OT 26 – 16th Sunday after Pentecost

September 25, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 32.1-15 Jerusalem is under siege, but Jeremiah buys some land as an act of hope, trusting that the time will come when peace is restored.

Psalm 91
celebrates God’s protective care that shelters us, even when there is danger all around.

1 Timothy 6. 6-19
warns against the love of money, invites us to practice contentment, and encourages us to live faithfully with trust in Christ, whose dominion is eternal.

Luke 16. 19-31
is a parable of a man so obsessed with his own wealth and comfort that he can not see the poor, either in this life or the next.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      Hope is not just wishing for something in the future.. It’s trusting in what is already present though unseen. The prophet trusts God is at work and will restore Jerusalem. Hope is different from wishing in that it is an action, an investment in the hoped-for future, helping to make it present.

Psalm
     It’s hard not to read into this Psalm our desire to avoid suffering. If I’m God’s faithful believer, surely God will protect me from suffering, right? That was the very temptation Jesus had to wrestle with in the desert. The devil quotes verse 12: “Angels will bear you up lest you even stub your toe.” Of course Jesus rejected that temptation—and sure enough, he wasn’t saved by any angels when he was crucified. So is the promise “no evil shall befall you” a hoax? Because if it doesn’t mean that, then what in the world does this Psalm mean? Maybe it’s about more than physical comfort. You can suffer and still remain intact. You are beloved, and your personhood, your being, your soul is protected, even if your body or your reputation is wounded or your situation is miserable. I think it may be only in our deepest suffering that we can discover this mystery: that you can be both suffering and whole, both wounded and beautiful. You may get hurt, but God will keep your soul safe.
      Indeed we are more than our bodies. We identify so deeply with our body that we come to think we are our body, assuming that “I” am what’s inside this bag of biology. Paul calls that illusion “living by the flesh.” But we are more than that. We’re part of the Body of Christ. Living by the Spirit we’re aware that we’re not just isolated individuals but a community. You is always “you-all.” When we give our hearts to God, to the Love at the center of existence, we become part of eternal life—something infinite and eternal and essentially invulnerable. It doesn’t me we won’t get hurt. (The cross reminds us.) It means we can’t be destroyed. (Resurrection reminds us.)

1 Timothy
     It doesn’t say money is the root of all evil. It says love of money is the root of all evil. Money is a useful tool. But do you use your money to love yourself or your neighbors?

Gospel
     Who do we “see”? The rich man does not see Lazarus as a human being in his own right, as a peer, a brother. He probably doesn’t see him at all. And in the afterlife he sees him only as a servant. The rich man sees only himself and his his own needs. Jesus seems to notice people that others ignore. He often asks his disciples, “Do you see this person…?” And tells them, “Go and look….” What are we missing? Who are we not seeing?
     Who are you? The rich man has no name; he’s just labeled according to his possessions. But, unique in all Jesus’ stories, the poor man has a name! Lazarus. When he dies he’s treated with care and honor, carried by angels, but the rich man just dies, period. It’s as if Jesus is painting a complete and compassionate picture of the poor man as a whole human being, and letting the rich man define himself, in starkest terms, by his money. We often define ourselves by various possessions, attributes, activities, career, or or history—a banker, an athlete, a murderer, a poor man—but Jesus sees us as souls, individuals with stories, hopes, beauty, wounds and worth. How do you judge people? Who do you think you are?
       Family. The rich man is concerned only for himself, and finally, sort of for his brothers, but his circle of care expands no farther. Lazarus has no “brothers,” but he has a family: “Father” Abraham cradles him, presumably with everybody else. We can have as wide and deep a family, a circle of care, as we want. When our sense of family includes the poor, despite our having to share in their suffering, there is heaven itself. How great a family do you want?
     Hunger. Our fears (of scarcity and loss of control, for example) and our desires (for comfort & security, for control) shield us like the rich man’s gate from our deepest hunger, which is not for things, but for sharing life. The rich man is starving for faith—for a life of compassion. How hungry are you for a life of compassion?
     The chasm. In Jesus’ time you were simply born rich or poor. People didn’t change economic levels. In life a gate separates the rich man and Lazarus. There is no law that the rich man must feed the poor. (Jesus’s hearers would be surprised that he was tormented in Hades!) So the “gate” between him and Lazarus is one of tradition and social norms. But he chooses to hide behind it. In death a “great chasm” is fixed between them. I don’t think it’s a natural gap: it’s the (formerly) rich man’s poverty of compassion. He can’t cross it to experience blessing in the “bosom of Abraham” until he can cross the chasm of his own lack of compassion. What divides you from those who are poor or suffering?
     If someone rises… Abraham says, “If people do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Here’s Matthew’s cut against people who deny the faith: Jesus rose, but people don’t believe him. But more generally, it’s a critique of folks who just won’t listen. If you won’t listen to scripture and learn with humility and openness, you aren’t going to learn anywhere.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of abundant generosity, you bless us.
All: We are rich in your grace.
Loving Christ, you bless the broken and the needy, and you come to us.
We are poor in spirit.
Holy Spirit, you rouse us, you open our eyes, you stir us to compassion.
We open the gates of our hearts to you. Come in, and be our love.

2. [ Ps. 91]
Leader: O Holy One, we live in the house of your love,
in the shelter of your presence.
All: You are our refuge, our belonging, our home!
You guide us safely around dangers beyond us and within us.
Your mercy is our shelter. Your faithfulness is our security.
People around us may get anxious; thousands may get frantic;
but we do not fear. You bear us up on unseen hands.

You are with us, and you give us your own life.
We return to you. We surrender to you. We worship you.


3.
Leader: Generous Creator, you give us life abundantly.
All: You shower us with riches. How can we not praise?
Christ our brother, you show us grace among the world’s neglected souls.
You have blessed us beyond our deserving. How can we not sing?
Spirit of Truth, you hide in glory among the human race.
You call to us. How can we not share?
Come, Love, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Loving God, we are hungry for your word.
You invite us to your table, to feast on your grace.
So many around us are hungry for food.
You invite us to share our table, that we may feast on grace.
Nourish us with your Spirit, that we may serve you faithfully.
May our lives be a generous feast of love and gratitude.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Merciful God, you provide for us a place of belonging, a home in the arms of your love. Safe in your grace, we open our hearts to your Word of life. Speak to us, transform us, and empower us with your love for this world. Amen.

2.
God of love, Holy Oneness, you who are wholeness and life and truth, we open our hearts to you. Dulled by our comforts and our privilege, we ask you to open our eyes, stir our hearts, and move us to do your will. Speak to us and awaken us with your Word. Amen.

3. [ I Timothy 6.6-19]
God, you who dwell in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to you be honor and eternal dominion. You give life to all things; and we want to take hold of the life that really is life. Speak your Word to us; call us to your side, so that we might keep your commandments and be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen

4.
God, you are our light and our day.
Open the windows of our minds,
that your dawn may pour in.
Open the eyes of our hearts,
that we may see, in beauty and truth. 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 mercy,
we confess our sin:
that our vision has failed,
our compassion has waned,
and we have not lived
the lives of love you intended.
Forgive us, heal us,
and restore us in Christ. Amen.
Silent prayer … The Word of Grace

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
      We trust in you, God, creator of all things, provider of life. You create us in your image, covenant to be our God, walk with us all our days, set us free from all that diminishes life, and lead us toward your Reign of Grace.
       We follow Jesus, your Christ, the embodiment of your love and presence. He healed and taught, fed the hungry and gathered the outcast, and announced the good news of your forgiveness. He noticed and named the poor, welcoming them into your family of grace. For his witness he was killed by the powers of oppression; but you have raised him from the dead.
        We live by the Holy Spirit, your resurrected love in us. In gratitude and humility we devote ourselves as the Body of Christ to love, mercy, reconciliation and justice. Open our eyes to know your desire for us, that we may live for the sake of your Reign of Grace, in the name of Christ, now and always. Amen.

2.
     We put our trust in God, creator of all that is and ruler of all that is to come, who loves all people, and whose mercy is not bound by our fears and prejudices, but is infinite and absolute.
     We give our hearts to Jesus, the Christ, God’s Word of love made flesh, who taught and healed, who noticed those whom others did not see and included those whom others did not want. He created a community of grace, redemption and transformation. He was crucified and raised from the dead, and lives among us still, calling us to lives of grace and mercy.
     We are vessels of the Holy Spirit, God’s compassion in us. We serve as one church, the Body of Christ. We honor the neglected mystery that all people eat at one table. Knowing we are poor in spirit, we follow Christ’s call to love, and devote ourselves to lives of compassion and justice, looking toward the day when all of God’s Beloved gather as one in peace, abundance, and joy. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

O Love, Most High,
you are our shelter.
Under your wings,
safe from the terrors of the world,
we rest in you.
Hold us in the great silence of your Word.

