November 5, 2023
Joshua 3.7-17 — The Israelites cross the Jordan river into the promised land.
Psalm 107 — God cares for the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, and for all the poor and hungry.
1 Thessalonians 2.9-13 — Paul defends his ministry, and commends the people for receiving his teaching.
Matthew 23. 1-12 — Jesus criticizes hypocritical religious authorities. “Do what the scribes say, but not what they do.” All who exalt themselves will be humbled and vice versa.
In an echo of the Red Sea crossing, the waters of the river are parted. Despite all obstacles, God accompanies the community and enables them to go on to a new life. Of course some faith is required of us: the waters don’t part for us until we step in.
Jesus is not only criticizing religious authorities, he’s criticizing the idea of authority as superior power. For Jesus authority is rooted in authenticity, not power. He cautions against religious teaching that is based on guilt or detached from action. He’s also cautioning us against the thought that there might be experts in the faith. No one has “arrived;” we’re all beginners. We are all students, and God is our constant teacher. Faith requires humility. No human has more authority than another; God alone is our superior.
Call to Worship
Leader: Love of God,
All: enfold us.
Delight of God,
draw us in.
Wisdom of God,
Spirit of God,
make us yours.
Shape us by your love,
in the name of Christ. Amen.
Leader: As the birds know to trust the air,
All: give us your wisdom, God.
As the rivers flow with your beauty,
give us your Spirit, God.
As the winds blow and embrace the earth,
guide us by your love, not our knowledge.
We are beginners God, learners in the school of love.
We wold not be masters of love,
but only its obedient servants.
Teach us and we will listen.
Show us, and we will follow. Amen.
Leader: Creator God, you call us to cross the River Jordan
and enter into your Realm of Grace.
All: Grant us faith to step into the waters, trusting your mighty power.
We are not experts; we are only following those who love.
Teach us, and we will serve with joy.
Come, Holy Spirit, transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
4. [Ps. 107]
Leader: Creator God, maker of all Creation, we praise you!
All: You satisfy those who are thirsty, and fill the hungry with good things.
You turn deserts into pools of water, and parched land into flowing springs.
When we hunger, you feed us. When we are brought low, you raise us up.
So we want to draw close to you, not in words alone,
but in our hearts and in our lives.
Alleluia! Fill us with your spirit of life.
Come, Spirit of Life, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Collect / Prayer of the Day
Eternal One, you who guide us in the ways of love, come and speak to us. No empty words, no hollow doctrines. Give us Jesus and his love. Give us light for the road. Give us courage and wisdom to serve this world with love and justice. We open ourselves to your Word, in the company of your Christ and the grace of your Spirit. Amen.
God of love, we want to understand love. We want to master the faith. But love is beyond our grasping. So receive us as those who are growing. By your Spirit give us humility to learn of love, and to practice love, all our days, in the name of Christ. Amen.
Gracious God, you led your people out of slavery, and they crossed the Red Sea. You led them into your Promised Land, and they crossed the Jordan River. Help us to cross over all the barriers that keep us from being free, that prevent us from proclaiming your love and establishing your justice in the world. Open our hearts to receive your grace and grow in trust. As the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, bless us that we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
God of love, we do not know
how to pray as we ought.
We hunger and thirst for righteousness.
We are only beginning.
Help us to learn, to grow, to be changed.
Lead us, for we are your children.
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.
Gracious God, we confess our sin.
We are not conscious of your presence with perfect openness;
we are not mindful of one another with perfect love.
In our obliviousness we betray you, and we hurt one another.
We are sorry, and we turn to you.
Forgive us, heal us, and awaken us.
By the power of your Spirit present in us,
grant that we may be
deeply, courageously and lovingly present to the world
as the crucified and risen Body of Christ
for the sake of your healing of all Creation. Amen.
[Silent prayer… The word of grace]
God of love, we confess that we subject your love to human standards.
We think of faith as a human achievement.
We measure one against another
and think of ourselves as “better” or “not as good” as Christians.
Yet faith is a gift, and each moment we are receiving and learning.
Forgive our waywardness. Heal our fear.
Restore in us your humble desire to serve one another,
in the Spirit of Christ.
Response / Creed / Affirmation
We believe in God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come, whose power is over all Creation and all human structures and systems.
We trust in Jesus, the Light of the world and the pioneer of our faith, who shows us how to love, and who by his death and resurrection leads us out of slavery to sin and death, into the Realm of God.
We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the grace of God’s holy Community, the Body of Christ. None of us is an expert: we are all learning to love. We believe the Spirit gives each of us gifts that we are called to share for the sake of the healing of the world. Knowing we are forgiven, with humility we forgive. Trusting the the power of resurrection, with humility we serve, by the power of the Spirit, in the name of Christ, and the joy of God. Amen.