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Bidding Prayer Emerging Church

Bidding Prayer for Ordinary Time

2015-07-03 19.49.01Come, let us pray for the body of Christ as it gathers throughout the world.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Holy God of all times, places, and peoples, remind us that your way is the path we seek. Let us walk in peacefully and seek unity with all who call your name. May we be open to the movements of your Spirit and trusting enough to follow where you lead.
God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for the United Church of Christ, worshipping here and elsewhere.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of amazing love, you have called us to be the body of Christ. You ask us to work together for justice and peace. Remind us that we don’t always have to agree even while we seek to build up your church. We pray for our newly elected General Minister and President, John Dorhauer, our Minnesota Conference Minister, Shari Prestemon, and all those who lead and serve in the United Church of Christ. May we be touched with joy as we go about your work in the world.
God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for the peoples of the world.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Creative and joyful God, open our eyes and hearts to the spectacular diversity of the human race. You breathed life into all of us and sealed us with the promise of the Holy Spirit. You long for us to dance the way that David danced, with the simple joy of knowing you. You desire for us lives filled with only good things. Yet, we often act more like Herod than David; we choose to appease the powers of this world rather than speak or act for what is right and good. In you, we are one. May we live into our oneness with mercy and joy.
God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for our country and all others who endeavor to be places of hospitality, justice, and peace.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of all peoples and all nations, may we all seek your wisdom and guidance. The borders and boundaries we have designed keep us separated. You provided the earth for our home and we constantly battle over resources, power, and control. There is more than enough to care for all your children. Open us to the abundance of this country and the amazing resources we have. Show us how to be a place where diversity is celebrated and not feared. Stir us to repentance for the ways in which we have hurt our neighbors and discriminated against those whose needs are greater than our own. Be with all those in power that they may seek justice for all rather than profit for a few. Transform us that we may truly be a country in which there is liberty and justice for all.

God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for all those in need of healing.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Loving and gracious God, keep us mindful of the suffering and pain in the lives of those around us. Teach us gratitude for the lives we live and the blessings we have as we lift up to you those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. Let us be gentle with our words and compassionate with our actions knowing that so much pain, illness, and suffering is invisible to our eyes. Shape us into a community of grace that we may be a place of healing for any and all who seek sanctuary.
God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer.

Come, let us pray for all those who are grieving any kind of loss.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of life and death, remind us that you are present with us in all situations. The darkest reaches of grief cannot separate us from your love. When hope in not even a flicker, you are there. Let us breathe deeply of your Spirit when we are overwhelmed with longing for what used to be. Remind us that grief knows no schedule and people continue to feel pain long after the loss occurs. Be with us and give us the courage to share the burden of grief, especially for those who have lost loved ones to addictions, suicide, sudden illness, or violence. May we be a place of safety and community of hope.
God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer.       

Come, let us give thanks for all the blessings of our lives.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Extravagant and surprising God, you have blessed with so much more than we know. Awaken in us true knowledge and repentance for the ways in which we have not used our gifts to bring your love into the world. We have all that we need and, very often, far more
than what is needed. You patiently wait for us to see the wonders of your love and the magnificence of creation. You yearn for us to turn from the Herods of today so that we may dance with joy like David’s. Hear our honest prayers of gratitude for your steadfast love and your patience with us. May we all be agents of your abundance and grace.
God of love and grace,
Hear our prayer. Amen.       

RCL – Year B – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 12, 2015
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 with Psalm 24 or
Amos 7:7-15 with Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Not Exactly Original, But Sin Nonetheless

Scriptures about power, greed, sin, and forgiveness aren’t always welcome today. Somewhere along the line, talking about sin has gone out of fashion almost to the extreme. I was once the short-term interim at a church that wouldn’t allow a prayer of confession even on communion Sundays because the idea of sin made them uncomfortable. Sin, especially our own, should make us uncomfortable. Sin by definition is that which separates us from, or breaks relationship with, God, ourselves, or others. Forgiveness should alleviate the discomfort sin creates. If we don’t acknowledge our sins, how on earth can we accept anyone’s forgiveness, including God’s?

The readings from 1 Kings, 2 Samuel, and Luke all address people in power who succumb to greed in one way or another, commit some serious sins, and face forgiveness or not. These texts can easily inform many contemporary contexts. The obvious invitation is to examine our own lives and see where power, sin, and forgiveness interact. On another level, asking similar questions of a congregation could be fruitful. And I can’t help but think about our national identity and the sins we commit as a powerful nation (not that I believe or think or want this to be a Christian country).

When I read about Jezebel getting Naboth killed so Ahab can have his vineyard, I’m amazed at the brazen abuse of power. Neither Jezebel nor Ahab saw anything wrong in doing whatever was necessary to get what they wanted. It didn’t matter to them that an innocent man was killed. Even when Elijah pointed out the wrong doing, Ahab was unphased. The questions that come to my mind are these:  When have I used the power I have to get what I wanted without regard for another’s needs? Did I defend these actions or did I ask for forgiveness? Has the church (the congregation I attend or the denomination I am part of) acted without regard to its neighbor’s needs at any point? Does the church acknowledge this sin and seek forgiveness? When has this nation taken from others without regard to consequences for others? Do we stand unphased or do we seek forgiveness?

