July 31, 2022
In Hosea 11.1-11 God speaks to us as a mother whose child has turned away from her. Even in her anger she will not destroy us, because she loves us. Her love is not self-serving, but for our sake.
Psalm 107 praises God’s steadfast love. God has gathered and cared for us when we were homeless and hungry exiles.
Colossians 3.1-11 looks at the tension between the love of God and the things of the world Paul says God’s love has “raised us,” removed us from the world of self-centeredness in to the world of God’s undying love. Therefore we should “seek the things that are above,” meaning our relationship with God, rather than self-preservation. Be gentle, thankful and forgiving, because we are God’s beloved.
In Luke 12.13-21 Jesus speaks of God’s richness toward us—though our greed for worldly things keeps us from receiving God’s blessings. He tells the parable of a rich man who suddenly dies: all that stuff—what of that now?
This scene is a great rejoinder to the idea of hell. Sure, God is upset with us, but she will never reject her children. She loves us, and nothing is stronger than that. We readily anthropomorphize God, making God into a really big human being, with human emotions. But— “I am God and not human.” Even God’s wrath is loving, and not just “tough love,” but deeply kind and desiring of connection. God always draws us us closer, and never pushes us away.
You have been raised with Christ; seek the things that are above. — God rescues us from the fear-and-anxiety world we live in, a deadly world of having to be good enough and failing and pretending we’re good enough anyway. God raises us with Christ: lifts us out of that death-world and into a new reality, a world in which we are loved and free. Having been delivered into a new world we’re invited to exercise a new kind of consciousness. To “set your mind on things above” doesn’t just mean to daydream about heaven. It means to practice a God-oriented consciousness: accepting, free of dualistic judgment, open to paradox, mindful of grace in everything, avoiding illusions that reinforce our biases but seeking the truth, and rooted in love. We see things as Christ sees them. When we focus our mindfulness on God, and devote ourselves singularly to the work of being vessels of God’s grace, everything else falls into place; priorities align, and we are free from the burdensome distractions of our fears and desires.
You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. — Meditate on that for half an hour. Or a lifetime. Once you thought of yourself as an isolated individual, but now you know you’re part of Christ. Your former self, your old way of life, taken. Your new life hidden. You don’t have to explain it or justify it. People won’t get it anyway. You can’t see it. It’s there, shining, but hidden. Don’t look for it; just be it. You are with Christ. In good company, in in safe hands. You are in God. You don’t have to look for God; you won’t see God anyway. You are inside God. Such a vision of God’s intimate love, enveloping us, transforming us, bearing us, birthing us…It’s like being in the womb of God with Jesus.
When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. — Christ is not just a model for your life; Christ is your life. Christ is living in you, through you. As ordinary and imperfect as your life is, it shines with God’s glory, since God is in it. It’s not arrogant to see the glory of God in you. It’s in everybody. Part of what it means to “set your mind on things above,” to live with a Christ consciousness, is to see this.
Put to death whatever in you is earthly. — Don’t get hung up on sex. “Passion and evil desire” and even “fornication” isn’t just about sex. It’s about wanting stuff for ourselves that isn’t ours, or that hurts other people. Sill, anger, slander, malice and abusive language mean what they say. Do not lie, because lying comes from fear, and we’ve been set free from fear. (Imagine if our politicians were all actually Christian!)
You have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. — Faith is not just about being—being saved, being a Christian. It’s about becoming. God is continually transforming us. “Renewed” doesn’t mean restored to a former state. It means being made new.
There is no longer Greek and Jew…— Certainly there are differences, but what Paul is pointing to is hierarchies and divisions of privilege and exclusion. All of us, with all our differences, are equally part of Christ. Being in Christ asks us to give up our notions of who’s more or less deserving.
In the Gospel of Thomas this parable ends (like death itself) more abruptly. After the rich man’s speech to himself, it says, “These were the things he was thinking in his heart—but that very night he died.” Boom. If you know you are about to die soon, what do you most care about? Well then that’s what you actually care about. Why not care about that right now? What are the worldly things—fears, desires and attachments— that keep us from loving perfectly?
Call to Worship
Leader: Creating God, you breathed life into us, and made us yours.
All: Our breath is yours.
Loving Christ, you heal us, guide us, and give yourself to us.
Our blood is yours.
Holy Spirit, you pulse through us with the energy of your love.
The fire in our eyes is yours.
