim and encounter violence. To identify the woman as a concubine gives her a lower status than a wife. Previously we encountered a concubine in Abimelech’s mother, and she contrasted to his ‘many wives’ (9:31). The woman in our story likely had no choice in her relationship with the Levite and the language supports this when it says, “he took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem.” There are two textual possibilities which offer differing accounts for the woman’s departure from the Levite’s residence in the hill country of Ephraim to her father’s house in Bethlehem. This is reflected in the differing translations of the NIV, “she was unfaithful to him” and the NRSV, “became angry with him.[1] Regardless of who is to blame for the domestic conflict between the Levite and the concubine, the woman takes action and returns to her father’s house in Bethlehem, and it is only four months later that the Levite goes to, “speak tenderly to her[2] to encourage her to return to his household. Much like Samson returning to his aggrieved wife after an extended absence we have this Levite return home, but this time the concubine’s father welcomes him and shows him lavish hospitality.

Something that most English translations fail to convey is the ‘heart language’ of the Levite’s time in Bethlehem. The Levite hopes to ‘speak to her heart.[3]Fortify yourself” is literally “support/sustain your heart,” later in verse six “enjoy yourself” is “let your heart be good,” and in verse eight “fortify yourself” is once again “support/sustain your heart.” Heart makes a final appearance in the father’s appeal to “enjoy yourself” and five occurrences of ‘heart language’ in a condensed space should catch our attention. (Webb, 2012, pp. 458-461)  We are not given any insight into the father’s motives for continually attempting to delay the Levite’s departure with his daughter over the five days he showers him with hospitality but the text may be hinting that the father sees the ‘heart trouble’ that this Levite will soon exhibit towards his daughter. It is also noteworthy that the daughter is absent from this time the father spends with the Levite. The text may indicate that the Levite is viewed as a son-in-law, but he still may wonder if his heart is right towards his daughter. The differentiation between the father’s house and the Levite’s tent[4] in verse nine may also point to not only distinct levels of comfort but may also indicate the different hospitality that his daughter has experienced there. It is likely that the Levite did not live in a tent, but the change in language is suggestive that the situations are different between the two households.

The departure late on the fifth day creates a situation where it will be impossible to complete the journey home in one day, but the Levite takes his concubine and his servant and depart to escape the father’s delaying hospitality. In contrast to the voiceless woman, the servant does speak and tells the Levite they are near Jebus and need to stop for the night. The Levite indicates they will journey further trying to get as close to home as possible but also that they will not stay in a non-Israelite town. Ironically, everyone in this small party would have, “fared better with foreigners than with their fellow Israelites.” (NIB II: 876) The party arrives in the square in Gibeah looking for hospitality for the night.

The only person who offers hospitality in Gibeah is a man from the hill country of Ephraim working in the fields outside Gibeah. The Levite indicates that they can provide food for themselves and their animals and that they are on a journey from Bethlehem to the hill country of Ephraim, but the old man implores them not to stay in the square and to be welcome in his home and allow him to provide for them and their animals. Yet, things quickly turn dangerous when “men of the city, a perverse lot”[5]demand that the visitor be brough out so that they might “know him.” Most English translation correctly indicate that the demand is to know the man sexually, but it should also be clear that what they are after is rape and not consensual intercourse. This is about power and asserting dominance over the visitor and not primarily about sexual attraction. This is the opposite of the hospitality that the father of the concubine showed or that the old man has shown to this point. The story at this point clearly echoes the language of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19: 1-29) and the comparison between Gibeah and Sodom is damning. Like Lot in Sodom, the old man offers his virgin daughter but he also offers the Levite’s concubine to attempt to assuage these men of the city.[6] Missed in the English translation is the ominous return of the second half of the refrain when the old man tells the crowd, “Do with them (the two women) what is good in your own eyes.” (Webb, 2012, p. 468) Yet, there is no divine action here and ultimately it is the Levite who sends the concubine outside and surrenders her to the violent desires of this mob and then apparently goes to sleep as she is tormented outside the house.

