Bad capitalist

           There was a rich estate holder who had a manager,
           and charges were brought
           that this manager was squandering the estate’s property.

                           —Luke 16.1

Christ, beholden to no accounting,
delights in forgiving debts.
God, rich in mercy,
rejoices in such love being squandered.
Christ, lovingly prodigal,
says, “You don’t owe.”
God, perfectly aware,
blesses such bad management.
Write it off on your account.
And next time you see such a bad capitalist,
say “Thank you.”

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Sewer

They’re laying sewer lines for the new neighborhood.
An act of pure grace and mercy.

Isn’t it great how God arranges our bodies
to use what we need and release the rest?

Lay sewer lines in your mind.
Even in your prayers.

God has already laid the lines for us
“as far as the east is from the west.”

Sewers of forgiveness. All is washed away.
Our baptismal fonts should have flush handles.

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

In Gilead

           For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt;
                      I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
           Is there no balm in Gilead?

                           —Jeremiah 8.21-22

So much vanishes. A glacier, a species, a friend.
A tattered shirt on a clothesline, in an erasing breeze.
September 11, January 6.
A hole that weighs too much,
an absence that lumbers around like a tractor.
Paper on a chain link fence, swaying.
A future fading to something else.
A voice in the square become silence.
An angel of despair who doesn’t know her words.
Grandchildren picking through shells in a barren landscape.
A thief of fire. Hope in rising waters.
The monster living in this world
that doesn’t live in this world.
A prairie in mourning, inconsolable sea.
No living thing is free of this grief.
We dip parched hearts in the spring, the balm of the whole.
We hold trembling cups to the rain,
or we wither.
A mighty God will not save us now;
vengeance will do no good.
Only tenderness will save us;
even the valiant soldier on
with broken hearts.

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Glory

In the evening I walked through the meadow,
hip deep in wet, seeding grasses.
I came home serene and warmed.
I sat down to read and noticed
grass dander all over me,
felting my pants, shedding on the sofa.
I had to pick away at the cushions
and go out and shake off, pat myself down.
Maybe I shouldn’t have.
I imagine in the spring a field of tender shoots
rising from the rug, the verdant upholstery.

Tell me, what do you have to walk through
to come home with glory all over you?

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Being here is sacred

I do not walk among these trees to learn
or become wise, or figure things out,
but simply to be here,
and not (even in my head) elsewhere,
to root myself in this present moment
with roots that go deep, hold, and draw water,
and where I am standing, with this breath,
to find myself in Divine Presence.
I gather myself until I am all here,
and all Creation gathers, all Creation meets me.
Step by step, under oak or pine, crab or beech,
among wet grasses or exultant blueberry bushes,
I am here,
and now I am here,
and that—no thing or thought—
is sacred.

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Transfiguration Sunday

February 19, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Exodus 24.12-18. Moses goes up on the mountain and encounters God, who shines with light.

Psalm 99 praises God and God’s glory, in language reminiscent of Moses’ experience on the mountain.

2 Peter 1.16-21 refers to God’s blessing of Christ on the mountain. “Pay attention to the prophetic message like a lamp shining in a dark place.”
Matthew 17.1-9, in parallel to the story of Moses, describes the vision of Jesus transfigured in light on the mountain. We witness Jesus’ glory, his approval from God, his shining forth the good news, his authority equal to the law (represented by Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), and the command that we listen to him.

Preaching Thoughts

The Sunday of the Transfiguration brings to a climactic close the season of Epiphany, with its theme of Jesus as light of the world. Resist the temptation to explain the Transfiguration. It’s a symbolic story, weaving together Moses on the mountain; the “law and the prophets,” indicating not only Israel’s history but also scripture; Jesus’ baptism, death and resurrection; and in particular the cross.

The cross is not immediately evident in today’s reading other than in the tiny little introduction: “Six days later…” Six days after what? After Jesus told his disciples to take up the cross, and predicted his own execution. In contradiction to Peter’s objection (“God forbid it! This must never happen to you!”) the Transfiguration is God’s affirmation of Jesus’ words: “Listen to him.”

This story is essentially a Resurrection appearance. Having shown us the cross, the Gospel story shows us what’s next. Jesus has already died—before it happens he has already surrendered his life to God, and accepted the cross— and now on the mountain he is risen, shining with the light of resurrection, appearing with Moses and Elijah who also have already died. We are given courage to accept the cross, to accept the suffering involved in loving and doing justice, because there is glory at the end of it.

When God says the same thing God says at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” it’s clear that they’re connected: resurrection is the end result of baptism. Baptism is a call to risk and sacrifice, even to suffer, for the sake of love and justice, knowing that we are baptized into a greater reality—one suffused with the light of glory— greater than just our earthly days.

By pointing us toward the cross (and resurrection) the Transfiguration story prepares us to enter the season of Lent with hope and not foreboding.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of love, in the light of the sunrise,
All: we behold your glory.
In the light of that stars at night,
we behold your mystery.
In the light in each other’s eyes,
we behold your presence.

In the light of Christ,
we behold your love.
Light of God, shine upon us.
Light of Christ, shine within us.
Holy Spirit, radiate your goodness through us. Amen.

2.
Leader: In the beginning God said, “Let there be light.”
All: We behold your glory.
Jesus is the light of the world.
We behold your glory.
Christ lives, shining with the light of resurrection.
We behold your glory. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Light of Creation, light from God,
All: we are in awe. We worship in wonder and praise.
Light of love, shining in Christ,
we are your Beloved. We thank you in humility and joy.
Light of the Spirit, fire of love,
we are aflame with you. We burn with your courage and love.
You have said, “This is my Own, my Beloved. Listen to him.”
We are listening, God. Speak, and create us anew. Amen.

4.
Leader: God of light, spark of Creation, fire of love, you dazzle us!
All: Your glory is beyond our understanding. We worship you in awe.
Christ, pillar of fire, light of the world, your love illumines our path
as you lead us toward freedom.
Your grace is beyond our comprehension. We follow you in trust.
Holy Spirit, sun of our hearts, you enlighten us.
In the mystery of your presence we ourselves become flame.
Alleluia! Star of God, make beautiful the darkness.
Sun of God, dawn in our hearts.
Light of God, lead us
by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: Christ, light of the world, you are our law and God’s living Word.
All: You are the dawn from on high, the light for our path.
Guide us in all that we do, and enlighten our hearts.
In the light of your day lead us, to do the works of light.
Be present with us, and shine in our hearts.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

6.
Leader: Light of Christ, grant your peace to the world,
All: and bless all creation with the light of your love.
Deliver us from the power of the shadows,
and bring us into the dominion of your light.
Christ, you are the light of the world. Alleluia
Fill us with your Spirit, that by your grace
we may be light for the world. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God, your Chosen One Jesus shone on the mountain with the light of glory. You said to the disciples, “Listen to him.” May Christ speak to us now in scripture, word and silence; by your grace may we listen and hear and be enlightened. Amen.

