All Saints Sunday, November 3, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  We consecrate this sacred space, Lord, the air thick around us with spirits of saints who met before us in this very room to offer you praise and lean on your Spirit. We join their heavenly chorus, the hymnist’s urgent “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone” invoking a prophet’s fearless response to unsettling visions of national turmoil.  We note Daniel’s ironic first impulse, looking not to royal interpreters but a lowly servant for the dream’s meaning: True security comes not from tyrannical kings, but from the holy ones of the Most High God.  It remains true that the signs and words of the prophets are written on subway walls and tenement halls, echoing in the sounds of silence. Amen.*(Inspired by Daniel 7 and the poetry of Philip Bliss and Paul Simon)

Call to Worship:

Sing to the Lord a new song;

Sing God’s praise in the assembly of the faithful.

Let God’s children rejoice in their king,

Because God will beautify the poor with saving help.

Let the faithful celebrate with glory,

Let them shout for joy.

Let the high praise of God be in their mouths.

That will be an honor for all God’s faithful people! (from Psalm 149, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, in the deepening gloom of our national chaos, we welcome apostle Paul’s reminder that  you accomplish everything according to your design.  How comforting is Paul’s notion, as we await that design’s “final reveal,” of the peculiar spiritual economics that names Jesus our unshakeable inheritance and Holy Spirit our mysterious down payment on that inheritance. Such trust prompts us to give thanks whenever we remember the saints past and present whose wise compassion continues to make your love known to us daily.  May the eyes of our hearts have sufficient light to maintain a laser focus on your hope-laden call, as most eloquently articulated through the Galilean carpenter who taught us to pray, saying …*(Inspired by Ephesians 1)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, but when it comes to Jesus’ idea of happiness, we’d just as soon pass if it’s all the same to you.  Surely he was kidding about how we’d be a lot happier if we were poor or hungry or weeping or hated or rejected or insulted or considered evil, or any other bad things that came our way just because we followed you.  What kind of church growth recruiting tool is that?  To heck with his promise of a great reward in heaven, couldn’t you just show us the money now?  Have mercy, for the very things Jesus listed as terrible are the things we most want to be:  Rich, comfortable, laughing, complimented.  Why can’t it be easier to follow Jesus?  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 6)

Assurance of Pardon:  Don’t give up, dispirited sojourners, for Jesus included a not-so-secret code for how to be truly, profoundly happy:  “Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.  Treat people in the same way you want them to treat you.”  Thanks be to God for a Savior who never said following him would be easy, only worth it. Any questions?  Take them to the Lord in prayer.*(Inspired by Luke 6)

Thought for All Saints Sabbath:  “Any system that works against human flourishing by America’s working poor is necessarily sinful and at worst evil, and no person of means escapes such a system with clean hands.”   - Kenyatta R. Gilbert, professor of homiletics, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  Thank you, Lord, for your rallying cry ringing across the generations from prophet Haggai:  “Be strong, work, don’t fear, for my spirit stands in your midst.”  We, like the people of his day, often succumb to nostalgia’s distorted image of an earlier time “in its former glory.”  Help us regain perspective and hope, comforted by your promise to fill our spiritual house with a joy “more glorious than its predecessor.” Amen.*(Inspired by Haggai 1)

Call to Worship:

God, my true king, I will lift you up high.

I will bless your name every day, forever and always.

The Lord is great and worthy of praise!

God’s greatness can’t be grasped.

The Lord is righteous and faithful in all ways,

Close to everyone who calls out sincerely.

My mouth will proclaim the Lord’s praise,

Every living thing will bless God’s holy name forever and always.  (from Psalm 145, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, as our nation groans with uncertainty and mistrust of those in high places, we take comfort in Paul’s assurance to the first Christians, hemmed in like us by Caesar’s lunacy:  “The lawless person, opponent of every object of worship and promoting himself over them, displaying himself to show that he is God, is headed for destruction.  So then, stand firm, and hold on to the traditions of the faith.”   Help us stand strong, Lord, trusting Paul’s promise that you will encourage our hearts and give us strength in every good thing we do or say, for we pray as Jesus taught us, saying …*(Inspired by 2 Thessalonians 2)

