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Musings Sermon Starter

Light the Lamps

Image of an clay oil lamp burning with others blurred in the background

I am distressed and disappointed at how this election is going. A landslide for Biden and other Democrats would have made a strong statement against white supremacy, militarized police, children in cages, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and all the other ills of the current administration. How is it that nearly 50% of this country can believe that Trump is good for the United States? We have the highest COVID numbers and they are continuing to rise with no end in sight. We’ve pulled out of the Pairs Accord and pulled back on environmental protections at a time when super storms are normative and polar ice caps are melting. Why do more people not see this man for what he is? And how is it that the hope of overturning Roe v. Wade is more important than the lives of vulnerable people in this moment? Surely, we can do better than this.

If we want to do better in terms of eradicating white supremacy, ending militarized policing and improving the lives of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers along with LGBTQ+ folx and everyone else who is vulnerable in this country, then we who call ourselves Christians must change. We have options. We can recommit ourselves to God’s ways just as Joshua called the people of Israel to do as they entered into the promised land. We can remember that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, including the most vulnerable among us. Now would be a good time to do this, wouldn’t it?

How? Well, we can start by evaluating what it is we are doing. How are we being church? Are Amos’ words true for us? Is God pleased or displeased with our worship, our offerings, our ministries? Justice isn’t exactly rolling down. Nor is righteousness flowing freely. Doing what we have always done before and simply adapting it to be online doesn’t count as real change. We will know we have changed when justice rather than blood flows freely in our streets. Perhaps it’s time we went in search of Wisdom. She’s not easy to find these days. However, when we find her, she will lead us in holy ways; she will guide us in new ways of being church.

If this is all still too intangible, then let us look at Matthew’s story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. I’ve never liked this story. It always seemed so harsh and unnecessarily judgmental on the five who didn’t have enough oil. However, this parable feels very different to me during this election in the midst of pandemic. There is an urgency woven through it. Urgency and a fair degree of caution.

The five bridesmaids who brought their lamps and extra oil were ready, no matter how long into the evening the groom showed up. They were smart and prepared. The other five brought their lamps and no additional oil. Why? Apparently, they thought the others would share. Right. That would have made sense if these five were poor or couldn’t get to oil seller to buy more. There’s nothing that says they lacked the resources needed in the parable. They simply expected the others to give them some oil for no good reason except that the foolish ones didn’t have enough.

My friends, I suggest to you that progressive white church has acted as the foolish bridesmaids. We have expected others to make the changes we need to make. We have shown up unprepared in this world that is full of hatred and division. We are supposed to keep Love burning, illuminating the path of hope and healing for all those who come seeking. We’ve done little of this. Think about it.

For example, I live in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. It’s a large metro area with all kinds of people. Yet, I have encountered people who do not know that there are churches that ordain women, that welcome LGBTQ+ folx, that advocate for the vulnerable, and work to minimize global warming and climate change. There are people everywhere who have never heard of Mainline denominations. Why is that? We have shown up in 2020 unprepared. I’m not even sure we were out buying oil for our lamps when modernity made its appearance. I think we were sleeping, content with our comfortable pews and practices. We are on the wrong side of the doors and aren’t as well known as we’d like to think.

It’s not too late, though. The parable was one wedding, one groom, one party. The foolish bridesmaids missed it. They were shut out that night. We do not need to remain shut out. We can purchase more oil, trim our lamps, and be sure we shine with Divine Love, hope, and healing. In this light there is no room for fear of any of our neighbors. There is no room for the hatred that divides this country. There is no room for white supremacy.

We have work to do, my friends. This party is waiting for no one. If we want to heal what is broken in our country and in our world, we need to make ourselves known. It’s time to talk religion and politics and stop worrying about who will be offended. How can people make different choices if they don’t know there are different options. Why is progressive Christianity still a secret or still silent in the national picture? We can’t expect others to do the work for us. Check your oil supply and trim your lamps because the time for foolishness is over. The time for work has already begun.

RCL: Year A Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost November 8, 2020 Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 with Psalm 78:1-7 or
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Photo: CC0image by Bhikku Amitha

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Musings Sermon Starter

Unexpected Godliness

Did you know that Mattel, the maker of Barbie, introduced a gender-neutral doll this week? It’s true. It’s a doll with a child’s shape prior to puberty and comes with wigs and gender neutral clothing. The doll is gender fluid with accessories to embrace diverse gender expression. What an amazing gift for children who are gender expansive as well as children who identify as male or female. As a girl who loved dolls and dresses as much as baseball and jeans, I would have loved this doll. In fact, I kind of want one now, even though my pronouns are she/her/hers and I am comfortable with my cis identity. If I had a child today who liked to play with dolls, I would purchase these dolls without hesitation.

