OT 30 – 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

October 27, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Job 42. 1-6, 10-17, —Job’s response: “I have uttered what I did not understand. I repent.” Plus the added “Happily Ever After” ending.

Psalm 34 — I sought God, who answered me. Taste and see that God is good. God is near to the brokenhearted.

Hebrews 7. 23-28 — Jesus, the great high priest who has been made perfect.

Mark 10.46-52 — The healing of blind Bartimaeus.

[Bartimaeus cry to Jesus is the basis of the historic Jesus Prayer—“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”— slightly altered in these resources.]

Preaching Thoughts

Job
       Job asks God, Why do bad things happen to good people?” God replies, “Look at Creation. Do you understand it? No. Neither can you figure out an explanation for suffering But meanwhile, this Creation: amazing, isn’t it? And you’re part of it.” Hm. That’s sort of an answer but not entirely. It basically means (a) there is no “reason” for suffering, it just happens; (b) it’s not something you can understand anyway; and (c) life is more than your suffering. Cool, huh? And as partial as this answer is, Job accepts it. The ancient poem invites us to accept the randomness of life, including its suffering, and let go of the illusion that life ought to be fair. God does not balance things out, punishing evil and rewarding goodness. It’s not so neat. So don’t judge. Stop trying to make it make sense. Abandon your desire for explanations (and blame and credit) and just accept the present moment, without judgment, without dwelling on what you wish reality were like. Life is this, not something else. Be here now.
       Ironically, stewards of the Job story couldn’t live with that conclusion, so they contradicted the very point of the story and explained sufferingand made everything better. They came up with an explanation: Job suffered because God let Satan test him. And they balanced everything out: in the end Job got a new wife and kids and a better car and a second house at the lake and his team won the Super Bowl three years in a row! Baloney. I never read this part, or I would be too tempted to make fun of it.

Mark
       
Bartimaeus sits beside the Way. The Way is both a roadway and also a way of life, the way of discipleship. When Bartimaeus is transformed by his healing, he follows Jesus on the Way.
       A usual the people around Jesus try to protect him (or maybe themselves) from people in need. Jesus corrects them. Our churches can be like that, excluding (intentionally or not) the very people Jesus wants to connect with.
       Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants. Jesus is profoundly attentive, not making assumptions, not acting for the other, but letting the man make his own choices.


A Bartimaeus Meditation

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting beside the Way.
             What is the Way you are beside: something incomplete,
             something not yet happening? Offer it to God.

He began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet.
             What has silenced you?
             What has kept you from rushing headlong to God?

Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.”
             
Imagine Jesus calls you.
             Jesus wants you. Wants you near.

They called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
              
Recite these words to yourself.
Take heart; get up, your Love is calling you.

Throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
              
Your souls is not as timid as you:
casting your safety aside, leaping, unseeing, to the Beloved.

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
              
Let him ask you.
And again.

“My teacher, let me see again.”
              
What would you see?

Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.”
              Your crying out, your soul’s leaping,
your blind begging is holy.

Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

          What is the new Way you will follow on?

Pray this all day long without ceasing:
             “Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on me.
             “Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on me.”

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator of all, God, we open ourselves to the gift of all Creation.
       All: Jesus Christ, Beloved of God, have mercy on us, for we need you.
Loving Christ, we open our arms to your love and your healing.
       Jesus Christ, Beloved of God, have mercy on us, for we need you.
Holy Spirit, come fill us with your power and your grace.
       Jesus Christ, Beloved of God, have mercy on us, for we need you.
       We worship in gratitude, in trust and in joy. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Creator God, source of our being, we turn to you for life and breath.
       All: O Love, have mercy on us!
Crucified and Risen Christ, bearer of forgiveness and healing, we turn to you for grace.
       O Love, have mercy on us!
Holy Spirit, divine presence and energy within and among us,
we turn to you on behalf of one another and the whole hurting world.
       O Love, have mercy on us, and grant us your peace. Amen.


3.
We have sought God, who has answered us, and delivered us from all our fears.
       We poor souls cried out, and the Holy One heard us,
       and saved us from every trouble.
Those who trust God have no want;
       they who seek the Holy One lack no good thing.
Bless the Eternal One at all times; let God’s praise be continually in your mouths.
       Alleluia! Christ Jesus, son of God, have mercy on us. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: People of God, Christ has drawn near.
       All: Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on us!
What do you want him to do for you?
       We want to see again.
       We want to see with eyes of hope and faith,
       to see with eyes of love.
Your faith will make you well.
       We worship in faith and trust,
       in joy and gratitude.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Gracious God, like Bartimaeus we are blind to your ways and cannot see your grace. Open the eyes of our hearts, that we may see, and follow faithfully. Amen.

2.
Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on us. A voice in us cries out, wiser than our public politeness. A beggar in us knows we need you. Give us grace to stop and be still, and behold you face to face. Give us faith to ask, and to wait. Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on us. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, as the blind beggar came to Jesus with his prayer, we come to you. Open our eyes that we may see your presence. Open our ears that we may hear the deepest desires of our own hearts. And open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Beloved,
you stand still and ask us,
“What do you want?”
We are still as well,
and give time
for our beggar hearts to answer.

Reading

            Psalm 34.1-8 – A paraphrase

Beloved, my heart pours into yours,
        and every word I say is your praise.
You are the song, and I am your singing.
        You are the hope of a heart stripped bare.
Our lives are a love song to you;
        our love is your glory let loose.

I opened myself to you
        and you received me.
You came between me and my fear.
        I wonder, with grateful awareness:
        how you radiate in me!
Mindful of you,
        I am free from shame.

My smallest voice cried out
        and you heard from within.
In my deepest trouble
        you held me.
The arms of your presence enfold me;
        they make my world.

O Beloved, all that I taste or see
        is your goodness.
Living in you
        is deep joy.


Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view songs on the Music page.)

Christ Our Healer
(
Tune: Joyful, Joyful
Or: HOLY MANNA or Love Divine, All Loves Excelling)

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.



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.


I am Listening [ Original song]

Speak, for I am listening.
My heart is open.
Speak, for I am listening,
open to your word


Please, I Want to See Anew [Original song]
[A dialogue between soloist and congregation]

Jesus, your brother, your Savior, says,
“What do you want me to do for you?”

Please, I want to see anew.
Jesus, please give me sight.
I want to see with the eyes of love.
I want to walk in the light.

Help us to see by the light of your grace,
aware of your presence, awake to you.

 Heal all our blindness, the eyes we close;
Give us the courage to look with love.

Teach us the ways of your heart, O God.
Show us your path, the Way of Love.

Wake Us From Our Sleep (Original song)

God of mercy, wake us with your light.
Rouse our sleeping hearts and give us sight.
Raise us up from death; fill us with your breath.
Wake us from our sleep to live new lives in you.

Life comes only from the Word you give.
You alone have power to make us live.
Seeking what is True, Love, we turn to you:
springs of living water flow, and so we live.

Christ, you touch our hearts and heal our fear.
Even in our pain your grace is near.
Spirit, you who save, raise us from our grave.
Born again, dry bones who rise, we live in you.

Christ, light of the world, your radiance bright
wakens us to day out of our night:
shining in, it heals; shining out, reveals.
Help us all to live as children of the light.


OT 29 – 22nd Sunday After Pentecost

October 20, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Job 38. 1-7 — God’s response to Job.

Psalm 104 — The glory of Creation.

Hebrews 5.1-10 — Christ was appointed by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10. 35-45 — Whoever wishes to become great must be a servant. The Human One came not to be served but to serve.

Preaching Thoughts


Job
      
 Job asks, Why do bad things happen to good people? God answers: “I can’t tell you. Did you create the world? Do you understand the cosmos? No. Well, you can’t understand this, either.” To me God’s response to Job says three things. The first is that we’re confused by our belief that we can correctly judge “good” and “bad.” Do we have the wisdom to understand the world? Did we see the plans? Nope. We don’t have that insight. We can’t actually judge correctly any more than we can describe how to set the bounds of the sea. That’s above our pay grade. So stop trying to make sense of it. Just accept it.
       God’s answer also suggests that God doesn’t “make “good stuff happen to good people and bad stuff happen to bad people. Life doesn’t work like that. Stuff happens. Accept the randomness (and even unfairness) of life. Life isn’t supposed to be “fair.” But, oh. how hard it is for us to let go of that! How often do we cry to the heavens, “What have I done to serve this?!?” Our resistance to accepting the unfairness of undeserved misfortune is part and parcel of our resistance to accepting the gift of undeserved grace. There is no deserving. Here is only God’s presence, and God’s grace.
       Job has asked God to explain his suffering. Instead God invites Job to be mindful of the whole universe. God’s response goes way beyond the lectionary selection. God goes on for four whole chapters about Creation. We get a walking tour of the entire universe. Why? Because Job is part of that amazing wonder. Even in his suffering, he is part of a beautiful thing. God lifts him out of his individual experience and connects him with the shared experience of all living things, the whole world. It sounds a bit callous, but God essentially says, “Look at this amazing world. Isn’t it cool? And you’re going to complain? Your little existence is not the extent of your life. You are part of this whole thing. Expand your consciousness.” Now, that’s not a helpful things to say to someone in crisis. But the book of Job wasn’t meant for them. It was meant for us. Now. God is saying “Expand your consciousness now, so that when suffering comes you can greet it with the mindfulness of the entire universe, not just your one isolated little life. You are a single note in a great symphony. Hear the whole symphony.

Psalm
       See a paraphrase of a portion of Psalm 104 below.
       As well as celebrating Creation, the Psalm invites us into “Creation consciousness” in which we are aware of not only the grandeur but the sacredness of Creation, and attentive to God’s self-expression in it, and willing participants in it, responsible to it and cooperating with it. We are not separate from “Nature,” but part of it. We are integral parts of God’s ecosystem..


Hebrews
       
The book of Hebrews, as its name implies, is deeply rooted in the sacrificial practice of the Temple. In next week’s reading we’ll see Jesus as a sacrifice. Today we see Christ as a priest. The role of the priest was as an intermediary between the people and God. Though Hebrews was written before we invented the Trinity, the image of the Christ is not just a human office Sometimes we feel like crying out to God, “I know I screw up sometimes, but—God, you just don’t understand. You have no idea how hard it is to be human!” In Christ God says, “Oh, yes, I do.” I’ve beeb through the worst of it just like you—with you. Christ as high priest embodies both our belovedness before God and God’s mercy toward us.
       Jesus offered up prayers to the one who could save him from death and he was heard. That he was heard doesn’t mean he was saved from death—he clearly wasn’t—but simply that he was heard. God listened to him. God did not abandon him. God went through it with him. When we pray to God in difficulty, we often ask God to remove us from the difficulty. But what God does is companion us through the difficulty.
       He learned obedience through what he suffered. Contrary to the medieval theology apparent in places like Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” what’s saving about Jesus is not the physical blood he shed, nor the pain he endured (many people have suffered longer and more deeply than Jesus did); what’s saving is the grace he offers. Jesus’ suffering doesn’t mean suffering is good for us. What Hebrews is talking about isn’t physical pain but humble subservience. It’s the obedience described in today’s Gospel passage, or the self-emptying in Philippians 2.5-11. Jesus’ saving power is not the might of a warrior but the paradoxical power of powerlessness. His saving power is his vulnerability, what Paul repeatedly named as “Christ, and Christ crucified.”

Mark
       James and John sound insensitive and arrogant. But put this moment in context. Since the Transfiguration in chapter 9, Mark has been pointing us toward the cross. Today’s passage follows this scene (vv. 31-34), unfortunately omitted from the lectionary: “They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him.” The disciples are beginning to get that sinking feeling that Jesus is speaking literally, that people in power are going to stop him with deadly force—and they themselves will be in danger. They’re terrified. And how do they cope? They escape into fantasies of domination. “Grant us to sit beside you in glory.” They don’t sound arrogant; they sound scared. We all partake of that a little. When we’re suffering we think ahead to when it will all be better. Our innate desire for security, power and belonging escalates into desire for superiority. They are not unlike us. They speak for those who are afraid of losing our White American culture. They reflect our desire to come out on top. And Jesus disappoints them
       Jesus brings them back to earth, and to the present moment—and to their calling. He names the culture of dominance, of lording it over people, and specifically rejects it. “You must be slaves of all.” Jesus models downward mobility.
       James and John’s overconfident “We are able” will soon be proven false in the garden. (How odd that we sing a hymn of such self-confidence without irony!)
       “To give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is not speaking of his death as payment for our sins, but as self-giving that sets us free from the bondage of our fear and selfishness. In his self-giving he re-connects us with God’s love; in his vulnerability he redeems our own brokenness; in his forgiveness he restores our trust in God. In his willingness to suffer for our sake he saves us from believing we have to earn our salvation. He just gives it to us. And this he does, and can only do, from a position of humility, vulnerability and submission.
       And so he sets our calling before us: that we too should serve others, that we renounce domination and instead exercise the paradoxical power of powerlessness, the power that lifts others from beneath them. To follow Jesus is to follow him I downward mobility into radical letting go, deep trust, and humble service.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Eternal Creator, in the silence of galaxies
       All: your Word shines.
Loving Christ, in the voices of the hurting
       your Word cries out.
Holy Spirit, in the secrets of our own hearts
       your Word whispers.
       Give us faith to listen for your voice,
       and answer. Alleluia.

2.
Leader: Gracious One, you are our life.
       All: You are our Source, our security, our beauty.
Loving Christ, you are our healing.
       You are our courage, our healing, our hope.
Holy Spirit, you are our breath.
       You are our compassion, our generosity, our love.
       We worship you. Breathe new life in us, and set us free. Amen.


