Sunday, February 17, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  Help us, Lord, this very hour, to trust and rely upon you.  Prophet Jeremiah’s image of “trees planted by the streams, roots reaching down to the water” boosts our hope, propping us up on our leaning side.   Even as you discern our hidden motives and fairly deliver the consequences of our deeds, may our firmly rooted faith allow us not to fear, be stressed or fail to bear fruit for your Kingdom.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Jeremiah 17)

Call to Worship:

The truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advice,

Doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.

Instead, they love the Lord’s instruction.

They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,

Which bears fruit at just the right time.

The wicked are like dust the wind blows away,

They will have no standing in the court of justice,

For the way of the wicked is destroyed. (from Psalm 1, The Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Apostle Paul was spot-on, Lord, insisting as he did that your gospel comes across as foolishness to a world intent upon death by self-absorption.  Yet we keep hoping to make your counter-intuitive sacrificial love somehow respectable in the marketplace, where money and status are the only markers acknowledged, and where compassion is perceived as weakness.  Truly, if our highest faith priority is acceptance by the crowd, we deserve (as Paul insisted) “to be pitied more than anyone else.”  We appeal to you in the name of the troublesome Galilean carpenter who wasn’t interested in being pitied, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 15)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for being so much like the Jesus-groupies who thronged after him by the hundreds, desperate for miraculous healing and a free lunch.  We are equally affronted by his unwelcome rejoinder:  “Happy are you who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, rejected, insulted, condemned.  Leap for joy, because that’s the way prophets have always been treated.  But how terrible if you are rich or have full bellies or laugh or enjoy everyone speaking well of you.  False prophets have always acted that way.”  Have mercy on the religious booster clubs we’re created and dared to call “church.”  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 6)

Assurance of Forgiveness:  Hear the good (non-fake) news:  Jesus did heal people.  Jesus does heal people.  Jesus will continue to heal people.  He just wants us to know what real healing looks like, and how empty are the false promises of wealth, military might, and popularity.  Only trust him, and all manner of things will be well.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 6 and 14th century English mystic Mother Julian of Norwich)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “God’s passion to redress the plight of the struggling poor necessarily involves judgment on those who ruthlessly corner the earth’s resources for their own power and unjust wealth.”   - Martin L. Smith, Episcopal priest, Washington, D.C.   

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  What we need, what we long for in worship this holy hour, Lord, is the word you whispered to prophet Jeremiah:  “Before I created you in the womb I knew you, I set you apart.”  Set us apart, though we protest as Jeremiah did, with your firm insistence, “Where I send you, you must go.  Don’t be afraid, because I’m with you.”  That’s it, that’s what we long to receive from you.  Appoint us.  Put your words in our mouths.  Send us, Lord.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Jeremiah 1)

Call to Worship:

I’ve taken refuge in you, Lord.

Don’t let me ever be put to shame!

Bend your ear toward me, be my rock of refuge,

Where I can always escape

Rescue me from the grip of the wicked, Lord.

You are my hope, the one I’ve trusted since childhood.

I’ve depended on you from birth.

You cut the cord when I came from my mother’s womb. (from Psalm 71, the Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, God who shaped us in the womb and knows us by heart, for being so much more than a prop for our fragile self-esteem.  Prone as we church folk are to doing the right thing for the wrong reason, we welcome apostle Paul’s sobering shot of reality, warning that all our good deeds and vaunted wisdom are for nothing if not underlain by sacrificial love.  His jarring cost-benefit analysis offends our gratuitous benevolence:  “If I give away everything I have to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.”  Ouch!  Launch us beyond a dim selfie-hedged religiosity into the intoxicating love that supersedes even faith and hope, for we pray in the name of the only One who ever lived that sort of love from first to last, saying … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 13)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for no more fully understanding Jesus than did the Nazareth hometown crowd when he returned and spoke in their synagogue.  Have mercy on our dizzying vacillation, pivoting as did they when the wandering Galilean homeboy applied Isaiah’s messianic prediction to himself.  We, like they, shift from being “impressed by the gracious words flowing from his lips” to being “filled with anger, rising up and running him out of town to throw him off the cliff.”  Daily we cast Jesus out, symbolically hurling him from the idolatrous heights of our nationalism, racism and consumerism.  Grant us your full pardon, Lord, we pray.  Amen.* (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 4)

