No gumption

God, sometimes I don’t have what it takes.
I don’t have the gumption to get things done,
the creativity to produce,
the Stuff to make things happen.
Sometimes it’s just not there.

Help me accept this, as you accept me.
Give me faith to simply be in the present moment,
and know that I am your Beloved.
Give me the grace to be present, attentive and loving.

I ask your help and trust your mercy.
Amen.


________________
Weather Report

Becalmed,
as winds are exhausted,
and dramatic storms fail to appear,
and the sun rises and sets
anyway.

________________

Audio version:

No gumption
__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Salt

           You are the salt of the earth.
                           —Matthew 5.13

You don’t aspire to saltiness.
It is who you are.

It’s the taste of being an element of earth
and an element of God.
Your saltiness is your faithfulness
to who God is in you.

The You of who you are
gives salt to this world.
It’s a quality that remains
even as it goes out into the stew of life
and adds to its savoriness.

Be true to your salt.
It will bring out the goodness in others.

______________________

Audio version:

Salt

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Light

Every act of justice,
every act of compassion or mercy
is a light, a star in the night of this world.

You may think your efforts small and meaningless.
You may think they make no difference.
But go out and look up at the stars.

Which one should not have reached out in love?
Which one should never have bothered
to act in courage and compassion?

They all shine until they are swept up
in the great light
of the One who dawns among us.

None of them rids the night of its darkness.
Yet God walks out and looks at them all
and smiles.

__________________

Listen to the audio version:

Light

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

OT 21: 13th Sunday after Pentecost

August 27, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Exodus 1.8 – 2.10. Israel’s oppression in Egypt, and the birth of Moses. As usual, though it seems bleak, God has a plan for the people’s salvation.

Psalm 124.
God’s saving power has helped us escape doom.

Romans 12.1-8. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by a new way of thinking, and giving your whole lives to God. The church is a body, each part of which has different gifts.

Matthew 16.13-20. Jesus asks “Who do you say I am? . Peter says he is the Messiah. Jesus says Peter is the “rock” on which the church will be founded. (“Peter” translates as “Rocky.”)

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis
       
The reality of slavery. Israel’s slavery in Egypt parallels black slavery in America in two ways. It was economic, using slave labor for the profit of the enslavers. It was also social, perpetuating a racial divide. The Egyptians’ ruthlessness and making the Hebrews’ lives bitter had no economic advantage. It was part of the self-perpetuating cycle of treating a racial group as inferior to exploit them, and exploiting them to normalize treating them poorly. The oppression escalates to genocide. In modern America we don’t throw the boys into the Nile, we throw them into prison. Works the same.
     As is true so often, the way to freedom was led by uppity women—Shiprah and Puah, Hebrew midwives. But they are not armed rebels; their revolt is purely life-giving. Who are the uppity women of our day who rebel against oppression on behalf of the oppressed, who bring new life into the world despite the pressures and dangers of oppressive systems? Who are the midwives, enabling creativity and empowering life-giving relationships?
     Moses in the basket reminds us of baptism. (This is among so many stories of people being saved by or on the water!) We are infants, set afloat on God’s grace. We are given life by people and compassion beyond our control, beyond our knowing. Sometimes when we feel abandoned, floating alone on a great river of mystery and danger, we need to trust someone is watching the basket.

Romans
       
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Obviously not some physical sacrificial ritual, but giving your whole life to God. All your heart, and soul, and strength and mind. It’s easy to think your faith is in your head, while your body can go off and do whatever it wants to do. But your faith is in your whole being—what you say, what you eat, how you get around town, all of it. Christians tend to be pretty disembodied. How does your body worship God?
       “Do not be conformed, but transformed.” There’s a bumper sticker for you. When Paul says “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” I don’t think he means just changing your mind—like forming a different opinion. I think he means a new consciousness, a new way of being aware of God in the world. A new lens through which we see everything, the lens of God’s grace, the awareness that we’re all part of Christ’s body. It’s a way of thinking not tied to the world’s values, not bound by the world’s rational, dualistic, cause-and-effect thinking, but a consciousness that’s rooted in gratitude and mystery and trust. It’s through that lens, that transformed consciousness, that we can discern what is “good and acceptable and perfect.”
       Our non-conformity may be as quiet as holding an unpopular opinion or as bold as civil disobedience, like the Hebrew midwives’s non-compliance with a royal edict. But the point is not to be odd; it’s to be changed. Conforming to the strictures of a church culture can be just as soul-crushing as conforming to anything else. The life of the spirit is not so much a life of “having faith” as continually growing in faith. It’s not about having at all together, but about the continual work of letting God re-shape us over and over, day by day, moment by moment.
       But this isn’t just an excuse to be different. We need to be clear about what we’re not conforming to, and how we’re being transformed. For example some people say churches that promote the rights of LGBTQ people are “conforming to social pressures.” Sounds pious, but it’s bass ackwards. Upholding the dignity and the rights of people who have been historically oppressed is pushing against social pressures, and conforming to Jesus’ ethic of radical compassion and respect for all. This is why there can be no such thing as Christian nationalism. Nationalism demands conformity. Faith invites transformation through a loyalty to God that is higher than national identity.
       “We are members of one another.” Whoa! We so dramatically minimize the amazing, radical, mind-blowing thing Paul is saying. Like Jesus in Jn. 14.20” “I am in God and you are in me and I am in you.” We’re not just all members of the same club. We are all cells of the same living organism, divinely, blessedly inter-being with one another. This is the unity of the Holy Spirit, the oneness of the Body of Christ. What it means to love your neighbor as yourself is not just to love than as much as you love yourself, but to love them because they are yourself, members of you. Everyone else is the rest of you. Love is not just sentiment toward others; it’s awareness that we’re not really all that “other.”
       “We have gifts that differ…” Each of us has different gifts by which the Spirit lives and loves in us. As in 1 Cor. 12 and other places, Paul mentions some. But there’s no “list.” There are as many spiritual gifts as there are people. Prophecy and exhortation are spiritual gifts— but so are listening, appreciating beauty, patience in hardship, trust and a sense of humor. There was a kid with Downs syndrome in a pre-school who had the spiritual gift of shining. I don’t know what else to call it.

Matthew
      
Two different questions. “Who do others say I am?” That includes rumor, gossip, and speculation. It also includes doctrine and all the teachings of the church. That Jesus is “the Son of God” or a savior or anything else—even Peter’s “right answer” that Jesus is the Messiah—that’s what other people say. Jesus asks the second, very different question. “Who do you say I am?” Who is Jesus to you? Preach on that. How do you experience Jesus? What’s your relationship like? How does Jesus enter into your life, your awareness? What’s he like for you? Jesus is great enough that we experience him in many, many different ways, even seemingly contradictory. (Sometimes Jesus is a teacher and sometimes he’s just silent. Sometimes he knows it all and sometimes he shares my not knowing. Jesus laughs at my foibles—but he never laughs at me. He asks hard questions. He’s a trickster. He holds me when I’m disgusting. He believes in me when I’m a failure. He’s a mirror, and also an icon. He shows me what God is like, and also what I can be like. He carries me in his heart. He gets a kick out of me. He wants me to take all of his love, drain him dry, and spill it out into the world.) OK, that is a little tiny bit of who Jesus is to me. How about you?
       “Whatever you bind on earth…” I don’t think Jesus is giving Peter power to set divine policies. I think what he means is what you “bind,” that is, your commitments, and what you forgive, that is, what you “loose,” have consequences that go beyond you—that extend out infinitely. A life of commitment and forgiveness has power.
     He sternly ordered them not to to say he was the Messiah—for at least three reasons. Partly because in that charged atmosphere of political repression, if Pilate or Herod heard that it could get him killed. Sure enough, he was right about that. And maybe partly because in their context “Messiah” meant “liberating warrior,” and that wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. But they wouldn’t know that until after the cross and resurrection.
       Also—maybe Jesus wanted people to answer his question for themselves, who Jesus was for them, rather than just conform their ideas to what the disciples said about him. (Do not be conformed, but be transformed….) Even Peter’s “right” answer could be wrong. In fact in the very next moment (Mt. 16.21-23) Jesus says he’ll be crucified and rise again, Peter says “God forbid!” and Jesus says “Get out of my way, you satan.” The name Peter means “Rocky,” as in “On this rock the church is built.” But when we become attached to our “right” answers Petros becomes Petrified and we’re unable to move, unable to accept new realities, unable to be transformed. Jesus discourages labels or titles for himself. Let people come to it on their own.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God, you are the Mystery of Love.
All: Wonder! Praise!
Christ, you are the Light of Love.
Thanks! Adoration!
Spirit, you are the Energy of Love.
Fill us, that we may fall in love.