3.
Leader: Creator God, you hold all the universe in your loving hands.
       All: Eternal and almighty God, we praise you.
Gentle Christ, both human and divine, you chose the most humble path among us.
       Loving servant, we praise you.
Holy Spirit, you unfold your compassion within and among us.
       Present and life-giving Spirit, we welcome you into our hearts.
       In the name of Christ we worship you.


4.
Leader: Mighty God, Creator of the universe, you reign over all things,
and yet you stoop to help us, and humbly serve our needs.
       All: Radiant Christ, you who hold the worlds in your hands,
       you kneel to wash the feet of your betrayers,
       and humbly sit with the poor.
Eternal God, grant us your spirit of humble service.
       Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, open the windows of our hearts, that the light of your love may flow in. Open our ears, that we may hear your Word. Open our arms, to embrace your way. Open our hands, that we may serve you with strength and joy. Speak to us; we are listening. Amen.

2.
God of grace, your Christ comes among us not with power and dominion but in vulnerability and humble service. We do not look up to see Christ; we look down, and find our salvation there, kneeling at our feet, serving us in love. We thank you for your grace, and pray that you may fill us with your humble love, in the power of your spirit, in the presence of your Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Gentle God,
gracious God,
humble God,
we open our hearts to your grace,
serving us with love,
kneeling before us,
granting us your healing,
your mercy, your power.

Readings

            Psalm 104. 1, 24-35. – A paraphrase

O God, I bless you!
       May my soul be my blessing and thanks,
for you are infinitely good;
       you are the perfect heart of all things.

Your working unfolds richly with grace
       and layers upon layers of your poetry.
Earth abounds with your presence—
       all these living things, your creatures!

Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
       teeming with innumerable beings,
       small and great in the hidden waters.
Beneath our confident ships,
       deeper than our understanding,
swims a great secret creature whom you made,
       at home in the depths.

Your creatures live in faith,
       looking to you for their sustenance
       from moment to moment.
So simple, the way of life!:
       you provide, and they gather.
You open your hand
       and fill them with good things.
These “dumb creatures” who do not understand
       cannot imagine life without you.

When you withhold their breath,
       they are once again only dust.
You give of your Spirit,
       and create them anew with each breath.
In each breath of every creature
       you make a new Creation altogether.

This glory is eternal!
       God, may it give you joy,
you whose mere look trembles the earth,
       whose simple touch ignites mountains!

Let this awe fill me as long as I live.
       Let this song be the breath of my being.
May my mindfulness delight you
       as much as you delight me.

Let all that is sinful in me be consumed;
       let all my evil be no more,
so that all of me is a blessing to you,
       so that I may be your Alleluia!

Prayer of Confession

Loving God, we confess
we want to be safe, we want to be respected,
we want to feel good about ourselves,
we want to be in control,
more than we want to be faithful.
We confess our self-centeredness,
and surrender it to your grace.
Forgive us, open our hearts to your gift,
and strengthen us to follow Christ
in humble service.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
      We love a God who reigns over us not with force and manipulation but with the power of love, to lift us up and set us free.
      We follow Jesus, God’s Anointed, who shared the power of healing and forgiveness. He was crucified by the powers of domination, but he was raised by the power of love.
      We live by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to serve humbly, to bless and not to threaten, to create and not destroy. By that Spirit we seek to serve, to forgive, to heal, and to lift up those who are oppressed. By that Spirit alone, and not by any power of this world, we receive life that is eternal and joy that sustains us always. Alleluia!

2.
      We trust you and give our lives to you, God: Creator of all things and ruler of the universe, yet humbly serving, coming among us in Christ.
       We trust you and give our lives to you, Jesus, the Christ of God, the embodiment of God’s self-giving love. In your teaching and healing, in your reaching out to the outcast and rejected, you took the lowest place of service. Though divine you did not cling to that, but emptied yourself and came among us as a human, subservient even to death, even the shameful death of the cross. In such love we proclaim that you are our savior, our Lord and our model.
       We trust you and give our lives to you Holy Spirit of God, for you are the spirit of loving self-giving, who empowers us to serve, to forgive, to count all others as worthy of our love. By your grace we seek the lowest place of service, justice and hope, trusting in the mystery of resurrection and the gift of eternal life, given to us in the name of Christ. Our great and humble God, we give ourselves to you. Amen.
1.
      We love a God who reigns over us not with force and manipulation but with the power of love, to lift us up and set us free.
      We follow Jesus, God’s Anointed, who shared the power of healing and forgiveness. He was crucified by the powers of domination, but he was raised by the power of love.
      We live by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to serve humbly, to bless and not to threaten, to create and not destroy. By that Spirit we seek to serve, to forgive, to heal, and to lift up those who are oppressed. By that Spirit alone, and not by any power of this world, we receive life that is eternal and joy that sustains us always. Alleluia!

2.
      We trust you and give our lives to you, God: Creator of all things and ruler of the universe, yet humbly serving, coming among us in Christ.
       We trust you and give our lives to you, Jesus, the Christ of God, the embodiment of God’s self-giving love. In your teaching and healing, in your reaching out to the outcast and rejected, you took the lowest place of service. Though divine you did not cling to that, but emptied yourself and came among us as a human, subservient even to death, even the shameful death of the cross. In such love we proclaim that you are our savior, our Lord and our model.
       We trust you and give our lives to you Holy Spirit of God, for you are the spirit of loving self-giving, who empowers us to serve, to forgive, to count all others as worthy of our love. By your grace we seek the lowest place of service, justice and hope, trusting in the mystery of resurrection and the gift of eternal life, given to us in the name of Christ. Our great and humble God, we give ourselves to you. 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 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.


Holy One, we thank you, for though you are the Creator of the universe
and ruler of all that is, you humbly serve us.
All of life is your loving self-giving: in the gifts of Creation,
in the community of all who have sustained us,in your gentle forgiveness.
In this holy meal you enter into the fruits of the ground,the gifts of the earth,
taking your place in this cup and bread.
You come to us humble, in the form of our neighbors,
both those who care for us and those in need.
Here we are gathered, all of us, made one in the mystery of your self-giving.
Therefore 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 version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who poured himself out for us.
In healing and teaching and feeding the hungry,
in embracing lepers and defending the ostracized
he gave of himself to others in humble service.
He did not claim status or seek victory,
but sought the lowest place of service.
From a place of vulnerability he loved deeply,
embodying the power of powerlessness.
Though divine, Christ, in radical self-emptying,
came among us as a human, subservient to death,
even death on a cross.
But you raised him from the dead,
and we acclaim his as our savior, our Chief and our model.

     (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,
hat 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.
Trusting in your grace in the mystery of the power of powerlessness,
we seek to serve, and to lift up others.
As you humbly love us here, fill us with your love,
that we may count all as worthy of our love,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world, in the name of Christ.

     [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.]

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 poured your self out in self-giving in your Word, in this meal, in this community, and in your presence with and among us. Now send us, strengthened by your love, humility and courage, to serve and to honor others, knowing we will find you in the lowest places, loving, healing, serving, and giving life. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view songs on the Music page.)

At Your Feet

Jesus, at your feet I bow.
I am yours completely now.
By your mercy show me how
to be loving.

Jesus, Master, you who save,
you have served me as a slave.
This, the perfect gift you gave:
to be loving.

In each hurting one I meet
it is you, O Christ, I greet.
Make my faithfulness complete,
to be loving.


God, I Surrender

God, I surrender myself to you,
all that I have and all I do.
All my desires I give to you.
Take them from me and make me new.

God, I surrender myself to you,
all that I have and all I do.
Trusting you wholly I follow you
Take my life and make me new.


I Am Listening

Speak, for I am listening.
My heart is open.
Speak, for I am listening,
open to your word.


OT 28 – 21st Sunday after Pentecost

October 13, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Job 23. 1-9, 16-17 — Job despairs that in his suffering he can’t find God anywhere. He wishes he could vanish as completely as God seems to have.

Psalm 22 — My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Hebrews 4. 12-16 says that God’s Word is alive, and sees us in our deepest reality. Jesus, the “great high priest,” sympathizes because he knows our weakness and shares our human travails.

Mark 10.17-31 “Sell what you have and give to the poor.” … With humans salvation is impossible but with God all things are possible.

Preaching Thoughts

Job
       It sounds like the deepest despair from the trash pit of the world, but it’s really the way we all feel sometimes. God just isn’t there. We want to connect but there’s only silence. It can feel like punishment, like banishment, like anger. Or that there’s something wrong with us. But it’s not that God is avoiding us, or that we lack faith. It’s just that we can’t see God. Our senses are too weak. We expect to be able to “feel” God’s presence, but in fact we seldom do. The experience of being abandoned by God is a real part of our faith. We need not judge ourselves, that our faith is weak or inadequate if we feel this way. It’s normal! The essence of faith is not “feeling God,” but reaching out for God even when we can’t feel anything there at all.

Psalm
       
Here’s that cry of longing faith: “Why have you forsaken me?” Of course it’s spoken to God with the trust that God is actually listening. And, as happens in the laments, as the psalmist goes on we hear of God’s goodness… and it becomes a song of praise. But we have to go through the night to get to the dawn. We have to be honest about our spiritual loneliness before we discover our spiritual home. First we feel the longing, and only then the belonging.

Hebrews
       The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. God’s x-ray vision. There’s no hiding anything from God. Nothing is hidden. God sees us in our deepest reality. Sees us from the inside out. God not only separates out our good motives from our bad, God also understands where those bad motives come from, understands our wounds and fears, understands the burdens we bear in our hearts that make us stumble, lose our balance, crash into things and go astray. This is God’s judgment: not ferocious criticism, but compassionate understanding, even if sometimes what’s needed is surgery with that scalpel of the Word.
       Jesus, our great high priest, understands our weakness because he too has gone through the suffering we experience. So God’s judgment is always mercy. Always. Approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing you will receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Mark
        “Why do you call me good?” Jesus really doesn’t believe in judging people, even to the point that he’s unwilling to call himself good. We’re all just human. That’s all.
       “You lack one thing.” We can follow all the commandments and still fail to love God and neighbor. Righteousness isn’t a matter of following the rules but an open and generous heart.
       “Sell what you own..” The key to Jesus’ wisdom is to let go and trust. It’s at the heart of so much of his teaching: lose your life to find it… blessed are the poor… look at the lilies… take up your cross… forgive seven times seventy times… whatever you do to the least of these… it’s all rooted in letting go. Our main spiritual problem is our attachments: the things we think we can’t let go of. It’s addiction. We’re addicted to all sorts of things: possessions, comfort, control, reputation, security, belonging, power, happiness…. We’re even addicted to our religion and our ideas of God. We can’t allow ourselves to let go of them and allow God to show us something new. We need to follow AA’s Twelve Steps that lead us to let go, not necessarily of alcohol, but whatever we can’t let go of—to let it go anyway and trust God to offer us new life. It’s death and resurrection.
       Our clinging is what blocks us from drawing near to God. God can only be apprehended from a position of empty-handed openness and receptivity. It’s harder to get close to God while hanging on to anything else than it is to cram a camel through the eye of a sewing needle. (No, not merely a narrow gate; an actual sewing needle. Though Jesus does use exaggerations, this is not one of them.)
       “Then who can be saved?” Well, nobody. Nobody can do what they need to do to get saved, which is why they need to be rescued. For a drowning person to do what they need to do to be saved is what we call swimming. Actually being saved means being rescued exactly when they can’t do what they need to do to be saved. For us, it’s impossible; for God, it’s what God does.
       “We’ve left everything.” Peter is kind of raising the stakes. Jesus raises them further: “Before this is over you’ll leave even more of everything.” Not merely possession, but land, home, family.
       Note that in speaking of what we lose and then receive from God, “fathers” is included in what we let go of, but not what we receive. In the new world there’s no authority figure, no hierarchy. We have mothers, but we’re all siblings. In that way the last is first and the first last: we’re not on a ladder but in a circle.


Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Giver of Life, you fill us.
       All: We praise you.
Gift of Love, you save us.
       We thank you.
Power of grace, you bear us into new life,
       We serve you with joy. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Gracious One, you are our life.
       All: You are our Source, our security, our beauty.
Loving Christ, you are our healing.
       You are our courage, our healing, our hope.
Holy Spirit, you are our breath.
       You are our compassion, our generosity, our love.
       We worship you. Breathe new life in us, and set us free. Amen.

3.
Leader: God of life, you invite us and we come.
     All: Jesus, Beloved, you call to us and we draw near.
We release all we have been clinging to,
and open our hands to you.
     We release all and set at at your feet.
Our anxieties, our hopes, our possessions,
we lay in your hands.
     Do with them as you will,
     for the sake of the world.
We let them go. We are here.
     We are here. We are open.
     We worship you.


Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God we hear your call and we want to follow… and our fears and desires pull us back. Speak to us again, call us again, and stir our hearts to move. Let your spirit move in us, that we may become more fully the people you create us to be. Amen.

2.
God of mercy, we want to know what to do to inherit your love. Speak your truth to us, set us free, and bring us with you on the path of Life. We open our heart to your Word. Amen.

3.
Loving God, to enter the realm of your grace there is only one thing needed: to let go of everything and be present. So in your Spirit we relinquish everything we cling to; we let go of our concerns and fears, to be present with you, to listen for your voice, to receive your grace. With empty hands and open hearts we wait in your presence. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we seek many kinds of wealth, but your Word is all that will give us life and make our living rich. Be generous with your Word now, so that as the Scriptures are read and your good news is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today.

