Worship Resources for March 6th, 2022—First Sunday of Lent

Revised Common Lectionary: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Narrative Lectionary: Jesus Raises Lazarus, John 11:1-44 (Psalm 104:27-30)

You can find resources for Lent, including a preaching/worship series called Sojourning based on the Gospel readings for the Revised Common Lectionary, and past series, candle lighting liturgies, and more here.

We begin Lent with a reminder from Moses in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. As part of his final discourse to the people, knowing he would not enter the land promised to them before his death, Moses called upon the people to take the first fruits of the land as an offering to God. Before the priests with their offerings, the people remembered that their ancestors, Sarah and Abraham, were wandering Aramaeans, a people without a home. God brought them to a new land, and then to Egypt, where they became a great nation. God is the one who brought them out of their oppression in Egypt with strength and power. Moses called the people to celebrate all God had accomplished, to celebrate with the priests as well as the foreign peoples among them God’s abundance and bounty.

While Psalm 91 is quoted by the devil in both Luke and Matthew as part of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, it is a psalm of blessing and protection for those who turn to God. Those who turn to God have the assurance that God will deliver them from their enemies and do not need to fear death or danger. Those who love God will know God’s deliverance and salvation.

Romans 10:8b-13 is a section often taken out of context. Paul was writing to the church in Rome, to show that both those of Jewish and those of Gentile backgrounds were one in Christ. God hears the prayers and confessions of all. It is faith that saves us in Christ Jesus, not heritage or tradition. This verse is often taken out of context and interpreted in a literal way by some Christians that this confession, by these words, is what is needed for salvation. Instead, Paul was explaining that it is faith that save us, faith in Christ, faith that God raised Jesus from the dead and there is nothing that God cannot do.

In Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness in 4:1-13, the same three temptations are found in Matthew, but the last two are reversed. In Luke’s account, the final temptation is the one in which the devil quotes scripture, Psalm 91, back to Jesus, after Jesus answered the devil’s first two temptations with scripture. The devil twists the scripture to question and sow seeds of doubt into Jesus about whether he was the Son of God. The devil’s twisting of Psalm 91 ignores that the psalmist speaks of those who are faithful in love to God will not face harm. Instead, the devil tries to tempt Jesus into believing he has to prove who he is. There is no one else around, so one must assume that perhaps Jesus was facing some self-doubt. But Jesus is triumphant, quoting scripture back and knowing that it is not up to himself to prove who he is as the Son of God. God knows. Jesus knows and trusts in God the Creator. The devil departs him until an opportune time.

The Narrative Lectionary continues in John, focusing on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha in John 11. Lazarus fell ill, but Jesus was delayed in visiting him until after he’d already passed. The disciples warned him about going to Judea because they knew the leaders wanted to kill Jesus, but when Jesus finally insisted on going, Thomas boldly proclaimed that they should go to die with Jesus. This an interesting first encounter for readers with the one later known as “Doubting Thomas,” in his boldness of faith early on. When Jesus arrived, he first encountered Martha, who confronted him, saying her brother would not have died if he had been there. However, she also proclaimed her faith, that she knew God would give Jesus whatever he asked. Jesus asked her if she believed in the resurrection, and then told her that he was the resurrection and the life, and Martha declared her belief. Martha went back and called for her sister Mary. Mary, however, went to Jesus, knelt at his feet and wept, stating that if he had been there, her brother wouldn’t have died. She doesn’t make any declarations of faith. And Jesus begins to weep. It is by her grief that he also grieves, and is moved to order the others to roll back the stone and call Lazarus out from death.

These brief verses from Psalm 104:27-30 compliment the John passage in that God is the one whose spirit renews life after death. God holds life and death in all of creation.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ temptation seems out of balance at first. We are more accustomed to Matthew, where the final temptation is the devil tempting Jesus to worship him and have the world. In Luke, the final temptation instead is self doubt. That one isn’t worthy of God’s love. Even Jesus wondered. Perhaps in his time in the wilderness, God was silent. The final temptation is to demand that God answer, to demand that God act in the way we want God to. Jesus prevails in trusting in God even in the silence. In the Narrative Lectionary, faith may have assured Martha and Jesus that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, but it was a very human emotion—grief—that moved Jesus to act right then and there. A reminder that God takes notice of us, as God did in Exodus 2:25 of the people crying out under their oppression. God hears us when we grieve, when we cry out against injustice, and is moved to act. Both of these lectionaries remind us that what we want isn’t necessarily what is best for us, but when we cry out in hopelessness, despair, crying out from oppression and injustice—God hears us. God knows. And God will act.

Call to Worship (from Isaiah 40:6-11)
A voice says, “Cry out!”
“What shall I cry?”
The grass withers, the flowers fade,
But the word of our God will stand forever.
Lift up your voice with strength,
Our God comes with power and might.
For God is our shepherd, carrying the lambs,
And God will carry us through.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we come to You in this season of Lent crying out to You. We cry out because of war and injustice. We cry out because of violence and oppression. We cry out because the world’s ways and the world’s leaders have failed us again. We cry out for You to save us, O God. We confess that we have been led astray by the world’s power and might. We confess that we have been led astray by worldly understandings of security and strength. We confess that we have sometimes been on the side of the oppressor, and at times have turned away from the cries of others. We confess we have failed to recognize Your children in the world, Your face in one another. Forgive us. Call us into accountability. Call us into the work of reparation and restoration. Guide us into the work of justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing. In the name of Christ, who went to the cross and laid down his life for us, we pray. Amen.

God will continue to lead us out of the wilderness of oppression into the place of hope and healing. God will continue to teach us the way of repentance and forgiveness, if we are open to God’s instruction. God’s wisdom is with us: in the scriptures, the sages of old, the lessons from the past, and in our hope for the future, if we believe it, if we cling to it. Live into God’s ways. Be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Know God’s forgiveness in your life, and go forth to help repair and restore the world. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.

