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 15, 2021

Prayers of the People: Good News! ~ First Sunday in Lent '21 Yr B

For Sunday, February 21, 2021, Readings: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15

   God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you...and every animal of the earth with you...and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."  [Genesis 9:9-11, 15b]

        To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul, my God I put my trust in you...for You are the God of my salvation...All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness... [Psalm 25: 1a, 2b, 9a]

     ...in the days of Noah...a few, that is, eight persons were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you... [1 Peter 3:20b-21a]

         In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan...And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan...and the angels waited on him...after John was arrested, Jesus came...saying...repent, and believe in the good news. [Mark 1:9,12-13, 14a, 15b]

      From the receding waters of The Flood, to the baptismal waters of the Jordan, and on into the Judean wilderness, we journey this week through the various stages of God's continuing covenant through signs, symbols, and messengers
     God makes a covenant (promise) with Noah and his sons and gives the rainbow as a sign by and for God as a reminder of that promise to us all, God included. Who knew God needed a sticky note just like the rest of us? I always marvel at rainbows and even though I know rationally it's just a refraction of light through micro water droplets, the fact that a full spectrum of color appears gives me a more mystical experience, an inward sense of Presence, and my own sticky note of remembrance of the sign given to Noah.
      And when we are feeling less than adequate in expressing our prayers, the Psalmist paves the way and reminds us of all the ways we can ask God to help us, all the ways that God does help us and, that All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. It is in God’s unfailing and unchanging Being that we may place our fragile trust. 
     The author of 1st Peter begins his letter with the reason for Christ’s suffering, which is in order to bring you to God. He goes on in the next few verses (vv 18b-20) that seem strangely difficult. In saying that Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, we stumble upon an answer to an old and perhaps not fully formed question from our recitation of The Apostles’ Creed. The current translation of that Creed says that after Jesus died on the cross He descended to the dead. In earlier times the Creed said he descended into hell…How curious, I wondered as a child and beyond, why would Jesus descend to hell?
     What the writer seems to be saying in a convoluted way (to my mind) is that when he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison (descended into hell or to the dead), those drowned by the Flood, he gave them the Good News that as they didn’t know any better in former times, they were also now saved. The waters of the Flood prefigures Baptism, says 1st Peter, and tells us that our baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience. We do the promising this time around, and it counts even if done by others on our behalf. (By the way, the Nicene Creed, earlier and now, simply says Jesus suffered death and was buried.)  
      Speaking of Baptism, we revisit the Baptism of Jesus in Mark’s journalistic approach, concisely and succinctly, no frills. After which the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted before returning to fulfill his mission and ministry to bring us to God. The season of Lent mirrors the 40 days of his experience. 
      The wilderness in our day can be any time that we feel lost and alone, isolated by others or even by ourselves. Of course, in these times of Pandemic, many are in an imposed wilderness of separation with decreasing hope. We also enter a sense of isolation when we feel unworthy and /or riddled with a sense of guilt for real or imagined sins. Lent is a designated opportunity to actively engage in a relationship with Jesus. By intentionally entering a kind of spiritual desert to reflect and examine our faith, we seek ways to be more dedicated to God wherever we are in our life circumstances. It is a time to recognize and acknowledge all those earthly enticements and everyday idols that distract us from our good intentions and draw us away from committing ourselves to a life more centered in Christ.
     We need not take this journey alone, we can walk the path together through individual and communal prayer, meditation, and reflection. Instead of just giving up chocolate, alcohol, or smoking, let's take on this wilderness journey together. Seek out and make a covenant with others for one-on-one discussions as prayer partners, or join a small group ~ start one yourself, there are plenty of resources around, various means, especially through zoom or other video chatting. The partnership can be face-to-face while socially distant, online in real time or even through phone conversations, email, or texts. Let us wait on each other as angels waited on Jesus, in our own space, in our own time, yet together in Christ. I will make myself a rainbow-colored sticky note for my mirror as a reminder of God's promise to all of us, the promises I've made to God, as well as those sharpening my good intentions that have wandered away in distractions. Repentance is a burdensome word yet it simply means to turn toward God. This is time, again, to repent and believe in the good news.


Leader:  ~ O God of our Salvation, awaken our senses to Your eternal covenant that embraces the whole of Creation, from the very ground we live on to all humankind and every living creature. Turn us from the pursuit of temporary pleasure to seek Eternal Life in the Spirit, through trust and faith in You.

                                                      Gracious, Loving Lord
                            RESPONSE:   We lift our souls to You

~ O God of our Salvation, grant us the wisdom and intent to speak with Christ’s voice to every political leader on this Earth, in this Country, and in this Community; and to join with and encourage all who work diligently for justice, mercy, peace, and the health of us all. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Gracious, Loving Lord
                                                       We lift our souls to You

~ O God of our Salvation, ease the struggle for all who suffer the anguish of isolation, illness, or desperation; and sustain the energy of those who give them care. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       Gracious, Loving Lord
                                                       We lift our souls to You

~ O God of our Salvation, even as we grieve, we give praise and thanksgiving for those we love who have now risen in glory, to life eternal in You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Gracious, Loving Lord
                                                       We lift our souls to You

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

                                                       Gracious, Loving Lord
                                                       We lift our souls to You
~ O God of our Salvation, whisper Your wisdom again, deep into the hearts of all who are anointed to lead us in Your Church and, for the guidance to draw us ever stronger into community and communion with Christ. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Gracious, Loving Lord
                                                       We lift our souls to You

The Celebrant adds: Living Lord of Compassion and Faithfulness, infuse us with the desire to use this season of Lent as as our own spiritual wilderness, for the cleansing of our hearts and souls through repentance, the examination and expansion of our faith, and the renewal of good conscience. We ask this through Christ, who suffered for the sins of us all, and the Holy Spirit, the breath of You in our souls, who together with You, reign as One God, over all Creation, forever and ever. Amen.


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