Reign of Christ Sunday

November 20, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Jeremiah 23. 1-6 God laments leaders who have abused people, and promises a new order: God will gather God’s people like sheep and provide good shepherds to protect them.

Luke 1. 68-79
celebrates that God has fulfilled the Covenant to save us and establish a new realm of peace, and has chosen us to bring that realm, in the form of forgiveness, to all people.

Colossians 1. 11-20 describes Christ’s dominion: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, who was present before Creation, and whose being includes all Creation. God is fully present in Christ, and in Christ all things are reconciled to God. God has rescued us from darkness and brought us into a new world of light, ruled by Christ.

In Luke 23.33-43 Jesus displays God’s disturbingly counter-cultural kind of sovereignty: not in domination and invulnerability, but in love, sharing our suffering and offering forgiveness.

Preaching Thoughts

       The Christian liturgical year is patterned after the life of Jesus: his coming, ministry, death and resurrection, and his life through the Spirit in his followers. The cycle ends with the Reign of Christ Sunday, focusing not on the earthly ministry of Jesus, but on Christ as a cosmic figure, sovereign over all Creation.

Jeremiah
        The prophet criticizes political leaders who promote policies that hurt the poor. God promises to provide a gentle shepherd who will actually care for the people. Jeremiah has in mind a king over Israel. We Christians see in his promise an image of Christ’s gentle, life-giving reign over us.

Luke 1
       Zechariah’s song is one of Luke’s two great psalms (the other is Mary’s Magnificat). The first half celebrates God saving us from all that diminishes life. The second half, addressed to “you, child,” is about the newborn John, who will become the Baptizer, and also, of course, about us. This is our calling: to go before God, paving the way by spreading forgiveness. The beautiful promise of the dawn of new peace doesn’t just descend out of the sky; it is born of God’s grace and forgiveness flowing through us.

Colossians
       Paul describes the Cosmic Christ: the whole being of God, the visible presence of the invisible God, supreme and eternal, in whom and for whom everything exists. Paul wrote this before the idea of the Trinity existed, but he sure describes Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ is the head of the church, and also reigns over all human power systems, dominions and empires.

Luke 23
       King of the Jews. The fatal torture of a helpless criminal is not most people’s idea of a coronation ceremony. But we worship a pretty unorthodox sovereign. Jesus is a “king” not because he’s tougher than others, not because he exerts dominion, but precisely because he doesn’t. He rules in love, and love doesn’t coerce, manipulate, threaten or control. It doesn’t “insist on it’s own way,” as Paul says. So of course Jesus, who saved others, will not save himself. The power of love is to help others, not to escape suffering.Jesus is sovereign because he will not avoid entering into human suffering. His crown is a crown of thorns. Despite people’s cynicism, Love is the supreme power in the universe. Love reigns, even while evil and injustice abound. The world’s “power” is really just the power to destroy or threaten to hurt. The power of love is the opposite: is the power to heal, to create, to liberate, to give gifts. World power is power over; the power of love is power with, and even power beneath to lift, to raise. Caesar’s power is to extract people’s loyalty to the Empire. Jesus’ power is the power to promise paradise. Caesar’s power is to kill. God’s power is to raise. Though we’re pretty taken by worldly power, here we have the sum of it: Jesus’ love changes the world, and Caesar… well, he gets a salad named after him.
       Today you will be with me in paradise. Jesus isn’t just promising the thief a happy afterlife. He’s saying today, right now, even in suffering, you belong to God and God’s delight. In the same way Jesus actually is the Son of God, even though people don’t believe it, the thief—and each of us—actually is in paradise, even though we don’t believe it. We are in God’s care, part of God’s royal family, and a source of God’s delight. This isn’t just a promise for the future; Jesus is actually, right now, even in his agony, extending love to this guy. Even as he’s being tortured he’s praying for the forgiveness of his torturers. Despite the onslaught of pain and shame in his torture, Jesus is still loving. Nothing can stop love. Nothing, not pain, not violence, not all the power in the world, not even death. Love wins. Love is sovereign over all the world. Christ reigns.

Call to Worship

1. (Colossians 1.15-20)
Leader: Alleluia! Christ is the image of the invisible God.
All: In Christ all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell.
In Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created;
Christ reigns over thrones and dominions and rulers and powers.

Christ is the head of the Body, the church.
Through Christ all things are reconciled to God, making peace by his love on the cross.
This is the love we adore, the love we worship, the love we serve. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: In thanksgiving we gather to praise you, O God!
All: For all of your abundant blessings we thank you, O God.
For the love of Christ, who reveals your presence to us, we praise you.
For your grace and your love, and for the reign of Christ, we thank you, O God.
For your call to serve you, your cry for mercy and justice
that raises us to action, we thank you.
In the power of your Spirit alive in us, shining with your light, we worship you.


3.
Leader: Christ our Savior and our Sovereign,
All: you wear a crown of thorns.
O Crucified and Risen One,
you reign in mercy, with a crown of thorns.
O Prince of Peace, you rule our hearts.
We surrender to your grace, your crown of thorns.
Grant us your peace, that we may be your loyal subjects.
Grant us, Christ, your reign of mercy, crown of thorns,
to serve you faithfully throughout this wounded world. Amen.


4. (Luke 1.68-7)
Leader: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
       for God has visited us and redeemed us.
All: God has raised up for us
       a mighty savior from the family of David.
God spoke through the mouth of the holy prophets from of old:
       to save us from our enemies
       from every power that would destroy us.
God has shown mercy to our ancestors,
       and has remembered the holy covenant.
This was the oath that God swore to our ancestors Abraham and Sarah:
to set us free from the powers of our enemies,
       free to serve God without fear,
holy and righteous in God’s sight,
       all the days of our lives.
Alleluia! God, you who are sovereign over all things, we praise you.
Christ, you who have conquered the world with your grace, we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you who rule in our hearts with love, we bow to you. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of power and might, we profess that Christ, your love embodied, rules over all Creation. Grant that Christ may rule over our own hearts: that we may belong to you alone, that our trust be in you, that our will be subservient to yours, that our lives are wholly in your service. God of grace, we pledge allegiance to you and to your Christ. Speak your Word to us and order our lives by your grace. Amen.

2.
So many forces work woe in this world. So many powers vie for control. But you rule above all others. Save us, O God! So many leaders would claim our loyalty. So many voices would speak for our souls. Overrule them, O God! Take up your power and reign in our hearts. Call us and equip us to serve you for the sake of your Reign of Grace. Speak to us now that we may hear your word, be awakened and changed, and follow. Amen.

3.
Eternal God, you have set Christ to rule over all the earth. He reigns with mercy and grace. Under his glorious and gentle rule, help us as we hear your scriptures read and good news proclaimed, to listen with humble hearts and to devote our lives to your service. We pray in the name of Christ, our sovereign. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Love,
you who create,
who rule the world,
rule in my heart.
Shepherd the flock of my soul.
Reign in my life.


Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, you are our Sovereign.
Forgiveness is your law, and mercy is your demand.
But we confess that we have not obeyed your law,
nor allowed ourselves to fully receive your blessing.
We bow to you.
Forgive us, transform us,
and write your law of grace in our hearts.
We pray in the name of Christ, the King of Mercy.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

Readings


(Colossians 2.11-20)
Leader: I pray that you will lead lives worthy of the Beloved,
fully pleasing to God,
that you will bear fruit in every good work
and grow in knowing God.
All: May we be made strong with all the strength
           that comes from God’s glorious power,
           which prepares us to endure everything with patience.
Joyfully give thanks to the Holy One,
who has enabled you to shine with the light
all God’s beloved ones inherit.
God has rescued us from the power of darkness
           and transferred us into the realm of the Beloved,
           in whom our sins are forgiven
           and our lives are made complete.
Christ is the visible appearance of the invisible God,
the beloved older brother 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 is completely present.
Through Christ God reconciles us to God—
          all of us, and everything on earth and in heaven:
            making peace in dying on the cross.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. 1. Luke 1.68-79 may be read as an affirmation

2.
                   (Colossians 1. 11-20)
Leader: Let us give thanks to God,
the Life-Giver, our Mother, our Father,
who gives us, with all the saints, the gift of God’s light.
All: God has rescued us from the power of darkness
and transferred us into the Realm of God’s beloved Son.
Christ has set us free, pronouncing the forgiveness of our sin.
       Christ is the visible image of the invisible God,
the oldest sibling of all creation.
All things in heaven and on earth were created in Christ:
everything visible and invisible,
including nations and dominions and rulers and powers—
all things have been created through him and for him.
Christ before all things, and in Christ everything holds together.
       Christ is the head of the body, the church;
Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
and is at the heart of everything.
God was pleased to live completely in Christ.
Christ brings everything into harmony with God—
everything on earth and in heaven,
by making peace through the blood of the cross.
Leader: May God’s glorious power make you strong.
May you be prepared to endure everything with patience,
the whole time joyfully giving thanks to God.
All: Amen.

3. (from Colossians 1.13-20)
       We give thanks to God, who has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the dominion of God’s beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.
       We believe in Christ, who shows us God, since God lives fully in Christ. Christ is the elder sibling of all Creation. Everything in the universe was created through and for Christ, who has dominion over all power structures, all authorities, all visible and invisible forces. Christ provides the way we make sense of the world, for everything holds together in Love. Through Christ God has brought everyone and everything back into relationship, creating peace where there was bloodshed.
       We belong to the Church, which is Christ’s body; and Christ is our head. Love leads us in everything in life, and even in death and resurrection. Thanks be to God!

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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


Blessed are you, Holy One God of Israel,
for you have looked favorably on your people and redeemed us.
You have raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of your servant David,
as you spoke through the mouth of your holy prophets from of old.

You granted that we would be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all that diminishes life.
You have set us free to serve you without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before you all our days.
You have rescued us from the power of darkness
and delivered us into the Realm of your beloved son.
Therefore with all Creation we sing your praise.
     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
in whom you were pleased to dwell fully.
Jesus embodied your visible image, before all things,
creating all things, ruling over all things,
in whom all Creation holds together.