Assurance of Pardon:  There is good news today, even for such a lynch mob as we, so take heart.  Our risen Galilean Lord continues to move among us with the same message he delivered that day in Nazareth.  Referencing prophets Elijah and Elisha, whose ministries extended beyond Jewish bounds to embrace hurting Gentiles in Sidon and Syria, Jesus hammered home the truth that God’s lavish love includes more than a chosen few, a truth still inciting hatred and violence among white supremacists.  In the same way Jesus passed unharmed through the murderous crowd “and went on his way,” so today his message of compassionate inclusion cannot be muted by the aggressively ignorant among us. Thanks be to God for all who are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 4)

Thought for a Sabbath Day: “That which we hope for and love about home – even when it is not our present reality – keeps alive in us the promise of a day when pain, rejection and misunderstanding at the hands of those who should know us best shall be no more.”        - Cleophus LaRue, professor of preaching, Princeton Theological Seminary

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Prayer as We Gather

We have a choice, Lord, in this holy hour: To echo apostle Paul’s earnest “we are what we are by God’s grace,” or to resign ourselves to helplessly hoping, gasping at glances, heartlessly helping ourselves to our bad dreams where confusion has its costs.  Guide us toward the right option, we pray. Amen.*

- inspired by 1 Corinthians 15 and the poetry of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young

Call to Worship                                                                                                                

Lord, I give thanks to you with all my heart.

I sing your praise before all other gods.

I thank you for your loyal love,

Because on the day I cried out, you answered me.

You still see the lowly,

But you keep your distance from the arrogant.

Whenever I am in deep trouble,

You make me live again.                     - from Psalm 138, The Common English Bible

 Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your mischievous cunning, your quirky sense of humor in the face of our grim literalness. When we despair, as did prophet Isaiah, over having unclean lips and living among people whose lips are equally unclean, your winged messengers swoop among us in our smoke-clogged confusion and send us out to live our faith without fear. Where we see only a burned-over stump, you see a seedling of hope. Here we are, Lord, send us as Jesus did, saying...*       - inspired by Isaiah 6 

Prayer of Confession: We, the members of the Chapel Hill chapter of the Jesus Admiration Society assembled in weekly session, pause amidst our continuing refusal to actually follow Jesus as he              commanded, to reluctantly ask your forgiveness, Lord. Like Jesus’ first disciples, who balked at his command to “row out farther – into the deep water – and drop your nets for a catch,” we’d really rather not, if it’s all the same to you.  The deep cultural waters of angry entitlement and bigotry frighten us, almost as much as the notion of risking rejection and scorn by offering to pull our hurting, skeptical neighbors and co-workers into Jesus’ net of unconditional love and acceptance. Frankly, nobody told us during our initiation we were expected to invite others into this beloved UBC fellowship we’ve come to cherish. We’d prefer to just show up - occasionally - be kept warm in winter and cool in summer, enjoy some good sounds and hear an intellectually respectable sermon. But thank you for asking anyway, Lord. Amen.*             -  inspired by Luke 5

Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news: Those same recalcitrant disciples, having first rebuffed Jesus’ presumptuous command to multiply themselves by inviting others to walk alongside him, at least had the good sense to grudgingly relent, mumbling “because you say so, we’ll drop the nets.”  Surely Jesus smiled to himself, bemused by their childish behavior, just as he must chuckle when we drag our pouty little selves into his servant ministry. Because he understands us like he understood them, he offers us the same comforting counsel: “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you’ll be fishing for people.” If any among us here this morning have yet to experience the joy of introducing another person to Jesus’ heartbreaking acceptance, may this be the hour we do as those first unsure disciples did: “They left everything and followed   Jesus.”* - inspired by Luke 5

 Thought for a Sabbath: “Jesus paid for living in a ‘mixed’ world, which is both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole. He hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, inside of both humanity and divinity, a male body with a feminine soul, utterly whole and yet utterly disfigured– holding together all the primary opposites.”  - Richard Rohr, Franciscan Friar

