Sunday, September 16, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  Thank you, Lord, for Proverbs’ portrait of Wisdom as a woman scorned by “the noisy crowd, clueless mockers who love their naivete and hate knowledge.”  Apparently, some things never change:   Foolish simpletons abound at the highest levels of our national government.  How vivid, Wisdom’s harsh disdain for the aggressively ignorant among us!  How cruel, in the wake of Florence’s fierce winds and torrential rains, her jarring rebuke:  “I’ll make fun of you when terror hits you like a hurricane, because you rejected all my correction.” Ignorance isn’t bliss, after all.  Its just ignorance.  We cling to your promise, Lord:  “Those who obey me will dwell securely, untroubled by the dread of harm.”*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Proverbs 1)

Call to Worship:

God’s glory is on tour in the skies,

On exhibit across the horizon.

The revelation of God pulls our lives together.

God’s life-maps are right, showing us the way to joy.

God’s directions are plain, easy on the eyes.

God’s reputation is pure gold, God’s decisions accurate.

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!

Keep me from thinking I can take over your work.

Accept my words when I place them on the morning altar,

O God, my Altar-Rock!   (Psalm 19, The Message)

Morning Prayer:   Lord, of all the words Jesus spoke to us, surely among the most sobering are these:  “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful generation, I will be ashamed of that person when I come in my father’s glory with the holy angels.”  Our generation is not the first to be found unfaithful to Jesus’ commands, just the latest.  Help us, when we are so intent upon losing ourselves in hollow pursuits that leave us empty inside, to risk the high-stakes course correction that is Christian discipleship.  Thank you for being ever willing to redeem our lives if only we are willing to lose ourselves in you, as did Jesus when he instructed us to pray, saying … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 8)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for mimicking impetuous Simon Peter, who impulsively grabbed Jesus and scolded him in horrified response to Jesus’ graphic prediction of his coming crucifixion.  Like Simon, we so often mean well when we act in ways that end up compromising your perfect will for our lives.  Help us resist our urge to remove all obstacles from the path of discipleship, attempting to make the Jesus way less disruptive of our ordered lives, but managing instead to earn the same rebuke Jesus leveled at Simon:  “You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.” May our speech and actions be ever more akin to the gaunt Galilean, who laid down his life to show us how unfathomable is your love for all the children of the world.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 8)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, for Jesus’ own brother James offers us a hope-filled goal to which we can aspire, even in the midst of our own worst instincts toward hasty, hurtful words and deeds:  “We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t mistakes with their words have reached full maturity, controlling themselves entirely.”   We are all far more capable of self-control and thoughtful speech than our worst moments imply, if only we call upon Holy Spirit to tame our tongues.  In the midst of an increasingly acerbic culture, where insults and put-downs are prized tools of the insecure, thanks be to God for the reminder that “nothing is always a clever thing to say.”*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by James 3 and the wisdom of American historian Will Durant)


Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “There are no tidy lives.  The truth only appears when you see beyond appearances.  What a mess.  What glory.”    - Samuel Wells, vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London