In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.
Through them you have reconciled everything to yourself,
making peace by their blood on the cross.


     (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.

And you, children, will be called the prophets of the Most High;
for you will go before God to prepare the way,
to give knowledge of salvation to God’s people
by the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us.
O God, give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and guide our feet into the way of peace.
     
(Amen.)

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

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

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with the the power that raised Christ from the dead. Send us to love, with trust and gratitude, to proclaim forgiveness, to serve as loyal subjects in the Realm of Love, in the name and the Spirit and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You reign in love over all the world. Reign over our own hearts; fill us with your light; and send us out to work, to risk and to witness for the realm of justice and mercy you desire for all the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world with Christ reigning in our hearts. May your love rule over us, your generosity lead us forward, and your Spirit strengthen us to serve you in all that we do, to your glory, in the name of Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Benediction

Luke 1.76-79
Leader: You, children, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for God,
to give knowledge of salvation to all people by enacting the forgiveness of their sins.
All: By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Suggested Songs

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

Christ, Ruler of All Things (Tune: ST. ELIZABETH – Fairest Lord Jesus)

Christ, Ruler of all things, what is seen and unseen,
your love reigns; your grace is sure.
Beneath our fear and strife, death fails to conquer life:
your tender mercy still endures.

Christ, Ruler of our hearts, come and reign within us.
Make us comrades, siblings, friends.
Your love be our life, our only power,
that gives us life that never ends.

Christ, Ruler of the earth, bring your gentle justice:
your Realm come, your will be done.
Heal all oppression; fill us with mercy,
as faithful as the rising sun.

Christ, Ruler of all things, of what is and is to come,
Risen One, our song we raise.
Rule in our living; guide us with tender love.
Your grace in us will be your praise.


Love Is Enthroned
(Tune: Finlandia)

O, risen Christ, who once appeared among us,
you have ascended! Loud we sing your praise.
Though we may see no shadow of your nearness,
you have not gone; your loving presence stays.
You are no longer in one time or place,
but in all things, to radiate your grace.

Christ has ascended, reigning now above.
Love is enthroned at the Creator’s side.
All powers on earth are subject to Christ’s love,
who is our history’s unseen, gentle guide.
Though evil try to make this world its home,
Love is its Lord, and love shall overcome.

Go in the peace of Christ who is our Lord,
and gently heal, amid the fear and strife.
For we who eat and drink the living Word
are now Christ’s Body, and Christ’s earthly life.
We may not see the journey or the end,
but Christ still reigns, our ruler and our friend.


O Jesus, Wounded Sovereign (Tune: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)

Dear Jesus, you who suffer and walk among the poor
whose hearts and lives are broken, whose faith is still unsure:
despised, accused and battered, you do not say a word.
So powerless, yet loving!— you are my Sovereign Lord.

You bear no arms but loving, no threats nor flags unfurled.
You wear no kingly robes, but the sorrows of the world.
Yet your forgiveness conquers each worldly rule and reign,
and rises, whole, undaunted, from evil, death and pain.

While emperors abuse you, and people shrug or stare,
and dark injustice troubles the ones for whom you care,
your mighty grace arises, and hidden from our sight,
enfolds all living beings in your triumphant light.

O Jesus, wounded Sovereign, I pray, give me the nerve
without this world’s armor to love and bless and serve.
My master and companion, rule all eternity
with grace and deep compassion, and, Love, begin with me.


O Sovereign Love     (Tune: Amazing Grace)

Beloved, you who guard and guide and give for every need,
reign in my heart, O Sovereign Christ; direct each thought and deed.

O Sovereign Love, my root, my sun, my purpose and my peace,
I spurn the world’s vain, anxious rule, and trust your Law of Grace.

The Empire of your justice, God, with mercy’s clear command
shall be my home; my loyalty is to no lesser land.

In humble and obedient thanks I pledge my life to you,
to join your work of justice, God, to make the world anew.

Reign in my heart, O Christ, my Rule. In faith I am compelled
to serve you, who by love alone have conquered all the world.



All Saints Day

November 1 or 6, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s texts celebrate the lives of the faithful and God’s care for them. In Daniel 7. 1-3, 15-18 the prophet has a vision of four beasts representing four oppressive kings—but the kingdom won’t be given to them, but to God’s “holy ones.”

Psalm 149 begins in praise of God, and then moves to a call to vanquish those oppressive kings.
     —or—
Psalm 150 is a song of praise to God, for all God’s mighty deeds, calling for joyful music with every kind of instrument.

Ephesians 1. 11-23 says God will redeem us, and gives us the Holy Spirit as a promise. The author prays that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, so that we can know the hope God offers us, and the riches of God’s gift, and the greatness of God’s power, which raised Christ and placed him in authority over all things.

In Luke 6.20-31 Jesus promises God’s grace for those who are poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted, and woe for those who are comfortable. God gives us grace freely and abundantly, irrespective of our effort or “deserving.” But when we seek power, security and honor, we miss out on God’s gifts. In this radical trust of God’s grace, we dare to love even our enemies.

Preaching Thoughts

All Saints
       In the Roman Catholic tradition each of the saints of the church has their feast day. We protestants know a few of them: St. Valentine on Feb. 14, St. Patrick Mar. 15, St. Nicholas Dec. 6. (Wait. Then who’s on Dec. 25? St. Stephen.) On All Saints Day, Nov. 1, we remember all the saints. On Nov. 2, All Souls Day, we pray for the faithful departed—those who have died, especially in the past year. In Protestant churches we typically combine both: on All Saints Day we remember all the saints of the church and of our own lives, those who have died, especially those who have helped shape our life and faith. We honor them so we may be drawn into their numbers, so we may be sanctified, made saints, by love. So the lectionary scriptures refer to “all the saints,” “God’s holy ones,” the “assembly of the faithful,” inviting us to join them in living faithfully.

Daniel

       The rich and powerful think they own the land but it doesn’t actually belong to them. It belongs to the earth. The rich and powerful think they own the Empire but they don’t. They think they own the world but they don’t. They may own things, objects, real estate. But they don’t own life. In his desert temptations Jesus confronts the attractive illusion of “ruling the world,” and rejects it. It’s an illusion. What’s actually real can’t be owned or controlled. God invites us to abandon the illusory world of control and dominion and instead to be present to this real life, in this present moment. Because here, in this moment, all of life—infinite and eternal—is gathered and shines. No one can own that. But to those who are open, it is given. Not to own but to belong to. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the entire Empire of God.

Psalm
      The lectionary for All Saints Day includes Psalm 149 probably because of its reference to the “assembly of the faithful.” But the praise in vv. 1-5 degenerates (as our own behavior does, often) into a call for executing judgments in vv. 6-9. It may mean overthrowing unjust tyrants, as in the Daniel vision—which will require some explaining, since it reeks of violence, vengeance and retribution. You might prefer to stick with the pure praise of Psalm 150.

Ephesians
       Read Ephesians slowly. Every phrase is a gem. For me Ephesians is the Psalms of the New Testament. Every sentence deserves a sermon. And almost every paragraph can be made into a prayer, or a affirmation, or a litany of praise.

(Click here for a downloadable copy of my paraphrase of the Letter to the Ephesians.)

Luke
      The Beatitudes are the snapshot of what it means to be a Christian. The energy in each of these teachings is the grace of God that flows through us and defines us, empowers us and makes us blessed. It displaces our obsession with ourselves, our powers, our accomplishments, our social standing, and our deserving. It is not any of these things, but God’s grace alone, that is the true meaning, power and worth of our lives. This is a spirituality that renounces the ego’s fixation on power, security and belonging (reflected in Jesus’ temptations). All of these come from God as gifts, and can’t be earned or hoarded. There is a resurrectional energy to the beatitudes: a flowing upward from poverty to the empire of God, from weeping to laughter, from rejection to affirmation, from vulnerability to power. To be a “saint” is not to be an exceptionally good person (though that is good). It’s to live by the resurrecting grace of God, to live the Beatitudes.
      Matthew’sBeatitudes are part of the Sermon on the Mount, a sort of visual parallel to Moses on the mountain with the tablets. Luke has Jesus on a plain, a low place, down with the ordinary people. Matthew’s Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn.” Luke’s says “Blessed are you who are poor, you who weep....” It’s more personal. And while Luke’s Jesus blesses the poor, in Matthew it’s the poor in spirit. Matthew’s allows for a lot of interpretation of what “poor in spirit” means, but it sidestep, or at least softens the issue of actual poverty. Luke nails it. Luke’s audience may be more lower class than Matthew’s. I think Jesus would be OK with either version, and may have preached both in various settings. The point is the same: reliance on our own wealth is hollow; reliance on God’s grace is life-giving.
      Luke has only three beatitudes, not Matthew’s eight—accompanied by three woes. The woes remind us that God’s justice is not all loveliness and light. As in the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55) not only are the lowly raised up but also the mighty are brought down (1.52). True justice requires reparations, both take and also give. The rich are going to have to share. The woes are not curses or God’s punishment or retribution, they’re just observations of the way things work. Woe to the rich not because they’re evil, but because they have already received the consolation they’ve sought. When life gets tough all they’ll have is the money they cling to—not God’s love. This doesn’t mean they can’t have God’s love, just that it’s not what they’ve sought. Woe to you who laugh or are full, not because it’s bad to be happy, but because life will turn; it always does. And when it does, you’ll need to know and trust that blessed are you who weep or hunger. And woe to you when everyone speaks well of you. If you haven’t worked for justice hard enough to make some enemies, get to work.
      The Sermon on the Plain/Mount is Jesus’ clarion call to a spirituality of radical dependence on God’s grace. It’s also a clear call to nonviolence. It’s not passiveness (turning the other cheek, as is well known, was a powerful and even potentially disruptive act of resistance), nor is it just being nice. It’s radical trust that God’s grace works beyond our own powers. It’s also tied to his call to love radically. Even as we resist injustice we love the people caught up in it, perpetrators and victims alike. (As we do we discover that we’re all victims.) Our “enemy” is actually not the other person, but the system of domination.
      “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” There’s Jesus’ theology in a nutshell. Does God only love the people that love God? Heck, no; even gangsters to do the same. God loves their enemies, even the most evil. We receive that love, trust that love, and pass on that love. Be merciful, just as your Abba-Amma God is merciful.

