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, September 2, 2019

Prayers of the People: The Price of Admission ~ 13th Sunday after Pentecost '19 Yr C

For Sunday, September 8, 2019 ~ 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1, 
Philemon 1:1-21, Luke 14:25-33

     But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray…you shall perish…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life…loving the Lord your God, obeying…and holding fast…for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors. [Deuteronomy 30:17a, 18a, 19-20]

    Happy are those who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked…everything they do shall prosper…It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff that the wind blows away. [Psalm 1:1a, 3b, 4]

   Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me...So, if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 
[Philemon 1:11, 17]

   For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?...Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?  [Luke 14:28, 31]

      These are not-so-easy readings this week with uncomfortable choices between blessings and curses. Deuteronomy, [doo-ter-ah-no-me] is not merely a practical cat named by poet T.S. Eliot. It is a series of sermons by Moses to the Hebrews as they have a first view of the entry to the Promised Land. He speaks to the new generations of those who left Egypt 40 years earlier. The word deuteronomy is from the Greek, meaning “second law.” In this use, Moses is recounting the original laws of God, the Commandments, that God gave to him at Sinai. The book also relays some of the history of the mighty acts of God on behalf of their ancestors to this group who never lived in Egypt or experienced the Exodus. We are only given a taste of this final book of the Pentateuch [penteh-too-k], the name also from the Greek, meaning “5 books.” These first five books of the Bible were traditionally ascribed to the hand of Moses himself, but later and current scholarship hold it to be from the ancient texts that compile the Jewish Torah. Moses, in this piece, is stressing that the importance of obeying God’s Commandments is the way to authentic life and that turning away is to perish. The psalmist echoes his words by telling us that the wicked…are like chaff which the wind blows away.
       Paul is writing to Philemon [fuh-lee-mun], in what is quite an amazing little letter in only 25 verses. There are far more paragraphs written about it than there are in it and it has a very interesting back-story that leaves so many unanswered questions -  for one, is Onesimus [oh-nes-ih-mus] a runaway slave? We won't ever know the fine details of the life of Onesimus, but Paul - following the law and culture of the land and its time - reminds us even now, regardless of this or any other man's, woman's, or child's status, he, she, they are to be welcomed as a beloved brother or sister. Nothing is more true, necessary, or timely in this day and time than this! Paul tells Philemon that when we understand all the good that comes from sharing our faith we will become even more effective.
       And then there's the discomforting Gospel admonishing those of us who would travel with Jesus to hate family and even life itself and give up all possessions or we cannot become disciples. But in pondering and reading all the words such as Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus [Luke 14:25a] it occurs to me that maybe he was tiring of the party groupies who were merely enjoying hanging out with this celebrity and not quite understanding the full importance of his teaching. This certainly would have gotten their attention, it does mine. Perhaps that was the point. He goes on with the analogy of building a tower - reasonable for us to consider now - who wouldn't begin a building project by estimating the cost? As for warring kings, there are other parallels for us to envision such as the long-term costs and implications of political policy and pronouncements that help or hinder the lives of God's people and Creation itself.
       Traveling with Jesus isn't all just loaves and fishes. It IS a hard road but who of us are able to imagine the cost of giving up our families and all of our possessions? We aren't told that we MUST, only that we MUST IF they or that stand in the way of our faith and our work as disciples; in other words, the taking up of the Cross. Last week Paul told us to be content with what we have and in Luke, Jesus was telling us how not to exalt ourselves. I think there is much the same in this week - a recurring theme of Scripture is not getting caught up in earthly delights or gathering wealth or possessions but to focus on the goal of everlasting life in Christ. Missteps, loving community, disagreements, estrangements, reconciliations are all along the way and we can use them wisely as tools for climbing out or digging deeper. This isn't just a hobby for groupies to follow when convenient though sometimes having a hobby or looking deeper and curiously is the start of something much bigger. This is a life-calling and there is a price. Some days we'll feel blessings and other days will seem like curses. We'll have many wrong turns and unholy moments but if our intent is true, and we keeping turning back to Christ, we will be made whole and more holy when we arrive at our ultimate destination. We are called to a life that continues to build on Christ as our One Foundation, not merely constructing a tower to enjoy the view. The cost is the price of admission to Forever.


Leader:  ~ O God, Almighty and Boundless, grant us the grace, the peace, and the courage, to accept discipleship of the cross of Christ throughout our length of days, however steep the price or the path.

                                                       O Lord our God                                                
RESPONSE:                  Refresh our hearts in Christ

~ O God, Almighty and Boundless, guide the hearts of all who build the towers of governments to step away from the costs of wicked counsel and choose the life-prospering benefits of justice, mercy, and peace. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our God
                                                       Refresh our hearts in Christ

~ O God, Almighty and Boundless, send comfort and healing to all who are ill, feel hopeless, or are addicted, and replenish the energy of those who give support. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need…  add your own petitions 
                                                       O Lord our God
                                                       Refresh our hearts in Christ
~ O God, Almighty and Boundless, let grieving hearts be lifted for those from whom we are now separated will be back with us forever in Your glorious and eternal Land. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our God
                                                       Refresh our hearts in Christ

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

                                                       O Lord our God
                                                       Refresh our hearts in Christ
~ O God, Almighty and Boundless, we give You thanks for all who have dedicated their lives as true disciples of Jesus, who teach us to count the blessings, more than the cost, to grow and live in faith. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord our God
                                                       Refresh our hearts in Christ
The Celebrant adds: O God of Blessings and Curses, You offer us a choice for life by carrying Christ’s cross as His willing prisoners of and for love, or by throwing our souls like chaff into the winds of the wicked. Turn us toward You, in the time we each have, to stand upright in Your Knowing Presence sharing our faith with joy. We ask through Jesus, our Redeemer Christ; and the Holy Spirit, our Source of Wisdom; who together with You are our One God, now and forever. Amen. 

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