July 24, 2022
In Hosea 1.2-10 God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute as a symbol of God’s faithfulness to us, who are unfaithful. Their children are given symbolic names.
In Psalm 85 we cry: God, you have forgiven us before; restore us again. Surely salvation is at hand: love and peace will unfold among us.
Colossians 2.6-15 (+16–19)describes life in Christ. “Christ” is not just a name for Jesus, but God’s physical presence, the Second Person of the Trinity. Jesus embodied that presence, and so does the Church, the Body of Christ. “Christ” refers not only to the person of Jesus but to the cosmic-yet-intimate presence of God that Jesus models. Here Paul describes how we let Christ be the guiding power in our lives; other forces have no power over us.
In Luke 11.1-13 Jesus teaches a prayer. We have come to know Matthew’s version of the prayer, slightly amplified, as the Lord’s Prayer or the Prayer of Jesus. Jesus speaks of God’s generosity: ask and it will be given.
Don’t get hung up on how weird it is to give your kids names like “Not-pitied” or “Not-my-people.” I don’t know that when Hosea’s kids played soccer their teammates called them by their theological nicknames. I bet those names were not for their use, but for Hosea’s preaching. His point was that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness God is faithful. Note that even after the harsh word that Israel is “not mine” they’ll be called “Children of the living God.” There is always grace.
Paul continues his theme of the cosmic Christ who is both eternal and also bodily present— Christ’s body being the church. As members of the church we are members of Christ’s physical presence.
You could preach a whole sermon on practically every sentence in Paul’s letters.
“Live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Christ.”— Contemplate what it means to be rooted in Christ… how we nourish our rootedness…
“In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Christ.” — What might it mean to come to fullness in Christ? Maybe to be all of who God creates us to be, to inhabit our whole divine nature… God is not distant: though infinite, God is intimately present, and we are in God….
“You were buried in baptism and raised with Christ.” — We surrender our lives to God, who gives us new ones… We’re so afraid of “losing ourselves,” but whatever life we love, God always gives us a new one, a more loving and beautiful one.
“When you were dead in trespasses God made you alive.” — Dead not because of some punishment,but because sin is our distrust of God, cutting ourselves off from God, who is life. But of course we only think we’re cut off. God stays connected (God is in us, and we are in God), and God gives us new life. This is not our doing, our worthiness, but God’s gift.
“God forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands, nailing it to the cross.” — Think of all the bad stuff you’ve done, all of your inadequacy: erased! Wow. It’s hard for us to accept that; we keep thinking there must be something in ink that didn’t erase… But, no. Our forgiveness is absolute, total and final. We’re not trying to get saved; we’re trying to come to trust that we are saved.
“God disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross.” — We’re done with that whole Marvel Comics trope of the Battle Between Good and Evil. It’s over. They lost. Love has already triumphed. Again, the issue is not whether love is more powerful that evil, but whether we trust it. This is the foundation of our struggle for justice. The house of evil is built on the sand of fear, but the house of justice is built on the rock of love.
“Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on (certain religious ideas and practices) and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” — Ignore those who judge your faith. Our faith is not about what we believe but how we trust God, and participate in the Body of Love. Real faith builds up the body (the community) and helps it grow in love.
What we’ve called the Lord’s Prayer I call the Prayer of Jesus, both to avoid the word “Lord,” loaded as it is with patriarchy (lords and ladies….)— and also because it’s a fruitful (Jewish) prayer for people for whom Jesus is a spiritual teacher but nor their “lord.”
Look here for a set of my paraphrases of the prayer (also downloadable in a .doc format).
Luke’s version is much leaner than Matthew’s. We’re not sure what Jesus actually said (other than we know he called God Abba) and what gospel writers added. It’s doubtful Jesus taught this prayer as a whole, but he used the various petitions at times and his words were made into a composite.
“Father…” — Jesus doesn’t mean God is male, but that even though God is infinite and unknowable, God is also intimately present. In our common version we say “Our Father,” reminding us that faith is never “between me and God,” but among the whole family.
