Prayer as We Gather: Some things never change, Lord, as when the children of Israel argued with you during their wilderness wanderings, demanding of Moses “Is the Lord really with us or not?” Though surrounded by your bounty, we often act as people of scarcity, fearful and living in dread, our actions announcing we’re not sure whether you’re with us or not. Grant us the leader-spirit of Moses, to “go on ahead of the people” as you guide us toward New Consecration Sunday’s call to courageous financial stewardship. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Exodus 17)
Call to Worship:
Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
Bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb,
I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Riddles from days long gone,
Stories we heard from our ancestors.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
We’re passing it along to the next generation:
All about the praise due to God,
For the marvelous things God has done.*(Psalm 78, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for apostle Paul’s inviting the church to become a world-changing adoption agency, “adopting the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.” All around us are people hungry for “any encouragement, any comfort in love, any sympathy,” and you allow us the grace to “with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” How grateful we are that you enable us “both to want and to actually live out” your good purposes, as Jesus guided us when he taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Philippians 2)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, for coveting the wrong sort of authority. We long to be seen as leaders commanding respectful compliance in workplace, family settings and church life, when more often than not we come across as merely demanding obedience, not earning a following. We’re no better than the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who resented his obvious popular appeal and insisted “Who gave you this authority?” We cringe at his refusal to lower himself to the level of their petty jealousy, seeing ourselves in their childish squabbling over how best to trap him. Save us from ourselves, as Jesus’ stern rebuke buffets our control-obsessed psyches: “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you.” Frankly, we were hoping for a classier set of fellow travelers. Have mercy, we pray.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 21)
Assurance of Pardon: Take heart, all who fret more over Washington’s latest tax reform charades than our sustained inability to replicate Jesus’ healing miracles. You can still rise in Jesus’ estimation to the level of pardoned prostitutes, if only you heed his call to “change your hearts and lives.” We stand amazed in the presence of love so amazing, so divine it lifts us above our need to dominate others, granting instead the only authority a follower of Jesus ever has, the authority to extend healing forgiveness to every person in our lives. Thanks be to God for such heaven-blessed esteem!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 21)