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.

Generous God, we thank you. For all of life is a feast of your abundance.
You feed us with beauty and grace.
You call all your children to your table.
Here we eat with rich and poor, insider and outcast, with gratitude.
When we lose our way, when we become selfish, you bring us back.
Here at your table all are cherished, the feted and the forgotten,
the familiar and the foreign, together singing your praise:

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ
who fed the hungry together with the rich.
He prepared a feast of grace and belonging
and invited everyone as one family to the table,
the table of 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:

     (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,
with food for the hungry and love for the outcast,
for we are all siblings in one family,
gathered at the table of life.
All thanks and glory be to you, God,
Parent and Provider of us all.
     
(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. Open our eyes to the needy among us, and send us, in true poverty of spirit, to share with them, for the sake of the healing 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. Fed by your love, may we reach out to all our siblings and provide them a place at the table, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
God of love, in your grace you make us all one family, rich and poor, near and far. Send us forth with compassion for all our siblings, that we may invite all and share with all the feast of your abundance. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Open our eyes to your beloved poor among and around us, mindful that we are poor in spirit and fed by your grace, eager to share the sacrament of generosity, and grateful that we are all your beloved children. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Do Justice      (Original song)

“Do justice, love mercy,
walk humbly with your God.”
Oh, help us humbly live your justice,
your love, your mercy.


Feast on Mercy (Original song)

May not my comfort cloud my eyes to see the needy at my door.
But, poor in spirit, may I rise and feast on mercy with the poor.

Poor Christ, I confess: I cling to all that I possess.
Open my eyes to see the poor who bear your image to my door.

May my privilege and place not blind me to my need for grace.
With empty hands I come, for I am sure with grace, O God, you feed the poor.

As one who by your hand is fed I hunger now to share your bread.
To see that justice for the poor is done, for at your table we are one.


Open My Heart      (Tune: Open My Eyes)

Open my eyes that I may see everyone ‘round me lovingly,
shedding my labels, habits and fear, see with a heart that’s true and clear.
Patiently, God, may I behold each blessed life as it unfolds.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my ears and let me hear unspoken stories, unshed tears.
Help me to hear with love shining through stories that no one’s listened to.
Tenderly, God, help me to hold what is within each person’s soul.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my heart and grant me love, mercy for those I’m heedless of.
Help me to know each person I face as one you bless with gentle grace.
Lovingly, God, please make me more mindful of those whom we ignore.
Open my heart, illumine me, spirit divine.

OT 25 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost

September 18, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s readings lament the state of our world, but find hope in God, whose values are radically different form the world’s.

Jeremiah 8.18 – 9.1 is a lament, an expression of anguish, but also of hope, and not despair, for God’s grace always prevails. Jeremiah laments the ruin of his people, because they are not faithful. Is there a balm, a source of healing, in the land?

Psalm 79 laments that God’s people are subject to injustice, and cries out, “How long, O lord?”

1 Timothy 2.1-7 invites us into prayer, trusting that God really want us to share in God’s love and see the truth clearly.

In Luke 16.1-13 Jesus tells about a manager who is about to be fired. He cooks his masters’ books, reducing the amount others owe him—and the master commends him.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
     “For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt.” It’s ambiguous whether this is Jeremiah or God talking, but since the prophet speaks for God, it’s both. God is not mad at us; God grieves for us that we can’t seem to get it right. God is not one who punishes us, but who lets the consequences of our choices fall where they may. We are not being destroyed; we are self-destructive. The image here is not one of God bent on vengeance but a God who laments. “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears…” Again, is this Jeremiah or God? It’s both. What brings us back from the hell of our own making is not God’s anger (which only pushes us farther away) but God’s deep grief for us, because God loves us.

Gospel
     Yep. Weird story. Jesus has a few. A little background helps. Jewish law prohibits charging interest. But Jew or Gentile, rich landlords charged exorbitant rates, often hiding what amounted to interest in other “fees,” padding their income in many ways. Jesus’ audience would assume this would be the case in this story, and also that the steward probably added a cut for himself. When he reduces people’s debts, he might simply be eloiminating his own cut; he might be cutting out the (prohibited) interest, which the landlord can’t really argue with; or he might actually be reducing the principle owed. Jesus doesn’t specify. In any case, the steward is surely reducing his own take as well as that of the landlord. But in reducing the debt of the poor, he’s not just using shifty bookkeeping to make friends; he’s enacting justice. He’s helping out the poor. It’s an odd sort of Robin Hood kind of help, but it does favor the poor. Jesus might be engaging his hearers in a critique of an economic system that habitually preys on the poor.
     When Jesus says “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth,” I don’t think he means to be sly or greedy for your own benefit; maybe he means the opposite: to use money in ways that benefit other people. A lot of our wealth is “dishonest.” Will we use it for selfish means or for the benefit of others?
     This is also a story about forgiveness of debts. From the beginning (see Luke 4.19) Jesus has preached and practiced the Old Testament principle of Jubilee in which debts are forgiven and slaves freed (Leviticus 25). From “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors” to “Father forgive them,” Jesus emphasizes forgiveness of every kind of indebtedness. In the Realm of God nobody owes anybody anything. Maybe this is a story about someone working toward that, even in a compromised situation.
     Let’s turn this into an allegory about God for a moment. All of us owe God a lot. Everything, in fact. But Jesus comes along as a steward of God’s grace and says, “What do you think you owe God?” Well, change that. You don’t owe God. It’s a gift. Jesus commends stewards of God’s grace who go around declaring forgiveness.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, for your infinite grace we praise you.
All: We praise you!
Loving Christ, for your amazing love we thank you.
We thank you!
Holy Spirit, in your life-giving power we worship you.
We worship you! Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Over the chaos of the world, God, you reign in peace and grace.
All: You who are the foundation of the world, we turn to you. Mercy!
Into the pain of our lives, Christ, you come with healing and redemption.
You who are our wholeness and our hope, we turn to you. Mercy!
Amidst suffering of this world, Holy Spirit, you bind us together in one Body.
You who are our unity and our compassion, we turn to you. Mercy!

3.
Leader: In this world there is beauty, and there is injustice.
All: Brokenhearted God, you weep for us.
In this world there is selfishness and greed.
Generous God, you forgive us.
In this world there are people who lift up holy hands in prayer.
God who desires all to be made whole, we join them;
we offer our supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings;
we worship you in trust and gratitude. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Creator God, you speak the world into being. By your life-giving word you heal us and make us new. Speak your word to us now, lead us in the way of your grace. Amen.

2.
God of love, you weep for the hurt of your people, for our injustice and greed. We are broken but you desire our wholeness. We bind one another with indebtedness of many kinds, but you proclaim forgiveness. Speak your Word to us, that we may see not as the word does but as you do: with mercy and grace. May we be good stewards of your love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Leader: God, the Holy One, the Compassionate One, cries out:
“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Listen, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land.”
All: We lament our selfishness, our hate and our greed.
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.”
We lament our violence. Our injustice breaks the heart of God.
“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?”
God cries out for justice and healing yet we do not respond.
Yet there is a balm in Gilead. The grace of Christ still lives among us.
We cry out for your grace, O God.
We open ourselves to you: heal us, forgive us,
transform us, and fill us with your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is, who holds all things in her heart, whose faithful compassion is infinite.
       We follow Jesus, our brother, our teacher and our friend, who embodies God’s love, who taught and healed and gathered a community of compassion for the world. For his love he was crucified, and on the cross he shared the pain of all humanity. But in love God raised him from the dead, and he lives among us still, accompanying us within divine grace and redeeming even our darkest suffering.
       We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love in us, in whose grace we weep for the world, serve the hurting, and live as signs of God’s mercy. We live as One, the Body of Christ, in the power of forgiveness, the mystery of Resurrection, and the gift of eternal life. We devote our lives to bearing the heart of God, that we may make this wounded world more gentle and hopeful, in the Name of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

God, you desire that all be made whole,
and that we come to the knowledge of the truth.
We open ourselves to your presence,
your Word, and your healing.
Amen.

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. Send us into the world as messengers of your forgiveness, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.



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.

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.

OT 17 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 24, 2022

Lectionary Texts

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.

Preaching Thoughts

Hosea
       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.

Colossians
      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.

Luke

      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

1.
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.


2.
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.


3.
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

1.
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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

Readings

1. The Lord’s Prayer
          Click here for a set of my paraphrases of the Prayer of Jesus, the “Lord’s Prayer.”

2.
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

1.
      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.

