OT 24 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost

September 11, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 4.11-12, 22-28 the prophet warns God will send a hot, destroying wind because of Israel’s evil. There will be earthquakes and barrenness.

Psalm 14 celebrates God’s presence, even though sometimes it seems like God is not really there—especially amidst injustice.

In 1 Timothy 1.12-17 Paul thanks God that God has patiently sought him out even though he is “the foremost” of sinners, affirming that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

In Luke 15.1-10 some Pharisees criticize Jesus for welcoming sinners. He responds with images of God as a woman and a shepherd devotedly seeking something that’s lost, and rejoicing when it is found. God does not exclude us or forget us, but deeply desires us.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      The prophet’s vision is pretty bleak… but it’s not a very exaggerated picture of the impact of the climate crisis—the difference being this isn’t God’s action: we are bringing this on ourselves with our selfishness and injustice. Hot winds, barren waste, hills moved to and fro and birds having fled speak of rising temperatures, mountain-top removal for coal mining, Superfund waste sites and the loss of native species. That’s our doing. It’s important to make this distinction: although the ancients spoke of God’s punishment, our suffering is the logical consequence of our actions. Some people say the earth is “getting back at us,” but the earth has no need for revenge. Climate change and its various effects are simply the laws of nature playing out. In fact this text does not picture earth seeking revenge, but the opposite: “earth shall mourn.”

1 Timothy
      The author’s confession reminds us: if you’re tempted to feel a little special because God loves you so much, remember God’s special attention is exceeding forgiveness for how awful we can be. And we’re also reminded that no matter how awful we or someone else might be we are forgiven and God’s mercy may overflow in us… and them.

Luke
      Lost sheep. In contrast to the image of God as a punishing tyrant, Jesus portrays God as one who wants us, searches for us, and rejoices in us. Imagine the times you were lost and felt abandoned: that whole time God was seeking you, following you, enduring the same rocks and thorns to be with you and to bring you back into a safe, healing place of belonging. Those times when you felt worthless or that your life was wasted, like a coin lost under the cushion, God knew every part of your life and the whole world, every nook and cranny, and treasured you enough to seek you out and return you to a place of honor and rejoicing.
      What might it be for us as followers of Jesus to embody this theology in our own lives? Trusting God’s delight in us?… Maybe: searching for the lonely and overlooked people…. seeking what is valuable but hidden in others… seeing people not in terms of what bad things they’ve done but what delight God has in them… Rather than looking for an illustration of these parables for your sermon, look for ways these parables illustrate faithful living.
     It’s our natural tendency to identify with the lost sheep, and thrill at the thought of Jesus rescuing us. But recall the context of Jesus’ conversation: he was criticized for welcoming sinners. In this parable we aren’t the one; we are the 99. We are the ones the shepherd leaves to find the lost one. We are the 99 insiders who resent the one outsider, the one who doesn’t belong, doesn’t “qualify,” the one we judge as less worthy. We good Christians have to accept God’s delight in the non-believer, the person whose life is not so good, the sinner who’s trying their best and not doing well. The story invites us to be humble and not judge.
     Jesus asks “Which of you does not leave the 99 in the wilderness to go after the one?” The answer, of course, is none of us. We stick with the crowd. We maximize our profit. This parable provides an interesting theological angle on affirmative action: giving extraordinary attention to groups that have been under-represented, or voices that have been silenced. What its opponents would call “reverse discrimination” we might see as leaving the 99 for the one, giving special attention to the one who’s been left out so they can be honored and made a part of the community. Justice sometimes requires extra effort on behalf of those who have been excluded.
     Lost coin. Again Jesus offers an image of God quite unlike an angry judge who is liable to send us to hell. God is a woman who seeks us, wants us, treasures us, and delights in re-connecting with us. Her energy is always toward drawing us closer, not pushing us away. When Jesus speaks of “ten silver coins” his might imagine not just a sum of money but a dowry, a set of coins that represents not just monetary value but also her value, a treasure of particular emotional value—and also a symbol of marriage, of loving faithfulness. (Jesus is fond of images of marriage and weddings…)
     Jesus’ parables speak of the spiritual work of seeking and finding the lost parts of ourselves, the neglected or even repressed parts of ourselves that may be valuable and precious to who we are. The same applies to “lost” members of our community: the marginalized, the forgotten. While you’re looking for lost sheep or coins, keep your eye out for all the “lost and found” in scripture: Joseph in Egypt, Moses in the bullrushes, Israelites set free from slavery in Egypt and later returning from exile in Babylon, Jeremiah’s “scattered sheep” being gathered…. Seems to be a pattern that God seeks us and finds us and brings us home.