 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  In this holy hour, Lord, revive within us Isaiah’s faithful refusal to ”keep silent or sit still until righteousness shine out like a light.”  Infuse us with your spirit, so we might refuse to be shushed by bureaucratic ignorance or intimidated by hateful speech in high places.  May UBC continue to be a safe haven for free-thinking followers of Jesus, a harbor where the unmarked paths of religious liberty are better than a known way, a voice in the wilderness speaking truth to the sinister powers threatening academic freedom in our university community, so we may earn the prophet’s assurance that “the Lord delights in you, your God will rejoice because of you.”  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson/UNC Class of ‘72, inspired by Isaiah 62)

Call to Worship:

Your loyal love, Lord, extends to the skies.

Your justice is like the deepest sea.

Your faithful love is priceless, God!

Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Within you is the spring of life.

In your light, we see light. (from Psalm 36)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, God, for your boundless patience and sense of humor, as when you worked your miraculous mischief through Jesus at a humble peasant wedding in Cana, silencing his hovering mother’s intrusive counsel and salvaging a young couple’s honor by allowing the wine to continue flowing.  This candid snapshot of Jesus’ stubborn compassion for the poor reminds us that his earliest critics were members of his own family, a bitter truth still lived out among us when we dare put Jesus first in our lives, often at the price of offending entrenched family prejudices and inflaming smoldering family secrets. Grant us the gracious audacity of our Galilean Lord, who never mistook tradition for truth, and who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 2)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for ignoring apostle Paul’s jarring claim that your Holy Spirit chooses, one person at a time, what spiritual gifts each of us will receive.  No wonder so many of us have a vague, persistent sense of being unsettled, ill at ease.  We have avoided being still and quiet long enough to listen for your gentle voice of guidance amidst the clamor of our lives.  We have fled from what would truly bring our hearts joy, blinded by the bright lights of the marketplace, with its false gods of endless competition and its empty markers of status and success.  Even worse, we have misappropriated your intent that spiritual gifts be used for the common good, co-opting them instead as vehicles of ego-boosting self-promotion.  Have mercy on us  for kidnapping these good gifts for our own purposes.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 12)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart  and smile, for Cana’s wedding offers us more good news than reprimand.  Mother Mary, chastened by her charismatic son’s rebuff, rallies to reply as ought we all to Jesus’ commands:  “Do whatever he tells you.”  Her repentant obedience is matched by the headwaiter’s pungent aside to the groom:  “You kept the good wine until the last,” an unwitting metaphor for how we all should each day save our most tender mercies and deepest affection for the life partners with whom God has blessed us, not squandering our best selves and kindest smiles throughout the day upon people who will never understand us like those who know us best and love us in spite of ourselves.  Thanks be to God for that very small number of people we can trust to put up with us no matter what!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 2)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “Nothing worth doing can be accomplished in a single lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope.”     -  Reinhold Neibuhr, American Protestant theologian

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  God  of new beginnings, we submit our lives this holy hour to Jesus’ radical sifting, recalling John the baptizer’s vision of a coming Messiah, shovel in hand, mucking out the threshing areas  to receive fresh wheat and remove old husks.  Prepare our hearts for your Spirit’s fire, sweeping away the husks of every comfortable addiction cluttering our being.  Descend upon our hearts as you did during Jesus’ baptism, your voice assuring us we also are your beloved children in whom you find happiness.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 3)

Call to Worship: 

Give to the Lord the glory due his name!

Bow down to the Lord in holy splendor!

The Lord’s voice is strong;

The Lord’s voice is majestic.

The Lord’s voice shakes the wilderness,

Strips the forests bare.

The Lord sits enthroned, king forever!