Almighty God, You made this earth for all of Your children and Your creatures. You breathed life into all living things, and called human beings to care for it. We have failed time and again and resorted to violence instead of listening and healing. Our wilderness temptations are all around us and we fail all the time. O God, You still love us. You still create new life. You still work on us to forgive one another and pursue justice. O God, may it not be too late for us to change our ways. May it not be too late for humanity to resolve to do better, to repent of our power and greed and violence. May it not be too late for us. Be with us, O God, a flame fighting the wind and shadows. Burn bright in us, O God, and save us. Amen.

A Prayer for Ukraine

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation 7:9-12

O God of all nations, we come before You, crying out for an end to violence. We confess that we have put our trust in worldly leaders, worldly understandings of power, dominance, and greed. We confess that we resort to violence instead of Your ways. Forgive us for turning to the ways of the world that we human beings created, instead of embracing the earth You made for all of us.

Guide us in our thoughts and prayers to act for peace. Help us to “depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). Remind us that violence is not Your intention for us. Your intention is an abundant life.

We pray for all the nation’s leaders, that they will seek Your wisdom and guidance and work to end this violence, this war. We pray that we might seek You in the face of one another, especially in the faces of those we call enemies, and strive to end war forever.

Our ways are not Your ways, O God. Guide us away from the path of humanity to use violence and domination and fear, and into Your ways of love, justice, and peace. In the name of the Prince of Peace we pray. Amen.

Worship Resources for February 27th, 2022—Transfiguration Sunday

Revised Common Lectionary: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:26-36 (37-43a)

Narrative Lectionary: The Man Born Blind, John 9:1-41 (Psalm 27:1-4)

On Transfiguration Sunday, we read the story of how Moses came down from Mount Sinai and his face shown in Exodus 34:29-35. Even his brother Aaron was afraid to come near him, for Moses’ skin shone bright because he was talking to God. However, Moses spoke to the people, teaching them what God had commanded them, and afterward he wore a veil when he was among the people. He would take the veil off when in the presence of God, but keep the veil on when he returned from the mountain to tell the people what God had spoken to them.

Psalm 99 is a call to worship of the people, a song praising God in the holy throne room. God is the mighty king, the lover of justice, and the earth quakes under God’s reign. The psalm calls Moses and Aaron the priests of God, for God spoke to them in the pillar of cloud and they kept the commandments of God. God answered their prayers and was forgiving, but God also executes justice. The psalmist concludes by calling the people to worship God at God’s holy mountain. Mountains were seen in ancient cultures as places where heaven and earth met, where the divine and human could encounter one another.

The Epistle reading shifts to 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, where Paul recalls the passage from Exodus about Moses wearing a veil. Paul uses the veil as a metaphor for the people of his day when they heard the word of God through the covenant. According to Paul, for the believers in Christ, the veil is removed, and they can see the image of God as if it is reflected in a mirror by the Holy Spirit within one another. In this same manner, Paul urges the believers to be truthful, to not hide behind a veil, but to be steadfast and bold. True believers don’t use deception or misuse God’s word; instead, they publicly commit themselves to the truth.

In Luke’s account of the transfiguration, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain with him to pray. While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah spoke with him, and in Luke’s version, they are speaking about Jesus’ soon-to-be departure in Jerusalem. Peter, James, and John are tired, but they behold this scene, and as Moses and Elijah are leaving, Peter speaks up. Peter tells Jesus it’s good they were present, and they want to make three dwellings, one for each of them. The Common English Bible uses the word “shrine” instead of dwelling, indication a sort of worship for Elijah, Moses, and Jesus. Then a cloud suddenly overshadowed them all and the disciples were terrified. A voice came from the cloud telling them to listen to the Son, the Chosen One. When the cloud lifted, Jesus was alone, and they didn’t say anything. In verses 37-43a, it is the next day when they come down the mountain, and a man begs Jesus to heal his son of a spirit. The other disciples could not cast the demon out. Jesus tells the man to bring his son to him, but not before declaring this is a faithless and perverse generation and complains about putting up with them. Jesus rebukes the spirit and gives the boy back to his father, and everyone was amazed.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the story of Jesus healing a blind man in John 9:1-41. The disciples see a man born blind, and ask Jesus who sinned. There was a common understanding that disabilities were caused by sin, though there was debate at that time as to who was responsible for that sin. We must tread carefully in these stories of healing. Jesus is quick to declare that no one sinned. However, some interpret this story that God made people disabled so that they could become inspirational stories (miracle healings), and that is not true. Healing is not the same as curing. When Jesus heals this man, who used to beg (because in that day, if you were blind or had other disabilities, you could not work, you could only beg to survive), he no longer has to beg. He is no longer known as the blind beggar—”Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” (vs. 8). Now, he is one who testifies to Jesus. Jesus uses the metaphor of this man’s blindness with the Pharisees later, who cannot see that this is the work of God. However, we must be careful in using these metaphors. They are in our Scripture, but it doesn’t mean that using the term “spiritual blindness” is the best way for us to convey ignorance of God’s ways and God’s healing. There are other ways we can speak without using ablelist terms. But this story still has a powerful point: the man who was once unable to participate in society, because of the restrictions that society placed on those who were blind, is now able to participate. That’s the healing moment, not that he is no longer blind. Jesus has freed him from those restrictions.

Psalm 27:1-4 declares that God is our salvation and light, our strength, and we have no reason to fear. Instead, the psalmist declares they will seek God, and the only thing they desire is to live with God all the days of their life, to be in God’s presence in the temple.

The Transfiguration is a mystery. Just like with Moses, the physical description of Jesus on the mountain just doesn’t cut it for our human understanding. Our words fail us. Something happened, enough that Peter wanted to worship Jesus differently and perhaps worship Moses and Elijah, but God declared that instead they needed to listen to Jesus. When Jesus called out, “You faithless and perverse generation, how long must I put up with you?” I’m sure that was not comforting to the father who came with his possessed son, yet Jesus healed him. There are misunderstandings between what the disciples experienced and what we read today, perhaps some religious or cultural nuance that has been lost. What we can say is this: somehow, human beings continue to try to understand God and Jesus in our terms, but we fail, and when we fail, we fail one another. Instead, we ought to listen to God, to the teaching through prophets and Jesus, and follow their ways. Rather than trying to figure out right worship, perhaps it’s more about right listening and living with one another.

