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Blessed be your name, God of Life:
you have made this world and placed us in it.
We live and love and work and play in your good creation.

Blessed by your name, God of Hope:
when we destroy your good creation,
you move to rescue and redeem it,
surprising us with newness we did not expect.

Blessed be your name, God of Love:
you invite us into the life of your Son, Jesus,
to dance to the rhythms of your grace.

Wake us up to your presence, O God,
alive
active
powerfully creative
giving life that is stronger than death.

Give us eyes to see your reconciling work
and ears to hear your invitation to join in it
and hearts that turn away from the ways that do not give life.

Nudge us toward your holy mystery
and give us courage to trust your risky Way.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus
your Word made flesh
dwelling among us full of grace and truth;
and through the power of your Holy Spirit,
blowing where it will
with the energies of the age to come. Amen.

In our tradition, when we baptize someone, the congregation promises to nurture that person in the Christian faith. However, when the person being baptized is an infant or small child, and the parents seldom bring that child to worship after the baptism Sunday, congregations can struggle with how to fulfill that promise.

I read the other day (I hadn’t marked down the source) about an African-American congregation that held a family-night event with the focus on “Stories In and Through Hard Times”. Participants were invited to recall proverbs, sayings, or songs that hey had heard while they were growing up. They were then to share a story of how that wisdom had helped them through hard times.

Some of the proverbs shared were, “God didn’t bring us this far to leave us,” and “Hold on to God’s unchanging hand”, and “Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy comes in the

The children and youth were then invited to ask questions of the adults and to add their own stories.

I am thinking that this might be a way for congregations to live into the promise they made at baptism. In the “Children’s Time” spot in worship (or before or after a psalm that prays to God about trouble), the people in the congregation could be invited to share a proverb or phrase from a favourite hymn that has helped them hold on in difficult times. If they were comfortable doing so, they could tell the story of the experience in which that proverb or hymn was helpful. If the musician(s) were comfortable with playing hymns without much notice, the congregation could also sing the hymn. The children could be invited to ask questions.

And then, what about creating a “wall of hope” on which was written the proverbs or phrase from the hymns that people shared. The wall of hope would grow over time as the proverbs/phrases were shared.

 

 

A prayer based on Matthew 4: 12 -23

Call to Confession

We come into God’s presence with nothing but ourselves
and our attempts to follow Jesus in imperfect ways.
That is enough, because it is by God’s grace that we are saved, not by our own works.
God takes what we offer
and fills our emptiness with his redeeming power.
Let us open our lives to God’s good and holy work.

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

God of the Truth that sets us free,
God of hope that lifts us up,
God of the Life that sends us out,
you have set us in the midst of this community
to be a sign of your love
to witness to your truth
to offer a foretaste of your new creation.

We are unsure what it would take
to offer that love to the people we do not know,
to speak your truth in the midst of lies and hate,
to be the radical community of faith you need us to be.

You know us
through and through.
Yet, still, you choose us
to be ambassadors of Jesus’ Way
here and now
among the people
we meet day by day.

So, we ask you to send your Spirit among us;
clear our minds to hear your Word to us;
enlarge our vision to see where you
are already present and working;
overcome our fears
so that we do and say
what you need us to do and say
to draw other people into your
impossibly wondrous love and grace.

We ask in Jesus’ name
who summons us to leave what we know
and follow him on his Way.  Amen.

Assurance of God’s Grace

In your baptism,
God names you “a chosen race”,
“a royal priesthood”,
“God’s own people”,
“a colony of heaven”.
Be assured that God
gives you all you need
to be what God has made you.
Open yourself to the Holy Spirit
and let God guide you
each day as you seek to
follow in Jesus’ Way.

The peace of Christ be with you.

.

God of hope,
you promise peace and joy and unfailing love.

We wait for you, Lord,
our souls wait
with deep yearning
for you to act
to bring hope to lives
that are caught in despair,
to make peace in cities
wounded by so much violence,
to move us toward joy and love.

You are more patient with us
than we are with you, Lord.
You work in our hearts
and our minds
and our spirits,
changing us in deep places
so we become the place
where your hope and peace and joy and love
can come to birth.

Give us grace
to slow down enough
to pay attention
to the work you are doing in us
and among us.

Give us grace
to face the hard truths
that make a way
for your transforming power
and healing presence.

Give us grace
to yield to you.

We pray in the name of Jesus
who has set us on this Way of Life.

Amen.

 

Praise to you, Lord of heaven and earth.
You dwell in all glory and light,
in splendour and power.

Yet, you let go of all that
to dwell among us in Jesus.
You shine the light of your presence
into the darkest corners of our world.
You invite us to enter
a life of faith,
peace,
goodness,
beauty.