2.
     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.

Listening Prayer

(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.

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 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.

     (Sanctus)

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:

     (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.
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.
     
(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, 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;


OT 14 — Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 3, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In 2 Kings 5.1-14 the prophet Elisha heals Naaman of leprosy. (Naaman is not an Israelite. God’s grace extends to all people.) Elisha instructs him to wash in the Jordan river. Naaman is angry, since, if that’s all that’s needed, he could have washed in one of the rivers of his own country. But his servants convince him to wash, and he is healed.

Psalm 30 is a thanksgiving for God’s saving grace, and trust in the face of sorrow and challenge.

In Galatians 6.1-16 Paul talks about living in community. The point of God’s law is not for some people to be righteous, but for everybody to live together. Restore transgressors gently, and bear one another’s burdens. Pay attention to your own behavior instead of criticizing others or comparing yourselves to them. You reap what you sow: you set the tone of your own life. Work for the good of all. In verses 11-16 he summarizes the letter’s main point: that what matters is faith, not adherence to Jewish laws like circumcision.

In Luke 10.1-11, 16-20 Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem. He sends out 72 disciples in pairs to go ahead of him to cure the sick and proclaim the nearness of the Reign of God. He coaches them to travel light, spread peace, and take nothing personally. Upon their return they rejoice at their success, but Jesus reminds them that the real joy is their relationship with God.

Preaching Thoughts

Naaman
      Jesus preaches a sermon on this text, in Luke 4, about the inclusiveness of God’s love. It nearly gets him killed. When wee don’t actually trust God’s grace we are fearful we are of sharing it, as if there’s a finite amount. We feel the need to be better, in some way, than others; we want to be “first.” (Remember last week when the disciples wanted to call down fire on some Samaritans for not accepting Jesus?)
      Naaman expects some fancy rigamarole for his healing, and is disappointed by the simplicity and banality of Jesus’ instructions. Sometimes we have some fancy expectations of religion—complicated beliefs, strenuous disciplines—when in fact we can seek wholeness in ordinary, everyday activities. God is not inaccessible except through esoteric means; God is available in our ordinary experiences.

Galatians
      Again we encounter the theme of inclusiveness. Sin is distrust of God: we think we need to be good enough—that God’s approval is an earned wage, not a free gift. So we turn our desire for God’s grace into a competition. We think we have to be better than others, so we judge and compare. Paul corrects that illusion. The point of our faith is not to be good enough, but to love. So when people err we don’t judge them, we don’t punish them: we love them. Despite other texts that seem to encourage us to exclude “sinners” (as if we can judge), Paul says “whenever we have the opportunity let us work for the good of all.”
      It might sound contradictory for Paul to say both “Bear one another’s burdens” in verse 2 and “All must carry their own loads” in verse 5. But what he means is your relationship with God is “your own load,” not comparable to anyone else’s; but you can help others in their struggles, and “bear one another’s burdens.” Rather than judging those who are having a hard time, help them!
       Paul’s audience in Galatia is questioning whether Gentile converts have to adhere to Jewish laws to follow Jesus. Although circumcision isn’t relevant for us, Paul’s points are: one is that our actual relationship with Jesus and therefore with others is more important than external indications of “being a Christian.” like, say wearing a cross or having a fish sticker on your car; yet, if our own faith is authentic we won’t judge other people for how they show their faith, but help them be loving.

The 72
      Jesus doesn’t keep the work of ministry to himself. He asks 72 others (that’s us) to join in. The tasks he assigns are to share christ’s peace, to offer healing, and to proclaim the presence of God’s Reign. He invites us to travel light, trusting that we need no more than love to be effective. And even when our message is rejected, we still offer peace and healing; we still include the very people who reject us in our vision of God’s Realm. And when people reject that message we don’t take it personally, or judge either them or ourselves. We “shake the dust from our shoes” and go on. We can’t do everything.
      Imagine this is what you are sent into your daily life to do: to heal, to spread peace, to reveal God’s grace. And to take yourself lightly.
      Jesus sends us out as “lambs in the midst of wolves.” We are not expected to be wolves. We are not to be manipulative or coercive.we will not expect to get our way, or assume our ways should dominate. In our gentleness and nonviolence we will be vulnerable. We may not prevail. Wolves may still be wolves. But we will not follow their ways. We will bear witness, extend healing, and work for justice.

The Reign (“Kingdom”) of God
      Jesus sends us out to proclaim that God’s Reign is near. Jesus seems to have meant three things by the Kingdom, or the Realm, of God. One is God’s absolute sovereignty over all of life whether we accept it or not. This world is not ours, and not anyone else’s, no matter how powerful. It’s God’s. The Empire of God is a direct antithesis to the Empire of Rome. Whereas Rome oversees an Empire of domination and submission, a system of power, privilege and exclusion, God’s Empire is an Empire of Grace, in which everyone is beloved, and everyone belongs. (There’s that theme of inclusivity again.) The Empire of God contradicts all our human empires of domination, obligation, deserving and comparison. God’s Imperial Rule is the reign of love. Grace is absolute. This aspect of the Reign of God is eternal.
     But there’s also a dimension in the present moment. When we choose to accept the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace we find deep peace and a sense of belonging and trust, and empowerment to live in harmony with God’s reign. We “enter into it”—we live in harmony with it. It’s like being in a marriage. The point of marriage is not merely to have said “I do” but to actually be faithful and loving and present to our partner. Jesus invites us to live as if God’s Reign is present, to live in harmony with God’s infinite grace and love for all people. It’s a way of seeing the world and living in it shaped by love, trust, forgiveness, healing, gratitude, generosity and justice. Moment by moment we tend to slip in and out of the Reign of God. Jesus invites us to keep returning, and renewing our faithfulness.
      There’s also a third dimension. (Well, duh. We’re trinitarian, right?) It’s the future dimension, the “age to come.” Jesus sometimes seems to be referring to God’s ultimate hope for humanity, a world of justice and peace, that is still unfolding, that God is still working on—and that we are asked to help work toward.
So to “proclaim the Kingdom of God” is to live in a way that makes all this stuff real: to live in trust and gratitude, to offer healing and forgiveness, to work for justice and reconciliation, to include those who have been excluded, and in the words of the Methodist baptismal rite to “resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves.”

Call to Worship

1. (from Psalm 30)
Leader: O Holy One my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
All: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
So my soul will praise you and not be silent.
O Holy One my God, I will give thanks to you forever.


2. (from Psalm 30)
Leader: We praise you, O God, for you have lifted us up.
All: We cried to you for help, and you healed us.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes in the morning.
You have turned our sorrow into dancing.
You have beautified us with joy.
We thank you. We praise you! We worship you!

3.
Leader: Holy One, giver of life,
All: we praise you!
Loving Christ, healer of our souls,
we thank you!
Holy Spirit, flame of love in our hearts,
we open ourselves to you.
We thank you for your love, we ask your blessing, and we trust your grace
as we worship you. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Holy Mystery, you hold this world in your hands.
All: The people, the places, are all in your heart.
We are your beloved, and we give you thanks.
The wholeness you wish for us you wish for all people.
We open our hearts to you as we worship.
Fill us with your love, that we may
spread your love,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Eternal God, you have poured the clear water of your grace
into the pitcher of our lives.
Our cup overflows.
Stir up your spirit in us, that we may hear your Word
and be changed,
and bear your grace into this thirsty world. Amen.

2.
God of love, you establish your Realm of mercy and justice, your Empire of Grace. Speak your Word to us now, that we may be formed in the image of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gentle God, as your Christ gathered disciples together as a community, so you invite us to live in community with one another. Teach us how to love each other. Show us your way. Give us your Spirit, that the love we have for one another and for all the world may be your love alive in us: powerful, pure and infinite. We open our hearts to your grace. Speak, and we will listen. Amen.

4.
God of healing and wholeness, we are broken people in a broken world. Give us the spirit of your healing, to be whole and to make whole this wounded world. Nourish in us the power to heal, to enact goodness, to do justice and love mercy. Jesus, walk with us as we go into this world to share your love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of grace, we confess we are in need of healing.
Immerse us in your grace.
We are in need of forgiveness.
Immerse us in your grace.
We are in need of the faith to heal and to bless.
Immerse us in your grace.
Heal our hearts, forgive our sin,
and empower us to live the fullness of your love,
in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Readings

1. Galatians 6.1-10. My paraphrase

My friends, if you see someone do wrong,
     by the Spirit you’ve received
     restore them with gentleness.
Help them out of that pit;
     don’t climb into it yourself.
 Bear one another’s burdens:
     this is what the law is really about.
Don’t embarrass yourself
      thinking you’re better than others.
Do work you yourself are proud of;
      don’t fuss about your neighbor’s.
Live your life, not somebody else’s.

