Sacred Space Prayer Group, 2nd Sunday of month at 9:00 am at the church
Worship materials for March 29
Learning as we go!
This week I am trying a “worship bulletin” form so that you can follow in a manner closer to that which we follow on Sunday morning. YouTube provides a wonderful resource for hymns and I am including my recommendation for a version that is inspirational for me.
O God in whom we live and move and have our being, bless us one and all as we wait on you this day. Please remove from our minds and hearts whatever impediments hinder worship or dampen our joy. Though we may be apart from one another maintaining a safe physical distance, increase within us that holy longing for closeness which can open our lives to fuller delight and to a deeper commitment. May our hymns and prayers, our searching thoughts and our reading of the Scriptures, be an exercise that deepens and strengthens our faith. In the name of Christ Jesus. Amen!
Hymn There is a Balm in Gilead - Youtube – Paul Robeson
Prayer of Confession Create in me a Clean Heart, O God - You tube – Central Methodist chancel Choir
Assurance of Pardon The giver of every good and perfect gift hears our prayers and offers to us another gift: the gift of forgiveness. My brothers and sisters in Christ, you are forgiven! God has heard your cry. Walk in the newness of life available through Christ. Psalm 130
1-2Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.
3-4If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.
5-6I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.
7-8O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
buy back Israel from captivity to sin.
Hymn Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen You Tube – Mahalia Jackson
Sermon Songs for Our Lenten Journey – IV
In today's psalm reading, the psalmist is crying to the Lord and hoping that the Lord will hear him. I am sure that God hears us even when we cannot gather in the church for worship. I am finding it interesting to experience how well we can hear one another when we are following our six-foot social distancing guideline. It is not easy for many of my neighbors. I was going to pick up our mail when I passed a person sitting in a chair at the end of the hallway. I asked her if she was the “hall monitor”. She responded - “No, there’s no harmonica.”
We find ourselves standing appropriately far apart and trying to speak loudly enough to be heard.
In any case, shouting, even when shouting into grandma's ear, is not a pleasant thing to do. Yet in today's psalm, we learn that this is precisely what the psalmist believes he has been doing. "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!" The Bible tells us that God has no trouble hearing us at any distance, even when we're not shouting. God hears even our inaudible pleas. God is always within earshot, and there's no place we can be where God cannot hear us. Probably that doesn't come as any surprise to you. After all, what does it mean to be God if God can't hear us? God's ability to hear us is included in the very definition of God. What we might find ourselves questioning, however, is whether God chooses to employ the ability to hear us and whether God actually listens when we pray. An old "Frank & Ernest" cartoon strip shows both characters standing beside a public telephone, and one is saying to the other, "Now I am worried ... I just called Dial-a-Prayer and got a discontinued number." Perhaps we sometimes feel like that. The Bible tells us, however, that God hears us when we pray. The Bible says for example, "And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). And Jesus said, "Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive" (Matthew 21:22). And Peter, quoting Psalm 34, declared, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (1 Peter 3:12). And there are many other verses affirming the truth that God is within audible and even inaudible range. When the psalmist cries "out of the depths," he is counting on God hearing. The underlying Hebrew word for "depths" indicates distress and chaotic forces that confront us with destruction, so the psalmist's use of that word represents the conviction that God is within crying-out distance.
We find ourselves feeling that we are in the midst of chaos and distress.
Writing about all of this, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says, "That Israel, as the lesser party in the covenant can address YHWH [God], the great sovereign, and can 'command' YHWH's attention is a wonder of biblical faith." That wonder remains today for us who are inheritors of the biblical faith. That is not to say God is sitting on the sidelines like an eager puppy hoping we will call him. We should take note of Isaiah's instruction: "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near" (55:6). The expressions, "while he may be found" and "while he is near," raise the question about whether God is nearer at some times than at others, or perhaps only listening for us at certain times. The overall testimony of Scripture is that God is never far from any one of us. At the same time, however, God is not a slave of humankind, available to come running at our beck and call. The prophet surely meant "God is listening right now, so right now is the time to call him." The Bible tells us that a genuine conversation between God and humanity occurs, out of which God gives shape to the future. So use right now to speak to God. And be prepared to hear back ... and to obey.... .remembering that God frequently speaks to us the voices of leaders and experts who provide us caring and compassionate words for our health and safety.