Unfortunately, my delighted response to these dolls is not shared by everyone. In fact, there are a whole lot of people who call themselves Christian who are horrified by these dolls. They think  that because the Bible only mentions male and female being created in the image of God, then only male and female can exist. This is a fairly narrow reading of Genesis 1:26-27. There is room here for a far less literal interpretation. God (who is referred to in the plural here) creates humanity whose gender ranges from male to female, on a continuum. Of course, the ancient peoples would not have heard this verse in this way. However, there is no reason to limit what we hear just because the first hearers had a different experience of God and the world than we do.

This tendency to limit how God continues to speak through scripture is really my point. A toy company ought not to be more inclusive, understanding, supportive, and embracing of people than the church is. This just shouldn’t happen. We haven’t learned anything if we are not leading the world in practice of love, healing, and true inclusion. Jeremiah’s symbolic purchase of land reflecting God’s promise that the people of God will always have a home, means nothing if we don’t trust the continuing promise. The warnings of Amos fall on those who refuse to listen if we continue in our comfortable, “normative” lives while others barely survive on the edges of society. If we count ourselves among the godly while those around suffer for a lack of love and acceptance, then we have not followed the advice given in 1 Timothy. What have we learned from Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus if we treat those around us as less than human while enjoying our riches?

I am tired of the Bible being used as a weapon or a litmus test for God’s blessing. The full diversity of human beings is not mentioned in the Bible, nor is the full diversity of creation. Just because the Bible doesn’t mention something, it doesn’t mean that it is not pleasing to God. The people who wrote down the stories that are included in our sacred texts could only write from what they knew. They could only experience God through what was familiar to them. They did their best to tell what they knew of God based on their experiences of the world. They did not experience all there is to know about God or all there is to know about human beings or all there is to know about the created world. I think they would all be surprised to know that we are still reading their words today, maybe even more surprised at the contortions (and distortions) people go through to take the words literally.

The theme of God’s liberating love comes through the texts more strongly than anything else. When human beings fail to attend to these holy, loving ways, then the consequences can certainly be ugly. God does not inflict divine punishment nor divine rewards on individuals of communities. Yes, to the ancients it seemed that way. However, we can see that the disasters that struck God’s people were a direct consequence of them straying from God’s ways. And the better times were a consequence of keeping with God’s ways. These things are descriptive, not prescriptive. Selfish ways bring about destruction and devastation. Loving ways lead to strength and growth.

Jesus told the parable about the rich man and Lazarus for a reason, and it wasn’t to say that wealth is bad. People who enjoy wealth and treat others as less than human are not living out God’s love. They may one day find themselves on the outside of community, looking in and wondering where they went wrong. This is a lesson church would do well to pay heed to.

If we do not embrace the fullness of humanity in all its diversity, including gender diversity, the church will be pushed further and further from the center of society. God promised all that the people of God will always have a home. Jesus warned us again and again to care for the vulnerable among us. We must trust God’s love for us enough to embody it for everyone, without exception. This is what it means to be godly and to live in that home God has promised.

Mattel shouldn’t be more godly than the church. It’s that simple. Now what are we going to do about it? Do you trust God’s promise of a home, God’s liberating love for all people, to embody that love and share it with all whom you meet?

For more sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year C – Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 29, 2019
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 with Psalm 91:1-6,14-16 or
Amos 6:1a, 4-7 with Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19 and
Luke 16:19-31

Photo: CC0image by Gerd Altmann

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Musings Sermon Starter

A Famine in the Land

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In the fall of 1989 I was a first year student at Princeton Theological Seminary. More than once during that first semester (and each subsequent semester), I wondered if I had made the right choice. I felt ill-prepared and out of place. The first time I felt as if I might make it through the three years, in spite of my doubts, was in the first day of the Old Testament class. The professor stood at the podium and recited a list of the things we might learn in his class. One of those was that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. That surprised me. Who thought that Moses wrote anything? Apparently, this was (and is) a popular belief. One of my classmates took offense. They stood up and emphatically declared that if this was the kind of nonsense taught at Princeton, it was not the school it proclaimed to be. And my classmate walked out of the lecture hall with me and many others staring in surprise.

