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, January 9, 2023

Prayers of the People: Our Light to the Nations ~ 2nd Sunday after Epiphany/Martin Luther King, Jr. '23 Yr A

For Sunday, January 15, 2023, Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42 
(see excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. below*)

   The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. [Isaiah 49:1b]

    He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. [Psalm 40:3a] 

    ...just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you -- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift...He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 1:6-7a, 8]

    "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"...The two disciples heard [John] say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following he said to them, "What are you looking for?" [John 1:29b, 37-38a]

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’…
 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr]

        Fresh from his Baptism, Jesus is identified as the Lamb of God by John the Baptizer to two of John’s own disciples who then become followers of Jesus. Jesus asks them, What are you looking for? They, calling him Rabbi, ask where he is staying. Jesus answers, come and see and they spend the day listening to him. Later, Andrew, one of those men, tells his brother, We have found the Messiah. He takes his brother Simon to meet Jesus, who knows him immediately and tells him he’ll now be known as Peter.  
     We know that Peter, along with his brother Andrew, and the others who joined them, often struggled with the message of Jesus, yet even in the face of enormous obstacles, defeats, trials, and tribulations, carried on and carried the message forward. It’s easy to think the original disciples, chosen in person by Jesus, were holy and able to move through life with absolute certainty of their mission. But they, as all we humans, including Dr. King, had doubts, human imperfections, moments of uncertainty ~ and fear. A huge obstacle to living faithfully in today’s world is that there is simply TOO MUCH everything to get in the way of attending to our faith and faith development. Two thousand+ year old events don't always have much of an impact on my everyday thoughts and actions, yet the question, What are you looking for, caught my attention. Now at the beginning of a new year, in a volatile national and worldwide political and economic climate, we prepare to celebrate ~ some more than others ~ the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in that regard, to the question from Jesus, I would add, What is your dream? ~ not for the personal and material things you want or hope for, but rather for humanity itself.
     While the significance of the impact of Dr. King's work and words is undisputed, the echoes of his voice are slowly fading as we are nearly 55 years since his death. Various groups were not, and still are not, fans of this particular recognition, yet it holds.  Racism, as all people of color know, continues with a vengeance along with other hate-filled discriminations of religious beliefs, gender, sexuality, ethnic, and even physical and mental disabilities. As with Christmas and Easter, we are more likely to pay attention to a date on a calendar to be reawakened, to listen again and hear anew, to stop and consider again, and then take a step forward. This date is no exception. In many places, this "holiday" is advertised as a day of community service with opportunities to give of oneself in a Day On rather than merely a day off.
      In times such as these when certainty is upended and the status quo is now status unknown, it is as critical as ever that we carry Christ's and Dr. King's messages forward to uphold people of all colors, creeds, national origin, sexual orientation, and for any reason that any one is targeted for oppression, brutality, bullying, and discrimination. We are all equal in the Eyes and Heart of God. And, as Dr. King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Mark [12:29-31], "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."  No good action is ever wasted, and with consciousness and intent, good actions of heart, mind, and soul can become as routine as checking for "likes" on Facebook throughout the day and night. As Dr. King has said, Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
       What is your dream for this still New Year – will you shy away from whatever discomforting challenges may be ahead, or look more deeply for ways to learn more about how to be and live in faith? How can we shine in and radiate Christ’s light? How can we muster up the love to neutralize the hate we all encounter? Maybe, if we can step up and step out in uncertainty, we will discover that what we are actually looking for is the place within ourselves where Jesus is staying and loves us as we are. Come and see, and spend some time listening to Him. And spend some time with Martin, too.

See below prayers for an excerpt and click here for a short video of the I Have A Dream speech excerpt - Martin Luther King, Jr 1963

An Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a Dream speech, August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Leader:  ~ O Lord our God, in Your compassion, love, and faithfulness, teach us the way of patience and trust. Keep us mindful of the spiritual gifts we each have within us by Your grace, that we may come, see, and radiate the light of Christ to all we meet.
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
          RESPONSE:                  Our Love and Light to the Nations
~ O Lord our God, in these uncertain times, renew our willingness to continually exhort the ruling authorities on this Earth, in our Country, and in our Community, to ensure the dignity and well-being of every person on this planet. Fill us with the courage to work, as Your Servant Martin before us, to reveal and reverse false strength and corrupt power spent for vanity only. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Love and Light to the Nations
~ O Lord our God, give comfort and healing to all who are sick, troubled, or weary of this life, and to those who care for and about them. We now join our hearts to pray for those in need… add your own petitions 
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Love and Light to the Nations
~ O Lord our God, soothe sorrowful hearts with the knowing that You enfold our loved ones in the grace, glory, and joy of new life forever. We pray especially for… add your own petitions
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Love and Light to the Nations
~ O Lord 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
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Love and Light to the Nations
~ O Lord our God, hold fast in Your embrace all who lead us in Your Church as they guide and walk with us in Word, Sacrament, and Faith, away from false gods and always to You. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
                                                       Jesus, Lamb of God
                                                       Our Love and Light to the Nations
The Celebrant adds: 
God Almighty and Everlasting, You called us before we were born and named us in our mother’s womb. Keep us seeking and finding the Love that drives out hate and the Light that drives out the darkness in ourselves and in each other. We ask through the grace of our Light ~ Jesus, our Rabbi and our Christ; and our spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit, who together with You, live and reign, One God, today, always, forever. Amen.


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