Prayer as We Gather: Lord, an authentic word from you seems as elusive these days as when young Samuel wrestled with your personal summons, back when “visions weren’t widely known.” But one vision is all it takes, Lord, like your hint to Samuel: “I am about to do something that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle.” We huddle here this morning hungry with hope wise old Eli was right: “God will do as God pleases.” We await word of your ear-tingling next move. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Samuel 3)
Call to Worship:
God, I’m an open book to you;
Even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know everything I’m going to say
Before I start the first sentence.
You formed me in my mother’s womb.
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
Investigate my life, O God,
Cross-examine and test me,
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong,
Then guide me on the road to eternal life. (Psalm 139, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Protect us from ourselves, Lord, awash in personal freedoms so easily morphed into destructive habits. May we echo apostle Paul, rejoicing in our freedoms but determined we “won’t be controlled by anything,” including an unhealthy devotion to communications technology’s addictive lure toward perpetual connectivity. Forbid the abdication of our bodies, intended as temples of your Holy Spirit, for any uses less than worthy of your approval, for we appeal to you through him whose body was broken on our behalf and who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 6)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, God, our creative avoidance of Jesus’ command to make disciples in his name. We have more excuses for not inviting others into the orb of your compassionate grace than there are days in the week. We willfully break the chain set in motion by Jesus himself, the sharing of your love’s good news with another, who then shares it with another, on down the line, as when he found Philip and said “Follow me.” Philip, joyful at being called, found Nathaniel with news of Messiah’s arrival, only to be greeted with a skepticism all too familiar in our cynical world: “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” But Nathaniel relented, confessing Jesus as Lord, as would many of our acquaintances if only we had courage to find them on your behalf. Have mercy on our spiritual laziness. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 1)
Assurance of Pardon: Take heart, for you too are capable of earning Jesus’ warm appraisal of Nathaniel as a person “genuine, in whom there is no deceit.” Resist the negative voice within, the relentless whine of the prince of darkness, desperate in every instance to inspire within us the chronic complaint “Can anything good come from this person or that situation?” To which God ceaselessly answers: “Yes. Oh, yes. Keep searching. Keep finding. Never give up on all the lonely people, all the discouraged faces you meet every day. Love them, as I have loved you.” Thanks be to God for the new thing God is about to do in you!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 1)