A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prayers of the People: Separation Anxiety, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost '17 Yr A

For Sunday, June 25, 2017, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Readings: Genesis 21:8-21, Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11, 
Matthew 10:24-39

       But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the boy and...your slave woman...do as [Sarah] tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring will be named for you. I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring...God called to Hagar..."Do not be afraid; lift up the boy...I will make a great nation of him"...God was with the boy... [Genesis 21:12-13, 17b-18, 20a]

       For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, and great is your love for all who call upon you...In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for your will answer me. [Psalm 86: 5, 7]

       ...all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death...so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life...So you also much consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. [Romans 6:3b, 4b, 11]

       So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows..."Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven...I have not come to bring peace, but a sword...whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

[Matthew 10:31-32, 34b, 38-39]

            In last week's reading from Genesis, Sarah was laughing - she got caught, denied it, and was brought up short. But happiness was hers in her old age. This week we find a different Sarah, jealous and vengeful, separating the child from his father, Abraham, and willing to allow that child and his mother to die. God calmed Abraham and later Hagar, by telling her, "Do not be afraid." And we are told about this other son of Abraham, upon whom God also founded a nation, that God was with the boy.  
          Paul reminds us that in Baptism we die, to sin that is, and if all goes well with us, we are alive to God in Jesus. And then Jesus tells the disciples (us, too) not to have fear of those who disparage him. Yet although the words those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul are fearsome, Jesus reminds us that even sparrows sold cheaply are valued by God. He says do not be afraid because we are more valuable than many sparrows.  
          THEN, BOOM - where did THIS Jesus come from?! Not bringing peace but a sword, setting family against family, households against one another? Separating us from him if we love others more? We have arrived at Part 2 of Jesus' teaching on what discipleship actually means. Last week we were sheep in the midst of wolves and now we learn what can happen when confronting those wolves, when we pick up His cross and follow Him. He has my attention - he had me at I have not come to bring peace, but a sword... But then, how different is this from what we experience in life when we hold differing opinions with those we love? Political and even religious rhetoric can be fiery and fierce, families and friends stop speaking to one another. The world seems angrier than ever and us vs them boils over all too often into violence. The difference is that Jesus stops us in our tracks in this Gospel with his sword because it begs the questions to ourselves and each other: What really is our life all about? How easily - like sheep - do we bolt headlong into everything but what our Shepherd wants? He doesn't want us to stop loving each other, but we are to love Him more. The glint of the sword blade is a clear warning that being steadfast in faith, acknowledging Him above all else - family, friends, job, lifestyle, etc. - is fraught with far more than separation anxiety, it can be dangerous for a mere human. We are not the sword-carriers, we are bearers of the Word, the Good News. And some days will be easier than others. But this is not a part-time occupation, a Sunday thing, or a Christmas and Easter duty. This is what we sign up for when we call ourselves Followers of Christ. The pay-off is full-time, eternal life. No easy road but if we travel together, we can keep the wolves at bay. Remember that pray without ceasing thing? Start NOW and, oh yes: Do not be afraid.


Leader:  ~ O Lord, Good and Forgiving, You bid us choose the newness of life in Christ or the enslavement to sin that is death by the true way we live our lives. Keep us grounded, strong in our faith, willing to bear the cost in this life for the promise of Jesus in the next.

                                                O God, Great and Wondrous                                       
RESPONSE:               We lift our souls to Your Mercy

~ O Lord, Good and Forgiving, we beg You again for an end to the violence, quarreling, and jealous power plays that separate us here and across this Earth; and yet we know that such reconciliation must begin in our own lives. Give us the courage to be what we expect of political leaders in this world, across our country, and in our local cities and towns. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                O God, Great and Wondrous
                                                We lift our souls to Your Mercy

~ O Lord, Good and Forgiving, comfort and help all who are seriously ill, addicted, or homeless, and extra blessings for all who provide support. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                O God, Great and Wondrous
                                                We lift our souls to Your Mercy
~ O Lord, Good and Forgiving, we commend those we love to the freedom of eternal life, resurrected and alive in Jesus, never to die again. We pray especially for:  add your own petitions

                                                O God, Great and Wondrous
                                                We lift our souls to Your Mercy

~ O Lord, Good and Forgiving, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt intentions and petitions, aloud or silently… add your own petitions

                                                O God, Great and Wondrous
                                                We lift our souls to Your Mercy
~ O Lord, Good and Forgiving, make straight the path of those anointed to guide us in Your Church, when we gather together in unity and hope. In our worship and praise to Your Name, and especially in our daily life, fortify us in our discipleship, as we seek to be worthy of Christ. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                O God, Great and Wondrous
                                                We lift our souls to Your Mercy

The Celebrant adds:  O Lord, our God, rescue us from the desert of denial, open our eyes to the wellspring of the Spirit, awaken our hearts to live first for Christ, and companion us to walk unafraid in Your Light and Love. We ask in the name of Christ Jesus, our Sin-Bearer, and the Holy Spirit, our Fount of all Wisdom, who together with You are One God, now and forever. Amen.

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