Call to Worship

1. [Ephesians 1.11-14]
God’s will, which is always fulfilled,
is that that we, who began by hoping in the Love that Fills the World,
would ourselves live lives that radiate that love.
When you first heard this wonder—
your wholeness that you see given to you in Christ—
and when you first trusted this love and opened yourself to it,
it poured into you. God’s Spirit changed you.
Now you yourself are part of God’s promise.
The Spirit in you is the first bit of God’s redemption of the world.
That is God’s glory, God’s praise.
In gratitude, then, let us worship.

2.
Leader: Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the realm of God.”
All: We give thanks for your grace in all our circumstances.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”
We open our hearts to your spirit, that you may fill us with your love.
Love your enemies, and pray for those who abuse you.”
Change our hearts, O God, and by your grace in us
help us become the saints you create us to be.


3.
Leader: God of love, we gather surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
All: Blessed and upheld with all the saints, we praise you.
We come at Christ’s invitation, with the poor and the outcast.
Healed and made new with all the saints, we thank you.
We shine with the gifts of your Spirit.
Gifted and anointed with all the saints, we serve you.
In gratitude and joy, with all the saints, we worship you!


4.
Leader: God of all the saints, you surround us with a cloud of witnesses.
All: We give you thanks. May your Holy Spirit sanctify us and perfect us in love.
Risen Christ, you come to us in the humble and the rejected.
We give you thanks. May your Holy Spirit sanctify us and perfect us in love.
Holy Spirit, you live and breathe in us,
so that we too may be your saints for the sake of the world.
We give you thanks. Holy Spirit, sanctify us and perfect us in love,
in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, we thank you for the saints who have gone before us, who have shown us the way of love. May we learn from them, and by your grace in us shine with the light of your glory. Speak to us, and sanctify our lives for your purposes, that we too may be your saints, now and in eternal life. Amen.

2.
God of grace and mercy, we give thanks for all the saints who have gone before us. We open our hearts that you may fill us with the light that filled them, that we may live with the love they lived with, that we may take our place among the communion of saints who serve you, blessed and led by your Word in Christ. Amen.3.Eternal God, we give thanks for those you have guided by your Spirit, who have been teachers, lovers and healers in our lives. We open our hearts and minds to your Spirit, that we too may be perfected in love by your Word of grace, the presence of Christ, and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
God, we confess we often act only on our own behalf,
not as agents of your holy purposes for love, healing and justice.
Forgive our selfishness, heal our fears,
sanctify us for the work of love,
and renew in us the holy light of your spirit,
that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened
we may fulfill your delight,
according to the mystery of your power in us.

2.
God of love,
we pray for our enemies,
for those who oppose or disturb us,
for enemies of justice, enemies of you.
We pray for your blessing for them,
and when it is hard to pray thus, for us.
Forgive our sin, heal our fear,
and bless us that we may love our enemies,
do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
You who are merciful, make us merciful.

Readings

1. Ephesians 1.11-23, my paraphrase

This is our destiny, God’s will, which is always fulfilled:
that we, who began by hoping in the Love that Fills the World,
would ourselves live lives that radiate that love.

1.13-14
When you first heard this wonder—
the good news of your life made whole in Christ—
and you entrusted yourself to it, the Holy Spirit changed you.
So now you know that God’s hopes for you will be fulfilled,
since you have already been turned into holy people.
You belong to God.
You are God’s “Alleluia!”

15-16
Friends, I have heard of your deep trust in Jesus,
the Beloved, the Anointed of God,
and of your love for all the saints,
so I never cease giving thanks for you
as I remember you in my prayers.

1.17-23
I pray that God—
the God the Beloved, Jesus Christ, showed us,
God our beautiful Life-Giver—
may give you a spirit of mindfulness and wisdom
as you deepen your openness to God,
so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you will have the hope God has for you.
May you live in wonder and trust
of the gifts we all receive as God’s Beloved.
May you feel in your bones
the immeasurable greatness
of the power of love when we trust it.
This is God’s power in us.
Love is the power that raised Christ from the dead,
the power that orders the universe,
the power above all human systems,
every rule and authority and dominion,
and above every seen or unseen power,
force or value you could imagine.
God subjects everything to love.
And we—we are the embodiment of that love,
which conquers everything, and fills everything,
and completes everything.
We are the body,
and Love is what makes us alive.

(Click here for a downloadable copy of my paraphrase of the entire Letter to the Ephesians.)


2. (Based on Luke 6.20-27)
Leader: Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.”
All: We release all that we possess,
that we may have you alone.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “
We hunger for justice,
and trust that one day we shall be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Knowing all shall be made well,
we weep with all who mourn,
especially victims of Covid, racism, war, and gun violence.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and exclude you.”
God grant us courage even when reviled to resist injustice,
to stand with the marginalized, and to trust your blessing.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
God grant us love and courage to be merciful,
just as you are merciful,
in the spirit and the company of Christ.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. [Ephesians 1.11-14]
We give thanks for we have been given an inheritance,
destined by God’s will, which is always fulfilled,
so that we trust in the Love that Fills the World,
and that we live lives that radiate that love.
We behold the wonder of our wholeness, given to us in Christ;
and we trust this love and we open ourselves to it,;
and it pours into us. God’s Spirit changes us.
We are part of God’s promise.
The Spirit in us is the first bit of God’s redemption of the world.
This is God’s glory, and God’s praise. Alleluia.

Listening Prayer

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

God of infinite love,
we are poor in Spirit,
but your Realm of love is ours.
Make us holy
in the opening of our hearts
to your grace.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

1.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
We thank you, God, for you create us in your image,
make covenant to be our God, and set us free from all that oppresses.
You give us a world, an empire of grace,
to which we belong, that this world can’t take from us.

You call us as your saints, and show us the way in Jesus.
You have given us saints, young and old, women and men,
who shine for us with the way of love, who in your Spirit gather with us now.
Therefore we sing with all the saints, with every living being and all Creation.
[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He taught and healed, he fed people and set them free.
He gathered a community of those who desire to live by your grace,
who would sanctify themselves for the work of love.
He sought justice, and for that he was crucified,
but you raised him from the dead,
that he might continually embody for us
your Covenant to be with us in love eternally.

[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:
[Memorial Acclamation]

Pour out your holy Spirit on these gifts of food,
that those who receive them may experience your love and grace.
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,

though poor in spirit, blessed by your grace;
though ordinary people, sanctified for lives of love,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world,
in the name and the Spirit of Christ,

[Amen]

____________________

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

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all and all that is to come.
By your grace you have given us life and made us a people.
You rescue us from all that enslaves us,
judge the forces of oppression, and offer freedom to all people;
and you sanctify us for the work of bringing justice to all people.
You have surrounded us with saints,
women, children and men who have rejoiced in your grace,
shared in your work of redemption,
and shined as teachers and examples in the way of faith.
You have gathered us into the community of the redeemed,
and given us as a light to the nations.
Therefore together with the whole communion of saints,
and in union with all Creation, we sing your praise:

[Sanctus]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who brought good news to the poor,
who lifted up the downtrodden and gathered the outcast,
and who called disciples to follow
in the holy way of compassion and joy.

Even in death his gift was love and light.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

The crucified Christ you have raised to life,
so that we might walk in newness of life.
In his dying and rising
you have sealed the lives of your saints.
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.
Gather us in unity of heart,
sanctify us for the work of justice and healing,
and send us in the power of your Spirit,
poor in spirit and rich in your grace,
loving our enemies,
for the sake of the healing of the world.
(Amen.)

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

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

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of love, you create us in your image, claim us as your beloved, sanctify us as your witnesses, and include us in the great communion of saints. Send us into the world as agents of your love, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the spirit and the company of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

1.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Together with all whom you have made holy by your grace, send us into the world to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you. May we shine with the light of your grace now and in eternal life. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In your Spirit you have bound us together with all your saints as one body in Christ. You have sanctified us, set us apart for the sacred work of the healing of the world. Send us out in love, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In the mystery of this meal, by your presence within and among us, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we are made holy, one Body, with all the communion of saints. May this gift work within us, that by your grace we may be perfected in love and live as your saints, for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.


Benediction

(Ephesians 1.17-22)
I pray that the God Jesus reveals to us, the glorious Giver of Life,
will give you a spirit of wisdom and perceptiveness,
so you may know God more deeply.
I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened,
so the hope God offers us will fill your hearts.
May you know the riches that God’s beloved ones inherit
and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who trust,
the very power by which God raised Jesus from the dead,
and seated Christ at God’s right hand in the realm of the infinite.

Suggested Songs

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

Blessed       (Original song)

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

Mercy please grant me anew. Make my heart pure by your grace,
humble, that I may see your face.
Bless me by making me gentle like you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.

Courage please give me anew, peace in the world to make,
and to suffer for your Gospel’s sake.
Bless me by making me faithful to you.
Blessed are the ones who have nothing but God,
for God and God alone shall fill their lives.


For Your Saints        (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

God, we thank you for your saints and for their time among us here,
In their faith, their service and their ready smile we’ve felt you near.
In their steadfast love of others and their persevering grace,
we have known your living presence; we have seen your human face.

God, we thank you for the faith that lifts our hearts and lights our way,
for your hidden, healing presence walking with us day by day.
As we face death’s shadows, still we walk with courage and with love,
persevering in the faith that you have granted from above.

“Children, I will never leave you or forsake you,” you have said.
You have been our helper, God, so there is nothing that we dread.
By your grace that never fails us, guide, sustain and lead us on,
‘till we step with grateful hearts into the light of heaven’s dawn.


