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, August 17, 2020

Prayers of the People: Papyrus, Rock, Keys ~ 12th Sunday after Pentecost '20 Yr A

For Sunday, August 23, 2020, Readings: Exodus 1:8-2:10, Psalm 124, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20

    Now a new king arose over Egypt...[who] commanded all his people "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile...[When the Levite] woman...bore a son...she got a papyrus basket...she put the child in it among the reeds on the bank of the river...The daughter of Pharoah...took pity on him...she took him as her son. She named him Moses, "because," she said, "I drew him out of the water." 
[Exodus 1:8a, 22a, 2:2a, 3a,b; 5a, 6b, 10b]

      Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth. [Psalm 124:8]

      ...by the mercies of God...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship...Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed...that you may discern what is the will of God...We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us... [Romans 12:1b, 2, 6a]

      [Jesus] said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him..."I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
 [Matthew 16:15-16, 17a, 19]

                 Just as the well-worn literary device of "It was a dark and stormy night" alerts us to trouble ahead, so do the opening words of this passage of Exodus, "Now a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph." Of course we know the story of Moses and what is to come, we've seen the movies. Our ease with the story, however, can give way to distraction especially when the church service is online and we're sitting with coffee in hand, letting the reading roll on while we check an incoming Facebook post or a text message on our mobile phones. But the re-telling, of this and each of the other specifically appointed readings every week (as well as in the Daily Office), gives us a chance to find a new focus, or hear something we hadn't noticed before, or had forgotten. This is a the perfect time and opportunity to seek and discover the keys to unlocking the connections between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments.* By setting aside earthly distractions for at least the length of the Liturgy, and if we intentionally listen, hear, and consciously permit, ways to inform and shape our every-day-lives here and now will be more easily recognized. Reading them again for ourselves later will also add depth and possibly raise interesting thoughts and questions to encourage further contemplation.  
           Paul reminds us, in a most timely way, that we are one body in Christ with God-given, grace-filled gifts that we are to identify within ourselves and offer in service to God and each other. He says, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God. He both admonishes and encourages us to look beyond ourselves to work together for God's purpose as the welcoming all-inclusive community of the many members in Christ. 
         When Jesus asks who others think he is, perhaps the disciples were wondering themselves if Jesus was some sort of re-incarnation of the prophets. But Simon Peter, gets the prize for getting the answer correct. Peter - a name meaning rock in Greek - is then awarded the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose on earth and in heaven. Did Peter, in that moment, feel the enormous weight of the responsibility? Binding and loosing is a rabbinical concept that, as Jews, the disciples - and Matthew - understood. In very simplistic terms it means as a communal judgment to bind as in obligation or to loosen that requirement. How does that apply to us in our lives today?  
        Many of us feel a strong obligation, or at least a commitment, to present ourselves in Church each Sunday - if only online as currently until again in person - but of course we are free to not view or attend. So what does a true obligation to the work of Christ actually mean? Ah, that's where discernment applies. Discovering what are and how to use our particular gifts, as well as offering them in the sincere attempt to follow God's will, is the work of a lifetime, our spiritual worship, our living sacrifice. Our human gifts are the keys to unlocking our spiritual gifts when used in preparation for the true life that is to come. All that was, is now, and all that is now, will come again. It is up to us, individually and collectively, to recognize the connections we share with the past and the future that help us to decipher the signs that we are on the right path or diverging from it. To paraphrase mystic/monk Thomas Merton's helpful and hopeful prayer that begins, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going...," the fact that I think I'm following God's will does not mean that I truly am doing so, BUT, I do believe that God knows when I am sincere in my desire to please and fulfill my calling. * * 
        Sincerity of purpose is one key to the loosening of apprehension and the binding of trust. Connecting the lessons of the past and present is the key to the future of life everlasting. 

*(As for a couple of biblical connections, the word for basket - as in the basket that Moses was placed in - is the same word as ark in Hebrew; ark is not just a vessel for water travel, it is a sanctuary, a safe place such as a box or a chest as with the ark of the covenant. In Exodus, all Hebrew boy babies were ordered to be killed by Pharaoh to prevent them growing up and revolting against him. Earlier in Matthew, Herod ordered all boys under 2 years old to be killed to prevent a Messiah from undermining his reign. Go forth and discover more each week.) 

**for the full text click here: Thomas Merton's Prayer


Leader:  ~ O Living God, our Maker and our Help, through the waters that birth us, and Moses was drawn from, that nourish the Earth and sometimes drown it, we struggle to navigate our lives between the raging and the calm. Let us not drift aimlessly through tide and torrent, but point ourselves toward the Light of Christ, the Incarnation of Your Holy Will for us. 

O Lord, our God                                                  
RESPONSE:                                   Transform and Renew us 

~ O Living God, our Maker and our Help, empower us to be vigorous in the pursuit of re-forming the attitudes, agenda, and actions from callous to compassionate on the part of the political leaders of this World, this Country, and this Community.  We pray especially for:  add your own petitions

O Lord, our God 
Transform and Renew us 

~  O Living God, our Maker and our Help, infuse hope, healing, and comfort in all who are lost in the grip of serious or life-threatening illness, and all who give of their strength in support.  We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions
O Lord, our God 
Transform and Renew us  
~  O Living God, our Maker and our Help, open wide the gates of heaven as You receive in joy, those we now commend to the bliss of eternal life. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

O Lord, our God 
Transform and Renew us 

Living God, our Maker and our Help, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions
O Lord, our God 
Transform and Renew us  
~ O Living God, our Maker and our Help, we offer our special thanksgivings for those who guide, us by their teaching, preaching, and prayers, to discern our own gifts and discover our path to all that is good and acceptable to You. We pray especially for:  add your own petitions
O Lord, our God 
Transform and Renew us  
The Celebrant adds:  Holy and Immortal God, awaken us each morning with eagerness to offer ourselves in service to Your Supreme Will, to escape the snares of conforming to what is of this world, and bind ourselves to Your Kingdom. We ask through Jesus, Son of Man, our Blessed Messiah; and the Holy Spirit, our Counselor and Advocate, who together with You are one God, eternal, and everlasting.   Amen. 

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