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, July 12, 2021

Prayers of the People: Flock On! ~ 8th Sunday after Pentecost '21 Yr B

For Sunday, July 18, 2021; Readings: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

    ‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ says the Lord…It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away and have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings… [Jeremiah 23:1, 2b]

    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want…Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me…  [Psalm 23:1, 4]

    For [Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity of place of the two, thus making peace and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross… [Ephesians 2:14-16a]

    As he went ashore, [Jesus] saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach them many things. [Mark 6:34]

     There is an almost synonymous pattern that develops by the piecing together of these four readings. In the first, Jeremiah tells us of the Lord’s serious displeasure with those shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! By shepherds is meant the irresponsible monarchies who failed to protect Jerusalem’s citizens as the Babylonians seized control and drove most into exile. About 20 generations after David was anointed king, God is promising to raise another David-like ruler to care for the people and restore them to safety that they may once again be fruitful and multiply.
     The Psalm, of course, needs no introduction as even non-believers and those of many other faith traditions know this one well. The simple beauty of its idyllic poetry is deeply resonant in the souls of the hopeless and the hope-filled. Of course, it too, is filled with the imagery of shepherding and some of you who have read my prior comments about Psalm 23 will know that I cannot help but mention a little book titled, A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller. You can do an internet search and find it easily and for free. Keller, a real-life 20th century shepherd, takes us on a walk through this psalm explaining the behavior of sheep and how each verse corresponds to the work of a faithful shepherd and the response of each sheep. It brings the Psalm to our own everyday experience of life and connects us more closely to our ultimate Shepherd.
      Paul, in this letter to the Church at Ephesus, doesn’t use the language of shepherding but the same feel of bringing the divisions among us together in Christ is almost tangible. Breaking down the dividing wall that is, the hostility between us…one new humanitymaking peace [to] reconcile both groups to God in one body…so then you are no longer strangers and aliens…but members of the household of God… if those are not words for this moment in time there never were and never will be.
      And, then to this piece of Mark’s Gospel. The focus begins with Jesus recognizing the demanding work done by the apostles and offering them and himself a chance to rest. However, things only got busier as they sailed to the other shore of the lake and his focus sharpens as his compassion kicks in for those he describes as like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus recognized that the needs of the followers were greater than his own or the apostles and he continued to teach and heal as there was no time for this shepherd to rest.
      We each are sheep and shepherd in this life. We are sometimes restless and occasionally restful, we have bouts of fear and anger, and moments of pleasure and joy. We must often go beyond our own needs to bring comfort, goodness and mercy to others.  We are meant to be together in that one humanity, with Christ as our cornerstone joining us together. We are God’s Creation, and to quote Psalm 95:7, we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
So, ok people, let us flock together and flock on to the time when we dwell in the house of the Lord forever!


Leader:  ~ O Lord, our righteousness, gather us again into Your fold, reviving our souls and guiding our pathways, that as we receive, we may also share Your goodness and mercy with each other as members, joined together in Your holy household.  

                   Loving Christ                                                          
RESPONSE:   Teach us and heal us, O Lord        

~ O Lord, our righteousness, reclaim this World, this Nation, and this Community from unfaithful shepherds who scatter and divide Your flocks by evil doing. Bestow special grace and blessings upon all leaders who strive to dispel fear and dismay, who deal wisely and with justice, and who foster safety and hope among all Your people. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                  Loving Christ
                                                  Teach us and heal us, O Lord

~ O Lord, our righteousness, anoint with Your love all who are troubled with physical pain, depression, or addiction, and renew the spirit of those who give them help. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                  Loving Christ
                                                  Teach us and heal us, O Lord     

~ O Lord, our righteousness, comfort our hearts as we send those we love into Your open arms, to dwell in the joy of Your glorious House forever. We pray especially for… add your own petitions  

                                                  Loving Christ
                                                  Teach us and heal us, O Lord

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

                                                  Loving Christ
                                                  Teach us and heal us, O Lord                     

~ O Lord, our righteousness, embrace the hearts of those who shepherd us in Your Church, replenish their souls with enduring energy, and sustain them with Your guiding hand as they endeavor to lead us to Your eternal shore. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                  Loving Christ
                                                  Teach us and heal us, O Lord

The Celebrant adds: God of Compassion and Hope, urge us on as one new humanity in place of many, that we may break down walls of division, and be reconciled to You in the peace of Christ, as one body through the Cross. We ask through Jesus, the Cornerstone who joins us together; and the Holy Spirit, our Access to the Divine; who together with You are One God, now and forever.  Amen.


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