2.
Leader: Creator God, you have made us in your image.
All: Your living image in us speaks back to you with praise and longing.
You have rescued us from slavery and set us free.
In our freedom and gratitude we turn to you.
Christ, you offer God’s presence; you open a way to God.
And so we draw near. We bring ourselves into your Presence.
Holy Spirit, you live in us. You breathe in us. You worship in us.
Alleluia! Holy Spirit by your power alone we worship!
Stir up your wonder, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Like a baby in a basket on a river,
we sometimes feel adrift amid danger and mystery.
All: But God, you are watching over us.
Sometimes we feel attracted to Jesus but we don’t truly know who he is.
But Jesus, you reveal yourself to us.
Sometimes we feel constrained by the world’s demands and expectations.
But Holy Spirit, you open our minds to new ways of thinking.
So we worship you, and invite you by your grace
to transform us as your people. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Eternal God, you sent Christ as your living Word, your healing Touch, your abiding Presence. We listen now to your Word; we wait for your touch; we open our hearts, so that by Christ’s spirit in us we also may be your living presence in this world. Amen.

2.
God of love, we follow Jesus, and yet we are not always sure who he is. Open our hearts to listen and come to know him more deeply, to know his presence and be known, and so to draw nearer to you. By your grace we listen for your Living Word. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we confess that we too readily conform to the ways of this world, ways that are not your way. Renew our mindfulness of your grace, our attentiveness to your way, so that we might be transformed into your image by your grace, from one degree of glory to another. By the grace of Christ, bless us, that we may hear with glad hearts what you are saying to us today. Amen.

4.
Eternal God, you are beyond all time and space, beyond our knowing or naming. Yet you speak to us, reveal yourself to us, and draw us into life by your Spirit. Embrace us in our worship, that we may hear your voice, listen to your words, and be transformed by your presence. We pray in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, we are aware this morning of those in our world who suffer. They are with us as we come into your presence. Bless us that in our worship we may be transformed to be of service to them, and to all who seek peace, hope or healing. As the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, help us to hear with glad hearts what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God, I am a baby floating in a basket,
and you are the river.
You are the one watching over me.
You are the mother who will claim me.
You are the basket.
I rest in you.

Prayer of Confession

Loving God, we confess that we can live only by your grace,
and that we desire to live only by your ways.
But we have forgotten your Presence
and wandered from your ways.
In the mercy that Christ has shown us,
forgive us, restore us,
and return us to your life-giving Presence,
that we may live by your grace alone.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We trust in God, creator of all that is, the One who gives us life, judges the forces of oppression and sets us free.
       We follow Jesus, the Living Word, the embodiment of God’s love. He taught and healed, he resisted injustice, and he gathered a community who practiced holiness for the sake of the healing of the world. He was crucified, and rose again, and lives among us still, healing, guiding and leading.
       We live by the power of the Holy Spirit as Christ’s Body, the church, in communion with all the saints; trusting in the power of forgiveness, the grace of resurrection, and the infinite, holy, God-given Life that is at the heart of all things. We devote ourselves to the lives to which Jesus calls us: lives of love, healing, courage, justice and joy, in the name of Christ and the energy of the Holy Spirit. For this we ask God’s blessing and give thanks for God’s grace. Alleluia!

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) In thanks, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. Send us, blessed, led and accompanied by Jesus, out into the world to bear his presence to all people, to be Christ for the sake of the healing of the world, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

OT 20: 12th Sunday after Pentecost

August 20, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 45. 1-15. Joseph, who has become a leader in Egypt, reveals himself to his brothers, who have come seeking famine relief.

Psalm 133. How good it is when we live in harmony with one another.

Romans 11. 1-2a, 29-32. God has not rejected the Jews, but has “imprisoned everyone in disobedience” so that God can be equally merciful to everyone.

Matthew 15. 21-28. A Canaanite (pagan) woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. At first he rejects her as a Gentile, calling her a dog—a racial slur. But in response to her tenacious quest, he grants her request.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis
      Joseph (and other scriptures like Ps. 105.17) says his being sold into slavery was God’s plan. People often say that certain painful events are “part of God’s plan.” Baloney. That idea is a relic of an immature faith.. Despite many biblical stories (e.g. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart…) God’s plan doesn’t include making hurtful things happen or making people do evil things. God’s plan is that we all live peaceably, that we have life and have it abundantly. (If God was planning for Israel’s rescue in Egypt God could have figured out a better way, no?) God doesn’t engage in clever strategizing and intervention to make certain things happen. (It takes some pastoral depth to wean people of this idea!) When we blame suffering or evil on God we minimize evil and injustice and avoid the deep pain of life, and keep people from either facing evil or receiving healing. God doesn’t make bad things happen, but God’s grace is present always, even in evil deeds and disasters. It’s not a “silver lining” to a particular event but a constant. God is always present and at work, creating, blessing, liberating. Sometimes we cooperate, sometimes not. But grace is a constant, like gravity. If you are traveling a difficult road, it’s not God’s choice. But even there God will accompany you, lead you, and bless you.

Romans
       Paul has asserted that we don’t need to be Jewish to be God’s people. So where does that leave the Jews? Paul affirms God’s Covenant with Israel: that God has chosen them, that through them all people on earth would be blessed (see Gen. 12.3, 28.14). Paul says the Jews are “disobedient” in not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, so that instead of simply becoming part of Judaism, belief in Jesus would spread to Gentiles and the whole world, eventually including Jews. Without attributing such clever strategy to God, we can affirm that Christians and Jews are equally in need of God, and equally beloved. We’ve been listening to the last few weeks in the lectionary about the sibling rivalry of Abraham’s descendants, and how messed up that is. Shouldn’t we end the sibling rivalry between Christians and Jews?

Matthew
       Maybe Jesus is testing the woman, hoping she’ll jump over the little fence he puts before her. . Maybe he’s repeating a racial slur, calling her a dog, in a knowing way, with a “woke” wink. Maybe he innocently thinks his ministry is to Jewish people, and not to pagans. But more likely, Jesus, having grown up in a culture that derided outsiders, has simply unknowingly taken on that inherent bias: that they are, in fact, less than human. Dogs. It’s not just that Gentiles aren’t included in his “congregation,” it’s that they are unworthy. It’s not right to take bread from deserving people and give it to undeserving dogs. Until. She calls him on it. This uppity woman won’t take “no.” She engages him like a rabbi would, taking his words and playing with them, exposing his bias and putting it in a larger, more compassionate context—just as he does with his “you have heard it said but I say to you” sayings. It opens his eyes. She’s a human being, not a dog! Possibly regarding an unconscious bias, and definitely regarding his ministry among gentiles, he allows his mind to be changed. Maybe what makes Jesus “perfect” is not that he has no flaws but that he is growing.
       I wonder if the little girl ever knew how tenaciously, how boldly, how audaciously her mother sought her healing. And how many people without our knowing have prayed for us, advocated for us, provided for us?

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Holy God, earth beneath our feet—
All: Holy Word, hope in our darkness—
Holy Spirit, breath within the breath—
You intend only good, and make your light shine in all our darkness.
We praise you. We thank you. We worship you.


2.
Leader: God, Eternal Love, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, Living Word, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
Alleluia! It is not according to our worthiness
but by your grace that we are blessed.
Even the crumbs of grace that fall from your table
nourish our hearts and heal us. Alleluia!


3.
Leader: God of Love, we have come by many arduous roads
to this day in this place.
All: You have accompanied us.
We have needed you.
And you have provided, sometimes in ways we did not see.
Still we are in your house, members of your family.
Still we are loved. So we praise you. We thank you. We worship you.


