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 4, 2024

Prayers of the People: Grace-Full Antidote ~ 4th Sunday in Lent '24 Yr B

For Sunday, March 10, 2024, Readings: Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

The Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea...but the people became impatient...[and] spoke against God and against Moses...Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents...many Israelites died...So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live." [Numbers 21:4-5a, 6, 7b-8]

   Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever...Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. [Psalm 107:1, 19]

   But God, who is rich in mercy...made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:4a,b; 8-9]

      Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life...the light has come into the world...those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." [John 3:14, 19a, 21]

    Even God gets tired of grumbling. After all the grand displays of glory ~ pillars of cloud and fire, parting of seas, manna (what no salt and pepper?), and more ~ the grumbling Israelites still had no confidence in the eventuality of God's deliverance. So, God sends poisonous snakes that kill, and suddenly chastened, the people begged Moses to pray and intervene for them, and he did. God delivered ~ not an end to the dangers, but relief.
    Moses, on God's orders, made a bronze snake to hang on a pole. All the Israelites had to do was look at the snake on the pole when bitten and they lived. God is not predictable, but as the Psalmist tells us God’s mercy endures forever. And, Paul tells us we are saved by God's grace.
    We ALL have God's grace. We don't have to work for it ~ no one does ~ it comes to us by faith however strong or wavering or by hope. Yet how have we harnessed it, especially after we have been bitten by the snakes of our own behavior, or by that of someone else's?
    Have you ever thought or said that old expression: There but for the grace of God go I? It is mostly well-intended, and at once unintentionally thought-less and even care-less. It's an instant reaction to reduce our own fear and to comfort ourselves against the dangers of life as in: “Whew! Dodged that! There's that poor guy who was run over in the same intersection I just crossed, and there but for…" Even well-meaning, the unconscious thought is: "I have more grace than that guy."
    As we are deep in this Lenten season, let us work to be more conscious, more aware of even our most random reactions and instant thoughts. God is "rich in mercy" and loves and understands each of us as only our Creator could; certainly better than we understand ourselves or each other. Our lives are filled with danger, there are all sorts and conditions of "snakes" that bite us, many of which we invite into our own space by striving for ever-more earthly material.
     The poison of chasing earthly stuff, judging and blaming others for their gender and gender choices, color, language, national origin, choice of religious expression or lack of, sexual orientation, and anything that makes one feel superior to another can be quite tempting as well as lethal to our souls. God doesn't promise our earthly life will be easy or safe and John 3:16 isn't magic or just for signs at football games. It is for us to know, deep down, in every day of this life, so that everyone who believes in Christ may not perish but may have eternal life.      
    We are to be steadfast and faith-filled in the knowledge of the Light of Christ within us. Our conscious acts are clearly to be of and for God. As the Israelites were directed to look up to the pole, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man is also to be lifted up. We are called to look to Christ, the Cross, and the Resurrection in faith, for our salvation, before we are bitten by the snakes of sin, as well as after. With meaningful prayer and practice over time, even our unconscious thoughts and actions may be less poisonous to ourselves and others. And, maybe, we could even stop grumbling quite so much. Meanwhile, let us strive to grow in faith, to accept and feel the infusion of the ever-flowing Grace-Full Antidote within us to repel the darkness of sin.

T'was Grace that taught
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
the hour I first believed. 
Through many dangers, toils and snares
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far
and Grace will lead us home


Leader: ~ O God of Enduring Mercy, awaken us to the snakes we invite into the wilderness of our own making by impatient striving for mere earthly advantage. Open the eyes of our souls to the light of Christ that stems the poison of sin and lifts our desire for eternal salvation.

                                                      Lord of Eternal Wonder
RESPONSE:               In faith we accept Your grace 

~ O God of Enduring Mercy, amplify our voices to all who hold power on this Planet, in this Nation, and in this Community, as we combat and clamor against ordinary and catastrophic injustice toward all who are endangered In the darkness of deliberate human trespass. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Eternal Wonder
                                                       In faith we accept Your grace

~ O God of Enduring Mercy, deliver from their distress all who are suffering through life-threatening illness, addiction, or homelessness, and give rest to all who provide support. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need…

                                                      Lord of Eternal Wonder
                                                      In faith we accept Your grace

~ O God of Enduring Mercy, we shout for joy in thanksgiving for all who are now made alive again and gathered forever into the immeasurable riches of Your unending love. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Eternal Wonder
                                                       In faith we accept Your grace

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

                                                       Lord of Eternal Wonder
                                                       In faith we accept Your grace               

~ O God of Enduring Mercy, guide the souls, the minds, and the hearts of all who bring us together into our Living Christ through their service of Pastoring, Preaching, and Prayer. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Lord of Eternal Wonder
                                                       In faith we accept Your grace

The Celebrant adds: Good and Redeeming Lord, invigorate our faith and inspire us in our repentance to acknowledge and accept Your free gift of Grace, that our souls may not perish in sin, but thrive in Your eternal life. We ask through Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ; and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit; Who live and reign with You as One God, now, in the ages to come, and forever. Amen.

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