God Bless the Saints (Tune: Blest Be the Tie that Binds)

God bless the saints we’ve known,
who loved us through the years,
who shared our struggles and cherished our joys
and held us and wiped our tears.

God bless the teachers and guides
whose wisdom brightens our days,
whose courage lifts our struggling hearts,
and shines your light on our ways.

God bless the quiet ones
who serve in humble ways
without their seeing the fruit of their faith,
yet live in prayerful praise.

God, help us be your saints
who trust your loving grace,
that we may be a holy blessing
in our own time and place.


Heart of Heaven (Original song)

There’s a heart in heaven that knows you,
and speaks your name in love from heaven’s throne,
that has laughed and labored here beside you,
and says, “I know your journey as my own.”

There are eyes in heaven that adore you,
and weep with joy at the beauty of your soul,
for they see the courage of your living,
and share your deepest yearnings to be whole.

There’s a tear in heaven that remembers,
there’s a deep, weary sigh that understands;
there are gentle, wounded hands that know the struggle
to do the work of God with human hands.

There’s a voice from heaven within you,
a spring of life-giving water flowing free.
Let it flow, let grace and peace shine in you
with heaven’s loveliness for all to see.

Oh, the heart of heaven is within you,
the universe embraces you in love,
for the humble One who walks beside you
is the One who rules the sun and stars above.

We Are Your Body (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)
[Matthew 5.3-12]

God of all holiness, baptized in you,
we are your Body: your presence shines through.
We, poor in spirit, are blessed with your own.
May our lives shine forth with your grace alone

We who with Jesus do mourn with the world
shall see your banners of deep joy unfurled.
We who are hungry for love freely shared
feast at the banquet that you have prepared

May we be merciful and pure in heart,
your gentle peacemakers, doing our part.
Dying and rising, we fear no great loss,
sealed with your Spirit and marked with your cross.

Bles-sed, beloved and baptized to serve,
we are your Body and you are our nerve.
Not by our effort, but by your pure grace,
may we be your hands and your human face

OT 31 – 21st Sunday after Pentecost

October 30, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Habakkuk 1.1-4, 2.1-4 the prophet is discouraged by the injustice that he sees. But though it seems hopeless, God’s vision will be fulfilled: it is a vision of how things will actually turn out (“wait for it; it will surely come”). The righteous are those who “live by faith,” that is, they trust this vision of God’s grace.

Psalm 119. 137-144 celebrates God’s truth—using many metaphors: God’s word, law, ways, commands, statues, promise. God’s wisdom gives us joy and guides our lives.

In 2 Thessalonians 1.1-4, 11-12 Paul thanks the people of the church for their increasing love for each other, and prays that Christ will be glorified in them.

In Luke 19.1-10, Jesus invites himself to the home of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, as if they are relatives. In the context of Jesus’ acceptance of him, Zacchaeus experiences a dramatic turnaround in his life.

Preaching Thoughts

Habakkuk
       There is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. Why doesn’t it get any better? Amid news of war, racism, climate change, Trumpism, the loss of species and so many other threats we can feel the prophet’s despair. “Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble?” Habakkuk’s promise might seem to be that everything will turn out OK, but it’s not that simple. Everything may Not turn out OK. (It didn’t for Habakkuk’s folks: he may said these things as Babylon was advancing on Jerusalem.) The prophet’s message seems deeper: even if things don’t turn out all right, everything will be all right.
       The righteous live by their faith. Habakkuk invites us to dig deeper for the foundation of our faith: not just that things will eventually be as we want them to be, but that God is present and active in the world no matter what. It’s so easy to latch onto a false hope that God will “make things right” in the end. But that may not happen, at least not in our limited vision and time frame. What will happen is that God’s vision for the world will still guide us and give meaning to our lives. Gods vision extends beyond human history, and it is on that scale that the ultimate reconciliation will happen—and is now happening. Hope for the future is not wishful thinking but trust in what God is already doing, unseen. And faith is living according to that hope, living out love and justice, healing and joy, no matter what. We’re invited to trust God’s grace even in the gloomiest of times, and shine with God’s light even in the thickest night. That’s how the righteous live by their faith.

Luke
      Jesus doesn’t seem to be “passing by.” He might even be seeking Zacchaeus out. He invites himself to Zachaeus’ house. Sometimes we think we’re seeking God, trying to get a glimpse of God, when it’s actually God who is seeking us. How does Jesus invite himself into your life? Why do you think he does that? How does he enter into your living, your home, your heart? When he enters, what happens?
      Zacchaeus’ story is about how Jesus changes lives. And it portrays Jesus’ radical acceptance of everybody, without judgment—even despised tax collectors. His mission to “seek out and to save the lost” is not about religious conversion but inclusion: establishing kinship even with enemies.
      Jesus’ relationship with Zacchaeus is enough to discomfort everybody. To righteous Jews camaraderie with a tax collector is grumble-worthy. To those of us who take comfort in Jesus’ attention to the poor, we’d rather see him visit the poor widow. And to most of us we’d rather not talk about giving away our money. (Ever notice this? Almost all our pictures and images of Zacchaeus are of the little guy up in the tree. Not the guy giving away his money. We’ll go for cute above challenging any day.) Jesus seems to see the goodness in Zacchaeus before any of us do. In this story Zacchaeus subverts everything we think we know about rich people in the Gospels. He is eager to see Jesus, quickly and willingly invites Jesus to his home, and offers generous repayment to the poor. It might be that though he was despised Zacchaeus never was a bad or selfish guy. That’s our judgment. (Technically in the Greek Zacchaeus doesn’t say “I will” give that money, but “I am” giving. As if he’s been that generous all along!) If I start this story by thinking nothing good can come of Zacchaeus till Jesus gets hold of him, I am the one whom stands guilty of sin. Maybe I need to be as generous with my forgiveness and acceptance from the beginning as Jesus is.
      The outcome of Jesus inviting himself to Zachaeus’ house is deep generosity and justice. Is that the outcome of our encounter with Jesus? What holds us back?
      We marvel at the apparent change that comes over Zacchaeus. How does this come about? What might it have felt like for Zachaeus, climbing up the tree? Climbing down the tree? Walking with Jesus? Maybe this is a story of a greedy person who becomes generous because first it is a story of a lonely person who is befriended.
      This is the first time since chapter 2 that Luke talks about “salvation,” after talking about it so much in the first two chapters. He apparently wanted to show us salvation as God’s free and unwarranted gift of love, forgiveness, healing and inclusion in the divine circle—first, for 17 chapters, before we get ideas about right belief and “getting saved.” Now he can use the word without losing us. Salvation comes because Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham, not because he’s a good person. It’s the lost who are saved.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, for life and beauty we praise you.
All: Joy and gratitude!
Loving Christ, for grace and mercy, we thank you.
Joy and gratitude!
Holy Spirit, in your life-changing power we worship you.
Joy and gratitude! Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Eternal God, like Zacchaeus we are too small to see you.
All: But we want to see you. We want to greet you!
So you come to us, and invite us into your presence.
You come to us in Christ, and you call our names.
You come to us in scripture and in prayer, and you change our lives.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Loving God, as Jesus came to Zacchaeus’ house, you come to us; you bless us; you change us. We open the homes of our hearts to you and we welcome your gracious presence. Speak to us, and transform us by your Spirit. Amen.

2.
Spirit of Life, Jesus came to Zacchaeus and called his name. You are present with us now. Call to us, draw us closer to you, and change our hearts, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, like Zacchaeus we long to see you, but many things get in our way. Help us now to set them aside, to look past all the obstructions and distractions, and look only to you, and listen to you. As your scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, open the eyes of our hearts and the ears of our souls, so that we might hear your Word, and be changed. Amen.

4.
Holy One, we are bound up by our fear and self-centeredness. But Like Zacchaeus we want to see you, so we draw near, each in our own way. And you receive us. Invite us, Lord. Spend time with us, speak to us and change our hearts with your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor:
The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of gentle mercy,
we confess our sin,
for it has become a burden to us
that we cannot bear.
Receive us, forgive us,
relieve us of our burdens,
and set us free. Amen.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

2.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word and deed,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
Gather us in your loving arms;
have mercy on us and forgive us,
that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways,
by the grace of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
We believe in God, maker of all things, provider of all things, who loves all people. We follow Jesus, in whom salvation has come to us: he sees us for who we are, heals the wounds of our hearts, and makes us new. In his death and resurrection we see the deepest truth of life. We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, that empowers us for self-giving love. We give thanks for the Church, the Body of Christ; and for the gift of forgiveness, the power of resurrection and the mystery of eternal life. Amen.

2. (based on Habakkuk 1, 2)
Leader: O God, destruction and violence are before us;
strife and contention arise.
All: Why do we keep seeing wrong-doing?
Why doesn’t justice prevail?

There is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
Give us hope, for you are at work.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Give us faith to endure, and to face toward that day.
Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
Give us love, to live by our trust in you.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
1.
Holy One, your vision is true,
your will is certain, your delight is sure;
but it comes about slowly.
Open our hearts to trust, to listen,
and to live in faithful love.

2.
Generous Jesus,
you invite yourself into our lives.
We climb down from our plans.
We invite you in.
You bless us, and change us.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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

Generous God, we thank you for your grace.
You are not merely passing by. You seek us out.
You have invited yourself to our home, entered into our lives.
You come with grace and forgiveness, with blessing and joy.
Our lives are changed, and we celebrate.
We feast on the generosity of your heart,
and sing your praise with all Creation.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He enters into the lives of the poor and the lonely.
In our awkwardness and loneliness he befriends us.
In our greed and selfishness he changes us.
In our sin he saves us.
In his dying and rising he invites us to become new people.
     (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.
By your grace salvation has come to this house.

Therefore, remembering 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.

In gratitude we give of ourselves and our goods;
we give of our lives, for the sake of the mending of the world,
in the name and the company of Jesus.
     
(Amen.)

