What Good Can Come Out of Nazareth? (John 1:43-51)

We look at something or at someone,
and we make assumptions about what we see.

We watch the woman in front of us at the grocery store using food stamps,
and we evaluate her purchases.
We critique her clothing, the fact that she has a cell phone and how many children she has.
What good can come out of Nazareth?

We see protestors in the streets.
Some of us relate to them and celebrate their presence.
Some of us think to ourselves that those people have too much time on their hands,
and don’t want to take personal responsibility for themselves.
What good can come out of Nazareth?

We are a divided people, Lord.
We view the world through our biases, our assumptions, and often, through our judgments.
The big picture escapes us, it is easier to believe the soundbite, rather than ask why.
We live in a world of us versus them.
What good can come out of Nazareth?

We are supposed to be a people of love.
Remind us that we are all interconnected,
that our energy interacts with the energy of those around us.
Remind us, Jesus, that you made no judgments about those around you.
You accepted those you encountered,
regardless of the reaction of those who considered themselves to be socially correct.
You reached out to those who were powerless and marginalized,
and empowered them with your love and acceptance.
What good can come out of Nazareth?

We are the people who come from Nazareth.
We heard your teachings,
we follow you with our lives and our deeds.
We are the good that comes from Nazareth.
We are a strong community, gathering strength from each other,
united in our faith even while we debate with each other the best way to create your world here on Earth.
It is us to us, Jesus, to make this world as it is in heaven.
Help us to do that. Give us the strength and the wisdom to make it so.
Open our eyes to your plan and open our hearts to do your bidding.

We are the people who come from Nazareth.
And, we know that you are with us always.
We ask that you be with ___, our members in the body of Christ who need your added strength and healing grace.
As your people in love, we know that we need to spend time in prayer and contemplation.
You modeled the need for prayer and you gave us the words to start with,
“Our Father….”

No Prophet Welcome in His Hometown (Luke 4:21-30)

There is no one who knows us better than our families.
And, yet, do our families really know us or do they know who we used to be?
Do they know how we have changed over time?
Or do they only know us how they want us to be?
You know us, Father, you knew us before we were born
and you know how we have grown since then
and you know how we still need to grow.

As we grow in this life, help us to see what is important in life.
Give us the strength to speak up as Jesus did when he spoke up for inclusion.
Today, many say that being inclusive is a sign of political correctness,
something we should not tolerate, something that makes us weak.
Remind us, Father God, that your Son taught us to include everyone,
to value everyone, without judgment.
Remind us, Mother God, that we are all your children,
each of us loved and each of us uniquely cherished.
When we respect each other, when we celebrate and accept our differences,
we are respecting you and acting as you taught us.

We may not have the strength or the character to live our entire lives as did Nelson Mandela,
but we can stand up in individual moments of oppression and speak up for the powerless.
When we see a bully taunt their victim,
encourage us to stand up in protest.
When we hear a racist joke,
encourage us to stand up and say we will not listen to hate.
When we notice inequality in social programs,
encourage us to ask our politicians why and to demand change.
When we see someone being ignored,
encourage us to reach out to that person and raise them up.
When we see a child without the ability to receive a quality education,
encourage us to ensure that all receive an education regardless of their school district.
When we see cities without safe drinking water,
encourage us to ask ourselves why lower-income populations are treated less fairly than those with wealth.

Give us the voice to speak for those without a voice.
Give us the ability to hear the cries of those around us in pain
and to find ways to provide comfort to them.
Give us the strength to be your children, to be your body of Christ.
Give us the courage to stand up to the majority
when we know that the minority is in the right.
As your children, we support those among us who are in pain and in need of your healing touch.
We ask that you be with ___ in particular.

We are your children, Lord.
We are your family, the body of Christ.
As your family, open our eyes to see each other,
to see each other as we really are.
And as your children, we use the words that your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

What We Honor (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Fill us with your spirit, Lord,
Strengthen us.

We open ourselves to you,
in love and in confidence.
We are here today to honor you,
to act in community with one another.
We ask that you be with us and
that you help us reach out to others
to share with them your love.
May they also understand the fullness of your love.

Fill us with your spirit, Lord,
Strengthen us.

We honor you and celebrate you.
We ask ourselves how we can ever be worthy.
And, yet we know that we are your children.
You have shared with us your extravagant love.
Help us to share your love with others,
to be the people you want us to be.
Be with those among us who need your healing grace.

Fill us with your spirit, Lord,
Strengthen us.

As your followers, we invite you into our lives.
We invite you into our hearts and ask that you use us to fulfill your plan
here on earth.
We may have doubts and questions
and yet are amazed as we see your work in our lives.
Remind us to pay attention to those moments of your presence.
Remind us to celebrate the gift of life, to live in the here and now,
to live a life of fullness.

Fill us with your spirit, Lord,
Strengthen us.