2.
God of love, your Word is made flesh, your law fulfilled and the prophets revealed in Christ. Your light shines among us. Speak, for we are listening. Amen.

3.
Light of God, you shine upon us, and we worship you.
The rising dawn of your mercy envelops us, and awakens our hearts.
The gentle glow of your forgiveness
brings life to our spirit like flowers in spring.
The radiance of your Word lights our path and leads our way.
And Christ, the pillar of fire that goes before us,
leads us always toward love and justice.
By your grace, we listen, and we follow. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of light,
let the dawn of your mercy rise upon
all that is unseen in the nighttime of our hearts,
that we may see ourselves in the light of your love.
What is shadowed by guilt or shame,
enlighten with your grace.
What is hidden in gloom bring into your light.
By the light of Christ, the Sun of Mercy,
may your grace shine in our hearts.

Listening Prayer

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

Loving God,
our little minds want to understand and explain.
Our grasping hands want to cling.
But your light invites us
simply to behold.
In silence, we listen for your voice,
we gaze at your mystery,
and we open ourselves to your grace.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Christ, Light of God, by your radiance we know that the law of God is love.
By your shining among us we trust that the word of the prophets is love.
Christ, Beloved of God, you are the light of our lives, and we listen.
May your love guide our way in the day and in the night. Amen.


Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the 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 wonder, we are grateful.
For in the darkness you said “Let there be light.”
In that light you create all things;
and every created thing shines with your glory.
You establish your law of love.
You send us prophets who lead us to mercy and justice.
In the fullness of time you sent Jesus, Light of the World.
Therefore, radiant with joy, we sing your praise.


            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, your Beloved,
the light of the world.
In his love he fulfilled the law and prophets.
His teaching and healing gleamed with your grace.
Even in his this death he radiated your mercy,
and in his resurrection he shined with your 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, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

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,
living as resurrected people,
radiant with hope and courage,
shining with the light of your love,
by the grace of your Spirit,
the Sun of Loveliness, burning in us.


     [Spoken or sung]
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 / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
1.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) By your grace you have saved us from the power of death, and raised us as angels of light. Send us into the world as peacemakers and healers, and to work for justice, the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, may the light of your love shine in us.
May the radiance of hope surround us.
May the glow of mercy light our way.
May the brilliance of your grace give beauty to all our world.
Light of Christ, be the sun of our days
and the moon of our nights,
to our deep joy and your everlasting glory. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have fed us with the light of your love, the radiance of your delight in us, the rising sun of resurrection, the fire of your passion for all beings. Send us out to be light for the world in the power of your Spirit aflame in us. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Open our hearts always to receive you in reverence and awe, in humble trust and gratitude for your grace. Send us into the world as stewards of your mysteries, following the pillar of fire, the light of the world, our savior Jesus Christ, in company with Moses and the prophets, that we may work with them to set your people free, by the grace of your Spirit. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You feed us with your splendor; you fill us with your light. Send us into the world to shine with your glory, to walk in the light of justice and mercy, to radiate with your love, as light for all those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. may your dawn rise upon us all and lead us in the way of peace. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Christ on the Mountain (Tune: Be Thou My Vision.)

Christ on the mountain, our law and our light, we
come to your table with all you invite.
Hearts all aglow with your Spirit’s bright rays,
gladly we offer our gifts and our praise.

Dawning of heaven, our heart’s rising sun,
feasting upon you, we all become one,
bright with the love that your Spirit imparts,
radiant with mercy in each of our hearts.

Christ, as your Body, we pray by your grace, that
we give your deep love a voice and a face,
by love transfigured, with light in our hands,
bringing your gospel to earth’s farthest lands.


Christ on the Mountain Height    (Tune: ST. ELIZABETH, “Fairest Lord Jesus”)

Christ on the mountain height, radiant with God’s delight,
shining with love and mercy bright,
from fear and death released, we come in thanks to feast
upon your resurrection’s light.

Jesus, Beloved One, bright as Easter’s rising sun,
called to listen and follow you,
fearless of pain or loss, help us to bear your cross
with love’s pure light in all we do.

Savior and dearest friend, Law and Prophet’s fullest end,
strengthened by love, by the Spirit drawn,
feed us with courage, Lord. Help us to live your Word
led by your radiant face, help us to live your grace
and trust in Easter’s promised dawn.


Christ, Transfigured (Tune: Ode to Joy)

Christ, transfigured on the mountain, Law and Prophet, Living Word,
by your glory we are humbled, by your presence we are stirred.
Christ, you are God’s faithful servant, God’s beloved Son so dear.
Guide us by this radiant vision: help us listen; help us hear.

Christ, you choose to suffer and to die, rejected, on the cross,
sharing in our sin and death, our struggles, and our pain and loss.
In your faithful, loving presence, even in our darkest nights,
we behold you, God’s Beloved, shining with love’s healing light.

Help us serve you, each transfigured by light shining from above.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit, radiant with the light of love.
In self-giving, help us share our neighbor’s suffering through the night,
and be lamps for those who struggle, with compassion’s gentle light.


Jesus, Transfigured (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Jesus, transfigured, bright with heaven’s mystery,
highest of prophets and all the law,
our power to comprehend comes to its humble end
in reverent wonder, love and awe.

Sun of the morning, radiant with holy light,
wake us from sleep, that we may see:
see holy glory in each day’s story,
in every day, eternity.

Light of the world, O Christ, shine in us with all your love.
Crucified and risen One,
fill us with holy fire, our hearts with grace inspire,
to share the warmth of heaven’s Sun.


Light for the World (Original song) –

Congregation
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor:
Christ, you appeared on the mountain top, shining with radiant glory,
God’s own Beloved, the light of the world, and we will tell your story.

Give your attention to God’s good news, like a candle that shines in a dark place;
Let that light fill you and guide you, my friends, and shine with love.


Listen (Tune: Gift of Love, “The Water Is Wide”)

“This is my dear Beloved Son,
the Light of Life, my Chosen One.
And so I ask by grace, by choice,
you listen for his gentle voice.

“For when you listen and attend
in silence deep, you meet your Friend,
whose voice no words can catch or hold,
and yet whose love is clearly told.

