Sunday, September 3, 2017

 

Prayer as We Gather: God, cultivate in us the same curiosity that drew Moses toward a bush inflamed but not consumed.  Speak to us through our daily encounters with your mysterious fire, drawing us closer to your unfolding will for our lives.  In this holy hour, anoint us with your inquisitive Spirit so we may respond as Moses did:  “Let me check out this amazing sight!”  May we never fear the bright heat of your claim upon us.  Amen. (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Exodus 3)

Morning Prayer: O God of unflinching justice, just as when Simon Peter resisted Jesus’ calm prediction of his coming crucifixion, so we too incur Jesus’ swift reprimand when we get in the way of his Kingdom strategy.  Our tame, well-intentioned efforts to make Jesus respectable to a cynical culture only serve as stumbling blocks to his radical agenda.  Help us shun tame equivocation in favor of fearlessly taking up the cross,  saying no to self, and following the only person able to bear our sorrows and forgive our transgressions, teaching us along the way how to pray, saying …(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 16)    

Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord.  If apostle Paul were our professor for Christian Ethics 101, most of us would flunk.  We fall embarrassingly short on so many of his requisite expectations of us - showing love, hating evil and holding on to what is good, beginning with members of our own families.  Not only do we resist the enthusiastic, Spirit-fired serving of our Lord, grounded in prayer and a cheerful hope, we are slow to “contribute to the needs of God’s people and welcome strangers into your home” and reluctant to “bless people who harass you and cry with those who are crying.”  We especially resent Paul’s stinging rebuff, “Don’t think that you’re so smart!”  Who knew loving others, including providing them affordable health care, could be so complicated?  Apparently Jesus did, when he summoned us to care for “the least of these.”  Amen. (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 12)

 Assurance of Pardon: Take heart, for apostle Paul doesn’t leave us with no way forward, urging “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people; don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, but leave room for God’s wrath.”  In the midst of circling dysfunction at the highest levels of national leadership, we rejoice in the apostle’s call to courage:  “Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.”  Thanks be to God for such a Christ-like call to arms! (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 12)

 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Prayer as We Gather:  Thank you, God of new beginnings, for the Class of 2021, with their “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”  Born on the cusp of a new century, they have never known as their reality many of the constants we of earlier generations took for granted as permanent.  As we learn from each other, we rejoice in the unifying truth central to all generations:  “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  Amen.  (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Psalm 124 and the poetry of Thomas Chisholm)