4.
Leader: Generous God, we reach out to you.
All: Healing God, we plead with you.
Our doubts discourage us.
Voices of judgment wold turn us back.
But your grace prevails.
You feed us. You heal us. You bless us.
We thank you. We bless you. We worship you.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Spirit of Love, you come to us in many ways. Open our hearts to see you before us. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts to receive your love and to bear your love to all, in the name and the grace of Christ. Amen.

2.
God of Generosity and Miracles, we come to you, humbly begging for even the crumbs that fall from the Table of your Word. Bless us that we may hear what you are saying to us, and humbly and gladly receive your grace, so that we may bear it to others, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

3.
Holy One, you still the terror of our loneliness. You feed the famine of our hearts. You heal us even when we hear we are unworthy. Your grace is the gravity of our lives. We open our hearts to you, to hear and be shaped by your Word, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

4.
God of grace, God of mercy and justice, you have come to set us free from all that diminishes life, that enslaves our hearts, that imprisons our spirits, that constricts our love. Come to us and speak your liberating Word to us. Set us free and bring us on your Way through the Red Sea. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of infinite love,
the crumbs that fall
from the table of your grace
are enough for us.
Have mercy on us.
We trust in you.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, help us to see ourselves honestly,
to see each moment we intend love,
and each moment we intend otherwise.
Trusting, by the grace of Christ, that you intend only love,
we offer ourselves to you:
receive us, forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
           
[Silent prayer … The word of grace]

2.
… God of love, we give you our whole selves,
and invite your grace into all that is not whole,
that is not free, that is not loving.
Forgive us, heal us, and restore your Spirit in us.

Readings

A reflection on Psalm 133

Look, how good and pleasant it is
       when we live together in unity as siblings!
Rich and poor, native and foreign, insider and outsider in unity—
      like the champagne of a great celebration!
Deserving and undeserving, honored and condemned, loved and hated—
       like the best cake at a party.
Wise and foolish, right and wrong in unity—
      it is like morning dew shining on the mountain of God.
For there God has commanded blessing:
       blessing and life forever.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

Leader: God of love, you create us and claim us; you love us and guide us.
All: We praise you and we worship you.
Beloved Christ, you heal us and forgive us; you teach us and lead us.
We thank you and we follow you.
Holy Spirit, you unite us and transform us; you empower us and shine in us.
We open our heart to you and we live by your grace. Alleluia!

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God, we thank you, for you create us in your image,
claim us in love and continually set us free.
You work your grace in good times and bad,
and accompany us in familiar lands and strange places.

When we are lost you guide us,
and when we re in need you bless us.
Even the crumbs that fall from your table are enough for us,
and yet you bless us richly.
So we thank you, and praise you together with all Creation.


            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who taught and healed, who loved and forgave,
who included the outcast and blessed the alien.
No one was beyond the reach of his love.
By his death and resurrection he blessed us still.


     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
By your grace in us may we forgive all who have wronged us,
for they are our kin.
May no one be outside the bounds of our compassion,
that we may share this bread with all, without exception,
in the love of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit.

     [Spoken or sung]
Amen
.

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) We have begged for crumbs and you have fed us with the bread of life. In gratitude we give you our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us O Love, knowing that no one is outside our care, no one is beyond our reach, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Humbly, My God (Tune: Open My Eyes)

Open my eyes, O God of grace,
to see you here in every face,
you in the poor, the stranger, the foe,
bidding me learn and love and grow.
Humbly, my God, I look for you,
ready, with love, your will to do.
Open my eyes; illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my ears to hear your voice
leading with grace in every choice.
You come in need that I cannot hide,
so that your love will be my guide.
Humbly, my God, I look for you,
ready, with love, your will to do.
Open my ears; illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my heart to freely care,
your undefended love to share.
Open my arms; release all my fear;
and in my love you will appear.
Humbly, my God, I look for you,
ready, with love, your will to do.
Open my heart; illumine me, Spirit divine.

OT 19: 11th Sunday after Pentecost

August 13, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 37. 1-4, 12-28. Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into slavery. (The lectionary skips Joseph’s dream of his brother’s subservience.)

Psalm 105.1-6, 16-22. Praise God for God’s wonderful deeds. The story of Joseph, sent ahead of the people of Israel to save them.

Romans 10.5-15. Righteousness is not obeying laws, but being attuned to the presence of God. All who turn to God will be made whole. So we are sent to convey this good news to others, who would otherwise not know.

Matthew 14. 22-33. The disciples in a boat struggle against a storm. The sight of Jesus walking on the water terrifies them, but he reassures them. He then invites Peter to walk on water as well.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis
      This tale continues the Bible’s work as the chronicle of dysfunctional families. From Cain onward we hear family members (that’s us) saying “Am I my bothers keeper?” And God answering yes, and us saying no anyway. In God, our loving parent, we are all one family. We are all Joseph’s siblings. All whom we resent, abuse or mistreat are our siblings. Joseph will encounter his brothers again, but much later. Often the truth—that we are all one— comes to us only after a long time.

Romans
       “The word is not far from you, but in your heart.” Faith isn’t something we have to go get; a relationship with God isn’t something only certain pious people possess. God is in us all the time and all of us are always only partially aware and trusting of that. This passage is often turned into a requirement: “If you confess with your lips you will be saved,” implying that if not, you won’t. But it’s a promise. Sometimes we feel like we’re not good enough for God. But we are. All we have to do is trust that. And the same is true of others, including people whose faith we might be temped to judge. God is in them, and you can’t judge their trust level. Just work on your own. But how are they to believe if they haven’t heard? That’s where we are called—not to proselytize, but to show love. Love is the only thing that will convince folks that Love is real.

Matthew
      Note the story begins with Jesus making for himself the solitude he didn’t get when the crowds interrupted him.
     When we’re “battered,” when the “wind is against us,” we tend to revert to fear. Again and again God’s Word is, “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” In our troubles God is with us. Jacob wrestling with the angel, Joseph’s brothers, the disciples facing a crowd of thousands of hungry people, or caught in a storm: they’re all learning to trust God’s presence and God’s grace. A challenge is that sometimes we’re more terrified of God than our troubles! Maybe something in us knows that even our troubles are actually about God. It’s not that God causes our troubles, but that our troubles in life expose our trouble with God. Our real struggle is to trust God is always present, and to let God be God. Notice that when Jesus and Peter get into the boat, when the disciple’s inner struggles resolve, the outer struggle disappears: the wind ceases. Sometimes our troubles are external manifestations of inner struggles. But not always—so don’t use this to blame yourself or others for suffering!
     While the disciples are wondering if they’re seeing a ghost, Peter knows the test: the real Jesus would ask him to do something risky, scary, seemingly impossible and requiring deep trust (like feeding 5000 people). So Peter launches the test: “Ask me to walk on the water.” Ah, good ol’ impulsive Peter steps right into this own trap. He’s right, of course. Jesus asks us to do stuff that’s risky, scary, seemingly impossible and requiring deep trust.
     Peter begins to sink— Matthew says “he became frightened.” He was probably already afraid, but focused on Jesus—until his fear took over. Fear is natural; but faith is acting with courage even when we’re afraid. Peter noticed the strong wind. He focused on what was against him instead of what was for him, what he lacked instead of what he was offered. (Remember the measly little loaves and fish?) And he focused on how he was doing. He judged himself. He measured his performance. That sinks us every time. What saved him was his belovedness. Never mind if you’re good enough. Just love, and let Jesus hold you up. None of us knows how to walk on water as we ought. But the Spirit intercedes for us. When we talk about believing in Jesus, it doesn’t mean having certain opinions. It means reaching out for him. Literally giving him your heart, or, sometimes, giving him your hand.
     The image of Peter in the water is a great image of baptism. Sinking in the waters of baptism, we acknowledge our need for Christ—who hold us and gives us life even in the harshest storms.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: In all our troubles, God,
All: you are there to save.
Despite all our fears
you give us courage.
When we are sinking
you hold us up.
We thank you. We praise you. We worship you.

2.
Leader: Loving God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
You are with us in our troubles,
and your hand holds us through every danger.
Alleluia! Hold us now, O Divine presence.
Holy Spirit, come and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Eternal God, we cry to you, lost and alone.
All: Faithful yet unseen, you are present.
Wind and waves beat against us.
Jesus calm and steady, you are there.
Fear and doubts rise up in us.
Spirit of peace, you are herewith us and within us.
In awe and gratitude, we that you.
We reach out to you. We worship you.


Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Gracious God, your Word is not far away, but near us. It is on our lips. It is in our hearts. Grant us stillness this morning, that we may be mindful of your presence and open to your Word. Help us always to know that you are near, in stillness and in turmoil, in calm and in storm. Help us always dwell in your presence, listen for your Word, and reach for your hand. Amen.

2.
Loving God, in danger you are our salvation. In loneliness you are our companion. In fear or uncertainty you are our courage. We thank you. We love you. We trust you. We reach for you. Hold us, and lead us to life. Amen.

3.
Faithful One, as Jesus walked across the stormy sea to the disciples, so you come to us in our troubles. Come to us now, walk across all our fears and doubts, bear to us your presence, and and give us your peace. Amen.

4.
Holy One, give us the patience of Joseph to trust your presence. Give us the faith of Peter to reach out for you. Amid loneliness and betrayal, amid storms and struggles, give us the grace to give our our hearts. We pray in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving God, you are our life.
We reach out for you,
for you are here.
Hold us, and give us life.

Poetry


     Walking on water

Years later the curious would ask,
“That night on the lake, really and truly,
did Jesus actually walk on water?”

And one of the disciples might reply,
“Yes. But the curious thing
that nobody ever mentions is that
every day of his life, wherever he went
his feet were always wet.”

Another disciple says, “No, that’s just a story.
But another time he did.”

Or, “I don’t recall. All I remember
is how afraid I was to see this apparition,
how relieved to see it was him,
and how afraid when he looked at me
as if I could do the same.”

One says, “Not at first. That was just
a metaphor. But as the story spread
so many went there looking for him
that he walked out there often to meet them.”

And one: “Oh, yes, it was very real, more so
than you think. The story has him floating
like a cloud. Actually, the waves were pretty choppy.
It was hard. He fell a couple of times.”

One time a disciple simply replied,
“He is still there, every night.”

Another says, “Honestly, I don’t remember that morning,
but all the mornings since then.”

Another: “My heart is a deep and unpredictable lake.
And he always walks toward me, never away.”

But usually they just look at you and say,
“Why are you asking me?
You must go and see for yourself.”


Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) By your Word you calm our stormy hearts and call us to greater risks in faith. You grant us your presence and strengthen us to serve you. Give us the faith always to hold on to you as we serve you in all circumstances. Send us now into the world to spread your grace in the name of Christ and the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Keep on walking

In the beginning: water and the Spirit. “Let the light shine through.”
Always a beginning, Spirit and the water: God makes all things new.
Chorus: Keep on walking, step into the water,
God will bring us over with an outstretched hand.
Remember our history: through the pain and mystery
runs the way to the promised land.

We have been walking, walking through the water,
walking through the great Red Sea.
Pharaoh once bound us; chaos now surrounds us:
that’s how Gd sets us free.
Chorus

We have been walking, walking on the water,
walking on the storm-tossed sea.
“I will give you power to live, to do great things. Follow me.”
Chorus

We have been walking, waling by the water, baptized in God’s name.
Dies in the water, born in the water, we will never be the same.
Chorus

OT 18: 10th Sunday after Pentecost

August 6, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 32.22-31. Jacob wrestles with an angel and receives a new name, “Israel,” meaning “One who wrestles with God.”

Psalm 17. God, I call upon you. Guard me as the apple of your eye. Show your wondrous love. Deliver me from my enemies.

Romans 9. 1-5. God has given the Covenant through the Israelites.

Matthew 14. 13-21 Jesus feeds 5000 with a few fish.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis
       Jacob wrestles with… God? .. his life?…his own shadow self?… Yes, all of these, and maybe also his tendency to wrestle! He faces his urge to compete, to supplant. As his spiritual descendants this is who we are: we are Israel, we are people who wrestle with God, with others and with ourselves and our own ways. Faith does not necessarily come easily. It comes with struggle, questioning, even opposing. It comes with labor pains. Faith comes from the impasse of being unable to either overcome God or flee from God.
     In his encounter Jacob receives a new name, Israel, When we really wrestle with God, when we deeply engage all of ourselves, straining shoulder to shoulder, chest to chest with Love and its mystery and its demands and its paradoxes—it changes who we are. We walk away limping, reminded of our frailty, but blessed.
     “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” This is the cry of faith. Because all of our wrestling is with God, we know there is blessing in it. We just have to hang on till we receive it. What strength there is in facing all our struggles like that, whatever our trouble: “I will not let go until you bless me.” This doesn’t mean staying in a bad situation like an abusive relationship. It means not ignoring our pain, not dismissing or minimizing our struggles, not pretending “everything’s fine;” for our pain has something to teach us, our struggles have blessings hidden in them, even our failures impart wisdom.

Matthew
      Notice the story begins with Jesus seeking solitude. People find him, and so ends his solitude. (Ministry can be like that). Jesus responds with compassion. (Ministry should be like that, too.) But at the end of the day he goes back and gets that solitude time. (May your ministry be like that.)
     The disciples ask Jesus to send the people away, to outsource what is needed. But Jesus says, “No, you feed them.” How often do we look to God for miraculous intervention when the gifts are right here in our hands? How often do we complain about what we don’t have and overlook the miraculous power that is in the gifts that we do have?
     How to “explain” the miracle? Maybe it’s that people shared. Like stone soup: they actually had food with them, they just didn’t want others to see it….. Or maybe everybody had a tiny bit, and that was enough… But maybe Jesus actually produced food for a crowd. Singers know this: when you’re all in tune, you produce another note, a “harmonic,” that no one is actually singing. Maybe Jesus was so in tune with God that his love, in harmony with God’s, produced a new thing that wasn’t there before.
     Notice who Jesus invites to communion. No prerequisites, none, Not believing or understanding. Just hunger. That’s how we come to God—and to the communion table. Jesus surely violated cleanliness laws, and caused everyone there to do so, by eating with sinners and the unclean. What matters is the feeding of the multitude, not the cleanliness of the individual.
     “There were about 5000 men, besides women and children.” Oh, yeah, right, women and children. But we still call it the feeding of the 5000. We still have trouble counting women and children, don’t we?

Call to Worship

1. (Genesis)
Leader: In our solitude, God, you accompany us.
All: In all our struggles, it is you we wrestle with.
Holy Mystery, seize us in your grace.
Bless us, and make us new. Amen.

2. (Matthew)
Leader: God of love, we come to you hungry for your Word.
All:
With the loaves and fishes of our worship, feed us.
We come to you weary and in need of renewal.
With the loaves and fishes of your grace, heal us.
We come weary from the work of love and justice.
With the loaves and fishes of your Spirit, give us strength
for the work to come. Feed us, God, for we need you.


3.
Leader: God of love, you meet us in mystery.
All: Help us to bear your grace.
God of abundance, you meet us in our need.
Help us to bear your grace.
God of power, you pour your blessing into us.
Help us to bear your grace.
Help us to worship. Amen.


4.
Leader: Holy One, to you alone we come for wisdom.
All: Eternal God, to you alone we give our hearts.
As you fed the multitudes upon the mountain, feed us now with your Word.
As Christ made a small offering into a great miracle,
make our lives a part of your mighty acts of salvation. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of mystery and grace, Jacob knew you in blessing and in struggle, in daylight and in dreams. Jesus met you in hunger and in feasting, in solitude and in crowds. Our lives are dappled, light and dark, and we seek to know you in every moment. In our worship today, and in all our lives, may we know your presence and trust your grace in mystery as well as in clearness. In the arms of your wrestling angel, in the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

2.
God of love, crowds came to Jesus hungry for your Word. So we come to you. Take the loaves of our prayers and the fishes of our silence, and multiply them by your Spirit to feed us with your grace. Let us hear the voice of Jesus. Amen.

3.
Loving God, the mysteries of life confound us. The challenges of life engulf us. Yet you feed us abundantly with your grace. The angels we wrestle with bless us, and we are made new. We open our hearts to your Spirit as we worship. Feed us your grace, and empower us to bear the bread of life to others in the name of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving God,
our hearts are the little loaves and fishes
of your presence in us.
By the mystery of your Spirit in us,
multiply them. Feed us with your grace.
We are hungry. We are listening.

