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The Call to Worship
At God’s table of justice, everyone has a place and none are turned away.
All: Here strangers are welcomed as friends, the poor sit alongside the rich, and the upside-down kin-dom of God is revealed.
At God’s table of abundance, a banquet of righteousness and liberation is set for all.
All: Here the powerless are heard; the outcast are showered with honor, and the inside-out kin-dom of God is revealed.
At God’s table of life, all peoples know peace and creation flourishes.
All: Here the hopeless are nourished with possibility, the complacent are transformed into advocates for change. Here in our very midst the kin-dom of God is revealed.
(by the Rev. Leslie Penrose on UCC.org)
Oh Almighty and Everlasting God.
Creator of Heaven, Earth, and the Universe:
Help me to be, to think, to act what is right,
because it is right;
Make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things;
Make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor
and without thought of reward to me.
Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellows –
help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings –
even as You understand my own!
(Anonymous prayer used by US President Harry Truman for most of his life.)
The Wisdom of Eusebius
“May I be no one’s enemy and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.
May I wish for every person’s happiness and envy none.
May I never rejoice in the ill fortune of one who has wronged me.
May I, to the extent of my power, give needful help to all who are in want.
May I never fail a friend.
May I respect myself.
May I always keep tame that which rages within me.
May I accustom myself to be gentle and never be angry with others because of circumstances.
May I know good people and follow in their footsteps."
Romans 12.9-16, 21
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, [be of service]. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
When I was a child I used to listen to my Dad preach 3 times a week unless we had a revival which meant that I would hear as many as 8 sermons a week! I remember hearing a lot of sermons that seemed to say to me that my duty as a Christian was to try to be like Jesus… but understand that even my best efforts would yield only pitiful results.
Our first and second readings today seem to me to be examples of an impossible dream. While they give us a wonderful pattern to emulate I certainly am not able to accomplish all of these things even on my best day and lord knows not on my worst day. But I don’t hear them as an indictment of my unworthiness or character anymore. I can come to terms with my own personal inventory without beating myself up. I can use the exercise of reviewing myself in relation to these two readings as a way to improve myself rather than a tool to demean myself. The choice is mine.
But our gospel lesson can be a bit confusing on this topic. The words of Jesus are recorded and translated this way, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves… 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” It’s easy to look at these words and conclude that “we’re not worthy” and that the only thing that can save ourselves is to, perhaps literally, die for Jesus’ sake. But does this really mean that we should become a doormat for anyone who wants to put us down? Does it mean that if we attain any degree of respect and success that we are doomed?
As is often the case, the words attributed to Jesus are contextual. Matthew chapter 16 has a LOT going on. In our lesson from last week Jesus praises Peter and says he will build his church upon the “rock” that is Peter. And then one paragraph later Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” when Peter insists that Jesus cannot risk everything to accomplish his call.
Then comes our gospel reading from this week. Jesus is saying to his friends, “Sometimes we may have to do dangerous things. Speaking truth to power can be risky business. Jesus tells his disciples, as the Jewish Annotated New Testament describes it, “holding tightly to something in fact risks losing it; letting go in the right cause preserves it.”
I believe what Jesus is trying to tell us that if we feed out own egos we are doomed to lose ourselves. And if we set aside our need for self aggrandizement we have a real potential for doing good and living into our call to make the world a better place.
Sometimes that means blessing someone instead of cursing them. Sometimes is means letting go of righteous anger. And it means letting go of judging and feeling superior to others because that puts us out of the flow of God’s justice and equality. We are called to cultivate a spirit of love and a practice of compassion.
From our readings this week I made a paraphrase for myself that I invite you to join me in saying aloud each day. It is a set of affirmations to which I am calling myself, knowing that I may fall short and yet not hesitating to expect the best of myself. Please join me now in saying it together:
Today I will strive to show my love to those around me.
I will do my best to let go of negativity.
I will show respect to everyone I meet, particularly those who do not show me respect.
I will be upbeat and work hard at my daily tasks.
I will cling to hope and be patient when things are not going my way.
Today I will pray.
I will do my best to extend hospitality to everyone I meet both those I know and those I don’t know.
I will bless those who are not nice to me and not degrade them even in my mind.
I will meet people where they are without expectation.
I will do my very best to be in harmony with everyone.
I do not need to try to appear to know everything about everything
I will, in all cases, meet evil with good.
This group of affirmations has the potential to center us in what is really important in life and keep us focused on living in the light of God’s goodness rather than becoming egotistical or running ourselves down. I ask you to join me in this spiritual practice. I will pray for you and I ask your prayers for me as we, together, try to live into out calling to bring about God’s realm of justice love in the world.