I loved the movie. I did. I still do but I always found this one repeated line creepy.
It’s the same line that I hear repeated in the Gospel Lesson forcing us to wonder how any one of us will answer that question, “What should I ask for?”
It is a woman that asks this question and we rarely hear women speak so boldly in Mark’s story or any other gospel account. I really wish that I had my copy of the Women’s Bible Commentary unpacked. (I also wish that I wasn’t still living in a hotel.) There is something both about the femaleness of this question and the overwhelming privilege that unsettles me. It’s this that I’m praying out in the following confession and assurance. I warn you: it’s dark but if you’re brave enough to choose this text as a preaching text then it may be what you need.
Invitation to Confession
We come today thinking that we know how the story goes. We know the plot lines and the story arc but we come together as people of prayer and hope because we are disquieted with the idea that some things have to be this way. We come to share in our human struggle by confessing our sins.
Prayer of Confession
Inspired by Psalm 48 and Mark 6:14-29
It doesn't feel like we danced. It doesn't feel like we could have had such rhythm getting to this point but maybe we were more graceful than we imagined. Maybe. Maybe that's how it went or how we just managed to survive to this moment in time. Maybe that's what it feels like now that vaccines are widely available and the world shifts into a new normal that anything is possible. Whatever you wish can happen now. That's the temptation. That's the tipping point but it comes with caution because our choices make a difference. Someone's head could end up on a platter and that was never our intent. It was never our intent but we always have the best of intentions. We would never mean to cause harm. It just happens sometimes. That's what we tell ourselves. O God, we are so frail and so human. Save us.
Words of Assurance
Inspired by Ephesians 1:3-14
Blessed are you, dear child of God, for being brave enough to name the discomfort. You have set your hope on Christ and you will live in praise of such glory. You are part of the great story of redemption. You are forgiven. You are loved. Amen. Amen.
It was two cycles ago when Amos’ plumbline came along in the Revised Common Lectionary that I was candidating for my last settled call. I preached on Amos that day but the liturgy I shared was rooted in the psalms. I’ve adapted the following prayer from that morning for the present day.
Prayer of Illumination
Show us, O Holy One, as we come together as your people with our hearts open to your steadfast love show us what you see. Because our eyes have grown tired. Pass us that pair of bifocals. Hand us that magnifying glass. Uncloud our vision so that we can see what you see. Show us, O Holy One. Search with us for that moment when love and faithfulness meet because it has happened and it will happen again but we have forgotten to look. We have forgotten so much in our languishing and we need to open ourselves to possibility again. Open us to the wonder and delight in seeing righteousness and peace kiss and feel faithfulness spring up like tiny bubbles of hope. Come, O Holy One, into our worship and wonder and lead us onto that path of possibility. Guide us there. Lead us with your love. Come, O Holy One. Come.
That’s all I’ve got for this week though I know that you are busy with many things. As it helps you prepare for the ministry ahead, I want to share these prayers for Vacation Bible School from last year and encourage you to think about what options there might be for Labor Sunday this year. These suggestions from last year might not be the liturgical gifts you need for this year’s lections but I hope the prompts encourage you to think about another Sunday off from preaching. Some of you may already be planning for Backpack Blessings in Coronatide even if that title feels so last year.
I’m praying for you, dear pastor. I’m praying for you so much.