Help us to look at our lives.
Where do we spend our time?
How do we spend our money?
Who do we spend our affection on?
Are we fulfilling your plan?
Are we living into your teachings?
Are we acting as if you are invited into our heart?

Fill us with your spirit, Lord,
Strengthen us.

We feel you in our lives.
We feel your extravagant love.
As your people, we use the words that Jesus taught us,
“Our Father…”

What We Experience (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Once again, we join together here in this sacred space.
We thank you for those around us,
our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We lean upon each other in times of pain and stress,
we learn from each other every day,
and we celebrate each others’ joys and happiness.
As we look at one another,
help us to see your image within them.

We are one body, one church,
but as individuals, we do have our differences.
Remind us that diversity builds strength.
We are shaped by our experiences in life.
Remind us that our lives may have taken different paths
than others have explored, but we are one within your love.
Remind us to cherish and respect the journeys of others,
to hear their story without judgement or bias.
We have been called to this place, to celebrate
one Lord, one faith and one baptism.

Father, you sent your son to teach us one truth, one way of life.
We’ve taken that message and distorted it into different churches,
different truths, with each claiming to know the absolute truth.
We admit that we don’t have all the answers,
that we can never have all the answers.
But we know that our truth is that we are your children,
our truth is that we are deeply loved and uniquely cherished,
our truth is that it is up to us to make this world as it is in heaven,
our truth is to work for peace and justice for all, to respect everyone,
our truth is that we know you are with us always.
We ask that you be with those among us who need your healing grace and strength,
naming __.

As we grow together in love, fully supporting each other, defending each other,
we will truly become the body of Christ.
Give us the strength to truly love one another.
to become one with each other.
And be with us, as we use the words Jesus taught us,
“Our Father…”

Your Healing Touch (Mark 7:24-37)

God of light and love,
We confess that even when we think we are treating people fairly,
our actions may be tainted by our biases and by our interpretations.
Overwhelmed by the world and desiring privacy,
it can be easy for us to turn a cold eye to the needs of those around us.
It can be easy for us to judge others and blame them for their situation.
Fill our lives with your light, illuminate the shadows of our lives,
and show us what we are not seeing clearly.
Let your light show us the grays in our life,
those spaces where the decisions are not always black and white
and then let your love help us to make the right decision.
As you fill us with your love and light, remind us that we are loved
and heal us as you healed others.
Let the energy of your love fill us with every breath we take.

We gather here in this sacred place.
For the next few minutes, be with us as we sit quietly
and we ask for your healing touch,
for ourselves,
for those that we love, and
for those that we know of but may never meet.
As we breathe in, we feel the energy of your love,
drawn into ourselves,
touching every part of us,
healing what is broken and in pain.
As we breath out, we feel ourselves expanding,
expanding out to unite with one another,
becoming one with each other,
here in this sacred place.

God of light and love,
Open our hearts with your love, help us to share our love and our lives
with people who are not always first in our minds.
Your son showed us this love and compassion when he helped the
Syrophoenican woman, a person some would call an enemy.
As your children, we are loved deeply and uniquely cherished.
Help us to see your face in those that we meet and
help us to extend your gift of healing to others.
We may not be able to cast away their demons,
but we can lend our ears to hear their stories,
we can lend our hands to help pick them up,
and we can use our voices to stand up for them.
Your son came to us in love and
taught us how to truly care for your creation.
And in love, he taught us the words we use today,
“Our Father…”

Are We Acting as Your Followers? (Mark 8:27-38)

Who do we say that you are?
What brings us here each week?
Where do we see you touching our lives?
When are we most like you?
How do we show that we are your followers?

Do we ever really think about these questions?
Open our eyes, Creator God, to your love and to our answers.
You sent your Son to us, as one of us, but also as part of you.
Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
separate but yet connected.
Sharing your Son with us was sharing your love with us
in the physical form.
Do we see your Son as love? as a teacher? as a prophet?
as a Savior?

We come here every week to this sacred place.
What brings us to this place, to this family of believers?

Open our hearts to your desires.
Help us to work together as your church
to fulfill your plan.
Help us to discern your plan for Church of the Apostles.

As your children, we know you are with us always.
Creator God, you see us as we are and how you would like us to be.
Open our eyes to the times
that you have tried to coax us to follow your teachings more closely.
Open our eyes to the times
that you have supported us in our times of crisis.
As we support each other, we know that you are with us and
we ask that you be with ___ in particular.

We are your children, Lord, and we try to follow your teachings.
As we look at our daily lives, open our eyes to when we are acting in ways
that are most like you.
Use us to fulfill your plan here on earth.
Remind us that we are your followers and it is up to us
to speak for those without a voice,
to listen for the unspoken needs,
to shelter the refugee,
to feed the hungry,
to teach those who cannot read,
and to love the discarded.
As we look at our personal lives, when are we acting most like you?
When are we acting as your disciples, your followers?

Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was.
Remind us every day who Jesus was and why we follow him.
And as we remember, we use the words he taught us,
“Our Father…”