Those who are learning in the Word
      should share with their teachers.
You might be deceived but God’s isn’t:
      you reap what you sow.
If you sow desire you will reap more desires.
      If you sow the Spirit, you will reap the Spirit,
      and its eternal life.
So don’t grow weary of doing good;
      don’t give up: the harvest is coming.
Whenever you have an opportunity
      work for the good of all,
      especially those in the family of faith.

2.
Psalm 5 — My Paraphrase

O Listening Grace, hear me;
        let the sigh of my heart lie against your chest.
Hold my cry like your child—
        you who are Life and all Being,
the One to whom my prayers belong.
        You hear me before my day dawns;
in the morning I put my desire in your hands
        and I wait.

Evil is like darkness in your light;
        in you my deadliness dies.
The closer I draw to you
        the farther behind I leave my falsehood.

You see through our arrogance like glass,
        and like glass you shatter our wrongdoing.
Your grace destroys our lies,
        and our deceit evaporates in your truth.

Your mercy draws me into you;
        your presence awes and awakens me.
Lead me, O Love, in your way of blessing,
        despite those who would pull me elsewhere:
        maintain the path so I don’t miss it.

There are those who are gushers of lies,
        deep wells of hurt and destruction.
Their greed is a grave;
        their fear is disguised as power.

Don’t let me fall for their deceit.
        Let their disguises unravel about them.
Strip them naked of their lies
        so that I can stay true to your grace.

Those who nest in you are safe forever;
        our lives are songs of joy.
Surround us in your presence,
        set free our joy in your embrace.
Your blessing is our inescapable gravity.
        You hold us to you with love
as the earth holds us
        and the air gives us breath.

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 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.

Infinite Love, we thank you.
You create us; you claim us; you accompany us.
Though we are broken you heal us.

When we betray your love you forgive us;
when we are lost you lead us.
You judge the forces of evil and injustice,
and set us free from oppression.

You give us Jesus, and call us to join him
in the work of the healing of the world.
You invite us to his table, and so we come,
singing your praise with al Creation.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed the sick and cast out demons
and enacted the Reign of your Grace.

He drew us into a community of humility and compassion,
in which we feed one another, forgive each other,
and bear one another’s burdens.
He was crucified by the power of domination,
but you raised him from the dead,
faithful to your covenant to be with us always in love.


     (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,
healed by your grace, reconciled with you and one another,
and sent into the world to heal, to bless,
to cast out the powers of evil and injustice,
and to enact your Realm of Love,
in the name of Christ, for the healing of the world.
     
(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

God of grace, you have healed us with your Word. Now you send your disciples out, with the grace to heal, to bless, to spread your love. Give us faith to go, to trust, and to serve. In all we do, may your peace prevail, and peace be upon all whom we meet. We pray, and we go, in your name, in your company, and in your spirit. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In this meal Jesus has modeled for us your Empire of Grace. Send us out into the world to share your love, to break down the barriers and boundaries that divide your beloved children, to work for peace and justice in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You companion us in our journeys and feed our souls with your presence and your grace. Send us out, nourished and accompanied, in your name, to love all people, to bear pone another’s burdens, to provide for healing, to proclaim your Reign, and to bring peace to every place you send us. We pray, and we live, in the power and the presence of your loving Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

One Tribe (Tune: Tallis’ Canon or The Water Is Wide/ Gift of Love)

We come with thanks, God, at your call,
to share our gifts in love with all;
for what to us you have supplied
is meant for all both far and wide.

The bread and cup from Jesus’ hand
exceeds the bounds of every land.
Your saving love, surpassing worth,
we share with every soul on earth.

Here at this feast we are, by grace,
one nation now, one tribe, one race.
All our divisions are erased.
We all are kin in every place.


The Table of your Grace (Tune: Channel of Peace)

This is the table of your grace.
We set it with the gifts that you have given.
You call us, one and all, to share your grace,
that in this meal we know your love.

You grant your presence in this meal.
Your blood and body, given for our sake.,
your humble, suff’ring service and your love,
that we may be your Body now.

The bread you give is not for us alone;
the cup is meant for us to take and share. So you
send us out, to a hungry world.
We rely on your grace to bear us on.

You send us in the Spirit’s power.
You give us strength to take the journey on,
to go and serve and heal and to proclaim
this Realm of Love in Jesus’ name.

OT 22 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost

August 28, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 2. 4-13 God scolds us for having abandoned God, who freed us from slavery in Egypt, and instead turning to things that oppress and limit us. We have turned from the fountain of life (God), and instead dug leaky pits that hold no water.

Psalm 81 repeats this theme: though God has set us free, we turn to other things to rule our lives, though, even still, God is ready to bless us with deep and abundant life.

Hebrews 13. 1-8, 15-16 reminds us to show radical hospitality, to care for those in prison, to exercise fidelity in relationships and to and be free of the love of money.

In Luke 14. 7-14 at a dinner Jesus teaches us to seek the humblest seat, and also to offer banquets to those who cannot repay the favor.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
      The prophet offers us a lovey image. His criticism is not just that we’re disobedient to God’s command to love our neighbor. When we go our own way and turn from God we abandon the fountain of life Then we become desperate for life, clinging and competing, fighting against each other and withholding life from others. You can see the consequences today: racism, poverty, hate, violence, suspicion of immigrants, mass incarceration…. These are not just political problems. They’re symptoms of our life-denying ways. Using Jeremiah’s image, imagine if we drank deeply of the waters of life. That life would flow through s naturally. We would be moved to share, to love our neighbor, to do justice.

Hebrews
       Hebrews provides the antidote to the sickness Jeremiah has diagnosed: share! Do good, show hospitality, avoid love of money. Hebrews offers us bracing medicine for our legal system. “Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those who are being tortured as though you yourselves were being tortured.” (This is a good time to stop pretending torture—including solitary confinement, beatings and other methods—doesn’t happen, even in our American prisons.) This good advice for all our acts of mercy: avoid playing the role of the gifted savior; be in solidarity; take on the suffering of others as your own. That is the most radical kind of sharing and hospitality. If we are afraid to get close to that suffering.. maybe we’ve not drunk deeply enough of the fountain of life.

Luke
     Jesus is not a fan of social status. He says of social capital the same as he does of financial capital: sell everything and give to the poor. Stop seeking status. Practice humility. It doesn’t mean you think poorly of yourself; it means you stop striving to appear better than others.
     Back in the 1970’s I worked with adolescent girls involved in prostitution. In their world everything, not just sex, was an exchange. You didn’t give something without getting something. Honor, shame, debt and obligation were finely calibrated. Everybody knew who owed exactly what to whom. Jesus’ culture was more like that than ours, but we all fall into that. If someone has done you a favor you owe them, right? If they’ve wronged you they owe you. But Jesus believes in a world in which everything is a gift. Nobody owes anybody anything. (“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”) So, Jesus says, practice giving stuff away. Have a dinner for folks who can’t repay you. Not because you want them to feel indebted, or so you can appear oh-so-generous (oops! there goes your humility!), but because God’s grace is free and your gifts are like that. Because generosity is a way to drink of the fountain of life.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, Holy of Holies, Great Mystery, Generous Love,
All: we worship you.
Jesus Christ, Humble Savior, Embodied Love, Faithful One,
we thank you.
Holy Spirit, Divine Presence, Flowing Love,
we praise you. We open our hearts to you. We sing of your glory. Alleluia!

2. [May also be a response, prayer of confession, or invitation to communion.]
            from Psalm 81
Leader: I hear a voice I had not known: “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder.”
All: O God, you have saved us; you have blessed us. We praise you!
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
O Christ, you invite us to your table. We come with joy, and we thank you!
“But you have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for yourselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”
O Spirit, we confess that we have turned from you. Forgive us, renew us and give us life. We open ourselves to your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Creator God, you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you. We drink from you. We rejoice in you.
Risen Christ, our loving brother, you set us free.
You feed us at the banquet of you grace. We give thanks to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with humility, generosity and compassion.
Alleluia! We open our hearts to you. Come and fill us.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Generous God, we praise you!
All: Humble Christ, we greet you!
We are poor, and you have invited us to your feast.
We are unable to repay you, and you have brought us to your table.
We are beneath you, and yet you humbly serve us,
and lavish upon us great gifts.
Alleluia! We thank you for your mercies. Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of grace, you give yourself to us, humbly, with delight, mostly invisibly. We receive you with gratitude. We enter into your heart. We welcome you into ours. We open the doors of our minds, that you may enter. We open the windows of our hearts, that your light may shine in. Welcome. Amen.2.
God of love, you speak softly in our hearts. You call us into this world with your love. Speak to us now; awaken us with your grace, shape us by your Word, and lead us into lives of compassion, courage and beauty. Amen.

