Prayer as We Gather: Lord, as we assemble in this room made holy by numberless pilgrims before us, our attention shifts from things that can be seen but don’t last to things that can’t be seen but last forever. If the earthly tent we inhabit is torn down, we have a building from you, a house not made by hands but eternal in the heavens. Remind us that “the house we live in will never fall down if we pity the stranger that stands at our door.” Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 2 Corinthians 4 and the poetry of Gordon Lightfoot)
Call to Worship:
Lord, everything in me sings “Thank you!”
I kneel in worship and thank you for your love and faithfulness.
Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word.
The moment I called out to you, you stepped in;
You made my life large with strength.
No matter the distance, you know everything about me.
Finish what you started in me, God.
Your love is eternal, don’t give up on me now. (Psalm 138, The Message)
Morning Prayer: We should have seen this coming, Lord. If we had spent less time addicted to social media, less time making an idol of sports, and more time heeding your promises in scripture, we would have known how kings operate, “taking your sons for his cavalry, your daughters in human trafficking, your grain and vineyards for his officials … and you will become his slaves!” You couldn’t have said it more plainly: “When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves; but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.” Like the children of Israel, we insisted “No! There must be a king over us like all the other nations, to judge us and fight our battles.” We would not listen, we did not know how. Perhaps we’ll listen now, to the lonesome Galilean who taught us to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Samuel 8 and the poetry of Don McLean)
Prayer of Confession: Have mercy on us, Lord, for thinking that following Jesus would be like a walk in the park. Why did we not notice that the first people to misunderstand and insult Jesus were members of his own family, who tried to take control of him, saying “He’s out of his mind!” Why did we think mainline religions of our day would praise us for walking in Jesus’ footsteps, when the religious leaders of his day charged “He’s possessed by Satan!” Why are we Americans so shocked to see all around us the grim fulfillment in our culture of Jesus’ warning: “A house divided against itself will collapse.” Have mercy on our spiritual blindness, we pray. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 3 and the morning headlines)
Assurance of Pardon: Take heart, for God apparently has not only patience but also a great sense of humor where we are concerned. Jesus gave us all the warning we need of the impending perils unleashed by Satan when evil triumphs because good people do nothing to stop it. Thanks be to God for coming to us in a Messiah willing to challenge even the unwritten rules of neurotic family control systems, demanding “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Can a tyrant pardon himself? What would Jesus say?* (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 3 and the wisdom of British statesman Edmund Burke)
Thought for a Sabbath Day: “Psychologists joke that early marriage is a battleground in which two families send their best warriors to determine which family’s culture will direct the couple’s lives.” –David Brooks, New York Times columnist