Prayer as We Gather: Lord, be patient with us as we dare attempt once more the audacious prospect of holy worship. Like the boy Samuel who kept confusing your divine call with mere midnight sleep-talk ramblings of old man Eli, we are often too quick to dismiss your urgent summons toward servant ministry opportunities as just a passing thought, a whimsical musing. Hold us closer, magnificent Creator, as we submit to your bidding this disquieting hour. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Samuel 3)
Call to Worship:
God, I’m an open book to you;
Even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know everything I’m going to say
Before I start the first sentence.
You formed me in my mother’s womb.
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
You know me inside and out,
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit.
The days of my life all prepared
Before I’d even lived one day.
Cross-examine and test me, Lord,
Then guide me on the road to eternal life. (Psalm 139, selected verses, The Message)
Morning Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that following you is not like studying for final exams, where all the pressure is squarely on our shoulders. How renewing to recall we’re supposed to proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus. How freeing to remember we are only earthen vessels, entrusted by you with the great treasure of your good news, not dependent upon our own strength but imbued with your unspeakable power. Troubles can’t crush us, depression doesn’t mean we’ve been abandoned, being knocked down isn’t the same as being knocked out, because on this side of the empty tomb we carry Jesus around within us. Our bodies may be slowly dying, but you keep beaming life without end into our eternal souls, just as promised by the Savior who taught us how to talk to you, saying … (Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 2 Corinthians 4)
Prayer of Confession: Lord, we’re not getting any younger. The pain and the hunger keep driving us on, reluctant to let you love us the way Jesus tried to love us. Meanwhile, a skeptical world looks on with a jaundiced eye, convinced we are a bunch of rules-driven Sabbath keepers, though Jesus made it clear Sabbath was created for humans to savor, not intended as a dreaded day of rigid laws to be piled high on our weary shoulders as we continue running against the wind, afraid to trust you for our safe-keeping. Forgive our foolish ways, we pray. Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 2 and the poetry of Pete Seeger, the Beatles and Eagles)
Assurance of Pardon: Take heart, for I have life-giving news: The same Jesus who dared healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath is moving among us this very moment, urging our rebellion against dull, boring worship long on guilt and short on redeeming love. The same crucified Jesus thought by his small-minded tormentors to have been silenced by a state-sanctioned death penalty is as alive and present as when he walked through wheat fields on the Sabbath, breaking rules and munching grain as he went. Thanks be to God for Jesus’ audacious irreverence and his refusal to let the tiny political and religious minds of his day get him down!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 2)
Thought for a Sabbath Day: “Write your blessed name, O Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraved that no prosperity, no adversity shall ever move me from your love.” - Thomas a Kempis, medieval German priest