Like Jezebel, King David used his power to get Bathsheba for himself. He acted on impulse and desire. As a result Uriah the Hittite was murdered. When Nathan pointed out David’s sin, David recognized that he had indeed “sinned against the Lord.” God offered forgiveness, but the consequences for David’s sins were not wiped out. Here my questions are: When I have acted on impulse and caused harm to another, have I been able to acknowledge my sin and accept forgiveness? Do I view painful consequences as punishment for sin or am I able to face the situation knowing that God has forgiven me? When has the church acted on impulse and caused harm to others? Has the community explored forgiveness even as painful consequences may be felt for years? As a nation, when have we taken what belongs to another and made it our own? Have we acknowledged this sin? What role does forgiveness play as we deal with the long-term consequences?

After these two stories of power and sin, there is the third. Luke’s version of the woman who anointed Jesus comes at this theme from the opposite direction. The woman is clearly a SINNER and she offers Jesus what others did not. Simon the Pharisee offered Jesus nothing in the way of typical hospitality even though Simon would have believed himself to be a much better person than the woman. She recognized that Jesus deserved all she had to offer. She brought her whole self – pricy jar and costly tears – and she showed Jesus hospitality like no other. And no one understood. For this passage my questions are: When have I believed myself to be better than another and, thereby, missed offering Jesus radical hospitality? As a church, whom have we failed to welcome? How have we withheld hospitality from others and from Jesus? As a nation, whom do we judge unworthy? Is there a place for forgiveness and hospitality in our national identity?

All these texts are rich and relevant. But I will end my reflections here since this is not a sermon and is only meant to stimulate thoughts and further reflection on the relevance of lectionary texts for the modern reader. So may it be.

For you are not a God
     who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.

The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
     you hate all evildoers.

You destroy those who speak lies;
     God abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
     will enter your house,
I will bow down towards your holy temple
     in awe of you.

Lead me, O God, in your righteousness
     because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

pennyRCL – Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – June 16, 2013

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a with Psalm 5:1-8 or
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10,13-15 with Psalm 32
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

photo from pdphoto.org

Categories
Musings

On Dancing and Deserts

RCL – July 15, 2012 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 with Psalm 24 or
Amos 7:7-15 with Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Since reading these texts a few days ago, I keep hearing an old Tom Franzak song in my head. It was called “David Danced” and had a very danceable melody. Part of the refrain was, “I wanna dance the way that David danced.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the lyrics anywhere. But in the ’80s it was a favorite of mine. Of course, my dancing abilities are about on par with my gardening skills, but the song was about uninhibited praise for God and it had great appeal. And it got me to thinking about what would happen if more energy went into celebrating life and honoring God for the gift of it.

As things often happen when I am paying attention, I heard a news story that captured my thoughts and my imagination. The story was about a place called Toshka located in the southern part of Egypt, near the border of Sudan. It is an interesting place dreamed up many years ago by Mubarak (and others). The plan was to create about a half-million acres of workable farmland in the dessert. This would be central to a community that could attract up to 20% of Egypt’s population and go a long way toward providing food for the whole country.

Unfortunately, Toshka didn’t quite make it to its goal. As it is today, it is 24,000 acres of crop-producing farmland. The irrigation system is in place for more. The whole project was put on hold for various reasons – politics and economics seem to be at the core. But, now there is talk about reviving the project. Egypt is in a state of transition politically. It also faces economic difficulties and a potential food crisis. What better time to create a sustainable community, than a time when people need hope?

So much of the news headlines are horrific and can make a person wonder what is really happening in this world. But if people got behind a project like Toshka, it could happen. Yes, money and resources would be needed to create a town and more farmland out of the desert. Yes, infrastructure would be needed. But these things should not be impossible. If we can fund wars and destruction, should we not be able to support a project like this with as much intention?

Maybe I am over-simplifying things, but if world leaders started talking more about how they could bring water to dry places and food to hungry people, I might be more inclined to listen. I am very tired of debates of healthcare and the finger-pointing regarding the economic situation in this country. At this point, I don’t particularly care who did what to whom. I want to know how these things can be fixed. I don’t do well when a problem has been identified and then just “discussed.” If there is a problem and it has been clearly identified, then there is very likely a solution to the problem that can be worked toward. Why sit around and do nothing productive? I think this is why the Toshka story captivated me – it is a vision that has real potential. If Toshka gets to be even half of what it was envisioned as, it contributes to solving some of the problems Egypt is currently facing.

I think about this place in a far-away desert that is bursting with life and I wonder if human beings will ever live in a world where the only troops sent to other countries are to build or rebuild, rather than destroy. What do we need to start doing now in order to get closer to the seemingly impossible then? And if acre after acre of desert can be turned into farmland, is anything truly impossible with human ingenuity and imagination?