“And listen well with love’s deep art,
to what is in your neighbor’s heart,
for there I dwell, and there I speak;
and there I hide, for you to seek.

“My glory shines in every face
of my beloved human race.
So listen well with wond’ring care:
behold my glory shining there.”


Resurrection Light (Transfiguration) (Tune: Ode to Joy)

Wake us, Jesus from our dreams, to see you in a holy light:
Law and prophet, loving promise God has sent to guide us right.
As Elijah, call us Godward, speak the living truth to us.
As our Moses, lead us in our liberating exodus.

Wake us, Jesus, from our fear of pain and death, and from our sin.
Grant that we may live illumined by the world you usher in.
All things shine with light reflected from the dawn that fills our sight.
All of life is thus transfigured by your resurrection’s light.

Wake us, Jesus from complacent dreaming on the mountain’s height.
Teach us humble service: your departure is our guiding light.
Preach the gospel, feed the hungry, heal the broken, give them sight.
Give your life, then find it, shining bright with Resurrection light.

6th Sunday after Epiphany

February 12, 2023

Lectionary Texts

In Deuteronomy 30.15-20 God sets before us a choice: God’s ways, which lead to life, and the world’s ways, which lead to death. God implores us to choose life.

Psalm 119.1-8
celebrates the life and power of living in faithfulness to God. (Each verse of this psalm speaks of God’s Word or law using a different metaphor: God’s ways, testimonies, precepts, commands, statutes…)

1 Corinthians 3.1-9 The apostle Paul is troubled to hear of divisions in the church in Corinth. He reminds them that it is God who creates and grows the church, not any individual. We are all God’s servants, God’s tools—we are God’s farm!

In Matthew 5.21-37 Jesus examines the laws of God not as legal requirements, but as guides to love. He addresses laws concerning murder (which he sees in terms of respect and reconciliation) adultery and divorce (in terms of what causes us to sin) and swearing oaths (about being true to our word).
       NOTE: From year to year the Epiphany season expands or contracts to make room for Lent and Easter, which follow the lunar calendar. This year the seventh and eighth Sundays after Epiphany are omitted. In the lectionary those weeks include some of Jesus’ central teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, teachings crucial to Christian faith and practice. Since the lectionary omits them this year I encourage you to consider skipping the assigned reading this week (Jesus’ teaching on adultery and divorce) and substitute next week’s reading: Matthew 5. 38-48,regarding love of enemy. It’s really the beating heart of Jesus’ faith. If you do choose this route, you might also want to substitute next weeks Hebrew Bible reading as well: Leviticus 19.1-2, 9-18, in which God sets out laws that protect the rights and well-being of the poor, and provide for integrity, compassion and justice in the community: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Preaching Thoughts

Jesus says, “You have heard it said… but I say to you…” He is not denying, refuting or doing away with religious laws: he’s escalating them. He’s getting at the real heart of the law, which is not merely avoiding doing terrible things, but actually loving your neighbor—even those who hurt you. So when he talks about murder it’s not just about not killing, it’s about not diminishing another’s life in any way. The prohibition against adultery is not merely a matter of avoiding extra-martial sex, it’s about being faithful in every way.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to actually love people. Not use them, not try to get around them to some higher purpose, but to love them fully and deeply, with no other desire or agenda—not even to be right. Jesus asks us to care about the person, regardless of how they bear or project their pain, regardless of how they treat us. In an argument, Jesus invites us to stop trying to win, and instead just try to love them. Even if it’s really important that they get what we’re saying, Jesus says love them first, love them totally no matter what—then add in trying to get your point across, in a way that deepens your love for them.

The heart of all this is that our primary energy is love, and love supersedes all our other motivations, energies, loyalties and desires, including the desire to win out over our enemies. Jesus’ command to love always and only is the toughest of all, especially in situations of conflict, because we want to dilute our love with wanting to win or teach a lesson or get even, or divert our love entirely to protect ourselves and abandon the well-being of others. To love even our enemies requires the deepest continual self-examination, repentance and discipline.

Jesus asks us to love unconditionally. But, golly, we want to reserve at least a few conditions, don’t we? Jesus doesn’t give us room for that. So of course we fail. We fail miserably. We don’t always love our neighbor as ourselves; we don’t often love our enemies. Jesus’ escalation of the law seems overwhelming. “Be perfect, as God is perfect.” It’s too much! When we truly confront the serious requirement of the law, we feel like giving up. “Sorry, Jesus. I just can’t do that. Go find somebody else, somebody better then me to follow you. Sorry.”

When we really get honest and admit that sometimes I feel like that, that’s when Jesus comes. He comes and sits down next to me and says, “Hey. I love you.” “But I’m a miserable failure! I’m no good.” “I know. In fact, you’re worse than you think. But I love you.” And I begin to see how I expect Jesus to put conditions on his love, that since I’m a lousy disciple he must love me less. But he doesn’t buy that. He loves me unconditionally. And when I let that love flood into me, and fill me, it overflows. Then I see clearly: Of course I don’t have enough love. I don’t have any love at all. It’s all God’s love, flowing through me. It’s not mine. All I have to do is get myself out of the way and let God’s love flow through. Turns out I’m not the salt of the earth. I’m the saltshaker.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of all Creation, your beauty surrounds us.
All: We thank you.
Jesus, compassion of God, you reach out to the wounded and the abused.
We join you.
Holy Spirit, you give us love, wisdom and courage.
We open ourselves to your grace.
Shape us by your power as vessels of your mercy.


2.
Leader: God of love, we are not alone.
All: We are one with all Creation, and we thank you.
You come to us in our neighbors, with love and blessing.
We are one in Christ, and we praise you.
You live in us, and your love binds us together.
In your Spirit we are one, and we serve you with gladness;
we worship you with joy. Alleluia!


3.
Leader: God of Creation, we come in awe.
All: In wonder, we praise you.
Christ, our brother, our savior, we come in gratitude.
In joy, we thank you.
Holy Spirit, spirit of life, we come in humility.
In faith, we give ourselves to you.
Receive us, change our hearts, and give us in love to the world.
God of love, we are yours.
Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Beauty, you surround us.
All: Alleluia!
Love, you come to us.
Alleluia!
Wonder, you stir in us.
Alleluia!
God of light, we worship you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of grace and mercy, you call us to love. Our hearts swirl with many feelings; our hands tremble with many fears and desires. Receive all our emotions, calm our wandering minds, and settle us in your love. Shape us with the gentle hands of your grace as vessels of your mercy, in the name and spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
God of truth, we hear it said there are things we should do and ought to do. But we long to know what you want us to do. We long to listen to your voice alone, and hear your Word, to know your desire for us. Speak to us. Teach us your will, and lead us in the path of your love. Give us Jesus, to show us your ways, and we will follow. Amen.

