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, March 14, 2022

Prayers of the People: Persistent Gardener ~ 3rd Sunday in Lent, '22 Year C

For Sunday, March 20, 2022; Readings: Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9

   There the angel appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of a bush...the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed...When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush..."...Remove your sandals...for the place you are standing on is holy ground." [Exodus 3:2, 4b, 5b]

  My soul clings to you, your right hand holds me fast. 
[Psalm 63:8]

  [O]ur ancestors...all ate the same spiritual food and all drank...from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ...Do not become idolaters as some of them did... [1 Corinthians 10:1b, 3b, 4b, 7a]

     "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did"..."A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener...Cut it down!" [The gardener] replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down."  [Luke 13:2-3, 6-7b, 8]

       What possibilities does life hold today? Limited or Endless? Have I simply decided that I can’t or is it merely that I won’t? That is, has my finite mind has decided what I can and cannot do and so no extra thought is required? I can comfortably go through the day, the week, the month with the same old mindset of poor tragic me or even YAY, Fabulous ME, and everything in between. I can sigh away in the desert of my sameness or boast of my successes and post either and all on Facebook. And isn’t it always just a bit of a shock when someone challenges my personal and most-knowledgeable perspectives? Who knows better than me, especially about me? The lessons for this week remind us that even the most sincerely humble of us need to have our consciousness raised.
       When he realizes that God is speaking directly to him, Moses is overwhelmed before the burning bush. Raised as a prince of Egypt yet knowing and clinging to his Hebrew roots, keeping sheep was the job he knew how to do quite comfortably, no extra thought required. Now God was giving him a task beyond his self-imagined abilities ~ Who am I to go to Pharoah? We can imagine the reluctance of Moses, with a speech impediment among other seeming limitations, to go back to face Pharaoh with outrageous demands. But God knew Moses better than Moses. And God assured him over and over and over that God was always present.
      Paul tells us that God gave those brought out of Egypt by Moses all the spiritual food and drink they needed and yet, though filled with God's grace and goodness, many failed God through intentional sin and were struck down. By those being struck down in putting God to the test, we are given one example of discounting God’s instruction. Christ is the rock, says Paul, the Messiah that guides us all IF, we are open to the possibilities that not everything will be comfortable in this life. What are the oppressive pharaohs we have created for ourselves, the idolatry of gain or limit that we use to stunt our own spiritual growth? The key is: God through Christ is always present to help if we choose to seek him.
      Jesus says that just because some Galileans suffered doesn't mean they were worse people than others and reminds the listeners ~ and us ~ to repent, to turn to God. Will we be spared hardship and suffering in this life? No, but intentional contrition and penitence, consciously walking towards God in what we say and do is what we are called to in this human existence. Even when we slip off the track, there is limitless forgiveness and patience in Christ once we awaken to and acknowledge our turn off the right path and then return to it.
     The owner of the vineyard reprieves the fig tree and the gardener will work hard to save it from destruction. The tree will have to respond to the nutrients, the food and drink in order to be saved. Christ is our persistent gardener, always tilling and toiling to give us endless possibilities for eternal life. How will I respond? What am I willing to nurture and prune in my life to give my mind and heart to Christ? I have all the spiritual food and drink that I need.


Leader:  ~ O God, our God, our souls were seeded with Your gift of Free Will before our birth, and Christ provided us with the spiritual food and drink to bring us to full flower. Fill us with the saving joy of ongoing repentance, making choices to prune our unhealthy branches, so as to bear the ripe fruit of Your love.

                                         O Lord of Loving-Kindness  
  RESPONSE:            Our Constant, Eternal Helper

~ O God, our God, root us so deeply in Your Holy Ground that we may not add to or be consumed by the violence and hatred of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and anything more that damages any of Your children. We pray for all who govern in this World, in this Nation, and in this Community to lead us out of inhumanity and injustice, especially: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord of Loving-Kindness
                                                    Our Constant, Eternal Helper  

~ O God, our God, nurture the hope of all who suffer with chronic pain, debilitating anxiety, or a frightening diagnosis, and revive the spirits of their caregivers. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need…  add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord of Loving-Kindness
                                                       Our Constant, Eternal Helper

~ O God, our God, gather the grieving under the shadow of Your wings, as our faithful departed live again with contented souls, joy on their lips, and life everlasting in You. We pray especially for:  add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord of Loving-Kindness
                                                       Our Constant, Eternal Helper

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

                                                       O Lord of Loving-Kindness
                                                       Our Constant, Eternal Helper           

~ O God, our God, we give You thanks for all those anointed as the gardeners of our spiritual formation. Grant them the tools to cultivate our hunger and thirst to reach for and cling to You, allowing Your work within us to sprout and thrive. We pray especially for:  add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord of Loving-Kindness
                                                      Our Constant, Eternal Helper  

The Celebrant adds: Lord God of the Past, the Present, and Forever, release us from the idolatry of the oppressive pharaohs we create for ourselves, that turn our souls away from Your constant Presence. Renew our eagerness to seek and follow Your instructions, that we may flourish in Your faithfulness as Your right hand always holds us fast. We ask through Jesus, the Rock of our Salvation; and the Holy Spirit, the Blazing Flame of our Faith; who together with You are One God, now and forever. Amen.


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