Listening Prayer

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

Loving God,
I give you all that I care about.
Letting go, I trust you.
With open hands,
I receive your grace.


Prayer of Confession / Devotion

1.
God, I confess all that I cling to,
all that stands between me and following Jesus.
I confess I need your grace;
all I have done, all I possess, is not sufficient,
but your grace is more than enough.
Help me release what I cling to,
give freely of al my gifts,
and follow you.

2.
Holy God, fountain of life,
my love, my deepest hope and only treasure:
strip me of all that I cling to but you,
that I may come to you empty handed.
I will be poor for you; I will be hungry for you.
I will bring you no riches, no wealth with which to buy your love.
I open to you the simple treasure chest of my heart.
I yield all to you, that I may be yours.
Make me your treasure, yours and none other’s.
In the name of Christ, who gave all, I pray. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         We give our hearts to you, God, Creator of all, giver of life, Source of all that is; whose love is faithful, whose grace is abundant, whose heart is generous with mercy.
         We follow Jesus, the Christ, the embodiment of God’s love, who taught and healed, who fed the hungry, who set us free from our fears and wants. He was crucified and died; but in the infinite generosity of your grace you raised him to life. He reigns among us, living proof of your steadfast love, calling us to faithful trust in you.
         We live by the Holy Spirit, your Word unfolding in us, that leads us to live lives of gratitude and trust, compassion, courage and generosity. We believe in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the gift of the community of the Body of Christ, and the mystery of eternal life. In gratitude to God, we commit ourselves to lives of abundant love, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ, who lives and reigns with the Creator and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[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 give us the gift of eternal life. In trust and gratitude we release all else, that open to your grace, we may love you and love our neighbor and hold nothing back. We pray in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.


Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view songs & hear excerpts on the Music page.)


All of the Gifts I Have (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

All of the gifts I have, all that is within me,
you give to me, O God, with care;
all of my prayers and skills, passions and energies
you grant to me to freely share.

Here are my hopes and dreams, attitudes and deepest loves,
all of the treasure to which I cling.
I will not hold them in, stilling my ardent song,
but serving you I’ll freely sing.

In all I keep or give, may I do my very best
in everything I say and do,
in harmony with you, only to love and bless,
with joy, to serve and honor you.

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.

Feast on Mercy (Original song)
[A dialogue between soloist and congregation]

Refrain: 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.

Cantor: Poor Christ, I confess: I cling to all I posses.
With grace, open my eyes to see the poor
who bear your image to my door. [Refrain]

My 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. [Refrain]

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. [Refrain]

Giving Heart (Tune: The Water is Wide- Gift of Love)

O God of grace, you set us free
and feed us all abundantly,
so help me trust the gifts you give,
with giving heart and hands to live.

Come, Spirit, come, and set me free
from all I cling to fearfully.
Come heal my heart, my fears relieve,
so I may give as I receive.

Your Bread of Life transforms us, Lord,
so we become your living Word.
Our lives no more are ours to hold,
but yours to share with all the world.


The Giving Song [Tune: DOVE OF PEACE (I Come with Joy)]

God, send me out into the world to share all I possess.
My generosity shall be the faith that I confess,
the faith that I confess

For you have given me such gifts, grace infinite and deep,
that I can only share them all. There’s nothing I will keep,
there’s nothing I will keep..

And let my giving change me, Lord, to make me more like you:
to let your blessing flow through me, creating me anew,
creating me anew.

My life will not be known by what I have, but how I share,
courageously, with trust in you, with love and joy and care,
with love and joy and care.

Set Me Free (To Love) (Original song)

From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
Set me free, Love, set me free.
Oh Love, set me free to love.

From what I fear, O Love set me free….
From what I cling to, Love, set me free…
To live in perfect love, set me free….

With Open Hands     
(Tune: The Water Is Wide / Gift of Love
or DEO GRACIAS, O Love, How Deep)

O Love, we come with open hands
for grace we do not understand.
We simply take, and we are blessed
that you receive us as your guest.

We open all our treasure stores
in gratitude that freely pours
from open hearts that you have healed,
so in our love, yours is revealed.

You open wide great heaven’s doors;
your love includes, heals and restores.
We share your feast, and we are called
with open arms to all the world.

OT 27 – 20th Sunday after Pentecost

October 6, 2024

World Communion Sunday

Lectionary Texts

Job 1.1, 2. 1-10 — The beginning of the story of Job: God & Satan’s “deal.”

Psalm 26 — Vindicate me… I walk I integrity.

Hebrews 1. 1-4; 2. 5-12 —As God spoke through prophets, now God has spoken in Jesus, the “pioneer of our faith.” We are under angels, who are under Christ (thought Christ was once made lower than angels).

Mark 10. 2-16 — Jesus teaches on divorce. … “Let the little children come… receive the Realm of God as a child.”

Preaching Thoughts

Communion
       It seems paradoxical to preach that in the Eucharist we are in communion with all Christians around the world when Communion itself is among the things that divide us. I usually insist on respecting multiple interpretations and traditions, but here’s a place where I’ll step out and say the traditional Roman Catholic teaching is just plain wrong. Jesus clearly shared food with everybody—sometimes 5000 at a time—including believers and unbelievers, clean and unclean, righteous and sinners, Jews and gentiles. It’s just plain wrong to insist that one must belong to a certain sect to partake of the Eucharist. I see no biblical warrant for it, and plentiful evidence to the contrary. Paul says, “All who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” This is often interpreted to mean you’re supposed to see the physical flesh of Jesus in the bread and wine. But in the context of everything Paul is talking about, that is, the church, I think he means discerning the body of Christ—the community, the whole. The bread, and the complete self-giving it symbolizes, lead us to be mindful of the whole human community Jesus died for, including people of every tradition, denomination, sect, religion, belief system or unbelief. I think central to Jesus’ and Paul’s gospel is the radical inclusiveness of God’s love and the profound oneness of the human family.
       Jesus does something radical in his sharing of meals. He clearly—blatantly, out loud and unmistakably—demolishes the exclusions, restrictions and taboos around table fellowship of both religious laws and cultural habits. What was the one charge they brought against him at his trial that was actually true? “He eats with sinners.” You betcha. That was his ministry. Calling all of us to one table. None are insiders, none are foreigners, none are deserving or undeserving. All are simply invited. Think of how many meals and stories about meals Jesus gives us. In most of them the meal includes outsiders. He eats with pharisees and tax collectors and prostitutes. He’s eating with Simon and in comes an outsider, whom he welcomes. With Zacchaeus Jesus himself is the outsider. At the Last Supper he includes Judas (in the place of honor!) In his parables, at the king’s wedding banquet the poor and excluded are invited. Jesus enacts the line from Psalm 23: “You have prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” And Jesus invites them in! This is the community Jesus intends to create around his table. We are all one.
       The great mystery is: when we receive the Body of Christ we become the Body of Christ. We ourselves become the one loaf he is offering us. We are part of one another. Paul speaks of the one Body in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. The eucharist is the symbol that we are indeed one body, part of one another, around the world. When we eat the bread it becomes part of our body. And we become part of one another’s bodies. We are drawn into spiritual quantum entanglement. We are one another. So we love our neighbors as ourselves, not just as much as we love ourselves, but as ourselves: as the rest of ourselves.
       Be mindful how you celebrate this feast. Be intentional about invitation and inclusion. I once attend a service in which “communion” was offered after the service: I had to fight the exiting traffic down the aisle to the railing where it was self-serve. Me and one other older woman who apparently didn’t appreciate my coming to kneel beside her. I didn’t “commune” with anybody. It was the loneliest communion I ever had. Absolute travesty. When our oldest son was about 2 or 3, we held him in our arms as we came forward to receive communion at a church that didn’t serve those who had not been confirmed. As we turned away he said, blessedly loud enough for all to hear, “Why didn’t I get any?” Good question. Of course some would argue he was too young to understand. I’d argue so are you. Who “understands” this mystery? It’s not a concept you understand. It’s a love you receive. It’s an inclusion you accept. (Our son did understand that!) I mean, you eat this bread—and there’s God in it! It’s not the pastor, it’s Jesus giving it to you! And you think you understand that? Ha.
       
So. Make your invitation clear, especially to people who may expect there to be restrictions. I offer it to anyone who wants it. Everyone has already been invited by Christ. I’m not going to interfere! There is no prerequisite but to be hungry—for God, for interaction, for forgiveness or acceptance, for feeling like you’re part of something, even just for a snack—it’s all the Spirit’s invitation to something sacred.

Job
       This passage is profoundly problematic for me. Not all scholars agree but I am convinced the original, ancient tale of Job consisted only of chapters 3 through 42.6. The God-made-a-bet beginning and the Happy Ending are later (unfortunate) additions. I believe this is true for two reasons. One is the form: this section is poetry, while the prologue in Chap. 1-2 and the epilogue in 42.7-17 is prose. They feel different. But the other is the very heart of the story.
       The story of Job addresses the age old question of why we suffer, and especially why bad things happen to good people. The assumption behind the question is that life is supposed to be fair: God rewards good people and punishes bad people. So why do good people suffer? Job’s three friends try to theologize around that by basically saying “Well, you must have deserved this somehow.” They argue from the old assumption of the fairness of life. Job doesn’t buy it… but still wants to know why he’s suffering. After patiently listening to his not-very-helpful friends, he loses all patience and cries out, “I want to argue with God but God’s not answering.” (Next week’s lectionary) And God responds! (The following week.) God says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”(38.2) And goes on to describe the vastness of Creation and how ignorant we are. And (three weeks from now) Job responds, “You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Sorry I asked.” Then comes the Happy Ending.
       God’s response says two things to me. One is, basically, “Shit happens. Do you think you can ferret out a reason for everything? It’s way too complicated. Besides, who says life is supposed to be fair? Are you so smart you know that? Where did you hear that when I was designing the world?” Some suffering is caused by injustice, and sometimes people bring suffering on themselves. But some of it just happens. Life isn’t actually fair, and isn’t supposed to be. It’s just not true that “everything happens for a reason.” Sometimes things just happen. God doesn’t reward goodness and punish evil. There isn’t always a “reason” bad things happen to good people. That’s not how it works. And if you humans think you can figure out a “system,” you’re deluding yourselves.
       But there’s more. God places Job’s suffering in the context of the whole, magnificent universe. Yes, you’re miserable, but you’re part of this glorious thing! Some parts of it hurt, but as a whole it’s pretty marvelous. Everything won’t work out well for every individual person, but as a whole it’s wonderful, and worth it. And you’re part of the whole wonderful Oneness of it all.
       And Job’s response is to accept the randomness of suffering. That’s the heart of the story: to accept the randomness of suffering. But I think at some point the stewards of the story couldn’t stand that conclusion, so they made up a prologue and epilogue that contradicted the whole point of the story by explaining Job’s suffering!… and then making everything all better again. As if either the cause (God making a bet??) or the outcome (happily ever after? Seriously?) is relevant to any actual human suffering. What about suffering that’s not caused by Satan having made a back room wager with God? What about suffering that doesn’t end so nicely? Besides, would anybody be OK if God destroyed their life and their family… and then they got another spouse and more kids as replacements? I think not. The story hangs together much better, and speaks to actual life, without the fairy tale beginning and ending.
       So. What to do with this passage. I just skip it. The following weeks speak louder and clearer without this part.

Psalm
       Well, this is a pretty self-righteous psalm, isn’t it? I think of it not as bragging to God, but maybe it’s along the lines of what Job may have thought: I’m not so bad as to deserve this suffering, am I? Or maybe it’s really more aspirational. I read it as “I want not to sit with the wicked… I want to walk in integrity…” Then the line “try me and test my heart and mind” is more of an honest plea for God to help me repent than a self-assured pronouncement of how good I am. But that takes some re-writing or explaining. (See a version below)

Hebrews
       Hebrews was written long before we invented the Holy Trinity, but the lines of thought here are pretty Trinitarian. “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but the title of an eternal, cosmic presence, an aspect of God, that Jesus embodies. That eternal Christ was there at the beginning, through whom God created the worlds. Christ is a self-expression of God, and sustains all things. Christ seated “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” is an image that lends itself to the Trinity.        Hebrews lays out a hierarchy of Christ above angels, who are above humans, and all things are subject to humans, though we can’t see it yet. We don’t have to buy the whole architecture to appreciate that God chooses to take a low place to raise us up. Christ saves us not in power and dominion but in powerlessness and vulnerability. Christ is the pioneer of our salvation, made perfect in suffering. As our pioneer, Christ leads us, and we follow, seeking the place that is low, powerless and vulnerable. This is model for Christian humility, not superiority.

