Prayers of the People for Thanksgiving Sunday, 2019

Filled with promise, and empowered by love, we offer our prayers to God.

[Short pause]

God who provides, we offer our praise and thanks, not only for what you give, but for who you are.  May our gratitude increase.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who provides, we admit that we do not pay attention to your generosity, and take life for granted.  Forgive our short-sightedness.  Open our eyes and our hearts.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who provides, you supply more than we can ask, yet too many people still go hungry.  May your generosity inspire us to be generous in response.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who provides, you have given us an abundant planet to call home.  Forgive our abuse and hoarding of its gifts.  Enable us, like the Samaritan, to turn around, change direction, and live in the light of your generosity.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who provides, you give healing gifts to doctors and nurses, family and friends, individuals and communities.  Send us as grateful healers to those who need our presence, including [NAMES, AND] all those we name before you.
[LONG PAUSE]
In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who provides, we give thanks for all you bestow on us.  May our awareness of your generosity expand.  May our gratitude increase.  May our lives become clearer demonstrations of your lavishness.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Trusting in the promise of unbounded love, we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ.
Amen.

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Prayers of the People for October 6, 2019

Filled with promise, and empowered by love, we offer our prayers to God.

[Short pause]

God of those who celebrate, we give thanks with those who are grateful.  May we become more aware of your gifts to us.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of those who mourn, we offer our prayers for those who bear heavy burdens.  Use us to touch them with your love.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the discriminated, we confess that we too often divide people into categories which place us over our brothers and sisters.  Free us from drawing lines between ourselves and others, that we may grow together under your care.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the missing, we cry out for those who have been taken from family, friends and community, because of who they were.  As we confront this loss, strengthen us to confront the hatred as well.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the church, Jesus came to this world as an outsider, as one who was not welcome, as one who threatened comfortable assumptions.  Guide us, as your people, to acknowledge our fear, to let go of our prejudice, and to embrace all who are created in your image.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of healing, restore people to people, races to races, creation to creation.  Show us your presence in our weakness, especially as we pray for [NAMES, AND] those we name before you.
[LONG PAUSE]
In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who is God, no one is lost to you.  Give us hope in the face of anger and despair, that your love may be proclaimed and lived.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Trusting in the promise of unbounded love, we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ.
Amen.

Prayers of the People for September 29, 2019, Ordinary 26, Pentecost 16

Filled with promise, and empowered by love, we offer our prayers to God.

[Short pause]

God of rich and poor, we confess that we too often make value judgements about people based on their wealth or poverty.  Forgive our short-sightedness.  Show us how to love like you.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of Lazarus, open our eyes to the poor and hurting around us.  Keep us from the intentional blindness which would exclude those who have less.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the un-named rich, remind us that our value as people is not determined by our society’s measures of success.  When we are confronted with values that contradict your priorities, show us your way.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the church, strengthen our commitment to welcome all, especially those who have been denied full participation in your world.  Send us into the uncomfortable corners of life, that we might see your light in the darkness.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of creation, we are not the owners of the world; we are only its caretakers.  Show us the deep connections between the economy and the environment, that we may be better stewards of all you have made.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the invisible, the excluded, the outsider and the sick, we offer ourselves for the care of your hurting people.  Motivate us to touch all who need healing, all who need welcome, all who need assurance, especially [NAMES, AND] those we name before you now.
[Long silence]
In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of all, open us to each other, that no one would be invisible, and no one would be nameless.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Trusting in the promise of unbounded love, we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ, who continues to teach us to pray,
Our Father in heaven, …

Prayers of the People for September 15, 2019, Ordinary 24, Pentecost 14

Filled with promise, and empowered by love, we offer our prayers to God.

[Short pause]

God who searches, God who finds, according to our standards, your search for the lost is foolish.  Enable us to let go of our usual criteria, and embrace your foolishness.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who searches, God who finds, you place value on things which we consider unimportant.  You welcome those whom we would ignore.  Inspire us to look through your eyes.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who searches, God who finds, you spend inordinate effort to rescue, to reach, to find.  Strengthen us to do the same.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who searches, God who finds, you have rescued your people throughout the ages.  Remind your church of your search for us, that may point to you as the one who has found the world.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who searches, God who finds, we pray for those who are hurting, who are victims of violence or natural disaster, who are victims of unjust government policies, as well as those who are sick, including [NAMES, AND] all those we name before you.
[Long pause]
In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who searches, God who finds, remind us of your eternal search when we feel lost; strengthen us with the assurance that you have indeed found us.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Trusting in the promise of unbounded love, we pray in the name of our foolish, searching Saviour, Jesus the Christ.
Amen.

