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, February 10, 2020

Prayers of the People: Idol-ic or Eternal, a Choice ~ 6th Sunday after the Epiphany '20 Yr A

For Sunday, February 16, 2020, Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37

       …I set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity...If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God...the Lord your God will bless you...But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish...Choose life… 
[Deuteronomy 30:16-18a, 19b]

        Happy are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Happy are they who observe his decrees and seek him with all their hearts! I will thank you with an unfeigned heart... [Psalm 119:1-2, 7a]

    I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather...infants in Christ. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still people of the flesh...So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose...For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building.  [1 Corinthians 3:11b, 2b-3, 7-9]

   So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift...If your right eye causes you to sin tear it out...and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away... [Matthew 5:23, 29a, 30a]

                     Life is about our choices. We all have spiritual choices and decisions to make in this life, even in the midst of unforeseen circumstances. Moses gives the Israelites, and us, the basics of the Law of God ~ the Commandments ~ and outlines the “if this/then that” actions/consequences: I set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. By observing the commandments, decrees, and ordinances and by loving God we choose life. By turning away and being led astray to serve other gods is to choose to perish. The Psalmist chimes in with how happy they are who observe the Law of the Lord, our God.
        Paul lays it out to the Church at Corinth ~ they were not ready to hear what he had to say ~ and he spoke to them as infants in Christ because they were still of the flesh. He also tells them/us that working together in community with a common purpose serves our God. There are planters and waterers in God’s fields, and we are each called in to till, fertilize, or manage. Yet with all we are to do, only God provides the growth. 
       We also may not be ready to hear the message. It’s so easy to be led astray to bow to the many gods in the gardens of life’s idol distractions ~ the idolatry of social media, of celebrity, of mega-wealth, of choosing the correct side of multiple political issues while fomenting exponentially increasing outrage ~ our own and others; or being around the “right” kind of people while judging and excluding, or worse, "those" kinds of people?
       And in this continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus furthers the idea of community with a list do’s and don’ts regarding our behaviors with and toward others. In one sense, it sounds as though he’s replacing The Law with his own but read carefully. In his use of You have heard…but I say…Jesus is not reducing but expanding the scope of God’s Law. Most of us avoid murder, for example, but Jesus is warning us that our anger and insult can be a form of violence and subject to God’s judgment. In that vein, it is not a surprise that he says first, be reconciled to your brother or sister.
        There is so much depth to each of Christ’s admonitions. These commandments are not simply a basic morality checklist. They are individually and collectively organized around love, trust, and commitment to God through how we are with one another. We must look beyond the literal statements and understand that each and every one of these are intent on us flourishing in this life. By understanding and living into the full expanse of these commandments, we are then able to experience the transformative power of spiritual and relational wholeness. No, not everyone will welcome the love but it’s how we respond that is the crux of the call. We all fail in relationships at one time or another and we have to decide what to do about it. Being reconciled to our brothers and sisters may simply mean I have sincerely offered to work things out. Some will accept, some will not join me in returning to the altar of God. As we hear Jesus say in Mark’s Gospel, the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all of yourself and love your neighbor as (if she/he were) yourself ~ if we do all that then we ARE following the Commandments, we ARE living the Law, we are reconciled to God and humanity, and we do Choose Life - eternal life, spiritual nourishment, an open and unfeigned heart
       The clear message of the combined readings that I hear is that God gives us free will to choose the path we take and tells us what results to expect. Take it or leave it. Face the consequences. Be reconciled. Still an infant in Christ?  Grow up. Be in, with, and for Christ; or, not. Idol-ic or Eternal, a choice.


Leader:  ~ O God of Blessing and Promise, inject our souls with a conscious spiritual hunger, that drives us away from human inclinations, seek Your ways, and be happy to walk in Your Law.

                                                          O Lord, our God                                            
                 RESPONSE:                  Our trust is in You

~ O God of Blessing and Promise, may those who govern in our names throughout this world, this country, and this community, be earnest in observing Your decrees and keeping Your statutes faithfully, in good conscience, for the well-being of all Your people and Your Creation. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                      O Lord, our God
                                                      Our trust is in You

~ O God of Blessing and Promise, we ask your blessings for those who are dangerously ill, distraught, or life-weary, and for all who serve their needs. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our God
                                                       Our trust is in You
~ O God of Blessing and Promise, hold close the hearts in sorrow, as we celebrate the gifts of all who have departed for new life in Your complete love and perfect peace. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our God
                                                       Our trust is in You

~ O God of Blessing and Promise, 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
                                                       Our trust is in You
~ O God of Blessing and Promise, may all who serve Your Church feel affirmed and encouraged in guiding us toward growth and grace in You, while we work together as the planters and waterers among Your fields. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our God
                                                       Our trust is in You
The Celebrant adds: Holy and Mighty God, turn our hearts away from the idol-ic distractions of earthly existence to choose Life Eternal with You. Grant us courage to reconcile with one another, even in disagreement, and to begin each day with love, determined to carry out the vows we have made to You. We ask through Jesus, our Redeemer Lord; and the Holy Spirit, our Divine Counselor; who together with You are One God, now and forever. Amen. 

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