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 5, 2018

Prayers of the People: Out on a Limb ~ 3rd Sunday after Pentecost '18 Yr B

For Sunday, June 10, 2018, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, Readings: Genesis 3:8-15, (11:14-15); Psalm 138, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, 
Mark 3:20-35
       [God] said, “…Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?...Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:11b, 13]

       I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart…and praise your Name, because of your love and faithfulness…Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe…The Lord will make good his purpose for me. O Lord, your love endures forever. [Psalm 138:1a, 2b, 8a, 9a]

       Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace…may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God…So do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. [2 Corinthians 4:15-16]

       The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."…And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “…And if a house is divided against itself, the house will not be able to stand.”…A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." 
[Mark 3:20-21, 23a, 25, 32-35]
            Many years ago, I was a young military spouse living in Fort Benning, Georgia. A military base is self-contained and as complex, or more so, as any well run city with all the usual infrastructures within its unique mission and industry. One of the more surprising elements when I first arrived was the special team of soldiers deployed daily to remove snakes hanging from the limbs of trees in the housing areas. With a hundred thousand residents that includes soldiers, families, children, and household pets, having them drop from trees is not ideal, to say the least, especially as there are a few poisonous varieties. This memory surfaces whenever I hear the Genesis story of the tempting, trickster, dangerous serpent, often depicted in trees. 
      Snakes are mentioned over 80 times in the Bible as deceptive creatures that lure us with the promise that something God has forbidden us is actually good. While I cannot imagine being lured by a snake in this life, insert shivers here, we cannot judge a snake by its scales. Eve and Adam in turn wanted to eat that fruit and gave into the temptation having received encouragement and permission from the serpent. 
      Snakes in many guises are everywhere. We even call someone who sells potentially dangerous, medically untested remedies, a "snake oil salesman." Still today advertised "snake oil" is a hugely profitable business and we all fall prey at one time or another, when the message, the promise is just what we want to hear.  And so it is in all facets of human life. We are drawn to those who promise that all difficulties and troubles will be resolved if only we buy the whole truckload of what they're selling. We line up against those who try to tell us that we are only looking at a mirage because we like our sales person better than theirs. We become that divided house that Jesus speaks of. And he would know about household division.
      Even Jesus with his storied ancestry arrives in his home territory with less than a happy welcome from his family. Mary, his mother, and the brothers of Jesus think he's crazy and needs to be physically restrained. Perhaps Mary and her other sons were embarrassed by Jesus, in the sight of others, for not following an expected career path. Most families I know or know of have tales about embarrassing or alienating relatives who have befouled the family tree and perhaps even been disowned. It is no easy feat to understand, support, and accept a member of the family who has gone in unexpected and inexplicable ways. And so a household divides. Jesus defines family for himself, and by extension for us, as those who do the will of God. And how are we to determine what is the will of God, and what is the True Source and not the snake oil? How do we stand together when we understand things so differently. We won't know for sure that we've made the right choices until ... And, until, whenever I feel I'm out on an uncertain limb of Christ's family tree, I go back constantly to my favorite prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, 
      I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.
~ From: Thoughts in Solitude¸ Thomas Merton


Leader:  ~ Lord God Almighty, as by Your Will we were created, keep us safe in the midst of trouble. May we may not fall prey to human serpents that would lead us by charm and guile down the tangled garden path of earthly wants. Renew our inner nature each day that we may seek and make good Your purpose in this life that prepares us for the next.  

                                                    O God of Love and Faithfulness
RESPONSE:                  With whole heart we praise and thank You

~ Lord God Almighty, infuse the leaders of this Planet, this Nation, and this Community with faith, principles, and strength of character. Lead their hearts to discern and implement Your wisdom for all Your people, that we may abide together in Your House, undivided, with no exclusion. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O God of Love and Faithfulness
                                                        With whole heart we praise and thank You
~ Lord God Almighty, heal and comfort all who struggle with chronic pain, addiction, and recovery, and heighten the stamina of those who give support. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need…add your own petitions

                                                       O God of Love and Faithfulness
                                                        With whole heart we praise and thank You
~ Lord God Almighty, we lift up, with our love, all who have exchanged this earthly life for the glory, joy, and peace of eternity with You. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O God of Love and Faithfulness
                                                        With whole heart we praise and thank You

~ Lord God Almighty, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silentlyadd your own petitions

                                                       O God of Love and Faithfulness
                                                        With whole heart we praise and thank You
~ Lord God Almighty, refresh the vigor and vitality of those anointed to guide us, as together we navigate the time and tides of this temporal life, connecting our everyday lives and actions to You. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O God of Love and Faithfulness
                                                        With whole heart we praise and thank You

The Celebrant adds: O God of Grace and Glory, develop in us a spiritual thirst that seeks to be quenched only in service to Your Holy Will. Through Your enduring love and grace, let us strive to become mother, father, sister, and brother to every one on every limb in the sacred family tree of Christ. We ask through the steadfastness of Jesus, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit, who together with You, reign as One God, now and forever. Amen.

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