3.
God of abundance, you make this life a wedding party, and invite us to your banquet of grace. We come now to celebrate your faithful love, to feast on your Word, and to be made new by your grace. We open our hearts wide: fill us with your Spirit, in the name and the presence of Christ. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, our pride means nothing before you. You bless the humble and feed the poor. Like beggars we come to you. Like children we open our hands to your grace. Give us the humility of Christ, that we may embody his generosity and hospitality, in the power of your Spirit. Come to us, God; speak to us, and feed our souls. Amen.

5.
God of truth, you spread the banquet of life before us. We feast upon your Word. We come in hunger to hear and understand, to know your love and to shine with your Spirit. 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.

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.
Loving and faithful God,
you are the fountain of our life,
yet we have turned away,
seeking life elsewhere.
We have cut ourselves off from life’s deep abundance,
shriveled our own glory,
and strangled our compassion.
Forgive us,
bring us back,
and change our hearts,
so that we might drink deeply from your grace. Amen.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
Leader: God of love, you create us in your image and call us in your grace.
All: We are your Beloved, special in your eyes and chosen for great tasks.
Christ, you come to us in lowly form. You heal us and lift us up and give us our lives.
We are your companions: nothing special, but blessed by your love.
Holy Spirit, you live in us and move us by your will.
We are your earthen vessels, holy in our ordinary lives, powerful in your hands.
Speak to us, lead us, and use us according to your delight. Amen.


2.
      We believe in God, creator of all things, the fountain of life, who provides for us with grace and abundance.
      We trust in Jesus Christ, who made God manifest among us. He healed the sick, raised up the downtrodden, ate with sinners, and spoke the Word of God. He died in love for all people, and none are undeserving. Crucified by the powers of oppression, he was raised by the power of love, and lives among us now, inviting all to the feast of God’s love and generosity.
      We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of trust and hospitality. As the Body of Christ, in unity with the whole universal church, we devote ourselves to live in love in the name and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

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

God you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you,
and drink deeply
of the flowing waters
of your grace.

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 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.

God, we thank you, for you invite us to your table.
You put us in the place of honor.
You set the finest table, and serve us.
You offer us love we can’t return.
You give us Creation; you give us your delight.
You are the fountain of life,
and we drink deeply of your flowing grace.
In thanksgiving, in the company of all who are grateful,
we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He fed the hungry and healed the sick.
He took the lowest place, and served us.
He served in humility, suffering death,
yet you raised him in glory.


     (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,
humble in spirit, generous of heart,
aware that in our hospitality
we may welcome angels unawares.
All glory be to you, loving God.
     
(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

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In your Spirit may we give ourselves to others. By the grace you give us may we honor the angels we entertain. Send us out now to serve, to give without expecting return from any but your grace, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Send us, strengthened by gifts beyond our comprehending, into the world, to share your love in humility and generosity, and to invite others to your table, that the day may come when we feast with all Creation in harmony at your table of grace. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In our hunger you have fed us the finest food; in our poverty you have served us as royalty. Send us into the world with the humility of Christ, to serve those whom the world rejects, to give to those who cannot repay, to honor those whom the world thinks unworthy. Send us to share your feast of life with all, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

OT 23 – 13th Sunday After Pentecost

September 4, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 18. 1-11 God says, “You are the clay and I am the potter. I reshape you as I see fit.”

Psalm 139 prays, “God, you created me.” (Knitted and woven, specifically, which were women’s work). “You know me; you are always with me. Help me to avoid doing evil.”

Philemon was apparently indebted to Paul, and owned a slave, Onesimus, who had possibly run away to work with Paul. In this letter Paul returns Onesimus and asks Philemon to set him free, not as an obligation, which Paul could have demanded, but in love, asking Philemon to see Onesimus not as an inferior but as a brother.

In Luke 14. 25-33 Jesus invites us to love at all costs. And he gets honest about that cost. If you’re building a tower you first count the cost to make sure you can finish. To truly follow Jesus is to carry the cross, letting go of all that we cling to and our loyalty to everything and everyone but God—even our own loved ones. Don’t lose your saltiness, Jesus says.

Preaching Thoughts

Luke
     “Hate father and mother..” — Strong language, typical of Jesus. Obviously he doesn’t mean dislike, enmity or mistreatment. (Notice how he defends “honor your father and mother” in Mark 7.11). He means honoring your discipleship even above family loyalty. We easily surrender our beliefs or our integrity to avoid upsetting people we care about (well, yeah, and even strangers). We “go along to get along.” This can be hardest in families or bonds of significant friendship. How many folks don”t talk politics” with family members? Jesus invites us to stand for who we are, even when the resistance is costly. That’s when we really become ourselves. Of course, the point is not to start family arguments; some disagreements are best left untested. But not arguing about our beliefs is one thing; staying true to them is another. That’s what counts.
     “Carry the cross.” — A “cross to bear” is not an annoyance. It’s our willingness to suffer for the sake of loving others. And love requires suffering. Mayne not much, but always at least a little. Sometimes a lot. Every parent knows your heart will be broken a thousand times. But you do it, because the cost is actually a good deal. Love is worth it. But don’t think it won’t hurt. “Count the cost.” I think people need help discerning the difference between the authentic cost of discipleship and unrelated struggle or suffering. Not every “thorn in the flesh” is a result of our love, forgiveness, generosity or work for justice. “Stuff happens.” On the other hand, we often minimize just how much we have to let go of to really live lives of love, forgiveness, humility, vulnerability, reconciliation, healing and justice. Each of us needs to discern: What do I need to let go of to be perfectly loving? What are the things I cling to that are likely to hold me back from loving deeply, forgiving entirely, or risking for the sake of others?
     “Salt is good.” — What a cryptic, evocative image. Be salt. There’s not much correct doctrine to it, nor any clear senses of definition. In the context of carrying the cross, it seems to mean “be loving.” Its ambiguity invites us to ponder: What feels like “salty” living to you? Loving? Kind? Authentic? Simple? Bringing out other people’s beauty, as salt brings out other flavors? It certainly seems to describe behavior, not belief. Who has “salted” your life? What do you value in that? The image of salt invites a lot of play, imagination and storytelling.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, divine artist, you fashion the universe with skill and beauty.
All: We praise you!
Jesus the builder has shaped our hearts with loving hands and a steady eye.
We thank you!
Holy Spirit, breath of new creation, you continually fashion us anew.
We worship you. We open our hearts to you.
We surrender ourselves to your shaping hands. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: God, you have searched us and known us.
All: Holy Mystery, we wonder; and we praise you.
Where could we escape your presence? Even in the farthest desolation, you are there.
Loving Presence, you accompany us; you sustain us, and we thank you.
You have formed our inner nature; you create us by your grace.
How vast is your love! We praise you,
for we are astoundingly and wonderfully made.
Search us, and remove whatever is evil in us,
and lead us in the way everlasting.

3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: We thank you and we worship you.
God, you search us and know us;
you are all about us, within us and among us.
Your presence is everywhere; help us to be aware.
Come be with us now, God, and help us in our worship.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Creator God, you are the potter; we are the clay.
All: Shape us by your Word.
By your grace help us to turn from the things we possess
and worship you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
By your grace help us to take up our cross and follow.
Savior of the world, we devote our hearts to you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Potter God, shape us by your Word. Fashion us with your divine skill. In your grace re-make us in your image. Speak to us, and your Word will call us to new life. Amen.

2.
God of love, Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But we confess that we hold back; we cling to many things. Grant us the faith to trust your grace, to let go of all that burdens us, and to take up Christ’s love for the world and follow him in faith and service. Speak your Word to us, call to us in our fear, and give us courage to follow. Amen.

3.
God, we want to worship you. Christ, we want to follow you. Living within us, you know better than we what holds us back. Spirit, rise up in us now, and bend us toward you. You are the potter; we are the clay. Shape us by your Word. With your steady hands upon us, change us from one degree of glory to another, and form us into your delight. You are the weaver. Weave the threads of our hearts into the tapestry of your image, the Body of Christ, our Savior and our brother. Amen.