Call to Worship (1 Corinthians 15:51-52a, 56)
Listen, I will tell you a mystery!
We will not all die, but we will all be changed.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
At the last trumpet blast.
The trumpet will sound,
And the dead will rise.
We will be changed,
Death will be swallowed up in victory.
Come, worship our God,
The God of Mystery, the God of Life.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Ancient and Holy One, we confess that we have fallen into the same patterns as our ancestors. We have sought to worship an ideal instead of worshiping You. We have worried about practicing right religion instead of loving our neighbor as ourselves and practicing justice. We have put much weight on the words we say and less on how we live out Your teaching. Forgive us. Call us back to the teachings of the prophets. Call us back to the way of life in Jesus Christ. Call us back to love and forgive one another, to work for healing and restoration. Call us into Your way, Your truth, and Your life, in Jesus Christ. Amen.

God is ancient and new. God is from the beginning and what will be. There is so much mystery, but so much love for you. Out of all we do not know, we do know this: God loves us enough he sent Jesus to us, who laid down his life for us, calling us to do the same for one another. God loves us enough that he asks us to love one another, for by loving one another, we love God. Know this and live.

God of our ancestors, You drew closer to us in the mountains, where we built our temples to worship You, believing we were touching heaven. You drew closer to us in ritual and practice, where we attempted to show You our devotion and care. You came to us in community, calling us together, and lived as one of us in Jesus Christ. We are continually breaking through boundaries that we have made, or believed were there, and finding the Mystery goes deeper, to the root of the universe, to all You have made. We find You in our hearts, in one another, and the more we love one another, the more fully we know You. Remind us always that love is at the heart of it all—despite all mysteries and all knowledge and all faith, if we do not have love, we are nothing. Help us to always hold on to love, to treasure it as a priceless gift, and also, to give it freely. Amen.

Worship Resources for February 20th—Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 45:3-11, 15; Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38

Narrative Lectionary: Living Water, John 7:37-52 (Psalm 147:1-11)

The Hebrew Scripture selection turns to the story of Joseph reuniting with his brothers in Genesis 45:3-11, 15. Though Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery and abandoned him, Joseph did not see what happened to him as a grudge in need of payback. Instead, he saw where God had been with him, and how God continued to help his family despite what his brothers had done. God was with Joseph and helped him become important enough to Pharaoh that Joseph was able to provide for his family and the whole land during the famine. Joseph told his brothers to bring their father to him, so that he might care for them all in Egypt during the time of famine.

Psalm 37 is a wisdom psalm, reminding the reader/listener that following in God’s ways is the path to righteousness. While the wicked prosper temporarily because they follow the ways of the world, they will come to their end, withering like herbs, and fading like grass. Instead, the psalmist instructs the reader/listener to trust in God’s ways. God will act for justice for those who are righteous—they will know God’s vindication. The psalmist cautions the reader/listener to step back from anger and holding grudges, for those who stay true to God will inherit what is theirs. God is the refuge and salvation of the righteous, and God will deliver them from evil.

The Epistle readings following 1 Corinthians come to an end this season after Epiphany with 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50. Paul, addressing the largest concern he had for the church in Corinth, instructs on the resurrection of the dead, for some believed there was no resurrection. Asking how the dead will be raised is a foolish question, according to Paul, for a seed grows only after what gives the seed has died. What is planted is perishable, but what grows is imperishable. If there is a physical body, Paul argues, there is also a spiritual body. What dies is physical, but what rises is spiritual. We are made of dust and spirit, and both are bodies. Paul argues that flesh and blood will not inherit the reign of God, only what is imperishable will. This is an argument still playing out in theological studies today, for it is not a binary either-or argument, but a both-and. Jesus, fully human, died and rose, with his body and his scars. Verse 51, which is not included in this section, shows us that this is a mystery.

Jesus’ instructions continue in Luke 6:27-38, picking up from the teachings of last week’s lesson to the crowd and the disciples. Jesus instructs the disciples on how they ought to live in God’s ways of love, which include loving one’s enemies. Walter Wink has famously argued that Jesus is teaching nonviolent resistance—not a passive accepting of abuse, but an active resistance that would embarrass and force the one committing the wrong to recognize the humanity of the victim. Loving those who love us is the easy part, Jesus argues, but loving those who do not love us is much more difficult, because it is how God loves all people, even those who do not love God. Instead, seek the humanity of others. It goes beyond treating others how you want to be treated, but rather, treating others the way God treats us all.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on Jesus’ teaching in John 7:37-52. Jesus has once again gone to Jerusalem (in the synoptic Gospels, Jesus only goes to Jerusalem once, the last week of his life). On the last day of a Jewish festival, Jesus stood up among the crowds and shouted to them that all who were thirsty should come to him, for living water would flow from him. The Holy Spirit would come to those who believed in Jesus. The crowds were divided on who he was. Some thought he was the Messiah, others a prophet, and still others thought he couldn’t be because of where he came from. Some wanted to arrest Jesus, and some religious leaders were upset when the guards refused to arrest him because they’d never heard anyone speak like him. Nicodemus stood up for Jesus among the religious leaders, who thought they were all of the same mind about Jesus. None of them could believe a prophet could come from Galilee, from the countryside.

Psalm 147:1-11 is a song of praise to God, praising God for rebuilding Jerusalem and delivering the exiles. God is amazing, knowing all the stars created, and this same God helps the poor and overturns the wicked. God is the God of all creation, caring for even baby ravens when they are hungry, causing green grass to grow on the mountains and rain to fall. God isn’t interested in the strength of armies and warriors, but in people who honor and love God.