Let the Lord bless all people with peace! (from Psalm 29, the Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, we are sobered by the account in Acts of disciples Peter and John journeying to Samaria to pray over new believers “because Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  Perhaps many of us, raised in the safe, predictable confines of cultural Christianity, have only been baptized,  never truly transformed by Holy Spirit.  Perhaps that would explain why so many church members show so little evidence of Jesus’ imprint upon their lives.  Perhaps that makes you sad.  Perhaps it’s not too late for us to change.  Come, Holy Spirit, as you once came with startling, dove-like, swift unpredictability upon the Galilean carpenter who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Acts 8)

Prayer of Confession:  Your imperative, O Lord, relayed with Isaiah’s classic verve, fails to convince our weary hearts:  “Don’t fear, when you pass through the waters, for I have redeemed you, called you by name; you are mine.”  But we do fear, Lord, as the swirling waters of cultural chaos and political dysfunction rise to sinister depths around us.  Most days, we can’t seem to hear you calling our name.  Most days, dread compels us toward despair, mocking your claim that we are yours.  Rather, we shudder in the cold grasp of some unearthly power distinctly not you.  We want to believe your promises, Lord.   We want to hold on to hope.  Help us where belief and hope fail us.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 43) 

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for I have good news.  God is not through with you or me, not done calling us by the ineffable names by which we were summoned before our birth.  Take time, allow God to draw near in the silence, and you may yet hear the undimmed, caressing tone bidding us all toward unassailable truth:  “You are precious in my eyes. You are honored.  I love you, and I am with you always.  Don’t be afraid.”   Thanks be to God, for all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 43 and 14th century female English mystic, Julian of Norwich)

Thought for an Epiphany Sunday:  “Go where your best prayers take you.”    - Frederick Buechner, theologian

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Prayer as We Gather:  God of unsearchable glory, bathe us in Epiphany’s revealing light as we meet for worship this holy hour.  We embrace Isaiah’s assurance that, “though darkness covers the earth and gloom the nations, you will shine upon us,” lifting our eyes so we might see clearly the Kingdom tasks you have for us in this new year.  Move among us, we pray.  Amen.* (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 60)

Call to Worship:

God, give your righteous judgments to the king.

May he judge poor people with justice,

Saving the children of those who are needy,

Letting peace prosper until the moon is no more.

May he deliver the needy who cry out,

The poor, and those who have no helper.

May he show compassion on the weak,

Saving the lives of those who are in need.

Let the king redeem them from oppression and violence;

May their blood be precious in his eyes. (from Psalm 72, the Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for being our Secret Sharer, trusting us with your covert design, revealed in Jesus, to distribute your grace to all your children on the globe.  You honor us with that responsibility, a once-hidden plan now made public:  To show the rulers and powers the rich varieties of your wisdom through the church.  With joyful confidence in the access we have to you through our faith in Jesus, we pray as he taught us, saying … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Ephesians 3)  

Prayer of Confession:  Lord, forgive the Herod-spirit lurking within us all, troubled as we are by the full implications of Jesus’ birth:  The threats to our selfish ambitions, the fear-prompted insecurities we exalt to magical status and then blindly defend, to the detriment of our most cherished human relationships.  Have mercy on our weekly religious charades, mouthing the same false piety leveled at the inquiring Magi:  “When you have found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.”  Clearly, our lives prove we have no intention to honor Jesus by word or deed, hence the perpetual misery we create for ourselves and others.  Grant, we pray, that 2019 might visit upon us epiphanies sufficient to turn us toward you, at last.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 2)

Assurance of Pardon:  Hear the good news:  Just as the Magi were filled with joy as their star quest led them to Jesus, so we also can discover a joy unrivaled if only we persist as they did in seeking him, bringing him the gift of our best selves, our untamed devotion.  Likewise, just as they were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod,” we too can be delivered from the blind alleys and false hopes of life if we allow God’s epiphanies to blossom in our dreams.  Thanks be to God for continuing to speak to us in the unbidden visions of our individual experience!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 2)

Thought for Epiphany Sunday:  “Have you wandered so far and paid such a bitter price for knowledge and not yet learned that love has nothing to do with pardon or forgiveness, that it only loves, and loves … and loves?”     -Willa Cather,  “The Burglar’s Christmas”

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  Lord of stark surprises, hear our Advent echo of old man Zechariah’s ecstatic promissory outburst at his infant son John’s dedication, covenant words our troubled world longs to trust once more:  “God has come to help, has shown the mercy promised, has granted us rescue so we could serve without fear!”   Lord, in these days when hate mongers would control us by making us afraid, may your deep compassion “give light to those in darkness and guide us on the path of peace.”  We have indeed been rescued so we could serve.  May this holy hour prepare us to do just that.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 1)

Call to Worship:

Bless the Lord God of Israel, who has come to help and deliver us.