4.
Gentle God, you know that we cling to many things in this life. Help us now to let go of them all, and to open ourselves to your presence and your Word. As your scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, help us to hear your voice, and to allow ourselves to be changed, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

5.
God of love, Jesus called his hearers to leave behind their worldly attachments and follow him. Lead us by your grace to let go of everything to which we cling, so that we can be open to your Word. 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.

Prayer of Confession

Great Potter God,
we confess we have had a mind of our own,
and shaped our lives as we have chosen,
not as you have hoped for us.
In stillness we repent.
Lay your strong and gentle hands upon us,
and reshape us according to your delight.
Forgive our sin, heal our wounds,
and shape us by your grace,
as vessels of your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
       Loving God, you are our creator. You create all things in your love; you create us as an image of your love. You are the potter; we are the clay. We submit ourselves to your shaping hands.
       Loving Christ, you who perfectly embodied God’s love, who taught and healed, who fed the hungry and gathered the outcast: you call us to follow you. You were willing to pay the cost for your radical faithfulness to God: you were crucified. But God raised you from the dead. The way of the cross is not the way of death, but the way of Life! Christ, you call us to surrender all and follow you. We submit ourselves to your life-giving Way.
       Loving Spirit, it is by your power alone that we are faithful, You breathe in us; you give us grace to take up our cross and follow. Make us people of trust and forgiveness, people of prayer, people of resurrection. You are the potter and we are the clay: mold us and shape us according to your will. Amen.

2.
Leader: God, like a thoughtful grandmother you knit each of us a life.
All: Like a weaver at her loom of beauty you weave us together.
Like an artful potter you shape us for your purposes.
And when we are distorted you re-shape us again.
You are the beauty that draws us toward life.
You are the love that beckons us out of self-centeredness
and toward our sisters and brothers in compassion and gratitude.
You are the treasure that is worth the greatest cost.
Alleluia! We gladly give up everything and turn to you.
Bless us, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

Salt me, God,
with your love,
that. forsaking all else,
I may love perfectly
with your love,
and never lose my saltiness.

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, for we are wondrously made.
You know us inside and out, and are with us always.
Even in the farthest places you are with us;
even in the darkest times you are light.
You set us free from all that enslaves us,
and ask us to set one another free.
Like a master potter you shape us by your love.
And so we come to your table to be re-shaped again,
singing your praise:

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who loved even at the cost of his life,
and asks us to do the same.
Under an oppressive power he was crucified,
but by your infinite grace he was raised from the dead.


     (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,
with courage and compassion no matter the cost,
salty with your love,
for the sake of the healing of the world.

(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

God of love, you have shaped us by your Word; now send us into the world to embody that Word, forsaking all our possessions, our habits and attachments, to follow Christ with courage, to heal the broken and set free the oppressed with compassion, and to praise you in all things, by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit in us. We pray, as we live, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the love of Jesus you have salted us with your love, that we may serve you for the sake of justice, with courage and compassion. May this mystery live in us always. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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


I Am Open (Original song)

Dear gentle Jesus, I open to you
the deepest secrets of my soul.
My heart is open, wounded and broken.
Heal and forgive and make me whole.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Beloved Jesus, my eyes are open;
your healing touch restores my sight.
Like open windows, they shine, and in flows
your glory filling me with light.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

My wounded Jesus. Your arms are open,
our hurt and dying to embrace.
When I would close them, hold my arms open,
to be so loving by your grace.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.

Now risen Jesus, my life is open,
a flower unfolding in the sun:
by your light growing, and boldly showing
the love of God, as you have done.
Open, I am open, open to your grace.


I Take Up My Cross (Original song)

Congregation:
Letting go, I am held. I take up my cross and follow.

Cantor
1. Jesus, you call to me, and draw me into your life.
2. Christ, I leave all behind, to follow you in love.
3. I yield my life to you, for you alone are God.
4. Loved with your costly love, I’ll suffer for the sake of love.
5. Christ, make my one desire to be to serve you in love.


OT 21 – 11th Sunday after Pentecost

August 21, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 1.4-10 Jeremiah receives his call as a prophet: God calls him to speak to the nations of God’s behalf. When Jeremiah says he is too young, God says, “I am with you… I have put my words in your mouth.”

Psalm 71.1-6 is a prayer asking for God’s healing and protection.

Hebrews 12.18-29 warns us not to expect to experience God’s revelation with the same literal events as in the Hebrew Bible—fire and dark clouds and a storm and a booming voice. Instead, we experience it in sacred community, where we’re invited to listen.

In Luke 13.10-17 a religious authority criticizes Jesus for working on the Sabbath, healing a woman. But Jesus treats the matter not in terms of laws about working on the Sabbath, but in the context of the more universal mandate for liberation.

Preaching Thoughts

Jeremiah
     God gives a Word to each of us, regardless of our age or training. We don’t all have an authoritative word that is “appointed over nations, to pluck up and pull down,” but each person’s truth carries weight. Your calling then is to discern: what is God’s Word in you? How is God present in you? How does God’s grace shine forth in your life?
     By the way, none of us has words that are “appointed over nations, to destroy and overthrow.” God’s word has that power; we’re only the messengers, the vessels. Again note our temptation toward judgment and destruction. God’s word doesn’t actually overthrow particular nations, but it overthrows Empire: human power structures and oppressive systems.

Hebrews
       Looking for God’s self-disclosure? Don’t expect all the Hollywood special effects we get in the Bible. Look in a community of love. “See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking.” That takes patient, prayerful listening. True faith involves more listening and less posturing. This is an invitation to a commitment to humble, willing discernment, not a lot of pronouncements. How do you discern God’s voice in your life? In the life of your community? God’s voice won’t be a literal sound, but a “warning” (v. 25), a nudge, from heaven. God’s voice shakes things up, but the Realm of grace remains steadfast, a “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” You know those moments when you quietly got the sense there was a different reality afoot than you had thought—and it changes everything? In this way God is quiet, and yet also a “consuming fire.”

Luke
     Jesus has a wonderful way of asking “Where does it hurt?” He walks into the synagogue, looks around, and sees a wound, a point of pain. Two, in fact. Well, three: the bent over woman, and also the ruler of the synagogue, and also the hurting people under his rule. Healing the woman, he gets the ruler’s attention and engages him as well. We don’t know if the ruler’s hurts (that lead him to be so hurtful) are healed, but at least they’re addressed. And the people’s hunger for grace is addressed: the crowd rejoices at the wonderful things he’s doing. Presumably it’s not just that the woman is healed but maybe Jesus has instigated a renewed sense of freedom, healing and compassion in the community.
    Imagine being “bent over.” Imagine the pain. Imagine not being able to “stand up” for what you care about. Imagine not being able to look anyone in the face… but only seeing the ground. Imagine being in a permanent posture of subservience. Imagine feeling there’s “something wrong with you.” Imagine she’s in a wheelchair. Imagine what all of this might do to your relationships with other people… and maybe with God. Imagine being told that your healing is inappropriate, or less significant than a religious tradition. Imagine all the religious traditions that keep us bent over. Think how many dimensions of this woman’s life Jesus heals.
     The woman is an icon for us all. Where are you bent over? What’s limited, suppressed, in pain? What cuts off your ability to look people in the eye, or allow them to see you face to face? What makes you wonder if God is punishing you, or why, at least, God doesn’t help you? What are the voices that prevent your healing, that consider your well-being not important? Where are we as a culture bent over, repressed, distorted, in pain? What are the voices that say, “Come back later for healing?” Remember the people who told Martin Luther King, Jr. that he was moving too fast. Or people who respond to calls for justice that the change would be too much, too soon.
     See how Jesus does Bible study: not by ‘splaining, but by enacting it. When the ruler of the synagogue pulls out scripture, in the the Sabbath commandment, Jesus looks at the “text” more deeply: What is the Sabbath about? Is it about being inactive? Not exactly. It’s about liberation, right? On the Sabbath you set free your ox or your donkey, right? (The sabbath commandment is the only one with an explanation, and it’s different in Exodus and in Deuteronomy. In Dt. it’s about the seventh day of Creation. But in Exodus—whaddya know? It’s about liberation: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Holy One your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Holy One your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day” (Dt. 5.15). So “ought not this woman whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” (v. 16) Jesus isn’t “refuting” the scripture; he’s both digging deeper and also applying it. For Jesus rules aren’t for their own sake. (“The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” [Mk. 2.27]), they’re for the sake of love. So he asks in Mk. 3.4, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” Everything is for the sake of love. Everything.
     In our joy over the woman’s healing it’s easy to overlook the significance of the ruler’s objection. This story encourages the bent-over woman in us and among us; it also convicts the disapproving ruler in us. How is the ruler of the synagogue bent over, bound by satan? Where is he in me? In what ways to I resent or impede the healing of others? How do I feel about the liberation of people I look down on? When in my mind do religious, political or cultural traditions or values outweigh other people’s need for wholeness or freedom? Who are the people I’m happy to keep suppressed because I don’t want to have to face them eye to eye?