Perhaps a “movie with a message” for this week could be Bruce Almighty. God hearing us was dramatized in the 2003 film comedy Bruce Almighty, in which God is portrayed by Morgan Freeman. Jim Carrey plays the other main character, Bruce Nolan, a television field reporter in Buffalo, New York, who wants to be the anchorman. But when he is passed over for promotion and some other things go wrong and he is then fired, Bruce takes out his frustration by claiming that God is "the one who should be fired." In response, God calls Bruce to a meeting, where God offers Bruce the divine powers. Bruce is initially jubilant, using these powers for personal gain and pleasure. But eventually, Bruce begins to hear voices in his head, and it's quite a cacophony. He again meets with God, who confronts Bruce about his selfish use of his powers and explains that the voices are prayers to God, and that Bruce must deal with them. Bruce finds that the influx is far too great for him to handle -- even though God had stated that he is only receiving prayers from the Buffalo area. So Bruce creates a computerized system to receive the prayers and sets the program to automatically answer yes to every petition. Bruce soon sees, however, that automatically granting everyone's prayer requests has plunged the city into chaos. So Bruce tries answering prayers manually as best he can. Of course, he can't handle that either, and he eventually asks God to take back his powers. The movie ends on a high note, but along the way, we get at least a celluloid confirmation that God hears us. It's hard to be God -- unless you're God.
The confidence and expectation that God hears is often found in liturgical "Words of Assurance," that we share each week after our prayer of confession. There's an old Peanuts cartoon that has Charlie Brown sitting at Lucy's psychiatric booth (the one with the banner, "Psychiatric Help, 5 cents"). After Lucy dispenses one of her typically twisted diagnoses, Charlie Brown's left sitting there, head in his hands. With a forlorn look on his face, he looks up and implores the skies, "Where do I go to give up?" "Where do I go to give up?" Perhaps it's a question we've asked of the cosmos, at some low point in our lives. We've done everything we could and tried everything we could imagine, but nothing works. Nothing seems to help. When we're at the end of our rope, we may not even be certain -- truth be told -- that God's out there. And so we cry out: "Where do I go to give up?" It's much the same question the writer of Psalm 130 is asking: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Joys and Concerns
Holy God, we come before you, sovereign ruler of the universe, lord of time and space, redeemer of creation, judge of every human heart, to offer what you alone deserve -- our worship, our praise, our devotion. We are awed by your power, humbled by your presence, freed by your mercy, and changed by your love. As your children, created in your image and called to be your own, we receive the gift of your grace with grateful hearts, knowing that it is a gift we are to share with the world. We pray for those whose burdens this day are heavy, who carry physical, mental and emotional cares that weigh them down. We pray for those who will lie down tonight hungry, sick or displaced. We pray for those who are grieving, alienated or despairing; for those who are victims of hatred, neglect or violence. May what we have received from you -- forgiveness for our failures, love when we have been unlovely, comfort in our distress -- compel us to embrace our neighbors near and far for the sake of Jesus Christ, our friend, shepherd and Lord. Amen.
Hymn O Love that Will Not Let Me Go You Tube – Fountain View Acadamy
So may the blessing of the God who calls the people out of Egypt call us out from our comfort and our safety to embrace a journey of challenge and risk.
May the blessing of the Son who kneels and washes our feet call us out from our comfort and our safety to embrace and serve those we meet on the journey.
May the blessing of the Spirit who weaves dreams of a new community call us out from our comfort and our safety to provide welcome and hospitality to strangers as well as friends.
—Rev. Dr. Clare McBeath and Rev. Tim Presswood. Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website, churchofscotland.org.uk.