Call to Worship

1. Leader: God of grace, you create us because you desire us.
All: And we desire you, and we worship you.
Because you treasure us, you seek us out.
Even when we wander, you search us out and bring us home.
Spirit of love, help us to reach out for you and for all who are lost.
For in your love we discover one another;
we enter our own lives; we meet you at last.
It is your will to seek and to save.
So we worship you. Alleluia.


2.
Leader: Bountiful Creator, Lover of all, we greet you.
All: God of love, we belong to you.
Jesus Christ, gentle shepherd, you call to us.
Shepherd of love, we belong to you.
Holy Spirit, breath of God in us, you sing, you cry out, you call in us.
Spirit of love, we belong to you.
With joy and gratitude, we come home to you.
Receive us, bless us, change us, and give us gifts to serve you. Amen.


3.
Leader: Creator God, you have declared that we are the people of your pasture,
the sheep of your hand.You tend us and guide us.
All: Lead us to you.
Christ, our faithful shepherd, our unfailing companion, you show us the way.
Lead us to life.
You search out others, and bring them in with joy;
those who are lost or feel unworthy you treasure and you rescue.
Lead us to one another.
Open our hearts to your presence, Holy One,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Loving God, you have searched for us in the lost places,
in the lonely places, in the grimy places.
All: And you have found us, and brought us home,
into the light, into one another’s company.
And you have set a celebration of joy, and invited us all.
So we come, to give thanks and to celebrate! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, celebrate with us,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: Gracious God, you have searched for us in love.
All: And you have found us and brought us home, and we thank you.
And you have sought others in the lost places,
in the lonely places, the grimy places,
and brought them also to be with us here.
You have brought us together, and we rejoice.
All of us are lost and found; not one made our own way here.
All of us together worship you in humility and gratitude.
Deepen our gratitude, our humility, and our togetherness,
in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.


6.
Leader: God of love, as a woman rejoices at finding a lost coin
you delight in us.
All: We praise you, and thank you for your grace.
You gather your coins together, all of us,
for each one, new and shiny or old and grimy, is valuable.
We praise you, and thank you for each other.
All of us alike are lost and found, wayward and redeemed.
In humility and gratitude we praise you, we thank you,
we worship you. Alleluia!

7.
Gracious and loving God, though we are lost you have sought us out; though we are scattered you have gathered us in. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love and wisdom, we are your lost sheep. Raise your voice; speak your Word to us, and call us back to your side. We are listening. Amen.

2.God of love, we sometimes feel like a lost sheep, not knowing the way. Sometimes we feel like a forgotten coin under the cushion, not knowing our worth. Yet you treasure us; you seek us and find us and speak your Word to us. Reach out to us now with your Word, touch us with your grace, and transform us, so that we may live among those who are lost as living signs of your mercy. Amen.

3.
Holy One, you guide all who seek your delight to ways of peace and safety; you lead us out of darkness by your grace into the light. You guide us to a path that is straight. So we listen for your voice, and we follow. Amen.

4.
Gentle God, you have shown mercy, and given to us the fullness of life. Jesus has overflowed with your grace and love for us. Help us now to listen for your voice, to hold ourselves up to your light, so that even in our deepest darkness you may find us. We pray in the name of Jesus, our shepherd, our homemaker, our savior. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, we have left your house, and wandered from your care. Yet you call to us to return, always seeking us, always desiring our presence. Help us to leave behind all that we must in order to be present to you now. God, you have invited us to the banquet of your love. Stir up in us your Spirit, so that we can listen to your Word, and feast on your grace. Amen.