Living into God’s ways isn’t easy. The scriptures teach us of how tempting the ways of the world are. When someone takes from us, take back. When someone strikes us, strike back. We go around the world with chips on our shoulders. But the ways of Wisdom, the way of Jesus, is to see one another the way God sees us—that all of us are flawed, all of us experience brokenness, and all of us need mending and healing. This isn’t an excuse to let abusers off the hook. Those who have abused must be held accountable. Instead, this is an inner transformation for ourselves, that we don’t have to let the violence and harm that has happened to us define who we are. We can choose differently for our own hearts and lives. The powers of the world want us to conform, to respect those with worldly power and authority, but the faithful listen to God, and do the work of justice, healing, and restoration. For God is with us, always, and will deliver the faithful.

Call to Worship (Psalm 147:1-3, 7)
Praise God!
It is good to sing praise to our God.
God is gracious,
And a song of praise is fitting.
God gathers the outcasts,
God heals the brokenhearted.
Sing to God with thanksgiving,
Make melody to our God.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Justice and Mercy, we confess that we have misconstrued justice for punishment. We want others to feel deeply the way we have felt deeply. We want others to hurt the way we’ve been hurt. We’ve been pushed around and pushed down by the ways of the world, and we want to punch back. O God, help us to unclench our fist. Help us to loosen our jaw. Help us to lower our shoulders. Remind us to breathe. Breathe in Your Spirit, breathe out Your peace. Help us to remember that all of us have fallen short and yet You love us so much. Remind us that our woundedness is not who we are. Bind our broken hearts, mend our wounds. Call us to love one another. Remind us that setting boundaries to reduce harm is good, for ourselves and others. Teach us how to reach out in repentance, to do the work of justice and reparation, to restore the world for Your reign, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Psalm 37:4 teaches us to delight in God, and God will give us the desires of our heart. You are not your wounds. You are not your bruises. You are not your scars. You will be healed. You will find wholeness. You will find justice, and you will find peace, if you seek it and pursue it. Jesus calls us into a life of repentance and forgiveness for where we’ve gone wrong, and to forgive one another as God has forgiven us, whenever possible. Take courage, and know God is with you in this journey of forgiveness, restoration, and healing. Go and love one another with the love of God. Amen.

Honorable God, You are not interested in worldly wealth or success. You disdain the strength of warriors and armies and politicians. Instead, You look into our hearts and perceive our thoughts. You know who we truly are, and the veils we show the world. Help us to be our true selves, O God. Help us to know where we have gone astray and to repent and turn back to You. Help us to truly live for Your reign on earth as it is in heaven, and not to keep the status quo. Remind us that life is not about our own security and self-satisfaction, but the redemption of all, the love You have for us through Your Son Jesus Christ. For Jesus laid down his life for us, emptied himself, served his disciples, and taught us to become last of all and servant of all. You are not a God who requires gold and sacrifices, but rather the love of our neighbor, and You know the truth of who we really are. Help us to repent and turn back to You. Amen.

Worship Resources for February 13th, 2022—Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Narrative Lectionary: Bread of Life, John 6:35-59 (Psalm 34:1-10)

The prophet Jeremiah leans on the wisdom tradition in 17:5-10. For those who put their trust in worldly ways, human leadership and power and strength, and turn away from God, they will be like plants trying to grow in the desert, not knowing where their water comes from. But for those who trust in God, they are like trees planted by water. They will bear fruit and not be afraid of times of drought. The human heart leads people astray, but allowing God into our hearts and minds shows us our true selves and our intentions.

Psalm 1 uses similar imagery as Jeremiah. Those who live into God’s ways, who ponder and meditate God’s law and teaching—they are like streams planted by the water, whose leaves do not wither. They bring forth much fruit. The wicked are blown about by the wind of the world’s ways. Those who know God and God’s ways will flourish; those who reject God for the ways of the world will not gather with the righteous; they will perish.

The Epistle selection continues in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. Here, Paul addresses another controversy in the church in Corinth, that some do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. In last week’s selection right before this, Paul laid out his credentials, that he was the last of all because of his prior persecution, yet through God’s grace he testified to the Gospel of Jesus. Now, Paul argues that if one proclaims Jesus is raised, then it must be a physical resurrection. If Christ wasn’t actually raised from the dead, then no one is raised from the dead and they are hypocrites. Those who have died remain dead, and they have not been forgiven of their sins. If it’s only a hope and not the truth for them, Paul argues that they are truly foolish and deserving of pity. However, the truth is that Christ was raised from the dead, the first fruit of God’s harvest.

Mirroring the Sermon on the Mount, in Luke’s account, Jesus gathers with the crowd in a level place to teach in Luke 6:17-26. The crowd gathered for healing, and power came out of Jesus and healed them all. Jesus then teaches his disciples what we call the Beatitudes: blessing the poor and hungry, those who mourn and those who are persecuted, for they will receive everything in the reign of God. However, in Luke’s account, there are woes that Jesus teaches afterward: woe to those who are rich and full, woe to those who rejoice and for those who are well-liked, for you will be poor, you will be hungry, you will mourn, and you will be persecuted. This is what happened to the false prophets—they had the praise of the people and the wealth and the power, and they were their own downfall.

The Narrative Lectionary turns to Jesus’ teaching on the Bread of Life in John 6:35-59. This was the Revised Common Lectionary series last August. In John’s account, this takes place after he fed the five thousand, and Jesus knows they are searching for him because of the miracle he performed. Instead of wanting him to create more bread, Jesus wants the crowds to understand that he is the bread of life. Those who believe will know that in Jesus they have eternal life. An important note: John’s gospel often uses the term “the Jews” in English translations. The Common English Bible uses the “Jewish opposition.” The writer of John and the community of the gospel were all Jewish followers of Jesus, so we need to understand that these were internal conflicts within a greater community and not “Jesus vs. the community” that it has often been interpreted as. Some of the leaders opposed Jesus, and in John’s account, they had serious issue with Jesus’ claim of being God’s son (which Jesus doesn’t explicitly say in the other Gospels, that is said about him instead). These leaders are also not unknown to Jesus—they know Mary and Joseph and they remember Jesus as a boy, which is why they have doubts about his claims. Jesus instead claims they do not know God, because they do not know him. He is the bread of life. When the leaders argue how can they eat his flesh, Jesus knows they have misunderstood but continues with the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, because he is the one who came down from heaven. Jesus teaches that unless the believers take on his life, accept his death and resurrection, they will not know God.

