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, January 14, 2020

Prayers of the People: What Are You Looking For? ~ 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany/Martin Luther King Yr A

For Sunday, January 19, 2020, Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42  
(see excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.* below the prayers) 

      The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. 
[Isaiah 49:1b]

      He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. [Psalm 40:3a] 

        ...just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you -- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift...He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
[1 Corinthians 1:6-7a, 8]

    "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"...The two disciples heard [John] say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following he said to them, "What are you looking for?" 
[John 1:29b, 37-38a]

     I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’"… Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr]

         Fresh from his Baptism, Jesus is identified as the Lamb of God by John the Baptizer to two of John’s own disciples. Jesus is then followed by these men and he turns and asks, What are you looking for? They, calling him Rabbi, ask where he is staying. Jesus answers, come and see and they then spend the day listening to him. Later, Andrew, one of those men, tells his brother, We have found the Messiah. He takes his brother Simon to Jesus who knows him immediately and tells him he’ll now be known as Peter.  
       We know that Peter often struggled with the message of Jesus, yet even in the face of enormous obstacles, defeats, trials, and tribulations, he carried on and carried the message forward along with his brother Andrew and the others who joined them. It’s easy to think the original disciples, chosen in person by Jesus, were holy and able to move through life with ease and absolute certainty of their mission. But they, as all we humans, including Dr. King, had doubts, moments of uncertainty – and fear. A huge obstacle to living faithfully in today’s world is that there is simply TOO MUCH of everything that gets in the way of attending to our faith and faith development. Even as I read or listen to the Scripture passages, I must admit that two thousand+ year old events don't always have much of an impact on my everyday thoughts and actions. However this question, What are you looking for?, caught my attention as we are now at the beginning of a new year in a new decade, in a volatile national and worldwide political climate, and as we prepare to celebrate –  some more than others  the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To the question from Jesus I would add, What is your dream – not for material things but rather for humanity itself.
         While the significance of the impact of Dr. King's work and words is undisputed, the echoes of his voice are slowly fading more than 50 years after his death, a reason to be grateful to a Congress of the past that designated the anniversary of his birth as a Federal Holiday. And, it must be said, various groups were not, and still are not, fans of this particular recognition, but it holds. The racism seemingly went underground for a time among those of us who are not targets – though people of color know differently – but it is resurfacing with a vengeance along with other hate-filled discriminations. As with Christmas and Easter, we are more likely to pay attention to a date on a calendar to be reawakened, to listen again and hear anew, to take a step forward. This date is no exception. In many places, this "holiday" is advertised as a day of community service with opportunities to give of oneself in a variety of ways, that is, a Day On rather than merely a day off.
         In times such as these when certainty is upended and the status quo is now status unknown, it is as critical as ever that we carry Christ's and Dr. King's messages forward to uphold people of all colors, creeds, national origin, sexual orientation, and for any reason that any one is targeted for oppression, brutality, bullying, and discrimination. We are all equal in the Eyes and Heart of God. And, as Dr. King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Mark [12:29-31], "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." We don't have to like everyone and we can learn to discard the selfishness that requires appreciation and reward for our "goodness." But no good action is ever wasted, and with consciousness and intent good actions of heart, mind, and soul can become as routine as checking for "likes" on Facebook throughout the day and night or responding in anger to an unliked post. As Dr. King has said, Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
       What is your dream for this still New Year and new decade 
 will you hide from whatever discomforting challenges may be ahead, or look for ways learn more about how to be and live in faith? How can we shine in and radiate Christ’s light? How can we muster up the love to neutralize the hate we all encounter? Maybe, if we can step up and step out in uncertainty, we will discover that what we are actually looking for is the place within ourselves where Jesus is staying and loves us as we are. Come and see, and spend some time listening to Him. And spend some time with Martin, too.
      Here’s a Collect I wrote a few years ago for an MLK/Epiphany II Sunday: Almighty God, we see and hear again the example of Your Servant, Martin Luther King, Jr, in his powerful vision and compelling certainty that together we can all live in freedom from fear, oppression, intolerance, and hatred. You have called us to carry this vision, to stop our own thoughts and acts that disrespect and bring harm, and to make certain that Your People will know the peace and freedom of Your Salvation.  We ask Your grace to do Your Will through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, today and always.  Amen.
 See below prayers for an excerpt and click here for a short video of the I Have A Dream speech excerpt - Martin Luther King, Jr 1963


Leader:  ~ O Lord our God, in Your compassion, love, and faithfulness, teach us the way of patience and trust. Keep us mindful of the spiritual gifts we each have within us by Your grace, that we may come, see, and radiate the light of fellowship in Christ to all we meet.

                                                         Jesus, Lamb of God
RESPONSE:                    Our Strength and our Salvation

~ O Lord our God, in these uncertain times, renew our willingness to continually exhort the ruling authorities on this Earth, in our Country, and in our Community, to ensure the dignity and well-being of every person on this planet. Fill us with the courage to work as Your Servant Martin before us to reveal and reverse the false strength and power spent for vanity only. We pray especially for: Donald, our President; Tom, Chris, and Lisa, our Members of Congress; John, our Governor; Matt, our County Executive; and Mike, our Mayor.

                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Strength and our Salvation

~ O Lord our God, give hope and healing to all who are sick, troubled, or weary of this life, and to those who care for and about them. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… 
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Strength and our Salvation
~ O Lord our God, soothe sorrowful hearts with the knowing that You enfold our loved ones in the grace, glory, and joy of new life forever. We pray especially for…

                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Strength and our Salvation

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

                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Strength and our Salvation
~ O Lord our God, hold fast in Your embrace all who lead us in Your Church as they guide and walk with us in Word, Sacrament, and Faith, away from false gods and always to You. We pray especially for: Michael, our Presiding Bishop; Kevin our Bishop; David, our Rector; Lloyd, our Rector Emeritus; Emily and Peter, our Associate Priests.

                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Strength and our Salvation

The Celebrant adds: God Almighty and Everlasting, You called us before we were born and named us in our mother’s womb. Keep us looking for and finding the Love that drives out hate and the Light that drives out the darkness in ourselves and in each other. We ask through the grace of our Jesus, our Rabbi and our Christ; and our spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit, who together with You, live and reign, our One God, today, always, forever. Amen.

*An Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a Dream speech, August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Full text:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/17/i-have-a-dream-speech-text_n_809993.html


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