I’d be less surprised now, though. After nearly 30 years in ministry, I think the Bible should come with a warning label: Enter at your own risk. Contents are not what they appear to be. Even folks who identify on the more progress end of the Christian spectrum can’t seem to shake the influence of Bible literalism. No sooner do I finish reminding people that all the books of the Bible were written when people could only explain events, both global and personal, by attributing them to God. If good things happened, then God was pleased and showering blessings. If bad things happened someone’s (or lots of someones) sins were to be blamed; God was displeased and pouring out punishment. The other option was that if a person or community was experiencing tribulation, God had decided to test the strength of their faith. This was the reality all throughout biblical history.

We live in a different world now, though, don’t we? We know that God doesn’t send floods, famines, hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, and the like to punish peoples for their sins or to test the faith of individuals or communities. In fact, God doesn’t send natural disasters at all. If there is blame to be placed for such occurrences, human beings are likely responsible for messing with the planet in ways that have made all these kinds of events much worse. Sometimes human behavior actually causes disasters to occur (e.g. think of the relationship between fracking and earthquakes). My point is that science can explain how these things happen; we don’t need to blame God.

If God doesn’t make bad things happen to test us or punish us, does God make good things happen to reward the faithful? No. This is absurd. This kind of thinking would mean that God loves wealthy people more than God loves poor people. Or that God loves healthy people more than God loves sick people. Most of the time wealthy people get wealthy because they have come up with something society values more than it values the health and well-being of human beings.

God does not punish the bad, test the doubtful, or reward the faithful. Can we please move on from literalism? There is Truth in scripture and, yet, not a lot of facts. Amos described how events would unfold with amazing accuracy partly because he was inspired by God and partly because human behavior patterns are predictable. When human beings choose serving the wealthy and powerful over caring for the poor and vulnerable, we move away from holy ways toward human ways. The more we forget that holy ways lead toward strong communities, care for the vulnerable, and resistance of Empire, the more we experience division, hopelessness, and oppression of the many by the very few. This “few,” by the way, makes us believe that human ways are better than holy ways while saying that their wealth and power are literally God-given.

Amos was right. There is a famine in the land. It is not a famine of bread or meat. It is, however, a famine of hearing the words of God. God’s ways always tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves. God’s ways never value one people over another and would not sanction concentration camps in any era, let alone now. God’s ways do not sanction the oppression of anyone or hold up white nationalism as a form of Christianity. God has demonstrated God’s love for Creation again and again. The prophets (old and new) tell us that loving God means loving others with the same degree of compassion, grace, forgiveness, and love that God has for us.

When Jesus dined with Mary and Martha, he didn’t tell Martha she shouldn’t do her many tasks. He merely pointed out that if you want to offer true hospitality it is essential to take time to sit with your guests and determine their needs, not just do the things because they need doing. Martha’s method forgets that there are human needs in the mix. Mary’s way reminds us that at core we are to love and serve one another in deep, meaningful ways. We cannot serve God or our neighbors if we don’t take the time to be still and listen.

God is still calling us to live holy ways, to bring the Realm of God into the here and now. When we seek holy ways, goodness and hope will follow. If goodness and hope do not follow, the way we travel is probably not all that holy. If we want to stop buying the poor with silver and selling out the needy for a pair of sandals, it’s time to trust God’s love for the whole of Creation and each human being in particular.

Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch. The Bible is not factual. God has better things to do than dole out rewards and punishments. Let’s get on with the business of ending the famine and discovering anew what it means to live in God’s holy ways (before the other kinds of things Amos spoke about come to pass once again).

RCL – Year C – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 21, 2019
Amos 8:1-12 with Psalm 52 or
Genesis 18:1-10a with Psalm 15
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

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liturgy Prayer Uncategorized

A Plumb Line Prayer

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Amazing and merciful God, how easy it is for us to forget that we are your delight. You we rejoice when we follow your holy ways and envision a future of goodness and grace for all your people. We blame you for divisions and strife. We justify our wars by saying that you are on our side. We rationalize the abuse of our enemies by telling ourselves that they are not your people, that their sinfulness exceeds your tolerance. In truth, you have told us that we are to love our neighbors indiscriminately. Moreover, we are to love those with the greatest need more fiercely and more immediately. Shower us with your mercy, O God, until we live by the plumb line you have repeatedly dropped in our midst.