6.
Loving God, we give you thanks that you seek and find all the lost. You welcome sinners. Sometimes we are the ones welcomed, sometimes the ones doing the welcoming. For both, we give you thanks. For this community of the lost and found, the seeking and the wandering, we give you thanks. We are one in your love, and we open our hearts to your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
God of love, we are the people of your pasture, the sheep of your hand.
Yet we stray from you, and seek fulfillment in lifeless places.
Come find us, bring us home to you,
forgive us,
and bless us with your life-changing grace.
God of life, we return to you.
[ Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

2.
God, we confess sometimes we are your lost sheep,
wandering and needing you to return us to our place in you.
And we confess sometimes we think we are the insiders,
the saved, and we resent those who are lost,
who are outside our fold,
and we scorn your grace toward them.
Soften our hearts to your grace
for us and for all your children.
In humility and gratitude we ask your forgiveness,
your healing and your grace. Amen.

3.
Loving God, gentle shepherd,
we confess that although we cannot flee from your presence,
our hearts have wandered.
We have become lost in our own ways,
ways of fear that lead to death.
Come to us, forgive us,
enfold us in your mercy and lead us to life,
in the name of Christ, our brother, and your grace. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we are your beloved, your treasure.
But in the clutter of our lives,
in the wildernesses of this world,
we have gotten lost.
Come to us, God.
In the darkest parts of our hearts, find us.
Find us, forgive us, and bring us home to you.
Let us shine again in your presence.
Let us be once again coins of joy around your neck,
sheep of your company around your feet.
We pray in the name of Christ
and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We trust in God, creator of all, who loves every soul, sinner and saint, success or failure, in health or infirm, who knows each one’s divine worth, and who cares especially for the last, the lost and the least, those without power or place or voice. Blessed are the poor, and those who hunger and thirst, for they are God’s Beloved.
       We follow Jesus, who taught and healed, who gathered the outcast and blessed the despised. He gave love to all people, sought out those on the margins, restored the dignity of the rejected, and died on the cross in solidarity with all who are condemned, ignored or dehumanized. In glory God raised Christ from the dead and seated them in power, where they rule over all Creation with the humble whom Christ saves. Blessed are the merciful and the pure in heart, for they will see God.
       We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in and among us, who gives us the grace to love our neighbors, to seek the lost, to defend the powerless and raise up the poor, to seek justice for the oppressed and hope for the brokenhearted. We believe in the power of forgiveness; the reality of resurrection; the unity of the church, the Body of Christ; and the presence of eternal life. We look to the day when the lost are returned and we are gathered as one, to the delight and rejoicing of God. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who are persecuted, for they are children of God.

Listening Prayer

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

God of grace,
though I am lost and scattered
you search me out; you center me.
Though I lose sight of my worth,
you treasure me.
In the stillness you hold me.

Eucharistic Prayer

[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 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.

We thank you, God: we are your coins, stamped with your image.
You treasure us, and find us when we are lost, and rejoice in us.
We are your sheep, and you search us out when we wander.
You return us to our place of belonging, and rejoice.
So you set this table and invite us to celebrate with you,
for we who were lost are found.
Therefore with all your saints we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, our good shepherd.
He sought the lost, gathered the outcast and fed the hungry.
Like a woman rejoicing at finding a coin,
he embodied your delight in us.
He gathered those the Powers did not want included
and saved those the Insiders didn’t want saved;
therefore by the powers of oppression he was killed.
But you raised him from death
like a precious coin rescued from the trash.

Now he invites us to this feast of reunion, where all are united.
Lost and continually found, we rejoice.

     (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)

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,
seeking the lost and lonely, treasuring the outcast and rejected,
and rejoicing in all whom you love.
     
(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

1.
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 bless us that in our giving is our receiving; in our searching is our finding; in our living for you we find your purpose for us. God of love, send us out in ministry for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.
2.
God of love, every person we see is your beloved, whom you seek. For those who are wandering lost, for those who are neglected as unworthy, give us the eyes and heart of our Gentle Shepherd to seek them out, to offer them a place of belonging and honor, to rejoice with God in their lives, for we, too, were lost, and are found. May Christ go with us, in the life-giving power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In this feast of celebration you have united us with all who are lost and found, all who are your precious treasures. By your grace my we always rejoice in the gift of your salvation, and serve you in seeking and including those who have been separated. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Dear Gentle Watchful Shepherd (Tune: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)

Dear gentle, watchful shepherd,
you lead us as we graze,
and guide, us when we wander,
to find again your ways.
And when we stray in darkness,
alone and lost and weak,
unseen, you still are with us,
your dear ones whom you seek.