Prayer of Confession:  Have mercy, Lord, when we major on the minor, indulging ourselves in theological minutiae’s flights of fancy like the religious zealots of Jesus’ day.  In their laborious description of a woman widowed seven times who married seven brothers in succession, they cynically attempt to trap Jesus by demanding to know “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?”  We still waste your time with the very sort of inquisitions Jesus refused to answer, trivializing scripture and making the church look petty in the process, as we squabble like children over things Jesus never mentioned. Forgive us, we pray.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 20)

Assurance of Pardon:   I have good news! Jesus has a great sense of humor, even if many who claim to follow him obviously do not.  Unwilling to be compromised by small-minded twits upon whom his subtle nuance was lost, Jesus moved beyond their arbitrary categories of life and death by declaring that “God is not the God of the dead but of the living, because to God they are all alive.”  Thanks be to God for coming to us through a Palestinian Jew whose dark, laughing eyes sparkled with heavenly mirth, even (and especially) when surrounded by fundamentalism’s mundane dullness and the humorless restrictions of joy-challenged true believers, aggressively ignorant and proud of it.*(Inspired by Luke 20)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “What resurrection symbolizes is that only a God who raises life from death stands outside the expectation, prediction and horizon of human control.”   - Kenyatta R. Gilbert, professor of homiletics, Howard University, Washington, D.C.  

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  Thank you, Lord, for keeping the promise you made to prophet Joel, of a coming day when your Spirit would be poured out on daughters as well as sons, old as well as young, enslaved and free females as well as males.  In this holy hour, help us recognize all around us the signs of entrenched power being supplanted by audacious young voices clamoring for change.  We join our own voices to those who will be delivered simply because they called on your name.  Amen.*(Inspired by Joel 2:23-32)

Call to Worship: 

To you, O God, even silence is praise.

Promises made to you are kept.

When wrongdoings become too much for me,

You forgive my sins.

How happy is the one you choose to bring close,

The one who lives in your courtyards!

You answer us, God of our deliverance,

You visit the earth and make it abundant,

You crown the year with your goodness;

Your pastures, meadows and valleys break out in song! (from Psalm 65, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, like apostle Paul we are privileged to be poured out as a sacrifice for you, mindful that our heroes of the faith never promised following Jesus would be easy.  Help us find our voice in these chaotic days of national dissolution, when from the highest corridors of power lies are spewed more glibly than truth.  May we mirror German reformer Martin Luther’s courage in standing alone against the combined fury of church and state, confident  that you will rescue us from “the Prince of Darkness grim, whose rage we can endure.”  Grant us the will to ”let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also,” assured that your truth abides and your kingdom is forever, for we trust the Galilean who taught us to pray, saying …*(Inspired by 2 Timothy 4 and the poetry of Martin Luther)  

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, when our comfortable cultural captivity reduces us to a caricature, like the religious leader in Jesus’ short story whose loud, proud parody of prayer in the temple was little more than a haughty soliloquy about himself:  “I thank you, God, that I’m not like everyone else!”  Sadly, we are too often exactly like everyone else, in our tireless search for acceptance and recognition among our peers.  How pathetically empty must our resume-enhancing desperation appear to you, who shaped us in our mother’s womb and knew us before we had a name.  Have mercy on us when even our tithing is calculated to impress others, not serve you.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 18)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have good news:  Nestled within the same short story where Jesus crafts for us an example of how not to behave , he also provides a classic, compassionate portrait of exactly what true servant-hood humility would look like, issuing forth from arguably the most despised profession of Jesus’ day, a lowly tax collector:  “God, show mercy to me, a sinner.”  Now that’s what genuine, repentant prayer should sound like, heart-broken and pleading.  Thanks be to God, such prayer is still the proper place to start, still possible for any who truly long to follow Jesus.*(Inspired by Luke 18)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “The fact that allegiance to family, faith and national pride – the holy trinity of American traditionalism – is in precipitous decline tells us something important about the evolution of the American identity.”       - Derek Thompson, American writer

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Prayer As We Gather:  We huddle in this holy hour, Lord, seeking a more robust notion of prayer than the tepid “Mother, May I?” model of subservient cajoling often practiced in mainline churches.  Help us supplant that spiritual anemia with a gutsy, in-your-face persistence like the widow in Jesus’ short story.  As she refused to be dissuaded by a callous, dismissive judge who finally relented to “give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me, coming here and embarrassing me,”  so too may we be among those God provides justice because we stubbornly “cry out to God day and night.” Jesus promised such adamant advocacy on behalf of the powerless would be quickly with justice, Lord.  May it be so.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 18)

Call to Worship:

I love your Instruction, Lord!