The companion scripture is Psalm 34:1-10. The psalmist praises God, calling for those suffering to listen and rejoice, for God has answered their prayers. The psalmist declares in verse 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” It is another beatitude: those who know God and trust in God will find their safety and refuge. Something that tastes good reminds us to give thanks and to be content—a sensory way of knowing God that is not often used.

Through both lectionaries, Wisdom’s way prevails. Knowing God means keeping to God’s ways and commandments, and through them, a full life is to be found. And even when we suffer and struggle in this life, we ought to take heart, for the reign of God is for us. It is when we turn to the world’s ways for satisfaction and contentment that we must be wary, for when we neglect those in need around us to make sure we have enough first, we have put ourselves first, and often conflate our needs with our desires. The ways of the world never satisfy, and we consume more and more—but the way of God teaches us that we are to love one another. Jesus calls us to turn to him for all our needs, to know that in Christ we will be fulfilled, for the bread of this world will never satisfy us. We only have to look to the scriptures, to our ancestors in the faith, to see that those who sought their own gain met their folly. Those who sought God’s ways, though their lives were not easy, knew God was with them for all time.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 1)
For those who follow God’s ways,
They are like trees planted by water.
They bring forth fruit in due season,
And they never wither or fail.
Delight in God’s teachings,
Meditate on the Scriptures, day and night.
God watches over the righteous,
Life is found in living God’s ways.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Wise God, we confess that we have succumbed to the ways of this world. We have sought worldly pleasure and comfort. We have put ourselves first—not to care for ourselves, but because we worry about falling behind the world. We believe the messages of consumerism and wealth that drive us to have more at the cost of others going without. Forgive us for our foolishness. Call us back to Your ways. Remind us to study the Scriptures, listen to Your teachings, ponder the Spirit moving in our lives and in our world. Test our hearts that we might know You and trust in Your will for our lives and not what the world wants. Call us into Your ways of justice, for You hear the cries of the marginalized and oppressed, and we do well to listen and pay attention. Call us to repent, to turn back to You, and live into Your reign on earth as it is in heaven. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

God is all compassionate loving-kindness. God is nurturing and caring. God picks us up when we fall and holds us close. God loves you madly. You are forgiven of your sins. Go and do the work Christ has called you to do, to love your neighbor as yourself, to do justice, practice loving-kindness, and walk humbly with God. Amen.

Spirit of Life, turn us away from day-to-day living and remind us that we are eternal people. Guide us to the places of rest and respite. Remind us that we are not machines who consume and produce, but living, holy beings in need of tender love and care. Guide us into the ways of healing and wholeness that require justice work and lead us into Your peace. Spirit of Life, breathe on us, move us, and show us the way, the truth, and the life, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Worship Resources for February 6th—Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

Narrative Lectionary: Healing Stories, John 4:46-54 (5:1-18), (Psalm 40:1-5)

The selection for the Hebrew scriptures is another call story: this time of the prophet Isaiah, as God spoke to him in Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13). Isaiah beheld a vision of the heavenly throne room in the year of King Uzziah’s death—a time of turmoil in Israel. The vision of the eternal throne emphasizes stability in a time of instability; however, in witnessing God in all God’s glory, with smoke pouring forth, quaking and trembling, and the six-winged seraphs calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” Isaiah didn’t feel very holy or worthy at all. One of the seraphs touched a coal to his lips, purifying him with fire, and declared that his sin was gone. When God asked, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah told God to send him. In verses 9-13, God instructed Isaiah on what a prophet’s job is: to speak to the people though they will not listen to him, though if they turn back to God they will be healed. This will happen until the people are taken away in exile, until everything is burned down to a stump, where the seed can grow again.

Psalm 138 is a song of praise, for God has answered the psalmist’s prayers. They live in a world of polytheism, but before all other gods, they sing the praise of their God, and call upon all kings to worship God. The psalmist is assured of God’s presence even during trouble, and praises God for God’s deliverance. The psalmist knows that God will fulfill God’s purpose for them, and that God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Following the section on spiritual gifts, Paul now turns back to the good news of the Gospel, bringing together his focus for the letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. The word that Paul testifies to is this: Christ died, was buried, and rose on the third day, all in accordance with the scriptures as Paul interpreted them. Resurrected, Christ appeared the disciples, including Peter, and many others, but lastly to him. Paul, who persecuted the church, who was the lowest of all, became an apostle—not so he could brag about it, but so that all might believe in the Gospel.

Jesus calls the first disciples in Luke 5:1-11. In Luke’s account, Jesus already has crowds following him and he went into Simon’s boat, asking him to pull out from shore so he could teach the crowds. After he spoke, he told Simon to put out his net. Simon told Jesus he’d been fishing all night and caught nothing, but he would do it again. This time, Simon and his workers caught so many fish the nets began to break. Simon fell at Jesus’ knees, confessing he was a sinner and calling Jesus “Lord.” James and John were also there, amazed at the catch. Jesus told them to not be afraid, for they would be catching people from then on. The three left everything and followed Jesus.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on Jesus’ healing stories in John 4:46-54, with the option of continuing through 5:1-18. Jesus returned to Cana, where he turned the water into wine at a wedding. Jesus knows that the people won’t believe unless they see miraculous signs. When a royal official asks Jesus if he will come see his son before he dies, Jesus tells the official to go home, for his son still lived. Before the official returned home, his own servants came to tell him that his son was alive and that the fever left him, the moment he was talking with Jesus. He and his entire household believed.