Readings

Psalm 17, a paraphrase

God, listen to me when I cry out to you.
         Hear the honest prayer of my heart.
Let me know how blessed I am.
          Show me where you see my beauty.
You know me inside out, even in the dark of night.
         Help me to be good through and through.
         May everything I say to reflect your love.
I could choose to live another way, but I will not.
         I will avoid the ways of violence.
Keep my feet on your path.
          Help me not to slip.
I call to you, God, knowing that you will answer.
         I pray, trusting you to hear.
It is a wonder how you show your love,
         how you protect those who seek safety in you,
         and shield them from hurtful things.
Keep me as the apple of your eye
         and hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Everywhere I look I will see you.
         Everywhere I am you will be with me.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
     God, we love you and we trust you. Holy Mystery, in our loneliness you accompany us. In our struggles you struggle with us. In our hunger you feed us. Limping from our encounter with you, we are blessed and made new. We give you thanks.
     Jesus Christ, we love you and we trust you. In our wondering you teach us. In our hunger you feed us. In our fear you empower us. In our dying you die with us; in your rising you rise with us. We will not let go of you, for you will bless us. We give you our thanks.
     Holy Spirit, in the sunless places in our lives, in the night of unseeing, you are the faithful presence. In our struggles you are our foe and our friend. In our inadequacy you are the miraculous power. Restored by your presence in us, we go forth to love. Alleluia.

2.
     We believe in God, Creator of all things, heavenly father and mother, of infinite love, wisdom and power, ruler of all that is and all that is to come, who is mystery, yet revealed.
     We follow Christ, God’s chosen one, who loved and served humbly, who gave his life for our redemption, and who was raised by God to new life. In his teaching, in his death and resurrection, and in his presence with us in all circumstances, he reveals God to us. He calls us to humbly follow him and obediently serve him for the sake of proclaiming God’s grace. We trust that he accompanies us and will help, guide, heal and defend us through all difficulty and suffering.
     We believe the Holy Spirit guides us, empowers us and sustains us as servants of God’s grace. We live as the body of Christ, in the power of forgiveness and the reality of resurrection, and the light of eternal life. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God of love, we sing your praise.
You create us, claim us, and continually set us free.
In all our difficulties you have been with us,
and our only struggle is the struggle to receive your grace.

When we are hungry you feed us,
and when much was demanded of us you empower us.
As Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes,
multiply your grace among us, that we may feast on your love.
In gratitude we sing your praise with all Creation.


            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who taught and healed,
who fed the hungry and included the outcast.
He showed us miracles of generosity, miracles of abundance,
and called us to do such works of love.

He was crucified and raised, and the leftovers never end.
He gave the loaves and fishes of his own life,
and from them you have multiplied life for all people.


     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
In these gifts of food perform again a miracle of generosity;
multiply the loaves and fishes of your presence for us.
Multiply the loaves and fishes of your love in us,
that we may bear your grace to a hungry world,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ, for your joy and glory.

     [Spoken or sung]
Amen
.

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.


Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have graced our fear and despair with abundance and power. You have fed us with your love. Send us into the world to feed the hungry, trusting in your grace, ggoing in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

All that we hold in our hands (Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts?
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.


Five Loaves and Two Fish( Original song)

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The gifts that you have are enough
to shine with the glory of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The love that you have is enough
to offer the healing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The courage you have is enough
to work for the justice of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.
See what you have. See what you have.


Story of Grace (Original song)

Chorus:
Though we can’t see at the time,
God is here in this place.
No matter the mountain we climb,
this is a story of grace.

Verses:
Jacob must wrestle his angel,
be brought to the end of his powers,
to know what our suffering teaches us:
the power that saves us is God’s, not ours.

Disciples are weary and overwhelmed
by crowds that need to be fed.
But Jesus welcomes them, trusting God,
who brings forth a miracle: boundless bread!

What are the angels you wrestle with?
Powerless fear, doubt or pain?
There in the struggle it’s God you meet,
blessing you, giving you life again.

OT 17: 9th Sunday after Pentecost

July 30, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 29.15-28. Jacob works seven years for Laban to marry Rachel. Laban tricks him and gives him Leah; Jacob works another seven years for Rachel.

Psalm 105.
Praise God for God’s wonderful deeds.

Romans 8.26-39.
We don’t know how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes…. All things work for good …. God has predestined us to be loved, to be like Christ, to be glorious with love. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52. Parables of the mustard seed, the yeast, hidden treasure, the precious pearl, the great net. The householder brings out what is new and what is old.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis
       We take the Bible so seriously that sometimes we forget that sometimes it has a rollicking good tale to tell. This is one. Sure, it’s about God continuing to provide… and it’s also about trickery. Jacob is a scheming, self-serving dude… but here’s a sweet side to him: his love for Rachel. Imagine working 14 years for something you really want.

Romans
       Paul really does believe in God’s grace. God saves us when we’re sinful, forgives us when we don’t deserve it, and prays for us when we can’t. Faith isn’t something we have but something we receive. God is not some far-off stranger requiring us to get their attention and explain things to them. God is within us, and knows us better than we know ourselves. When we “don’t know what to pray” we’re just aware of what’s always true: we don’t actually “know how” to pray. We’re not actually doing the praying. We’re just letting the Holy Spirit speak up. Real prayer is letting God pray in us. And listening.
      This passage is often used to justify some notion of predestination, as if God has already decided your life. Paul does not say God has predestined the events and trajectory of our lives; he says we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. And we are destined to be called, justified and glorified. There’s no plotting of our future here: this is not a predetermination of what we’ll do or what will happen to us, but of who we are. We’re God’s Beloved. That’s a given. Or, in Paul’s language, predestined.
       Here’s is the Good News. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Not even our own sin. (Remember Rom. 5.8: “Christ died for the ungodly.”) Faith is not earning that gift, but receiving it. Think of all the things we think, at one time or another, can separate us from God’s love. Go ahead, name them. And add them to the list of things that are not able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew
      Jesus tells various parables about the Realm of God being valuable and fruitful treasures hidden among us. They are stories about seeking, finding, paying attention and honoring God’s presence.
     •Mustard seed. God’s grace is life-giving, not demanding; sheltering and welcoming, and seems to rise out of nothing. There’s no measuring grace. The smallest and seemingly insignificant act of love may be huge in God’s realm. You are a mustard seed of God.
     • Yeast. The word for “three measures” of flour isn’t like three cups, but more like three bushels. God’s grace is invisible but has a huge impact. And a little bit affects the whole lump. Your little acts of love change the whole world. Musicians get this: In a choir if only one person changes the note they’re singing it changes the whole chord. (You can demonstrate that in your sermon with singers or handbells.)
      • Treasure. So often we’re looking for God in certain places when God actually is everywhere. Because of the treasure the whole field is valuable. Because God is everywhere and in everything, everything is blessed. God is present, even in evil situations. We’re invited to buy the whole field, to love the whole world. And God buys the whole field of you because you hold the hidden treasure.
      • Pearl. Imagine what is worth the total of everything else in your life put together. What would you give up everything for? Imagine seeking God, loving God like that. I don’t think it means to abandon your life, friends, career, and all that. I think it means paying attention to what you most care about in your day to day (or year to year) life. What if that pearl is to be loving? Say you’re in an argument with a family member or co-worker. What’s the fine pearl you’re after? To win? To look smart? To be right? Or to love? What are the other less valuable things you have to give up to really love?
      • Great net. The realm of God is inclusive. Jesus welcome everybody to the table. And God welcomes all of you, your whole self. You are not all good or bad. You are made up of fish of every kind. God gathers all of who you are, the fish of every kind that make up you, and sorts out what’s fruitful and what’s not. The fish that’s tossed out is not you, it’s your faults and foibles. God will sort out what’s valuable and what’s not. But God takes the whole package. Isn’t that how we love our friends? We take the whole netful, the good with the bad, and love them whole.
      •New and old. Paradox. Balance. Heritage and reform. Found and created. A tradition of transformation.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God, your love is a fine pearl:
All: beautiful, and perfect,
worth more than everything else.

Your grace is the treasure we seek:
lovely, and hidden in the field of our lives.
So we sell all we have and buy the field.
We leave all else aside and worship you,
shovels in hand, seeking your Word.

