Hearts of Love (Isaiah 65:17–25)

Now more than ever, All Loving God,
we need the gift of your love in our world.
Open our hearts to accept your grace freely.
Open our hearts to share that grace with others,
without reservation and without hesitation.
As you strive to create new heavens and a new earth,
through us as we follow your teachings,
help us to truly be your church.

In a world full of conflict, open our hearts to peace,
a peace that does not compromise your teachings.
We ask that you use us to make this world, your world.
Jesus stood up for the sick, the refugee, and the beggar.
Help us to act as he taught us, to work for good,
and not to hurt or destroy.
Help us to work towards peace and equality for all your children,
rich or poor, white or of color, male or female, young or old,
gay or straight, abled or disabled, citizen or immigrant,
Christian or Muslim, rural or urban, employed or unemployed
Our list of polarizing descriptions can be endless.
We can use these descriptions to separate and divide us, and yet,
we cannot pretend that if we just ignore the label,
we are all treated equally.
Help us to truly see each other with love and with understanding.

We ask that you use us to make this world, your world.
Open our eyes to see how we can make this world, your new Jerusalem.
Use our hands to create places of shelter and to plant gardens
full of your bounty.
Use our minds to sort fact from fiction and to clearly see your truths.
We are your followers, your church, and
we are called to show your love in the world
as you have loved us.
Give us the strength to follow Christ’s teachings.
Give us the courage to help build the new Jerusalem
where no one labors in vain or has their belongings cheated from them,
where there is no fear and where there is no weeping.
As we support each other within this community, we ask that you
be with those we name today, ___

And until we are in the new Jerusalem, we continue to follow your teachings,
using the words you gave us so many years ago, “Our Father…”

Respect, Peace, Encouragement, Thankfulness and Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5: 12-24 )

Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.

These are words that may not occur often in our daily lives.
Our political climate highlights mistrust with our elected officials.
Financial institutions have failed us.
Corporations seek profit over environmental safety and
short-term profit over job security for employees.
Even our religious institutions have caused pain rather than
building peace and unity.
Fear seems to be the strongest emotion in today’s world.

As we come together this morning, here in this sacred place,
remind us, Gracious God, that we are your people, your children.
Each of us has a role to play in this body, in your church.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these be the words that we think of when we think of our church,
when we look around at the faces of those around us.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these words describe how we treat others in our daily lives.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these be the words that we inspire in those we encounter.

Be with us, all loving and powerful God.
Remind us to always seek to do good for others,
help us to resist returning evil for evil.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these words be our daily mantra,
here within our church and outside in our community.
We have come together, as your followers, as your believers.
We trust in your teachings and we lift up our worries,
our fears and our concerns to you, Gracious God.
We ask that you be with ___ and to share your strength and
healing grace with them.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
Open our hearts and minds so that these words become our habits of behavior.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
Your son modeled these behaviors for us and now we use the words
he taught us, lifting our voices up in prayer to you,
“Our Father…”

9/11 Remembrance (Romans 12:1-8)

When tragedy strikes, well-wishers may tell us it was God’s plan.
They tell us we may not understand today,
but someday it will be made clear.
But we know that you have given us free will
and it is our choices, or our failure to choose,
that cause accidents, pain and injury to ourselves and others.
We know there is true evil in this world and
we know there are people who choose evil
and people who choose to hate.
As we remember the pain of 9/11,
we recognize our lives began to change at that point in time.
We came together then in grief and shock
but we have now allowed fear to separate and divide us.

Help us to choose love.
Transform us with your grace.

When tragedy strikes, remind us to see the first responders
who risk their lives to save others.
Remind us to see the helpers,
the people that use their gifts to heal and comfort those in distress.
Help us to use our gifts to be those helpers,
to fulfill your teachings here on earth.
Give us the strength to stand up to hate.

Help us to choose love.
Transform us with your grace.

When we look at the people around us, Gracious God,
help help us to see who is missing and marginalized.
Help us to seek understanding over being right.
Help us to use our gifts to fulfill your plan here on earth.
We ask that you be with those who are grieving,
those those who are angry, and those who are fearful.

