Sunday, March 18, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  Calm us, Lord, as we assemble ourselves in this sacred place this holy hour.  Soothe our fretful hearts and distracted spirits with remembrance of the covenant pledge you whispered to prophet Jeremiah: “I will put my instructions within you and engrave them on your hearts, I will be your God and you will be my people, I will forgive your wrongdoing and never again remember your sins.”  What blessed assurances, sufficient to still our anxious thoughts as we offer ourselves to you in worship once more.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Jeremiah 31) 

Call to Worship:

Generous in love - God, give grace!

Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record.

I know how bad I’ve been;

My sins are staring me down.

You’ve seen it all, the full extent of my evil.

Whatever you decide about me is fair.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

Set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Bring me back from gray exile,

Put a fresh wind in my sails! (Psalm 51, The Message)

Morning Prayer:  Just when we stop opening doors, Lord, finally knowing the One that we wanted was you, we’re tripped up by the stumbling-block of prayer, puzzled by why you sometimes seem not to be listening.  Thank you for the reassuring reminder in Hebrews, the early church’s letter/prayer/essay reminding us how Jesus himself offered prayers “… with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices.”  When we despair of your hearing us, grant us a glimpse back to Jesus, who “was heard because of his devotion, the obedience he learned from what he suffered.”  Perhaps if we were more willing to risk suffering on behalf of our faith, we’d be more confident you were hearing our prayers, as you surely heard the tearful cries from our crucified Savior who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Hebrews 5 and the poetry of Stephen Soundheim)  

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, when we lamely insist our own compromised courage as disciples would somehow have been so much greater if we had been contemporaries of Jesus, present with him in those awful final days of testing and trial on his way to the cross.  We, who can’t even seem to agree on what is factual news and what is fake, would likely have responded no more nobly than the crowds pressing in on Jesus when you spoke to him from heaven, reassuring him of your presence:  “Was that the sound of angel voices or merely the rumble of thunder?  Hmmm … Hard to say.”  Have mercy on our petty theological musings and our limited sense of the Holy, replacing them with a memory of Jesus’ disquieting claim:  “The time has come!  Whoever serves me must follow me.”  May it be so.  Amen. *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 12)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have very good news:  Unlike us, Jesus could always tell the difference between meteorology and mission. He’s not the least bit confounded by the current crop of thundering clown despots bumbling  their deceitful, incompetent way across the world’s stage, nor is he for one moment puzzled over the true identity of the prince of darkness pulling their marionette strings:  “Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out.  When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”   Thanks be to God for the seismic unmasking accomplished on the cross, when evil was forever dethroned and God’s suffering children eternally befriended by a crucified Advocate.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 12)