2.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, you are the treasure that we seek.
And here you are, within and among us!
Spirit of love, we do not know how to worship as we ought.
But you live within us; you pray in us. You are the heart of our worship.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


3.
Leader: God of love, your grace is the mustard seed
that grows in us, that gives life and beauty.
All: Your love is the net that gathers us in in all our diversity.Christ, you are the treasure hidden in the field of our lives.
You are the fine pearl we seek.
Holy Spirit, you are the yeast that leavens us with love.
You are new and old, eternal and always coming anew.
In awe, in gratitude, in joy,we worship you.


4.
Leader: Loving God, we are yours; and we praise you.
All: Crucified and Risen Christ, we are made new, and we thank you.
Holy Spirit, we live by your power alone, and we serve you.
Holy God, we come to tell the story of your grace and to sing your praise.
We come to hear your love, and to sing you love.
We come to worship. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, you are the treasure within, the pearl we seek. In the grace of this morning we quiet our souls and open our hearts to your presence; we still our minds to listen for your Word. Speak your grace to us, and create us anew. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we do not know how to worship as we ought. But you are in every moment and in every place; and your Spirit in us helps us worship even now. Open the eyes of our hearts to be mindful of your presence and to allow you to live fully and powerfully in us, by the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we confess that we give value to so many worthless things; yet the only treasure we truly have is your love. Forgive us for our idolatry and help us to turn our hearts to you alone. Give us the faith to love you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We pray in the spirit and the presence of Jesus, your Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving One,
we do not know how to pray as we ought.
But the yeast of your love
lives in us, works in us,
leavens us with your grace.
You pray in us,
with sighs to deep for words,
and we listen.

Prayer of Confession

God, we do not know how to live as we ought.
But your Spirit intercedes for us,
with sighs too deep for words.
In your mercy forgive our sin,
heal our fear, and empower us
to change our habits
for the sake of love.
May your grace leaven our hearts. Amen.

Readings

1.
Matthew 13.31-33, 44-48 —a meditation

“The realm of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

         [Imagine God’s grace as a tiny seed in you, a tiny seed among all of us, growing great.
         Where do you see those seeds bearing fruit in your life?
         Where do you see it in this church?
]

Jesus told them another parable: “The realm of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three bushels of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; he told them nothing without a parable.

         [Imagine all of your life, even the plain, heavy parts, are leavened with God’s grace.
         What does that feel like? How does it change how you see those parts of your experience?
]

Jesus said, “The realm of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in her joy she goes and sells all that she has and buys that field.”

         [Imagine buying the whole field of your life, and everything in it,
         because God’s love is hidden there. Your whole life, even the hard parts.

         What might you have to embrace to really own your life?
         What might you have to give up— to “sell all you have”—to fully possess your life?
]

“Again,” Jesus said, “the realm of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

         [What is that one pearl of great price for you? What is the one thing you treasure the most?
         Are you willing to give up everything else for it?
]

Again, the realm of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.

         [When God’s grace enters your life it leads you to make new choices.
         What are the new things you are called to embrace?
         What are old things you need to let go of?
]

2.
Romans 8.26-39 — a paraphrase

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit prays in us with sighs too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, understands, because the Spirit speaks for God’s holy people according to God’s desire for us.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose. For God has chosen people from the beginning to share the image of the Only Begotten, so that Christ would be the firstborn in a large family. And when people are chosen they are called, and when they are called they are made right with God, and when they are made right with God they shine with God’s glory.

So then here’s what this means: If God is for us, who could be against us? God did not hold back the Only Begotten, but gave Christ up for all of us; so trust that God will also give us everything else. Who will bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? Since it is God who justifies, who has the power to condemn? Our judgment is in the hands of Christ Jesus, who died, and yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who is on our side.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or poverty, or danger, or violence? As scripture says, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are looked on as if we are sheep to be slaughtered.” No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through the One who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus the Beloved.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

(Romans 8.26-39)
     God, we give you thanks, for you have called us according to your purpose. You have destined us to be conformed to the image of Christ, to be called, to be justified, to be glorified.
     Christ, we give you thanks, for you have died and been raised and intercede for us. You have given up everything for us, and justified our lives, so that no one may condemn. In you nothing can separate us from the love of God: not life or death, hardship or distress, persecution, poverty, danger, suffering or violence. No earthly powers or choices or anything else in Creation can separate is from God’s love in you.
     Holy Spirit, we give you thanks, for through you all things work for good to those who love God. We do not know how to live as we ought, but you intercede for us in ways deeper than words. You empower us to live as more than conquerors, through the love with which you love us. We love you, and we entrust ourselves to you. A,men.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Dear God, for all of the treasure that you have given us we thank you. Receive these gifts of our hearts. Through our giving, help us to treasure you alone, and to give of ourselves freely in love of you. Use our gifts to bear your blessing to the world, that all may know of the unsurpassed wonder of your grace. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

All of the Gifts I Have (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

All of the gifts I have, all that is within me,
you give to me, O God, with care;
all of my prayers and skills, passions and energies
you grant to me to freely share.

Here are my hopes and dreams, attitudes and deepest loves,
all of the treasure to which I cling.
I will not hold them in, stilling my ardent song,
but serving you I’ll freely sing.

In all I keep or give, may I do my very best
in everything I say and do,
in harmony with you, only to love and bless,
with joy, to serve and honor you.

The Heart of Heaven (Original song)

There’s a heart in heaven that knows you,
and speaks your name in love from heaven’s throne,
that has laughed and labored here beside you,
and says, “I know your journey as my own.”

There are eyes in heaven that adore you,
and weep with joy at the beauty of your soul,
for they see the courage of your living,
and share your deepest yearnings to be whole.

There’s a tear in heaven that remembers,
there’s a deep, weary sigh that understands;
there are gentle, wounded hands that know the struggle
to do the work of God with human hands.

There’s a voice from heaven within you,
a spring of life-giving water flowing free.
Let it flow, let grace and peace shine in you
with heaven’s loveliness for all to see.

Oh, the heart of heaven is within you,
the universe embraces you in love,
for the humble One who walks beside you
is the One who rules the sun and stars above.


With Open Hands (Tune: The Water Is Wide)

O God, we come with open hands for grace we do not understand.
We simply take, and we are blessed that you receive us as your guest.

We open all our treasure stores in gratitude that freely pours
from open hearts that you have healed, so in our love, yours is revealed.

You open wide great heaven’s doors; your love includes, heals and restores.
We share your feast, and we are called with open arms to all the world.

OT 16: 8th Sunday after Pentecost

July 23, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 28. 10-19. Jacob dreams of a ladder to heaven. When he awakes he says, “Surely God was in this place and I—I did not know.”

Psalm 139. God is present everywhere and aware of us and participating in our lives, no matter where we are or in what condition.

Romans 8.12-25. It is the Spirit that enables us to connect with God. All creation waits for redemption, longing for our connection as God’s children.

Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43. The parable of weeds among wheat, and an explanation.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesis
      The angels are going up and down, not down and up. As if they’re from here. I think of the moment at the crucifixion when “the curtain in the Holy of Holies is torn in two, top to bottom.” The veil between heaven and earth is removed. The world of the unseen, the world of grace, is always communicating with the visible world. Think of it not so much as higher and lower but inner and outer.
     Jacob awakes and says, “Surely God is in this place and I—I did not know.” It’s about how God is present even though we don’t know it. In Exodus 33.23 God says to Moses, ”I’ll let you see me, but only from behind.” “Behind” doesn’t so much mean “God’s backside” as “afterward.” We tend to see God going, not coming. God invites us to awaken, to become attentive to God in the present moment. God is here, even in evil things. As Joseph says to his brothers when they are eventually reunited, “You meant it for harm but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50.20). God is here, even when we feel abandoned. When Jesus cries “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” it’s not an expression of despair: he’s quoting Psalm 22, which trusts God’s presence even in situations when we feel abandoned.      The “I” in Hebrew is repeated. As if Jacob is saying “My ‘I’ didn’t know.” My ego, my analytical, dualistic, self-centered consciousness can’t connect with God. Only my soul can. Only non-dualistic Presence can discern God. And maybe Jacob is saying “My self I didn’t know.” I didn’t know myself. I am under illusion about who I am. Only God can reveal that to me. As if Jacob has seen himself in relation to Esau, to his place in his family, not in relation to God…