In chapter 5, Jesus returns to Jerusalem for a festival (in John’s account he goes to Jerusalem on multiple occasions; in the synoptic gospels he only enters Jerusalem once before his death). Near the Sheep Gate on the city wall, there was a pool called Bethsaida where those who were sick and disabled gathered. Jesus spoke to a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, asking him if he wanted to get well. He told Jesus that there was no one who could put him in the water when it was stirred up and that others went ahead of him (some later versions of John’s account have additional verses explaining why people believed in the healing property of the water when it was stirred). Jesus instead told him to stand up, pick up his mat and walk. Some of the religious leaders were upset that the man was walking with his mat, because on the Sabbath that was considered work (it is important to note that this is John’s telling of this story, perhaps some local interpretation, and there was no law in the Torah that would consider that work. Some of the religious leaders argued about Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, but Jesus said that God, his Abba, was working, so he was working, too. This declaration of equality with God angered some even further.

Psalm 40:1-5 is a song of praise to God for healing and rescue from death. God has given the psalmist a new song to sing, and many people will hear and be amazed. God has done so many wonderful things that no one can compare to God. There are too many wonderful things to talk about that they cannot even be counted.

Sometimes in progressive Christianity we shy away from sin language, but the truth is that all of us have sinned. If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). However, sin does not mean we are unworthy. Sin means we need to acknowledge our wrongdoing or shortcomings and turn back to God, who accepts us and loves us. Isaiah didn’t think he was worthy because his whole people had failed to follow God, and he knew he himself had failed to follow in all of God’s ways. But the seraph touched a coal to his lips, a symbol of purification, and declared he was now free from sin. Paul believed he was the least worthy to share the good news, but by the grace of God, he had been called from his former life of persecution into one of sharing the Gospel. Peter, in Luke’s account, told Jesus to go away because he was a sinner. He wasn’t good enough. In John’s account in the Narrative lectionary, the man couldn’t reach the pool to be healed, to be restored, but Jesus declared he was restored. We can’t justify ourselves or heal ourselves, but we can believe in Jesus, and know that we are loved as we are, accepted as we are, and turn to the work of justice. We are worthy because God calls us by name and continues to call us. God knows we have the capacity to change our hearts and lives. This is the work of repentance.

Call to Worship (Psalm 40)
I waited patiently for the Lord,
God inclined, and heard my cry.
God drew me up from the pit,
And set my feet upon a rock.
God makes my steps secure,
And puts a new song in my mouth.
Many will come to know,
And put their trust in our God.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Forgiving God, we confess that we have fallen short. We have deceived ourselves into the ways of this world that make us believe worldly success and wealth is a sign of blessing while we continue to live in sinful ways. We continue to oppress and marginalize others and take wealth for ourselves. We fail to take notice of those who hurt from our ways of life. We fail to make reparations for generations of excess wealth while others suffer. Call us into accountability, O God, so that we might be forgiven. Call us to return what we have gained by the ways of the world at the cost of others. Call us to repair what has been broken, the ways that have propped up privilege and power while others are trampled underfoot. Call us into the work of restoration, so that we may then know Your forgiveness, grace, and healing. No matter what, O God, may we know Your great love for all of us, because it is Your love that calls us into this work of resurrection life. Amen.

The deep, deep love of Jesus for us never ends. Jesus went to the cross for us and lives again, so that we might know new life now, not only life to come. This new life calls us into accountability and restoration. Live into the new life offered by Christ: forgive one another, restore one another, work for justice together and remember God’s grace is abundant. Love one another as God has loved you, and it will go well with you. Amen.

God of Stillness, still our hearts. Quiet our minds. Slow our breathing. Help us to find our pulse, the rhythm of life. In the midst of turmoil and chaos, we are reminded there is no work-life balance, but we can find Your rhythm when we listen to our heart. Help us to slow down. May the fears that edge our minds be eased. May the struggle in our gut still and calm. May the challenges we face fade back, while we find Your rhythm in our life. You are still here. You have always been here and always will be. You are with us, now, in this moment. Help us to be still. (pause) Help us to be still. (pause) Help us to be still, and know that You are God. Amen.

New Lenten Series for 2022: Sojourning

I’ve created a new series this year based off of the Revised Common Lectionary readings from Luke, called Sojourning. The series is based on preparing for a journey, like a road trip or a hike, and mirrors the journey of our lives and experiencing Christ now, not just waiting for the end of our lives. The reign of God is at hand.

Lenten Series 2022 Sojourning

Worship Resources for January 30th, 2022—Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13; Luke 4:21-30

Narrative Lectionary: The Woman at the Well, John 4:1-42 (Psalm 42:1-3)

Jeremiah described God’s call for him to prophesy when he was only a boy in 1:4-10. God told Jeremiah that God knew him from the time he was conceived to be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah, similar to Moses, told God he didn’t know how to speak. In this case, Jeremiah was still young. God, however, told Jeremiah not to be afraid, not to say he was just a boy—he was God’s prophet. God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and told him he would give him the words to speak and gave him authority over the nations—words that would tear down and destroy as well as plant and grow.

Psalm 71:1-6 is a psalm of deliverance, a plea for God to rescue the psalmist from their current distress. They know that God has been their foundation since before they were born, and will continue to be their rock. They trust in God and believe in the assurance of God’s presence with them.

The Epistle reading continues in 1 Corinthians, with perhaps one of the most well-known passages of Christian Scriptures due to its use in weddings. Paul, however, was speaking of spiritual gifts and addressing the conflict within the church in Corinth, where some believed certain gifts were greater than others along with certain teachings. This chapter is the penultimate section on spiritual gifts—without love, we are nothing. Love is the greatest, and what we should be striving for above all things, for God is love.

