Sunday, May 6, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  God of mystery, power and compassion, may your Holy Spirit descend upon our hearts in this sacred hour.  We give you thanks this day for the commitment and influence of Paul Yoder in his years  among us in college ministry at University Baptist Church, and we pray your blessings upon him as he continues to follow your lead into further discipleship in your name.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Acts. 10)

Call to Worship: 

Sing to God a brand-new song.

God has made a world of wonders!

God made history with salvation and remembered to love us, a bonus.

Shout your praises to God, everybody!

Let loose and sing!

Strike up the band!

God comes to set the earth right.

Fill the air with praises to God,

With everything living on earth joining in.

God will straighten out the whole world! (Psalm 98, The Message)

Morning Prayer:  Lord, help us not get all tangled up over Trinity language, confused about the identities of Father/Son/Holy Spirit and how they interact, tripping over where one begins and the other ends.  Thank you for the early church’s  witness to the mystery of your divine essence, experienced in three reliable ways:  Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.  May we never get lost in the cosmos of ephemeral religious imagery, but remain grounded in scripture’s abiding assurance that Holy Spirit is simply Jesus’ spirit lingering among us, and that Jesus’ spirit was God in person,  all the same Presence, all the same truth.  Thanks be to God for keeping it real, most starkly in the Galilean who taught us how to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 John 5)

Prayer of Confession:  Have mercy on us, Lord, as we careen about inside our little religious circles, so proud we have chosen Jesus as our Savior, convinced we would have been a friend of his if we had lived during his time on this earth.  Comforting though that smug reverie may be, it’s likely not  true.  After all, Jesus couldn’t have said it much more bluntly:  “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  We’d like to pretend we don’t know what he had in mind, but there it is, lurking just before the bit about being his friends:  “Love one another just as I have loved you!”  As in selling all our stuff and giving the proceeds to the poor?  As in welcoming the immigrant at our door?  As in forgiving our enemies ‘til the cows come home?  As in being willing to suffer and die on behalf of the voiceless poor? Sorry, Lord, but we were hoping for a little cushier assignment.  Maybe next life.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 15)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have good news, all you whose best offer to Jesus so far is a very conditional love.  In the first place, as Jesus made uncomfortably clear, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you.”  In the second place, you were chosen not in some ancient Jewish version of a beauty contest, but for a particular task, “to go and produce good fruit.”  The best news?  It was Jesus who appointed you and goes before you into every opportunity for sharing his love with a hurting world.  Jesus never sends us without first spiritually equipping us for the task.  Not a bad deal, eh, to hear Jesus promise “my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.”  Thanks be to God that Jesus is willing to call us his friends and eager to grant us a joy we’ve never known!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 15)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins, not our minds.” - Susan Sparks, comedian and pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church, NYC (on the “young earth” perspective)