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies.

I have greater insight, more understanding because I guard your precepts,

I haven’t set my feet on any evil path.

You are the one who has taught me,

Your word is so pleasing, sweeter than honey in my mouth!  (from Psalm 119, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  It’s about time, Lord, and always has been.  When prophet Jeremiah, speaking on your behalf, urged “The time is coming when I will build, plant, watch over my people, make a new covenant with them and engrave my Instructions on their hearts,” he was offering us a hint for how to properly tell time.  Help us interpret our times correctly, in sync with your impeccable timing.  Deliver us from sour-grapes laments which blame our failings on the missteps of our parents and grandparents.  It’s time we grow up, Lord, time to accept responsibility for our own sins, time to plant your words deep within, time to rejoice that you are our God and we are your people, for we pray as Jesus taught us, saying …*(Inspired by Jeremiah 31)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive, Lord, our Biblical illiteracy.  What apostle Paul took for granted in nudging his young protégé Timothy to “continue with the things you have learned since childhood, the holy scriptures that help you be wise,” we can no longer assume.  We cannot continue what we never began.  Paul saw it coming, “a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching but will turn their back on the truth, collecting teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered.”  The only thing worse than our current societal ignorance of scripture is the shallow, piety-spewing cultural Christianity many of us imbibed like mother’s milk, cloaking our racism and anti-Semitism beneath blithely misapplied words from the Bible.  Have mercy, we pray. Amen.*(Inspired by 2 Timothy 3)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for tucked away within Paul’s cautionary candor is his hope-filled reminder of scripture’s efficacy:  “Every scripture is inspired by God, useful for teaching, showing mistakes and training character.”    Thanks be to God for the opportunities inherent in a sturdy scriptural grounding:  Bringing God’s word to life whether it is convenient or inconvenient, correcting, confronting, encouraging with patient instruction.  What a privilege, what a joy, to heed Paul’s counsel:  “Keep control of yourself in all circumstances, endure suffering, and carry out your service fully.”   *(Inspired by 2 Timothy 3)

Thought for a Sabbath Day: “The reduction of God’s good news in Jesus to a magic salvation formula allows a consumer approach to salvation.  Instead of requiring everything, the Salvation-Industrial Complex requires nothing.”   - Pastor Ken Wytsma, Beaverton, Oregon                                                                                                                                            

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Prayer As We Gather:  Just when we want to run away, Lord, emotional fatigue fueled by political chaos nibbling at our sanity and weakening our resolve, our weary spirits longing  to flee the tasks to which you have set us, prophet Jeremiah’s sobering demand for resilience jolts us back to our vocation as your children:  “Cultivate your gardens, establish families, pray, promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you.”  May this holy hour find us honing the tools required to tend your garden, so we might bloom where we are planted.  Amen.*(Inspired by Jeremiah 29)

Call to Worship:

Shout joyfully, sing praises to God’s glory!

Come and see God’s awesome deeds.

God rules with power forever,

Keeps a good eye on the nations.

But you, God, have tested us, refined us like silver,

Trapped us in a net, laid burdens on our backs,

Let other people run right over our heads.

But you brought us out to freedom! (from Psalm 66, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for common criminal Paul, imprisoned-but-unbowed apostle enduring everything for the sake of lonely pilgrims yet unborn, wayfaring strangers such as we, longing for deliverance through Jesus’ cruciform incarnation of your unconditional love.  As our nation groans under relentless assaults upon human freedom, the rule of law and the dignity your immigrant children, we take heart in Paul’s defiant cry:  “God’s word cannot be imprisoned; if we endure, we will also prevail together, so present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, but interprets the message of truth correctly.”  So here we are, Lord, present and accounted for, ready to enlist in service to the Galilean who taught us to pray, saying …*(Inspired by 2 Timothy 2)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for morphing Jesus’ ministry-action summons – the Way -  into a sedentary spectator destination we call church.  We long for low-demand miracles, citing Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers, neglecting the unsettling truth that they were cleansed on their way to the priests, not as the result of any priestly religious ritual.  We conveniently ignore the uncomfortable fact that only one of the ten, a despised Samaritan considered a half-breed by his Jewish fellow lepers, returned to offer thankful praise, prompting Jesus’ stinging retort: “No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?”  We marvel at the obvious appreciative joy so often displayed by immigrants earning subsistence wages, even as we whine at our minor daily inconveniences.  Have mercy on our  passive, consumerist distortions of the Gospel.  Amen.  (Inspired by Luke 17)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for Jesus is still showing mercy, even in the face of our jaded, second-hand faith that reduces worship’s mystery  to mere religious entertainment and quasi-magic God talk.  Jesus offers us the same whimsical entreaty – “Go!” – he extended to the lepers, then patiently waits to see if we show obedience and gratitude for the healing he offers our split, splintered selves.  Thanks be to God for the weekly Sabbath witness to Jesus’ offer of restoration to wholeness, available to any who are willing to act upon his basic invitation and receive his commendation: “Your faith has healed you.” *(Inspired by Luke 17)

