Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Prayer as We Gather

Lord, as we bravely assemble ourselves during Lent’s unfolding journey to give this thing called worship one more try, help us discern between mystery and magic. Like the wandering children of Israel under Moses’ weary watch-care, our fear-driven impatience often results in bratty behavior. In an instant-gratification culture where critical complaint serves as our instinctual default, deliver us from the magical thinking of a voodoo-level faith replete with false gods far more bizarre than Moses’ bronze snake-on-a-stick. May this holy hour echo your entreaty to “look up and live,” as the cross looms before us on our lonesome way toward resurrection. Amen.           - inspired by Numbers 21

Call to Worship                                                                                                              

Oh, thank God! God is so good!

God’s love never runs out. 

All of you set free by God, tell the world!

Tell how God freed you from oppression,

Rounded you up from all over the place,

From the four winds, from the seven seas.

Some of you were feeling the effects of your sin;

So miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.

Then you called out to God;

God got you out in the nick of time.

God spoke the word that healed you,

Pulled you back from the brink of death.

So thank God for God’s marvelous love;

Tell the world what God has done: Sing it out!        - Psalm 107, The Message

Morning Prayer                                                                                                                           Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to eavesdrop on apostle Paul’s heart-felt letters to Jesus’ earliest followers, as cogently relevant today as when first penned, honest outpourings in which we see ourselves. We too have “followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power, a spirit of disobedience to God’s will.” Eerily pre-figuring the 1960s “If it feels good, do it” mantra, the apostle cites destructive behaviors grounded in “whatever felt good, whatever you thought you wanted,” but then ushers us full-circle into the wonders of your compassion, insisting “God is rich in mercy, bringing us to life while we were dead because of those things we did wrong, delivering us by grace, not because of something we possessed, something we did that we can be proud of.” Indeed, we are “God’s accomplishment, created to do good things” in the name of the One who taught us to pray, saying …*                                         -  inspired by Ephesians 2
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those       
who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: 
for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Forgive us, Lord, for mindlessly chirping John 3:16, so selfishly concerned with heavenly afterlife we have ignored the likelier translation of “eternal life” as a quality of life that is eternal, beginning right here, right now on this earth. We’ve made it sound as though eternal life begins only when we stop breathing, even though Jesus insisted “the kingdom of God is among you!” Worse still, so focused are we on passing heaven’s entrance exam we conveniently overlook evangelist John’s bedrock insistence that “God so loved the world,” the whole messy, mixed up world with all its competing cultures, faiths, languages, that God came among us “so that the world might be saved.” Have mercy on our relentless misuse of Jesus to divide rather than unite, to shame rather than understand, to condemn rather than accept, when John’s gospel couldn’t be any clearer: “God didn’t send Jesus into the world to judge the world.” Have mercy on us when we presume to do what Jesus did not do.*  - inspired by John 3

Assurance of Pardon
Take heart, all who have fretted over creeds, confessions and  religious doctirne’s neurotic precision. God’s plan for creation is infinitely simpler and more compassionate than the tyranny of humorless orthodoxy mandated by church power structures across the centuries. The fourth gospel cuts right through our most stingy attempts to narrow the scope of God’s grace, rejecting a God that is too small in favor of  evangelist John’s clear directive: “Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.” What more can be said? Thanks be to God for coming to us in the gentle strength of a Galilean carpenter whose arms, even in his agony on a cross, were stretched wide to embrace the whole, hurting world.*                                                                                      - inspired by John 3