Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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Prayers of the People for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, 2015

Having been called into the light of Christ, and trusting the Spirit’s guidance in our journey, we offer our prayers for the world God loves, the church God calls, and all people in any need.

[Short pause]

God who calls, your invitation is generously extended to all. Help us be generous in our response. God of light,
Shine on us and through us.

God who calls, your invitation extends into all of life. May we be aware of you day and night. God of light,
Shine on us and through us.

God who calls, your invitation brings us into unfamiliar territory, and gives us a fresh vision. Enable us to embrace the newness you offer. God of light,
Shine on us and through us.

God who calls, your invitation sends us into dark corners with uncomfortable challenges and unknown possibilities. Increase our faith, than we may follow anyway. God of light,
Shine on us and through us.

God who calls, your invitation moves us to reach out to those in need – the sick, the shut-in, the poor, the voiceless, the victims of injustice. Strengthen us to be your healing presence in the lives of [NAMES, AND ALL] those whom we name before you.
[Long pause]
God of light,
Shine on us and through us.

God who calls, your invitation is extended again and again. May we respond again and again. God of light,
Shine on us and through us.

We pray all this in the name of our light and our life, Jesus the Christ.
Amen.

Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, 2014

This story of Jesus’ dealings with the Canaanite woman is one of those that many of us would probably rather not have in our Bible! Jesus just comes across as unfeeling, uncaring, and even rude! So today we are going to do a bit of a Bible study on this story, to get behind what’s going on. And, like all good sermons, we will have three major points!

The First Point – Matthew is known as “the Jewish Gospel.” He wrote it for Christians who had grown up in the Jewish tradition. The vocabulary he uses, the stories he tells, the way he structures his gospel, are all designed to reach an audience which has a strong Jewish background. Matthew’s community is a Jewish Christian one, and so he’s going to make use of Jewish understandings, he’s going to address Jewish concerns, he’s going to use Jewish points of reference in order to get his message across.

That’s the First Point.

The Second Point – A number of years ago, at a National Church Convention in Regina, the delegates were split up into small groups who were sent out into the community to discover what Regina was about. One of the places my group visited was a Synagogue. The woman who was our guide was entirely welcoming, and very informative!

One of the things she talked about was the process a non-Jew has to go through if that one wants to become Jewish. This doesn’t happen a lot; the Jewish tradition doesn’t usually seek out converts. But, like Christianity, they will certainly welcome them! The thing that struck me was that the tradition expects you to say you want to begin the process THREE TIMES before they let you begin the process!

Now, there are different ways of being Jewish, just as there are many ways of being Christian! Different Jewish traditions will enact this in a variety of ways, but, from what she said, this is the basic tradition from which all of them spring.

You go to the Rabbi and say, “I would like to become Jewish.” The Rabbi says, “No.”

You go back a second time and say, “I would like to become Jewish.” The Rabbi says, “No.”

You go back a THIRD time and say, “I would really like to become Jewish!” THEN the Rabbi says, “This it he process you will need to go through.”

This tradition of needing to ask three times, according to the woman in the Regina Synagogue, comes from the book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible. I’d like to read part of the first chapter to you.

Ruth 1:1-18

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the … wife was Naomi…. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, both of the sons also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband.

Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard that the Lord had had consideration for his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughtersin-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’

There’s the first time Ruth says she wants to stay with Naomi.

But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.’ Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

There’s the second time.

So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’

There’s the third time.

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Ruth says she will stay with Naomi three times, in SPITE of the fact that Naomi says, “No.” And, finally, after the third time, when Ruth expresses her desire to stay with such wonderfully poetic language, Where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God, THEN Naomi allows Ruth to stay with her. And, in FACT, if you read to the end of the book, Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of David, the King.

That’s the source of the Jewish tradition, and following this tradition is EXACTLY what Jesus is doing with this Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel! Let me read the story again.

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’

There’s the first time.

But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’

There’s the second time.

He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’

There’s the third time.

Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

The way Matthew tells this story, Jesus is simply showing his Jewishness! He’s adhering to the tradition of how “outsiders” can come “in.” And this would entirely resonate with the Jewishness of Matthew’s Christians. This is part of their self-understanding of how the universe works, and how things are supposed to happen.

