Prayer as We Gather: During this holy hour, Lord, re-clothe us in our rightful minds. We have trampled the covenant you first made with Noah “and with every living being: birds, large animals, all the animals of the earth.” We’re so busy poisoning the wildlife inhabiting our streams, air, oceans and soil with toxins spewed by the petroleum and pharmaceutical industries, we are no longer struck with wonder by the divine promise a rainbow represents. We’re not apt to keep a covenant we don’t even remember. Speak to our hearts, Lord. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Genesis 9)
Call to Worship:
My head is held high, God;
No hangdog skulking for me.
I’ve thrown in my lot with you;
You won’t embarrass me, will you?
Show me how you work, God;
Lead me down the path of truth.
Mark the milestones of your mercy and love;
Forget that I sowed wild oats.
God is fair and just;
God sends the misdirected in the right direction.
God’s hand leads the rejects step-by-step.
Follow the Covenant signs. (from Psalm 25, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for this first Sunday in Lent, when we recall Jesus’ baptism and your Spirit darting, diving, swooping all about him, making him fully alive and open to your bidding. When our timid spirits shrink before the world’s cold rebuke, breathe that same life-giving Spirit into our hopeful hearts. Fill us with Jesus’ own urgency to seek out and deliver those who labor under heavy, often self-imposed burdens. In your cross-shaped suffering, taking human form, your deathless love for us blazes forth. May our baptism covenant with you burn no less fiercely, for we pray in the name of the Galilean writhing on that cross, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Peter 3)
Prayer of Confession: Lord, forgive our failure to grasp, in the drama of Jesus’ baptism, that there really is something transcendent happening here, even if what it is isn’t exactly clear. We’re so distracted by the spectacle of a ventriloquist dove serving as heavenly courier, we miss your commendation of Jesus: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” If you, the Creator of the universe, find happiness in Jesus, surely we his flawed followers should be over the moon, deliriously happy to receive the limitless love he offers. Have mercy when our bearing reflects more grim endurance than unbounded joy. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 1 and the poetry of Stephen Stills)
Assurance of Pardon: Take heart, for even amidst the horror of his cousin Baptizer John’s arrest and murder, Jesus never stumbled in announcing God’s stunning revelation: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives and trust the good news!” God still interrupts our programmed, discouraged daily lives to bring us that special news bulletin, if only we are willing to summon the courage to change our hearts and lives and simply trust what we’ve already heard from Jesus’ own lips. Thanks be to God!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 1)