Sunday, October 29, 2017

Prayer as We Gather:  We shuffle in for worship, Lord, heedless of the debt we owe Martin Luther and other reformers who defied corrupt church power 500 years ago. Like Moses before them, the scrappy Reformation leaders “knew the Lord face-to-face.”  May this holy hour replicate among us their fierce loyalty to Holy Spirit’s battle cry, and may we never take for granted the privileges of a free church in a free state. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Deuteronomy 34 and Luther’s 95 “Wittendberg Theses”)

Call to Worship:

God, it seems like you’ve been our home forever;

From “once upon a time” to “kingdom come” – you are God.

So don’t return us to dust, saying “Back to where you came from!”

You’ve got all the time in the world;

A thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.

Are we no more to you than a blade of grass,

Springing up with the rising sun,

Cut down without a second thought?

Teach us to live wisely and well!

How long do we have to wait?

Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.

Let your loveliness rest on us, confirming the work we do! *(Psalm 90, The Message)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for the gift of humor, that keen sense of the ridiculous upon which all reformation is grounded.  Thank you for Martin Luther’s wry confounding of humorless church orthodoxy, his quick wit mirroring Jesus, who thwarted the Pharisees’ treachery so thoroughly “from that day forward nobody dared to ask him anything.”  Renew in us the fiery Anabaptist tradition of lampooning pompous religious and political pretenders, giving us voice once again to proclaim “The Emperor is wearing no clothes!”  Grant us a relentless will to pull down the mighty from their thrones, as did the peasant Messiah who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 22)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for abandoning apostle Paul’s example of “not trying to please people” and “never using flattery.”  Most of our conversational social lubricant is premised on precisely those two false foundations, without which the small talk of our daily banter would be rendered mute.  We wear ourselves out trying to please people for the sake of our own pitiful self-promotion.  We exhaust ourselves grasping for words of false praise in our desperate quest for advancement among the equally shallow talking heads all about us.  We profess admiration for reformers such as Martin Luther, but we would not for a moment abide such piercing irony as his within the fragile circles of spiritual lightweights we call the church.  Have mercy on us, we pray.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 2)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for there is good news embedded in Paul’s admonition to the early church:  “God continues to examine our hearts.”  Unlike some stern taskmaster of a professor who returns our final exam with an unassailable failing grade, God insists on continually injecting grace into our compromised lives.  We struggling believers, no less than the courageous apostle himself, have it within ourselves to be “as gentle as a nursing mother caring for her own children.”  Thanks be to God for the privilege granted us as followers of Jesus, “to share not only God’s good news but also our very lives because we care so much.” *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 2)