Prayer as We Gather: We gather on this late summer morning, Lord, lovers serenading the fertile vineyard of justice you planted in the hearts of all the children of the world, every color and culture, those who call you by varied names and those who do not call upon you at all. In the prayers, hymns and promises we offer during this holy hour, hear our pleas on behalf of all your children displaced and unloved. Shape us as instruments of your peace, for we make our appeal in the strong name of our Galilean Lord. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 5)
Call to Worship:
Shepherd of Israel, listen! Wake up your power and save us!
You brought a vine out of Egypt and planted its roots deep.
The mountains were covered by its shade;
The mighty cedars were covered by its branches.
So why have you now torn down its walls,
So that any wild boar from the forest can tear it up?
Please come back, God of heavenly forces!
Attend to this vine, revive us so we can call on your name.
Restore us, God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine so we can be delivered! (adapted from Psalm 80, The Common English Bible)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, liberating Creator, compassionate friend to immigrants and refugees across the ages, for ignoring our First-World whining. We stand amazed at our Hebrew forebears’ courageous flight from Egyptian cruelty to the freedoms you promised as reward for their trusting your sheltering hand. We are the undeserving beneficiaries of their rejecting the scouts’ gloomy verdict: “Compared with the residents of the promised land, we are but grasshoppers!” In these days of narcissistic nationalist paranoia in high places, if we think of ourselves as helpless grasshoppers then grasshoppers we surely are. Help us embrace instead apostle Paul’s challenge to throw off the extra baggage of our lives and fix our eyes on faith’s pioneer, the undaunted carpenter who dared defy Caesar and taught us to pray, saying … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Hebrews 11)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive, Lord, our casual devotion to you, our shallow understanding of what Jesus expects of us. Weary of the vitriolic, partisan spewing that passes for public discourse these days, we retreat too easily into a tame plea for consensus, slinking into a false hope of appeasing the fear-spawned rage of white supremacist bullies newly emboldened by emergent strains of ancient evils now strolling the corridors of power. Grant us, we pray, a renewed will to hear what Jesus actually said: “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I came to cast fire upon the earth, dividing households from within. How is it you don’t know how to interpret the present time?” Have mercy on our cowardice to confront Satan in Jesus’ name, unmasking sneering demagogues for what they are. God of justice, help us bravely interpret the times and find our voice! Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 12)
Assurance of Pardon: I have good news! Jesus’ demands for sacrificial loyalty, tough though they are, come with his covenant promise never to leave us or forsake us, but to be with us to the very end of the age. When he warns us that the most entrenched opposition to following him is most likely to come from within our own families, he is not being a nay-saying sourpuss. He is simply remembering how his own mother and siblings woefully misunderstood his fierce allegiance to the liberating God of their immigrant Hebrew ancestors, whose very nature was to welcome the stranger and outcast at their door. From the very first disciples to now, the church has forever tried to tame and mitigate the unsettling gospel Jesus embodied. “If you will only let God guide you, and trust in God through all your ways, whatever comes God will stand beside you, and bear your through the evil days.” Thanks be to God for such a blessed assurance! *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 12 and the 17th century poetry of Georg Neumark)