I picture David dancing before the Lord, uninhibited, celebrating life and praising God. We need more of this now. Even as I hear the half forgotten Tom Franzak lyrics, I also hear the words of the psalmist:  The earth is God’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it…

I think this is really why the Toshka project got to me. The earth is God’s. It’s resources are God’s. All people are God’s. We forget this so easily – as individuals and collectively. A vision like Toshka seems to take these things into account. The earth and resources and human beings belong to God, so let’s do something good with them. It’s potentially problem-solving at it’s best if the Toshka project gets started again… or even if it just continues on as it currently is.

It doesn’t really matter where a person finds hope, so long as it is found. This week I found it in the Egyptian desert and in a king who’s been dead for several thousand years. If wheat can grow in the desert, I suppose almost anything is possible, even dancing uninhibited in praise of the One who created all that is.

(Here’s the link to the NPR story that details more of the Toshka project:  http://www.npr.org/2012/07/10/155027725/mubaraks-dream-remains-just-that-in-egypts-desert and if you are interested in more, Google offers plenty of articles, blogs and even Youtube links.)

Categories
Musings

True Power

RCL – July 8, 2012 – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 with Psalm 48 or
Ezekiel 2:1-5 with Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6: 1-13

As I write this blog entry, there are random fireworks sounding throughout the neighborhood competing with the thunder rolling in. The sudden bursts of noise from the fireworks, I could live without. However, I love the sound of thunder as it echoes with power beyond my understanding. My thoughts about these two random, loud sounds parallel many of my thoughts about this weeks news stories.

On the one hand there are the ongoing stories of violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Sudan, and a few dozen other places across the globe – near and far. On the other hand, there are the more amazing stories like the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, the very real potential and possibilities for bionics to heal and (or?) enhance the human body, the moringa tree that provides food year-round in Nigeria’s drought conditions, and several other stories that speak of resilience and ingenuity. The first group of stories of violence is irritating and unnecessary. The second group points toward something greater and stronger that lies within human reach, even if it is reached for with less frequency.

I think this is what the scriptures for this week are pointing at – true power. They all, in some way, denounce the easy, flashy kind of power and, instead, point toward something so much stronger and durable. The passage from 2 Samuel tells of David’s long rule over Israel. We know he was not a perfect man, but he was a great man because the Lord God of Hosts was with him. What would David’s rule have been like if his passions and foibles were not mitigated by his deep and honest faith in God? His power would have been the brief flash bang of fireworks not the awesome force of thunder.

Psalm 48 is a reminder, a hymn to God’s strength. Even the strongest in the world tremble before God. How much do we attend to God’s presence in this world? We get caught up in our desires, our abilities, and we forget from whence they came. The so-called “God particle” is an amazing discovery, but will it really explain how creation happened? It’s a particle that creates mass (to put it very simply), but the particle had to come from somewhere. Who could imagine such a thing, if not the One who created all that is? We would do well to remember that we may tell the next generation that this is God,
our God forever and ever. God will be our guide forever.

In a like fashion, the words of the Ezekiel reading could have been written for us today. We have guns and wars. Politicians and lobbyists. What need have we for a prophet? But really, how long do these displays of power really last? Is there a warlord whose name is known around the world? Is there a politician who is remembered for any length after his or her term has ended of time? Human power is so short-lived.

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

 Maybe it is time to listen for something different.

Psalm 123 reinforces our need for something more. It asks for mercy for those who are weaker, for those who are overlooked by those who are at ease. Perhaps God’s mercy will enable those who are complacent or accepting of misused power. No matter how many headlines I read or news stories I hear that are filled with murder, destruction, and death, I still believe that human beings are capable of better. Perhaps God’s mercy will lead us in a new direction if we but ask. Surely, this is better than expecting mercy from those in power throughout the world?

The 2 Corinthians passage adds some depth to the seeking of God’s mercy. No doubt we forget where our gifts come from or in whose image we are made when we are acting out of our strengths. But when something happens and we are reminded of our weaknesses, where do we turn? Those who would find true strength turn to God, asking for mercy. Those who are enamored with their own power seek to cover their weaknesses and seek more power, position, or control. I’m not a big believer in Satan creating our weaknesses exactly, but there is something decided unhealthy in pretending we don’t have any. True power does not come from perfection, but from relying on grace and forgiveness in those times when we fail to be the people God created us to be.

The truth of power is evident in the Gospel reading for this week. Nothing is said specifically, really. The people in Jesus’ hometown couldn’t see him as anything more than the carpenter they had known. As a result, he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Me, too. How could they not see who he was when he was curing people right in front of them? We are so often blinded by our own expectations of power and possibility.

After this, Jesus sends out his disciples to preach repentance. But told them to take nothing extra with them. Can you imagine what elections would look like today if politicians couldn’t take anything with them as they went on the campaign trail?

I guess what all this boils down to for me is that true power does not come from anything the world has to offer. It comes from a willingness to walk around with empty hands, relying on God’s grace to provide what is needed. Those UN negotiations might go a little smoother if people came to the table in this fashion. And surely the news would be filled with many more stories that are awe-inspiring rather than those that are despair inducing. If ever there was a time that needed true and lasting power to change the “impudent and the stubborn,” it is now.

Maybe the journey won’t feel as long or arduous if we stop carrying around so much, although “taking nothing” is a pretty scary thought. It’s a powerful one, though. Don’t you agree?