The Gospel lesson continues from last week in Luke 4:21-30. Jesus, coming out of the wilderness, began his preaching ministry and returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where he read from the scroll of Isaiah and declared that day the scripture was fulfilled in their hearing. The scroll, from Isaiah 61:1-2, stated that the Spirit of the Lord was upon the prophet, to bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken-hearted, release to the prisoners, and other good news to all who are marginalized. At first, Jesus’ neighbors in his hometown liked what he said. They knew him, he was Joseph’s son, and he said good news to them. However, when Jesus responded that no prophet is truly accepted in their hometown, and how Elijah and Elisha were sent to foreigners instead of the people of Israel during difficult times, Jesus’ neighbors grew angry and wanted to throw him off the cliff. They didn’t like that Jesus suggested the good news fulfilled in their hearing wasn’t necessarily for them, but for others. This wasn’t the sort of message they wanted in their synagogue. They wanted to hear words of comfort, not words of challenge. They wanted good news for themselves, not to be told that at times, good news is for other people, too.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the Woman at the Well in John 4:1-42. Jesus crossed a number of societal and cultural barriers by staying at the well of Jacob in a Samaritan area, where he encountered a Samaritan woman, alone, and asked her for a drink of water. This was scandalous. Samaritans were the descendants of Israelites who had worshiped in Samaria and never reunited with the people of Judah after the exile. However, Jesus told her that if she knew who he was, she would ask him for his living water, the water of eternal life. When she asked to have that water so she may never be thirsty again, Jesus told her to go call for her husband and come back—which would have been appropriate culturally. She responded that she had no husband, and Jesus comments that she didn’t lie—she’s been married five times before, and she was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Even more scandalous! However, Jesus didn’t judge her. Instead, she questioned him further about worship, and while Jesus upheld the worship by his own cultural group, he also told her that the day would come when true worshippers would know God in spirit and in truth. She finally seemed to understand that the water she was thirsty for was not the water of everyday life, but the water of eternal life. She told everyone in her hometown about this man who knew everything about her, and wondered if he might be the Messiah. The disciples were alarmed that Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman alone, but then they questioned Jesus about food in a similar way that Jesus and the Samaritan woman discussed water. Jesus taught them that his food was doing the will of God. The Samaritans of that town came to believe in Jesus and that he was the Messiah, first from the woman’s testimony, and then from their own encounter with him.

Psalm 42:1-3 poetically uses the metaphor of a deer longing for flowing streams—this is how our soul longs, thirsts for the living God. For the psalmist, their tears have been their food day and night, while they are taunted by others wondering where God is. Their yearning for God’s presence and deliverance is like thirst and hunger—we need God, for without God we are nothing.

Prophets had a terrible job of delivering news to people who usually didn’t want to hear it. The only truly successful prophet was Jonah, who delivered his news and the people repented and turned to God. One of the few times that people actually listened before it was too late. Sometimes the people were faithful for a while, like with Moses, but kept turning away from God because they didn’t like what God said to them through Moses. Poor Jeremiah started out his career as a boy, and later ended up in the stocks and was almost killed. In the Disney movie Encanto, Bruno could see the future, but it wasn’t what his mother wanted to hear because it didn’t sound like everything would be perfect. She tore her family apart, believing she was the one who could keep it together if everything turned out how she thought it should. If we don’t hear exactly what we want to, often we human beings get finicky with God and decide it must be the prophet or the teacher who is wrong, instead of listening and discerning to change our ways.

Sometimes, instead, it’s the outsiders, the outcasts, the people different from us who show us the way of God. Jesus referred to the widow at Zarephath, who was so desperate and ready to die that Elijah’s words, even though they seem foolish, are enough that she is willing to try. However, Naaman the Syrian didn’t believe the prophet Elisha at first, because it wasn’t a flashy miracle. Elisha told Naaman to just bathe in the Jordan seven times and he’d be healed of his leprosy. Naaman finally did it after his servant urged him to. In John’s account, it is the Samaritan Woman at the well, an outsider, an outcast, who isn’t judged but is searching for something greater in life. She is seen by Jesus for who she is—someone who has been put down by society—and Jesus offers her something more meaningful. And we remember that we began this season with the Magi from the east, pointing the way to something greater than the worldly kingdoms people knew.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 46)
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in time of trouble.
Though the earth should change,
We will not fear.
Though mountains tremble and waters foam,
God is in our midst.
We shall not be moved;
God is with us as the morning dawns.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Past, Present, and Future, You sent us prophets throughout the years to speak the truth to us, but we have conveniently ignored what we didn’t want to hear. We turn to anger when confronted with changing our ways, and violence when we are challenged. Forgive us, O God, for our stubbornness and short-sightedness. We give You thanks, O God, for the prophets You have sent and continue to send us: prophets who speak to us about the reality of climate change, prophets who cry out against the continued injustice of Jim Crow and restricted voting, prophets who clamor for change against a police and prison system that perpetuates violence and racism. Call upon us to listen, O God, to repent, and to change our ways. In the name of Christ, the one who laid down his life for us, we pray. Amen.

Every day, every hour, every moment is a chance for renewal, for this is a new time for us. Every moment is an opportunity to turn to God and follow God’s ways. Take this moment now to change one thing about your life. Take this moment now to forgive one person whom you have held a grudge, and may you know God’s forgiveness in this moment for you when you have done wrong. Take this moment to feel God’s love in your very breath. Breathe in God’s spirit, and breathe out God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. Amen.

Living Water, fill us with Your Loving Spirit. May we not be overwhelmed by the world, but press forward, steady on, knowing that Your Living Water will never stop flowing. As the river of life is endless, so we are endless. Death has no hold on us, for the Living Water has shown us the Way, the Truth, and the Life Eternal. Buoy us when the world seeks to consume us, O God, and may we experience Your ever-flowing love in You, Wellspring of Life. Amen.

Resouces for Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday–January 16th

If you are looking for resources for MLK Sunday, here are some from the archives:

Last year’s post

Litany from 2020:

Litany for Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday

God of the prophets, God of justice, we call upon You today in our distress:

We weep for the violence in our world.

We cry out for the children locked in cages;

We lament that our neighbors sleep outside on the street.

We raise our voices against the violence of antisemitism and Islamophobia;

We are fed up, O God, with the injustice and hatred spewed in Your name.

We demand our elected officials take seriously the mass incarceration of Black people and police violence;

              We call out the systems and structures that have oppressed people of color for far too long.

We confess where we have fallen short, where we have been ignorant;

              We confess that at times we may have hindered rather than helped.

We confess that our silence has caused more harm;

              We seek forgiveness for the ways we have inhibited the work of justice.

We lift up to You, O God, our hearts, our voices, our own bodies.

              We pledge ourselves to live out Your ways of reparation and healing.