3.
God of truth, we have heard your law, and we seek to be faithful. Our obedience falters; our understanding is weak. Speak to us and write your law on our hearts, that we might truly be faithful not in duty, but in love and joy. Amen.

4.
God of life, your love is the sun in our darkness. May the light of your love dawn upon us, flood our hearts, and make us holy. Show us your Way, and lead us in your path, and we will shine with your love, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

5.
Gentle and almighty God, the world is in turmoil and you call us to peace. The world is in conflict and you call us to love. The world is in pain, and you call us to healing. In the dark and chaos speak your Word of light. Our hearts are open. Fill us with your life. We pray in the Spirit of Christ. 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 been in harmony with you,
or with life, and we give thanks.
[silent prayer…]
We recall when we have been out of harmony, and we seek your grace.
[silent prayer…]
God of mercy, in Christ you have shown us your grace.
Forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
Silent prayer … the word of grace

Listening Prayer

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

As the roots of trees
gather water and food
so may our prayers sink deep into you,
O God of grace,
and fill us with your love.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
       In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, whose judgment is mercy, who created the light in all people, who looks upon us all with love.
       We follow Jesus, the Appointed One, who honored the sacred in all, even his enemies; who fed and healed, who taught the way of love, who sought to free the holy in each of us. He entered into the suffering of the world, and revealed God’s heart most clearly in his passion for our wholeness. For his resistance to injustice he was crucified; but he was raised from the dead.
       We live by the Holy Spirit, the love of God in us, empowering us with courage to love the world, to love through our anger and sorrow, to love at all costs, to do justice, and to work for the healing of the world in the name of Christ.

2.
Spirit of love, rise up pure in us like a spring of water.
Fire of love, burn in us brightly, a beacon of mercy.
Furnace of love, burn away all other energies but the energy of love.
Courage of love, help us face our enemies with compassion.
Gratefulness of love, help us be faithful in all relationships.
God of love, breathe in us with every breath.

3.
       God, our Heavenly Lover, we give ourselves to you—you who create all things, who love all things, who redeem all things.
       Christ, Compassion of God, Lover of our souls, we follow you. In love you healed and set people free, you fed the poor and raised up the downtrodden, and you taught us the way of love and nonviolence. Christ, you who died in love, whom God raised in love, you live among us still, and your love is the song in our hearts and the air we breathe. Your love is the judgment of the world, the measure of all things, and the salvation of our souls.
       Holy Spirit of love, you fill us and empower us to love all people in the name of Christ, to love our enemies and pray for those who oppose us, to join you in transforming the world by the power of love. As your Church, the Body of Christ, we devote ourselves to the Way of Compassion, the way of Christ; trusting in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, and the mystery of eternal life, for the sake of the healing of this world that you love so much. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the 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 love we thank you,
for in love you create us and claim us as your Beloved.
In love you confront all that oppresses us and all people,
and in love you set us free.

Though we reject your love for us, and for others,
still you are faithful.
So, with all Creation, we sing your praise:

             [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
       Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
       heaven and earth are full of your glory.
       Hosanna in the highest.
       Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
       Hosanna in the highest.

              [or alternate]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who loved beyond all boundaries,
who included the rejected and blessed the broken,
who invited all to his table of grace.

For his generosity of love he was opposed;
he was scorned and crucified.
But you raised him from the dead,
and still he invites us to the table he shares
with all your Beloved of every tribe and tradition.

     (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 in love, in holy self-giving,
in union with Christ’s self-giving,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:


            [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
       Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                   —or—
       Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
       Christ will come again in glory.
            [—or alternative]

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,
fearless in love, inclusive in generosity,
and courageous in the face of opposition,
for the sake of the wholeness of the human family,
in the name and the company of Jesus.

              [Spoken or sung]
       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

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us. / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. ) You have promised us grace, and you have been true to your word, showering us with your blessing. You have been faithful to us, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health. Send us now into the world, fed by your grace, trusting in your goodness, and radiant with your mercy, for the sake of the mending of the world, in the name and the company of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Light for the World       (Original song)
[A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season, using two or three verses per week. Throughout the season the congregation sings the chorus; each week the soloist’s verses relate to the day’s lectionary readings. Lyrics for this week:]

Congregation
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor:
Your Word, O God, is a light to our path; may we be steadfast and upright.
May we be faithful and reconciled, and true to our word.

When you belong to God you are light, no longer held in the dark night.
Live what is loving and true, my friends, as children of light.

When you belong to God you are light, no longer held in the dark night.
Live what is loving and true, my friends, as children of light.

Let your light shine in us, O God, to love even enemies humbly
Help us be perfectly loving, O God, as your love is perfect.


Eternal Life    (Original song)

This is how we will know eternal life:
we will love one another.
I lay down my life, all that is mine alone,
that we may be raised together.

We are not bound by any earthy thing
when our lives we surrender to God
whose love is eternal life,
and so we will love one another.


Fulfill Your Love In Me     (Original song)

Refrain:
Fulfill your love in me, O Loving Spirit,
fulfill your love in me, O Heart of Love.

Speak the name Beloved in my deepest soul.
Hold me in your heart, your gentle loving. (Refrain)

Heal me with your mercy and your tenderness.
Bring to life the grace in me to love you. (Refrain)

Give me grace to love my neighbor as myself,
freely, with the love with which you love me. (Refrain)


Love Only (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, may your deep love shine bright in my heart,
may it be always your love I impart.
In ease or conflict, your love be my stay,
as your Beloved, your love to convey.

When people scare me so I feel alone,
help me see they, too, have wounds of their own.
Help me surrender my sword and my shield,
love and love only by your grace to yield.

God, by your Spirit, fill me with your grace, to
love and to heal in each moment and place.
Love and love only, through conflict or strife,
sets us all free and gives healing and life.


O Christ, My Way   (Tune: The Water Is Wide/ Gift of Love)

O Christ, my truth, my life, my way,
I give my heart to you this day.
I give myself, yes all of me,
that where you are I too may be.

O Christ, my way, the path I take
is love alone, for your love’s sake.
O be my heart, my strength and nerve,
that I may love and bless and serve.

O Christ, my truth, in you I see
the God who dwells in you and me.
But God remains yet far above
until I live in humble love.

