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Sunday Prayer: 1 Peter 1-2

God, make us living stones built upon your rock. Enable us to live as your exiles, resident aliens in a foreign land. All of us belonging to you. No one missing. No one forgotten. Knowing you have your eye on us. Knowing that you are good. In but not of our culture and our times. Ready to call out all that does not serve you and your kin-dom of love.

Even as we are sad and tired and ready to quit, birth new life within us. Show us your future. Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, even as we live lives of challenge and frustration. Use such times to make our faith more genuine, our love more pure.

Show us where we can take meaningful action, rolling up our sleeves and getting our head in the game. Embolden us to act in the love and mercy you give. Keep us from lassitude, from hopelessness, from cynicism. Shape our lives by your life. Energize us that we may blaze with the holiness that comes from being your children.

We call to you for help. We call on you to guide us and to hold us responsible. We call on you to take over as the first-and-foremost loyalty in our lives, the one that engenders, informs, inspirits—who makes possible—acting as people of God in a foreign land.

Empower us to follow the truth. Enable us to love one another with your love. Make our hearts and our houses clean, free of envy and hatred, of pretending and using words to hurt. Feed us on your Word, your love, your life, your Spirit. Build us into your house, your temple, your people, that those who see us may see you.

Amen.

When there are no words, I rely on the Word. This prayer is based on 1 Peter 1-2 from the Message.

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Sunday Prayer – White Woman Worship/er

Pastor Barb looking out over an unknown body of water (Atlantic Ocean from Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk?) on an unknown date (last year, maybe?)

Dear God,

I confess that I am–I know this is surprising to you–still white. Okay, I confess that, having created me, you knew this long before I did.

I confess that I spent years emphasizing my experience as a woman, a recipient of discrimination and dismissal. I confess I was 40 before I got it that I am white. I confess most of my categories land me in the privileged category. Born in the US. White. CIS.* Home-owner. Car-owner. Native English speaker. Product of a two-parent family. Middle class. Educated. Healthy.

I confess these privileged characteristics maks me part of the system–and a recipient–of goodies and grace. I confess these privileged characteristics make me part of the system that dishes out discrimination and dismissal to people who are not these things. I confess that, more than 20 years later, I still don’t know how to divest myself from that system.

As we acknowledge Juneteenth in and outside the church, I confess that delayed declarations of freedom don’t make people free. As I read the work of my Korean-born post-colonial, post-feminist Bible scholar friend, I confess that declaring I/we are not racist doesn’t make us, much less our society, anti-racist. As I read the manifesto of the entirely BIPOC** committee constructing the worship for the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, I confess that having representatives of diversity participate in white worship doesn’t mean we are really hearing from, much less listening to, them.

I confess my corner of the church tends to be made of people like me. I confess that I don’t have enough conversation partners who are different from me. I confess that expanding my Facebook friends list has not cured this issue. I confess that my energy and focus for this work is not consistent. I confess that I must better seek your guidance and direction.

I confess I need your mercy and grace. Help me–help us all–O God. Amen.

.

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Sunday Prayer: God of the impossible, what if?

Photo by Barb Hedges-Goettl. View facing Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia with Mt. Ararat in the background. June 29, 2018.

God of the impossible, what if?

What if what is impossible for human beings is possible with you?

What if we believe in your creative and transformative power?

What if things that need to change really change?

What if we are all of us, every single one, created in your image?

What if the smallest one, the youngest one, the poorest one, the widow, the orphan, the foreign one, is your messenger?

What if evil is upended for good?

What if brokenness is overcome by healing?

What if a little child shall lead us?

What if all people are loved?

What if each person is set free?

What if the power of evil cannot overcome you?

What if even death cannot hold you?

What if you confound all that breaks, divides and kills?

What if you never leave us or forsake us?

What if things that need to change really change?

What if we believe in your creative and transformative power?

What if what is impossible for human beings is possible with you?

God of the impossible, what if?

Pastor Barb Hedges-Goettl finds herself hopeful–and afraid to hope–for the first time in quite a while. She is grateful to serve a loving and transforming God.

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Prayer for Pride Month

hoto by Barb Hedges-Goettl, Philadelphia Pride Parade, June 10, 2018, Collenbrook United Church, Drexel Hill, PA float.

