Prayers of the People for February 19, 2017 (Epiphany 6)

We are invited to bring our world and our lives to God in prayer, believing that we will not only be heard, but strengthened for ministry.  Trusting this promise, let us pray.

[Short pause]

Liberating God, we give thanks for story tellers, who tell us again who we are, who gently show us our inconsistencies, and who remind us of who we can be.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

Liberating God, the stories you tell us about ourselves set us free from expectations, and enable us to respond with eagerness and joy.  Help us listen; help us respond.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

Liberating God, so many stories in our world do not liberate, do not set free.  Use us to share your story in our hurting communities and broken relationships.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

Liberating God, you come to us especially when our stories are about pain and illness, about war and hunger, about poverty and injustice.  Open us to your presence, and come though us to those who need to hear, especially [NAMES, AND] those we name before you.
[Long pause]
God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

Liberating God, we pray for this congregation, this parish, this Ministry Area, this Synod, this Church.  We thank you for what we have been.  But we ask even more that you would give us your vision of what we can be, and that you show us the steps we need to take.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

We offer all these prayers, as well as the unspoken longings of our hearts, to you, liberating God, in the name of Jesus, your liberating Saviour.
Amen.

Ready or not….

I think God is playing Hide and Seek with us.

I really do.

And I’m thinking that God is the one who is hiding.

But I’m becoming more and more convinced that God is not hiding in the church’s choir stalls, or fellowship halls, or Sunday school rooms, or even in our sanctuaries.

Nor is God hiding in our committees, or our fellowship events, or our fundraisers, or our Bible studies and prayer groups.

And yes, I’ll say it: God is not even hiding in our worship or our prayers, our sermons or our singing, our confession or our communion, our altar calls or our devotions.

I think God is hiding outside.

Outside in plain sight.

On the street corners, in the coffee shops, in the neighbourhoods and factories, in the schools and town halls.

In jails and hospitals, in band stands and town squares, in overloaded refugee boats and food banks and pawn shops.

God is hiding in tattoo parlours and crack dens, in unemployments lines and politician’s  offices, in libraries and liquor stores, in restaurants and restrooms.

If we do not start there, outside, where God is truly hiding, we will never really see God in our churches, or our Mosques, or our Temples, or our sacred glades.

And certainly not in the person gazing at us in the mirror.

If we are not aware of God hiding in the people and interactions around us, if we don’t look for God OUT THERE…,

then all the divine revelations and ecstatic experiences and theological understandings and meditative discernments and inspired insights in the world will add up to absolutely nothing.

I think the best thing we can do is finally stop counting, finally open our eyes, and finally call out, “Ready or not, here I come.”

And start looking.

Prayers of the People for January 29, 2017 (Epiphany 4)

We are invited to bring our world and our lives to God in prayer, believing that we will not only be heard, but strengthened for ministry.  Trusting this promise, let us pray.

[Short pause]

God of the poor in spirit, God of all who mourn, remind us of your presence in the empty times of life.  Fill us with love, and inspire us to hope.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

God of the meek, God of those who crave righteousness, teach us to let go of all that gets in the way of our following you, and teach us to hold on to everything that points to your love.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

God of the merciful, God of the pure in heart, encourage a spirit of compassion within us, that we may faithfully continue the journey you began in our baptism.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

God of peacemakers, God of the persecuted, we fear the risk of following Jesus, yet you have made us your people precisely for this purpose.  Set us free from hesitation and rationalization.  Move us to carry today’s cross.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

God of the reviled, the spat upon, the disparaged, the excluded; strengthen our resolve to be welcoming, our commitment to share, our desire to embrace.  Show us where we need to go together, and motivate us to take the necessary steps.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

God of the sick and the hurting, the isolated and the scared, send us as carriers of your promise to all those who need healing: family, friends, acquaintances and strangers, as well as those whom we name before you.
[Long pause]
God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

God of the Beatitudes, we give you thanks for the privilege of being your blessed ones.  As we wrestle with what it means to be church in our day, help us wrestle together, help us wrestle honestly, and help us wrestle toward that day when the whole world will be aware of your blessing.  God who shines in darkness,
Fill us with your light.

We offer all these prayers, as well as the unspoken longings of our hearts, to you, liberating God, in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray, Our Father….

Prayers of the People for January 8, 2017, (The Baptism of Our Lord)

We are invited to bring our world and our lives to God in prayer, believing that we will not only be heard, but strengthened for ministry.  Trusting this promise, let us pray.

[Short pause]

God of water, God of Word, you have chosen us to be your people in this place.  Strengthen our faith to embrace this calling.  God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

God of water, God of Word, creation’s waters cry out from abuse, from commodification, from straight pipe pollution.  Stir your people to care for this good creation.  God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

God of water, God of Word, the words we speak reveal the hearts within us.  Move us to use words which communicate the love and acceptance which you have poured into us.  God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

God of water, God of Word, we give thanks for the unity and friendship we have experienced between Christians.  May we grow further into this relationship, so that our community and world can catch a glimpse of your loving presence.  God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

God of water, God of Word, we remember before you our bishops, Susan and Fred, Michael and Ron.  We pray for the leaders of our congregations and parishes, and we ask your blessing on all members of your church.  Walk with us, that we may walk with each other.  God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

God of water, God of Word, you claim us in our weakness.  Enable us to reach out to those who are confronted with limitations: those who have lost jobs or family, those with no homes or no hope, those who lost health or meaning, especially those we name before you.
[Long pause]
God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

God of water, God of Word, you have chosen us to be your people in this place.  Strengthen our faith to embrace this calling.  God of our baptism,
Make us even more your people.

