Sunday, September 9, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  Lord, you made both the rich and the poor.   We who by the world’s standards are wealthy to excess must be always mindful of Proverbs’ wise counsel:  “Do not steal from the poor or oppress the needy, for the Lord will take up their case.”  In this holy hour, may we know the happiness which flows from being generous people.  Grant us courage to oppose those in high places who sow injustice.  Amen.* (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Proverbs 22)

Call to Worship:

Those who trust in God are like rock-solid Zion Mountain.

Nothing can move it, a mountain you can always depend on.

Like the mountains encircling Jerusalem,

God encircles God’s people – always has, always will.

Be good to your good people, God,

To those whose hearts are right!

God will round up the backsliders,

Corral them with the incorrigibles.  (Psalm 125, The Message)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for our UBC church family, this beloved community that truly does not play favorites, where all are welcome and none who gather here are unimportant.  Especially today, we give thanks for the students just now discovering our fellowship.  May they come to know us as a safe, sheltering place during their student days in Chapel Hill, a gathering of folks where they really matter, a comforting company eager to offer gifts of hospitality on the good days and the tough times.  We consecrate this school year in the name of our Galilean Lord, who taught us how to pray, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by James 2)  

Prayer of Confession:  Lord, forgive us the spiritual arrogance that silently, relentlessly informed our smug majority-status upbringing in churches often unwittingly captive to their Southern culture.  The words of Jesus’ brother James carry the sting of truth:  “God has chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom, but you have dishonored the poor, showing favoritism among yourselves as evil-minded judges.”  We church folk are too often unaware of and inattentive to the needs of poor people, resulting in a professed faith that is in fact dead on arrival.  What good is it if we say we have faith, but do nothing to show it?  James was right:  “Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it?”  Have mercy, we pray.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by James 2)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have good news:  Even as James urges us to “speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom,” he insists that mercy overrules judgment.  Jesus’ example shows us the way, as when he dared disobey cultural norms by healing the young daughter of a Greek woman who made no claim of sharing his faith or being his disciple.  Orthodoxy aside, Jesus commended her courage and healed the girl, one of many such heretical interventions that set the religious authorities against him and marked him for death at the hands of a humorless Roman state threatened by his popularity among the common people, especially the poor.  No wonder he gave strict orders not to report his miraculous healing power.  Thanks be to God for sending us a messiah intent on being followed, not merely admired!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by James 2 and Mark 7)

Thought for a Sabbath Day:  “In order to be delivered from the demons of racism that hold our society hostage, we have to name things clearly.  This is the first step toward full healing.”                                                                    - LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, pastor of The Gathering Chicago