Thought for a Sabbath Day: “Jesus has always been at the borders, at the threshold.  Where are we?  Is God calling us to cross a boundary in order to bring healing?”       -  Dennis Sanders, Disciples of Christ pastor, St. Paul, Minnesota

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  May we be as recklessly faithful, Lord, as willing to wager our uneasy present on your sure future as was imprisoned Jeremiah, when he purchased a field in territory currently occupied by an invading army.  Make us crazy like Jeremiah, willing to risk everything for the privilege of standing on your promises instead of just sitting on the premises at church every Sunday morning.  Surprise us this holy hour with the guts to follow Jesus, no matter what.  Amen.*(Inspired by Jeremiah 32)

Call to Worship: 

Living in the Most High’s shelter,

Camping in the Almighty’s shade,

I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold!

You are my God – the one I trust!”

God will save you from the hunter’s trap;

You’ll find refuge under God’s wings.

God’s faithfulness is a protective shield.

Don’t be afraid of terrors at night.

God says “I’ll rescue you, I’ll be with you in troubling times,

I’ll save you, glorify you and fill you full with old age.”*(from Psalm 91, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord!  It’s all there, fresh from the pen of apostle Paul, every word we need to escape cultural captivity before it’s too late:  “Be happy with what you already have, be happy with food and clothing, because the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain.  Instead, hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment.  Be generous, share with others, take hold of what is truly life.”  But what might such a life look like, God?  Oh, that’s right, it would look like the Galilean who taught us to pray, saying …*(Inspired by 1 Timothy 6)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for constructing shaky theology on flimsy foundations.  We have been distracted by medieval afterlife images of fiery hell and harp-playing angels, ignoring Jesus’ radical call to ministry “among the least”  - right now, in the present moment.  Help us hear, in Jesus’ short story about “a certain rich man and a poor man named Lazarus,” his warning against a magical approach toward faith which ignores scripture’s ancient witness, its honest plea for authentic change in our hearts and lives, genuine repentance not premised upon ghostly appeals from beyond the grave.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 16)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have good news!  The punch line of Jesus’ short story was his candid prediction of what was about to unfold among the very folks hearing him speak:  “If people will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”  Sure enough, when Jesus rose from the dead, the crowd was more dazzled by the mystery than persuaded toward obedient discipleship. Thanks be to God that Jesus  doesn’t want admirers, he wants followers.*(Inspired by Luke 16)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “The rich man is judged harshly not because he had acquired immense wealth, but because he lacked compassion, trivialized the plight of the suffering poor, and ignored mercy extended to him while living.”  -  Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Homiletics Professor, Howard University Divinity School

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  Compassionate God, grant us prophet Jeremiah’s empathetic response to his people weeping “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, yet we aren’t saved.”  As summer ends and autumn beckons, we lament having forfeited honor for rancor, a whirlwind harvest of malignant mistrust sown by despicable demagogues.  Re-shape us as tender physicians sent out into a hurting world with your love’s healing balm.  When we waver, rekindle within us the old spiritual’s nudging:  “If you can’t preach like Peter or pray like Paul, just tell the love of Jesus and say he died for all.” Amen.*(Inspired by Jeremiah 8)

Call to Worship:

The nations have defiled your holy temple, God!

We’ve become a joke to our neighbors,

Nothing but objects of ridicule to those around us.

How long will your anger burn like fire, Lord?

Don’t remember the iniquities of past generations;

Let your compassion hurry to meet us.