Romans
Any sentence in this dense passage is worthy of a sermon.
     • “If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The “deeds of the body” are ways we act as if we are contained and defined by our bodies: our pwn private physical survival. This doesn’t mean we should think poorly of our bodies or be cruel to them. It means we are truly alive only when we honor our deep interconnection to all other people and beings in the Spirit.
     • “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” We aren’t people on trial before a demanding judge; we’re children of a loving parent.
     • “You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” Ours is not a fear-based religion. Fear is precisely what we’re set free from.
     • “We are joint heirs with Christ—if we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” We don’t earn anything. We inherit it. Faith is a mixed bag, neither all glory and privilege nor all suffering, but accompanying Christ in the fullness of life.
     • “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed.” This isn’t pie in the sky. The glory is not in the future, but right now; it’s just that we can’t see it yet. We’re one little bit of the great picture of God’s story. Only afterward will we be able to see the whole thing and how we fit in.
     • “Creation has been groaning in labor pains.” God’s work is to bring abundant life and wholeness—including everything, even all Creation. Creation shares our longing for wholeness. (Notice how Paul uses many metaphors for faith, including being born, giving birth, and being adopted.)
     • “We wait for adoption.” I think we’re already adopted. There’s nothing unfinished in God’s claim of us as God’s beloved. But maybe Paul is thinking of a future time “when all things are revealed,” when later on we come to see everything more clearly. Maybe it’s like we’ve already been adopted, but the paperwork hasn’t arrived yet? So we hope. As in:
     • “We hope for what we do not see; we wait for it with patience.” Hope is not wishing about the future but trust in what is already present even though we can’t see it. I hope the sun will rise tomorrow because I know it’s already rising.

Matthew
Again, be wary of an “explanation” of a parable. A parable isn’t just a rebus with a certain picture standing in for a particular idea. It’s a mystery, open to many ways and angles of interpretation. Maybe this one is about how we shouldn’t judge people but let God sort it out later. Maybe it’s about how we shouldn’t judge our own lives and how mixed they are. Maybe it’s about how God will not destroy us even when there’s evil in our lives. Maybe it’s about how the evil in our lives isn’t solely our own fault—an enemy has done this! After all, we’re subject to the wounds and attitudes we were given as children. Maybe it’s about not judging things in our lives that we don’t like: maybe they’re more mixed, with some valuable aspects, than we realize at the time. It’s definitely about not judging other people. The “weeds” and “wheat” are not necessarily other individuals, but both are the fruitful and unfruitful aspects of my own life. And, who knows? Sometimes what we think of as bad may actually be fruitful in God’s eyes. Notice that what’s thrown in the furnace of fire (v. 41) are the causes of sin.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, you are in this place.
All: God of light and dark, God of word and Silence, you are in this place.
Saving God, guiding God, you are in this place.
God within us, you are in this place.
We greet you! We thank you.
We worship you. Open our hearts to your presence, now and always.


2.
Leader: Loving God, Infinite parent, you birth us and claim us.
All: We are in awe, and we praise you.
Gentle Christ, you love us and walk beside us.
We are made new, and we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you breathe your life into us and re-create us each moment.
We are your children, and we live in your love.
We worship with praise and thanksgiving.


3.
Leader: Gracious God, you are present in this place, in this time.
All: You are present in our lives, in every moment.
Open our eyes to be present to you,
to be mindful in this and every moment
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4. [Psalm 139. 7-12]
Leader: O God, where could we go from your Spirit?
All: Where could we escape your presence?
If we rise above the earth, there you are!
If we make my bed in the grave, there you are!
If we take the wings of the morning and fly to the farthest sea,
even there your hand will lead us, and in your gentle arms you will hold us.

We could say, “Let the night cover us, and everything about us be total darkness,”
but even the darkness is not dark to you: the night is bright like the day,
and with you even the darkness is light.
In your light, Lord, we turn to you.
In your presence, we worship.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of grace, surely you are in this place. Open the eyes and ears of our hearts. As we breathe in and out, you are around and within us. Open the depths of our souls. May we be present to you, who are so infinitely present for us. Amen.

2.
God of glory, Lord of Mystery, Jacob dreamed of the angelic ladder bridging heaven and earth. We stand upon that ladder now, your Presence ascending and descending as we hear your Word and respond. Bless us, who stand always at the gate of heaven, that we may be mindful, and grateful. Speak to us, God, your living Word. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, in our lives we hear so much chatter, so many voices. Help us to winnow out the good wheat from the weeds, the truth from the noise. Grant us your Spirit, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with gladness what you are saying to us today. Amen.

4.
Holy God, Infinite Love, Intimate Lover, Faithful One, we come from you. We rest in you. We listen for you. Open our hearts to your presence. Open our ears to your Word. Open our arms to your children. Open our future to your grace. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving God, we are not dreaming.
You are in this place.
Your grace passes between this world
and your heart.
We open ourselves to the mystery of your presence.


Prayer of Confession

1.
God of love, you have been present for us
and we did not know it;
we did not act as if you were there,
as if you loved us, as if we cared.
By the grace we know in Christ,
awaken us, forgive us, heal our fear,
and renew your Spirit in us. Amen.

2.
Pastor: God of love, in our lives there is wheat,
beautiful and blessed, and a gift from you.
We recall those moments when your grace was fruitful
in our lives and we give thanks as we hold them before you.
    [Silence…]
In our lives there are also weeds, ugly and unfruitful,
that choke out the goodness.
Trusting your grace, we recall those moments,
and we hold them before you.
     [Silence…]
God of grace, gather in your harvest,
separate out what is good in us and what is not,
that our lives may bear fruit
for you and for the world.
All: In the grace we know in Christ,
receive us, forgive us, heal us,
and renew your Spirit in us
as your beloved children. Amen.


Readings

Psalm 139 — a paraphrase

O Holy One, you see me from the inside out.
         You know me better than I do.
You take every step with me;
       you have already walked all my journeys.
Even before I speak
         you know my thoughts.
You are around me and within me;
         I feel your hand on my back.
I can’t imagine the greatness of your love;
         I can only trust it.
                                            God, for your love, I pray…
Where could I go from your presence?
         In outer space, at the core of the earth—there you are.
If I ran away to the farthest place,
         you would be with me all the way.
I could try to hide in perfect darkness
         but to you the darkness is light.
                                            God, for your light, I pray…
You formed me before I was born;
         you made me by hand in secret.
I praise you, for you are wonderful!
         For I am wonderfully, awesomely made.
How amazing is your wisdom, O God,
         how infinite your presence.
When I try to comprehend, you are beyond my understanding.
         But when I simply become aware—here you are.
Search through me, O God, and know my heart.
         Root out what is unloving, and lead me in your life-giving way.
                                            God, for your way, I pray…


Response / Creed / Affirmation

        We love you, God, infinite creator of all that is, and we rejoice that we are your children. We come from you; we are born of your love. You create us as living images of you and your grace.
        We follow you, Jesus, Christ of God, Word made flesh, love made real. You healed and taught. You welcomed and blessed all God’s children. You included all people as siblings. You included the outcast, the wounded, the children. For your love and courage you were crucified; but in love God raised you from the dead. You live among us, calling, guiding, blessing.
         Holy Spirit, we live by your grace. Born of God, adopted by God, blessed by God, we live by your life and power in us. You lead us to live lives of love and courage, to bless all our siblings, to live together as children of God in harmony and joy,
        We give thanks to you, O God, and promise to live as children of your love. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Child of God (Original song)

I’m a child, a child of God,
God’s beloved in whom God is pleased.
I will live in the peace of God.

You’re a child…

OT 15: 7th Sunday after Pentecost

July 16, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 25.19-35. The rivalry of Jacob and Esau; Esau sells his birthright.

Psalm 25. A prayer for God’s support, guidance, forgiveness and love.

Romans 8.1-11. Life in the flesh, and life in the Spirit.

Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23. The parable of the sower.