We worship you with our silence and our voices, our presence and our lives.
Leader: Generous God, you give us abundant life.
All: We thank you. We praise you.
Gentle Christ, you heal us in mercy and grace.
We love you. We serve you.
Holy Spirit, you breathe your song of beauty in us.
We open ourselves to you. We worship you. We cry, Alleluia!
Leader: Loving God, you have raised us with Christ.
All:We have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in you.
Give us minds shaped by your grace.
Clothe us in the new life.
Renew your image in us.
Spirit of love, transform us by your grace. Amen.
Collect / Prayer of the Day
God of love, in this complicated life we cling to many things. Release our grip on all that Stuff. Give us grace to let go, to be present here with you, to listen for your Word, and to receive your grace. We pray in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.
Extravagant God, you have been rich toward us with many gifts. Of all the things you have abundantly provided for us, we become attached to many things. Help us to let go of them all and cling only to your love and grace. We seek you in your Word, and we seek our own souls in your love. Open our hearts and help us be present for you, who are infinitely present for us. Amen.
Gracious God, we thank you for this time with you. Help us to let go of our attachments to what we think we want, long enough to listen to you. Help us to set our minds on your grace. Prepare us to be changed, and to listen to you, so that we may trust and follow and serve. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
1. (Col. 3)
Pastor: God of grace, you have raised us to new life.
We call to mind those times we have clothed ourselves in the new self,
and we give thanks.
We call to mind those times when we have fallen into the old life,
and we seek your grace.
Heal us, God, forgive us, and continue to renew us in the image of our Creator.
Dearly beloved, by the grace we know in Christ,
I proclaim to you that your sins are forgiven.
You have died, and your life is hidden in Christ.
When Christ, who is your life, is revealed,
then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Amen.
Pastor: God of grace, you have given us all good things.
We call to mind those times we have let go of the goods and values of this world
and clung to your love alone.
We remember and give thanks.
We call to mind those times we have clung to the goods and values of this world
as if they were ours, as if they were us.
We confess, and we ask your forgiveness.
Dearly beloved, by the love we know in Christ,
I proclaim to you that your sins are forgiven;
by God’s grace you are free to live by the Spirit alone,
now and to eternal life. Amen.
Colossians 3.1-11, my paraphrase
Since you have been raised into new life with Christ, let your consciousness be shaped by that life, intimately close to Christ, close to God. Set your minds at a higher level, on essential things, not on meaningless distractions. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ— who is your life— is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Christ in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is self-centered: grasping for what is not yours, betraying your true nature, being controlled by selfish passions and desires and greed (after all, that is the true nature of idolatry). God’s fierce desire for our transformation burns in us when we live by these energies. These are ways we all once followed, when we were living that life.
But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and disrespect. Be truthful with one another, seeing that you have stripped off your old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with a new self, which has a whole new frame of mind, reflecting the image of its creator. In this renewal there is no longer insider and outsider, religious and non-religious, native and immigrant, superior and inferior; but Christ is all and in all!
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
God of love,
we have died, and our life is hidden
with Christ in you.
We rest in that mystery,
and open ourselves to your loving presence.
[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
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.
We thank you, God, for you create us in your image.
You claim us, and you are faithful to us.
You are abundantly generous to us.
You have raised us up to new life in Christ.
You walk with us toward a new world of mercy and justice.
You set us free from all that oppresses,
and call us to end all oppressing.
You offer us true abundance of life—
not possessions, but love that cannot be taken from us. We thank you and with all Creation we sing your praise.
Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He taught and healed; he fed the hungry and restored the outcast.
He showed us the wonders of your grace,
so, forsaking all others, we might give ourselves to you.
He gave himself completely, dying for his stand for mercy and justice.
But you raised him from the dead, and still he calls us to life.
(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:
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, clothed in the new life, vessels of your love,
generous with our lives and rich toward you,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ. (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
Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You give us our lives as your gift to us. We give them to the world as our gift to you, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.
(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)
Always New (Tune: Gift of Love (“Water Is Wide”) or Tallis’ Canon)
O God, you make me always new.
Each breath I breathe is life from you,
a gift of love that sets me free.
Beloved, breathe new life in me.
O Christ, you call me to new birth
like God’s creation of the earth,
to leave the things I’m fastened on
and walk into the rising dawn.
O loving Spirit, live in me.
Forgive my sin and set me free.
Give me new birth, life from above,
that I may live in your deep love.