Prayer as We Gather: Here we are, Lord, the latest generation of desperados needing to come to our senses, come down from our fences and open the gate to you before it’s too late. Like the Israelites waiting to cross the Jordan River into a land you promised them, we crane our necks to catch Joshua’s reassurance: “The living God is among you.” Staunch our fearful cynicism just as you stopped the Jordan’s flow that day, assuring Joshua “I will make you great.” How foolish of us to trust that promise from anyone but you. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Joshua 3 and the poetry of Glen Frey/Don Henley)
Call to Worship:
Oh, thank God, whose love never runs out.
All of you set free by God, tell the world!
Some of you wandered for years,
Looking but not finding a good place to live,
Half-starved and parched with thirst,
Staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.
Then, desperate, you called out to God.
God got you out in the nick of time;
God put your feet on a wonderful road,
So thank God for marvelous love and miracle mercy!*(Psalm 107, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for all around us in this UBC congregation we see reflections of the first Christians, mirroring what apostle Paul joyfully modeled, the “efforts and hard work, night and day, like a father treats his own children.” What a joy, what a privilege, to be part of a beloved community that “accepts God’s word and welcomes it for what it truly is.” We sense your wonder-working power among us, receiving it “not as a human message, but as God’s message, continuing to work in you who are believers.” Thank you for the miracle emerging from within this faithful fellowship, living saints daring to follow the Galilean who bids us pray … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 2)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, our hearty feasting these past 2,000 years at the sumptuous banquet called hypocrisy. How we have relished each opportunity to pillory the Pharisees and other religious experts of Jesus’ day. What easy targets they provide, our glib jabs falling gleefully upon their heads, our condescension a heady brew further distilled by our joy over what we have deemed Jesus’ complicity in our disdain for them. In our rush to attain moral superiority over these long-dead theological scholars no longer able to defend themselves, we have conveniently dismissed Jesus’ stern defense of their piety, misdirected though it may have been. Worse still, we have doubled down on our own guilty pleasure in the very folly for which we have happily damned them: arrogant public displays of orthodoxy, unquenchable thirst for praise in the marketplace, desperate need for titled credentials. Our selfie-intoxicated culture opens us up to precisely the derision Jesus leveled at them. Have mercy on our vacuous, fragile egos. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 23)
Assurance of Pardon: Do not despair, for even amidst his reprimand of our vaunting hubris, Jesus holds out this graceful insistence: “All of you are brothers and sisters, and all who make themselves low will be lifted up.” Thanks be to God for such stubborn hope as Jesus extends to the most dysfunctional, damaged pretender among us. Even now, in this very moment, we may choose the nobler path of servant ministry to a hurting, self-loathing world. What a Messiah-blessed opportunity is ours, to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 23)