Prayer as We Gather: Lord, as our beloved alma mater beckons us return to Chapel Hill for another school year, we echo King Solomon’s wise request: “Listen to your servant’s prayer, hear our cries and watch over us“ as we celebrate the priceless tradition of intellectual freedom for which this great university is known. We invoke Solomon’s wise entreaty as leader of the Hebrews, imploring your mercy upon “the immigrant who comes from a distant country, revering you because of your reputation for justice.” Lord, listen to your children praying, send your Spirit in this place, send us love, send us power, send us grace. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Kings 8 and the poetry of Ken Medema)
Call to Worship:
What a beautiful home, God of the Angel Armies!
I’ve always longed for a place where I could sing for joy to you!
How blessed are those whose lives become roads you travel,
Winding through lonesome valleys, cool springs, pools brimming with rain!
Listen, God, open your ears: I’m praying!
Look at our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.
One day spent in your beautiful worship place
Beats thousands spent on Greek islands!
God, you are so generous in your glorious gifts.
You don’t scrimp with your traveling companions! (Psalm 84, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Lord, thank you for being present with us, not in bronze statues memorializing slave-holder religion and white supremacy, but through your liberating Spirit moving among us! As with apostle Paul, we need spiritual armor to protect us against powers of evil in high places, forces of cosmic darkness embodied in earthly authorities. We rejoice in the replacement of fallen Confederate muskets with your belt of truth, faith’s shield of justice and the powerful sword of Holy Spirit. Help us “stay woke” through prayerful conversation with you, so that when we open our mouths we become ambassadors of the gospel’s secret plan for setting the captives free, in the name of our Galilean Lord who taught us how to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Ephesians 6)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, when our timid response to your unwavering demands for justice mimics the early disciples: “This message is harsh. Who can hear it?” Your message is still harsh, and we’re still trying to dodge it, through bureaucratic dissembling and administrative cowardice. You hear our whining, and you respond just as you did to their grumbling: “Does this offend you? The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life, yet some of you don’t believe.” You knew even then who would betray you, and you know even now who among us lacks the courage to speak truth to power. Scripture records the bitter truth, that when the moment of testing came many of your disciples turned away and no longer accompanied you. Your words still sting: “No one can follow me unless the Father enables them to do so. Do you also want to leave?” Some of us probably do. Have mercy on our gutless mediocrity. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 6)
Assurance of Power: Take heart, for even when we lack the courage to follow Jesus amidst the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, God’s steady love endures, stubbornly offering us another chance to be found faithful, enabling us to follow once more. Thanks be to God for the beloved community of UBC that surrounds us in worship, all of us deeply flawed and thirsty for God’s flowing love to quench our dry spirits. Here we gather Sunday after Sunday, ”the clean and the unclean, the wild and the tame, sly young foxes and impossible old cows, hawks and doves, wise and silly, seeking shelter from the blast and hoping to find safe harbor at last.” Simon Peter speaks for us all: “Where else would we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.”*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 6, William Shakespeare and Frederick Buechner)
Thought for a Student Sunday: “Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would like, and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living.” - Rachel Marie Martin