Help us to choose love.
Transform us with your grace.

As your children, we know that we are loved.
We lift up our voices using the words your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

**Bold text may be read responsively by the congregation.

Our Sense of Selfishness (Luke 12:13-21)

Good and gracious God, you have given us so much.
You sent to us, your Son, who taught us your teachings.
In deeds more than words,
Jesus showed us to work for peace and justice,
to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
Help us to see when we have enough in our lives.
Help us to see that our success is not guaranteed by
our material possessions.

It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others.
Remind us that there will always be people
who seem to have much more than we have
and there will be those who have much less.
Help us to see that our material worth is meaningless.
You taught us that we cannot compare ourselves to others,
because none of us is better than another.
We are each a child of God, each of us deeply loved
and uniquely cherished.
Help us to see when we have enough in our lives.

Our world is changing and expanding.
We no longer stay contained within our own small town,
but our connections are global now.
We work for companies that operate within different countries.
Our neighbors may have moved from another state or another country.
We fear hate coming into our lives
from conflict from the other side of the world.
We give into that fear and allow the changes we encounter
to make us cling tightly to our treasures and
make us distance ourselves from others.
Help us to see when we have enough in our lives.

Give us the faith to recognize that the world has always been uncertain.
Help us to see that every generation has feared the future
and questioned the path of the next generation.
We can not make this world a better place if we hide in fear,
if we refuse to share our gifts and our treasures.
Open our hands when we clench our fists and refuse to share.
Soften our hearts so that we can truly relate to someone else’s story.
Remind us that giving to others does not threaten our security.
Help us to follow the practices that Jesus taught us.

Your son, Jesus, practiced a life of selflessness.
He did not value material wealth; he valued the individual.
He did not bow to the political leader; he bowed towards peace and justice.
He taught us to share freely with one another
and the early church embodied that sense of sharing and community.
Take us back to those days and reinforce our community.
As we support one another, we ask that you be with those among us,
who need your strength and grace. We name ___.
Help us to see when we have enough in our lives.
Help us to see that our success is not guaranteed by
our material possessions.

As you open our hearts to you, remind us that our world
should be your world.
Help us to work towards that goal as we life up our voices to you,
using the words your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

Seeing From the Viewpoint of the Other (Luke 10:25-37)

God of Compassion and Mercy, you have always been with us
challenging us when we need to be challenged,
and sending to us your Son who modeled your love in his teachings.
Be with us now and help us to see the world from the viewpoint of the other.

As we sit here in this sacred space, open our hearts and our minds.
Open our eyes to see a different world than what we usually see.
As we look at ourselves, help us to imagine ourselves as different people.
Our skin is no longer white, but instead different shades of brown.
Open our eyes to notice how others may now treat us.

As we look at ourselves, help us to imagine ourselves as different people.
Our salary level is now lower than it was when we walked into this sanctuary.
Open our eyes to notice how others may now treat us.

As we look at ourselves, help us to imagine ourselves as different people.
Our country of origin is different than the US and we have recently moved here.
Open our eyes to notice how others may now treat us.

As we sit here in this sacred place, and later as we move from here out into the world,
open our hearts and our minds.
Help us to listen to the story of those who are not like us.
Help us to listen without trying to defend ourselves and our behaviors.
Help us to listen without feeling guilty or accused.
Help us to listen without judgment and without reservation.
Help us to just listen, to hear the story from the view of the other,
and to accept the truth of how they see their life and their experiences.

Gracious God, you created us in your image, each of us your beloved child.
Help us to see your image in the face of those we encounter.
Help us to share the love you have generously provided to us,
to those that we meet in our daily lives.
Help us to accept the differences between us
and even to celebrate those differences.
Help us to stand up for those who are different
and to fight for those without a voice.