God of our deliverance, help us!

Cover our sins for the sake of your name!*(from Psalm 79, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Across two thousand years, Lord, we are haunted by apostle Paul’s plea:  “Pray for everyone in authority so we can live a quiet, peaceful life in complete dignity, for this pleases God.”  Under constant assault by the evil that names us and claims us and shames us all, we take solace in Paul’s assurance that God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth.  May we be dispensers of that truth which evermore makes us free, for we make our appeal through the mediator who freely gave himself to set all people free and taught us to pray, saying …*(Inspired by 1 Timothy 2 and the poetry of James Taylor)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for so clumsily blundering our way through Jesus’ short stories, majoring on the parables’ minor points and missing their ironic subtleties altogether, as when the dishonest household manager shrewdly cooked the books of his master’s financial ledgers in order to gain future favors from the debtors.  Far from  encouraging theft, Jesus was merely suggesting his followers should be at least as clever in our discipleship as non-believers are in their cunning business transactions. Have mercy on our naivete in matters of the world, where crafty manipulators and religious con artists eagerly prey on the poor and powerless .  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 16)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for Jesus calls us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean being stupid.  It does, however, demand a tough choice between worshiping at the Stock Market’s altar and following a Galilean carpenter who never owned a home.  Jesus calls us to be good stewards of our earthly wealth, managing our finances in ways that mirror God’s kingdom.  Jesus didn’t make any bones about it:  The good news is always bad news first – “You cannot serve God and money.” Ouch! Thanks be to God for such an inconvenient truth.*(Inspired by Luke 16)

Thought for A Sabbath Day:  “Life begins on the other side of despair.” -    Jean-Paul Sartre

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  We take grim solace, Lord, in how little we your children have changed since the Hebrew prophets spoke on your behalf.  We remain “foolish, skilled at doing wrong, inept at doing right,” our rebellious consistency matched only by your  compassionate forbearance in not destroying the earth completely.  May this holy hour find us grieving our disobedience, rejoicing in the tender mercies of your steady love.  Amen* (Inspired by Jeremiah 4)

Call to Worship:

Fools say in their hearts, There is no God.

They are corrupt and do evil things.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humans

To see if anyone is wise, but everyone is corrupt,

No one does good – Not even one person!

Evildoers devour my people like they are eating bread.

But count on it:  they will be in utter panic

Because God is with the righteous.

Evildoers may humiliate the plans of those who suffer,

But rejoice, for the Lord will change our circumstances for the better! (From Psalm 14, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, immortal, invisible God, for giving us strength to minister in your name.  Like apostle Paul, we have been shown mercy in spite of our ignorance and shallow faith, your favor pouring over us like a healing ointment soothing the multiple insults and injustices offered up to us each day by those who have never known the grace of your touch.  May we see them for who they are, hurting, lonely people desperate to receive what is our high privilege to bestow:  the peace of Christ, as sublimely offered through the Galilean carpenter who taught us to pray, saying … *(Inspired by 1 Timothy 1)

Prayer of Confession:  Here we stand, Lord, guilty and embarrassed at our grumbling refusal to follow the unblinking example Jesus set for us, welcoming sinners and eating with them.  That’s no way to be voted Most Likely to Succeed or invited to pledge a social fraternity.  What would our grandparents think?  We’ve worked so hard to be among the elite, to gain the inside track toward financial comfort and the praise of the crowd.  Frankly, it’s a tough choice between ego-boosting success and Jesus’ unvarnished call to take up the cross.  Have mercy, we pray.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 15)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for Jesus’ summons is not “Come, be long-faced and miserable along with me,” but “Celebrate! There’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s change of heart and life than over ninety-nine people who think they have no need to change.”  Thanks be to God for the privilege of celebrating as sinners God loves …  no matter what.*(Inspired by Luke 15)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “My country, right or wrong;  if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.”  - Carl Schurz, 19th century German immigrant, Republican Senator from Missouri, 13th Secretary of the Interior 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  Like old man Paul, imprisoned for his faith but undaunted in his witness, O God, we come this holy hour giving thanks as we recall the faithful love we have known across the years through UBC’s beloved community.  May our hearts continue to be refreshed by their compassionate acts of faith.  Amen.*(Inspired by Paul’s letter to Philemon)

Call to Worship:

Lord, you know me.

You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.

You surround me, you put your hand on me.