Mark
       
Tread carefully in preaching on Jesus’ teachings about divorce. A strict prohibition against divorce isn’t life-giving. Jesus’ teaching is rooted in the Jewish laws and culture of the times, and doesn’t exactly translate into ours. In that culture marriage was a man’s prerogative, not a woman’s. (A man is allowed to divorce a woman, but not vice versa.) The wife was almost in the position of being the husband’s property. (According to the law, if a woman was raped it was her husband to whom reparations were to be paid.) And a single woman was at great financial risk. Given the legal status of the wife, Jesus’ teaching protects her from being used and cast into poverty. It also puts her on an equal footing with the man. They are one flesh. The woman is not subservient; she is an equal part and partner.
       This passage is sometimes used to justify heterosexism: “obviously marriage is between a man and a woman.” Again, this teaching is so embedded in Jewish culture and sexual regulations that it doesn’t translate into our world. It has no integrity to lift this one bit of sexual law out of the whole Hebrew canon without honoring the rest of it, too. We freely neglect commandments that regulate a woman’s period, the obligation of a man to marry his brother’s widow, the obligation for a rapist to marry his victim, and for that matter the taking of multiple wives. To take this one commandment as inviolable and ignore the others has no integrity or moral weight. Like animal sacrifices, the insistence that marriage can exist only between a man and woman is one that needs to be let go of.
       Let the little children come. Think of all the ways we prevent children from getting close to Jesus, including how we do worship. Think of all the ways we try to keep plenty of kinds of folks at a distance. It’s partly evident in how exclusive our worship can be. We’ve learned to make our sanctuaries handicap accessible, but how welcoming are we to to kids, or people with mental illness or on the spectrum, or the homeless? We keep people away from Jesus not only in our Sunday worship, but in our daily discipleship. We bring Jesus to the people we feel comfortable with, but not those outside that circle. For people to come to Jesus doesn’t necessitate their going to church; maybe they just need to get close to you. “Let them come to me.”
       Receive the realm of God as a child. What might this mean? Vulnerable… powerless… curious.. dependent… receptive… trusting… without status… playful… without preconceptions… still growing and learning… “beginner’s mind”… adaptable… as beloved as a mother’s infant, without cause or deserving, just given…. Maybe to enter the realm as a child is to be without history, without a record, without accomplishments and mistakes, just living, and accepted, in the moment.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator of all things,
       All: we praise!
Of earth and sky, the seas and stars, and all living beings,
       we praise!
Loving Mother and Father of all people, nations and races,
       we adore!
You whose arms hold Koreans and Bolivians, Rawandans and Inuit,
       we adore!
For Baptist and Orthodox, Methodist and Moravian, Congregational and Coptic,
       we give thanks!
With all your Beloved we gather at your table to feast with our siblings in Christ,
one in the Body of Christ, one in your love.
       We worship, we receive your grace, and we give of ourselves, for the sake of the world.
       Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Holy Parent, Give of Life,
       All: we are your children.
Christ, brother to all who are suffering,
        in you we are all siblings.
Holy Spirit, love that unites us,
       make us and all humanity your holy family.
       We thank you. We bless you. We worship you.

3.
Leader: Loving God, Infinite parent, you birth us and claim us.
All: We are in awe, and we praise you.
Gentle Christ, you love us and walk beside us.
We are made new, and we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you breathe your life into us and re-create us each moment.
We are your children, and we live in your love.
We are your beloved, and we worship you.


4.
Leader: Gentle God, we come to you as children.
All: We come as your little ones,
in need of your power and grace.
We come hungry for your love.
And you welcome us, not because of our past,
not for our deserving
but because we are your beloved children.
We come with all our siblings around the world.
Though we may squabble we are one at your table,
All our siblings are with us here in your love,
from every nation, every language, every culture.
Gather us, God, and make us one in your love,
one in the Body of Christ.
We worship you. We submit ourselves to you. Alleluia!

Prayer of the Day

1.
O, how we want to be equals to you, O God!— but we are not. You are the Creator; we are your creatures. You are the parent and we are the child. You are the One who Speaks, and we are your Word. Speak now, God, that we may hear your Word, and receive your Word, and become your Word in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, as Christ welcomed the little children, so you welcome us. We come to you not in pride of accomplishment, not in power and might, but in smallness and need. We are tender little ones in your presence. Forgive us for trying to be bigger than each other. Heal our fear and receive us into the lap of your gentle grace. Bless us as we listen to your scripture read and your good news proclaimed, that we may be renewed as your children, made in your image, faithful to you. Amen.

3.
Holy God, Infinite Love, Intimate Lover, Faithful One, we come from you. We rest in you. We listen for you. Open our hearts to your presence. Open our ears to your Word. Open our arms to your children. Open our future to your grace. Amen.

4.
Loving God, we gather here at your table with all our siblings in Christ around the world. In the mystery of your grace, they are all here. Though we have many different stories we are all one. We all live by the power of the one Spirit. We worship as one body. We are made as grains into one loaf. And with one voice, in glorious million-part harmony, we sing your praise. Bless us, that all our lives we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.

5.
Loving God, we give you thanks that you love all your children. There is no blessing you give to one people that you do not give to all people. There is no favor you grant to one that you withhold from any. On this World Communion Sunday we pray for all your people, all nations, all races, that we may all know your love and freedom, that we may all share your blessings, that we may all live in loving and grateful harmony, as your beloved children. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Mother God, hold us in your lap.
Receive our hearts;
tend our hurts, cherish our gifts,
embrace us in your love.
Feed us your grace.
Show us your way.
Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Gentle God, we are your children, yet we want to be independent of you. We are siblings yet we want to be superior to others. You offer us your love as a gift but we want to deserve it. We want to do things our way. We confess how deeply we need you. We open our hearts to you. With the grace we have seen in Christ, receive us, forgive us, heal us of our fears, and set us free, that we may receive your grace as beloved children.

Readings

1.
Psalm 26 – Paraphrase A

You are on my side, God.
       It is you who enables me to walk in integrity.
       Therefore I trust you absolutely.
Help me see myself, God,
       look with me in your knowing way into my heart and mind.
With your steadfast love right there before me
       I can walk faithfully behind you.

I won’t join the cynical ones;
       I don’t want to be judgmental.
I don’t want to participate in evil,
       or cooperate with injustice.
You wash me clean,
       and I approach you with humble trust.
Let my life be a song of thanksgiving,
       and all I do convey your love.

O God, I treasure your presence;
       I see your glory everywhere.
Don’t let me get carried away by my weaknesses,
       swept up in my attachments.
I know I’m capable of evil;
       I always seem to have some on hand.
Help me walk in integrity;
       save me by your strong grace.
Thanks to you, I stand on level ground!
       Let the whole world know I bless you!




2.
Psalm 26 – Paraphrase B


     Response

Bless my journey, O God,
for I have walked in faithfulness
     I have trusted in you without straying.
Trace my steps, O Lord,
and reveal the truth of my heart.
     I trust in your faithfulness;
     I walk in your path.

Response

I do not sit outside the circle, nor am I
among those who refuse to walk with you.
     I choose a different path than evildoing,
     and I will not depart from your ways.
I leave behind what separates me from you;
my life is a journey toward your heart.
     My life is a song of thanksgiving,
     a story of your wonderful love.

O God, your presence makes this place holy,
and makes wherever I am shine with your glory.
     Keep me from being swept away in the crowd
     and abandoning your ways,
     from filling my life with desires
     and my hands with things.

     Response

As for me, I will walk in integrity.
Redeem me and be gracious to me.
     My feet are on gentle ground.
     In the great circle of life I sing your praise.

     Response


          

3.
Psalm 26 – Paraphrase C

     Response
You are my only security, God.
     I find my safety in you.
You are my Holy One.
     There is no good in my life apart from you.
As for the noble ones, who are always accepted,
     whom even I admired,
they have secretly married sorrow,
     and chosen a path going nowhere.
I will not pay what they do for comfort,
     or speak as they do just to be admired. Response

Holy One, you are my present and my future.
     The estate I have inherited is you yourself!
Everything that befalls me has you in it,
     therefore all that is, is gift.
I bless you, for you give me mindfulness.
     you speak to my heart,
     even in shadowtimes, when I see nothing.
Holy One, I hold you always before me.
     Mindful of your presence, I find firm footing.
Response

Therefore my guts rejoice; my heartbeat is delight;
     my whole body rests in your grace.
I know you will not let me slip away.
     You will not abandon your Beloved to oblivion.
Show me the path of life.
     Your presence is a flowing fountain of joy.
     Your hand is a land of abundant delight.
Response


Poetry


           As a child

Little sparrow
crisp as nature’s card trick
finding banquet enough
among sand and gravel
I would live as truly as you.

Little spider
doddle in nature’s margin
deft cartographer
hanging your art
and waiting
I would know as much as you.

Little bee of joy
flying pun
nosing the erotic flower
I would live as generously as you.

Little worm
good humor of the dirt
waving nodding left and right
then going left
renewing the soil
I would live as peaceably as you.

Little frog
surprise of a dead leaf leaping
your one ballet move
then still
I would live as you
in the hand of God.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
We love you, God, infinite creator of all that is, and we rejoice that we are your children. We come from you; we are born of your love. You create us as living images of you and your grace.
We follow you, Jesus, Christ of God, Word made flesh, love made real. You healed and taught. You welcomed and blessed all God’s children. You included all people as siblings. You included the outcast, the wounded, the children. For your love and courage you were crucified; but in love God raised you from the dead. You live among us, calling, guiding, blessing.
Holy Spirit, we live by your grace. Born of God, adopted by God, blessed by God, we live by your life and power in us. You lead us to live lives of love and courage, to bless all our siblings, to live together as children of God in harmony and joy,
We give thanks to you, O God, and promise to live as children of your love. 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.]

1.


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.

Creator God, you have made the whole universe
from a single batch of dough,
and all humanity from one lump of dust,
breathing your one Spirit into us in our many forms,
many colors, many languages.
You continually create us as one, set us free from our divisions,
and walk with us into new life that is not like our captivity.
And so we celebrate with this Bread of Liberation, Bread of Unity.
       As many grains are made into one loaf,
       you make us into one Body in Christ.

We thank you for Jesus, who embodied your loving presence
and called us to our natural unity,
bringing back the outcast, restoring the forgotten.
For challenging our proud divisions
he was crucified by the forces of separation,
but he was raised by the power of unity and oneness, the power of love.
       In his life, death and resurrection we behold your grace,
       and we give thanks.

                     [The Blessing and Covenant…] *

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as 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:
       Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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 for the world the Body of Christ,
       one in your love, one with each other, one in Christ,
       and one in ministry to all the world
       by the power of your Spirit alive in us. Amen.
                                   


2.
The Holy One be with you.
       And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
       We lift them up to our God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One our God.
       It is good to give God thanks and praise.

It is our delight to give you our thanks,
for we are born from you, and we bear your loving image.
       We and all living beings are your beloved children.
       You make a Covenant with us, drawing us into your holy family.
       You judge the forces of oppression that divide us, and set us free.
       You walk with us as refugees to a new life you create for us.
       Even though we wander from our home in you,
       you give us Jesus, who like a mother calling her children home,
       invites us back to your table.
       And so we come, singing your praise with all Creation.

[Sung, to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me”]
Holy, holy, holy Lord, source of life and love adored,
Heav’n and earth are radiant with your glory, heaven sent.
Praise God! Hosanna! Praise in the highest.
Blest is the one__ who comes__ in your name.

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
       With humility he comes among us as a child;
       with a call to justice invites us to welcome the children;
       with healing he makes us one family;
       with love he blesses the child within each of us.
With so many of the children of this world, vulnerable and neglected,
he suffered our violence and injustice.        He was crucified, but you raised him from the dead.

[The blessing and Covenant] *

We thank you for your life-giving acts in Jesus Christ.
       Therefore with praise and thanksgiving we offer ourselves
       as a living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
       as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

[sung]
Dying Christ destroyed our death. Rising Christ restores our life.
Christ will come again in love, With the Spirit, rising Dove.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Christ, dead and risen, lives!

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of food,
that they may be for the hungry the body of your love.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of read 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,
       children of God, who reach out with your love
       to our whole human family.
All glory and honor is yours, loving God, now and forever.
       Amen.

[sung]
As a Mother gathers in all her children, makes them kin,
you unite us in this meal, in the love that you reveal.
Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, Jesus loves us.
Yes, Jesus loves us: this table tells us so.

                         ______________________

* 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.
You cherish us as your beloved children. You are gentle and tender with what is fragile in us. You have fed us with your love. Send us in love for all your children, as gentle and loving as you, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
…In the love of Christ you make us all one, all who love you, all around the world. Not by our own doing but by your grace, we are one Body. We thank you. Feasting on your one Spirit, fed by your one love, we go as one people, to love and to serve, humbly as children in this world, for the sake of the restoration of our wholeness, to your glory, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view songs on the Music page.)

Child of God (Original song)

I’m a child, a child of God,
God’s beloved in whom God is pleased.
I will live in the peace of God.

You’re a child…

Children of the Heavenly Mother (Tune: Children of the Heavenly Father)

Children of the Heavenly Mother,
gather gladly with each other,
for you call us to your table
bringing gifts as we are able.

You have held us and caressed us,
washed and taught us, healed and blessed us;
now you cherish and adore us
and you set this table for us.*

You have birthed us, and have freed us;
with your body now you feed us.
In this grace, O loving mother,
we are one with one another.

So we praise you, heavenly Mother,
Holy Spirit, Christ our brother,
All Creation sings together
honor, thanks and praise for ever.

* Without communion: “and you set our lives before us.”


Family (Tune: Children of the Heavenly Father)

Children of one loving Mother,
we are each a sister, brother.
In your image, God, you mold us;
in one family, Love, you hold us.

Though we strive with one another,
hurt our sister or our brother,
in our struggles and our wronging
still is blessing and belonging.

We are not alone, but rather,
God, you grant us grace together.
May we learn to love the Other
as our sister-self or brother.

As one family, God, you gather
all your children here together.
Help us shed all walls and labels:
bring us home, Love, to your table.


Jesus, Come Speak to Us [Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus]

God, you have gathered us, hungry for the Bread of Life,
thirsty for waters of flowing grace.
Our broken hearts are yours, open and waiting.
We want to meet you face to face.

Jesus, come speak to us. Sit beside the way with us.
Draw from the well and refresh our souls.
Shine light into our hearts, heal hidden wounds within,
call forth our gifts and make us whole.

Spirit, our Breath of Life, fill us with your grace and truth.
Make us your vessels of love and light.
Flow like a river, welling up within us
with waters of eternal life.