Patient and steadfast God, you continuously call us to live in peace, leaving none behind. We hear your call. We know that your love endures forever. What you ask of us is not beyond our reach; it is not higher than the heavens or on the outer edges of the sea. For all of Creation to live in justice is not an impossibility you hold up to tease us with what we cannot have. If we trust you, it is possible for us to turn aside from our human ways. It is possible for us to love with your love. Enter our lives anew, Holy One, silence our fears and smother our distrust that we may live in harmony with all.

God of wonder and mystery, you love us still. You love us when we are filled with fear. You love us when we are filled with hate. You love us when we are filled with judgment. You love us when we think we are better than our neighbors. You love us when we think are neighbors are better than us. You love us when we blame others for creating the chaos that flows through the world. You love us when we abdicate responsibility for engaging in justice work. You love us through all our foolishness. However, you delight in us when we act with love and seek to bring your realm into the here and now. Flood every corner of our being with the strength of your Spirit that we may have the courage to love with your love, always.

God of near and far places, how foolish we are when we think you are limited to one people, one language, one religion, one way of life. All people are stamped with your image. Every language has many names for you and words of praise for all that you are. At core, each religious tradition seeks to teach your holy ways and encourage us to follow them. You are the giver of all life. If we claim to follow in Christ’s way there is no room for hatred of peoples from other countries, those who speak other languages, those who call you by different names, and those whose culture is not our own. If we belong to Christ, then racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other labels that thrive on our fear have no place in us. Heal our brokenness. May we live as one body with many parts.

Living, loving God, we are grateful for your patient love. Over and over again you call us by name, claim us as your beloved, and fill us with your Spirit. Hear our gratitude for your presence among us, your arms that hold us, your vision that sees our wholeness. May we trust in your love, your grace, your forgiveness as we seek to embody Christ more fully. May the praises we sing and the words of gratitude we whisper transform our fear into hope, our hatred into joy, our judgment into grace, and our ambivalence and apathy into action. We are your people. Your Spirit lives and moves in us. Let us trust in you enough to recognize you in ourselves and in all whom we meet.

Amen.

RCL – Year C – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 14, 2019
Amos 7:7-17 with Psalm 82 or
Deuteronomy 30:9-14 with Psalm 25:1-10
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

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Musings Sermon Starter

Disempowering Herod

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Herod is not a good example of how to live as a faithful person. He made some spectacularly bad choices. Among other things, he had a palace built on top of a mountain in the desert, a place that included a swimming pool and a bathtub (think hot tub built for a small crowd). What kind of a person would insist on a swimming pool and a giant bathtub on a mountain in the desert, miles from a water source? The same kind of person who was afraid that an infant would claim his thrown. The same kind of person who ordered a beheading just to safe face. This is the kind of person who thought about himself first and, likely, didn’t think about anyone else after that. Herod was the kind of selfish person we are all in danger of becoming.

No, I don’t think there is going to be a rash of beheadings, but the violence and hatred all around us isn’t too far from it. You know, the kind of fear that causes privileged white folks to call the police on People of Color doing regular things in regular places… The kind of fear that justifies separating children from their parents at the border just to deter others from trying to enter the country illegally… The kind of fear that leads police officers to shoot unarmed People of Color… The kind of greed that privileges corporate profits over human needs (think baby formula vs breastfeeding)… The kind of greed that limits access to healthcare, employment, education, housing, mental healthcare, and more… The kind of fear and greed that seeks control over those perceived to be different, unworthy, undeserving, or somehow less human. These fears, this greed, lurk in every human heart waiting for those moments of apathy or ambivalence. Left to our own devices we can all make Herod’s kind of spectacularly bad choices.

Amos would tell us to look for the plumb line. By what standard shall we measure ourselves? But what standard shall we decide how we are to live in this world? Jesus, like the prophets before him, was pretty clear in naming Love as the standard – love of God, neighbor, self, and creation. If we our actions do not embody Love, then we ought not to engage in them. It sounds clear enough. Then why are behaviors like Herod’s so common?

