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, May 3, 2021

Prayers of the People: First, Last, Always ~ Sixth Sunday of Easter '21 Yr B

For Sunday, May 9, 2021; Readings: Acts 10:44-48, Psalm 98, 1 John 5:1-6, John 15:9-17

     The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out, even on the Gentiles...Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" [Acts 10:45, 46b-47]

   Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things...He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God... In righteousness shall he judge the world, and the peoples with equity. [Ps 98:1, 4, 10]

  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child…For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments…for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory…our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [1 John 5:1, 3a, 4-5]

   Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love...This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you...And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last... [John 15:9, 12, 16b]

 SIX YEARS AGO, that is, in 2015, I wrote the following: 
    How intrusive is this [Gospel] message against the backdrop of mistrust, hatred of "the other," and the seemingly endless and rampant violence across the world and in our local communities? Them vs Us, You vs Me, This is Mine, is as ancient as Caine and Abel and never tires of repeating. As the reading from Acts tells us, the circumcised believers...were astounded that the Holy Spirit was given even to the Gentiles. Peter was clear that the water of baptism cannot be withheld from those who are different because they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have... And Jesus was even more clear: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. I see no room for negotiation here. Yet we continue with judgment that is meant only to be God’s when the prevailing thought is those people are doing terrible things so how can Jesus possibly expect us to love them? Well, what we think he expects is irrelevant, he commands it. IF we believe in Jesus, then we must bear the fruit of God's love to all people, in all places, and everyone is included. 

     Today I find it more than disheartening to realize that things, six years later, are now exponentially worse on so many levels especially in issues of race, religion, and politics ~ talk about lions and tigers and bears, oh my! ~ not to mention dragons and snakes and skunks. Yet there are some seeds of hope grounded in love, amidst the anger, frustration, and despair, that are rising up, beginning to flower, and showing great potential to bear sweet and sustaining fruit for sharing. I have to stop often to remember that Jesus didn't require us to "like" anyone, only love them. We are to seek not only Jesus but ourselves in another. "Oh, really," you say, "nothing of Jesus or me is found in THAT person." Look harder and listen more closely. What you and I think and feel ~ and say? ~ about those we label as them may very well be what they think and feel and say about us. We are likely to uncomfortably discover that we are not so very different from them after all. Maybe, if we go beyond the “Golden Rule” to employ the “Platinum Rule” those others might be slightly easier to love. What is the platinum rule? “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” If I only do what I want done for me how is that helpful to another? For example, if I invite you to dinner and fill the table with all my favorite foods without asking if you have preferences or allergies or serious dislikes, who is more comfortable? Is not Love for another to go beyond our own desires?
     That said, the stark truth must be acknowledged: Our loving of them does not require ~ nor will it regularly result in ~ reciprocation. The dangers, fears, and tensions of the world will not suddenly evaporate because we are more intentionally loving people. Yes, there is evil intent in this world that no amount of love or understanding will resolve. But judgment belongs to God. As the psalmist says: In righteousness shall he judge the world and the peoples with equity. [Ps 98:10]
      As we listen, hear, and remember the Gospel message together, we can work as a team to learn and practice how to love, through the experience of intentional relationship. After all, even in a loving family, not everyone is happy with everyone all the time, but we work through it because of the connections we want to maintain. And sometimes we have to let go of the things we don’t like about another in order to sustain the relationship.  
     Of course, we are not called to pursue “relationships” with everyone, especially with those who intend harm. We are, however, to reconcile our first thoughts and actions through the lens of Christ’s love. It’s hard and often unrewarding work in this life. Yet, we are promised much more than a rose garden for following Christ’s commandment. This life is short though it can feel endless when we encounter very demanding, difficult, and desperate days ~ and people. Feeling supported in the trials of faith by the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and in community, we can come to believe that working to act in, through, and by love, first, last, and always ~ as best we can in this mortal time ~ will get us to the always, forever, eternal reward. 


Leader:  ~ Christ Jesus, Born of God, as You chose us to be bearers of the fruit of Your eternal love, lift us from the shadows of doubt and awaken our souls to follow Your Commandments to love one another and to fully abide in You.

                                                                   God of Mercy and Faithfulness                                         
RESPONSE:   Guide us to offer Love first, last, and always          

~ Christ Jesus, Born of God, grant us such consciousness of our gifts from the Spirit, that we hold ourselves and those who govern throughout this Planet, this Country, and this Community, accountable; acting always to uphold Your standards of righteousness and equity, on behalf of all people everywhereWe pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                                     God of Mercy and Faithfulness
                                                                     Guide us to offer Love first, last, and always

~ Christ Jesus, Born of God, lovingly embrace with healing all those who are ill in body, mind, or soul, and all who give them love and care. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                                     God of Mercy and Faithfulness
                                                                     Guide us to offer Love first, last, and always         

~ Christ Jesus, Born of God, with trumpets and the sound of the horn You shout with joy, as those who have risen above this earthly plain are welcomed to the everlasting peace of new life in You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                                     God of Mercy and Faithfulness
                                                                     Guide us to offer Love first, last, and always

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

                                                                     God of Mercy and Faithfulness
                                                                     Guide us to offer Love first, last, and always

~ Christ Jesus, Born of God, we offer special thanksgivings for those among us who are anointed to teach and lead us in Your Word and Ways. Grant them continual renewal of purpose and endless replenishment of vigor. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                                     God of Mercy and Faithfulness
                                                                     Guide us to offer Love first, last, and always

The Celebrant adds: Almighty and Ever-Loving God, infuse us with the inner peace and fortitude to let the actions of our lives be the instruments of rejoicing that play a new song of faith and love, each and every day. We ask through Jesus, our Loving Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit, Your Truth; who together with You, are One God, now and forever.  Amen.

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