O Faithful God [Tune: Finlandia]

O faithful God, whose steadfast love is sure,
O Loving Father, Mother kind and strong:
your Covenant forever will endure;
you bind us to your heart our whole life long.
No matter how rebellious is your child,
in you we are brought home and reconciled

You hold us, God, in kinship with each other.
We have been loved and held when we would run.
We all are siblings, all born of one Mother;
though we would flee, you join us all as one.
Our deepest wounds come from our deepest love,
and so our highest hope for life above

So teach us God, to bravely love each other,
for all belong within your house of grace,
to give our enemy, who is our brother,
our steadfast mercy, and a wide embrace;
for in our love, though we be right or wrong,
we know the grace to which we all belong.


We Welcome the Child [Original song]

We welcome the child among us.
We welcome the tender ones.
In our embrace we meet your grace,
your gentle love divine.

Welcome to those who are fragile,
a safe healing place to belong,
a shelter from harm, a comforting arm,
a refuge where you may grow strong.

Welcome the child within us,
the small, timid voice in the night,
her wonder and fear at the world so near,
the child of your love and delight.

God, you are a child among us,
no power or might or control.
By your gentle part you soften my heart
and make me a more loving soul.

Your Holy Feast (Tune: “Londonderry Air,” Oh Danny Boy)

Oh healing Christ, you bring us to your table here,
to share with you, and all the ones you love.
We come as one, alike forgiven, healed and dear.
Oh come and bless us, Spirit, tender Dove.
Oh, make us yours, your servants and your lovers.
Oh, make us one, united here in you.
Oh, make us new: the Red Sea lead us over,
and set us free to walk in harmony with you.

Oh, Christ, you come, forgiving, risen from the dead,
in gracious love, that far outlives the grave.
You offer us your life in this, your humble bread,
and in this wine, your love poured out to save.
So fill us with your peace and make us one again.
Oh, fill us with your gentle, freeing love.
Oh risen Christ, draw us into your rising here,
and fill us with your light now dawning from above.

We come to eat the bread of peace you offer us.
We come to drink your resurrecting wine.
We come to feast upon your presence here with us,
and so become your Body as we dine.
So make us whole again, and be our living breath.
Make us your hands, and you will be our nerve.
Oh, risen Christ, we join you, rising up from death,
and by your side we’ll go, made new, to love and serve.



OT 26 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

September 29, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Esther 7.1-6, 9-10; 8.3-8, 17 — Esther exposes Haman and his plot, and he is hanged on the gallows he had prepared to use to kill Mordecai.

Psalm 124 — God’s saving power has helped us escape our enemy.

James 5. 13-20 — Pray for one another. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Mark 9.38-50 — An exorcist who is not one of Jesus’ followers. … If your hand causes you to stumble cut it off.

Preaching Thoughts

Esther
       Esther is another of those uppity women who saves her people through intelligence, grit, compassion, and courage. The book of Esther is the only one in the Bible that never mentions God. I imagine it was included in the canon because it’s about the survival of the Jewish people. But it’s also about how God, though human agency, works against oppression and genocide.

Psalm
       The psalm is a fitting response to the story of the rescue of the Jews from Haman’s scheme. But more broadly it celebrates God saving us from any kind of destructive forces. As with all the Psalms, the “enemy” may be a political, social or economic force oppressing a group of people… or it may be one of our own inner enemies of resentment, greed, fear, or whatever. If it weren’t for God, the flood of my anger would have swept me away…

James
       James invites us to be a community of honesty, prayer and healing. I find problematic the image of a God who intervenes at the prompting of prayer—obviously intervening sometimes but not all the time. The power of prayer may not be in its magic ability to make things happen, like curing a disease; it might be in its power to unite us in love, to bring our hearts into harmony. I believe prayer resonates with God, with the loving energy field of all Creation and, as in music, creates harmonics—new wavelengths of sound that weren’t there before. Which makes things happen. As is often said, prayer doesn’t change God; it changes us.

Mark
       
“Whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus is up against our innate tribalism and our deep instinct to “otherize” people. (Yeah, he says the opposite in Mt. 12.30 / Lk. 11.23. But for now let’s stick with this.) Jesus is not interested in which group the man belongs to, but the ministry that he is doing. I think Jesus wants the healing of everybody more than the ascendancy of any group, including his own followers. Our ego often get snagged on criticizing others as an escape from seeing to our own work—and confessing our own sin. Sometimes we Christians are guilty of prideful entitlement, superiority and self-centeredness that we just need to grow out of. So many ways Jesus wants us to get over ourselves!
       If your eye causes you to sin, poke it out. Here’s a bit the literalists have a hard time with. Clearly Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation, but self-awareness and the process of getting at the roots of our sin. If your fear causes you to sin or your racism, or your attachment to possessions…. What causes you to sin, to set yourself against others, to otherize people who are different from you?
       “Everyone will be salted with fire.” It can sound like hell, but maybe it means we’ll be suffused with God’s purifying, saving, life-giving grace. Pentecost is all about being salted with fire.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God,
            All: you are enough.
Loving Christ,
            we need no other.
Breath of Life,
            you satisfy us. We rest in you.
            We worship you with praise and gratitude. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: Eternal God, you are present.
           All: Loving presence, we open ourselves to you.
Gracious Mystery, you enfold us.
           Faithful Mercy, you dwell in us.
Creator of the universe, create anew in us.
           Create each moment, a new gift.
Create new life for us to live.
           Create your realm among us.
           Alleluia! Spirit of Life, create us anew by your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Friends, are any of you suffering?
All: If so we will pray!
Are any cheerful?
If so let us sing praises!
If any are in trouble God will raise them up;
and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
So we confess our sins to each other,
accept the grace of forgiveness,
and commit ourselves as a reconciled community
.
Then let the praying and singing begin!
Let the healing and forgiveness pour forth!
God, we worship you in gratitude, in humility, in hope!

Prayer of the Day

1.
Gracious God, we do not know how to pray as we ought. But you pray in us, with sighs too deep for words. With all our prayers we come to you, to listen for your Word, to hear your healing voice, to follow your gracious leading, and to live by the power of your mercy and grace in us. Speak to us Lord for we are listening. Amen.

2.
Loving God, Holy Mystery, Power of healing and forgiveness, we ope our hearts to you. Whatever distracts us from loving you, help us put it aside. Whatever in inhibits us from loving our neighbors, help us let go of it. Whatever causes us to stumble, we offer it up to you. Give us what we need to live without it, or live through it. God of wholeness, bless us. Amen.

3.
Eternal One, purge us of our attachments.
Salt us with your fire.
Heal our fears.
Salt us with your fire.
Work your mysterious grace at the root of our sins.
Salt us with your fire.
Fill us with prayer and thanksgiving,
and beautiful songs of praise.
Salt us with your fire. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Holy One,
you are the breathing that breathes us;
you are the heartbeat that moves us.
In the stillness we are still,
and you move within us.
We attend.

Prayer of Confession

1.
God of mercy, we confess
our hands, our feet, our eyes cause us to stumble.
Hidden forces work at the roots of our sin.
Bring them to light, God,
and cover them with your mercy.
Reveal what we must let go of,
what harmful things we must cut off,
what we can live without.
Heal our wounds,
forgive our sin,
and renew in us your perfect love.

2.
God, we wish to be faithful,
but we confess the temptations that mislead us.
Help us to see the desires that shackle us…
the fears that stop us…
the inadequacy that haunts us…
the appetites and attachments that mire us…
help us to see them and to trust
that you set us free from them.
Help us let go of them,
that we may truly be salted by your grace.
God of grace, you set us free.
Help us let go.

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 relieve us of all that diminishes our love. Send us into the world, cleansed of all that oppresses, with perfect love for you and our neighbor, in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
… With the compassion of Esther may we serve people who are at risk. With the wisdom of Esther may we see the power of our gifts. With the courage of Esther may we risk for the sake of justice. By your Spirit, God, help us accept the power you give us to resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they may present themselves, in the name and the company of Christ. Amen.


Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view songs on the Music page.)

God, Be Merciful to Me (Original song)
[May be used as a repeating chant.]

God, be merciful to me.
With empty hands and open,
I turn to you for mercy.



God of Mercy (Original song)

God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.

God, heal my sin, brokenness deep within.
Too often I bear pain I make others share.
Set me free from what I have been.

God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.

You are gentle with me; gentle I learn to be.
You touch me and heal; deep in my soul I feel
burdens gone, and I am free.

God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.
By your grace I shall live.

[Note: The last line, “By your grace I shall live” may be used as a repeating chant.]


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.


God, You Have Searched Me
  (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, you have searched me; you know from within
all of my beauty, my wounds and my sin.
Deep in my heart—I’ve not spoken a word—
you know my soul, and my thoughts you have heard.

You who have made me and always are near,
help me to shed my illusion and fear.
Help me be truthful, and truthfully see,
humbly transparent to your grace in me.

Your loving presence within me each day
go with me, guide me, and show me your way.
Give me the eyes of your mercy and grace,
to walk in love in each moment, each place.



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.
Refrain: 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.
Refrain

God, we hold you in our care;
We receive you now in prayer.
Let us listen; let us tend.
Rest here, welcome, holy friend.
Refrain

Return, My Soul (Tune: Finlandia)

Return, my soul, from all your hungry wandering,
your fearful search for comfort and control.
Let go my grasp of things apart from God,
for God alone can heal and hold my soul.
Return to God, for God alone will love me,
and give me life, and bless and make me whole.

Return, my soul, from all the things that dull me,
that soothe my sense, but leave my sin in place.
My broken heart, return from tricks and bargains;
turn to the One who meets me face to face.
Return to God. Each moment turn again;
receive unending love and life and grace.

I turn, O God, to you who love with patience.
You walk beside me, though I cannot see.
You are my life in dry and weary deserts,
my spring of life that flows eternally.I
turn to you, from false desire and grasping,
and letting go, I find that you hold me.


Set Me Free (To Love)
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
Set me free, Love, set me free.
Oh Love, set me free to love.


From what I fear, O Love set me free….
From what I cling to, Love, set me free…
To live in perfect love, set me free….


Your Will Be Done
(Original song)

Father, take my willfulness.
I surrender it to you grace alone.
Mother, be my willingness.
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Jesus, take my brokenness.
I surrender it to you grace alone.
Jesus, heal my brokenness.
I can only ask: Your will be done.

Spirit, take my empty hands.
I surrender them to you grace alone.
Spirit, with my empty hands
I can only ask: Your will be done.

OT 24 (PE+15)

September 12, 2021

Lectionary Texts


Proverbs 1.20-33 Sophia, the Wisdom of God, calls out to us to listen to her and avoid the tragic perplexity of those who ignore God.

Psalm 19: all Creation is an expression of God’s glory. It doesn’t use words, but it speaks of God’s truth, or “law.” Attending to God’s Word is more important than anything. It’s hard to see our own failings, so we rely on God’s wisdom.

James 3.1-12 speaks of the difficulty, and importance, of taming the tongue, speaking only what is true and loving.

In Mark 8. 27-38 Jesus asks the disciples “Who do you say I am?” To Peter’s answer that he is the Messiah, Jesus says not to tell anyone that. Contradicting the popular expectation of a messiah, he says he will be rejected and die, yet rise again. Peter objects, but Jesus reprimands him, and teaches the crowd that if you lose your life for the sake of love, you will gain it.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Jesus, we come to you in need.
All: We reach out in brokenness, and you heal us.
We stay with you in love.
You are the fountain of life, and you give us your spirit.
We follow you in service.
In gratitude we offer ourselves in openness and anticipation,
that you will shape us by your Word and send us in your love.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, come. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: God of life, we praise you!
All: God of all Creation, we are in wonder!
Mother of all people, Father of the poor, all humanity is your praise.
In the Spirit of Christ, who calls us, we honor you.
In the name of all who love you, we thank you.
In the company of all who all who long for life, we worship you.
Your Christ calls us to life, calls us to compassion, calls us to follow.
Alleluia! Rise in us, Spirit of Life, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: The heavens are telling the glory of God!
All: The law of God is perfect, reviving the soul.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
We come, O Christ, to lay down our lives,
to take up our cross, and to follow you.
Lead us, Lord, to abundant life.
May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts
be delightful to you, O giver of Life. Alleluia!


4. [Psalm 19.1-6]
Leader: The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
All: Day to day pours forth truth;
night to night reveals wisdom.

There is no speech, nor are there words;
no voice is heard.
Yet their truth goes out through all the earth,
and their message to the end of the world.

In the heavens God has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and nothing is hid from its heat.
We join all creation in praising God!
We join in harmony to worship our God!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Spirit of mercy, though you are infinite, you come to us, embodied, near, and intimate. We thank you for the presence of Jesus; he is a mystery to us, and yet we love him. Open our hearts so we may behold him among us: teaching, healing, loving, setting us free. We pray in the grace and power of your Spirit. Amen.

2.
God of all life, God of new life,
let your wakening Word come to us like morning
and call us up out of our little selves
to become your people, great with love.
Call us, revive us, and make us new,
in the grace of Christ. Amen.

3.
God, you have given us the world, but it will not profit us to gain the world but lose our life. There is nothing we can give in exchange for life. Therefore we come to you, to hear your Word, to be changed into the likeness of Christ, so that we make truly take up our cross and follow Jesus. We pray in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, you reveal yourself to us in word and silence, in clarity and mystery, in the song of our souls and the work of our hearts. Source of all compassion, you call us to receive your love, and to become your love in this world. We open our hearts to your presence. We open our spirits to your will. We open our souls to your Word. In your presence for us, may we be present for you, for the sake of the world. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, we proclaim Jesus as the Messiah but we still want to know what that means. We need to hear his word to us, to see what it is to follow him. May your Spirit move us closer to him, that we may follow him more faithfully. Amen.


