Prayer as We Gather: Lord, we’re just going to have to trust you on this “arise and shine” thing prophet Isaiah chirped, your light and glory in the face of globe-encircling darkness and gloom. In these frigid early days of this new year, we crave what he envisioned: a dawning spirit-light, a warm beacon of hope to open our trembling hearts wide toward fresh possibilities. Guide us, Lord. Amaze us. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 60)
Call to Worship:
Give the gift of wise rule to those in power, O God,
So they may rule rightly, being honorable to the your meek and lowly.
Please stand up for the poor, come down hard on cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon, be rainfall on cut grass.
Let peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
God rescues the poor, the destitute who have run out of luck.
God’s heart is open to the down-and-out, the wretched of the earth.
God frees them from tyranny and torture:
When they bleed, God bleeds.
When they die, God dies. *(Psalm 72, The Message)
Morning Prayer: May we never again sing of your amazing grace, Lord, until we first acknowledge with apostle Paul the responsibility to distribute that grace. On this first Sabbath of the Epiphany season, we peer into the year ahead for courageous opportunities to show earthly rulers “the many different varieties of God’s wisdom through the church.” Surprise us in this new year with how wise the beloved community of UBC truly can become, as we continue on mission in your Kingdom. Thank you for calling us together in precisely these numbers with precisely these spiritual gifts of distribution for precisely such a time as this, for we pray as Jesus taught us …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Ephesians 3)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, for being little Herod look-alikes, more troubled than delighted at the birth of a Jewish messiah who threatens our carefully crafted plans for influence and control. Have mercy on our desperate reliance upon contemporary vestiges of chief priests, legal experts and magi whom we summon for guidance and advantage, from tawdry health-and-wealth evangelists to justice-shirking Congressional leaders to tax attorneys and accountants counseling us in Kingdom-avoidance strategies that deny Jesus’ teachings, in favor of lining our own pockets at the expense of the voiceless poor. Convict us of our self-delusions, we pray. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 2)
Assurance of Pardon: I have good news on this Epiphany Sunday, for the ancient Hebrew prophet’s promise to the nondescript village of Bethlehem holds true for UBC today: “You are by no means least among God’s children, because from you will come one who will shepherd my people.” Who knows what persons among us in worship this very hour God may have chosen for special Kingdom service, shepherding hurting, wandering children toward the comforting shelter of God’s love ? Perhaps you, perhaps me, perhaps all of us. Thanks be to God for the possibilities present in this very room, at this very moment!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 2)