Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Prayer as We Gather: We marvel, God of wind, rain and eerie silence, as Hurricane Irma replicates ancient Israel’s Exodus narrative. Like an upper level steering current, your messenger, shrouded in a column of cloud, “moved from in front of Israel’s camp and went behind them.” Like the waters of Tampa Bay emptying into the Gulf, exposing land normally covered in water, so “the Lord pushed the sea back by a strong east wind, turning the sea into dry land, forming a wall on their right hand and on their left.” Just as “the Lord jammed the Egyptian’s chariot wheels so they wouldn’t turn easily,” so even now you are confounding the evil scheming of empires in ways yet to be revealed. May this holy hour find our confidence in your mighty power’s timeless truth renewed and strengthened, though your undimmed plans for our deliverance remain for now cloaked in mystery. Amen.              - inspired by Exodus 14

Morning Prayer: Lord, awash in the twittered babble of petty tyrants’ saber rattling at home and abroad, as the current crop of tin-pot despots fret and strut their hour upon the stage of history, we take comfort in scripture’s old victory cry: “The Lord is my strength and power, a warrior whose strong hand shatters the enemy!”  Here and now, Lord, we enlist as soldiers of the cross, bearing  weapons forged not of steel but of overcoming love.  Quell the rage and mental instability of those who seek to divide and conquer through fear. Blow your winds of reconciliation and peace among us so we might unite and conquer through our risen Savior, “foremost in holiness, worthy of highest praise,” he who taught us to pray, saying … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Exodus 15)

Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord.  As though by some unseen cultural osmosis, we have absorbed uncritically that stubborn old lie: “Everybody needs somebody to look down on.”  We have clung to that vintage self-deception across our lives’ multiple horizons, from academia’s obsession with advanced degrees to fiercely debated sports teams rankings to churchly pecking orders to that most gladiatorial human arena, familial insecurities.  Apostle Paul’s blunt scolding of Rome’s earliest Christians upbraids us as well: “Why do you judge your brother or sister, why do you look down on them?  Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” Silence our theological arguments, our need to feel superior to those we perceive as weak in faith. Have mercy, and make us more eager to get our own house in order than to demean the spiritual house of another. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 14)

Assurance of Pardon: I have good news! Just when our capacity to love appears crippled by our unwillingness to forgive, Jesus steps alongside us on the path, breathing into our hearts the daring vision of a limitless capacity to forgive, arming us with the will to believe it possible. We do believe, Lord, we just need for you to help us where belief falls short. May each new day find within our hearts a wider space for compassion, as we release others from the death grip of old resentments, the curse of wrongs not yet forgiven. Thanks be to God for trusting us toward a greater benevolence than anything to which our actions have heretofore borne witness.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 18)