We offer all these prayers, as well as the unspoken longings of our hearts, to you, liberating God, in the name of Jesus, our liberating Saviour.
Amen.

Prayers of the People for January 1, 2017

We are invited to bring our world and our lives to God in prayer, believing that we will not only be heard, but strengthened for ministry.  Trusting this promise, let us pray.

[Short pause]

Jesus, in whose name we live, we give thanks for your presence with us through this last year, and for your promise that you will accompany us in the new year.  That we may hold to this promise, whatever comes, we lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Jesus, in whose name we celebrate, we give thanks for the gifts we have been given, the relationships of which we are a part, and the forgiveness which embraces all of our realities.  That we may share what you have given, we lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Jesus, in whose name we serve, we offer our prayers for those who are hurting in this world: the hungry, the refugee, the lonely, the victims of violence.  That we may be part of a life-giving answer to a death-dealing world, we lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Jesus, in whose name we worship, we, your church, ask for your guidance in the challenges we face.  That you would give us a vision of what we can become, the will to ask the right questions, and the faith to respond to your invitation, we lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Jesus, in whose name we pray, in gratitude for hearing us, in anticipation of what you will bring, and in the desire to be embraced by your call, we lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

We offer all these prayers, as well as the unspoken longings of our hearts, to you, liberating God, in the name of Jesus, our liberating Saviour.
Amen.

Prayers of the People for Christmas Eve, 2016

The congregation sings the response, which is verse 1 of “Come Now, O Prince of Peace,” a song from Korea (found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Hymn # 247).

——————————————————————–

We are invited to bring our world and our lives to God in prayer, believing that we will not only be heard, but strengthened for ministry.  Trusting this promise, let us pray.

[Short pause]

Emmanuel, God with us, we offer our thanks for the gift of your presence.  Open our eyes to see.  We lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Emmanuel, God with us, you come to specific people in specific places in specific times.  Show yourself to us in this people, in this place, in this time.  We lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Emmanuel, God with us, your coming shines light into our darkness.  May we embrace the realities which surround us, no matter how dark, no matter how uncomfortable.  We lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Emmanuel, God with us, we still have to contend with Caesar.  Enable us to live your love in all of our realities.  We lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Emmanuel, God with us, use us to touch those in need of comfort, in need of hope, in need to necessities, in need of healing, especially [NAMES, AND] those we name before you.
[Long pause]
We lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Emmanuel, God with us, guide your church in ways of faithful service, that all whom we encounter might catch a glimpse of your loving presence.  We lift up our prayer,
Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body
Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

We offer all these prayers, as well as the unspoken longings of our hearts, to you, liberating God, in the name of Jesus, our liberating Saviour.
Amen.

Christmas Blasphemy

I always seem to get a little blasphemous at Christmas.

[Blasphemy (blas-fuh-mee).
Impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things; irreverent behaviour toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.]
From Dictionary.com

Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas. The story, the traditions, the memories, the liturgies, are all wonderful ways we connect with our past, and remind us, at least in part, who we are.

At the same time, the relentless cheerfulness, the insane stress we put on ourselves, and the competing story that inundates us 24/7 which tries to tell us that we are what we buy or get or consume (which are admittedly there all the time, but which are exponentially ramped up at this time of year) all combine to make me just a bit cynical about it all.

Just a bit!

So, as I was reading through the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s gospel this year, I was struck by the first couple verses.  They are frequently skipped over, or ignored, and sometimes they aren’t even read. But they did something for me this time.

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor [aka Caesar] Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Luke 2:1-2

That’s it. Just those two simple time markers.

But what came to my mind when I read them this time was the (admittedly somewhat blasphemous!) statement, “Keep Caesar in Christmas!”

The second thing that that came to mind was the equally blasphemous “Keep Quirinius in Christmas!”

(I think the first has more impact, because Caesar was far more important to the story, and to history, than Quirinius, but I must say, the alliteration of the second is rather nicer!)

The story of the birth of Jesus is a major political statement, in which the big guys turn out to be less than pawns in God’s ultimate chess game. THEY are the ones who are captive; in this case, captive to their own understanding of what Power is, and what it is for.

Meanwhile, God is free, working in the shadows to bring light. God is free, working in the hidden corners to bring into the open; in the middle of powerlessness to demonstrate true strength; in the middle of vulnerability to bring assurance; in the middle of un-named masses to bring true identity.

We need to remember Caesar and Quirinius, for they not only locate the “Jesus event” in time, but also in political realities which affect how the story plays out, and which make this story Good News for those under oppression, for all who live under the thumb of Caesar or his myriad current-day offspring.

The freedom Christ brings is not just a “spiritual” freedom, which somehow applies in all situations (but which, in reality, impacts none of them). Freedom in Christ has real-world, political ramifications; not partisan, but most definitely public, most definitely part of life, most definitely engaged in the concrete struggle for justice.

The church in Europe during the 20’s and 30’s forgot that.  Most Christians  allowed themselves to be convinced that “religion” was “spiritual” (i.e. all about heaven) but in the mean time, they had more important things to do.  And at the top of that list was obeying the government.

In many ways, we are still paying for that.

That’s why I think it might be helpful to have a new figurine added to our nativities, dressed in a toga and issuing orders which Joseph and Mary are legally obligated to follow. We need this reminder that Caesar was “In Charge,” doing “Important Things,” and building the glory that was Rome.

Perhaps then we will be more open to the God who comes in vulnerability, to un-important people, who are doing completely ordinary things, and who are therefore in a position to discover reasons to challenge the claims our current day Caesars might be making.

Keeping Caesar in our Christmas story is a way to make the story real, concrete, and relevant in a world which increasingly wants to dismiss any who challenge the status quo.

Challenge the status quo! Keep Caesar in Christmas!