Water of Our Baptism (Matthew 28:16-23)

We are often unprepared for the situations we find ourselves in.

No matter how many parenting books we read, no matter how many conversations we have before the birth,
no one is prepared for that moment we realize we are now the parents.
We alone are responsible for this child.
We talk about how to drive in the snow and ice,
but the first time we find ourselves sliding on the ice,
we are never prepared for that sinking feeling and the panic of being out of control.
We say that we stand up for our principles and for what we believe in.
And then we are faced with peer pressure,
opposition from those we believe have power over us,
and we give in.

You have shown us that even Jesus’ disciples faced doubt
and were unprepared at times.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit, prepare us for those unexpected moments.
Give us the strength and wisdom we will need to get
through those moments of panic.
Remind us we are not alone in those cold and lonely moments
in the middle of the night.

The water of our baptism poured into us, filled us with your grace.
Grace we cannot earn and cannot say we deserve.
But as our parents loved us,
you love us unconditionally and without reservation.
Open our hearts to your love.
Fill us again, and always, with your grace.

The water of our baptism heals us.
The water of our baptism flows to and from each of us,
connecting us as the body of Christ,
uniting us as one.
We know that you are with us now as you were with us then.
Be with those among us today who are feeling pain and need your healing touch.

As your baptized children, we know the power of prayer.
We lift our hearts to you in prayer, using the words your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

Our Public Face (Matthew 6:5-13)

Lord, we confess that we often wear a public face.
We say what we think that people want us to say
even if we think differently inside.
We do what others expect us to do
rather than what you would expect us to do.

We lift our prayers and concerns up to you
and know that you hear our every word.
You know our public words
and our private thoughts and actions.
You know what we ask for and
you know what we truly need.
You know us completely and you cherish us
as we are.
We know that you are with us and
we feel your loving presence with us always.

Help us to merge our private and public lives
into the life that you have modeled for us.
Help us to see what is important in our lives.
Remind us that worldly riches and earthly things
are temporary.
We say the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Give us the strength and will to make those words come true.

You know our public words
and our private thoughts and actions.
Nudge us when you see us acting like hypocrites.
Nudge us when you see us ignoring those in need.
Nudge us when we begin following a different path.

We know that you are with us always.
We ask that you especially share your grace and strength with ___
We pray with the words that Jesus taught us,
“Our Father….”

God of Second Chances ( John 21:15-19)

Thank you for loving us always.
You are the God of second chances
Even when we don’t forgive ourselves,
You give us another chance.

You know that we also love you
but sometimes we don’t show it.
Sometimes we focus too much on ourselves.
Sometimes we worry about the wrong things.
Remind us to focus on you and your teachings.
Remind us to follow you.
Remind us to take care of each other.

You are the God of second chances,
of third chances and fourth chances.
Remind us that we are human
but we can seek the divine.
Quiet our minds so that we can take the time
to hear you, to seek you out in the quiet space.
Open our hearts to your plan and your teachings.

As the God of second chances,
you accept us as we are and
take pride in whom we will become.
You ask us if we will love and follow you.
We offer our lives to you, we offer our hearts to you.

Thank you for loving us always.
You are the God of second chances.
We ask that you share your grace and love with ___
As your children, we use the words your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

Call Us Today (Isaiah 42:1-9)

Some of us have grown up in the church,
and we cannot remember not knowing you, God.
Some of us have come to you through marriage,
through relationships, or on our own.
But, when we take the time to think about it,
we know when you called us to be your own.

You have called each of us to be here today.
You called out our names and we have responded.
We are in awe of you,
you who have created the heavens and the earth.
Before we were born, you knew us and loved us.

Call us today, set your plans before us.
Remind us that it is up to us to make this earth
as it is in your heaven.
You taught us to be a light to others,
light the flame within us.
You taught us to fight for those who are powerless,
give us the strength to take on those battles.
You taught us to share our resources with each other,
open our eyes to the needs of those around us.
You taught us to love our enemies as we love ourselves,
surround us with your love and forgiveness to soften our hearts
so that we can pray freely for our enemies.
You taught us that you are always with us, Lord.
Be with those among us who need your strength and grace today.