Morning Prayer:  Same song, different verse, God.  As with our spiritual forebears, the immigrant children of Israel who suffered as slave laborers in Egypt under a king who had never known Joseph or your promise to his  Hebrew descendants, so today we cringe under leaders clearly unacquainted with God’s fierce, compassionate care for the voiceless poor.  In our shared immigrant status as Americans, may we never denigrate the stranger at our door or “look at them with disgust and dread,” as the Egyptian masters despised the Hebrew children whose lineage includes Jesus, our Jewish Lord, who would never have tolerated forced human bondage or statues erected to honor those who defended it.  We stand with our liberating Lord, who died at the hands of the state for his willingness to speak truth to power, and who loved us so well he taught us how to pray, saying…(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Exodus 1)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for dismissing apostle Paul’s encouraging counsel to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”  Instead of being transformed into living, breathing bearers of other peoples’ burdens as Jesus directed, we have found it easier to erect cold statues of bronze and stone, defiantly conforming to an evil, stubborn defense of our fear-stoked past.  In this holy place this very hour, we repent of every hidden bigotry, every sinister thought by which we have tacitly endorsed the evils of human slavery.  Help us remove graven images erected in homage to a lost Confederate cause, replacing them in our hearts with the memory of our Savior bleeding and dying on cross in solidarity with every child of God hemmed in by hatred and violence.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 12)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, living statues of God’s redeeming grace, for there is good news.  Even as Paul was chastening us “not to think of yourself more highly than you should,”  he reminded us that God “has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.”  We who are followers of Jesus need fear no evil regime, for “we are one in the body of Christ and we belong to each other.”  God has granted us different spiritual gifts with no strings attached, calling us out to passionately lead, embodying a cheerful mercy as we go marching onward.  Thanks be to God for such a Savior and such a compelling calling!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 12)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Prayer as We Gather:  Calm our hearts, Lord.   Amidst the encircling daily chaos of broken promises, we crave apostle Paul’s joyful assurance:   “God’s gifts and calling can’t be taken back.”  May this holy hour find your promises renewed, your claim upon our lives strengthened.  Amen. *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 11)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, God, for drawing on a larger canvas than our truncated vision.  As with patriarch Jacob’s son Joseph, the detested young dreamer sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, may we see in the patterns of our lives a grander plan than we could ever muster on our own.  Unveil your mysterious grace, traced through the everydayness of ourcluttered schedules and screens-tethered hypnosis.  Free us to see ourselves as instruments of your reconciling love, not mere pawns of some distant deity detached from human suffering.  Strip away the old grudges and resentments infesting our memory, and draw us closer to the precious bleeding side of our risen Lord, who loved us so much he gave us words by which we appeal to you, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Genesis 45)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, our exaggerated pride in our own intelligence, the inflated estimation of our verbose opinions.  Curb our sharp tongues with Jesus’ reprimand:  “It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person, but what comes out of the mouth from the heart:  evil thoughts, false testimonies, insults.”  Help us tone down the bitter, destructive, increasingly coarse publicdiscourse spewing from the highest corridors of power.  Have mercy on the pitiful insecurities in which our most cruel words fester, and help us to be better than our emotionally crippled, self-appointed leaders. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 15)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have good news!  God is eager to transform us into instruments of mercy, as evidenced by the changed mind and softened heart of Jesus himself, whose initially curt rebuff of a pesky mother pleading for her daughter’s healing finally gave way to his tender, curative blessing.  We have it within ourselves to be just such reluctant healers, replacing intemperate judgment with a caring touch and a trusting heart.  Thanks be to God for such a hope!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 15)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Prayer as We Gather: Does anybody really know what time it is, Lord?  Indeed we do, as Apostle Paul insisted, urging us to wake from slumber, put on weapons of light, rejoicing that deliverance is nearer than ever, night is over, and we should get rid of actions that belong to the darkness. Surge through this holy hour, renewing our vow as people of faith to behave appropriately as people who live in the light, clothing ourselves with hope on this first Advent Sunday.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Romans 13)

Morning Prayer:  Omniscient God, we need to learn again how to live out the phrase “God only knows!”  When our actions telegraph to those around us “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!” we neglect to our own detriment Jesus’ insistence that “only the Father knows” what the future holds and what our role will be in that unfolding moment.  We are awash in dire predictions from people who place far too much confidence in political strategies and the fleeting impact of those who “fret and strut their hour upon the stage, and then are heard no more.”  Center us once more with the steady gaze of our Galilean Lord who urged us to stay alert for Your further instructions, and who has taught us everything we need to know when he prayed…*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Matthew 24 and William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”)   

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, when we cry out for the peace of God but neglect to rely upon the God of peace.  We ignore Isaiah’s unflinching insistence upon  justice grounded in worship, preferring that you to teach us your ways without our having to trudge up to the Lord’s mountain to pray.  Despite the doomsday pundits and political talking heads, the prophet warns that only You are equipped to settle disputes among nations, not dependent upon the Pentagon’s war machinery but resolute that we should beat our swords into iron plows and our spears into pruning hooks. Help us walk by Your light and grant us courage to stand firm against the drumbeat of violence and hostility now fanning the flames of hatred in our culture.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 2)

Assurance of Pardon:  I have good news, not to be confused with the daily clamor of tawdry entertainment parading as news but actual Good News:  God will judge between nations, God will have the final word, and there is coming a day when no matter who occupies the White House the people of God’s House will no longer learn how to make war.  Thanks be to God for speaking to us through Isaiah and all the other crazy women and men who dared speak truth to power, and may God have mercy on all the gutless wonders now flocking to embrace the false gods of wealth, arrogance and nationalism. Come quickly, Lord! (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Isaiah 2)