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

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

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, in gratitude for all you have given us, and in faithful stewardship of what you have placed in our hands to share with the world, 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. You have received us into your love; now send us out as changed people to serve you for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, you have given us rich gifts: the grace of your forgiveness, the blessing of your presence, the treasure of your abiding Spirit. 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, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You enter our lives with grace. May we enter this world with love, with humility, gratitude and generosity, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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


Setting the Table        (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

Christ, you have seen us and called us with grace, and
come to feast with us in our earthly place.
You eat with sinners! We welcome you here,
grateful for love so abounding, so clear

God, you have saved us so that we may live
new lives of grace; so now grateful, we give
freely our treasure and gladly our hearts,
with generosity that your love imparts

Spirit, you bless us with infinite gifts:
healing that frees us and power that uplifts.
Grateful, we give you our hearts and our gold;
Lord, there is nothing that we would withhold

Lord, you forgive us our fear and our greed, and
free us to share with all others in need.
We set this table with joy and with care,
saved, blessed and grateful, and happy to share.


Zacchaeus’ Song (Tune: I Come with Joy)

1. Lord, 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.
2. For you have given me such gifts, grace infinite and deep,
that I can only share them all. — There’s nothing I will keep.
3. And let my giving change me, Lord, to make me more like you:
to let your blessing flow through me, — creating me anew.
4. 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.

OT 30 – 20th Sunday after Pentecost

October 23, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Joel 2.23-32 rain and abundant crops following years of locust infestations are a symbol of God’s forgiving and renewing grace. Despite our past sins, God pours out God’s spirit on everybody alike—without exception.

Psalm 65 celebrates God’s abundant blessing. The creation of the world, the abundant provision of the earth, and the forgiveness of our sins are all equally great signs of God’s grace.

In 2 Timothy 4.6-18 an old pastor, a follower of Paul, reflects back on the lonely struggles of their ministry, and what it means to keep on doing God’s work even when other people abandon or resist you.

In Luke 18. 9-14 Jesus tells a parable about two people at their prayers: a Pharisee, who would be thought of as a good person, and a tax collector, who would be labeled as a “bad” person. Which one gets closer to God? Surprise!

Preaching Thoughts

Joel
     I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. Note the inclusiveness: not just Christians: everybody, male and female, old and young, rich and poor. Despite our past sins, God pours out God’s spirit on everybody alike—without exception. What might it mean in your context to “dream dreams… see visions… prophesy?”

2 Timothy
     I have fought the good fight. Or, in less combative terms, “I have stayed in the struggle.” It’s not over, of course. The “fight” or “race” is not some campaign, but simply the long, hard work of staying faithfully loving and working for justice in a world that resists those things. Being kind in a rough world. Staying hopeful when things are bleak. We don’t need great accomplishments to know that we’ve lived good lives. We just need to “keep the faith”—stay loving, no matter what. The author knows it’s not his own merit that enabled him to persevere: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” When we live in harmony with God, in all our struggles God stays with us and takes care of us. Our confidence is not in our own faith but in God’s guidance and protection.

Luke
     Tax collectors worked for the Romans, were usually corrupt, and were looked down on. Although we have come to think of Pharisees as “bad guys” because of their opposition to Jesus, they were actually well-respected, deeply devout, obedient believers. Jesus himself may have been a Pharisee. This story includes a prayer that is like actual prayers that are preserved from Jesus’ time. One said, “I thank you, God that you have not made me a sinner, or a slave, or a woman.” It’s true that all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. But humility doesn’t mean thinking of ourselves as less than others. It means avoiding comparing ourselves at all, trusting that everyone is equally worthy and beloved. Humility means being human, knowing we belong in humanity, neither better nor worse than others, but simply a member. Humility doesn’t require us to be self-denigrating; it means being honest about our gifts and our flaws, without needed to compare ourselves.
     The Pharisee’s prayer is entirely self-centered. The tax collector goes home “justified” not necessarily because their prayer is more humble, but because it’s an opening to God, a desire for relationship—and maybe even change. Again we’re challenged to move our prayer from asking for things to being present for God and listening.
    The tax collector prays “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” In Mk. 10.47 Bartimaeus cries, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Rooted in both these prayers is the Jesus Prayer which is widely known in the Orthodox tradition: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” For those who have a hard time with doctrinal terminology, I like “Jesus, Beloved, have mercy on me, for I need you.” Either way it’s a great prayer for repeating like a mantra.

Call to Worship

1. (from Ephesians 2.4-10)
Leader: God, you are rich in mercy.
All: With great love you have loved us.
Though we were dead in our sins
you have made us alive together with Christ.
By grace we have been saved.
We are what you have made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which you prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Alleluia!


2.
Leader: God, not by our strength,
All: but by your grace we come.
Not because of our righteousness,
but in your grace, you love us.
Not by our effort,
but by your Spirit in us, our praise overflows.
We thank you. We bless you. We worship you.


3. [from Psalm 65]
Leader: Loving God, by awesome deeds you have delivered us.
All: O you who answer prayer! To you all hearts shall turn.
Hope of the ends of the earth, you have established the mountains.
O you who answer prayer! To you all hearts shall turn.
You visit the earth and water it. The river of God is full of water.
O you who answer prayer! To you all hearts shall turn.
Your footsteps overflow with richness. All Creation sings for joy.
O you who answer prayer! To you all hearts shall turn.

4.
Leader: Eternal God, you who create the universe by your Word, we praise you.
All: You who fashion the world with your hands, we thank you.
You who shape the world by your love, we greet you.
You have made all things wonderful,
and you have made us, your beloved,
truly wonderful.
How can we not then fall in love with you?
Though our hearts get mangled and our lives get twisted ,
still we are your wondrous creatures, and you love us.
Alleluia! Come, Holy One.
Claim us and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!


5.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: The river of God is full of water.
Awaken our hearts, and open them as vessels to your grace.
We drink deeply of your love.
May the river of life flow through us;
may we send forth streams of mercy.
Alleluia! Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, O God
,
and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

6.
Leader: O God, you who speak to us in prayer, we turn to you.
All: We still or hearts, that we may hear.
We open the window of our spirits
that your light may flood in.
We open the door of our hearts,
that we may receive you and attend to you
with all our powers of adoration and love.
Speak to us, for your servants are listening.
Alleluia! Make us yours forever. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of mercy, we come before you with all our sin, and all our beauty. You receive us with such deep love. We open our heart to you now. Speak your Word to us and transform us by your grace. We pray in the name and the company of Christ. Amen.

2.
God of all creation, you visit the earth and water it, and make it glorious by your grace. We thank you for your love, and we open our hearts to your grace, that by your Spirit alive in us we may live lives of humble praise. Amen.
3.
God, you have promised through your prophet that you would pour out your Spirit on all living beings. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us now that in hearing and proclaiming your Word, in prayer and song, word and silence, we may hear your voice, receive your Spirit, and be changed into the image of Christ. God, be merciful to us, and grant us your grace. Amen.

4.
Loving God, we do not pretend to know your will, nor do we seek to understand your mysteries. We only want to draw nearer to you. Be present with us, and let us receive new life. Speak to us, and let us hear. Touch us, and let us fall in love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, we open ourselves in honesty to God.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,
to see all that is in us that is loving,
and all that is not loving.
By the grace you show us in Christ,
forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
[Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
Leader: Rejoice, for God has mercy upon us in our sin, and holds us close to God’s heart.
All: O you who answer prayer! To you we turn our hearts.
Now we are the Body of Christ, and each of us is a member of it.
It is no longer we, but Christ who lives in us. To you we surrender our lives.
God has poured out the Holy Spirit upon us.
God of love, we receive your Spirit and its gifts, for the sake of the world.
There is one Spirit but many gifts, many ways in which we are precious to God.
Beloved, by your Spirit in us, help us to forget ourselves and look to your grace,
to see and to put into service your gifts in us, for service to the world,
in the name and the grace and the companionship of Christ. Amen.


2.
      We give our hearts to you, O God, creator of all that is and all that is to come. You made all things by your Word, and declared them good. You breathed your Spirit into all humans and declared them very good.
     We give our hearts to you, O Christ, Living Word of God, love made flesh. You taught and healed, and brought people out of the prisons of judgment into the mystery of love. You announced the Reign of God among us, and you gave your life in compassion and forgiveness. God raised you from the dead, and you live among us still, awakening us, calling us to love.
      We give our hearts to you, O Holy Spirit: you make us one body in Christ, your Church. You give each of us gifts which are precious for the mending of the world. We serve by your grace, trusting in the power of love. We open our hearts to your grace to transform us. We devote our lives to you, that we may continually love you and love our neighbors more deeply, in the name of Christ, for the sake of the healing of the world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Jesus, Beloved,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.
Jesus, Beloved,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. You have poured your Holy Spirit into us; now pour us out into the world as the embodiment of your love. We pray, as we serve, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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


God, Be Merciful to Me (Original song)

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


Heart of Heaven (Original song)

There’s a heart in heaven that knows you,
and speaks your name in love from heaven’s throne,
that has laughed and labored here beside you,
and says, “I know your journey as my own.”

There are eyes in heaven that adore you,
and weep with joy at the beauty of your soul,
for they see the courage of your living,
and share your deepest yearnings to be whole.

There’s a tear in heaven that remembers,
there’s a deep, weary sigh that understands;
there are gentle, wounded hands that know the struggle
to do the work of God with human hands.

There’s a voice from heaven within you,
a spring of life-giving water flowing free.
Let it flow, let grace and peace shine in you
with heaven’s loveliness for all to see.

Oh, the heart of heaven is within you,
the universe embraces you in love,
for the humble One who walks beside you
is the One who rules the sun and stars above.

The River of God (Psalm 65)        (Original song)
Dialogue between soloist and congregation.

Cantor:
Praise is due to you, O God, our Beloved.
To you alone we devote our lives.
O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.

Congregation (Refrain):
The river of God is full of water.
Praise to you, O God!