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Holy Mystery, we are your children.
All: We turn to you in wonder and in need.
Loving Christ, you lay your hands on our wounds.
We come bent over, and rise in praise.
Holy Spirit, you give us power to heal.
Touch us; change us; send us out as new people.

2.
Leader: God of life, our breath is your praise.
All: God of love, our joy is your name, and we honor you.
Brother Christ, our healing is your passion.
Virtuoso of love, our wholeness is your doing, and we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you breathe in us, and give us beauty.
Spirit of Love, our life is your glory and we worship you. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Creator God, light of the sun and summer’s embrace,
warmth of our lives and beauty of each day:
All: We praise you! We stand in awe.
We open our hearts like a morning meadow to your light.
Risen Christ, brother and teacher, prince of healing and presence of God:
We greet you. We bow in humble thanksgiving.
We open our minds to your wisdom like a river drinking from a spring.
Holy Spirit, power of love and light of grace within and among us:
We welcome you. We open our bodies to you like breath, like food.
Enter us, and re-create us in your grace.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you.
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!We were been bent over, but you raised us up.
We were wounded, but you healed us.
We were oppressed, but you set us free.
Alleluia! Come again, Jesus! Heal us, and set us free!
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Gracious God, Jesus healed the bent over woman. Speak your Word and heal what is bent in us. Lay your hand on us and grant us your grace and mercy. By your Spirit may we rise in gratitude and praise you with lives of love and service. Amen.

2.
God of healing, there is much in us that is bent down, that is distorted, that is not free. Reach out and touch us with your Word: heal us, and make us new by your grace. Speak to us as we hear your scripture, as we reflect, and as we re-direct our lives, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
God of gentle mercy, we worship you not because you lord it over us, but because you raise us up. We come to you bowed down with cares and fears, with wounds and needs, and with hunger for your grace. Speak your Word and lay your hand upon us, so that we may be made whole again. We pray in the name of Jesus, your healer and your Presence. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, we open ourselves in honesty to God.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,
to see what is in us that is loving,
and what is not loving.

God, we recall when we have received your gift of healing, and we give thanks.
[silent prayer…]
We recall when we have resisted your healing for ourselves or others, and we seek your grace. [silent prayer…]
We call to mind those places where we still need healing, and where we may be called to be a healing presence for others, and we open our hearts to your Spirit. [silent prayer…]
God of mercy, in Christ you have touched us, healed us, and set us free.
Touch us, make us whole, and perfect your love in us,
that we may be wounded healers in this broken world. Amen.

[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

2.
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.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you,
that our hearts are bent over and we are quite unable to straighten ourselves.
Forgive our sin,
heal our hearts,
and set us free from what prevents us
from living in your perfect love,
in the Spirit of Christ.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

3.
God of grace,
we confess that we are uprooted from your love,
and that we do not know how to live.
Our spirits are bent over and unable to stand straight;
our faith is weak; our vision is dark;
our hearts are wounded; our desires are amiss.
Receive us with mercy, God;
forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
and restore in us your Spirit,
so that we may live in the present moment with joy,
walking in your ways and delighting in your will.
O God, we surrender to your perfect grace.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

      We’ve been set free! Therefore we trust in God, Creator of all, who in the beginning set light free into the world, who rescued us from slavery and liberated us from exile, who overthrows the power of injustice and oppression, who redeems all Creation.
      We’ve been healed. Therefore we follow Jesus, child of God and brother to all, teacher and healer, who resisted the power of evil and set people free in body, mind, heart and soul, as persons and as a community. He was crucified and was raised, and in his rising defeated the oppression of death itself. We entrust ourselves to his grace and his leading, as he lays his hands upon us.
      We’ve been empowered. Therefore we live by the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in us. We live by the grace of forgiveness and the power of resurrection, as one church, the Body of Christ. We devote ourselves to the way of liberation, healing and grace, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Gentle God,
our souls are bent over.
Lay your hand on us,
set us free,
and give us power to stand
in your light.

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 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.

Loving Creator, we thank you for the gift of this world.
We thank you for the gift of Sabbath,
that we may rest and be free.
Lovely One, we praise you for the mystery of our bodies,
for their beauty and abilities, and how they hold us.
You give us one another, to bear us up when the flesh is weak.

Beautiful Savior, you heal us; you make us whole.
You condemn oppression and confront injustice;
you release us from all that binds us, and set us free.
Therefore with all Creation we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who healed the sick and fed the hungry,
who lifted up those who were bent low.
He noticed the downtrodden, and reached out to the hurting.
For his opposition to the powers of oppression
he was crucified; but you raised him from the dead.
We rejoice in the wonderful things he is doing.
     (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,

healed by you grace,
and empowered to undo the yoke of slavery
and to set free all who are bowed down,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
to your glory.
     
(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 have healed us, set us free, raised us up, and given us strength and stature. Send us into the world now, trusting in your grace, to heal and to set others free, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. May we, who have been healed and set free, never oppress others, but work for the healing of the world, 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)


Becoming Whole       (Original song)

We are a broken people becoming whole again.
We are a wounded people being healed again.
We are a hungry people being fed again.
We are a captive people walking free again.
plus additional verses


Christ our Healer        (Tune: Ode to Joy or HOLY MANNA)

Christ, our healer, you have touched us, reaching through the dark divide,
healing broken hearts and bodies, casting death’s old shroud aside:
raised us from our bed of sorrows, put your arm around our pain,
raising us to new tomorrows, bringing us to life again.

Christ, our teacher, in our healing you have given us your gift:
grace to bless, your love revealing, pow’r to heal and hope to lift.
In your Spirit, your forgiveness, your compassion we embrace
ev’ry wounded, shamed or silenced child of God with gentle grace.

Christ, our savior, you are going on to every town and field,
on to every land and people, on until the world is healed.
Use us in the whole world’s mending, use us as your healing hands,
’till as one the world, made whole, takes up its mat with joy and stands.


God, we are broken
     (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are broken, for all flesh is weak.
Grant us the healing and peace that we seek.
For all that pains us, beyond our control,
grant us your healing, our bodies made whole.

God, we are broken; our hearts are not one.
Sometimes it seems that our souls come undone.
Bring us renewal and calm in our soul.
Grant us your healing and make our hearts whole.

God, we are broken: for families and friends
suffer when love fails and faithfulness ends.
May your forgiveness and grace play its role.
Grant us your healing; make covenants whole.

God, we are broken, for many are poor,
and we ignore those who lie by our door.
God, may your justice like great rivers roll.
Grant us your healing; make all people whole.

God, we are broken for hate and all war
wound us so we are not free anymore.
Make us one people from pole to pole.
Grant us your healing, and make the world whole.


Jesus, My Healer
(Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Jesus, my healer, come to me and touch me;
lay your hand upon my soul.
All of my woundedness gently embrace and bless
and, though I’m broken, make me whole.

Source of our healing, God, our Re-Creator,
your deep joy is to raise and bless.
Your faithful promises and all our trusting hope
are stronger than our dark distress.

Spirit of healing, move among your people
to bear the blessing that flows from you:
with tender love to bless the world’s brokenness
and share the grace that made us new.


Prayer Song (Original song)

God, you hold us in you care
as we turn to you in prayer.
You hear our yearning by your grace;
we return your warm embrace.
We await your revealing,
your love and your healing.
All things shall be whole again. Amen. Amen.

God, you hold them in your care
whom we name now in our prayer.
Use the blessing of our soul
by your grace to make them whole.
We await your revealing,
your love and your healing.
All things shall be whole again. Amen. Amen.

God, we hold you in our care;
We receive you now in prayer.
Let us listen; let us tend.
Rest here, welcome, holy friend.
We await your revealing,
your love and your healing.
All things shall be whole again. Amen. Amen.

Amen, amen, amen.


Song of Healing(Tune: Finlandia)

O God of love, O God of grace unending,
come heal your people, body, mind and soul:
those who know grief, whom sorrow is befriending,
the sick and struggling, who know sorrow’s role.
Heal those whose backs beneath their loads are bending;
come set them free. Come heal and make them whole.

Use us, O God: complete the nations’ mending:
make us your hands; show us our healing role;
make us your eyes, your light in all defending;
let healing flow; O, let your justice roll.
Help us, O God, your Holy Spirit lending,
to heal and bless, to make the dear world whole.