We pray for those who struggle
through life all on their own,
who find no path to guide them,
who think they are alone.
You fold them in your mercy
in every lonely place,
and with your hand upon them
you bless them with your grace.

O lead us, loving shepherd
to seek the last and lost,
to love them with your passion,
and serve at any cost.
Send us to find the lonely,
forgotten and ignored:
it’s there that we shall meet you,
our saving, healing Lord.



I Belong to You      (Tune: Water is Wide / Gift of Love)

Beloved, I belong to you.
You give me birth; you make me new,
your image formed, by Spirit stirred.
You are the Song; I am your Word.

Whatever pains I may endure,
I still belong. Your love is sure.
Since I am yours, your will I do.
I trust and give myself to you.

I am your coin to richly spend,
so spend me, God, as you intend.
You bless my end; you hold my worth;
send me to love throughout the earth.

Beloved, I belong to you.
Do with me what your love will do.
Bear me, and I, through ease or strife
will find in you eternal life.



OT 27 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

October 2, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Lamentations 1. 1-6 the prophet Jeremiah looks with dismay at the loneliness of Jerusalem after it has been sacked by Babylon and its people taken into exile.

Psalm 137 is the cry of the exiles—and exiles, refugees and other victims of injustice today— who grieve their losses, try to remember and keep alive their former ways of life, and rage against their oppressors.

2 Timothy 1. 1-14 expresses thanks for Timothy’s faith and encourages him (and us) to “rekindle the gift of God within you,” suggesting that faith is not something you “produce,” but something you are given. It’s God’s grace-filled presence in us. Nourish God’s grace in yourself, therefore, and take courage in sharing the good news with others—even suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Trust God in you to guard your faith.

In Luke 17. 5-10 the disciples ask Jesus to “increase their faith.” He tells of the power of faith the size of a mustard seed and the duties of faithful servants.

Preaching Thoughts

Lamentations
      Jeremiah’s cry can sound a lot like people complaining that America is not what it used to be. But it is different in many ways. It is more than sorrow for what Jeremiah and his people have lost. It is sorrow for God and what God has lost. It is not mere whining—complaining to get what you want. And it is nothing like the contemporary phenomenon of privileged white people fearing the loss of their superiority and their “old way of life,” or a rallying cry to “make Israel great again.” It stands in the Hebrew tradition of lament, in which we place our sorrows and fears in God’s hands, and with gratitude and trust leave them there. The Psalms of lament—and there are many—express both individual and communal suffering but assume God’s gracious activity that is unseen in the present, but has been steadfast in the past, and therefore trustworthy for the future. Biblical lament is literature of hope. Jeremiah is strengthened to confront the deep tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem by the hope he already has: remember in last week’s reading, Jeremiah 32.1-15, in which even as the siege is approaching, he buys land, trusting God will restore Jerusalem and life will return. True lament is strong because it is sorrow braided with hope.
This reading invites us not only to name to our own losses but to acknowledge the losses of others in our worldwide family, and also to hold our grief in the light of God’s grace.

Psalm
      Many people feel uncomfortable with the Psalms that that pray for deliverance from and even violence toward our “enemies.” We often skip over those parts, both in public worship and private devotions. Here are some reasons not to.
      1. The Psalms are not all about how we ought to feel or what we wish we believed.  They’re about who we really are.  And we do have angry thoughts & feelings that we need to honestly confess. Sometimes those Psalms express our secret anger. Expressing those feelings doesn’t mean we give our hearts to them; in fact usually saying those things out loud names what we renounce, and leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling: a deep need to repent right now.  These Psalms bring us to confession.
      2.  Our “enemies” are not necessarily other people. I do not consider anybody my enemy, even some deluded terrorist who’d like to blow me up.  My real enemies are my fear, my hunger for approval, my desire for power & control, and so on.  And I do indeed dislike those enemies, and I wish God would destroy them.  To my anger or my self-centeredness I say, “Happy shall be they who take your spawn and dash them against the rock.” Sometimes I need to say that out loud—in the company of a community who can offer forgiveness, transformation and hope.
      3.  The Psalms are not our personal Hallmark cards to God.  They are the cry to God of humanity as a whole.  The Psalms voice not only our own feelings, but also the cry for justice of all who are oppressed.  If these Psalms are more visceral and vengeful than we’re comfortable with that’s because they’re not our cry: they’re their cry of the oppressed against injustice. They were written by real people suffering real evil. In praying these Psalms we take their anguish seriously, we stand in solidarity with them and we lift up their prayer, even if it’s not how we would say it.
      4. Although we do not wish personal harm to come to the perpetrators of injustice, we do oppose their evil, and we lament its fruits. The “enemies” in these Psalm are not necessarily individuals. “Babylon” is not a person; it’s a nation, a corporation, a system, a cultural mindset. We don’t pray for the destruction of people, but we do cry out for the destruction of what an unjust system generates, its “little ones.” Of course by our complicity we ourselves are also enemies of justice—which brings us back to the first two points about confession.
      The Psalms, with all their reverence, anguish, joy, gentleness, sorrow, rage and hope help us embrace our whole experience, worship with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and stand in solidarity with the whole human family and all Creation.