By mighty deeds you deliver us.
You are the hope of all people on earth. …Refrain

Morning and evening resound with joy.
We are silent in awe. —Refrain

You bless the earth and water it,
granting the blessing of bountiful growth. …Refrain

Meadows and wilderness overflow,
wearing their finest in joy.Refrain

When the depth of our sin overwhelms us,
you forgive all our transgressions.
How blessed we are, O God,
that you hold us near your heart. …Refrain

World Communion Sunday

October 2, 2022

Suitable Texts

Scriptures abound that lend themselves to World Communion reflection. Examples:

Isaiah 56.3-8. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

1 Corinthians 12.12-27. You are the Body of Christ

John 17.20-23. “That they all may be one.”

Preaching Thoughts

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 (yes, all denominations are sects) to partake of the Eucharist. I see no biblical warrant for it, but exceeding 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.

Psalm 137 is the lectionary psalm of the day. Our discomfort with the violence of the psalm’s passion invites us to look at our discomfort with the suffering of others, especially those we don’t identify with. (We white folks seem more deeply touched by the plight of white Ukrainians than that of Asian Uyghurs or Rohingya.) World Communion Sunday, celebrating our unity in Christ, invites us to enter into the suffering of others, even foreigners, even enemies, because they too are our kin, members of our own body. This is the meaning of taking up the cross: to enter into the suffering of the world.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, Mother and Father of us all, your children worship you.
All: People of every tribe, nation, language and culture praise you!
Risen Christ, your sisters and brothers around the world give thanks to you.
People of every kind and status, in every hut and cathedral sing to you!
Holy Spirit, you make us one, the Body of Christ, throughout the World.
Loving Christ, we come to your table to be together with our sisters and brothers.
May there be unity among us. May we be one in the love and faith of Christ,
one in the Spirit, and one in ministry to all the world, to the glory of God. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Creator of the universe,
All: you bring forth all Creation, and we belong.
You give birth to all peoples;
you create one human family, and we belong.
You feed us with your love;
you make of us one Body in your Spirit, and we belong.
So we come, people of every race and nation and tribe and people,
to worship together and to feast on your love. Alleluia!


3.
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, Rwandans 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!

4.
Leader: Glory be to you, O God of all Creation.
All: Thanks be to you, O Christ, for our salvation.
You have saved the people of all nations and races!
People of every color and heritage praise you in every language.
Gather us as one family at your table, Love;
in your Spirit, make us one.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You alone are holy, and we worship you.
You gather us as one people around the world:
one in Christ, one in your Spirit,and one in our worship of you.
We give thanks for the gathered community,
and for your presence among us!
Alleluia! Make us one, God! Make us one! Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, like a loving mother who has prepared a wonderful meal, you call all of your children to your table, to share together, to be at peace with each other, to tell our stories, to nourish one another, and most of all to feast on your grace. Feed us with your Word, that we may truly be children of God. Amen.
2.
God of all Creation, we gather at your table with your children of every nation. We thank you for your loving presence, for your Church across the globe and for the Spirit that unites us. As we listen, our sisters and brothers around the world are listening in uncounted languages. May we all hear your Word, hear your love, in the Spirit of Christ. Make us one, Love; make us one. Amen.

3.
God of love, like a loving mother who has prepared a wonderful meal, you call all of your children to your table, to share together, to be at peace with each other, to tell our stories, to nourish one another, and most of all to feast on your grace. Feed us with your Word, that we may truly be children of God. Amen.4.
God of love, your children around the world are listening to you now in many languages. Speak to us in truth that is deeper than words, in presence that is deeper than what can be seen, in love that is deeper than understanding. In scripture, in proclamation, in prayer—speak to us as you do to all your Beloved, from within Amen.

5.
Gracious God, at this moment, Christians around the world are gathered at this very table. We are among sisters and brothers in every land. Open our hearts and minds to your presence in the Body of Christ around the world. Help us to hear, to belong, and to gather others to your table. Speak to us: we are your children, and we are listening. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God, we give thanks
for the diversity and unity of the human family,
and for your grace in the ways ways we honor that gift.
And we confess the ways we resist our unity,
resist our diversity, judge those who are not like us,
and ignore our siblings.
Heal our fear, forgive our sin,
and renew in us your loving Spirit.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

 1.
Holy God, we are one in your love, and we thank you.
It is not our beliefs or our faith that unite us,
but your love for us all that makes us one.
Those who are like us and those who are different,
all are beloved and all are made one.
People of every continent and every race,
all join us at the table of your grace.
Humans and creatures and all living things
are one in the Body of Christ.
For the great diversity of people,
for the splendor of life in all its colors,
we praise you.
Gracious God, in your grace we are one,
and we worship you.
We are yours, and we serve you. Alleluia!

2.
     We give our hearts to God, Creator of all people, Mother and Father of us all.
     We follow Jesus Christ, who embodied God’s infinite love for insiders and outsiders, and who created a community of love, not doctrine. In his Spirit we are are all one Body, members of one another. In his death and resurrection we witness the triumph of divine love over human divisions. In the breaking of bread together we celebrate the wondrous diversity of the Body of Christ, and we enact his vision of our unity and our companionship.
     We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love in us, moving in us as a body, the orchestra of God, whose music is most beautiful when we are in harmony with each other. By that spirit we seek healing and justice for the whole human family and all Creation.

Listening Prayer

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

Holy One,
we are most holy when we are in you,
not cut off by ourselves.
Bring us into unity with you
and the whole Body of Christ,
that we may hear your Word
and live in your love.
Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding 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.

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


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

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]*

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

[Memorial Acclamation]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we maybe for the world the Body of Christ,
made one not by our faith but by your love,
one Body around the world,
one in you, and one in ministry to the world,
in the name and the live of Christ.
[Amen]
________________

2.
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.)

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

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

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As many grains are made one in a loaf of bread, you make us one Body in Christ by your love. Send us into the world to love courageously and to serve humbly, for the sake of the healing and harmony of all Creation. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

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.


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.


One Loaf      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

Like wheat that’s made into one loaf of bread,
we are one Body with Christ as our head,
grateful for grace guiding us from above,
we are one people, one Spirit, one love.

Spirit, you live in us, in each and in all,
giving us each gifts to answer your call.
Your gift is in every soul, every heart,
each of us needed to offer our part.

Give us the faith, God, to go where you lead,
act as your loving and kind mustard seeds.
Send us in love to this world so in need,
spreading your good news in word and in deed.


Your Hands and Your Face (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God of all holiness, baptized in you,
we are your Body: your presence shines through.
We, poor in spirit, are blessed with your own.
May our lives shine forth with your grace alone.

We who with Jesus do mourn with the world
shall see your banners of deep joy unfurled.
We who are hungry for love freely shared
feast at the banquet that you have prepared.

May we be merciful and pure in heart,
your gentle peacemakers, doing our part.
Dying and rising, we do not fear loss,
sealed with your Spirit and marked with your cross.

Blest and beloved and baptized to serve,
we are your Body and you are our nerve.
Not by our effort, but by your pure grace,
may we be your hands and your human face.


Your Holy Feast (Tune: 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.

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.

We Feast on Your Love (Original song)

Chorus: We feast on your presence.
We feast on your love.
This is the banquet we’ve been dreaming of. (Repeat.)

We reach for the hem of your garment,
we open ourselves to your grace.
In flows the mercy you offer
in every time and place. — Chorus

You gather us; none is unworthy;
and no one is “greatest” or “least.”
You multiply what we offer,
so multitudes may feast. — Chorus



OT 25 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost

September 18, 2022

Lectionary Texts

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

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

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

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

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

Preaching Thoughts

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

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

Call to Worship

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

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

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

Collect / Prayer of the Day

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

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

Prayer of Confession

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

Response / Creed / Affirmation

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

Listening Prayer

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

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

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

1.
Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. Send us into the world as messengers of your forgiveness, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.



OT 24 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost

September 11, 2022

Lectionary Texts

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

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

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

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

Preaching Thoughts

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

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

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

Call to Worship

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

Collect / Prayer of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer of Confession

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

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

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

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

Response / Creed / Affirmation

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

Listening Prayer

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

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

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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

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

     (Sanctus)

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

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

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
seeking the lost and lonely, treasuring the outcast and rejected,
and rejoicing in all whom you love.
     
(Amen.)

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

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

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

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

Prayer after Communion

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

Suggested Songs

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



OT 27 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

October 2, 2022

Lectionary Texts

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

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

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

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

Preaching Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Call to Worship

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

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

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

Collect / Prayer of the Day

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

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

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

Prayer of Confession

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

Readings

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

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

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response / Creed / Affirmation

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

Listening Prayer

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

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

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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

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

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

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

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

[Memorial acclamation]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pour out your spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.

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

You have entrusted to us this power that we have seen in Christ,
who abolished death and brought life to light in the gospel.
By your Spirit make us mustard seeds of your love.
[Amen]
____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

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

Prayer after Communion

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

Suggested Songs

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

All that We Hold in Our Hands (Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts)
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.


Five Loaves and Two Fish (Original song)

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The gifts that you have are enough
to shine with the glory of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The love that you have is enough
to offer the healing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The courage you have is enough
to work for the justice of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.
See what you have. See what you have.

OT 17 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 27, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Hosea 1.2-10 — God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute. Their children are given symbolic names.