O Christ, my life, I give my heart,
for when in you I take my part
and share your love, your work and strife,
I share in full your risen life.


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.


Steadfast Love       (Tune: This Is My father’s World)

O God of faithful love, in every time and land,
the human race with tender grace you hold in gentle hands.
So may we love as well, with gracious tenderness:
the love you give we too will live, and thus our faith confess.

To those who cause us hurt, when anger calls our name,
we show the face of loving grace, for you treat us the same.
O God, you know our flaws, yet you forgive and heal;
and may we so, to friend and foe, your steadfast love reveal.

Optional concluding blessing verse for the end of the service:
Now go in peace, my friends, with God’s deep love in you,
God’s gentleness, God’s will to bless in all you say and do.
Go forth in Christ to serve, go forth, beloved friends,
still bound in prayer and loving care until we meet again.

4th Sunday after Epiphany

January 29, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Micah 6. 1-8. God has delivered us from slavery. What, then, shall we give God in return? Obedience to religious rules? No: what God wants is for us to do justice, to be kind, and to walk humbly with God.

Psalm 15 commends people who live justly and gently.

1 Corinthians 1. 18-31. The world values power and accomplishment; therefore the cross seems to be a sign of powerlessness and failure. Yet the cross is the sign of our salvation, because it reveals God’s grace that overcomes our sin and failure. God uses what is weak in the world to overcome what is strong. Our wisdom is foolish when we try to use it to figure out God and God’s grace.

Matthew 5. 1-12. The Beatitudes, delivered on a mountain like Moses’ commandments, are the core of Jesus’ teaching: trust in God’s grace to bring blessing and life out of what appears to the world’s eyes to be weakness, barrenness and failure. In this trust, we live lives that are radically gentle, compassionate and courageous, serving for the sake of peace and healing.

Preaching Thoughts

Both Micah and Jesus give us clear, concise images of the life to which God calls us. They involve both the inner and outer life: inwardly our trusting companionship with God bears fruit outwardly in love and justice. Both Micah and Jesus attend to a three-dimensional faith: to live in life-giving relationship with God, with other persons, and with society as a whole. Both of these passages are worth repeating in worship regularly. I encourage you to incorporate them just about as much as the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed.

Note that in the Beatitudes what makes for the blessings is not the circumstance, but God. The poor in spirit are blessed not because they’re poor in spirit, but because theirs is the Realm of God. It’s not that it’s better to be in mourning than to be happy, but that God comforts those who mourn. Our society seems no less convinced than Jesus’ culture that what happens to us is somehow God’s judgment: sickness is God’s punishment; riches are God’s rewards. Our way of thinking is profoundly structured by cause-and-effect, and rewards-and-punishment dynamics. If you work hard, then you will get ahead. If you displease God, then you will suffer. (How often has someone encountered difficulty and said, “What have I done to deserve this?”) So of course if you haven’t gotten ahead, or if you’re suffering, it must be your fault. God must be mad at you.

Notice how this way of thinking is shaped not by spiritual wisdom but by fear. We’re afraid of suffering, afraid of loss, afraid of being vulnerable or in need or not in power. Our emphasis on “how to get ahead,” and all the ways to manage that endeavor, are built on the assumption that we need to get ahead—because life without getting ahead is unbearable. But the wisdom of Jesus contradicts all this. It departs from what seems like common sense because it contradicts the basic assumption that getting ahead is necessary. Jesus says, No, getting ahead isn’t what matters. What matters is intimacy with God. Being happy, and avoiding pain, isn’t what matters. Having a shining reputation isn’t what matters. What matters is receiving and giving the grace of God. It’s as if Jesus lives in a whole different universe. Well, yes, he does. He calls it the Realm (“Kingdom”) of God. The beatitudes are the “law of the land” in the Empire of Grace.

The spirituality of the beatitudes is one of radical trust in grace. In what society generally views as unwelcome circumstances, God is present, offering abundant, life-giving grace. Out of emptiness God brings abundance, out of mourning, joy. It’s the spirituality of resurrection. This profound trust is the opposite of, and the antidote to, our sin, our inability to trust God. Jesus names those places we’re afraid to God and says, “God is there.” In poverty, in brokenness, in vulnerability, need, and persecution, God is present, offering blessing. Built on this trust, we can dare to be nonviolent (“meek”), we can dare to be peacemakers and endure persecution.

“Poor in spirit” may mean spiritually impoverished. It may mean having a spirit that does not cling to possessions, material or otherwise.It might mean solidarity with the economically poor. Maybe it means empty (free of preconceptions, judgments, attachments and demands), all of which means being receptive. It may mean not having it all figured out. It certainly. means being utterly dependent on God. Here is the profound irony of grace: Blessed are they who have no relationship with God, for God has a deep, rich relationship with them. The heart of the beatitudes is that our blessedness is not dependent on us, but on God—who is perfectly, totally, universally good, generous, merciful and loving.

Mourning may be for the death of a loved one, but Jesus engaged in a wider, deeper grief for the suffering of the world. He wept over Jerusalem. He invites us to let ourselves be heartbroken for the world, trusting God’s comfort.

“Meek” doesn’t mean timid. It means gentle and nonviolent. By the way this saying repeats Psalm 37.11.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness may mean to seek to be a faithful person. It also means to hunger and thirst for justice—not for one’s self but for the poor and oppressed.

The merciful aren’t merciful so that they receive mercy. They already know they’ll receive it, which gives them to courage to me merciful. Nor do they it because they’ve first practiced it. There’s no exchange. Mercy is a given. The challenge is to trust that. In a violent world it takes the greatest courage to be gentle; in a world were everyone’s trying to get ahead it takes courage to be merciful. Jesus assures us: the mercy is there. Trust it, and be merciful.

It’s not helpful to think of being pure in heart as being spiritually faultless. It means not so much to be perfect, but to have a heart of love, undiluted by fear or selfishness. To be completely present in the present moment, lovingly attentive. It is to see with “a whole eye”—to see the unity of all things (and the sacredness of all things), rather than with vision that is split and divided by dualistic judgments. (See what Jesus says later in the sermon on the Mount: “If your eye is whole, your whole body will be full of light” [Mt. 6.22] He doesn’t just mean healthy eyesight [though “whole” is usually translated as “healthy”]—he means complete, of a whole, and seeing the whole, the unity, the Holy Oneness.) Purity of heart means seeing things through the eye of love. When we see things that way—surprise!—we see God.