God has raised up a mighty Savior, delivered us from our enemies.

God has shown the mercy promised in holy covenant,

The solemn pledge made to our ancestor Abraham.

God granted that we would be rescued from our enemies

So we could serve without fear in holiness, as long as we live.

Because of our God’s deep compassion,

Heaven’s dawn will break upon us,

To give light to those sitting in darkness and death’s shadow,

To guide us on the path of peace. (Luke 1, Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Incarnate God, you who became flesh in a Hebrew boy birthed to a peasant teen mom and first celebrated by rough-hewn shepherds of little regard in their own culture, thank you for showing up when we least expect you, and for all those who partner with us in ministry in our beloved UBC community.  We echo apostle Paul’s gratitude that “the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job.”  We hold close in our hearts all those grace-companions through whom we have known the compassion of Jesus, and we long to become ”even more rich with insight, able to decide what really matters,” for we make our appeal through the risen Lord who gave us words by which to approach your majestic presence, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Philippians 1)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive, Lord, our chronic rejection of prophetic voices you send among us, like socially unacceptable baptizer John with his brazen assaults upon the fragile sensibilities of religious and political functionaries, whose primary instinct is always to protect their turf.  May we never shrink from speaking truth to corrupt excess, whether it be education factories’ sports boosters spewing obscene $12 million ransoms to coaches in return for not coaching, or cowardly administrators embracing slavery’s evil by enshrining its hideous monuments in $5 million mausoleums mandated by sniveling legislators who begrudge teachers a fair living wage, all under the banner of a state motto which implores us “to be, rather than to seem.”  Why in the world do you put up with us, Lord?  Amen. (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 3)

Assurance of Pardon:  Hear the good news:  When baptizer John dared demand of his listeners that they turn from darkness, showing by their baptism “they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins,” he was also speaking to you and me. Channeling his prophet precursor Isaiah’s wilderness cry, John laid down for us the imperative by which we are meant to live as disciples of Jesus:  “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.”  Thanks be to God for that privileged assignment, and the radical promise implicit within it, never more needed than in these days of mounting despair:  “The crooked will be made straight and the rough places made smooth.”  May it be so, Lord, soon and very soon!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Luke 3)

Thought for an Advent Sabbath:  “Jesus was a dangerous man – dangerous to the power structure, dangerous to the church, dangerous to the crowds of people who followed Him.  Shouldn’t the followers of Jesus also be dangerous?” – Michael Yaconelli

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  Finish what you started, Lord, fulfilling your gracious promise first delivered to our Hebrew forebears and made flesh in the person of Jesus:  “I will raise up a righteous branch, who will do what is just and right in the land.”  On this first Advent Sunday, may we see ourselves as the latest crop of righteous branches, faithfully bearing fruit in our own day and doggedly pursuing justice amidst a forlorn people desperately in need of hope.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Jeremiah 33)

Call to Worship:

I offer my life to you, Lord; I trust you. 

Please don’t let me be put to shame!

Make your ways known to me, Lord;

Teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, because I put my hope in you all day long.

Lord, don’t remember the sins of my youth.

The Lord is good and does the right thing.

God guides the weak to justice.

All the Lord’s paths are loving and faithful

For those who keep God’s covenant.  (Psalm 25, the Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, how can we ever thank you enough for all the joy you’ve given?  Even the confusion roaring all about us bears witness to Jesus’ warning of the fear and foreboding sure to beset those  who dare to follow him.  Advent, with its yearning for a Messiah “coming on a cloud with power and great splendor,”  summons us to take courage:  “Stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.” Help us heed Jesus’ bracing call to stay alert in just such times as these, so we might be “strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen.”  Bring it on, Lord, for we pray as he taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 3 and Luke 21)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  Finish what you started, Lord, fulfilling your gracious promise first delivered to our Hebrew forebears and made flesh in the person of Jesus:  “I will raise up a righteous branch, who will do what is just and right in the land.”  On this first Advent Sunday, may we see ourselves as the latest crop of righteous branches, faithfully bearing fruit in our own day and doggedly pursuing justice amidst a forlorn people desperately in need of hope.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Jeremiah 33)

Call to Worship:

I offer my life to you, Lord; I trust you. 