Psalm 85 — You forgave us; restore us again. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Colossians 2.6-15 (+16–19)— Live rooted and built up in Christ …

Luke 11.1-13 — The Prayer of Jesus (“Lord’s Prayer”). … The importunate neighbor. … Ask and you will receive …

Preaching Thoughts

Hosea
        Go easy on the idea of a prostitute as an image of an unfaithful spouse. I don’t know much about prostitution in biblical times, but I worked among teenage girls involved in prostitution in Minneapolis in the 1970’s. One thing I learned is that women don’t go into prostitution to be promiscuous. They go because they’re forced. In the case of my teenage kids, they were sent down that path from an early age by abusive parents. They almost had no choice. In biblical times women had no role in public life. (How many single women do you see in the Hebrew Bible with “honorable” professions? Miriam, Deborah, and… that’s it.) Most women, now as then, do it out of economic desperation; most are also embodying their early abuse. Notice how we always blame the prostitute, but never the men. The prostitute is the victim, not the perpetrator. Even here, Gomer is not the one in power. She’s being used by Hosea. (This whole story is highly and probably purely symbolic, not a real event. So don’t go too far trying to figure out what it was like. But if you play that game, note that Gomer apparently stayed faithful to Hosea long enough to bear two children.) Anyway, in preaching you can touch on how the scripture uses Gomer as a symbol of unfaithfulness, but note the inappropriateness of the archaic equation of “prostitute= unfaithful person.”
         Don’t get hung up on how weird it is to give your kids names like “Not-pitied” or “Not-my-people.” I don’t know that when Hosea’s kids played soccer their teammates called them by their theological nicknames. The names are Hosea’s symbolic image, not his kids’ actual names. They’re symbols of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Hosea’s point was that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness God is faithful. Note that even after the harsh word that Israel is “not mine” they’ll be called “Children of the living God.” There is always grace.

Colossians
      Paul continues his theme of the cosmic Christ who is both eternal and also bodily present— Christ’s body being the church. As members of the church we are members of Christ’s physical presence. As such, Christ is the one who has power over us. Other people, movements, values or forces have no power over us.
       You could preach a whole sermon on practically every sentence in Paul’s letters.
      “Live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Christ.”— Contemplate what it means to be rooted in Christ… how we nourish our rootedness…
      “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit…” You can argue over doctrine and the culture wars forever and never touch on what it means to follow Jesus. Never mind that. Ignore the culture wars and live lives of love.
      “In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in Christ.” — What might it mean to come to fullness in Christ? Maybe to be all of who God creates us to be, to inhabit our whole divine nature… God is not distant: though infinite, God is intimately present, and we are in God….
     “You were buried in baptism and raised with Christ.” — We surrender our lives to God, who gives us new ones… We’re so afraid of “losing ourselves,” but whatever life we love, God always gives us a new one, a more loving and beautiful one.
     “When you were dead in trespasses God made you alive.” — Dead not because of some punishment,but because sin is our distrust of God, cutting ourselves off from God, who is life. But of course we only think we’re cut off. God stays connected (God is in us, and we are in God), and God gives us new life. This is not our doing, our worthiness, but God’s gift.
     “God forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands, nailing it to the cross.” — Think of all the bad stuff you’ve done, all of your inadequacy: erased! Wow. It’s hard for us to accept that; we keep thinking there must be something in ink that didn’t erase… But, no. Our forgiveness is absolute, total and final. We’re not trying to get saved; we’re trying to come to trust that we are saved.
     “God disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross.” — We’re done with that whole Marvel Comics trope of the Battle Between Good and Evil. t’s over. They lost. Love has already triumphed. Again, the issue is not whether love is more powerful that evil, but whether we trust it. This is the foundation of our struggle for justice. The house of evil is built on the sand of fear, but the house of justice is built on the rock of love.
     “Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on (certain religious ideas and practices) and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” — Ignore those who judge your faith. Our faith is not about what we believe but how we trust God, and participate in the Body of Love. Real faith builds up the body (the community) and helps it grow in love.

Luke

      What we’ve called the Lord’s Prayer I call the Prayer of Jesus, both to avoid the word “Lord,” loaded as it is with patriarchy (lords and ladies….)— and also because it’s a fruitful (Jewish) prayer for people for whom Jesus is a spiritual teacher but nor their “lord.”
      Look here for a set of my paraphrases of the prayer (Matthew’s version).
      Luke’s version is much leaner than Matthew’s. We’re not sure what Jesus actually said (other than we know he called God Abba) and what gospel writers added. It’s doubtful Jesus taught this prayer as a whole, but he used the various petitions at times and his words were made into a composite.
      “Father…” — Jesus doesn’t mean God is male, but that even though God is infinite and unknowable, God is also intimately present. Jesus’ particular image of God as “Father” is a strong corrective to many people’s experience of fatherhood as domineering, demanding and distant, and sometimes even violent. Form older generation even a kind father is often experienced as the one who’s away, “off at work.” For people with bad images of “father,” this can be healing. Jesus’ God is a father who is intimate, faithful, generous, and present and attentive— a really good listener.
      In our common version we say “Our Father,” reminding us that faith is never “between me and God,” but among the whole family. God does not belong to any one of us or a small group of us. God is everybody’s parent.
      “Your name be revered.” — This hearkens back to the ten commandments—not merely to avoid taking God’s name in vain but to revere it. God’s “name” means more than language. It means God’s reality, God’s character, God’s essence. This prayer means “May we always be guided by love.” This petition, and the “kingdom” one following, draw us out of our everyday thinking into a new form of consciousness. We abandon worldly values and attachments, and make God the center of our world.
      “Your kingdom come.” —In less patriarchal language, “Impose your imperial rule.” In the age of Disney’s “Magical Kingdom” we forget that a “kingdom” was a real political entity. In Jesus’ setting that was the Romans Empire. A kingdom, or empire, is a power structure with authority, obligations and privileges decreed from above. The Empire of God is a world in which love rules. Grace is not an option: it’s imposed from above. This both a “parallel universe” to this world, and also a real-world alternative to the Roman Empire, and to all human structures of power, domination, privilege and exclusion. As such this petition is not only a spiritual hope; it’s also a political statement.
      “Give us each day our daily bread.” — It’s given. Everything is a gift. Luke’s version, “each day,” has a more ongoing, long-term sense than Matthew’s “this day.” But either way we are invited to rely entirely on God’s providence. It’s like breathing: each breath—this breath— is a gift from God. I think of Ps. 127.2: “It is in vain that we rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for you give sleep to your beloved.” Even what we think we have earned is actually a gift from God.
     “Forgive our sins, for we forgive others…” — We would tremble to ask that God forgive us at the low rate we forgive. Of course God forgives absolutely. But there is something about forgiveness like a hug: you can’t receive it without being wiling to give it. Jesus is likely to have said “debts;” he meant real-life forgiveness of financial debts as well as the more religious and social aspects. That aspect gradually got removed from the real world of poverty and debt-enslavement. But in Jesus’ world nobody owes anybody anything. Jesus envisions us all being free of any guilt, shame, or obligation, being free and freeing others. Again, as in the petition for God’s Reign to come, there’s a sense of all of life being re-ordered, and even re-created. Imagine this: we are provided for, and completely free, before God.
     “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” — This might be asking God not to test our faith—which in fact God does not do. God knows our faith. And God has no need to make us struggle to prove anything. God’s only will is to bless and heal. But it may be more generally asking that we not be brought to the limits of our capacity—not that God causes difficulties in our lives, but that grace helps us avoid them if we can and endure them if we must. This might be a petition spoken not as an individual but as all of humanity: our wish to avoid the intense challenge of, say, world war or climate catastrophe.
     “Ask and you shall receive.” — God is profoundly generous.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of love, we ask you to teach us to pray.
All: You show us your grace, and our wonder is our prayer to you.
Christ, your love gives us joy.
Let our gratitude be prayer to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with your power.
Let our lives be our prayer to you.
And let this, our worship, bring you praise.


2.
Leader: Ask, and it will be given to you.
All: Loving God, we ask for life and peace. Grant us your grace.
Search, and you will find.
Christ, we are searching for your Way, searching for Life. Grant us your grace.
Knock, and the door will be opened.
Spirit, we come knocking at the door of this moment.
Open to us, as we open our hearts to you, and grant us your grace.


3.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Our Father and Mother, we honor you.
Open our eyes to the mystery of your presence
May your Realm come to life among us!
Feed us with the bread of your Word.
Change us with the grace of your forgiveness.

All power and glory are yours, God of love.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of truth, Jesus’ disciples said to him,” Teach us to pray.” So we come to worship, to hear your Word to us, and to learn to pray. Spirit of Love, teach us. Fill us with your Spirit, that everything we do may be prayerful. Fill us with your love, that our only desire will be to do your will. Speak your Word to us, that we may hear your prayer for us, and reflect it in the living of our lives. Amen.

2.
God of love, Jesus has promised that you will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. We are asking you. In your Word, proclaimed here and pondered together and lived out in our lives, give us your Spirit. Amen.

3.
Our Mother, our Father, your presence is holy. We open ourselves to you, that Reign of your love may take over our hearts, and take over the world. May your grace feed us. May your forgiveness guide us. May your wisdom lead us through all the challenges of life, for your sake, and for the sake of the wholeness of the world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
1.
God our Father, God our Mother,
God, our intimate parent,
you give us life. You provide for us,
protect us, guide us and love us.
Like little children we rest in your loving arms;
whether you speak or are silent,
you hold us, and we are at peace.

2.
You give us each day our daily bread;
you give us each moment the breath we need.
We open our hearts to your holy presence.
May your realm of love blossom in our hearts.


Prayer of Confession

God, we confess
we have not lived the lives of your beloved children.
We have not held your holy presence at the center of our lives.
We have submitted to this world’s empires.
We have starved ourselves of your grace;
Neglecting your forgiveness, we have not been forgiving.
Our faith has been tried, and failed.
Heal us, forgive us, and restore us to your Realm.
We pray in the name and by the grace of Christ. Amen.

Readings

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

2.
Colossians 2.6-15 – My paraphrase

You received as a gift
God’s presence embodied in Jesus,
the captain of your soul.
Live as part of God’s embodied presence.
Root yourself deeply in Christ.
Grow and become more whole in your trust,
true to your experience, overflowing with gratitude.
Don’t let anyone hijack your faith with fear and lies, with selfish agendas,
with human prejudices and power structures.
Keep your trust in Christ.
Christ is a higher power than any ruler or authority.

