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.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Prayers of the People: Amazing Antidote 4th Sunday in Lent '18 Yr B

For Sunday, March 11, 2018, 4th Sunday in Lent, Year B, Readings: Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; 
Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
     The Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea...but the people became impatient...[and] spoke against God and against Moses...Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents...many Israelites died...So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live."  [Numbers 21:4-5a, 6, 7b-8]

     Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever...Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. [Psalm 107:1, 19]

     But God, who is rich in mercy...made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:4a,b; 8-9]

     Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life...the light has come into the world...those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." [John 3:14, 19a, 21]

       Even God gets tired of grumbling apparently. After all the grand displays of glory - pillars of cloud and fire, parting of seas, manna, and more, the Israelites still had no confidence in the eventuality of God's deliverance. So, God sends poisonous snakes that kill, and, suddenly chastened, the people begged Moses to pray and intervene for them, he did. God delivers - not an end to the dangers, but relief. Moses, on God's orders, made a bronze snake to hang on a pole. All the Israelites had to do is look up at the snake on the pole when bitten and they lived. God is not predictable, but God is faithful. And, Paul tells us, we are saved by God's grace.
       We ALL have God's grace. We don't have to work for it - no one does - it comes to us by faith. Yet how have we harnessed it, especially after we have all been bitten by our own trespassing behavior or that of someone else's? How do we respond? Have you ever thought or said that old expression: there but for the grace of God go I? It is mostly well-intended, I believe, but thought-less and even care-less. "There's that poor guy who was run over in the same intersection I just crossed" - but what you are unconsciously saying (and maybe unconsciously believe) is: "I have more grace than that guy." Hopefully you don't really mean that at all! It's generally a reaction to reduce our own fear and comfort ourselves against the dangers of life as in: Whew! Dodged that! 
       As we are in the deep of Lent, let us work to be more conscious, aware of even our most random thoughts and reactions. God is "rich in mercy" and understands each of us as only our Creator could, certainly better than we understand ourselves. Our lives are filled with danger, there are all sorts and conditions of "snakes" that trap us; the poison of sin can be quite tempting as well as lethal to our souls. God doesn't promise our earthly life will be easy or safe and John 3:16 isn't magic or just for football games, but for us in every day, so that everyone who believes in Christ "may not perish but may have eternal life."        
      We are to be true within the Light of Christ and be steadfast and faith-filled, our conscious acts are clearly to be of and in God. As the Israelites were directed to look up to the pole, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man is also to be lifted up. We are called to look to Christ in faith for our salvation, and realize the grace of God flows through us. With prayer and practice, over time even our unconscious thoughts and actions may be less poisonous to ourselves and others! And, maybe, we could even stop grumbling quite so much. Meanwhile let us strive to grow in faith, to accept, and then feel the infusion of the Grace that is an amazing antidote to the darkness of sin.

T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.


Leader:  ~ O God of Enduring Mercy, awaken us to see the snakes we have invited into the wilderness of our own making, by impatient striving for only the things of earth. Open the eyes of our souls to the light of Christ that stems the poison of sin and lifts our desire for eternal salvation.

                                                     Lord of Abiding Goodness
RESPONSE:                  By our faith we accept Your grace

~ O God of Enduring Mercy, amplify our voices to all who hold power on this Planet, in this Nation, and this Community, as we clamor against ordinary and catastrophic injustice toward all who are endangered by the darkness of deliberate human trespass. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Abiding Goodness
                                                       By our faith we accept Your grace
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, shelter the hearts of those suffering through illness, addiction, or homelessness, and give rest to all who provide support. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need…add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Abiding Goodness
                                                       By our faith we accept Your grace
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, we give You thanks and praise for all who are now delivered from their earthly distress through the glory of new and eternal life with You. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Abiding Goodness
                                                       By our faith we accept Your grace

~ O God of Enduring Mercy we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently…add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Abiding Goodness
                                                       By our faith we accept Your grace
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, guide the souls, the minds, and the hearts of all who bring us Your Word and Sacraments that make us alive together through Christ. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Abiding Goodness
                                                       By our faith we accept Your grace
The Celebrant adds: God of Glory, Lord of All Life, invigorate our faith and inspire us in our repentance to acknowledge and accept Your free gift of Grace, not to perish in sin but for our souls to thrive within Your everlasting Light. We ask through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit who live and reign with You as One God, now and forever.  

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