We commit ourselves to the pursuit of justice,

              For only through justice may we know peace.

On this Sunday, we remember and honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr. and his legacy.

              We remember and honor all those in the long struggle for justice.

We recommit ourselves to Your ways, as spoken by the prophet Micah:

              We pledge to do justice, act in loving-kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

We go forth into the world as ambassadors of justice and peace;

              We live, knowing our very lives are witnesses of Your restoration.

We ask for Your guidance, O God, for our life’s journey; for Your wisdom in life’s struggles,

              And for Your peace in our hearts and in our world. Amen.

Worship Resources for January 23rd, 2022—Third Sunday after Epiphany

Revised Common Lectionary: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21

Narrative Lectionary: Nicodemus, John 3:1-21 (Psalm 139:13-18)

Ezra the priest led the community of exiles who returned to Jerusalem in a ceremony of restoring the temple in Nehemiah chapter 8. Ezra read portions of the Torah out loud to the people, and the people worshiped God. The governor Nehemiah, along with Ezra and the Levites, instructed the people to rejoice–not to mourn what was lost in the exile or how the people had gone astray, but instead to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

Psalm 19 is a song of celebration for God’s instruction and word, from the heavens to the earth. The psalmist begins with a song of God’s glory extending from heaven, describing how the sun emerges like a groom newly married and ready for the day. The psalmist shifts to the law of God, the instruction given by God that is faithful and true, and more desirable than anything on earth. The psalmist concludes by seeking God’s forgiveness and purification before God for any wrongdoings they are not aware of, so they may be innocent before God.

The Epistle readings continue in 1 Corinthians with 12:12-31a, along the theme of spiritual gifts. This section focuses on unity in the body of Christ. The church in Corinth faced many divisions, chief among them which teacher to follow (1:12), and which spiritual gift was more important (1 Corinthians 12:1-11, last week’s reading). Paul now turns to reminding the church that they are one body in Christ, that the body needs a variety of gifts and cannot function without the others. All ought to have the same care and compassion for one another. While they are individually members of the body, they are one body in Christ, and not everyone can have the same gift; but all gifts are needed for the church.

Jesus’ ministry begins in Luke 4:14-21. Jesus taught in his hometown synagogue, reading from the scroll of Isaiah (61:1-2) and telling the people that the scripture was fulfilled in their hearing at that moment. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him to proclaim the good news to those who were oppressed, poor, marginalized because of their disability, and imprisoned. Jesus proclaimed that these words of liberty and restoration was fulfilled as they heard it.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus in John 3:1-21. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who was intrigued enough by Jesus that he came to visit him, but came at night so no one else would know. Nicodemus stated that he and others (“we”) knew that Jesus was sent by God because of the signs he performed, but Jesus replied that it wasn’t possible to know God’s kingdom without being born anew or born from above. Nicodemus took this literally, but Jesus spoke of being born of the Spirit. Nicodemus still didn’t comprehend. Jesus told him that if he couldn’t understand the earthly things Jesus taught, how could he understand heavenly matters? Jesus then used the example of Moses placing a serpent on a pole while the Israelites were dying from snakes—when they looked up, they were healed. So too must Jesus be raised up—on a cross—in order for the people to find healing and be saved. Jesus then declared that God’s love is so great for the world that Jesus came to save all who believe, and not to condemn. However, people preferred the world’s bleakness over the light that Jesus brought. All actions will be exposed in the light of Christ; this is the judgment.

In Psalm 139:13-18, the psalmist poetically describes the intimacy of God’s care for us as well as the mystery of God’s wonderful greatness. The psalmist writes of how God knew us in the womb as we were formed. Before we existed, God knew all the days of our lives, and all of God’s thoughts are beyond our comprehension.

The awe and wonder of God is revealed to us through the work of Jesus—through his teaching, through his healing, and through the way he turned the world upside down. For Nicodemus, what Jesus spoke of was impossible—and yet he was drawn to Jesus because he knew God was doing something new. The neighbors of Jesus in Nazareth were drawn to Jesus because of his authority and declarations of God’s good news—but as we will learn in next week’s reading, when it becomes good news for others, they will turn away. God is far beyond our comprehension and understanding. Far too often we have understood God in a small, personal way: a god who grants wishes and desires, instead of God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and the entire Universe, who also shows us the way of Wisdom through Jesus in how we ought to live. As the ancient Israelites worshiped and celebrated, God remains faithful to us, even our fickle and flighty selves.

Call to Worship (from 1 Corinthians 12:12, 21, 27)
Just as the body has many parts,
All parts belong to one body.
Though we are many,
We are one in Christ.
One cannot say to the other,
I have no need of you,
For we are indispensable.
We need each another.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we confess that we think we know better. We think we know what’s up. We think we have the right to judge others. We think that we know what’s best for the world because it’s best for ourselves. Forgive us for our selfishness and short-sightedness. Remind us that You formed each of us as You formed the universe. Call us into repentance, to turn back to You. Creator of All, we humbly come before You, recognizing our own mortality and insignificance, and yet, because of Your love, we know we are valued, and we need one another. In humility and mercy, may we forgive as we are forgiven, and seek Your wisdom ways. Amen.

May the peace of Christ guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May we be thankful. May we be filled with God’s compassion, love, and mercy for one another. May we be at peace with one another. May we have peace in our hearts. May we go forward knowing the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ is with us, now and always. Amen.

Patient One, You have watched humanity grow from the stardust and have patiently waited for us to seek You before all other things. You patiently waited millions of years for life to form on this planet. You waited in anticipation as we learned to communicate and create art and find You. You are still patient with us as we seek Your ways against the ways of this world that we have made. Guide us into patient living, O God: patient with one another, gentle in spirit, longing for forgiveness, rooted in compassion. Help us to know that our patience is rewarded as we pursue justice and peace by being slow to judge and quick to forgive. Keep us to Your ways and help us to abandon the ways of this world toward greed and selfish gain. Guide us into Your rhythm of life, so that we may hear the heartbeat of the universe and know the fullness of Your love in our lives. Amen.