Prayer as We Gather: Lord, help us never take ourselves too seriously, especially when we assemble for worship. Keep us tethered to the healthy humor of your response to Job’s questions, reminding us of our limits, our inability to even “give understanding to a rooster.” In our prayers, songs and promises this holy hour, may we crow less and obey you more. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Job 38)
Call to Worship:
God, my God, how great you are!
Robed in sunshine, all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You set earth on a firm foundation,
So nothing can shake it, ever.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
In the places you assigned them.
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side. (excerpted from Psalm 104, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Lord, perhaps nothing so bluntly distinguishes Jesus’ life from ours as the simple disclaimer in Hebrews: “Christ did not promote himself.” Surely we are ill-prepared, we of the voyeuristic, selfie-snapping crowd ever eager to experience the next big thing and broadcast widely our involvement in it, to grasp such a concept or follow such an apparently boring example as his. From our first breath, we are goaded toward embracing our own American exceptionalism, whether on the playing field, in the classroom or around the family dinner table. Yet how starkly does Jesus set himself athwart such misguided “look-at-me”-ism. We thank you, therefore, that when we congregate as the beloved community called church, we are freed from any bleak need to offer showy sacrifices to impress others, but are held to the higher standard Jesus himself embraced, confident of your hearing him because of his devotion, a faithful obedience refined through personal suffering. Incline our hearts toward such obedient suffering, for we pray as Jesus taught us, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Hebrews 5)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, for living lives that mimic the opening line of a tired old joke: “Did you hear the one about the Republican and the Democrat who both wanted God to do whatever they asked?” Yet here we are, in the run-up to the latest in a series of elections clouded by clamorous voices on all sides, warning that electing their adversaries will surely mean the end of life on earth as we know it. Maybe Jesus’ honest rejoinder to our political zealotry is the same as his response to those disciple brothers who demanded he allow them to be seated on his right and left in the Kingdom: “You don’t know what you’re asking!” If it is true that we elect the leaders we deserve, surely we must be humbled enough by now to finally abandon our need to exercise authority over others, an obsession Jesus stoutly ridiculed: “That’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant, whoever wants to be first will be the slave of all. I came to give my life to liberate many people.” Have mercy on our attempts to morph Jesus into a cheesy, popular icon. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 10)
Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news, as relayed by one coming late to the faith: “It’s not that the gospel has been tried and found wanting, but that the gospel has been found difficult and left untried.” It is not impossible to follow Jesus, just not a task for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged. Serving others through the ministries of our beloved community at UBC, becoming the willing slave of people who have never known compassion or tenderness, most assuredly leads to an eternal form of greatness, an abiding sense of being first in ways unknown by the madding crowd of competitors jostling for attention and praise in the marketplace. Thanks be to God for the first-rate privilege of being last but not least!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 10 and the droll wit of G.K. Chesterton)
Thought for a Sabbath Day: “Sharing is the path between the fear of deprivation and the shame of undeserved privilege.” - Peter W. Marty, publisher of The Christian Century