Please don’t let me be put to shame!

Make your ways known to me, Lord;

Teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, because I put my hope in you all day long.

Lord, don’t remember the sins of my youth.

The Lord is good and does the right thing.

God guides the weak to justice.

All the Lord’s paths are loving and faithful

For those who keep God’s covenant.  (Psalm 25, the Common English Bible)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, how can we ever thank you enough for all the joy you’ve given?  Even the confusion roaring all about us bears witness to Jesus’ warning of the fear and foreboding sure to beset those  who dare to follow him.  Advent, with its yearning for a Messiah “coming on a cloud with power and great splendor,”  summons us to take courage:  “Stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.” Help us heed Jesus’ bracing call to stay alert in just such times as these, so we might be “strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen.”  Bring it on, Lord, for we pray as he taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 3 and Luke 21)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Prayer as We Gather

Lord, commercial images of joyful family Thanksgiving gatherings often magnify our personal sense of loneliness or loss. We come this holy hour seeking encouragement, remembering Hannah’s honest response to priest Eli’s accusation that she was drunk: “No, sir! I’m just a very sad woman, praying out of my great worry and trouble!” Grant us the same blessing he bestowed upon her when he recognized her sadness: “Then go in peace, and may God give you what you need!” Amen.*                      - inspired by 1 Samuel 1

Call to Worship  (Hannah’s Prayer)                                                            

My heart rejoices in the Lord!

There is no rock like our God!

Don’t go on talking so proudly, spouting arrogance,

Because the Lord is the God who knows and weighs every act.

The Lord brings death, gives life, makes poor, gives wealth,

Brings low, but also lifts up high!

God raises the poor from the dust,

Gives them the seat of honor!

The pillars of the earth belong to the Lord;

No one succeeds by strength alone.          - 1 Samuel  2, Common English Bible

Morning Prayer                 

 Among the sources of our thankfulness to you, Lord, none is more sacred than your promise recorded in Hebrews: “This is the covenant I will make with my children - I will place my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds, and I won’t remember their sins anymore.” Thank you for our warm, accepting UBC church family and the scripture-grounded worship services we share, faithful reminders of that eternal covenant. May we never forget Hebrew’s counsel: “Don’t’ stop meeting together with other believers, as some have done. Instead, encourage each other,” for we pray as Jesus taught us, saying …*       - inspired by Hebrews 16

Prayer of Confession                                                                                           

Forgive us, Lord, for being thick as a brick when it comes to your vision for our lives. Like Jesus’ disciples marveling at the temple’s grandeur (”Look, what awesome stones and buildings!”), we have too often substituted architecture for faithfulness. Equally misguided as Jesus’ inner circle who failed to grasp the symbolism underlying his prediction of the temple’s destruction, we long to know “What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?” Little wonder Jesus warned them to watch out for deceivers: “Many people will come, saying ‘I am the one!’” Have mercy on our perennial willingness to be seduced by tyrants, Amen.*               - inspired by Mark 13                                                                                              

Assurance of Pardon                                                                                        

I have good news! No matter how distracted, how alarmed, how unsure of the future we may be, the risen Jesus is among us to reassure us and steady our resolve. Like his earliest followers, we hunger for clues to what is coming next, echoing their panic in demanding “What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?” Now as then, our patient Lord refuses to lower himself to the level of our unbelief, insisting “When you hear of wars and reports of wars, don’t be alarmed. These things will happen, but this isn’t the end.” Thanks be to God for an unflappable Savior who is unmoved by the hysteria of twitter, Facebook or the latest poll numbers.*            - inspired by Mark 13

Thought for a Thanksgiving Sabbath

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”                                                                                                  

 -  George Burns