“Your name be revered.” — This hearkens back to the ten commandments—not merely to avoid taking God’s name in vain but to revere it. God’s “name” means more than language. It means God’s reality, God’s character, God’s essence. This prayer means “May we always be guided by love.” This petition, and the “kingdom” one following, draw us out of our everyday thinking into a new form of consciousness. We abandon worldly values and attachments, and make God the center of our world.
“Your kingdom come.” —In less patriarchal language, “Impose your imperial rule.” In the age of Disney’s “Magical Kingdom we forget that a “kingdom” was a real political entity. In Jesus’ setting that was the Romans Empire. A kingdom, or empire, is a power structure with authority, obligations and privileges decreed from above. The Empire of God is a world in which love rules. Grace is not an option: it’s imposed from above. This is a “parallel universe” to this world—and it’s also a real-world alternative to the Roman Empire, and to all human structures of power, domination, privilege and exclusion. As such this petition is not only a spiritual hope; it’s also a political statement.
“Give us each day our daily bread.” — Luke’s version, “each day,” has a more ongoing, long-term sense than Matthew’s “this day.” But either way we are invited to rely entirely on God’s providence. It’s like breathing: each breath—this breath— is a gift from God. I think of Ps. 127.2: “It is in vain that we rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for you give sleep to your beloved.” Even what we think we have earned is actually a gift from God.
“Forgive our sins, for we forgive others…” — We tremble to pray that God forgive us at the low rate we forgive. Of course God forgives absolutely. But there is something about forgiveness like a hug: you can’t receive it without being wiling to give it. Jesus is likely to have said “debts;” he meant real-life forgiveness of financial debts as well as the more religious and social aspects. That aspect gradually got removed from the real world of poverty and debt-enslavement. But in Jesus’ world nobody owes anybody anything. Jesus envisions us all being being free of any guilt or shame, being free and freeing others. Again, as in the petition for God’s Reign to come, there’s a sense of all of life being re-ordered, and even re-created. Imagine this: we are provided for, and completely free, before God.
“Do not bring us to the time of trial.” — This might be asking God not to test our faith—which in fact God does not do. God knows our faith. And God has no need to make us struggle to prove anything. God’s only will is to bless and heal. But it may be more generally asking that we avoid difficulty—not that God causes difficulties in our lives, but that grace helps us avoid them if we can and endure them if we must. This might be humanity’s wish to avoid the intense challenge of, say, world war or climate catastrophe.
“Ask and you shall receive.” — Jesus portrays a God who is profoundly generous.
Call to Worship
Leader: God of love, we ask you to teach us to pray.
All: You show us your grace, and our wonder is our prayer to you.
Christ, your love gives us joy.
Let our gratitude be prayer to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your power.
Let our lives be our prayer to you.
And let this, our worship, bring you praise.
Leader: Ask, and it will be given to you.
All: Loving God, we ask for life and peace. Grant us your grace.
Search, and you will find.
Christ, we are searching for your Way, searching for Life. Grant us your grace.
Knock, and the door will be opened.
Spirit, we come knocking at the door of this moment.
Open to us, as we open our hearts to you, and grant us your grace.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Our Father and Mother, we honor you.
Open our eyes to the mystery of your presence
May your Realm come to life among us!
Feed us with the bread of your Word.
Change us with the grace of your forgiveness.
All power and glory are yours, God of love.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Collect / Prayer of the Day
God of truth, Jesus’ disciples said to him,” Teach us to pray.” So we come to worship, to hear your Word to us, and to learn to pray. Spirit of Love, teach us. Fill us with your Spirit, that everything we do may be prayerful. Fill us with your love, that our only desire will be to do your will. Speak your Word to us, that we may hear your prayer for us, and reflect it in the living of our lives. Amen.
God of love, Jesus has promised that you will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. We are asking you. In your Word, proclaimed here and pondered together and lived out in our lives, give us your Spirit. Amen.
Our Mother, our Father, your presence is holy. We open ourselves to you, that Reign of your love may take over our hearts, and take over the world. May your grace feed us. May your forgiveness guide us. May your wisdom lead us through all the challenges of life, for your sake, and for the sake of the wholeness of the world. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
God, we confess
we have not lived the lives of your beloved children.