Well, there is something in us that is not a fan of holy ways. We have a tendency toward self-preservation and a desire to achieve success and be powerful. It’s not pretty, but it is true. This is why religion is important even in these days of skepticism and doubt. We don’t need all the ceremony and piety of days gone by, but we are in desperate need of a God who calls us beyond our own desires into a community seeking to serve the most vulnerable among us. Imagine how differently the story might have gone if Herod, though frustrated by John the Baptist telling him he shouldn’t have married his brother’s wife, had denied his daughter’s request. Who know what influence John might have had on the forming of the early church…

Now imagine how life could be different for us if we thought first about God’s desires and our neighbors’ needs when we determine how to use our own resources. We all might be less tempted by the fears and greed that plagued Herod and sneak up on us when we aren’t paying attention. Success by the world’s measure is not the same as being righteous in God’s eyes. The kind of power that the world seems to value (or is it fear?) is not the same as strength that comes from sharing the burdens of our neighbors.

While the behavior of the Herods of the world can easily be seen and condemned, we must be careful since Herod lurks in all of us. Instead of pointing out selfishness, fear-mongering, and greed in others, we would do better to demonstrate the radical Love Jesus taught. Living our faith out for all to see is a much more powerful statement than pointing fingers and posting condemning remarks on social media. Herod can’t hide in a crowd, but he can hide in us. Let’s do everything we can to live by God’s standards and not be consumed by our human ways.

RCL – Year B – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 15, 2018
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

Photo: CC0 image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat

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Musings Sermon Starter

Naptime is Over

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Mental illness crosses all human barriers. No one is exempt. Wealth can’t buy its way out. Power cannot force it away. Religion cannot keep it at bay. It isn’t contagious but everyone is potentially at risk. Usually, its causes are biological, genetic and often emerges as an individual comes to adulthood. It can also be triggered by trauma or acute stress. There’s no guarantee that any of us will escape a challenge to our mental health. The statistics are clear: one in five adults lives with a mental illness. Whether we admit it or not, mental illness touches all of us – directly or in a loved one.

Let’s not be deceived when the media or the President blames mental illness for mass murder. (The other piece of this that I will not address directly in this essay is that only white shooters are described as being mentally ill; everyone else is labeled as a “terrorist.”) Other countries have people who live with mental illness, but the U.S. has the highest rates of mass shootings. We have a problem, and mental illness is only a small part of it. Easy access to guns is another part of it, perhaps a bigger part. But the underlying issue is our culture of violence.

This culture that endorses violence as entertainment, as a way to resolve conflict, as a way to express anger, as a means of controlling others, and so many other, more subtle aspects of society, now wants to place the blame on those who have historically been victimized. Racism is a form of this violence. Misogyny is a form of this violence. Rape culture certainly is. White supremacy had a hand in creating this culture. And, I hate to say it, but Christianity has helped to shape it as well. Was it not human fear and intolerance that nailed Jesus to the cross? And the name of Christ has been used to justify centuries of violence and injustice. Why have we not learned a better way?

Yes, the Bible is full of stories of violence. Tribal warfare justified by vengeful gods. Society has changed since then. None of us needs to conquer the peoples living the next town over in order to survive the winter. We understand that human beings are all created in the image of God. We have heard Jesus repeat the Jewish mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves. Nowhere does Jesus say that we are to blame the vulnerable for the ills of society. Nowhere does Jesus say that we have the right to kill those we perceive to be different. Nowhere does Jesus say that it is good to kill those who offend or frighten us. In fact, wasn’t it Jesus who said something about turning the other cheek and forgiving more times than we can count?

If we want to feel safe in our homes, on our streets, in our schools, in our shopping centers, in our movie theaters, at our sporting events, and in our houses of worship, then we need to make changes. First, we need to change the way we think about violence. It should not be entertainment, especially for young or vulnerable minds. It should not be in our every-day vocabulary. “Killing” something should not be a positive term, ever. Chocolate cake shouldn’t be something we’d “kill” for. We should never “threaten” to kill someone if they do something we don’t like. How much has violence become normative in our lives? When violence is not normative, then people who experience mental health crisises, are less likely to be violent.

While we are seriously contemplating the ways in which violent words, action, and entertainment have infiltrated our lives, then we can think about who we “blame” for the violence on our streets. No matter who we name, we have such a small piece of the systemic puzzle. Remember that racism and white supremacy bred this culture of violence. White, powerful men endorse rape culture. Bullies always blame those they perceive to weaker. So before we blame those who have long been victimized, we must take a good long look in the mirror. Our silent or ambivalent or passive acceptance of “the way things are” has significantly contributed to the violence in society.