Confessions of sin based on the Belhar Confession (See this site for original post and more liturgical resources based on this Belhar Confession)

Confession of Sin #1

Call to Confession: God calls the church to follow him, standing by those who suffer and are in need, so that justice may roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Let us confess the ways in which we do not follow God’s call.

Prayer:

One: O God, you bring justice to the oppressed and give bread to the hungry.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You free the prisoner and restore sight to the blind.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You support the downtrodden and protect the stranger.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You block evildoers and help orphans and widows.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You stand against injustice. You stand with the wronged.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You condemn those who seek their own interests, controlling and harming others.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You bring about justice and true peace among people.

All: God, forgive us when we do not follow you.

Grant us your grace. Embolden us that, as your people, we may stand where you stand.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: God’s life-giving Word and Spirit enable us to live in a new obedience, opening new possibilities of life for society and the world. Thanks be to God for the Good News:

All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Prayer of Confession #2

Invitation: The gift and obligation of unity is given and commanded by God for the Christian church, yet the one worldwide community of believers is not visibly and consistently united. Let us confess

our need for God’s grace.

Prayer of Confession: God, forgive us. Our communion is not always visible to the world. We allow threats to unity to enter the church, making it hard to see that we are your community. At times we act as though we do not need each other. We do not always love one another. Sometimes we do not know and bear one another’s burdens. At times we fail build each other up. We do not always give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another.  Forgive and strengthen us so that we may live in the unity that you grant us.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: By Christ’s work, we are reconciled and united with God and with one another. Thanks be to God for the Good News:   All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Confession #3

Call to Confession:

One: God has given the church the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, but we fall short of God’s call to be salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Prayer of Confession:

All: God, our fears and prejudices run deep. Sometimes we can only see our own point of view. We stick with those who are like us, rarely venturing outside our comfort zones. We do not hear those crying for justice and true peace. We blame those who are suffering and in need instead of standing by them. We deny the power of your gospel to unite us with those who are different from us. Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Use us to open new possibilities of life for all of your people.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: We are reconciled with God and with one another through Christ’s work. Thanks be to God for the Good News: All:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Pastor Barb Hedges-Goettl’s experience of having a trans daughter gives the words of the Belhar Confession new meaning and resonance, particularly in Pride Month. The full Belhar Confession can be found at

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100,000 and counting

On April 19, 1993, my friend Laurie Barry called me saying she heard the sound of many, many children screaming and crying. While she lived in Michigan at the time, as the news unfolded it turned out that what she heard, right at the time of the attack, was the sound of children screaming and crying in Oklahoma City during the bomb attack by Timothy McVeigh.

I never did sort out Laur’s ability to feel such things–they were part of her gift for empathy and prophecy. But today I join her in once again hearing children screaming and crying in the face of a terror no one–especially children–should have to face.

Their cry is matched by the cries of the 18-year-olds not so infrequently involved in loss of life on the side of the perpetrator–from this most recent shooter in Texas back to Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha. And of younger children having access to weapons with deadly results.

And whoever is carrying the gun, children are a prime target. As the Sandy Hook Promise site notes, “Guns are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. 1 out of 10 gun deaths are age 19 or younger. (See https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/blog/gun-violence/16-facts-about-gun-violence-and-school-shootings/ quoting the US Centers for Disease Control.)

Over the seven year period 2014-2020, an average of 3800 children and teens were killed or injured by guns each year. (For these stats, see https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/ If this admittedly rising average stretched back to 1993, the grand total would be over 100,000 killed and injured screaming and crying children.

God puts our deafness to their needs, to their screams and cries, into words in Jeremiah 6:10
To whom shall I speak and give warning
That they may hear?
Behold, their ears are closed
And they cannot listen.

Or as Don Maclean put it in “Starry, Starry Night,”

They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will.

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Pentecost Worship Resources

 Pentecost                   11:00 am         June 5, 2022

*CALL TO WORSHIP 

Mysterious God,

You reveal yourself in Jesus, your Beloved Child

who gives us a glimpse your glory

and invites us to share in the unity of all that is Holy.

Unite us in you.

You invite us into your unity, into the holiness that is You,

your creation, your people, united in the Spirit that breaks through all boundaries of fear and injustice.