Reading

Adapted from Psalm 19

All Creation expresses God’s nature.
It silently speaks a deep wisdom.
There are no words; our reason cannot grasp it.
But God’s will is in it, infinite in wisdom.
What God has in mind is a Truth that gives life.
To understand this is wisdom;
to see this clearly is deep joy.
To know God’s will is life’s deepest treasure.
But how can we know?
How can I see myself accurately?
God forgive me for all the faults
I don’t see in myself.
Grant me your wisdom, and show me your ways.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be in harmony with your grace,
O God, our rock and out redeemer.

Prayer of Confession

1.
God of grace, we come to you in humble honesty.
Who can detect their errors?
Clear us from hidden faults.
Forgive the sins we know and those we don’t.
Transform our desires,
so that in all we do our thoughts and words and actions
may be pleasing to you.

2.
Gracious God, Jesus calls us to let go of our attachments and to follow him. We confess that we cling to the things of this world. Forgive us, and heal our hearts, so that we may faithfully let go and follow freely. Speak your Word to us; bless us now, that we may clearly see our hidden faults, that our hearts may be changed, and that we may trust your grace. Amen.

3.
[Psalm 19.11-14]
Pastor: Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of mercy, your truth guides your servant;
in observing it there is great reward.
All: But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Save me from insolence;
do not let it have dominion over me.
Then we shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer.
[Silent prayer… Words of grace]

4.
Gracious God,
you are One; you are the source and the unity of all things.
But in our fear we have broken away;
Each of us has gone our own way.
Separate from you,
we have hurt ourselves and one another.
Faithful God, we, your creatures, are broken.
Receive us as we are; take us in your gentle arms.
Heal our wounds, forgive our sin,
and root us again in your grace,
that we may live in unity with you and with others.Amen.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. [ Col. 1.15-20, 26]
Christ is the visible appearance of the invisible God,
the beloved older sibling of all creation.
All things in heaven and on earth were created in Christ,
everything visible and invisible,
rulers and powers and systems and empires—
everything was created through Christ and for Christ.
Christ came before anything,
and in Christ everything holds together.
Christ is the head and the church is the body.
Christ is the Source of life, and has turned even death into a birth:
so Christ is first in every way.
In Christ God lives completely.
Through Christ we are reconciled to God—
all of us, and everything on earth and in heaven:
in dying on the cross, Christ brought God and humanity together.
This is the mystery, hidden for ages but now revealed:
that Christ is alive in us. Alleluia!

2.
We give our hearts to you, O God,
Creator of all that is, and all that is to come.
We follow Jesus, your Word made flesh, who loved without limits.
For his love he was crucified; but in love you raised him from the dead.
He calls us to follow him, and so we pray that you enlarge our lives
and set us free from ourselves, that with his Spirit alive in us
we may love without limit, take up our cross, and join him.
We trust your Spirit in us to give us this life of love,
to lead us in forgiveness and healing,
to enter into the mystery of eternal life
in the name and the company of Christ. Amen.

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. We thank you that you come among us in the person of Jesus. Give us faith to receive him, to follow him, and to serve with him in healing the world, in the light of his name, and in the power of your Spirit. 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. By your Spirit in us may we take up our cross and follow Jesus, willing to suffer for the sake of love. May we transcend our selves and become one with Christ, infinite in love, for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, by your grace may we take up our cross and follow Jesus into the streets and homes, into the prisons and shelters, to the hurting and also the powerful, in the name and the Spirit of Christ, for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

4.
Eternal God, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. As we give, free us from our clinging and our fear. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, that we might follow Jesus with all our hearts, and so find life that is eternal in you. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Available in the Music Store)

Be Thou My Wisdom

I Take Up My Cross

OT 10 – PE +3

June 9, 2024

Lectionary texts

1 Samuel 8.4-20, 11.14-15 — Samuel anoints Saul as king.

Psalm 138 — God is great yet tends to the lowly. “Lord, fulfill your purpose for me.”

2 Corinthians 4.13- 5.1 — God, who raised Jesus, raises us also…. We do not lose heart….We look at what can’t be seen… We have a house not made with hands in the heavens.

Mark 3.20-35 — People accuse Jesus of having demons…. Jesus has “tied up the strong man….”
“My family is whoever does the will of God.”

Preaching Thoughts

Samuel
       Today we begin the long tale of king David in the Old Testament readings, which will continue into August. The story of Samuel anolnting Saul is one of those stories in which God does not issue decrees, but works with us. God shares Samuel’s doubt that Israel’s having a king will go well, but says, “OK, let them have one. See how that goes.” It’s an interesting backdrop to the rest of the Hebrew bible that continually longs for a king like David (who was clearly a mixed bag). The people want a king so they can be like other nations, yet their Covenant specifically sets them apart as not like other nations. And they want a king though God knows how kings abuse power. (Sure enough, by the way, Saul ends up a disappointment…) Though the idea of democracy was flourishing at this time in Norway—yes, seriously—oh, and also famously in Greece—it was unknown in Israel. So the choice wasn’t between a king and an elected official: the status quo was local divinely anointed judges. Still, the story does raise interesting questions about the idea of a theocracy… which, like a monarchy, doesn’t usually go well….

2 Corinthians
       
Paul raises a series of contrasts: inner and outer (”though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day”), present and future (“this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure”), seen and unseen (“we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen”) and temporary and eternal (“what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal”). I think they’re all the same contrast: between surface appearance, which is fleeting, and inner reality, which is unchanging. This theme is repeated throughout scripture.
      Paul seems to have more emphasis than Jesus on the whole “pie in the sky” thing. Jesus wasn’t interested in the afterlife, lovely as it may be, but in this life. When we are in harmony with Real Life, that is, God, we participate in something infinite, which you can call eternal, but what makes it valuable is not that it’s long-lasting (even if you have to wait for it), but that it’s deep, and it’s right now, and it can’t be taken from you, even by people’s judgments, even by your sin, even by suffering or even death. It’s absolute. All you have to do is be in harmony with it. But that’s the trick, since it isn’t like the outward appearance the world tries to convince you of.

Mark
       
Mark loves to tell a story within a story. People accuse Jesus of having demons but he says the only way he can cast out demons is if he has already “tied up the strong man,” robbed the demonic of its power. This is in verses 22-30. It’s set within the frame of another story, in verses 21 and 31-35: Jesus’ family thinks he’s gone mad and want him to come home. Jesus’s parable of thieves entering a house and tying up the strong man is partly a logical rebuttal to the accusations against him. He’s healing people! How could Satan possibly want that? But even more profoundly it’s a glimpse of his whole mission: he has entered the power structure of evil itself and bound up its powers in love. He is free to “plunder” the evil empire because love has overpowered the force of evil. This is why it’s always the demons who recognize him (“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God….” 1.24. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” 3.11) You bet, he has come to destroy them, and they know it. His healings are evidence of that— part of undermining evil itself. This sense that Jesus has already “bound the strong man” is in parallel to Paul’s confidence that though evil seems rampant in the visible world, in the unseen reality love has already conquered.
       The story then gets back around to Jesus’ family. And alarmingly Jesus re-defines family, not as blood kin but whoever shares in doing God’s will. Kind of a slap in the face to his blood family, no? (“Whoever does not hate mother or father…”) This is pretty radical in a culture that considers family to be just a half-shade less holy than God. But again, Jesus is not denying the importance of family; in fact he’s making it more important, because it’s not just the happenstance of birth: it’s about intentional community. It includes whoever chooses to be in it, including the orphan, the childless, the single, the widowed—those who get left out of our existing social structures. Jesus rejects biological destiny, that our birth determines our fate. In Luke 11.27-28 someone says “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” But Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” No, you’re not saved by being a mother. You’re saved by being a disciple. Families, Jesus says, are made, not born.

Call to Worship

1.
People of God: Christ, our sibling, calls us as a family.
We gather as one, made family not by genetics, but in your Spirit.
Our bonds exceed our bounds.
We are one with followers around the world.
God of Love, Jesus calls us to hear and do your will.
Open our hearts to hear, and to follow.
We worship with open ears and a willing spirit.

2.
Proclaim the good news!
Though we are beset by the forces of evil and injustice,
Jesus has invaded the halls of power and bound up the strong man.
Love reigns supreme!
Though our own loyalties are divided, Jesus calls us his own.
Love claims us, and draws us in.
We renounce the works of oppression,
in the street, in the boardrooms, and in our own hearts.
Love, we worship: in humility, in gratitude, in unity,
that we may hear you will and do it,
that we may love our neighbors and do justice in the name of Christ.

3. [Psalm 138]
Leader: I give you thanks, O Love, with my whole heart.
All: When my heart cries out, you answer.
Though I walk through trouble you preserve my life.
In the face of what I fear, your love sustains me.
O Lord, fulfill your purpose for me.
May your steadfast love endure forever.

Prayer

1.
God of love, we proclaim that Jesus has overcome the powers of evil. All our divisions of family and race, class and religion are erased in your love. Bless us that we may surrender our small loyalties and join the family of your love and justice, in the name and spirit of Jesus our savior and our brother. Amen.

2.
Holy One, we come to listen for your voice, to hear your Word in our hearts and to live it out with grace. Bless us that we may hear and be changed, and that we may live by your Spirit in us as siblings in Christ. Amen.

3.
God, we praise you. The forces of evil that frighten us you have undermined. The demons that haunt us you have overpowered. The strong man of injustice you have bound. By your grace help us trust, and be people of healing, not fear. By the power of your Spirit help us be among those who do your will, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

1.
We look not at what can be seen, but what cannot be seen.
We listen in the silence for your Word that cannot be heard,
yet may be known.
Spirit, you who raised Jesus, raise us now in your love.

2.
(Adapted from Ps. 138)
Leader: I give you thanks, O Love, with my whole heart.
All: When my heart cries out, you answer.
Though I walk through trouble you preserve my life.
In the face of what I fear, your love sustains me.
O Lord, fulfill your purpose for me.
May your steadfast love endure forever. Amen.

3.
Christ, you have entered the house of our hearts.
The demons we are afraid of are still,
for your have overcome them.
In peace we listen for your voice.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
        We delight in you, God, Eternal Source of all. You create us as one family in your love.
        We follow you, Jesus, Messiah, head of our family of love and justice. You have broken into the house of human powers of domination and you have bound the strong man; you have plundered the powers of evil and oppression. Though the powers had you crucified, you have overcome, and have bound up death itself.
        We live by your love, O Holy Spirit. You are the breath of God in us, granting us forgiveness, raising us to new life, uniting us as one family, and empowering us to resist evil and injustice. By your grace, O God, we give you our thanks, and we give you ourselves, that we may do your will. Amen.

2.
      We give our hearts to you, God, creator of all, giver of life. Though our bodies are dying and the circumstances of our life are passing, your grace in us is eternal, and you are always re-creating us.
      We follow Jesus, your Christ. He taught and healed; he loved and blessed all people. He gathered a community of radical inclusion and kinship that upended all forms of domination and exclusion. He invited us on the journey of death and resurrection. For his witness he was crucified, but you raised him from the dead, and he lives among us, our Beloved, our sovereign, our companion.
      We live by your Holy Spirit, your eternal presence, your infinite love overflowing in us.  By your spirit in us, though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. By your spirit we live lives of love and courage, of healing and blessing and justice.  Trusting in the grace of forgiveness, the power of nonviolence, and the mystery of resurrection, we live and serve as one body to do your will, in the name of Christ, for the healing of the world. Amen 

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. At your table you make of us one family, one Body. Send us into the world in the unity of your love to bear your blessings to all our sisters and brothers in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Jesus, you who have broken the powers of evil, bind up our own evil and set us free. Holy Spirit, you who make us one family, send us forth to do your will, in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Suggested Song

Do Justice (Original song)

Do justice, love mercy,
walk humbly with your God.
O, help us humbly live your justice,
your love, your mercy.

Trinity Sunday

Lectionary texts

In Isaiah 6.1-8 the prophet sees a vision of God in the Temple. He feels inadequate because of his sin—and his people’s sin—but an angel sears his lips with a burning coal: he has been purified. Then God asks “Whom shall I send?” and the prophet replies, “Send me.”

Psalm 29 honors God’s glory and strength. God’s mighty voice (God’s power) shakes all Creation

Romans 8. 12-17 says rather than living according to our self-limited desires (“the flesh’), we live by God’s spirit in us, since we are God’s children. In this Spirit we are radically free

In John 3. 1-17 Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born “from the top,” that is, both from God and also anew, over and over. We receive our life from God. John then goes on to say that Jesus was sent for our salvation. The Son of man will be “lifted up” (meaning both “crucified” and also “honored”) like the bronze serpent Moses lifted up to cure people in the desert.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Eternal God, Holy Mystery, Infinite Love, we are in awe.
All: Wow.
Loving Christ, Body of God, you heal us and accompany us and show us the way.
Thank you.
Holy Spirit, breath of God in us, re-create us, birth us anew and fill us with your love.
Please.