Preaching Thoughts

Genesi
       People who want to get “back to the Biblical ideal of family” need to read the Bible. Most families in the Bible are dysfunctional, and Jacob’s is blatantly so. In this story, and following tales we’ll see conflict, distrust, deception and betrayal. And grace. It seems the biblical idea is that family is where we work out our crap. Or, as Robert Frost says, “Family is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you.”
       Esau doesn’t seem to value his birthright. Well, same with us. In what ways do we deny who we are, repudiate our belovedness, abandon our place of belonging in God’s family? What stresses and anxieties lead us to betray our divine birthright?
       It’s easy to judge Esau, but maybe he wasn’t just hungry one afternoon. Maybe he was actually, as he says, starving. We can imagine the brother’s conflicts were long and deep, to the point that Esau is actually driven into deep poverty. In that state, he’s right: what good is a future legal matter when he’s about to die? I think of how readily we judge the poor for how they spend their money, and how unaware we are of the pressures on poor people for day to day survival.
       But notice who we tend to criticize in this story, and who we let off the hook. The worst travesty is the obvious— that Jacob doesn’t care for his brother, but is willing to cheat him out of his inheritance. And we are heirs of that injustice. We Americans live on stolen land, in a nation built by slaves, with an economy supported by the labor of the poor, fueled by oil that spills on somebody else’s land. It would seem our moral compass isn’t worth a bowl of stew. Boy, do we ever need to pray for God’s guidance. Hence Psalm 25.

Romans
       “There is no condemnation; we are set free from the law of sin and death.” Our attempts to be good people, to live “by the law,” can’t actually heal our relationship with God or others, but God’s grace does. God comes and lives among us as one of us and so overcomes our separation from God—which is our sin. Instead of judging us for our sin God “condemns sin,” that is, does away with our separation from God. God fulfills the law for us!“
       According to the flesh… according to the Spirit.” We’ve interpreted this notion dualistically, as if there’s physical and there’s spiritual, and physical is bad and spiritual is good. That’s not what Paul means. There’s nothing bad or sinful about your body or its needs and desires. But here’s the thing. We have this very strong illusion that we’re separate, unrelated individuals, and our “self” is contained in, limited to and defined by our bodies. Pointing to my body I think this 163-lb sack of flesh and bones is “me,” and everything else is “you, “ or at least not me. But that’s not true. We are actually all fingers of the same hand, members of the Body of Christ, all one in the Spirit of God, all of us cells of one living organism. None of us is “alive” separate from the whole body, any more than one of your cells or tissues could be “alive” separate from your body. We are one in the Spirit, even though we seem to have separate bodies.
        What Paul calls life “in the flesh” is self-centered life, life controlled by our egos, controlled by our our self-serving anxieties and desires. Life “in the Spirit” is life as one with the whole Body of Christ, one in the Spirit, led and sustained by God. Paul is not contrasting flesh and spirit. He’s contrasting individualistic life and connected life. (Notice that when Paul talks about our individualistic ego-defined self he usually calls it “flesh.” When he talks about our oneness in a single life he usually calls it “body.”)
       And the cool thing is that since we are one with Christ, Christ’s resurrection is also ours. We are raised up out of our own death, out of the sinful control of our egos, by being part of the Body of Christ. Paul says “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Righteousness doesn’t mean religious correctness, it means relatedness. We’re in relationship with God because (in Christ) God relates to us. Because we participate in Christ’s life we participate in Christ’s resurrection. So all our attempts to fulfill the law are for naught. By being in us, God fulfills the law in us.

Matthew
       Beware of any “explanation” of a parable—even Jesus’. No good comedian explains their jokes. No good storyteller explains their stories. The explanation was likely added, maybe by Matthew, and is unlikely to have come from Jesus. His parables are not allegories, in which each part “equals” some particular thing. They’re way more open to various interpretations. Maybe the seed is the Word planted in us. Maybe it’s us planted in the world. Maybe it’s about our love planted in the lives of others…. This is a story about receptivity and resistance. It’s about patience (failure, failure, failure, success…) It’s about acceptance (Of course so much of the seed is wasted. That’s how you plant a field.) … It’s about the triumph of grace over everything..

Call to Worship

1. (Matthew)
Leader: God of truth, sow the seed of your Word in our hearts.
All: We receive your grace with glad and generous hearts.
Loving Christ, sow the seeds of healing and growth in our bodies and souls.
We receive your grace with glad and generous hearts.
Holy Spirit, sow the seeds of your love in our lives.
We receive your grace with glad and generous hearts. Alleluia!


2. (Genesis)
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
You gather us into a family of grace, a household of love.
You make Covenant to be our God, and call us to be your people.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1. (Matthew)
God of truth, you sow the seed of your Word among us. Soften the soil of our hearts to receive your grace, that it may flourish in us. Amen.

2. (Matthew)
O good and generous God, you have sown the seed of your Word in our hearts. Nourish that Word by our worship today, so that it may grow and flourish in us, and so that in all our lives we may bear the fruit of your love. Amen.

3. (Genesis)
God of love, we are siblings to Jacob and Esau, caught up in their rivalry, ready to compete. But we are all your children, all of us beloved family. Remind us who and whose we are. Speak to us anew of our inheritance from you, of grace and belovedness. In the spirit of Christ, we are listening. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

O Sower of Love,
we are ready soil.
Plant your word in us;
nourish it in the sun of your grace
and the rain of your love.
May it bear fruit
by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Most merciful God, we confess
that we have separated ourselves from you,
that we have not been mindful of your presence
or lived in your Spirit;
and in our isolation we have lived hurtfully.
We are sorry, and we repent.
Forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
and restore us in your grace. Amen.

2.
Loving God,we confess
we have lived wrapped up inside ourselves,
not joined with you, led by your Spirit.
Rejoin us to you.
Forgive our sin, heal our fear,
and renew in us your spirit of love. Amen.

Readings

1.
Romans 8.1-11 —a paraphrase
         God has no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the controlling power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the controlling power of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, in the hands of our weak flesh, could not do: the Only Begotten took on sinful flesh, eliminating our sin, our separation from God. By being in us God fulfilled the just requirement of the law in us. So we walk not as if we are contained and defined by our individual flesh but knowing we are defined by the one Spirit. For those who see themselves as isolated individuals set their minds on self-centered anxieties, but those who know they are part of God’s Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
          To set the mind on the isolated self is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the individual self is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s will—indeed it cannot; and those who are absorbed in self cannot please God. But you are not an isolated individual; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.
          Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, though your isolated body is dead, being disconnected from God, the Spirit is life because of the gift of God’s presence. If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through God’s Spirit that dwells in you.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
1.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) May the seeds of grace you have planted in our hearts bear fruit in love and faith and service, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world to share your love with all people, to extend the kinship of your grace even in conflict, to meet even our enemies as siblings, and above all to hold all in the light of your grace, in the name of Christ. Amen.

3.
Loving and generous God, you have sown your grace in our hearts. We thank you for your blessings, and in gratitude we offer to you our gifts, and our very lives. Bless us that we may be your fruitful wheat planted by your hand, bread for the world in the name and spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Love-Sowing God (Tune: Gift of Love / The Water Is Wide)

Love-sowing God, sow love in me,
your seeds of grace abundantly.
My soul be soil where love may root
and grow and bear your precious fruit.

Where habit’s feet and wheels have tracked,
my anxious work the soil has packed,
soften my soul with bliss or pain,
so love may enter in again.

My angry thorns, my selfish weeds,
God, clear away, and sow your seeds.
Despite the hungry, wanting bird,
Love, plant in me your living Word.

Love-sowing God, your labors done,
help me to trust the rain and sun,
receive your grace and faithfully
bear forth your love that grows in me.


O Faithful God       (Tune: Finlandia)

O faithful God, whose steadfast love is sure,
O Loving Father, Mother kind and strong:
your Covenant forever will endure;
you bind us to your heart our whole life long.
No matter how rebellious is your child,
in you we are brought home and reconciled.

We have been loved and held when we would run.
We are to all a sister or a brother;
though we would flee, you join us all as one.
Our deepest wounds come from our deepest love,
and so our highest hope for life above

So teach us God, to bravely love each other,
for all belong within your house of grace,
to give our enemy, who is our brother,
our steadfast mercy, and a wide embrace;
for in our love, though we be right or wrong,
we know the grace to which we all belong.