Prayer as We Gather: In this holy hour, God of our Hebrew forebears, shroud us as you once enshrouded Moses in mist and mystery on Sinai. Rehearse in our inmost being your ancient directives to remember and honor parents and sacred days, even as you also reprove in us our hard-wired penchant for idolatry in all its seductive vestiges, from weapons of violence to coveting what is not ours. Lift the clouds of doubt and fear as we dare invoke your unspeakable Presence. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Exodus 20)
Call to Worship:
God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth: Unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
The revelation of God pulls our lives together.
The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
Keep me from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day scrubbed clean of the grim of sin.
These words in my mouth are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock.*(Psalm 19, The Message)
Morning Prayer: God, in our competitive collegiate bubble, where compulsive GPA pursuits and BMI obsession lure us toward unhealthy peer comparison and an inordinate fear of appearing foolish to those around us, we pause this morning to take a deep breath. Thank you for apostle Paul’s counsel that, sure enough, the message of the cross is absolute foolishness to those blinded by their own resumes and shamed by their body types. How delightful, then, his assurance that your willing presence on that instrument of state-sponsored murder forever proclaims your unyielding, unconditional love for all your children, no matter their gender, skin color, immigration status, religious creed or lack thereof. As we consider the cross on this Lenten Sabbath, may we replace our tired old query of “Where was God?” with a more apt and grateful “There was God!” embodied in the young Galilean carpenter who taught us to pray …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 1)
Prayer of Confession: Forgive us, Lord, for draining the color from Jesus’ cheeks. Have mercy on our relentless two thousand year attempt to deny his human-ness in favor of our self-serving obsession with his divinity. Deliver us from the pale, melancholy visage we have superimposed upon this robust young carpenter from Nazareth. Replace it with a more authentic memory, a deliverer so passionate he made a whip from ropes and chased the bankers from temple grounds, his shouts crashing around their retreating shoulders: “Get out! Don’t make my Father’s house place of business.” For every incremental betrayal of his vision for how we followers should fashion our lives, for every subtle selfishness by which we have morphed the church into a quasi-religious business, we do now most heartily repent. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 2)
Assurance of Pardon: I have good news on this cross-shadowed Lenten Sabbath. The misguided morphing of Jesus’ early followers into an admiration cult we call “church,” found so lacking by a hurting world in need of something far more transcendent, is neither what Jesus had in mind nor what we are futilely condemned to endure without redress. Worn-out traditions and empty religious gestures can be challenged, indeed must be swept aside if we are to reclaim the miracle-working spirit of beloved community Jesus established on this earth. Such audacity, however, comes at a cost. “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up,” he declared, thereby effectively signing his own death warrant among the rabid religionists of his day. Thanks be to God that we, too, can overthrow lifeless religiosity, if we’re willing to be as bitterly misunderstood as Jesus.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 2)