2.
Leader: I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of God’s robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above God; they called to another and said:
All: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of God’s glory!
God so loved the world as to give us Christ, that whoever trusts may have eternal life.
Praise be to Christ, who is our life!
The Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.
May we live by the Spirit, as children of God.
O Holy Mystery, Holy Trinity, Mother, Son and Holy Spirit,
we worship you; we praise you; we give our lives to you. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
People: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
Alleluia! Eternal God, Holy Trinity, you are Mystery,
you are grace, you are the power of love within us.
In awe, and gratitude and in obedience we worship you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, Mother of our Birth and Creator of all things, your Spirit blows where it will. You bear us in your arms through all our lives. We turn to you now to hear your voice, to nurse from your love, and to give ourselves wholly to you. Through the Spirit and the Word give us new birth. Amen.

2.
O Holy One, you who are beyond us, and beside us, and within us, you who are our Source, our Companion, and our Life: we open our hearts to you. We don’t need to see your infinite splendor; but let us behold your glory just enough to fall in love, and give ourselves entirely to you, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Eternal God, you who are Mystery to us, yet who reveal yourself to us, we open our hearts to you. We do not ask that you enable us to understand or explain you, but only that you fill our hearts with your love, that we may receive your blessings and serve you in love, in the name of Christ, in whose name we pray, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

4.

Holy One, you so love the world that you give us your Beloved, your Only Begotten, that we may be made whole. By your Spirit in us, may we be born again and again from you grace; may we be readily blown where the wind of your Spirit blows us, in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Loving God, you make us your children and you call us to help you to love the world. Stir up your Spirit in us so that as we read your scriptures and proclaim your Word we might hear what you are saying to us, and be transformed and enabled to sing more freely and beautifully the song of your grace. Amen.

Reading

Romans 8.12-17, a paraphrase.

Dearly Beloved, siblings in Christ, we are not isolated bodies,
constrained by their needs and limitations.
When we live that way, as separate units, we die.
But when by the breath flowing from God
we leave behind mere survival, we live deeply.
All who are led by the Spirit are children of God.
The Spirit doesn’t leave you in slavery, leashed to fear:
the Spirit is your adoption as God’s own.
When we cry out to God it is God in us making it clear
that we are God’s children—who inherit from God what Christ does,
invited as Christ’s siblings to share in Christ’s sufferings,
and also in Christ’s glory.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

We believe in God, who is mostly mystery but all love, the Holy Trinity: the Lover, the Beloved and the Love that Flows Between.
We follow Jesus, whom God gave to us in love, not to condemn us but to save us from slavery to our self-centeredness. Though the world condemned him, he did not condemn, but loved. Though he was crucified, by the eternal Spirit that was complete in him, he rose from death and gave to us his spirit.
We live by that Spirit, by whom we are born again and again from God, with new life. By the grace of that Spirit we are not isolated individuals but one, the Body of Christ, infinite in life and love. On the wind of that Spirit we sail into this world as Love leads us, to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God. In love the Spirit breathes us into the world to be the good news of God’s grace. Alleluia.


Prayer of Dedication / Sending

(suitable for dedicating the offering of gifts or sending forth at the end of the service. You may substitute “our lives” for “these gifts.”)

1.
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. Holy God, Three In One, send us in the love of Christ and the power of your Spirit for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, receive our lives nd all our gifts, which we give to you in thanks and joy. In giving this we honor you as our Creator, and we humble ourselves before you. We remember the gifts of your Son, Jesus, and offer thanks for his grace. And we open our hearts to your Spirit, that you may use us to show your love to all Creation, 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. As you have fed us in this meal, give new birth to us in every breath: continually make us new in love for you, for each other, and for the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Pentecost

May 19, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Acts 2.1-21 — The Pentecost story

Psalm 104 — God’s Creation. “When you send forth your spirit, they are created.”

Romans 8. 22-27 — All Creation groans in labor pains, waiting to be set free. We hope for what we do not see… We do not know how to pray; the Spirit intercedes.

John 15.26-27, 16.4-15 —Jesus promises to send his Spirit. “It’s good that I’m going, so that the Spirit can come.” Spirit will guide you in all truth.

Preaching Thoughts

[For the sake of both chronological sense and dramatic flow, if I include the John reading it’s first among the readings, and I end with Acts.

John
       
The “Advocate” Jesus promises is, in Greek, a “paraclete,” a person who would accompany you in a legal trial. Essentially a defense lawyer. What a contrast to what we so often imagine—that God is our judge and prosecutor! God is not. God is our defense lawyer! God is for us, not against us, not looking for fault,

Psalm
       “When you send forth your spirit, they are created” (v. 30).
God breathes living beings into life. Remember Genesis, God breathing life into the dust and it becomes a living human? Respiration = inspiration = in-spiriting.

Romans
       
   The world groans in agony. When we pray for the world “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” It can seem overwhelming; there’s so much suffering. But when we get around to praying we’re only following up on what the Spirit is already doing, already groaning with the suffering of the world, and already groaning in us: “and not only the creation, but we ourselves.” Our prayer simply gives voice to that groaning, to God’s compassion for the world and suffering with the world—though often in “sighs too deep for words.”

       All of Creation groans in labor pains, waiting to be set free. Our role, then, is not to save the world, or save the earth, or even save the whales, but to come alongside Creation as it labors to bring forth life. (Climate change and species adapting to new habitats is Creation struggling!) But the life is already there. Creation already knows how to do this. Our job is to assist. (The loss of habitats and species and pollution suggests we’re not helping.) Of course Paul isn’t talking about the environment; he’s talking about the universal need of all of life for God’s grace. But the environment embodies what he is talking about. Environmental crisis comes because we haven’t yet learned how to live in harmony, how to be reconciled—how to live in grace.
       We don’t know how to pray as we ought. But God prays in us. I understand this literally. In the deepest form of contemplation, I don’t really do the work: I hold the space and God prays in me. It’s beyond words, beyond what I understand. St. John of the Cross says, “the Spirit comes to us without any act on the part of the soul.” Just like my bodily functions go on without my knowing how, so do my spiritual functions. The act of prayer is really the act of allowing God to pray in me, allowing God’s will and God’s Word to hold me and unfold in me. My part is to be intentional, to pay attention, and to listen. Of course it can be “hard work” to do nothing, to hold still and let the spirit pray in us.

 
Acts
       
Speaking in tongues
I’m intrigued that the Pentecost story of “speaking in tongues” is about communication—the disciples speaking in other people’s languages (“tongues”) to communicate the gospel they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to communicate—and yet “speaking in tongues” came to be understood not as speaking in known languages for the purpose of communication but in speaking ecstatic utterances that were meaningless, even to the speaker, with out interpretation. I wonder how that reversal came about? I think the pentecostal challenge is not to experience ecstasy but to communicate the good news in ways people understand—which is not in our religious language, or even in words, but in love and justice.
       That involves more listening than talking: paying attention to people and their lives, their context, their needs, and listening to them, to what they experience and need and ask for—a kind of “listening in tongues.” Pentecost invites us to check our tendency to center ourselves, our desire that others “speak our language,” our temptation to impose our own values on them. Sometimes the most pentecostal thing we can do is affirm people as they are, rather than ask them to conform to our standards and expectations. Pentecost invites us to assume God has been with them in their journey, even if it’s very different from ours.
       The Pentecost story lights the fuse that will propel the church in ever-expanding circles of inclusivity. The nations named were essentially the whole known world for the first Christians. The book of Acts chronicles the always-expanding nature of the community of Jesus (“in Jerusalem and throughout Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”), and it calls us to be intentional about that inclusivity. Our goal is that in our day people say,”How is it that we, from all these different races and genders and economic levels and paths of life all hear about God’s great love in ways that make sense to us?”

       The Holy Spirit
It’s helpful for us to personify the Spirit, to imagine the Holy Spirit as, well, a spirit—a sort of invisible “someone” who comes to us and acts upon us. That’s cool, as long as we remember we’re anthropomorphizing a member of the Holy Trinity, that is, God, who is not a god, but beyond all gods—the Mystery of Love that gives rise to all being, that is Being itself. The Holy Spirit is not some ghost, but God in us. In both Greek and Hebrew the word for wind, spirit and breath (and hence life) is the same: ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek. The Holy Spirit is the living energy of God (which is love) in us. When we love, that’s God doing God’s thing.

Jesus says “I am in God, and you in me, and I in you (Jn. 14.20). Sounds a little spacey, but it’s literally true. God is infinite; we are within God. The Holy Spirit is our inter-penetration, our inter-being. Jesus was both human and divine; so are we.

We speak of the disciples “receiving “ the Spirit at Pentecost, but they already had it. They were born with it. (Joel says the Spirit is poured out on all flesh.) And just to make sure, Jesus has breathed on them in John 20. But Pentecost is the moment when the spark catches fire and they burn with it, overcoming their fear and grief. Acting in the power of the Holy Spirit isn’t some ecstatic experience, but simply being a vessel for love. It’s not our love, our effort, but God’s. We let the Spirit, God’s love in us, do its thing. That’s what enables us to do things that seem beyond our capacity or expectations—like communicating love in languages we haven’t studied.

       Baptism
Pentecost is a great day for baptisms, baptismal renewal, Confirmation, and receiving new members. People often conflate baptism and confirmation. Those who believe in “adult baptism” see it as a way to affirm one’s faith. But baptism, like birth, isn’t something you do; it’s something you receive. Baptism is a symbol of God’s unconditional love of the person being baptized—whether or not they like it, or understand it, or even know it. (That’s why we baptize babies.) Confirmation is the act in which we respond—we confirm our baptism; we accept our divine belovedness and vow to live in harmony with it. We can only be baptized once, since our belovedness is permanent, eternal and unchanging, and isn’t dependent on the pastor or church or denomination that pours the water, nor on the person receiving it. But we do need to continually re-affirm our baptism, to re-commit ourselves to the vows that were made at our baptism. Pentecost is a great time for baptismal renewal services. See a service of Baptism/ Baptismal Renewal/ Confirmation.

Call to Worship

1.Leader: Breath of God, breathe in us!
All: Wind of God, move among your people!
Fire of God, burn in our hearts!
Flame of love, leap from us to all the world.
Dove of God, give us comfort in your presence.
Give us the peace of your Spirit.
Come, Holy One, and rekindle our hearts.


2.
Leader: In the beginning the earth was a formless void,
and the Spirit of God brooded over the waters.
All: Spirit of Creation, create us anew!
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, came to Galilee, teaching and healing.
Spirit of Christ, move among us!
Jesus breathed on his followers and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. As God has sent me, so I send you.”
Spirit of love, move us to do your will. Alleluia!

3.
Leader: Holy Spirit, breath of Creation, wind of God, breathe in us.
All: We open our hearts to your light and your life.
Holy Spirit, love of Christ, energy of healing, burn in us.
We open our hearts to your grace and your power.
Holy Spirit, we are One in you, and we adore you.
We open our hearts to one another and to all Creation.
We worship in thanksgiving, in joy, in love. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: Holy Spirit, you who hovered over the waters at Creation—Praise!
All: Spirit of Love, by whom Christ was conceived—Thanks!
Spirit of Truth, you who fill us with your grace—Wonder!
Alleluia! Spirit of God, you who raise the dead, raise us to new life.
Spirit of Peace, in whom we are all one, lead us to love one another.
Spirit of Life, come, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Spirit of God, we thank you, for you create us.

You breathe in us and we live.
You fill us with your love, and we shine.

You intercede for us with sighs too deep for words.
You pray in us; it is by your grace alone that we can worship.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

6.
Holy Spirit, you breathe in us.
Spirit of Life, you burn in us.
Flame of God, fill us.
Fire of love, kindle our hearts.
Wind of justice, move us.
Light of compassion, shine in us.
Warmth of joy, radiate in us.
Spirit of God, make of our lives
the language of love. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Eternal God, Spirit of Love, you create all things. You give life to all living beings, in all our diversity and wonder. You breathe in us and make us one in your love. Your presence calls out in each of us to one another, seeking to be one with each other. Speak to us in our worship. Sing your song to us in our hearts. Come to new life in us. We open our hearts to you. Spirit of love, arise! Amen.

2.
God of Love, Jesus promised to send the Spirit, who would guide us in the truth. Enliven your Spirit in us, that we may hear your voice, trust your grace and embody your love in the name of Christ. Amen.

3.
Spirit of God, it is you who have invited us here, moving in our hearts before we are aware. Move in us now again: move us closer to you in deep trust, closer to one another in prayer, closer to our neighbors in love. Spirit of God, speak to us; speak in us; speak through our love. Amen.

4.
Spirit of Life, stir in us. Breath of heaven, breathe in us. Holy Spirit, we do not know how to listen as we ought. But intercede for us with openness too deep for words. As we hear the scriptures read and good news proclaimed, breathe in us; pray in us; create us anew. Amen.

5.
Gracious God, on the day of Pentecost you filled the disciples with your Spirit, they embraced their mission in the world, and the church was born. Gather your church now in the wind of your grace, that we may be one in unity and peace. Fill our lungs with your breath, that we might sing your praise. Light our hearts on fire, that we might spread your love. We pray in the name of Jesus, who promised that he would send us his own Spirit, so that he would live in us. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Spirit,
we do not know how to pray as we ought.
Breathe in us.
Pray in us.
Live, radiant, in us.

Prayer of Confession

God, you have created us to live by your Spirit.
Sometimes we live by your Spirit
and at times we are driven by our wounds and fears and desires.
Sometimes our words and actions are the language of love
and sometimes they are not.
By the light of your Spirit
help us see clearly in us what is love and what is not.
Forgive us, heal us, and rekindle in us the power of your love;
for by the grace we know in Christ
you have set us free to live by the power of your Spirit alone,
now and forever..
       …Silent reflection … The word of Grace

Further prayers

Leader: The whole Creation has been groaning in labor pains.
Al: The world cries out in suffering.
We pray, then, for the suffering of the world.
But we do not know how to pray as we ought.
Yet by your grace we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly; our spirits ache for the world.
God, you help us in our weakness,
for your Spirit prays in us with sighs too deep for words.
So for the sake of the world we allow your Spirit to pray in us,
giving voice to your silent cries in us.
We offer your our silence, and the space in our souls, O God,
as you pray for the wholeness of the World.
      …Silent prayer…
Amen.