You have called us to be your followers.
We are here, Lord.
Call us to do your will.
As we lift our hearts to you, we also lift our prayers to you, using the words that your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

Stories of Faith (Luke 1:26-38)

We sit here in this holy place,
a place in which we hear stories of wonder.
In this season, we hear of a teenage girl
who will become the mother of your son,
and of an older woman who also will
give birth after many empty years.

We have stories of wonder in our own lives.
The birth of a child,
the recovery from an illness,
the brilliance of a sunrise over a field of snow,
the love we thought we would never find,
or the warmth of forgiveness after a quarrel.

We sit here in this holy place,
a place in which we hear stories of faith.
In this season, a teenage girl says let it be with me
according to your word.

Let it be with us, Lord,
according to your word.
Open our hearts to the possibilities within you.
Free our imagination to dream of what we could be
and what we should be.
Give us the faith to accept what you place before us.
Give us the wisdom to discern our purpose in your plan.

We sit here in this holy place,
every week.
Send us out into the world to share those stories of wonder,
those stories of faith.
Send us out into the world to fulfill your possibilities,
to actualize the dream of what we should be,
and to set your plan into motion.
Let it be with me, according to your word.

We sit here in this holy place,
looking at the faces of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are your children, Lord,
and we ask for your strength and healing grace for those among us who need you the most.
We name __
We have heard your stories of wonder and faith.
We have also heard how your son taught us to pray,
“Our Father…”

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….”

Come Follow Me (John 12:20-33)

You said, “Come follow me.”
We know that whoever serves you, must follow you.
What does that truly mean?

You said, “Come follow me.”
That means perhaps
being asked to love someone we don’t really like
being asked to help someone we think needs to take responsibility for their own situation
being asked to give our money or our time to support the church and our community.
You said, “Come follow me” and we are drawn to you.

As we are drawn to you, we feel the comfort of your presence.
We celebrate the joy we feel in your presence.
We share with others your teachings and
dedicate ourselves to building that sense of community with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We ask ourselves what you would do, and we stretch ourselves to try and do the same.

You said, “Come follow me.”
Did your original disciples really know what it meant to follow you?
We ask that you open our eyes to your plan.
We ask that you open our ears to the cries of those around us.
We ask that you use our hands and feet to fulfill the needs around us.
More importantly, we ask that you show us our value within the body of Christ.
How are we making a difference in this world?

We are drawn to you. We follow you willingly.
Help us to understand what that really means.
Help us to understand that no matter what beliefs we speak,
we are to act out your teachings in this world.
It is not enough to say love one another as you love yourself,
if we do not act as if we love each other fully and completely.
It is not enough to say we are followers of Christ,
if we do not spend time in prayer.
It is not enough to say we seek to make this place on earth the same as heaven,
if we do not seek justice for each other.

You said, “Come follow me.”
We are here, Lord, here in this sacred place.
We return each week to learn about you,
and to build our community as you have taught us.
We have followed you to this place.
We look around, and we lift up and celebrate those who are with us.
We are the body of Christ.
We are your brothers and sisters.
We learn from each other and we have learned the most from you, Lord.

You said, “Come follow me.”
We are here, Lord, and we use the words you taught us,
“Our Father…”

Like The Colt (Mark 11:1-11)

Lord, you sent your followers to find a colt that had never been ridden.
Are we like that colt?
Your teachings free us from the ties that bind us to this world.
Your teachings set us apart from others in this world.
We know that our master needs us in this world.

The colt was tied up patiently waiting.
Do we sometimes wait instead of taking action?
Do we wait for someone else to make the first move?
Your teachings have told us what we should be doing.
You taught us with words and with actions.
We know that our master needs us in this world.

The colt had never been ridden until he carried you with pride
into Jerusalem.
From the east, Lord, you rode into Jerusalem
on the back of a young colt, a simple procession.
From the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman emperor,
rode into Jerusalem as the head
of an impressive procession of soldiers and military power.
Remind us, Lord, that the power and riches of this world
do not compare to your power and to your love.
Your teachings tell us that
the kingdom of God is worth more than the kingdom of man.
We know that our master needs us in this world.