That’s Point Two. Matthew’s Jewish Jesus does things the way they are supposed to be done, according to the Jewish tradition.

The Third Point – Most scholars agree that Mark’s gospel was the first gospel that was written down. Matthew was written some years later, and Matthew almost certainly used Mark as one of his sources.

Mark has this story as part of his gospel, but it’s a very different version! Mark has the woman being of “Syro-phoenician” origin. This is a Greek term, which comes from the time of Alexander the Great, when his armies conquered the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, including what we today call Syria and Israel.

But Matthew changes everything by saying she was a “Canaanite” woman. That’s a term which had not been used in generations, but which very specific meanings for Jewish audiences.

After the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, and after they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, they entered what they called the Promised Land: Canaan, which was occupied by the Canaanites. The Israelites moved in to Canaan and kicked the Canaanites out.

According to some Hebrew biblical writers, the Israelites were told to kill off the inhabitants. In some cases they did; in some they didn’t. The Canaanites who survived, and who lived next to the Israelites, were seen by some as a threat, because they lived different lives, and worshipped other gods, which the Israelites were told strictly to avoid. In many ways, the Israelites failed to do this, and the Canaanites were seen as a dangerous influence on the Israelites for many years.

In a very real sense, the Canaanites were the Israelite’s first enemy; and they were religious as well as political enemies, which made them twice as threatening! They were not only enemies of the people of Israel; they were enemies of Israel’s God. They were outside the pale; the lowest of the low. In some Jewish writings, the worst insult you can make is to call someone “a son of a Canaanite dog!” Which are basically the words Matthew puts in Jesus’ mouth!

The other thing to keep in mind is that, over the years, the Canaanite people had basically ceased to exist! Through centuries of invasion and enculturation, through occupation and religious imperialism of myriad invaders and conquerors, Canaanite civilization had become extinct centuries before Jesus. The word, “Canaanite,” was a word without meaning… except as a reference to the past. And as a warning: You go up against THIS God, and you and your entire people will disappear…; and you will have deserved it!

A Canaanite was a complete waste of a human being, and the Canaanites, as a people, hadn’t been around for centuries! And it is precisely one of these enemies of God and God’s people, one of those who deserves not to exist(!), that Matthew says approached Jesus!

What is Matthew saying here?

That God wants to redeem our past, not just our present?

That God needs to restore our HOLY and even RIGHTEOUS history, and not just our “mistakes”?

That God’s forgiveness even extends to “those people”?

That God’s family is supposed to include even those who oppose God’s family?

That God is out to reconcile ALL people, even God’s first enemies?

That God’s reign is even open to those who no longer exist?

Point One – Matthew is a Jewish Gospel.

Point Two – Jesus is completely Jewish.

Point Three – God’s reign is bigger than ANY of us can imagine. God’s reign includes Jews and Gentiles, males and females, old and young, faithful and unfaithful, friends and enemies, family and stranger, believer and unbeliever, those who exist and those who don’t, in the past, the present AND the future.

In fact (and this is the real point!), God’s reign is SO big, so unimaginably vast, that it EVEN… includes us!

Prayers of the People for the Third Sunday in Easter, 2014

Celebrating the gift of new life in Christ, we offer our prayers for the world, the Church, and all in any need, saying, “To you, living Christ,” and responding, “We offer our prayer.”

[Short pause]

God of life, God of new life, we thank you for meeting us on the way, for meeting us in our grief, for meeting us when we are not even looking for you.  Open our eyes to your surprises.  To you, living Christ,
We offer our prayer.

God of life, God of new life, we thank you for the gifts you provide which strengthen us on our journey – the gifts of family and friends, prayer and. quiet time, word and sacraments.  Open our eyes to your presence.  To you, living Christ,
We offer our prayer.

God of life, God of new life, we thank you for not abandoning us to our doubts and fears, and for staying with us through all our valleys.  Open our ears to your promise.  To you, living Christ,
We offer our prayer.

God of life, God of new life, we thank you for coming in the middle of changes and challenges, for appearing in the unexpected and undesired.  Open our hearts to trust.  To you, living Christ,
We offer our prayer.