Readings

1. paraphrased, from Psalm 104

                
Sung Response: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Love, you are sovereign!
How amazing are your works.
In wisdom you have made all creatures.
They look to you, and you give them life breath by breath.
When you give, we gather. You open your hand, and we live.
When you hide from us we are dismayed.
When you take away your breath, we die and return to dust.
When you grant your breath again, we are created.
You renew the face of the earth.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
I will sing praise to Love with all of my being.
Praise the Lord!

                [
sung] Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

2. Paraphrased from Psalm 51.10-17
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
put a new and right spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will show your ways to those who struggle,
and those who wonder will turn to you.
Reweave me into the Body, O God, O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
Love, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifices;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a spirit broken open;
an open and humble heart, O God, you will embrace.

3.
In the beginning, God, your Spirit brooded over the waters, and you began creating.
You formed a human from the soil of the earth,
and breathed the breath of your life into us.
By your Spirit you sent prophets to speak your Truth to people,
and you promised to pour out your Spirit on all flesh.
Jesus was conceived by your Holy Spirit, and ministered by its power.
At Pentecost his followers received your Spirit,
and you gave birth to the Church.
Be the one Spirit we are baptized into the Church, the Body of Christ.
By your Spirit alone we live.
By your Spirit alone we are one.
By your Spirit alone we serve you with love. Alleluia!

Poetry

Spirit intercedes


Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes
with sighs too deep for words.

— Romans 8.26

Spirit, I do not know how to pray.
But you ask of me no skill.
You ask my presence—you, who are present.

I will be the seed, small and unassuming,
and you will be the flower in me,
spreading light, creating me.

I will be the spring tree, silent and unknowing.
And you will be the bird singing,
singing your joy in me.

I will be the woods
and you a thousand living things
growing in me unseen,

I the ocean and you the creatures,
I the word and you the meaning,
I the heart and you the rising joy.

I will be the chalice and you the wine.
I will be this moment and you the silence.
I will be myself and you will breathe in me.

Spirit

      
         
When you send forth your spirit, we are created
                  —Psalm 104.30

Holy One,
         breath of the big bang,
         idea of creation,
you who make spring come forth,
         who make life out of nothing,
breathe yourself into me.
         Create me.

you are the flame,
         I am your light.
You are the nerve,
         I am your muscle.
You are the Word,
         I am the story.
You are the song,
         I am the singing.

I am one with you
         and one with all Creation.
One Spirit,
         one flesh, many forms.
In your Spirit
         I am we.

Holy One, live in me;
         I am your body.
I remember,
         and I live.


Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
       We believe in you God, Spirit of Love, creator of all that is and that ever shall be.
       We follow Jesus, your Christ, the embodiment of your love. He taught and healed and gathered a community of radical love and diversity ruled not by laws or religions but by your Spirit. For his rebellion against the forces of oppression and injustice he was crucified, but you raised him from the dead. He returned and gave to us his Spirit, so that we are now the Body of Christ.
       We live by your Spirit, your love alive and working in us, leading us in lives of justice and compassion, one with each other and with all living beings. We open our hearts, that your Spirit may always lead us, sustain us and unite us in Christ, for the sake of the wholeness of all Creation. Amen.

2. Adapted from St. Theresa of Avila

Christ has no body now but ours,
no hands, no feet on earth but ours.
Ours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on this world.
Ours are the feet with which he walks about to do good.
Ours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
       Spirit, be with us; Spirit be within us.
       Deep-breathing God, hold us all in your loving Spirit. Amen.

3.
       We believe in God, the Spirit of Love, who creates all things, embraces all things, and lives within all things.

       We follow Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and in the power of the Spirit taught and healed. The Spirit was upon him to bring good news to the poor and set free the oppressed. Though he was crucified, by the power of the Spirit God raised him from death, and he comes to us still in the power of that Spirit.
       The Holy Spirit lives in us, and makes us, the Church, one body, the Body of Christ. By the grace of the Spirit we love God and our neighbors; we trust in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, and the mystery of eternal life. In the one Spirit we are one with Christ, one with all people, and one with all Creation. By that Spirit we live in love, for the sake of the blessing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

4.
       We believe in God, the One Spirit of the universe, who breathes all Creation into being, whose Spirit gives life to all living things.

       We follow Jesus Christ, who wholly embodied God’s Spirit, who taught and healed and enacted love and justice; who opened the Realm of God to all. He was crucified, yet by the eternal Spirit living in him, he rose again and is present with us still in the power of that spirit.
       We ourselves live by the Holy Spirit. We are one body in the one Spirit, aflame with God’s passion for the world, in mystery and in ministry. We trust the Spirit’s gifts of forgiveness and resurrection. And we devote ourselves to expressing the gifts of the Spirit in our lives, for the sake of the transformation of the world.

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.]

————— #1 ——————
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.

Spirit of God, flame of life, we adore you.
You breathe life into us.
You make us loving and beautiful.
You are the Life Force in all living beings;
we all come from you, and we are one in you.
All of us, of every nation, language and race,
every shape, gender, ability and class,
all of us, every species, are one in you,
and we gather here at your table.
With one voice, with the breath of your breath, 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 embodied your spirit in all he did.
He fed the hungry, healed the broken, gathered the outcast,
and created a community of love and justice.
He was crucified by the powers of injustice
but your Spirit is infinite and eternal,
and by your Spirit you raised him to life.
Raised from the dead, he breathed his Spirit into us,
and embodies your covenant to be with us in love 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.
Pour out your Spirit of love and courage.
Pour out your Spirit of justice and hope.

Breath of life, fill us and energize us.
Flame of love, guide us and empower us
to bring your love to all peoples,
of all nations and languages, all kinds and cultures,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
in the name of Christ.


     [Spoken or sung]
Amen.


————— #2 ——————
A brief praye
r

Blessed are you, O God, for in the beginning
your Spirit hovered over the waters, and you created all things.
You breathed your Spirit of life into the dust of the earth
and it became a living being. Your Spirit is the breath of our life.
You have taken us as your people,
and even when we turn from you your love for us is faithful.
You have set us free from slavery to sin and death,
and overthrown the powers of evil and injustice.
You breathe your Spirit into everyone on earth;
therefore we gather at your table as one with all people
We come at the invitation of Christ,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
led by your Spirit in ministry,
and who at his death gave up his spirit to you,
promising to send his spirit to his followers.
We celebrate the great mystery of our faith:
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

             [… The Blessing and Covenant …] *

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and wine,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, as on Pentecost,
that with hearts aflame with love, and lungs full of your breath of life,
we may bring good news to the poor, and set free the oppressed,
and convey your love to all peoples,
in the name of Christ. Amen.


———— #3 —————
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 thanks and praise.

Holy One, in the beginning your wind brooded over the waters
and you created the world.
You breathed into the clay of the earth
and it became a living human being.

The strong east wind of your breath
parted the Red Sea and led the slaves to freedom.
Your breath entered the dry bones in the valley
and they rose to life again.
Therefore with your holy breath in us we sing your praise.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
At his baptism your Spirit descended on him as a dove.

He embodied your love, he breathed your grace.
By your Spirit he healed and taught and nourished your people.

The powers of evil opposed him and crucified him;
but the Spirit of Life raised him.
Risen from the dead, he came to us and breathed his spirit into us,
his promise 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)

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,

one in your Spirit, breathing deeply of your grace,
on fire with your love, 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 / 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.) Fill us with your Spirit. Guide us and sustain us by your Spirit,. Send us in the power of your Spirit to do mercy and justice 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.) Send us in the power of your Spirit to give language to your love, to convey to all the world the good news of your grace, in the name of Christ. Amen.


3.
Graceful power, move in me.
May my living give language to your miraculous ways.
May my words express your goodness,
my actions reveal the abundance of your blessing.
Spirit, be the nerve that moves me as your body
to do your will, that all that I do
might clearly embody your grace
and be your living example.
May all whom I meet be given to understand
in the language of their hearts
your loving presence.
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.) By your Spirit alive in us, may our lives be the language of your love, and the vessels of your grace. May your Spirit sustain us, guide us, and inspire us to lives of compassion, courage, gratitude and joy, in the name of Christ. 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.) In this meal you have created us anew, filled us with your Spirit, made us one, and strengthened us for love and justice. Send us into the world to embody the gifts of the Spirit in the name of Christ, for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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


Bearers of Light
Tune: Morning Has Broken

God, how you love us, hold us and bless us,
reign from above us, lead us by hand
Call us to healing, bound by your Promise,
your Word revealing, by your command.

Great holy giver of life and wonder,
deep like a river your blessings flow.
Gladly we give you praise and thanksgiving:
gifts we will give wherever we go.

Baptized, anointed, filled with your Spirit,
we are appointed bearers of light:
for liberation, servants of justice,
bringing the nations joy and delight.


Breath of God (Tune: Londonderry Air – “Oh Danny Boy”)

O Holy One, Creator of the stars of night,
whose dust we are, created with your light,
now breathe your spirit into us and give us life;
give us new hearts that beat with your delight.
Our dust and ashes, Love, we give in faith to you.
Receive our lives, our sin, our wounds, our death;
and raise us up with Christ from death to life by grace.
God, may we be your love and you our living breath.

Breathe into us the breath of your compassion, God,
the breath to sing your praise in all we do,
the breath to run the race of justice, long and far.
Breathe, holy breath: empower and renew.
O be the grace that fills our lungs, reviving us;
O be the wind on which our hearts can soar;
O be our life, our beauty and our living breath.
O Spirit, come breathe in us now and evermore.


Feast of the Spirit (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)
A communion song

Spirit, you lead us to gather and dine,
making us new in the bread and the wine.
Ent’ring us wholly and making us one,
one in our loving and one in the Son.

Once we have eaten the wine and the bread
we are made one, with Christ as our head.
We are one Body, one Spirit, one heart,
each of us strengthened to do our own part.

Just as we offer our gifts for the meal,
God gives us Spirit to bless and to heal,
serving our neighbors and changing the world,
led by the Spirit of our risen Lord.

Fire of Love
(Tune: HOLY MANNA or ODE TO JOY)

Holy Spirit, you have gathered us as on that Pentecost
when you gathered Christ’s disciples and their fears and doubts were lost:
breathing life into their souls, and shining out of every face,
you sent them into the streets to tell of God’s amazing grace.

Each aflame with your compassion, eager that your praise be sung,
fearlessly they filled the streets to tell your news in every tongue.
So we ask you, by your life within us, giving us new birth,
send us out to spread God’s love in Jesus’ name to all the earth.

Holy Spirit, you have granted gifts to each, in our own way,
so that we might serve you as we live and work and share and pray.
By your pow’r we love our neighbors, work for justice, act with peace,
reach the lost and serve the lowly: so your work will never cease.

Holy Spirit, energy of God that links us soul to soul,
by your grace we are the Body of the risen Christ, made whole.
Be the breath that lifts our singing; be the wind that fills our sails;
be the fire of love among us ‘till the Reign of God prevails.



Holy Spirit, Burn Within Us
(Tune: HOLY MANNA or BEECHER, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling)

Holy Spirit, Sun of Heaven, source of light and warmth and power,
fill us and transform us like a seed that turns into a flower.
Kindle in your willing people joy’s bright spark, compassion’s flame.
Set us all afire to bear your loving light in Jesus’ name.

Holy Spirit, burn within us, radiant with your healing grace.
Give us brand new ways to meet and love the stranger face to face.
Help us find new ways of caring. Help us set new, daring goals.
Give us brand new languages to speak your love to seeking souls.

Holy Spirit, let your fire consume us, changing us at last.
Let us rise like light emerging from the embers of the past.
May the star of pure compassion shine within and set us free.
Holy Spirit, make us all your flame that burns eternally.


Holy Spirit, Wind of Heaven      (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

Holy Spirit, Wind of Heaven, Breath of Life, our warmth and light,
Power of Creation, bringing hopeful dawn from darkest night:
you have birthed us, you have borne us; you have blessed us all our days,
now you fill our lungs with singing; how you fill our hearts with praise!

Holy Spirit, flame of passion, you who brought your Church to be,
re-create us as your Body, holy in our unity.
Fill us with your fierce compassion, gentle courage, trust and peace.
Lead us all to love each other; make our sad divisions cease.

Holy Spirit, Dove descending, mind of Christ within us all,
speak your wisdom, move among us, help us hear your inner call.
Be the only pow’r that moves us; be our life, O singing Dove!
Holy Spirit, come, revive us! Fill us with your heart of love!


Spirit of God (Original song)

Spirit of God, bright Wind, breath that bids life begin,
blow as you always do; create us anew.
Give us the breath to sing, lifted on soaring wing,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.

Spirit of God, bright Dove, grant us your peace and love,
healing upon your wings for all living things.
For when we live your peace captives will find release,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.

Spirit of God, bright Hands, even in far-off lands
you hold all the human race in one warm embrace.
No matter where we go you hold us together so,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.!…

Spirit of God, bright Flame, send us in your holy name,
with power to heal, to share your love everywhere.
We cannot fail or fall or know defeat at all,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.!…

Spirit of God in all, we gladly hear your call,
the life in our hands that sings, the power of your wings.
Born of your grace we rise, love shining in our eyes,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.!…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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