Unite us in you.

Meet us here today, O Unity, and teach us to be one.

Unite us in you.

Unite us in love for each other.

Unite us in hearing and understanding one another.

Unite us in speaking and knowing one another.

Unite us in you.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus, whose fervent prayer was ever:

“May they all be one.” AMEN.

*HYMN #128 On Pentecost They Gathered

Call to confession

Unison Prayer of Confession

We confess to you, Renewing Spirit,

 that we confuse unity with uniformity,

 and diversity with divisiveness. 

 We speak and behave as if being a part of your family

 means assimilating others to our way of living. 

 We deny and destroy the beauty you created in each person. 

 We long to change these patterns, O Creator,

 but we do not know how. 

 Teach us to value challenge. 

 Help us to see strength in difference. 

 And empower us to build your kingdom in creativity and love.  

–SILENT PRAYER–

Assurance of Forgiveness (from Acts 2:38-29)

Baptized and repentant, our sins are forgiven and we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for us, for our children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls. 

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

OLD TESTAMENT READING – Genesis 11:1-9

NEW TESTAMENT READING Acts 2:1-21

d shall be saved.’

*HYMN #319 Spirit

CONFESSION OF FAITH (from The Westminster Confession of Faith)   The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. The Holy Spirit is everywhere present, and is the source of all good thoughts, pure desires, and holy counsels in human beings. By the Holy Spirit, the prophets were moved to speak the Word of God, and all the writers of the Holy Scriptures inspired to record the mind and will of God. The Holy Spirit, whom the Father is ever willing to give to all who ask, is the only efficient agent of redemption. The Holy Spirit regenerates us by divine grace, convicts us of sin, moves us to repentance, and persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ by faith. The Holy Spirit unites all believers to Christ, dwells in us as our Comforter and Sanctifier. The Holy Spirit gives to us the spirit of Adoption and Prayer, and performs all those gracious offices by which we are sanctified and sealed unto the day of redemption. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit all believers are vitally united to Christ, who is the Head. We are thus united one to another in the Church, which is his body. The Holy Spirit calls and anoints God’s people to do God’s work, and imparts various gifts and graces to its members. The Holy Spirit gives efficacy to the Word and to the ordinances of the gospel. By the Holy Spirit the Church will be preserved, increased, purified, and at last made perfectly holy in the presence of God. Come, O Holy Spirit!

*HYMN #129 Come, O Spirit, Dwell Among Us     

Call to Worship adapted from ~ from One in Love and Mission, written by Rev. Susan A. Blain (adapted).  Posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways archive. http://www.ucc.org/worship/worship-ways/     

Prayer of Confession from Come, Let Us Build, written by Rev. Mary Nelson Abbott. Posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways Archive.   

Cover image from https://www.pngkey.com/detail/u2q8y3i1y3i1w7i1_pentecost-and-graduation-holy-ghost-spiritual-gifts/

SUNDAY PRAYER 5/29/22: A salve for what ails me

O God, given a bead on a bracelet and invited to find the word you have for me, I hear the word “salve.” When I look it up, a salve is “anything that soothes, mollifies, or relieves.” A salve is “a medicinal ointment for healing or relieving wounds and sores.”

Born of recent doctor’s encounters, where I have been counseled not to use hydrogen peroxide, or isopropyl alcohol, or even triple antibiotic cream, the gift of the word “salve” stands in for the petroleum jelly I’m to use instead. Use it on those places where I have bites that don’t heal. On the scabs that I can’t leave alone. On the rough places that need to be made smooth. On all nature of hurts and ills.

Sometimes, O God, I look for something bigger. Stronger. Harsher. Fancier. More complicated. More expensive. Rarer.

Let me accept your offer of a gentle salve. Of a water bath for my sore toe–just warm water with a bit of baby shampoo. Of a gentle rain. A nodding flower. A light breeze. Soft sunshine. A sideways hug. A dog’s head on my knee. A squeeze of the hand. A smile “hello.” A deep breath. A quiet sunset. A cup of tea. A moment of quiet. Your non-anxious presence.

O God, salve all hurts and ills.

For me.

And for this world of yours.

Amen.