We have not held your holy presence at the center of our lives.
We have submitted to this world’s empires.
We have starved ourselves of your grace;
Neglecting your forgiveness, we have not been forgiving.
Our faith has been tried, and failed.
Heal us, forgive us, and restore us to your Realm.
We pray in the name and by the grace of Christ. Amen.
1. The Lord’s Prayer
Click here for a set of my paraphrases of the Prayer of Jesus, the “Lord’s Prayer.”
Colossians 2.6-15 – My paraphrase
You received as a gift
God’s presence embodied in Jesus,
the captain of your soul.
Live as part of God’s embodied presence.
Root yourself deeply in Christ.
Grow and become more whole in your trust,
true to your experience, overflowing with gratitude.
Don’t let anyone hijack your faith with fear and lies, with selfish agendas,
with human prejudices and power structures.
Keep your trust in Christ.
Christ is a higher power than any ruler or authority.
Christ is the physical presence of divinity, in whom your lives are whole.
In Christ you have received God’s Covenant
through a transformation by the Spirit:
stepping beyond the limits of your fleshly bodies,
you became part of the Body of Christ
when you were buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Christ,
trusting in the power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
When you were dead, buried alive under your sins,
disconnected from the Covenant,
God gave you new life together with Christ:
God forgave all your sin,
ignoring all accounts of your failure to meet legal demands.
God destroyed these accounts, nailing them to the cross.
God disarmed all oppressive powers and spirits
and made a public display of them,
triumphing over them in the cross.
So hold fast to Christ, the head,
from whom the whole Body,
nourished and joined by the Spirit’s ligaments and sinews,
grows with a growth that is from God.
Response / Creed / Affirmation
We love and trust you, God, creator of all that is and all that is to come.
We love and trust you, Jesus, who embodied the loving presence of God. Crucified under the powers of worldly empire, you were raised by the power of love. You are our head and we your Body, the church, buried with you in baptism and raised in love.
We love and trust you, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love. We are joined by your ligaments and sinews as one Body in Christ, growing by your grace. By your power we love with gentleness, seek justice with courage, and serve you with joy. May the Rule of your Grace take over this world, to your glory, now and forever. Amen.
We entrust ourselves to you, God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come. Holy is your presence. All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing. The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence; the earth is alive with heaven. You give us each day the bread we need.
We entrust ourselves to you, Jesus, the Beloved. You healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
You showed us your forgiveness, that we might forgive others. Crucified and risen, you are our deliverance from the powers of evil, leading us past our temptations, that your will may be done.
We entrust ourselves to you, Holy Spirit, that your love may take root in our hearts and your will be done. By your power the Realm of Grace flourishes in this world until it will prevail. The world, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
You give us each day our daily bread;
you give us each moment the breath we need.
We open our hearts to your holy presence.
May your realm of love blossom in our hearts.
[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.
Our Mother, our Father, holy is your presence.
All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing.
The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence;
the earth is alive with heaven.
You give us each day the bread we need.
Therefore, at your invitation, we come to your table,
giving our thanks and singing your praise.
Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
He showed us your forgiveness,
that we might forgive others.
Crucified and risen, he is our deliverance from the powers of evil,
leading us past our temptations,
that your will may be done.
(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.
Bu your grace may your love take root in our hearts.
May your will be done.
May your Realm of Grace flourish in this world.
For the power and glory are yours, now and forever.
* 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, daily you give us our bread. You give us the Realm. You call us into community with all the world. For this we thank you. In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world to share your love, to do your will, to forgive as we have been forgiven, that your Reign of Grace may prevail upon earth. Bless us that we may bear fruit in your Realm, in the name of Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit.
Prayer after Communion
God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You feed us the daily bread of your grace. You have forgiven us, that we may forgive. You save us from our weakness, and empower us to do your will. May your love bear fruit in our lives, for the sake of your Realm, your power and your glory, now and forever. Amen;