*an opening prayer inspired by the story of David and his son, Absalom,
in 2 Samuel 13-18 and Ephesians 5:1-2*
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2, The Message
Praise to You O Suffering God.
You know the wounding of skin that was made to love,
the piercing of flesh with nail and thorn,
and the far greater rending of heart and of hope
By humbling yourself in human form,
You have seen us at our best –
and at our worst.
You understand that love can lead to light and life
as easily as it can to death and destruction;
that a word spoken in anger can be an instrument of justice
or a wrecking ball of devastation;
that one day our family is a sanctuary, a source of strength and support,
the next, the people who we have given the most power
to drive us crazy or do us harm.
As we gather, this day, in Your holy presence
– our whole being hoping for Your faithful love
and great redemption –
we pray that You will gather together
both our beauty and our brokenness,
with Your infinite tenderness …
Lord, You know everything
there is to know about us.
You perceive every movement;
You are present in every moment:
Your Divine DNA woven into us
within our mother’s womb
as You shaped the delicate inside
and the intricate outside
and knit them all together in marvellous complexity.
When we awaken each morning,
You are with us –
and within us.
You know every step we will take
before our journey even begins.
You’ve gone into our future to prepare the way
and, in kindness, You follow behind us
to spare us the pain of the past.
May Your hand of love be upon our lives
as we meet You now,
in the light of this day.
Imaged sourced at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/dna-tree-erzebet-s.html
O extraordinary God
who reaches into the ordinary moments
of our days and nights,
with such tender, transforming touch:
smoothing and shaping,
healing and breaking,
soothing and stretching,
warming and pruning,
I give You thanks and praise
for this changing season
which invites me to snuggle and settle
into Your unchanging love.
Forgive me for failing to see the signs of Your presence
in the rot of leaf litter and the chilling breeze.
Forgive me for my resistance to solitude and silence
and slowing down.
Forgive me for my
and relationships damaged by coldness.
As the heartbeat of the land slows down
and the darkness lengthens
and the harsh cold reminds me of my need
for shelter, and warmth, and light
may Your Spirit offer assurance
that beneath the surface the seeds of life are being tended,
that what is needed for future growth will burst forth
in the rampant joy of spring,
and that each season’s turning and re-turning
is just an ordinary part
of an extraordinary life with You.
God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing –
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
Amen. (So be it.)
*an opening prayer, responding to the harmony in Psalm 133*
Psalm 133 – The Passion Translation
A song to bring you higher, by King David
How truly wonderful and delightful
to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity!
It’s as precious as the sacred scented oil
flowing from the head of the high priest Aaron,
dripping down upon his beard and running all the way down
to the hem of his priestly robes.
This heavenly harmony can be compared to the dew
dripping down from the skies upon Mount Hermon,
refreshing the mountain slopes of Israel.
For from this realm of sweet harmony,
God will release his eternal blessing,
the promise of life forever!
Gracious Gathering God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
from the beginning, connected
and through the connection, creative
and in all creation, communing
with Your children –
fashioned in Your divine image,
woven together with Your own hands,
named “beloved” and called according to Your good purpose and plan,
how truly delightful it is
to enter this day into the sweet harmony
of Your salvation song:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
As we meet together in this moment and this place
with all our sisters and brothers across time and space,
may our togetherness be a source of blessing
and a sigh of our deep yearning
for the day when You will gather up all things
in heaven and on earth
into Your perfect peace,
forever and ever. Amen.
O True Light,
our Constant Companion,
we confess that we have not always paid attention to the signs of Your presence with us;
that, often, we have failed to grasp the immense gift of Your eternal love.
We spend our days scurrying after the insignificant and insubstantial –
worrying about how to get by,
how to compete
how to get ahead,
how to move on,
how to afford what we have,
how to get more,
how to find balance,
how to juggle it all
until we are burnt out, exhausted,
wondering where You are
and why You’ve lost track of us.
Great God who marches out an army of stars each night,
counts them off, and calls them by name,
forgive us for our foolishness
and set us in the firm foundation of Your faithfulness.
Remind us that You have not overlooked a single one of us,
nor a single moment of our circumstances.
As we wait upon You now, give us fresh strength
in Your presence
and through the power of Your love.
Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid him there.
Darkness has covered the land –
not just darkness in the sense of night
but the darkness of betrayal
the darkness of denial
the darkness of disbelief
the darkness of mockery
the darkness of abandonment
the darkness of human barbarity
the darkness of death.
You know the desolation of this moment:
you who have buried a loved one, a child;
you who have been beaten, ridiculed, bullied, abused;
you who have been surprised by a positive result on an HIV test when you have always been faithful;
you who have watched the tiny bag of possessions – all that you own – taken from you and burned to nothing;
you who have witnessed people run screaming for their lives as bullets riddle their bodies and bombs drop from the sky;
you who have sat in the isolation of a TB ward …
… you ….
As silence settles in the tomb
and darkness and desolation within our hearts
in anticipation of the morning
and in the assurance that we are not alone.
“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:11-12
*Tennebrae/Thursday in Holy Week: John 13:1-17,31b-35*
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Oh Lord who honoured the sacred tradition of Passover,
and, in your last days, planted seeds of an eternal legacy within your disciples,
~ searching hearts,
~ imparting truth ,
~ reframing customs,
the floor is hard beneath my knees,
cold, uncomfortable, discomfiting
but not quite as disconcerting
as the state of my brother’s feet:
the road weary-roughness sandpapers against my soft hands;
the jagged hangnail on his right big toe a pain to us both
as I look away embarrassed,
afraid to touch.
Why would you put me in this place,
in this lowly position?
What lesson on love can I learn from the dirt, the dust
that clings to him?
And how do you expect this moment of awkwardness
to enrich our fellowship?
Tonight, as I follow in your footsteps
through the Garden of Gethsemane
to the cross on Golgotha’s hill –
keep me uncomfortable …
… unsettled …
… disturbed …
… and deeply connected to those who make the journey with me.
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
Oh Lord who washed his disciples feet,
and, in your last days, reclined at the dinner table with followers and friends,
~ savouring the intimacy,
~ seeing into minds and hearts,
~ wrestling with what lay ahead,
what do you see
as you look at me
beneath my masks,
my airs and graces –
a trusted friend
who drinks with you from a common cup?
a broken follower
sustained by your words, your grace, your love?
a faithful servant,
humble and willing to lay down my life for you?
a conflicted companion
with unspoken needs and expectations?
a cowardly deserter
who would abandon you at the first sign of trouble?
a two-faced turncoat
who would sell you out for my own gain?
Today, as I wrestle with my shadow self,
may I encounter the deep love
of a Savior, a Teacher, a Friend
who sees into the heart of me
and still extends a hand:
“This is my body,
broken for you.”