2 Timothy
      This letter may have been written to someone (or a community) whose faith was faltering—not so much that they were finding it hard to believe what they were supposed to believe, but that they were finding it heard to live lives of love and justice in the face of resistance. The gift of God that will sustain us is not right doctrine but “a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” As in Jeremiah’s lament, the author trusts that God is at work, even when we can’t see it.

Luke
     The image of the mustard seed clearly suggests that faith can’t be measured, and that an apparently small “amount” can do powerful things. It also suggests that the power of faith isn’t in the person holding it but in God working through that person. Faith is not something we possess at all, but a relationship, not a power or resource we have but a power that moves through us, if we align ourselves with it, a way of living in harmony with God.
     The parable of the faithful slave may seem like a call to subservience, that God commands and we obey, that risks an interpretation that borders on abuse. But in Jesus’ time for a soldier to be acting “under the command of the Emperor” didn’t just mean he was following orders. It meant he had the authority and power to carry out his actions. I believe what Jesus means by a slave “doing what is commanded” is not just that we should submit to orders, divine or otherwise (thought it is good to do want God says), but that God is working in us. In faith we give ourselves over to that “higher power,” because God is not trying to use us, but empower us. We re not subservient to some power over us, but in harmony with a power that comes from beyond us but is within us. As 2 Timothy says, “God, saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to God’s own purpose and grace.”

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: O rising morn and brother wind, you praise our God.
All: O sister water, and stars of night, you sing of God’s glory.
O Spirit of love, flowing through us like a river, hold us to your way.
O Spirit of courage and justice, burning in us like a fire,
be our strength and our guide.
Holy God, you give us grace to live faithfully in challenging times.
And you give us grace to worship you, with thanksgiving and praise.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Loving God, you have called us with a holy calling,
All: not according to our accomplishments but according to your grace.
We are your servants; lead us to carry out your will.
We are the mustard seeds of your grace;
nourish your spirit in us that we may live with love and faith.
We thank you, and we trust you.
We praise you, and we worship you.

3. (Based on 2 Timothy 1.6-14)
Leader: God, you have saved us and called us with a holy calling.All: Christ, you have abolished death and brought life to light.
You have given us a spirit, not of cowardice,
but of love and power and self-giving.
Holy Spirit, we entrust ourselves to you;
rekindle the gift of your presence in us. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you are the power within an acorn to become an oak, the power within the mustard seed to move great things. Rekindle the power of your love within us, that we may be faithful servants in the work of love. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, there is much to lament in today’s world. And we do lament, and we place our grief in your hands, for we trust that despite all human evil you are at work in the world for healing and grace. Rekindle in us the power of your Spirit, that we may be faithful servants carrying out your command of love. Amen.