God of life, God of new life, we thank you for taking the journey with those who experience violence, hunger, homelessness, illness, separation and death, especially those we name before you.
[Long pause]
Open our hands to share your love.  To you, living Christ,
We offer our prayer.

God of life, God of new life, we thank you for travelling with us.  Open us to see what we need to see, to hear what we need to hear, and to serve those we need to serve.  To you, living Christ,
We offer our prayer.

With thanks for all your life-giving gifts, we pray these prayers, as well as those hidden in the depths of our hearts, to you, loving God, in the name of the risen Jesus.
Amen.

Reflections on Lazarus

The Gospel reading this coming Sunday is John, chapter 11, the raising of Lazarus (read it here).

A few thoughts….

This is not a story of comfort. This is a political story, in which the status quo is overthrown.

In a world in which the ability to inflict death is seen as the ultimate form of power, a story in which death is overcome is the ultimate threat.

In a world in which the inflicting of death is understood as the ultimate form of punishment for behaviour that is utterly beyond the pale, calling someone out of death and back into life will be perceived as the most hostile act of rebellion against the powers that be.

In a world in which death is the reserved prerogative for a select few (i.e. the government), someone who is capable of challenging and overturning that prerogative will be viewed as public enemy number one.

In all the gospels, but most especially in John, the machinations of the powers that be are shown in their true colours: as small, pitiful and ultimately powerless against the love that is God.

It should surprise no one, therefore, that Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels, would become the target for the wrath of the powerful.

It should also surprise no one that, in those places and times in which Christianity has had a recognized societal impact, the powers that be would do all they can to pull the Gospel’s teeth, and recast this story as one of comfort for a future sky kingdom, and downplay the challenge to the status quo which is really at the heart of this story.

The raising of Lazarus is , in reality, a politcal manifesto, in which the powers of the world are rendered null and void, and the victory of God’s love, light and life are demonstrated.

Prayers of the People for Christmas 2013

Walking in the light of the Saviour, let us pray to God for the needs of the world, the ministry of the Church, and for all people everywhere, saying, “Christ Jesus, by your coming,” and responding, “Set us free for ministry.”

[Short pause]

God of life, God of new life, by the birth of Jesus you have brought light into our darkness.  Shine in our lives.  Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

God of life, God of new life, nothing will ever separate us from your love.  Give us faith to trust your promise.  Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

God of life, God of new life, you call us to serve the hungry, the poor, the lonely and the outcast.  Show us how we can respond.  Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

God of life, God of new life, Jesus was born into poverty and lived under oppression.  Open our eyes to injustice, and inspire us to proclaim your reign.  Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

God of life, God of new life, by the birth of Jesus, bring your healing to those in need, especially those we name before you.
[Long pause]
Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

God of life, God of new life, inspire this congregation to reach out beyond our walls, beyond our fears, beyond our past.  Help us to welcome your future.  Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

God of life, God of new life, by the birth of Jesus you have brought light into our darkness.  Shine in our lives.  Christ Jesus, by your coming,
Set us free for ministry.

We pray in the name of Jesus, our light, our life, and our hope.
Amen.

Prayers of the People for Pentecost 10 / Ordinary 17

Trusting the promise that God will hear our prayers, we offer our concern for the world God loves, the Church God calls, and all people according to their needs, saying, “Hear us, O God,” and responding, “Your mercy is great.”

[Brief pause]

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and change us into the people you call us to be.  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and soften our hearts which have become so hardened toward others.  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and open our ears to learn from those who are different.  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and enable us to admit our selfishness and fear, our anger and prejudice.  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and help us see the needs around us as opportunities to share your love.  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and open our eyes to the needs of the planet, the poor, refugee and the abused.  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and use us to bring your healing touch to those in any need, especially those we name before you.  [Pause]  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

Jesus, teach us to pray, as you taught your first followers, and change us into the people you call us to be.  [Long pause]  Hear us, O God,
Your mercy is great.

We offer these spoken prayers, as well as those offered in the silence of our hearts, to you, O God, in the name of Jesus the Christ.
Amen.