Gracious God, we are your children.
You have been with us always, and we ask that you especially be with ___.
The teacher that you sent us, your son, Jesus,
championed the cause of the other.
He showed us how we should live.
And he gave us the words we should use in prayer,
and we use those words today,
“Our Father…”

The Sense of Mystery (1 Kings 19:1-15a)

Gracious and all protecting God,
Elijah, like each of us, found himself alone and afraid.

And, like each of us, he realized that he needed to get up,
to shake off his fear, to get up and just get it done.
There is no one else to do your work, to share your news.
We cannot pull the covers over our heads
and hope the world will be a better place when we wake up.
We cannot hide our faces and pretend that we don’t see what is going on.
It is up to us to make this world, your world.

But it can be easy to be fearful in this world.
We see terror on the news everyday.
We see happiness and laughter obliterated in an instant.
We see hate appearing to triumph over justice and
appearing to divide our nation and our communities.
Sometimes our fears are based on reality, but more often,
our fears are based on whispers, rumors, and half-truths.
Give us the strength to stand up to those fears,
to not give into a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

Open our eyes to the mysteries and the joys of this world.
A world where first responders run bravely into burning buildings,
a world where strangers give shelter to the injured and to those in danger,
a world where search parties give of their time and energy
to look for those who are lost
and a world where death is met by new life and new hopes for the future.
You gave us a world with everything we need.
You gave us your Son, who came to us and shared his life with us, as a man,
teaching us how to make this world your world,
showing us by his actions, not just in words.
Give us the strength to do the same for those around us.
Give us the strength to get up, to get up and just get it done.

We ask that you be with those among us who need your extra strength today.
We name ___

Open our eyes to the mysteries of this world and
help us to stand up to our fears to do what is right and just.
We use the words that your Son gave us,
“Our Father….”

The Sense of Human Touch (2 Kings 5:1-14)

We fear what we do not understand
and pull away in an attempt to protect ourselves.
In Naaman’s time, a disease to be feared was leprosy.
In our recent history, we have treated AIDS victims as lepers,
and before that, we whispered the word cancer using
other terms instead.
In today’s world, we hide diagnoses of addiction and mental illness.

Help us to be giving and healing people, Lord.
Open our eyes to the needs of those around us,
and when we are in need, bring a loving touch to our lives.
Remind us that the human touch and the smallest act of caring
can make a huge difference in someone’s outlook on life.
We can make eye contact and say good morning
to the homeless man on the corner of the street
rather than walking past him as if he doesn’t exist.
We can listen for the answer, spoken and unspoken,
when we ask someone how they are doing.
We can offer assistance without judgment to a family
impacted by a child’s mental illness.

We fear what we do not understand
and pull away in an attempt to protect ourselves.
We want easy answers and
don’t want to take the time to understand a different point of view.
We want to blame others for their situation in life.
If they had been more responsible, they wouldn’t be homeless.
If they had worked harder, they wouldn’t have lost their job.
If they had taken better care of themselves, they wouldn’t have gotten ill.
Remind us that finding reasons for others’ failures will not keep us safe.
Remind us that we are your community of believers and
we are to act as your body in Christ.

Help us to be giving and healing people, Lord.
You showed us in your teachings how to model that behavior.
Help us to act as you did, giving respect to all,
treating everyone with love without judgment.
Help us to touch the lives of those around us with kindness and acceptance.
As you shared our world, we know that you are still with us.
We ask that you be with those among us who need your presence.
We name __.
As your followers, we lift up the words you taught us,
“Our Father…”

I Believe in Hope

The words of Luke could describe today’s world.
There is great distress among nations.
Economies are crumbling.
Nations are at war, internally, and against each other.
Our earth has given us tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanos, hurricanes,
droughts and floods.
Where do we turn, Lord? Where is our justice, our security, our protection?

Luke tells us there will be fear and foreboding.
People will be afraid, very afraid.
We are afraid, Lord. How should we react to today’s world?
Throughout the ages, the end of the world has been predicted and prepared for.
But we are still here, Lord.
The end of the world is not yet here nor has the Son of Man returned to us. Not yet, Lord.