3.
God of love, by your grace
give us your eyes to look honestly on the world.
Give us your compassion to love this broken world.
Give us your heart enter into this world with courage.
Plant the mustard seed of your love in us
that we may join you in the healing of the world. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of abundant life,
you have planted the seed of your grace within us.
Create an empty, fertile place in us for it to grow.
In silence, we harbor the miracle of your presence;
we let it grow within us.
We lift up to your light and surrender
all those things that hinder our full living
in the power of your Spirit alone in us.
Forgive us, heal us, and bring your power to life in us.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Readings

1. 1 Timothy 1.1-14
Reader: This is the good news: that the grace of Christ was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
All: We thank you, O God for this gift! Help us to trust you.
God has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything that we have done but for God’s own purpose and grace. I know Christ, and my trust is deep. So I am sure that as the gift of faith has been entrusted to me, Christ is able to guard it until that final Day.
We entrust ourselves to you, O Christ. Help us to answer your calling.
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you. Hold yourselves to the high standard of the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus that I have modeled for you. Guard the good treasure of faith entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
We surrender ourselves to you, O Holy Spirit. Help us to love as you delight for us to love.
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be afraid, then, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
Gracious God, live in us, so that we may bear your love into the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2. [Psalm 137]
Leader: We pray for exiles and refugees;
for those who have been displaced,
who have fled their homelands
and those who have been taken into slavery.
We pray with them and join in their song.
All: By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

We pray for all oppressors,
that their eyes may be opened,
that their hearts be changed,
and their terrible fear be healed.
We pray for them
and plead for their conversion.

For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

We lament the lives that are ended.
the families that are broken,
the cultures that are destroyed,
the traditions that are lost,
the voices that are silenced.
We weep with them
and join in their song.

How could we sing the Beloved’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.

We join in their grief.
We honor their terror.
We accept their anger.
We lift their cry.
We stand with them
and join in their song.

Remember, O God, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”

We pray for the end to all violence
and the end to all the results of injustice,
that evil itself be demolished
and its spawn eliminated,
that every human heart be free of fear.
We rage with all victims of injustice
and join in their cry.

O daughter Injustice, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be
who take your offspring
and dash them against the rock!
We pray for exiles and refugees.
We are among them:
for until our siblings are restored,
we ourselves are not at home.
We pray with them,
and join in their silence.
Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     We believe in God, the Creator of all things, who has made us, and who has saved us and called us and given us a spirit of power.
     We look to Jesus Christ, our chief, whose servants we are; who reveals God’s grace to us in his life and ministry, in his death and resurrection.
      We trust in the Holy Spirit, the mustard seed of God within us, who leads us to love, to serve and to find our delight in the grace of God. We commit ourselves to the Body of Christ, to the life of forgiveness, to the healing of the world, and the promise of eternal life. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Eternal God, I am small.
I am your mustard seed.
But you, vast and infinite, are in me.
Rekindle in me your presence,
your power, your love,
that I may bear fruit according to your delight.

Eucharistic Prayer

[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 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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
By your Word you have created all people in your image.
Though we have all gone astray, each on our separate way,
you have freed us from bondage;
you judge the forces of division and evil,
and destroy the powers of oppression.
By your Spirit you have created your church, one people,
the Body of Christ, united throughout the world in your grace,
and you call us to be reconciled in Christ.
As you draw us to your feast this day, you call all your children;
we are one with them, and we honor them here around this table.
Therefore with the faithful around the world we sing as one voice:
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your beloved Son, your Christ:
he formed community, welcomed the outcast,
and planted a mustard seed of faith in each of us.
He has broken down all dividing walls
and made us one in his love;
for in him you have established with us
an eternal covenant of reconciliation.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

In the death and resurrection of Christ
you have freed us from all that separates us
from one another, and from you.
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

[Memorial acclamation]

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.

Rekindle the gift of your Holy Spirit within us, O God,
your Spirit of power and of love and of self-giving.
You saved us and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works but according to your own purpose and grace.

You have entrusted to us this power that we have seen in Christ,
who abolished death and brought life to light in the gospel.
By your Spirit make us mustard seeds of your love.
[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 after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have made us one with all your people in the Body of Christ throughout the earth. Feeding us body and soul, you strengthen us and send us out to be your servants, to participate in your great work of the redemption of the world in the name and the Spirit of Christ, to your eternal delight. 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.