That kind of knowledge is so high above me I can’t fathom it.

You created my innermost parts, knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I was marvelously set apart.

When I was woven together in a secret place,

Your eyes saw my embryo.

God, I can’t comprehend your countless plans,

But if I came to the very end, I’d still be with you. (from Psalm 139, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, like prophet Jeremiah observing an artisan potter as his work, we await your instructions for what to do next.  Like clay on the turning wheel, we have often  yielded to forms and shapes that grieve you, causing you to break us down for re-forming in your caring hands.  Thank you for loving us enough to deliver us from our evil thoughts and selfish actions, crafting us instead for the good you have intended for us all along, for we make our appeal through the unflawed vessel of our Galilean Lord, praying as he taught us … *(Inspired by Jeremiah 18)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for ignoring Jesus’ clear demand that we calculate the high cost of following him, including rejection by family and  forfeiture of earthly wealth.   We have often relegated Jesus to a distant third place behind parents’ suffocating expectations and the seductive lure of material possessions.  We have foolishly tried to have it both ways, settling for a fool’s compromised discipleship ridiculed by a watching world.  No wonder so many folks have such low regard for the church.  Have mercy, we pray.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 14)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for Jesus has not set us an impossible task, only a task whose successful completion is wholly reliant upon his faithful presence – which he has promised unconditionally.  In every confrontation with competing demands that would thwart Jesus’ claim on our lives, whether in the form of families’ pre-conceived notions of who we should become or society’s incessant “show me the money” drumbeat, what may appear to us as a better way than servant discipleship cannot begin to match the incomparable joy of walking through this life with Jesus at our side.  Thanks be to God for such a faithful friend! *(Inspired by Luke 14)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:   “I can see no way out but through.”   - Robert Frost    

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  Laughing God, we assemble ourselves for worship amidst a culture where the lunatics are apparently running the asylum, echoing prophet Jeremiah’s incredulous “Has anything this odd ever taken place?”  We cringe at your verdict,  “My people have exchanged their glory for what has no value.”  As with Jeremiah’s people,  we stand guilty of forsaking your living springs and then digging broken wells that can’t hold water.  Dazed and confused, we implore you:  Restore us to our rightful minds.  Amen.*(Inspired by Jeremiah 2)

A Labor Day Call to Worship:

Lord, we celebrate the work people do and the gift of work you have given us.

We give thanks for our jobs as an opportunity to do your will in the market place.

We pray also for the millions of people who are unemployed.

Give special encouragement to those looking for work. 

We lift up all employers, that they may be just and fair with their employees.

Help our leaders treat the poor with fairness.

O God who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes,

Help us become a society that cares for immigrants.

May we speak for the destitute who cannot speak for themselves,

May we never tire of defending the rights of the poor and needy.*(from Labor Sabbath by N.C. Council of Churches)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “The peace I am thinking of is the dance of an open mind when it engages another equally open one.”  - Toni Morrison

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for keeping it real.  It often seems nobody honors promises any more, reviving the old lament “if love never lasts forever, what’s forever for?”  But your word sustains us, as when the writer of Hebrews reminds us we should “be free of the love of money, content with what you have.  Easier said than done, until we remember “the Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid.”  We cherish the beloved community of UBC, where we are surrounded by folks whose faithful lives are worth imitating because they trust the Galilean carpenter who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and who taught us to pray, saying … *(Inspired by Hebrews 13 and the lyrics of Rafe VanHoy)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for acting as if it’s Opposite Day by doing precisely what Jesus said we shouldn’t do: “Don’t take your seat in the place of honor, go and sit in the least important place.”  We’ve scratched and clawed our way to honor rolls and inflated resumes in the name of “using our gifts,” when it may be more about our need to feel we’re better than others and get a leg up on the competition. Then along comes kill-joy Jesus:  “All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”   Have mercy on our wearisome pretenses, we pray.  Amen.*(Inspired by Luke 14)

Assurance of Pardon:   Take heart, for even in his most stern reprimands Jesus always offers hope and a way toward being redeemed.  When we’re up to our conniving old ways of currying favor among the rich and influential, the Galilean suggests a more honorable option:  “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you.”  Thanks be to God for sending Jesus as living proof of what faithfulness looks like, and for providing our UBC family with myriad ways to be on mission among those incapable of paying us back.*(Inspired by Luke 14)