Christ is the physical presence of divinity, in whom your lives are whole.
In Christ you have received God’s Covenant
through a transformation by the Spirit:
stepping beyond the limits of your fleshly bodies,
you became part of the Body of Christ
when you were buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Christ,
trusting in the power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
When you were dead, buried alive under your sins,
disconnected from the Covenant,
God gave you new life together with Christ:
God forgave all your sin,
ignoring all accounts of your failure to meet legal demands.
God destroyed these accounts, nailing them to the cross.
God disarmed all oppressive powers and spirits
and made a public display of them,
triumphing over them in the cross.

So hold fast to Christ, the head,
from whom the whole Body,
nourished and joined by the Spirit’s ligaments and sinews,
grows with a growth that is from God.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
      We love and trust you, God, creator of all that is and all that is to come.
      We love and trust you, Jesus, who embodied the loving presence of God. Crucified under the powers of worldly empire, you were raised by the power of love. You are our head and we your Body, the church, buried with you in baptism and raised in love.
     We love and trust you, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love. We are joined by your ligaments and sinews as one Body in Christ, growing by your grace. By your power we love with gentleness, seek justice with courage, and serve you with joy. May the Rule of your Grace take over this world, to your glory, now and forever. Amen.

2.
     We entrust ourselves to you, God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come. Holy is your presence. All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing. The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence; the earth is alive with heaven. You give us each day the bread we need.
     We entrust ourselves to you, Jesus, the Beloved. You healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
You showed us your forgiveness, that we might forgive others. Crucified and risen, you are our deliverance from the powers of evil, leading us past our temptations, that your will may be done.
     We entrust ourselves to you, Holy Spirit, that your love may take root in our hearts and your will be done. By your power the Realm of Grace flourishes in this world until it will prevail. The world, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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

Our Mother, our Father, holy is your presence.
All that you create you love; and your only will is blessing.
The visible world thrums with the light of your unseen presence;
the earth is alive with heaven.
You give us each day the bread we need.
Therefore, at your invitation, we come to your table,
giving our thanks and singing your praise.

            [Sanctus, 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.
He healed us and fed us and taught us to pray.
He showed us your forgiveness,
that we might forgive others.
Crucified and risen, he is our deliverance from the powers of evil,
leading us past our temptations,
that your will may be done.

     (The Blessing and Covenant) *

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, 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.
Bu your grace may your love take root in our hearts.
May your will be done.
May your Realm of Grace flourish in this world.
For the power and glory are yours, now and forever.

           [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

Gracious God, daily you give us our bread. You give us the Realm. You call us into community with all the world. For this we thank you. In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world to share your love, to do your will, to forgive as we have been forgiven, that your Reign of Grace may prevail upon earth. Bless us that we may bear fruit in your Realm, in the name of Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You feed us the daily bread of your grace. You have forgiven us, that we may forgive. You save us from our weakness, and empower us to do your will. May your love bear fruit in our lives, for the sake of your Realm, your power and your glory, now and forever. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, 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.

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.

Giving Thanks (Original song)

We are a grateful people giving thanks to you.
We are a blessed people singing praise to you.
We are a gifted people spreading love for you.
We are a thankful people spreading love for you.

Grateful Hearts (Tune: This is My father’s World)

Our life is yours, O God, a gift of love from you.
We pray that we may faithfully serve you in all we do.
O give us grateful hearts, for blessings still unknown,
as stewards of your gracious love, your gifts we do not own.

God, all that we possess—the pow’r for what we do,
our goods, our skill, our kind good will— is all a gift from you.
Since all we have is yours, and bears deep grace from you,
Bless us with care to gladly share your love as you would do.

This is Our Mother’s World (Tune: This Is My father’s World)

As a mother in her love surrounds her own with care,
God gives us birth and life and earth and grace beyond compare.
This is our Mother’s world; her grace is everywhere,
each person blest, held to her breast, enfolded in her care.

As a mother tends her young and teaches them her ways,
God loves us so that her light will show: our lives become her praise.
This is our Mother’s world. Her care for us is sure.
Though we go wrong her love stays strong. Her love and grace endure.

As a mother, wise and kind, leads children day by day,
God holds us near so we can hear the voice that guides our way.
This is our Mother’s world, and so our gifts we bring,
to freely share her loving care, and praises gladly sing.

       One-verse Offertory version:

As a mother in her love surrounds her own with care,
God gives us birth and life and earth and grace beyond compare.
This is our Mother’s world, and so our gifts we bring,
to freely share her loving care, and praises gladly sing.






OT 14 — Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 7, 2025

Lectionary Texts

2 Kings 5.1-14 — Elisha heals Naaman of leprosy.

Psalm 30 —I cried for help and you restored me. You have turned my mourning into joy, my sackcloth into am party dress.

Galatians 6.1-16 — Bear one another’s burdens. Test your own work, not someone else’s. … Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!

Luke 10.1-11, 16-20 — Jesus sends out the 72. Travel light, spread peace, and take nothing personally.

Preaching Thoughts

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

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

Luke
      Jesus doesn’t keep the work of ministry to himself. He asks 72 others (that’s us) to join in. The tasks he assigns are to share christ’s peace, to offer healing, and to proclaim the presence of God’s Reign. He invites us to travel light, trusting that we need no more than love to be effective. And even when our message is rejected, we still offer peace and healing; we still include the very people who reject us in our vision of God’s Realm. And when people reject that message we don’t take it personally, or judge either them or ourselves. We “shake the dust from our shoes” and go on. We can’t do everything.
       Imagine this is what you are sent into your daily life to do: to heal, to spread peace, to reveal God’s grace. And to take yourself lightly.
       Jesus sends us out as “lambs in the midst of wolves.” We are not expected to be wolves. We won’t be manipulative or coercive. We won’t expect to get our way, or assume our ways should dominate. In our gentleness and nonviolence we will be vulnerable. We may not prevail. Wolves may still be wolves. But we will not follow their ways. We will bear witness, extend healing, and work for justice.
And when we enjoy success, Jesus reminds us: the real joy is our relationship with God.
       The Reign (“Kingdom”) of God. Jesus sends us out to proclaim that God’s Reign is near. I think what he meant is the absolute rule of God’s love: unconditional, universal and inclusive, as absolute as gravity. It’s three-dimensional. One dimension is God’s absolute sovereignty over all of life whether we accept it or not. This world is not ours, and not anyone else’s, no matter how powerful. It’s God’s. The Empire of God is a direct antithesis to the Empire of Rome. Whereas Rome oversees an Empire of domination and submission, a system of power, privilege and exclusion, God’s Empire is an Empire of Grace, in which everyone is beloved, and everyone belongs. The Empire of God contradicts all our human empires of domination, obligation, deserving and comparison, all our systems of privilege and exclusion. So of course worldly empires will fight back, especially by trying to create insiders and outsiders, and restrict God’s grace to the insiders. But Jesus says to hell with that. God’s love is for everybody, period. God’s Imperial Rule of grace is absolute. The Reign of God is eternal.
       And there’s also a dimension in the present moment. When we choose to accept the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace we find deep peace and a sense of belonging and trust, and empowerment to live in harmony with God’s reign. We “enter into it”—we live in harmony with it. It’s like being in a marriage. The point of marriage is not merely to have said “I do” but to actually be faithful and loving and present for our partner. Jesus invites us to live as if God’s Reign is present, to live in harmony with God’s infinite grace and love for all people. It’s a way of seeing the world and living in it shaped by love, trust, forgiveness, healing, gratitude, generosity and justice. Moment by moment we tend to slip in and out of the Reign of God. Jesus invites us to keep returning, and renewing our faithfulness.
       Because we’re not done yet—nor is God. The third dimension is still in the future, the “age to come.” Jesus imagines God’s ultimate hope for humanity, a world of justice and peace, that is still unfolding, that God is still working on—and that we are asked to help work toward. This is not the same as the afterlife. It’s this life, transformed. It’s the process, still in process, envisioned in Rev. 11.15: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord.”
       So to “proclaim the Kingdom of God” is to live in a way that makes all this stuff real: to live in trust and gratitude, to offer healing and forgiveness, to work for justice and reconciliation, to include those who have been excluded, and in the words of the United Methodist baptismal rite to “accept the power God gives us resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves.”


Call to Worship

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


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

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


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

Collect / Prayer of the Day

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

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

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

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

Listening prayer

1.
Jesus, you have a mission for us.
You empower us to accomplish it.
Let us see your vision,
receive your power,
accept your guidance,
and trust your company.

2.
Christ,
you have a vision for our lives.
Let us see with your eyes,
live with your Spirit,
and trust in your grace.
We await your Word.

2.
God of love,
Jesus sends us out to proclaim your Reign of Grace.
May your Spirit rule our hearts,
that we may travel light,
bear your love,
and release all but your grace.
Empower us, and send us, in your Spirit.


Prayer of Confession

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

Readings

1. Galatians 6.1-10. My paraphrase

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

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

2.
Psalm 5 — My Paraphrase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response / Affirmation / Creed

      We trust in God, Creator of all things,
who is pure compassion,
who loves us unconditionally,
who is present with us in good times and bad,
who is our salvation.
      We trust in Christ, the embodiment of God’s love,
the love and healer of our sols,
who saves us, forgiving our failures,
washing away our betrayals,
who teaches us life’s deepest things:
how to pray, how to love,
how to be gentle with each other.
       We trust in the Holy Spirit, God’s power flowing in us,
that comforts the faithful,
empowers us to love as we have been loved,
and joins us together as the Body of Christ.
We believe we are sent in that Spirit
to heal, to forgive, to do justice,
to radiate the love of God, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

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

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

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

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

            [Sanctus, 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.
He healed the sick and cast out demons
and enacted the Reign of your Grace.

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


     (The Blessing and Covenant) *

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
healed by your grace, reconciled with you and one another,
and sent into the world to heal, to bless,
to cast out the powers of evil and injustice,
and to enact your Realm of Love,
in the name of Christ, for the healing of the world.

           [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

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

Prayer after Communion

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

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

Suggested Songs

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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