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, January 28, 2019

Prayers of the People: Loving Home ~ 4th Sunday after the Epiphany Yr C '19

For Sunday, February 3, 2019, 4th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-14, 
Luke 4:21-30

       The word of the LORD came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you...Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’ for you shall go to whom I send you…Now I have put my words in your mouth." [Jeremiah 1:4-5a, 7b, 9b]

       In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed...you are my crag and my stronghold. [Psalm 71:1, 3b]

       If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal...And now faith, hope, and love abide...and the greatest of these is love.  [1 Cor 13:1, 13]

    And [Jesus] said, "Truly no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown...there were many widows...a severe famine...yet Elijah was sent to none...there were many lepers...and none of them was cleansed except Naaman, the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.  [Luke 4:24-28]

       “Do not say, I am only a boy,” God said to Jeremiah when he balked at God’s appointment of him as a prophet, citing his lack of skill to speak. In contrast, the synagogue congregation in Nazareth whispered about Jesus saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” as if to say, “who is this boy preaching to us?” Jeremiah’s lack of confidence was bolstered with God’s insistence that God would be present and give him the words he would need in his prophetic work. Jesus, however, was very confident in his statement that Isaiah’s words were being fulfilled in and by him in their hearing. Following that, after pointing out that no prophet is accepted in his or her hometown and giving a few unpopular examples, the outrage led to Jesus being driven from the town and barely escaping being thrown from a cliff. (I do like the part where Jesus seems to slip away from the angry crowd apparently unnoticed.) But Jeremiah and Jesus were similar and different in other ways. Jeremiah was living in the times that saw the destruction of Solomon's Temple and Jerusalem itself and the beginning of the Babylonian exile, he himself living out his days away from home, in Egypt. Jesus returns to the home of his childhood, and it didn't go well.
       The Psalmist is reassuring to those of us who are reluctant to emulate Jeremiah or Jesus in public or even in private. There is something unnerving about being open and vocal about our individual faith, especially if we are less than confident about our beliefs, why we have them, and what they are based on. Yet the Psalmist is reminding us that God is our refuge, our hope, our confidence, and our strength. All we need to do is turn in God’s direction.
       For me, of the four appointed readings for this Sunday, the significance of the reading from 1st Corinthians (13: 1-14) cannot be understated. It is so very much more than a pretty thing to recite at a wedding. In the context of all the readings for this Sunday, it brings the Word to now, to our time, to our space. It is helpfully and clearly instructive. I see it as a blueprint of our inner spiritual selves, our internal faith home, where some rooms are still under construction, some are in serious need of renovation, and still others are only vaguely outlined. As we look outside in this complex world, there is no denying the dissension, hatred, intolerance, and rage in seemingly every facet of human life through war, religion, race, gender, and so much more. There is a cacophony of clanging voices of politicos and power mongers disparaging everyone who is not one of them. Their supporters and detractors escalate the decibels to unbearable levels where few have a clear tone, or a calming demeanor that defuses the raging. But, turning inside, if we listen we can hear, as so many have sung, All You Need is Love, Love is the Answer, How Deep is Your Love, Endless Love, I Just Called to Say I Love You, etc., etc., etc. Love is the ultimate goal of all human endeavor, the path to eternal life.
       When the anger is boiling, when the resentment seeps in, when irritation begins its churning, let us take a breath and discover a more excellent way to live. Let us first seek ways to experience love and acceptance from within ourselves for ourselves. God is our refuge and our strength to grow and to act consciously with confidence in faith, in hope, and especially and intentionally, to live with and by love. Easy? Of course not, but building a room one floorboard at a time moves us closer to a solid foundation to stand in faith, and strengthens our resolve to leave the inside to build an outside community that grows in love. A supportive loving neighborhood grows beyond its boundaries by spreading out to foster a more loving hometown crowd. Love doesn't mean agreement in all things. It does mean acceptance and tolerance of the differences that divide and welcoming the caring that connects. From one hometown to another, love may not solve all problems but it will make a positive difference in everyone it inhabits. "Home is where the heart is", said Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder, who was about 10 when Jesus was crucified. Let's set our hearts on each other and through the Christ within us, we can build a loving home for us all.


Leader:  ~ O Lord, our Hope and our Confidence, You knew us, and formed us, and consecrated us before our earthly birth. Guide us to put away childish ways of envy, boasting, and arrogance to follow Your call to reveal Your endless Love in all that we are, and in all that we say and do.

                                                    O God, our Refuge, our Strength
RESPONSE:    Deliver us from wickedness
~ O Lord, our Hope and our Confidence, grant our mortal tongues the words of justice, mercy, tolerance, and compassion to calm fear, dissolve rage, and to fill the hearts and souls of all who hold power in countries and communities across this planet. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

O God our Refuge, our Strength
Deliver us from wickedness

~ O Lord, our Hope and our Confidence, sustain the faith of all who suffer with chronic pain, depression, or disease, and refresh the energy of those who assist with their care. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need…add your own petitions

O God our Refuge, our Strength
Deliver us from wickedness

~ O Lord, our Hope and our Confidence, soothe the hearts of those who grieve as the heavens erupt with rejoicing for our loved ones now arriving. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

O God our Refuge, our Strength
Deliver us from wickedness

~ O Lord, our Hope and our Confidence, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently…add your own petitions

O God our Refuge, our Strength
Deliver us from wickedness
~ O Lord, our Hope and our Confidence, nourish the gifts of our anointed pastors who join with us in a worshiping community, enrich our faith, and inspire us to step beyond ourselves in this life’s short journey to seek fulfillment in Christ. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

O God our Refuge, our Strength
Deliver us from wickedness

The Celebrant adds: O Constant, Righteous God, embolden our Faith, invigorate our Hope, and permeate our cells with Your purest Love that we may rejoice in Your truth as living, conscious, and steadfast reflections of Your Enduring Word. We ask through Jesus, the Incarnation of Love; and the Holy Spirit, the Breath of Faith; who together with You reign as One Holy and Eternal God. Amen.

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