Prayer as We Gather: Lord, jostle us the way you jostled Jonah when you sent him to the people of Ninevah: “Get up and go …!” with a word of hope and demand for turning to new life. Like Jonah, our dirty little secret may well be that we don’t really want others to hear a word from you through us, for fear they may actually turn and follow your way, and then where would we be: Nobody to demonize, no nations to despise, no one upon whom we could look down. Stir us up, Lord, this very hour, to do your all-encompassing bidding. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Jonah 3)
Call to Worship:
God, the one and only,
I’ll wait as long as God says.
Everything I need comes from God, so why not?
God is the solid rock under my feet,
God is breathing room for my soul.
So trust God completely, people.
Lay your lives on the line for God,
For God is a safe place to be.
Strength comes straight from God.
God pays a fair wage for a good day’s work!*(Psalm 62, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, God, for Jesus’ constant modeling of urgency without desperation. Grant us his courage in the face of Caesar’s wrath, as when baptizer John was imprisoned by the state and Jesus responded, not with panic, but with resolve: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust the good news!” Surely we are surrounded these days by just such opportunities to stand firm against the powers that be, not cowering but audacious in our vigilance. Just as Jesus responded to John’s arrest by calling Simon and Andrew from their fishing nets and bidding them “Come, follow me!”, so may we seize these moments of national turmoil to be about your Kingdom’s work. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour, for we appeal to you through the fearless Galilean who bids us pray …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 1:14-20)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive our feeble sight, Lord, at the very hour you so need your children to be people of vision heedless of the consequences. Our tiny attention span lurches from one shallow national spectacle to the next, from delusional tweets to Super Bowl speculations to international Olympic intrigues. Help us pay attention to apostle Paul’s no-nonsense insistence: “The time has drawn short.” Our worship too often mimics a bunch of children, sitting on the floor playing with a batch of dynamite to kill a Sunday morning. Shake us from our casual sauntering into the worship hour, as though nothing depended upon what happens when we gather in your name. Lash us to our pews, out of respect for what might actually happen when we call your Holy Name. Have mercy on our blindness to your earth-shattering presence, and give us one more chance to worship you in spirit and in truth.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 7 and the wisdom of writer Annie Dillard)
Assurance of Pardon: I have good news, though it may seem like bad news on first hearing. Meddlesome apostle Paul was right” “This world in its present form is passing away.” Instead of hearing that as an end-times, doomsday cry, may God ennoble our hearing to embrace the inferred promise: The God who created heaven and earth is in no way threatened or dismayed by the rulers of this world. For just such a time as this was the church birthed, in the midst of Empire’s folly and Emperor’s childish instability. God is in no wise worried about any petty earthly tyrant, but is intent we should all be seeking first the Kingdom and its ways, confident that everything important to our spiritual lives will be added as needed. Thanks be to God for the privilege of service in this very moment of history!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 7)