Prayer as We Gather: Rescuing God, Job’s plea speaks for us as we gather for worship this morning: “Oh, that I could know how to find God, I would lay out my case and understand what God would say to me.” We come seeking an audience with you, Lord, surrounded as we are with clashing opinions and strident, angry voices. But Job’s assuring rhetorical question-and-answer comfort us: “Would God contend with me through brute force? No, God would surely listen to me.” Listen to your children praying, Lord. We need you every hour. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Job 23)
Call to Worship:
God, why did you dump me miles from nowhere?
I call to God in pain: No answer. Nothing.
Are you indifferent, God, above it all,
Leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
They cried for your help and you gave it.
Everyone pokes fun at me, they make faces at me.
I need a neighbor, Lord; I need you.*(excerpted from Psalm 22)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the hope-charged voltage surging through Hebrews, the funky New Testament letter/sermon/essay. Just when our world appears to be wobbling dangerously out of control, just when it seems the center will not hold, just when the latest vestige of some rough beast slouches toward Washington to be born in the latest hideous incarnation of chaos, the writer's strong voice pulls us back into a sheltering sanity, insisting "God's word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword; nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything is uncovered and laid bare." May your living Word inspire Christ-centered activism behalf of the voiceless among us, buoyed by a confident patience that, in the fullness of time, all the narcissistic pretenders to the crown will be crushed beneath the weight of your unassailable truth, for we pray as Jesus taught us to pray, saying ... *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Hebrews 4 and the visionary poetry of William Butler Yeats)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, our resemblance to the man whose pretense at discipleship was a thin disguise of his truer loyalty to wealth and possessions. We assemble ourselves for Sunday worship, some vague desire "to inherit eternal life" dancing in our heads like sugar plums, only to be affronted by Jesus' withering, loving demand that we sell our stuff and give to the poor. At worship's end, we stumble sadly back into a world intent upon proving Jesus a fool, convinced that following Him is as impossible as a big ol' hairy camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. Have mercy on our schizophrenic waltz of belief/unbelief. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 10)
Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news: Though Jesus never implied it would be easy to follow Him, especially when we are toting on our backs the self-imposed burden of possessions and the crushing weight of status infatuation, he was equally adamant that "all things are possible with God." Indeed, the gaunt Galilean went even further, promising that those willing to pay discipleship's dues of persecution would be richly rewarded, both in this life and in the age to come, with a quality of life that is eternal. Thanks be to God for coming to us in human form, forging on the cross an eternal covenant worth every instance of self-denial it incurs.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 10)
Thought for a Sabbath Day: "The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding." - Will Durant, historian