Voice

           …and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
                           —1 Kings 19 12

That silent voice
was there in the wind
and the earthquake and the fire,
but you didn’t hear it.
That gentle murmur was there in the cave,
but you didn’t notice.
That tiny whisper was there under the broom tree
but you didn’t listen.
It was there in Jezebel’s threat
though it was drowned out by the shouting,
but it was there.
It’s so quiet you can’t even tell what it’s saying
but it’s there,
with you, enfolding you,
that little sound a mother makes
holding her dear one close.
Remember how you once leaned against your mother’s chest
just to hear her breathing,
your father, just to feel the gentle rumble?
That voice.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

One

           There is no longer Jew or Greek,
           there is no longer slave or free,
           there is no longer male and female;
           for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
                           —Galatians 3.28

It is not that there are no distinctions,
that somehow we are all alike—
oh, no, we’re different in so many ways.
It’s not that we’re not different,
it’s that we’re not separate.
We are one body, with all our differences,
one Being, one Love.
What is no longer is the ”or.”
There is no longer “red or blue;” there is rainbow.
We love our neighbor as ourselves
because they are part of ourselves.
We love our enemies because we are part of them,
part of what they are part of.

God grant us the mind of One,
none of us separate and distinct,
all of us in you,
with love.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Demons

            They arrived at the country of the Gerasenes….
                           —Luke 8.26


Jesus says, “Let’s go to the other side.”
           Into what shadows does he lead me?

A part of me, unwell, living amid death, cries out.
           Who it? What is its name?

He had many demons.
           Can I see myself as Jesus does, whole, separate from the demons?

They are Legion, they say. Many. Caesar’s.
           What demons of Empire live in me?


Jesus knows my demons, commands them, sends them away.
           Can I let go?


The herd of my old life has been cast into the abyss.
           Is this a New Creation?


There is my frightening self, sane and presentable.
           Would I rather not have that one join me?


We have asked him to leave.
           How do we push him away?


When he says, “No, go home and tell the story”
           what story would I tell?


He says again, “Let’s go to the other side….”
           Of what? Of whom? Am I ready? Will I go?

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Spring

           As a deer longs for flowing streams,
           so my soul longs for you, O God.

                           —Psalm 42.1

The hollow in the health of my cells
thirsts
for the water of you that is who I am,

and, still and waiting,
finds
the deep spring

cool and clear, flowing, and
drinks
deeply of what the earth gives of itself, unceasing.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Enclosed

Confined with COVID to a single room for days on end,
I join the ranks of those who can only
look out a window, if they have one:
cloistered nuns, hospital patients,
nursing home residents, prisoners.
We gaze, we yearn, we befriend ourselves
in this small universe, this tomb, this womb.
A little thread stretches
out from deep inside to open air
and all its roots and alleys,
to those we miss, to all the others,
a thread only discernible
in the vast nugget of this desert solitude.

Go into the crowd and listen to the hunger
for the peace of living with oneself,
how foreign, cherished, doubted, forgotten.
Go into your own little cell and find there
the wire throbbing.
Follow the thin song,
and touch the miracle that we all
are enclosed,
all held,
all are lonelier than we think,
all more deeply connected than we know.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Trinity prayer

O Loving Mystery,
womb of all that is
and womb within us,
silence and darkness
and gentle companion,
you who are beyond,
beside and within us,
unknowable and known,
eternal and waiting
to be born in us,
Lover and Beloved
and the Love that flows between,
we praise you and thank you
that we are members of your Body,
stewards of your light,
words of your song.
Sing in us; dance in us;
love in us, you who love us perfectly,
that the circle may be complete.
Amen.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Spirit

           When the Spirit of truth comes,
           she will guide you into all the truth;
           for she will not speak on her own,
           but will speak whatever she hears,
           and she will declare to you the things that are to come.

                           —John 16.13

Spirit is not some ghost floating around
but God, the energy of love itself,
in you.
You will not hear voices in the air
telling you secrets.
You will learn to attend to the Witness
who is there within you,
the Openness who knows the truth,
the Presence who gives voice to what is loving.
You will come to know what you know,
to truly see what you see and hear what you hear,
and walk on that path.
She will guide you, and day by day
you will learn to listen.

_________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Going through the motions

Little kids in a Karate class,
the usual mix of discipline and squirreliness.
Learning the moves, repeating the moves.
The posture, the punch, the follow-through.
They don’t all understand what they’re doing or why.
Practicing the moves, the stance, the focus.
Going through the motions
until they are natural.

No different from Yo-Yo Ma on the cello,
Babe Ruth in batting practice:
go through the motions.

So I practice the moves.
The gratitude, the forgiveness, the compassion.
Go through the motions.
The trust, the silence, the openness, the prayer. 
This is how you become a master.
Today I will go through the motions.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net