Peacemakers aren’t at all the same as “peacekeepers” in today’s militaristic world. To be a peacemaker doesn’t mean to enforce quiet or quell conflict. It means to repair relationships. It’s the hard work of confronting injustice, addressing wounds, seeking forgiveness and healing, and fostering reparation. It’s the long work of justice. Sometimes making peace begins in bringing conflict to the surface. When Jesus healed the bent over woman he brought peace to her life, but raised a ruckus in the synagogue. Peacemaking isn’t always quiet; it’s gentle but not submissive.

Most of the folks we preach to aren’t being persecuted by being fired, tortured, forced to flee, or executed. (Some in this world are.) We experience persecution more in the form of cultural hostility and belittlement. But it’s still hard to accept. Jesus reminds us that God’s good news is so contrary and even threatening to the world’s values that the world is always likely to resist it and those who bear it. Sometimes you know you’re doing good work by whose enemy list you’re on.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: When we hunger and thirst for God,
All: God satisfies us.
When we are weak or brokenhearted,
God comforts and heals us.
When we seek to be peacemakers and do justice, and despair of our smallness,
God empowers us.
God we thank you; we praise you; we worship you. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: Beauty is all around us, offered without cost.
All: What a gift! God, we praise you.
Love and healing are given to us, without regard or exception.
What a miracle! Jesus, we thank you.
Power is placed in us—not our own, but the power of grace.
What a wonder! Holy Spirit, we give ourselves to you in humility and service.
Speak your Word, that we may do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.


3.
Leader: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
All: We come to be filled.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
We long to see God.
Blessed are you. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.
O God of mystery, we open our hearts to your presence and your grace.
Bless us and all your creatures, that in our worship we glorify you
and become your light for the world. Amen.


4.
Leader: Beloved, this nis the good news:
The God of love brings light out of darkness, life out of death.
All: God fills us in our hunger and comforts us in our grief.
To us who are poor in spirit God gives grace abundantly.
God of love, we come to worship you, to receive your grace,
to learn to trust, and to become your peacemakers
in the name and Spirit of Christ. Alleluia!


5.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
We do not come to you with a wealth of spiritual power
We are poor in spirit, yet you bless us.
We come to you hungry and thirsty for righteousness.
We long for your love; and you fill us with your grace.
Have mercy on us, God, and hear our prayers.
Alleluia! Grant your peace to us and to all the world. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Who shall dwell in your tent, O God? Those who are compassionate and truthful, who do not judge or despise, those who keep their promises even at great cost. Speak your Word to us, God, that we may be among them in love and faith. Amen.

2.
Eternal God, Jesus went up on the mountain and spoke your Word. So we gather close, and listen, that we might hear, and receive the gift of life, and be changed. Speak to us, for we are listening. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we come to you poor in spirit. Fill us with the riches of your Word. We come to you hungry for justice. Give us hope and joy. We come to you powerless in this violent world. May we inherit the world of your grace. We come to you desiring to be your peacemakers. Bless us that we might receive your Spirit, and serve you in the name of Christ. Amen.

4.
Gracious God,
as seeds dead and buried come to life in the spring,
may our hearts come to life in your grace.
May the gentle rain of your comfort heal us in our grief.
May the warm sunrise of your gentleness fill us and flower in us.
May the river of your mercy flow through us.
Like a hawk riding the winds,
may your hunger for justice lift us and guide us.
May your grace enable us to see with the eyes of love alone.
May your peace give us courage to make peace in this broken world.
May your blessing give us courage to bear witness and to bless.
We pray in the name and the company of Christ,
who is always with us, and among us, and within us.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, we confess we are broken, and for that we mourn.
We are in need of grace.
We are brokenhearted, hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
We have not always been merciful, but we ask your mercy.
We are not whole by ourselves, but only in you.
Receive us with grace, heal our wounds
and forgive the sin that rises out of them.

.. Silent prayer … 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.
Loving God, we confess
that we have lived by our efforts instead of your grace,
in anxiety rather than trust;
and we confess those ways that, in our anxiety, we have acted hurtfully.
Through the gift of your Son Jesus Christ,
who lived and died that we may know your love,
redeem us from the hurts we have caused,
relieve us of our illusions,
forgive our sin,
and restore our deep trust in your grace alone. Amen.

.. Silent prayer … Word of grace

Poetry

The Beatitudes

These benedictions rise from certainty
born of bewilderment,
the confidence that life prevail
above its final falling— that life endures
not only death but even life,
its hunger and its mourning—
and arises from the giving of one’s life.
This blessing falls from lips
who’ve drunk of passion
and survived, and arises
from a heart that trusts the dark.
All wombs are dark and fragile things,
and breathing—falling, rising—sings
of life unknown by stones
and other unmoved things.
For stones in all their strength
can only sit or roll or fall;
but, daring to be tender,
life alone can rise and grow.
Blessing falls, like snow and rain,
like sunlight’s bright surprises;
but life itself starts dark and low;
and always life arises.

         — Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Listening Prayer

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

1.
God of love,
we are poor in spirit;
your grace alone is our prayer.
We do not know how to pray as we ought.
Pray in us,
that we may be merciful and pure in heart.

2.
God of infinite grace,
in our self-assurance give us the gift of poverty of spirit,
to be utterly dependent on you and your grace.
In our mourning hold us in your heart.
In our desire for power, help us be gentle.
In our hunger for justice, give us hope.
In our conflicts and judgments, help us be merciful.
In this world of greed, give us pure hearts, to see with love alone.
In this world of conflict, may we bring reconciliation.
In this polarized world give us humble courage
to stand for truth, to bear witness to your love,
to work for the healing of the world,
in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
Leader: Eternal God, by your blessing you created this world.
All: All things live by your blessing.
All things are filled with your blessing.
In their very being, all things praise you!
Crucified and risen Christ, in God’s grace
you gave yourself in love, even suffering death.
And in grace God raised you to life.
In you God brought life out of death,
and brought us out of slavery to our sin and fear.
We thank you, and we honor you!
Holy Spirit, by your grace you make all people beautiful, powerful, and holy.
Alleluia! We give ourselves to your grace.
We offer ourselves to die and rise.
God of blessing, transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


2.
       We believe in God, creator of all things, ruler of all that is and all that is to come; whose reign is one of grace, mystery and loveliness; and who is transforming the world into a realm of justice and mercy.
       We follow Jesus, who trusted God, who taught and healed, who died and rose, revealing God’s abundant grace. He reigns in love over all Creation, and sends disciples to embody God’s grace and to participate in the Reign of God in all that we do.
       We rely upon the unfailing grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the community of the church as the Body of Christ, the unity of all believers, the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection and the alluring blessing of eternal life.
       Therefore, by the grace of God, we devote ourselves to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God, in the name and the Spirit of Christ, for the glory of God and the transformation of the world. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, though we are poor in spirit we are rich in your grace.
Sharpen our hunger for justice, and give us trust.
Instill in us your perfect mercy.
Make us pure in heart, ready to see you every moment.
Send us into the world as your humble, gentle peacemakers,
prepared to mourn with those who struggle,
to endure persecution for the sake of the Good News,
and to rejoice at the coming of your Realm of Grace. Amen.