We hear the invitation;
we long for the life you offer.
Yet, tender and compassionate God,
you know who we are and what we are.
You know the decisions we have made
that have led us where we did not intend to go.
You know the moments we have seen your will clearly and done it
but you also know the moments we have struggled to see at all.
You know the good we have done
and the good we have failed to do
and the good we long to do.

In the light of your truthful knowing,
we acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves.

Wrap all that we are
and all that we long to be
in your great mercy.
Renew in us the image of your Son, Jesus,
and grant us grace to follow him.
Keep us close to you,
that we may do the work you have created us to do
and be the people you need us to be.

We ask in the name of Jesus,
who knows what we are
yet still has claimed us as his own.

Faith enough

A reflection on Luke 17: 1-10 and 2 Timothy 1: 1-14

When the apostle Paul wrote to the young recruit, Timothy, he said, “Join me in suffering for the gospel . . . we’ll only be able to keep going by relying on the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work.”

You’ve got to wonder: is that any way to grow the church? Is that any way to inspire young people to sign on? “Come and join me in suffering for the gospel.” Yet, it speaks to the deep longing to give our lives to something that matters.

God is alive and active in the world, transforming it by healing brokenness, confronting evil, creating communities where love and forgiveness shape who they are. Given the nature of the work, there will be resistance, confrontations, rejection, suffering.

When the disciples caught a glimpse of what Jesus was asking of them, they realized that they were out of their depth. Overwhelmed, they cried out, “Increase our faith!” Jesus says, “It’s now about how much faith you have. If you have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, you would be able to say to this mulberry tree,’Go jump in the lake’ and it would do it.”

How many mulberry trees have you transplanted lately? We can’t even convince our children to join us in worship on Sunday morning! All it would take is faith the size of a mustard seed?

We have our doubts; we feel inadequate; our failures loom large in front of us. Somewhere in his writings, Eugene Peterson says that the predominant characteristic of people in churches these days is feeling inadequate. Each of us looks around the sanctuary, sees the other people sitting there and is convinced that everybody else is more sure about their faith than we are. They are more confident; more committed; more settled.

Yet, our doubts, our feelings of inadequacy, our failures don’t seem to disqualify us in Jesus’ eyes. He recruits us for his mission anyway. “Just do it,” he says, long before the Nike shoe company adopted the slogan. “Just do it, the way servants just do the jobs they are given to do. Do what God gives you to do. Go into your workplace and speak the truth and act with integrity. Refuse to participate in the gossip. Create a home for your family. Pray for someone you care about and then pray for your enemies. Do your ordinary, everyday tasks and offer them up to God.”

Faith is not the opposite of doubt. It is not as if you have to have all your questions answered, all your uncertainties settled and then you can say, “Okay, now I have faith.” Faith is about venturing forward into God’s project, God’s transforming work, bringing your doubts and your feelings of inadequacy with you, and then seeing what God will make of what you offer.

It is not an easy time to be a disciple of Jesus. The truth is that nobody has enough faith for the challenges that face us. If you are not failing at least some of the time, if you are not being driven to your knees by the challenges you face, if you are not crying out, ‘Lord, increase my faith’, then you have probably settled for too little.

We serve a living God who is intent on nothing less than the transformation of the world. God is healing our brokenness. God is making a new creation where the lost and the lonely are fathered into a feast of love and a banquet of joy. Jesus invites you to join up, doubts, failures, inadequacies, uncertainties and all. He takes what you offer to him; blesses you; breaks your life open; pours his life into your life and offers you to the world. By the power of God’s grace, you become channels of Christ’s grace, instruments of the Holy Spirit’s peace, signs of hope for the neighbourhood and the world. Apparently you don’t need a lot of faith for that to happen. You just have to be willing to do what God asks you to do. The rest depends on the goodness and grace and mercy of God. Thanks be to God.

 

God our Saviour,
in Jesus Christ you draw near to us,
entering this world where so much
does not turn out the way we expect or desire.
In Jesus, you embrace our pain;
you do not forsake us in our need:
you touch our cares and sorrow with your grace.
You make even hurt and suffering channels of your healing power.

So often we are not aware of your redeeming presence;
so often you call us to trust that you are at work
beyond what we perceive;
to live by faith rather than by sight.

And so, in faith,
trusting in your promises,
we give you thanks.

O wounded Saviour,
O resurrected Lord,
take the prayers we offer
and gather them into your suffering.
Heal us in our woundedness
and show us how to bear our afflictions
in such a way that people around us are given hope
and courage
and peace.

 

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