Now we must seek to see the human being in all others we meet. If we see them as human beings, then it is more likely we will see Christ in them as well. When we see all human beings as equally valuable in God’s sight, then we can find the motivation necessary to address the brokenness in our society. We can stop living in fear. Love makes violence far less accessible. If we stop living in fear, it won’t be so easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we need guns to protect ourselves. If we stop living in fear, we can remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and make it much more acceptable and accessible for those who experience symptoms to get necessary treatment. If we stop living in fear, we will stop excusing police officers who kill people of color. If we stop living in fear, we will stop denying the story of women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. If we stop living in fear, we can unclench our fists, roll up our sleeves and get to the work of justice that Jesus calls us to do.

If we keep living in fear, we will be haunted by the words of the prophets. We will keep running from the lion and the bear, only to be bitten again and again by the snake. Our festivals, our worship, our sacrifices will continue to mean nothing to God because justice is not rolling down and righteousness is not flowing. Wisdom will not find us and our lamps will remain unlit.

We have long since fallen asleep. It’s time to wake up, fill our lamps with oil, and follow in the way of Christ. We’ve been asleep for far too long.

RCL – Year A – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – November 12, 2017
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 with Psalm 78:1-7 or
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Photo: CC0 image by Congerdesign

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Bidding Prayer Emerging Church liturgy

Bidding Prayer for Compassion

courage-853466_1920Come, let us pray for the Church throughout the world.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Eternal God, “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” Too often we complain like Job when suffering is unfair while at the same time turning from those who have greater needs. Let us hear Amos as he called for justice so long ago. May all those who call upon you band together to establish justice and embody your love for all people.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for the United Church of Christ gathered here and elsewhere.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Compassionate God, “Prosper for us the work of our hands.” We can so easily become distracted by things that don’t matter, things that divide us rather than unite us. Eternal life is not a far-off, someday thing; it’s here and now. You call us to be peace-makers, hope-bearers, life-savers. Open our ears to words of mercy, grace and forgiveness so that we may be about your transforming work today. Be with all those you have called into leadership, especially the Rev. John Dorhauer, our general minister and president. May the service we offer in Christ’s name honor you.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

gate-419890_1920Come, let us pray for God’s people in every nation.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Steadfast God, you yearn for the day when all people will “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” May the day soon come when all humanity grows tired of our warring ways. You created a world of beautiful, amazing diversity of people, places, words, and worship. Forgive us when our hearts fill with fear in the presence of neighbors and strangers. Too many have forgotten that people of all nations bear your image and that we are all created to live in communion with one another. Remind us that with you, all things are possible, even a world that lives in peace.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for this country and all those who live within its borders.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Patient God, we “know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” You call us to live by them, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yet, we find ourselves following the ways of money and power. We forget that we are responsible for those who are in need, those who are oppressed, those who live without justice. We are easily fooled into believing that things cannot change and politicians always want what is best for the nation. Grand wisdom to those who are elected to lead this country, especially Barak Obama. Call us out of our apathy and complacency that we may be a nation of hospitality, freedom, and justice for all who call this country home no matter where they have come from, the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the name they know you by.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for all those in need.kindness-710209_1280
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Loving God, may we “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” There are cries all around us – for help, for hope, for justice, for shelter, for food, for care, for safety, for acceptance… Sometimes we are exhausted and overwhelmed by the needs of people near and far. Remind us that we have all that we need in you, that you are a source of abundant grace, mercy, love, and hope. Use our hands, our feet, our voices, our community, our resources to ease the pain of those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come let us pray for those who are experience grief and loss.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Healing God, your word is “living and active” even in the midst of despair. May those who grieve the loss of a loved one experience your light shining through the darkest hours of grief. For those who struggle with a death that has been violent and unexpected, especially murder and suicide, grant us compassion and tenderness to care for survivors. For those who have lost jobs, homes, sense of purpose, physical ability, cognitive capacity, or sense of identity, may we have the grace to be merciful companions on this journey.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Generous God, you tell us that when we leave “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for [your] sake and for the sake of the good news” we will receive a hundredfold. May we trust in this promise and freely give you thanks for the abundant life you offer everyone. Turn our hearts from fearful ways that prevent us from sharing your gifts to hearts filled with gratitude that enable us to live lives of kindness, mercy, and generosity.

We give you thanks for the compassion you bestow in abundance on your servants.
Amen.

RCL – Year B – Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 1015
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

Photos from Pixabay. Used by permission.