Remembering 9-11 again

This is not going to be popular, but I have to say it anyway.

Remembering 9-11 is not about remembering, or, even worse, trying to re-live, the emotions we felt 18 years ago.

Quite frankly, that’s what the terrorists wanted.

And want.

Nor is it about scaring us into doing more to “protect our country,” “protect ourselves,” “protect our way of life,” “protect our religion,” etc., from all those “bad hombres” out there.

That’s what opportunistic politicians wanted.

And want.

What remembering 9-11 needs to be about is looking in the mirror.

We need to learn about ourselves, our oblivion before that day, our eagerness to get revenge, our willingness to scapegoat, our hatred which we so easily embraced, our fear which we were happy to have manipulated, and our desire to crawl back into oblivion so we can pretend everything is back to “normal.”

As we remember 9-11, the day “everything (supposedly) changed,” we need to ask ourselves one basic question:

How have WE changed?

Or, better, How have I changed?

If the only answer we have is, “I am more intentional about loving my immediate family,” or “We need to elect politicians who will protect us more effectively,” or “I have resolved not to watch the news because it’s so negative,” or “Our government needs to spend more on national defence because that’s the only thing ‘those people’ understand,” or “Just leave me alone,” …

Then I submit that we haven’t changed.

Not individually.

And, therefore, not the world.

At all.

And that’s is not only scary (though it certainly is that).

Ultimately, it’s sad.

Because by refusing to learn and grow, both individually and collectively, we are simply setting the stage for more of the same.

More terror.

More pain.

More heartache.

More death.

And, ultimately, more oblivion.

Which doesn’t strike me as the “abundant life” that we have been promised, or to which we are called.

Sermon Reflections for September 8, 2019

Two of the readings for this coming Sunday are the book of Philemon (a letter written to a slave owner whose slave had run away, but was now going to be returning), and Luke 14:25-33 (some teachings of Jesus which remind us that God’s reign is like, The.Most.Important.Thing. Like, period!).

A few thoughts.

The name “Onesimus” translates as “useful.”

(Paul plays with the name and the language in this way throughout the letter.)

“Useful” became “useless,” having run away from his owner.

Now, Paul contends that this “useless” one is again “useful.” But not in the way he was before.

Paul admits that he could be “useful” for Paul in his imprisonment, but Paul is letting him go so he can be “useful” in an other, more profound way.

Onesimus is no longer “useful” because of what he can do for his owner. Now he is “useful” because of what his owner can do for him – that is, welcome him home as an equal under the cross of the ultimately useless one.

The gospel undercuts all of our social hierarchies. The challenge is to live into this reality, and let go of our hierarchies, especially when they benefit us!

Which ties in rather nicely with the reading from Luke – “None of you can become my follower unless you give up all your possessions.”

“Possessions” aren’t just favourite chairs and celphones. They are also our positions in the hierarchies of life.

Paul is calling his buddy Philemon to give up his privilege, his power and his position, to say nothing of one of his prime possession (this slave who has been named “Useful”) who caused him pain, loss and inconvenience.

Another tie in with the Luke passage is that Philemon will have to “count the cost” of welcoming this returning slave back, especially as a brother in Christ! What will the neighbours say? He’s setting a really bad president here, because other slaves will now think they can wander off and face no consequences! And future owners are now just supposed to welcome them back??? For crying out loud, this literally attacks the entire economy of the Roman Empire (remembering that, depending on your source, up to 50% of the population of the Empire were slaves!)!

I wonder what Philemon’s response was…

Prayers for September 1, 2019, Ordinary 22, Pentecost 12

Filled with promise, and empowered by love, let us offer our prayers to God.

[Short pause]

God of the small, in a world filled with the noise of big, of success, of wealth, remind us that you will be found most profoundly with the insignificant.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the unimportant, free us from our obsession with the valuable, with the consequential, with the momentous.  Open us to your presence in the ordinary.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the weak, strengthen our faith so that we may not only admit our lack of success, but that we might be able to embrace them.  May we trust your promise precisely in our stumblings and failures.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the servant, the part-time, the under-paid, the unemployed, the misunderstood, the excluded, the addicted, the abused, the lonely.  Give your church eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts filled with love, that we may encounter you in the unexpected places and people of life.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the sick, you come to us when we can no longer ask.  Send us to [NAMES, AND] those we name before you.
[Long silence]
May we, with them, experience your surprising grace and loving presence.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God of the little, you are found with us when we are helpless.  You are found with those around us who don’t measure up.  Open us all to your presence.  Enable us to live your promise.  In your unbounded mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Trusting in the promise of unbounded love, we pray in the name of our insignificant Saviour, Jesus the Christ.
Amen.