We choose to live our lives according to your teaching.
We do not cower in fear or give up in despair.
We know that the days are coming, the days when You will fulfill Your promise.
By your words and deeds, you have shown us we must create a world of justice
and righteousness here on earth.
We are still here, Lord. We know that we can place our hope and trust in You.
We choose to live our lives according to your teaching.
We remind ourselves that you are with us, now and always,
and we are not afraid, Lord.
You are our Hope, our Teacher and our Protector.
You have shown us a new world, Lord,
a world that is up to us to create here on earth.

We are still here, Lord.
We wait for your return,
but are confident in your love and with your teachings.
You are our Hope, our Teacher, and our Protector.

I Believe in Peace

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Do not worry. Lord, it is hard not to worry.
So much is going wrong in our world.
We can feel powerless to make effective changes in our world.
And during the Advent season, when we should be focused on you,
we spend our time worrying about Christmas decorations and family traditions,
getting the right presents for those on our list,
and fulfilling our own and others expectations.
But our expectations can be so unrealistic during the holiday season.

Do not worry.
Lift up our concerns in prayer and let our requests be known to you.
Lord, it is hard not to worry.
No matter how much we believe in you,
we don’t want to give up our worries, our fears, to you.
We pray to you and ask for your help, for your healing and your grace.
But yet, we still worry. We cling tightly to our fears and concerns.

Calm our minds, Lord. Open our hearts to your peace and healing.
Relax our tension-filled bodies and remind us to breathe deeply.
Your peace, Lord, reminds us that when we worry,
we change our focus to what is not important.
If we worry about a Christmas tradition or
meeting someone’s expectations of the holiday,
we are not focusing on the reason for the holiday – the gift of Your Son.
When we worry about the future, we are missing out on the present.

Remind us, Lord, that it is Your will that should and will be done.
Give us the peace to accept the here and now, to live in the here and now,
and to let the future take care of itself.
We lift our concerns to you, Lord,
and know that all of our requests and worries can be lifted up to you.
When we are lost, we can trust that in You, we will be found.
We have found peace in your teachings and
in your love and acceptance.
When we doubt, remind us that Mary, a pregnant teenager
who could have faced public ridicule and scorn,
accepted the news of her virgin birth and the long trip to Bethlehem with peace
and acceptance.
She did not give in her fears and worries, but instead felt joy and peace.

We will not worry, Lord.
We lift up our prayers to you, giving you our fears and pain.
We open our hearts and our minds to your peace.
We accept and celebrate the here and now, and trust in the future,
in your future.

I Believe in Joy

I believe in God even when he is silent.

My days can be very busy, Lord.
The noise of today’s world is loud and chaotic.
The demands on my attention drown out my own thoughts, much less your voice.
I confess, Lord, that I may not be listening to you and
I don’t always notice the silence.

I believe in God even when he is silent.

When things in my life are going well, Father,
I may not seek you out as often as I should.
But in the dark of night, when my fears are the loudest,
I am mindful of the silence.
When illness or injury strikes,
I am reminded of my weakness and the fragileness of life.
The news reminds me there is evil in the world.
When tragedy strikes, we ask why.
Where were you, Father?
How could you permit such terrible things to happen to innocent people?

I believe in God even when he is silent.

The silence can be deafening at times.
Mother God, we plead with you at these times.
Make our loved ones well again.
Give us one more chance to make amends,
one more time to make a relationship work.
We bargain with you and offer up promises and sacrifices if you will only,
just this time, give us what we are asking for.

We believe in God even when he is silent.

It is only later, Lord, that we realize that you were not silent at all.
It was us, all along. We could not hear you or see you.
During tragic times, we see later that you were there with us.
You were there in the form of a community who came together
to mourn with the fallen.
You were there with the strangers, the friends,
and the family who gave us strength to make it through our challenges.
You were there in the form of the unanswered prayers that in the end
were the best answer we could have been given.

You were there, Lord. You have always been there.
We know that you will always be there.

We believe in God.