Remind us at this time as we draw nearer to the miracle of Easter,
that it is up to us to carry your word out to the world.
As the colt carried you into Jerusalem,
we are to now carry your love and your message to the rest of the world.
As you shared with us the love of your Father,
help us to love one another.
Your followers celebrated your humble arrival
and ignored the trappings of Pilate.
Help us to see what is truly valuable and keep us from being tempted by earthly treasures.
We know that our master needs us in this world.

The colt went willingly with your disciples.
Help us to see your plan, your will, and to follow you as willingly.
Open our eyes to the needs of those around us.
Open our hearts to the pain of those who need comfort and healing.
Use our talents and skills to act in your place in the world today.
We know that our master needs us in this world, and we know that you are with us always.
We ask that you be with ___ as they need your healing touch and grace.

You taught us with words and with actions.
And you gave us the words that we use today,
“Our Father…”

You Are Our Shepherd (John 10:11-18)

We are your children, Lord.

You watch over us as a shepherd watches over his flock.
We have come together to this place.
We have come from different backgrounds,
from different flocks.
But we have joined together as your people.

Remind us that it is
our job to look after those who need protection,
our job to look for the wolf and to speak out for those in danger,
our job to pick up those who stumble and to seek out those who get lost.
You are our shepherd, Lord, but we act as your shepherds here on earth.
We share your teachings in order to gather others into your flock.

We are your children, Lord.
We celebrate the gift of your life.
Like you, we would gladly give our lives for our children.
Remind us to live our lives every day to honor you,
to reflect your teachings in our actions and in our thoughts.
Remind us to dance with joy as our hearts are filled with your love.
Remind us to share your love with everyone we meet,
even if we don’t really like them.
Remind us that you are with us always, watching over us,
embracing us with your grace and your love.
We ask that you grant your healing touch and your strength to ___.

We are your children, Lord.
Remind us that our membership
in the body of Christ is a full and complete membership.
We are not hired hands who will run at the first sign of trouble.
We are your disciples, your followers.
We have come to this holy place for a purpose.
We gather strength from one another,
from this community of believers.
We share our doubts, our fears, our worries,
and we celebrate our births, our joys, and our celebrations.
We are your followers, your flock of believers,
and we know it is up to us to share your good news with others.

As your followers, we use the words that you taught us
“Our Father..”

I Am (John 15:1-8)

Lord, in your teachings to us, you often use the words “I Am”
You are the bread of life.
You are the light of the world.
You are the gate for the sheep.
You are the resurrection and the life.
You are the vine and we are the branches.

We are part of you and you are part of us.
Your teachings have shaped us,
molded us, and guided our growth.
The way we live our lives,
the way we reflect your teachings in our lives,
is the fruit on the branches.

Remind us to use those same words in our lives.
“I am” a member of the body of Christ.
“I am” a follower of Jesus.
“I am” determined to share your teachings with the world.
“I am” willing to share my gifts and talents with others.
“I am” trying to love others as I love myself.
“I am” not afraid to speak up for those who are less powerless.
“I am” sure I do not have all the answers,
but “I am” asking the right questions.
“I am” a child of God and “I am” loved.
“I am” loved unconditionally.

Lord, you are the bread of life.
We celebrate the community around us,
as we come together at your table.
Lord, you are the light of the world.
We celebrate how your teachings illuminate
the dark corners of our world.
Lord, you are the gate for the sheep.
We celebrate that you are always with us,
guarding us, protecting us.
We ask that you be with those among us
who need your grace and your healing touch.
Be with ___
Lord, you are the resurrection and the life.
We celebrate your resurrection and we are the people of the resurrection.
Lord, you are the vine and we are your branches.
We celebrate that you are with us and we are with you,
intertwined with you and with one another.

You taught us to be your community,
to be brothers and sisters in Christ,
to make this world as it is in heaven.
You taught us the words we use today,
“Our Father…”