Liturgy for Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Mondays I share liturgical writing focused on the Luke passages for each Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s scripture is Luke 12: 32-40. The first contributor this week is Matt Braddock of Silver Springs, Maryland who shares liturgical resources and his notes in preparing them. Nancy Rockwell whose blog The Bite in the Apple is also found on WordPress has crafted a personal reflection based on this text

Gift of Matt Braddock

Call to Worship

Turn off those phones. No need to check the clocks. You can send that text message later. Enter this sacred space and give yourself some room to inhale.  Breathe in love. Breathe out fear. Breathe in peace. Breathe out despair. Be present. Be open. Be aware. Be ready. Just be.
This is Gods time. And this is our time. Time to praise. Time to give thanks. Time to confess. Time to sing. Time to rejoice. Time to be transformed.
This is the time to hear and see, to taste and touch, to smell and sense the dawning reality of God’s growing Reign.
This is God’s time. This is our time. Let us worship God.

Prayer of Confession

Someone once said, “We can see a thousand miracles around us every day.” But do we? Are we too busy to notice? There is always another task to finish, an errand to run, an interruption in our fine-tuned lives, a favor to fulfill or a meeting to attend. We are busy and we are tired. Forget about noticing all those miracles. Honestly, we don’t always have the energy just to stay awake.
Someone first said, “I wish there were more hours in the day.” We hope for some play and rest, but to be honest, we would probably fill the extra hours with more appointments.
God, we have lost time and we need some help to find it again. Not the kind of time that’s filled with meetings and activities. We need to find time to watch for you . . . to remember what it feels like to drop all our frantic motions so that we can discover time to grow in our awareness of your arrival.
God, forgive us when we confuse busyness for presence. Help us to see the difference between activity and alertness. It’s not that we need to stop doing things. It’s that we need to remember to be present to you, even as you are present to us.
Words of Assurance
Hear this good news: In God’s time there is always renewal. Worn ways can turn into new beginnings. Tired habits can transform into acts of compassion and loving-kindness. In God’s time grace abounds, perspective is restored and heavenly treasure is stowed.
Looking back, we learn from our mistakes. Looking ahead, we dream of the fulfillment of God’s loving Reign. Here and now, we accept the grace we need to begin again.

Prayer of Dedication (in unison)
God, the treasure we give symbolizes our hope and our destiny; our desire that the appointed time for a more just, compassionate and humane world will come and our intention to be part of it. We give of ourselves, trusting that the appointed time for generosity is always upon us.

Matt’s notes: This week’s lesson opens with Jesus saying it is God’s pleasure to give us the Kingdom.  It isn’t something we earn. It is gift that keeps on giving and is fulfilled in the next life. The Kingdom is also already here to be experienced. How do we understand it here and now? How do we grow in our awareness? A phrase in this passage leaps out at me: “The hour.” It is used twice in this lection. Luke also repeats this phrase in the passion narratives.

 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” 12:39

“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” 12:40

 “the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know . . .” 12:46

 “When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.” 20:19

 “When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.” 22:14

 “Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” 22:53

In these contexts, I hear the word for hour, hora, as a reference to kairos time than to chronos time. At these moments in the narrative, Luke is not talking about chronological hours, like times on a sundial. “The hour” refers to the intersection of divine presence and human awareness. The hour is an appointed time, the right moment, or a due season. The hour is kairos time. God’s time.

Kairos time invites us to the spiritual practice of awareness. As Jesus says in the parable, “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes” Keep watch. Be alert. Dress yourself for action. Trim those lamps. Awareness is the beginning, middle and end of spiritual life.

Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life must be lived forwards, but it can only be understood backwards.” This is awareness. It brings to mind the image of Sankofa, a primal symbol from West Africa. Sankofa portrays a bird with its feet facing forward and its head looking back, usually with an egg in its mouth. It reminds us to keep an eye on the past, to draw from its riches, while paying attention to the spiritual treasure and heart attitude that moves us into God’s future.

Gift of  Nancy Rockwell

The Unexpected Hour                

My life can be measured, dated, even named in the accumulation of possessions I call home.  There was a time when I had collected two degrees and precious little else.  Moving was easy then, I could accomplish it with my VW bug and my dear companion, who with his tools would disassemble my home-made bed (a plywood sheet on a box made of 2X12s) and my home-made desk (a door on two small filing cabinets) and put them in his truck.  It took less than a day, and I was happy at the prospect of a new life. 

Decades have passed, my dear companion has died, and my house is full of mementos.  His gigantic Christmas cactus;  a lamp we found in the trash on a Cambridge street;  furniture from my grandparents and a great aunt; my mother’s silver; way, way too many books.  The last move took weeks of sorting, packing, then unpacking.

And I am hedged all round with the things one acquires to stave off fearful possibilities:  a half dozen kinds of insurance, in case of illness, fire, theft, accidents in the car;  regular shots; innoculations collected since childhood.  My exercise routine is designed to stave off the effects of aging.   These are the dozens of ordinary fears toward which  my attention is alert.  I was freer of them once, but have accumulated them in life, and ironically, I care for them with the kind of attention given to cherished things.  Larger fears, the kind that keep me awake in the night, I handle differently, with a mix of hexes and prayers, denial and deep breathing.

Had I more trust, indeed I might have fewer things.  One day, of course, I will have to leave all these things behind, and travel on, like a bird.  In my purse that does not wear out, I hope I will not carry the old fears, but instead, those moments of delight and sadness that have been mine, memories that are so much a part of me that I cannot be separated from them. 

What does it take to turn any of us to that collecting?  It takes the Unexpected Hour.  Christ is as frightening as he is comforting, something we tend to forget to mention in our churches.  In the Unexpected Hour our lives are in some way demanded, and trust in Christ’s presence can be hard to find. 

That demand is the very thing my life is hedged against.  In the Unexpected Hour,  my defenses will be stripped away, my plans will fall, and in the darkness I will only find the Presence of God by the light of those things I have managed to tuck into my heart, my glimpses of the eternal.  These will be the stars that steer me to the angel of my comfort.

“It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy,” Simone Weil wrote, “in order to find reality through suffering.”  It is not suffering that holds the revelation, it is love;  but that love is only visible in the dark night of  suffering.  This is the testimony of the broken, the riven.  As stars shining in darkness have been shining unseen in the day, love also becomes visible in the darkness of our lives. 

May I have the courage to remember and speak of this, in the midst of all those voices saying that what is holy and eternal is present in the endless hedges we plant around our days. 

God is not in your virginity, but in your intimate sharing.  God is not in you at birth, but is with you in what you give birth to, including your death.  God is not present in your avoiding of accidents but in the Unexpected Hour in which you crash, and in your recovery and recounting.  God is not saved in your wallet, but in the memorable encounters when you recklessly risked everything.  You will not find God in rules and instructions, but in your  falling and forgiving. 

May I preach the Unexpected Hour.

            Luke for Sharing – A Community Resource
A Collaboration of Forty-four Writers on the Scriptures from Luke
June – November, 2013

edited by Maren C. Tirabassi

All of these resources were given freely and they may be used in worship contexts. They may be adapted to fit your context. Please cite the original author when you reprint them or share them orally. For any other use please contact me so that I can put you directly in touch with that particular author.

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