4.
Leader: People of God, what does the Holy One ask of you?
All: To do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God.
The good news is the Jesus has shown us the way of life:
To do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God.
God, by your grace we pray for your Spirit to guide and empower us—
to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God.

Eucharistic Prayer


Leader: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Realm of God.
All: We are poor beggars, O God. Feed us with your grace.

Blessed are the broken hearted, for God holds them close.
In this broken bread, hold us and comfort us.

Blessed are the gentle, for you give them all of Life.
Nourish us with Christ’s tender love, that we, too may be gentle.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for deeper love.
Satisfy us with your love; and deepen our hunger and thirst for you.

Blessed are they who are merciful, knowing you shower them with mercy.
We give thanks for your mercy, that we too may live lives of mercy.

Blessed are those who are pure in love, for they shall see God.
In this meal fill us with the love of Christ for all the world.

Blessed are those who bring reconciliation, for they are God’s beloved children.
In this meal we are one, all of us saints and sinners,
at peace with you and with one another.

Blessed are those whom the world scorns, for God is present with them.
Sharing this meal, we are one with the outcast of this world, as Jesus was an outcast.

—The Blessing and Covenant—

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 we may be the Body of Christ for the world.
Strengthen us with courage to bear witness to love and to work for justice,
to devote our lives to nonviolence and the mending of the world,
despite the world’s resistance, to be your saints in the name of Christ.

Amen.

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
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. Strengthen our hearts to trust your grace, to be your peacemakers, to do justice, practice kindness, and walk humbly with you, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us. / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) We entrust ourselves to your grace, surrender to your desire for us, and go forth as your light, for the sake of the healing of all Creation. Amen.

3.
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 to stand with those who suffer, to bless those who are mourning, to work for peace and justice, to endure hatred for the sake of your will, 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)

Light for the World      (Original song) – [weekly Epiphany “Theme song”]
[A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season, using two or three verses per week. Throughout the season the congregation sings the chorus; each week the soloist’s verses relate to the day’s lectionary readings. Lyrics for this week:]

Congregation
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor:
Jesus, the light of your love shines warm in the dark of our suffering and struggles.
Fill us, we pray, with the light of your grace, that we may shine for others.

God, by your grace make us pure in heart, to see by the light of your love alone.
May we be peacemakers, light for the world, and shine with your mercy.


Blessed          (Original song)
[Music for this song also includes Eucharistic Responses]

Dear God, receive me anew, mourning and poor in my soul,
hungry for what makes me whole.
Bless me by making me simple like you.
       Refrain: Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
       for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

Mercy please grant me anew. Make my heart pure by your grace,
humble, that I may see your face.
Bless me by making me gentle like you. Refrain

Courage please give me anew, peace in the world to make,
and to suffer for your Gospel’s sake.
Bless me by making me faithful to you. Refrain


Do Justice      (Original Song)
Do Justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.
Love, help us humbly live your justice, your love, your mercy.

3rd Sunday after Epiphany

January 22, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 9.1-4 celebrates the light of God’s liberating grace, which overwhelms the darkness of war, injustice and oppression.

Psalm 27 says, If God is my light, then I have nothing to fear. I seek to live close to God (“in the house of the Lord”), to pay attention to God’s presence (“to seek God’s face”) and to live according to God’s leading (“Teach me your way”).

In 1 Corinthians 1. 10-18 Paul responds to news of divisions in the church in Corinth with a plea for unity. Our unity does not come from anyone’s leadership, but from our life in Christ.

In Matthew 4.12-23 Jesus proclaims God’s power and presence in the world (“The realm of heaven has come near”). He calls disciples to follow him in proclaiming the good news and healing people. Jesus then goes about living out the good news he proclaims.

Preaching Thoughts

The great theme of the Epiphany season is the church’s calling to bear the light of Christ into the world. It is not our beliefs about that light, but the light itself in us, that unites us.

In the Isaiah reading the Epiphany theme of light shines forth. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Justice, liberation and the end of warfare is like dawn after a dark night. The Psalm reflects that light: “God is my light and my salvation.”

Matthew locates Jesus in Galilee, quoting the Isaiah passage, thereby placing Jesus in the prophetic tradition, and the work of justice and liberation. By establishing the prophetic context Matthew suggests that Jesus’ healings aren’t just individual favors: Jesus is healing the cosmos. The call to follow is a call to more than personal devotion: it’s a call to participate in that work.

It doesn’t really matter whether or not Simon, Andrew, James and John knew Jesus before he called them. What matters is that they left everything. What might we have to leave behind to really faithfully follow Jesus? What nets still entangle us, what loyalties keep us rooted to the spot?

What exactly does Jesus mean by “fishing for people?” Keep the question open. (Don’t get stuck on the literal image of “catching” people like helpless, unsuspecting fish.) It doesn’t necessarily mean capturing converts, which is a little manipulative, demeaning and oppressive. It can mean gathering people into the net of God’s grace. It can mean seeking the treasure that is other people. It can be about deepening relationships with others instead of seeking our own profit. It can mean being “bait” that attracts people to God.

Call to Worship

1. [ Isaiah 9.2-4]
Leader: The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
All: those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
        on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,
        you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
        as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,
        and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
        you have broken as on the day of Midian.
All the weapons of war and the wounds of war
        are done away with, burned as fuel for the fire.
Alleluia!


2.
Leader: Creator God, you are light in our darkness;
you are the morning rising in our night.
All: Your dawning touches our heart.
We turn to you.
We awaken.
Christ, light of the world, you call to us.
Your voice stirs in our hearts.
Our hopes catch fire.
We want to follow you.
Holy Spirit, you are the rising sun in us that brings us to new life.
Alleluia! May we shine with your light.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


3.
Leader: Those who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
All: for you have sent us Christ, who has broken oppression,
and overcome the forces of war.
You are our light and our salvation. Whom shall we fear?
May we dwell in your heart all our days,
and behold your beauty.
Teach us your ways, O God, and lead us in a path of love and wisdom.
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 give thanks that your Realm of grace is at hand.
Have mercy on us, and receive our prayers.
You alone rule all Creation, and we look to you for our salvation.
Grant your peace in this world, and bless those who seek you.
Christ gathers us in the net of his love, and makes us fishers of people.
Alleluia! Grant that we may follow Christ
and be transformed by the power of your Spirit. Alleluia!


Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of truth, you speak your Word, and we barely hear it beneath the rumble and clatter of our world. Tune the ears of our heart to your voice. Clear our minds to listen. Let us hear Jesus calling us, and answer, and follow, by the powerful grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

2.
Loving God, Jesus called the disciples and they followed. In scripture and reflection, in prayer, in song and in silence, help us to hear your voice, to lay aside all that entangles us, and to follow you. May we follow now in our worship and all our days, by the grace of your Spirit. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, you cast your net into the deep waters of our hearts. Draw us up, gather us into the net of your making, so that we will come to you and follow. Even now, silver fish deep in our hearts are rising toward the light. Help us to hear your voice. Help us to answer. Help us to follow you. Amen.

4.
God of love, Christ proclaimed that the realm of heaven has drawn near, and called us to repent. We give thanks for the realm of your grace, and turn from our self-centered lives in order to hear your good news. Bless us, that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear what you are saying to us today. Amen.

5.
God of love, our eyes are on the nets of our work.
Open them to receive your call.
Our hands are on the worn, familiar wood of the boats of our lives.
Open them to reach for you.
We are casting our nets into the riches of this world.
May we cast the nets of our hearts into the deep sea of your grace.
May all of our work, and all of our lives,
become one with your work of the healing of the world,
in the name and Spirit of Christ.

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.
Gentle God,
into the darkness of our hearts,
shine your light,
that we may see,
and that all that is not of life and blessing may be made new.
As the dawn transforms the night,
forgive our sin,
and make us new in the power of your grace. Amen.
(Silent prayer… the word of grace )

Listening Prayer

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

Loving Christ, unexpected,
you come into our lives
and ask us to follow.
We leave our nets,
let go of all that entangles,
surrender all our other loyalties,
and we come with you.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
         We believe in God, creator of all, who has fashioned each in God’s image, with God’s gifts, God’s love, God’s glory.
         We are called to follow Jesus, God’s love made flesh, who fed and healed, who taught and forgave, who called forth a community of freedom and justice. For his challenge to systems of injustice he was crucified; but he was raised from the dead, and still goes before us in life.
         We live by the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit, God’s loving presence leading, guiding, empowering us. We are called and gifted by the Spirit to join Jesus in lives of compassion, forgiveness, beauty, joy and justice. We commit ourselves to trust in God, to follow Jesus, and to listen to the Holy Spirit in all our lives, and to help one another to do so, as the Body of Christ. These things we profess with our words and our lives, with the help of the Spirit, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
       We give our hearts to you, God, Creator of all things, ruler of all things to come, our light and our life.
       We follow Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who taught and healed, who loved and blessed, who called disciples and proclaimed the Realm of your grace. He was crucified and buried, but you raised him to new life. He lives among us, and calls us still to follow as his apprentices in the ministry of the healing of the world.
      We live by the Holy Spirit, as the Body of Christ, your Church. We trust in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the presence of eternal life, and the communion of all people as one. We commit ourselves to follow Jesus in prayer, in faith, in love and in service, by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

3.
We believe in God, maker of all things. We follow Christ, who healed and taught and proclaimed the good news of your love. He was crucified, yet you raised him from death and he lives with us now, teaching us love. We believe in the power of love to change lives, to lead people to you, and to hold us together in a net of grace. We believe that we are called to serve Christ as fishers of people, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We believe in the power of forgiveness, the communion of saints, the reality of resurrection and the infinite promise of life. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction the body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presider(s) only.]

Leader:God is with you.
All: And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you, God, for this beautiful and amazing world.
Shoals of blessing shimmer just beyond what we see.
When our lives seem bleak or pointless,
you bring to the surface such abundant grace we are astonished.
Our minds can scarcely comprehend it. Our nets are near breaking.
So we fall to our knees, humbled and in awe.
But you lift us up and call us to lives of praise and service.
Therefore with gratitude and wonder we sing your praise:


            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who climbs into the boat of our lives and teaches us,
who directs us into deeper waters,
who multiplies blessing.
He calls us to join him in ministry to the world,
and promises to be with us always.


     (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, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]


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,

fishers of people, who behold the bounty of your grace,
and who cast the net of your love far and wide in this world
for the sake of all your Beloved.


      [Spoken or sung]
Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. Jesus goes before us and beckons us to follow. By your Spirit help us follow: help us live lives of love and courage, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
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 your disciples to join in your work of teaching and healing, and proclaiming the good news of your grace, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
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. By the power of your Spirit at work in us, may we be fishers of people, drawing them in to your heart, gathering them in the great network of love that is your church, blessing them with your grace. Send us in the power of your Spirit, and in the name and company of Christ. Amen

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have caught us up in the net of your grace, and you have called us to follow Christ. Give us faith and courage to follow. Guide us by your Spirit. Fill us with your love. Make us lovers of people, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Light for the World         (Original song) – [weekly Epiphany “Theme song”]
A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season, using two or three verses per week. Throughout the season the congregation sings the chorus; each week the soloist’s verses relate to the day’s lectionary readings. Lyrics for this week:

Congregation
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor:
The people in darkness have seen a great light. On them your glory has risen.
For you have broken oppression’s power. Your people rejoice!

You are my light, God, so who shall I fear? You shelter me, safe in your mercy.
Jesus, your call illumines my way, and so I will follow.


Calling Me(Original song)

Dear God, Creator eternally, you call everything to be.
How are you calling me, even now?
Who do you call me to be? Where is your image in me, calling me?

Jesus, lord of the fishermen, calling your children,
you call to me once again, even now.
What will you lead me to do? How can I witness to you, calling me, calling me?

Spirit, power of love in me, how do you set me free,
what gifts are you giving me, even now?
I am a vessel for you. Humbly I listen to you, calling me, calling me.


Drawing Me           (Original song)

Holy One, Mystery, how will you keep drawing me
nearer to the heart within the heart?
Nearer still, falling in, closer to the heart within,
draw me God. I fall into your love.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

Deep in me there’s a voice, there’s a hunger, there’s a choice,
seeking something vital that is you.
By your grace drawing me, may I fall eternally
nearer to my center deep in you.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.