A Prayer of Mediocre Thanksgiving

God, I offer to you these prayers of thanksgiving from this week’s conference:

When my ingrown toenail clearly can no longer wait for medical attention, I find an urgent care in walking distance. And they are not busy. And they are clean and bright. And they are kind. And they fix my toe for now. So I offer you a prayer of great thanksgiving.

And, on that same morning, when I lock myself out of my room at the Air BnB, I have clothes with me instead of just the nightgown I am wearing. And the woman I accost on the street lets me use her phone. And my husband answers the second time I call. And he finds the code to get back into my room. And, before I give the phone back, we figure out that’s the wrong code and he gives me the right code. And I get back in. So I offer you a prayer of biggish thanksgiving.

A conference attendee didn’t get to come and so they couldn’t use their lunch tickets. And they give me these lunch tickets, free of charge. So I offer you a prayer of medium thanksgiving, and pray for the one who couldn’t come.

And at lunch the one day I find someone to talk to. And it isn’t as much effort as sometimes. And I even get to share a bit of my personal struggles. So I offer you a prayer of not-so-lonely thanksgiving.

And the vendors are good to talk to. I know that’s why they are vendors, but it is a relief to have people to talk to who want to connect. So I offer you another prayer of not-so-lonesome thanksgiving.

And when my flight for the last leg of my trip is messed up, I book an alternate flight and a hotel. And the new flight lands more where I need to be. And I don’t stay up all night waiting for the flight that is ultimately canceled. And Uber works when the hotel shuttle doesn’t. And I get some sleep. So I offer you a prayer of exhausted thanksgiving (and ask that you help me get a refund on the canceled flight!)

I just make it to the meeting back at church by going directly there. And a board member brings me chicken salad so I didn’t starve. And I’m not in charge of the meeting. And the consultant does a good job. So I offer a prayer of relieved thanksgiving.

But now, O God, I discover that I musta left my computer at the TSA on that last delayed leg of my trip. And I leave a message for lost-and-found. Surely they must have a system for this. Surely they will find it and get it to me somehow. But I am mad and frustrated and tired and cross and done. So I offer a prayer of very mediocre thanksgiving.

And I realize that what counts isn’t the greatness of my thanks. And what counts isn’t the greatness of my prayer. Instead, what counts is your great giving. Thank you, God.

___________________________

Pastor Barb Hedges-Goettl loves to play with words and worship. She and her husband Len have long noted that the Presbyterian eucharistic prayer is, in some places, called a “Great Prayer of Thanksgiving” but a “Prayer of Great Thanksgiving” in others. Does that mean we can have a mediocre prayer? or mediocre thanksgiving? or both?

Prayer inspired by Acts 17:16-31 (Narrative Lectionary)

__________________________________________________________________________________________

A Prayer inspired by Acts 17:16-31

God, here in the 21st century,

like the Athenians and all the strangers and foreigners

whom we meet online,

we are still captured with telling and hearing something new.

Whatever field we are in,

the newest, hottest, sexiest repackaging

often wins the contract and the day—

even though the truth so repackaged

is still the same truth that doesn’t change.

All the old conversations about what life means,

about who we are and who we ought to be,

are dying to be resurrected as something new and interesting.

But God, the (re-)packaging we’re using—

whether of gold or silver or stone,

whether made by craft or imagination or both,

does not contain or constrain you and your truth.

You are the source of all life and breath,                                                                   

of everything given to all mortal beings—

to us and to the animals and plants around us

and to the earth itself.

You made us all through one ancestor.

You allot the times and boundaries of our existence.

In you we live and move and have our being.

We fumble and grope after you,

grabbling to feel and touch who you are.

Although you are not fully knowable,

you are not far from us.

You call us to you.

You call us to live in you,

You assure us by Jesus’s resurrection

that we are indeed your children,

that we are your offspring.

May this good news satisfy and sustain us.

Amen.

___________________________

Rev. Barb Hedges-Goettl is interim pastor at Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church in Snow Hill, MD. She and her pastor/psychologist husband Len recently moved to Rehoboth Beach in preparation for his June retirement. She and her daughter, Rev. Katy Stenta, have enjoyed putting together resources for the Narrative Lectionary.. See bjhlog.wordpress.com

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