With our Bodies (Tune: Finlandia)

Creating God, we praise you with our bodies,
this miracle in love you have designed,
these mysteries that see and feel and listen,
that move and breathe, and cradle heart and mind,
that, old or young, and awkward, lithe or graceful,
bind us to earth, and to all humankind.

Oh dancing God, we praise you in all movement,
in hands that heal, create things, or caress,
in wombs that birth, in feet that humbly bear us,
in throats that sing, and lips that love confess.
Oh, may our bodies praise you in their being,
with joy embrace, and touch and dance and bless.


OT 20 – 10 th Sunday After Pentecost

August 14, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Isaiah 5. 1-7 God speaks of Israel as a vineyard that was planted to yield grapes but has produced weeds and bad fruit instead: God asked for justice but the people produced bloodshed. So God wants to dismantle the vineyard.

Psalm 80 likely comes from the time of the exile in which Israel felt God’s “punishment.” Like Isaiah it uses the image of a vine: we are like a vineyard that is being plundered by our enemies, and we cry to God to restore us.

Hebrews 11.29 – 12.2 continues from last week a list of our spiritual ancestors who lived by faith—trusting God’s grace even when they couldn’t see it coming—and describes the power of that faith. Therefore we should have courage and follow Jesus who is the “pioneer of our faith,” going on before us in the way that we should follow.

In Luke 12. 49-56 Jesus warns us that if we follow him in the way of peace and justice, healing and grace, people will be offended; even loved ones will be divided against us. But Jesus urges us to ignore other people’s anxieties and instead stay true to God’s truth and love.

Preaching Thoughts

Isaiah
      The prophet reminds us that the “chosen people”are not chosen to be God’s favorites: they’re chosen to do a task, which is the work of justice. When we fail that task we betray our chosenness.

Hebrews

      The list of heroes and martyrs could include people in our own centuries who have suffered for the sake of justice and healing. Like those in the text, none of them saw the final fruits of their labor, for the struggle for justice continues—and will long after we are gone. “So great a cloud of witnesses” is a fine reassurance, often cited at funerals, but in this context it’s not about people welcoming us into an eternal winner’s circle; it’s our cheering squad urging us on to do what they did: to spread love and work for healing and justice, to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Jesus is not just the object of our faith; he is the pioneer of our faith, the leader we courageously follow behind, joining in his work.

Luke
     “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! — We might be tempted, as James and John were in Luke 9.54, to think of it as the fire of judgment that just happens to favor us and target others—and that we have the power to control. Neither is true. It’s the fire of the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not have kind words for our fondness for conflict, judgment and destructive behavior, even—or especially—in the service of our perceived righteous cause. In the Hebrew scriptures God’s fire isn’t destructive; it’s purifying, like a refiner’s fire. The fire Jesus is talking about is energy, not destruction.
     “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” — We get a glimpse of Jesus’ very human concern to pass on his message and his way of being while he still has time—mindful of what probably awaits him in Jerusalem.
     “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” — Again our temptation may be to suppose Jesus is asking us to create division, but he’s simply lamenting divisions already among us: the truth is upsetting to people who rely on the accepted illusions of the culture, and they will resist such truth. Think of the pushback against “Black Lives Matter” or the climate crisis. In speaking of family divisions Jesus echoes Micah 7.6: “The son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household.”

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Eternal God, you set all Creation before us.
All: In wonder we praise you.
Loving Christ, you save us, heal us, lead us and encourage us.
In awe we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your beauty and power.
In gratitude we worship you.
We open our hearts to you. Transform us by your grace. Amen.


2.
Leader: Holy One, you are present for us.
All: We come to be present for you.
You create us and sustain us.
Each of us is your miracle.
By your Spirit help us be true to the miracle you have created.
Shape us, guide us, and fill us with your grace. Alleluia!/

3.
Leader: Creator God, we are the vine you have planted. You created us to bear good fruit.
All: We thank you, and pray that your beauty may ripen in us.
Christ, you are the vine and we are your branches.
We praise you, and pray that we may be faithful to you, deeply rooted in your love.
Holy Spirit, you are the miracle of growth and fruitfulness within us.
Alleluia! We worship you and pray that you will fill us
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You alone are holy, and we worship you.
Glory be to you, O God of all Creation.
Thanks be to you, O Christ, for our salvation.
Strengthen us in our faith, O God,
and stir up our love for you, our passion for life,
and our desire to be present in this moment.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5
Leader: Creator God, you have made us in your image.
All: Our being is your praise.
Loving Christ, you have blessed us with your mercy.
Our lives are your thanks.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your grace.
Our service is our worship. In the power of your presence,
we bear your grace into the world, in the name of Christ.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of abundant grace, you spread out Creation like a feast before us. You pour out your love like rain upon us. You stir in our souls like the molten earth beneath our continents. Help us to receive. Help us to trust. Help us now to listen for your Word, and be renewed in your Spirit. Amen.

2.
true to your love, true to the glory that is our own souls. Bless us that we may not conform to this world, but be transformed by a new mindfulness, the mind of Christ. We pray in the grace of your Spirit. Amen.3.
God, we know how to pay attention to many things, to all sorts of news and noises. Help us now to pay attention to you, to pay attention to the present moment, to listen for the truth in scripture, in our worship, and in ourselves. Amen.

4.
God of Truth, you are who you are, not who we want you to be. Jesus was who he was, not who others pressured him to be. Your Spirit is in us as it is, not as others wish. You know us as who we are, not what others think of us. Speak to us now your truth; call us to your Word, that coming close to you we may come close to ourselves, and live out our true calling in this world. We pray in the name and the company and the courage of Jesus. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
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,
we are the vineyard you have planted to bear fruit,
but we are full of weeds.
Forgive us.
Pull our weeds, strengthen your vine,
and make us more fruitful,
by your loving grace. Amen.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]

2.
God of grace,
we confess that like uprooted vines
we are not grounded in your love;
that we do not know how to live.
Our faith is weak; our vision is dark;
our hearts are wounded; our desires are amiss.
Receive us with mercy, God;
forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
and restore in us your Spirit,
so that we may be rooted in your presence,
and bear the fruit of your love.
God, we surrender to your perfect grace.

Listening Prayer

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

Living God,
we are your vine,
planted in your love
and rooted in your grace.
We sink our roots deep in you,
that your Spirit may flow through us,
and your love bear fruit in us.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

      We trust in you, God, Creator of all; you have made each living being as an utterance of your Word; you call us to be true to the Word in which you have created us.
     We follow Jesus, who fulfilled his calling as your Anointed One and embodied your love. He fed the hungry and healed the broken. He taught your truth when others did not want to hear; he loved and forgave those whom others rejected. He stood against systems of injustice, and for his resistance he was killed. But you raised him from the dead, and he reigns with you, and his mercy is our only judge.
      We live by the power of your Spirit, enabling us to forgive unendingly, to trust radically the power of resurrection, to serve the world humbly yet fiercely as the Body of Christ. We thank you and we give ourselves to you, that in all things we may be true to the Gospel, by your grace. Amen.

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 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.

God of the swirling stars, the flowing brook, the loving heart,
you call us to your table.
God of the awakened soul, of healed flesh and forgiven hearts,
we come with joy and thanksgiving.
You create all things in your love. You claim us in love. You set us free for love.
And so we come to this table, a table like no other,
that unites us, blesses us, and makes us new.
So we sing your praise, with joy and gratitude,
in one voice with all creation.
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved and taught, healed and blessed all people.
True to your love and grace alone,
and not conforming to the fears and desires of those around him,
he embodied your grace, and gave himself in love.

[The Blessing and Covenant….]

Whenever we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
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 Holy Spirit on us, that receiving the Body of Christ,
we may become anew the Body of Christ.
By your Spirit in us, may we be shaped by your Word,steadfast in your truth and living with your love.
Make us one with Christ, one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
to your glory and your delight.

[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 our lives, symbolized in these gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You have given us all we need to face our challenges, to live with courage and beauty, and to work for justice and healing for the sake of the wholeness of all Creation. Send us now to do your will, by the power of your Spirit, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Vine and Branches       (Original song)

You are the vine and we are your branches,
one with your life and rooted in your heart.
Flowing with grace, with life you fill us,
strengthened that nothing can break us apart.

You are the vine and we are your branches.
Deep in our hearts your life is flowing through.
Rooted in you, we grow and flourish.
You live within us, and we live in you.

You are the vine and we are your branches.
One common blood flows though all of our veins.
We all are part of one another.
We all are branches of one living vine.

You are the vine and we are your branches,
flowing with power greater than our own,
bearing your fruit to all Creation,
till all the seeds of your love have been sown.

Alleluia.