This is the first time I’ve posted my intercessions for worship. It occurred to me that I ought to share them, and capture my thoughts and inspirations.
This week, the lectionary carries a strong message of God’s abundance in the wilderness. I’m just as bad as anyone else for forgetting, and seeing everything through the eyes of scarcity. We keep falling into the stinking thinking that we don’t have enough – that we need more and more. How can we survive this never-ending stress that can’t ever be satisfied? And if we can’t stop thinking about what we don’t have, how can we remember what we do have? I lose before I ever start, forgetting that I never needed to run in the race at all!
This week’s Old Testament scripture is Isaiah 55:1-5:
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
I’ve been reading Journey to the Common Good by Walter Brueggemann, and remembered that he exposits Isaiah 55. The prophet is speaking to the displaced Jews that have become captive to Babylon. They’ve become poster kids for Stockhausen Syndrome. Pharoah is a slave to his fears of scarcity, desperate for more, and this trickles down to the captive Jews. They’ve forgotten that God is abundance in their wilderness, and they’ve bought into Pharoah’s illusion of scarcity and need. The prophet asks “Why?” Why buy into this misery, when there’s another way? Have we forgotten where we came from?
I thought about that as I wrote a prayer for our local community:
Abundant God, as we navigate our daily stress and the demands that fall upon us, speak to our hearts, and help us to ask ourselves why we struggle and toil. For You are abundance and generosity. Bless our eyes to see past scarcity, that we have enough – enough for ourselves, and enough to share with the world.
We then arrive at this week’s epistle, Romans 9:1-5. I was a little stumped on this one, but joy of joys, last week we read from Romans 8, with my favorite verse:
I cling to this verse every day, when I make a mess of things as I’m wont to do. These days we’re all pretty worried about the economy, and our elected representatives carrying on like a bunch of privileged 5 year-olds. All snark and no graciousness. I choose to not dwell on the question of what happens if the U. S. defaults, mainly because I don’t know much about economics. But, I don’t have to look far to find people obsessing over “what if?” It strikes me that we have leaders in desperate need of an attitude adjustment, and a reminder of what “the common good” is all about. And we can always use a bit of hope, because providence is unfolding in its mystery. As YHWH reminds Isaiah, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.”
I thought to ask God to grant us some manners and some perspective on the right now, in a prayer for the salvation of the world:
Lord of Wisdom, Paul tells us that all things work together for good for those who love God. Bless our leaders with humility and vision, to come together and make decisions for the common good of all people and societies. Grant safety to soldiers and relief workers throughout the world, in the face of adversity and danger, as they work to protect the ways of life that we hold dear.
And lastly comes this week’s gospel, Matthew 14:13-21. Jesus has just heard about John the Baptist’s head on a platter, and has withdrawn to a place by himself. Only, crowds follow on foot, and Jesus’ compassion takes over. He busies himself with healing their sick, and as evening draws near, the disciples want to send away the crowds to feed themselves. The story goes on with loaves and fishes and magic arithmetic:
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’
The first thing that popped into my mind was the disciples’ lack of self-confidence. Sure, the crowds need to eat. The discples think it would be impossible to serve everyone, so they want to send the crowds away to fend for themselves. I sense Jesus sounding exasperated here. “Out of ideas again? Whatever. Check this out, y’all.” And aren’t we always like the disciples? We just assume that we can only do what we’re told by our pastors or leaders, and we forget that we’re just as directly connected to God. We forget that we’re all peers in ministry.
And these days, denominational politics and strife are pretty distracting. We keep getting sucked into today’s crisis, and forget that the everlasting need of the world sits just outside the Big Red Door of our church. The world isn’t going anywhere, either. Jesus’ humanity makes him want to pull into himself. Which makes me think of the definition of sin as “curving inward.” But Jesus’ divinity pulls him back into the world to heal. And so I wrote a prayer for the Church of Christ:
God of Compassion, grant vision and hope to Your Church, to our preachers and teachers, to help us all see past the fog of our internal struggles and the crisis of the day, to reach out to the world with these bold words that we forgot were in us since our baptism, to tell of Your love, Your compassion, and Your grace, abundant and free for everyone.
And so I pray for you and for myself this week. Remember your baptism! You are marked with the cross of Christ. You are a blessing from God to the world. When you feel overwhelmed this week, and you know you will, I hope you can ask yourself “is that really so?” Don’t let your fears tell you otherwise.