The woman who endures the physical and emotional trauma in the hands of a violent mob survives the rape and abuse for a time and is able to crawl back to the door of the old man’s home and collapse. We do not know if she is alive or dead at this point, the text remains ambiguous, but when the Levite wakes in the morning and discovers her he shows no empathy for the situation he placed her in. He appears to view her as a possession, a violated possession, but like an animal she is expected to get up and accompany her master on his journey. When she is unable due to injuries, shock, or death, he places her on a donkey and completes his journey home. Then in a “final, ultimate violation of her personhood. She is denied even the dignity of burial.” (Webb, 2012, p. 472) In another important Hebrew echo that most English translations miss is the Levite takes “the knife” using language that is only found here and in Genesis 22:10 when Abraham takes “the knife” in preparation of sacrificing Isaac. The concubine becomes the second woman in Judges sacrificed by a man who was expected to protect her (the daughter of Jephthah in 11:34-39), and we are not even sure if she is dead or unconscious when the dismemberment begins. Her dismembered body is sent throughout the tribes like the ox that Saul will later slaughter and send throughout the territory to summon the Israelites (1 Samuel 11: 7). As Phyliss Trible memorably states, “Lesser power has no woman than this, that her life is laid down by a man.” (Trible, 1984, p. 81)

This is an ugly story that it would be easier to forget but like many of the dark stories in history the violence against the innocence cries out from the earth demanding that we hear the stories of these nameless ones who bore the desecration of violence. This will never be a story that taught in most churches, but its presence in scripture bears witness to the violence that comes from a world where, “men do what is right in their eyes.” When a town of the chosen people become indistinguishable from the inhospitable and violent Sodom of memory the people need to look long and hard into the mirror of what their actions show them to be so that they might repent and become a people of peace, righteousness, and hospitality. This story is unique to Israel, but its pattern of children of God becoming sons of Belial is not. It is present in the experience of slavery in the history of the United States, or the history of the treatment of Native Americans, it is present in the Tulsa race riots, or the Holocaust, or in those who attempted to suppress the Civil Rights Movement by violence. It is present in the countless untold stories of violence against women, children and the vulnerable. These dystopian stories may be hard to read and hard to understand, we may wish to forget them, but we are commanded to read and tell these stories so that we do not become like Gibeah. Even the old man in this story with his twisted view of ‘male hospitality’ where he can offer to sacrifice his own daughter and the Levites concubine to the crowd should make us uncomfortable. We are unsure whether the Levite is merely unempathetic or a murder, but he surely has something wrong in his heart. We who hear this dark narrative are called to look into our own hearts, to look at our actions, and where we find darkness to pray for changes in our hearts and our actions towards others.

[1] The Hebrew (MT) and the Syriac manuscripts claim that “his concubine played the harlot” while the Greek and Old Latin maintain “his concubine became angry with him.” (Trible, 1984, p. 66) and each translation gives a quite different initial impression of this unnamed concubine. Neither translation can justify the violence that will be done to her or the actions of the Levite towards her.

[2] Literally “speak to her heart” (‘al-libba) (Webb, 2012, p. 457)

[3] This was also used to describe the actions of Shechem to convince Dinah to marry him after he raped her in Genesis 34:3. (NIB II: 876)

[4] Also missed in most English translations.

[5] Literally “men, sons of Belial.” As Barry Webb can state the etymology of Belial (beliy’al) is uncertain but it is probably the poetic use of this term as a parallel of death and Sheol which helped this term become associated with a supernatural evil being (Belial or Beliar) in the New Testament and Intertestamental literature. (Webb, 2012, p. 466)

[6] In contrast Lot offers his two virgin daughters. Perhaps to parallel the story two women are offered but only one ‘belongs’ to the old man. It is a twisted version of ‘male hospitality’ that is at work here since as Phyliss Trible states, “the rules of hospitality in Israel protect only males.” (Trible, 1984, p. 75) Whether this is true in general or not it certainly is true in this story.