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 7, 2020

Prayers of the People: Account-ing Lesson ~ 15th Sunday after Pentecost '20 Yr A

For Sunday, 13, 2020, Readings: Exodus 14:19-31, Psalm 114, Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 18:21-35

       The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided...the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. [Exodus 14:21b, 29]

            Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord...Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water and flint-stone into a flowing spring. 
[Psalm 114:7, 8]

            Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions...Who are you to pass judgment on...[another]? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. [Romans 14:1, 4]

           Peter came and said to Jesus, "...how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times...'[The lord of the slave said] Should you not have mercy of your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?'...So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." [Matthew 18:21-22, 33, 35]

      The Israelites in the desert escaping the Egyptians is a classic Biblical Epic. A Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar lights up in the night ~ their only GPS. And the parting of the Red Sea ~ a universally known story and some people even know it without conjuring the image of Charlton Heston. After getting across the Sea on dry land, as it folds over and drowns the Egyptians, it says in Exodus 14:31, So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. And then the rest of the journey went well, right? Stay tuned for updates.
      I commend to you all of Romans 14:1-12 for a stark lesson in our individual accountability. If it isn’t perfectly relevant to our very time, nothing is. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or your sister?For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Read the entire piece, re-read, read again and, as we say, “inwardly digest.” It is quite a prelude to this week’s Gospel.
     Jesus tells Peter that seventy-seven times we are to forgive, or, as in an older perhaps more familiar translation to some, seventy times seven.  Sometimes forgiving once feels beyond my capacity but I sure can snap to judgment in a nano-second. I do know that my instant judgment of another sometimes has to do with a projection of what I don't like about myself, specifically the uncomfortable awareness of my own sins. When I push myself to move beyond denial and engage in thoughtful, prayerful reflection of who I am and how I react, I remember the saying, If God forgives you, who are you not to forgive yourself?!  Of course, in these tumultuous times, anger and judgment seem to permeate the very air that we breathe. Forgiving is a challenge when the stakes feel so highly charged. Plus, when I dig deeper, I discover that forgiveness received and given isn't a mere slap-dash-high-five-good-to-go. It requires a significant, deliberate, conscious change in me without requiring the same of others. Oh, the agony! Some days - some minutes! - are easier than others to live up to the challenge of self-changing. But when I purposely accept the forgiveness of God and make a sincere intentional pledge and employ much effort to be better and do better, I do experience a lifting of my spirit, a freedom, and a strengthening of my faith even though, too often, short-lived. Lather, rinse, repeat.
    When I feel forgiven, it is easier to extend forgiveness, understanding, and compassion to others. When judgment and cynicism wane and I feel forgiving, the work of faith, hope, and love becomes more instinctual though not less difficult. It is a continuous process filled with detours, back-tracking, monumental failure, and persistence in starting over. Paul reminds us that we are each accountable to God. Perhaps a sticky note that says accountable, on the dashboard of my car or on my computer screen when I log into social media, will help me to remember in one of those many moments, that it is God's favorable judgment I seek. I also need frequent reminders that it is my own responsibility to live as a disciple of Christ, with honor. After all, as Paul asks, who am I to judge another?
     Jesus is uncomfortably clear that God will forgive us AS, in the way that, we forgive others. How simply difficult. Okay then, it's a new day, the long road is before us, and, we are never alone as long as we seek that Pillar of Cloud and Light. Let us follow the wisdom of Moses, Paul, and Jesus, and walk always toward God's dry and holy ground with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for others in our hearts, and an account-ing lesson to remember.


Leader:  ~ Holy God, Pillar of our Universe, liberate us from the slavery of judgment and anger, keep us mindful of our accountability to You and always aware that You forgive us as sincerely and grace-fully as we forgive all others.

                                                       Most Merciful Lord                                                
RESPONSE:                  I am accountable to You

~  Holy God, Pillar of our Universe, in these perilous times, energize us to press the urgency of informed decision-making and rational response to crises for ourselves and especially the leaders of our Planet, our Nation, and our Local Community.  We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Most Merciful Lord
                                                       I am accountable to You

~  Holy God, Pillar of our Universe, part the waves of illness, pain, and despair for all whose hope is sinking; and lift the spirits of those who provide support.  We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       Most Merciful Lord
                                                       I am accountable to You
~ Holy God, Pillar of our Universe, our souls are comforted by the heavenly embrace and infinite peace of our loved ones who now live again in You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Most Merciful Lord
                                                       I am accountable to You

~ Holy God, Pillar of our Universe,  we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

                                                       Most Merciful Lord
                                                       I am accountable to You
~ Holy God, Pillar of our Universe, bestow an unlimited capacity for energy and spiritual joy to all who are anointed and entrusted to guide us by Your Word and Wisdom. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Most Merciful Lord
                                                       I am accountable to You

The Celebrant adds: O God of Wind and Water, our Light in the Darkness, quicken our faith in Your Presence, and impose upon us the character and courage to forgive as forgiven, seeking Your dry ground of mercy and compassion for all. We ask always through the blessings of Your Son Jesus, our Christ; and Your most Holy Spirit, our Counselor; who are together with You, One God, now and forever.  Amen.

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