Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
As I write this with another snow storm on the way, it is hard to think of rainbows. However, it is good to remember that we see a rainbow only when the raindrops are near perfectly spherical, and a snowflake with all its icy intricate surfaces and angles just cannot make one. Snow can form a rainbow-colored halo on the ground rather than in the sky. Snow crystals thaw and recrystallize slightly during daily temperature changes and morph into larger, simple crystals that glint brightly in sunlight to make a ground halo. Next time you go skiing hopefully in Colorado look for Snow bows!
However, it is good to remember that there are all kinds of signs of God at work around us. But let us admit it rainbows are easy to spot and easy to understand. We stumble around and often get God’s signs wrong. Just as the rainbow was God's sign to Noah of a new beginning for the world, so is John's baptism of Jesus a pivotal moment in the history of salvation. Out of nowhere John seems to emerge, calling Judah to repent and prepare for the coming of the long-expected Messiah by being baptized in the Jordan River. Jesus also seems to appear out of nowhere—or at least that is the way religious leaders from Jerusalem would have regarded it. Mark simply says, "in those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee." In John's gospel a potential disciple reflects this disposition when he playfully, yet with a note of scorn, asks, "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" However, the beginning of a new age centers on this Jesus from "nowhere," the rabbi from "Hicksville," Mark affirms in his account of the Nazarene's baptism.
Today whenever we see a rainbow in the sky and we excitedly call to people to come and look, do we still recall that this wonder of nature is a means of reassurance that God cares for us? And when we see someone baptized, do we really hear the words of the baptismal prayer asserting that a new relationship is being established in the life of the person receiving baptism? Or that at some point in our own lives we too were brought into God's kingdom? The beautiful prayer, known in some liturgies as "Thanksgiving Over the Water," calls this water "a fountain of deliverance and rebirth" (From the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, the source of the following quotations.). The prayer recalls the great acts of God in the past when water was important: At creation, when the "Spirit moved over the watery chaos;" "in the time of Noah" when the flood "gave righteousness a new beginning;" at the exodus of Israel when God led the people "through the waters of the sea into the freedom of the promised land;" and at Christ's baptism by John at the Jordan. Jesus' death and resurrection are identified as "baptism," one that sets all of us who believe "free from sin and death." The "Thanksgiving" then dwells on the present with the request that God send the Spirit over this water, bringing "deliverance and rebirth" and washing away sin.
The signs we see in Scripture are those things in our everyday lives that connect us with God. In the movie Signs we see just the opposite. The movies is about the unusual signs found in trampled down crops. These unusual signs point to aliens that are coming to destroy and conquer. It is comfortable to think that God is found in the small things of life like water and rainbows.
Thus, all who believe are beneficiaries of the rainbow and the water of baptism. We have been "grafted into the body of Christ." When we are Spirit-led, we have the power to do God's will and "continue forever in the risen life of Christ." Like Jesus, we will be tempted to deny the heritage given us in our baptism, but because he endured, not only temptation, but death on the cross for our sake, we too can overcome temptation, moving on to proclaim in our words and deeds that the new era, the kingdom of God has come and is coming. We are emboldened to claim this because we see God's power of love and justice renewing our own lives and filling us with faith, hope and love.
As Jesus rises out of the water—yes, the Greek infers that this was a baptism by immersion—Mark describes what seems to be a personal experience. Jesus sees the heavens open and the Spirit of God descending upon him "like a dove." A voice accompanies the Spirit, declaring the Jesus is God's son in whom God is "well pleased." This is a combination of a phrase from Psalm 2, one of the Psalms that might have been used at the coronation of a king of Israel — "You are my Son, the beloved" — and one of the servant poems of Isaiah (Ch. 42:1b) "with you I am well pleased." Luke objectifies this experience in his account of the baptism by dropping "Mark's words "he saw." Luke simply declares, "The heaven was opened…" John goes even further by having John state, not only that Jesus is the "Lamb of God," but also that he himself saw the heaven open and the Spirit descend, even as he had been told that he would. Thus, all the Gospel writers agree that what happened at the Jordan inaugurates a new chapter in the story of God's saving acts. For Mark it is so important that he begins his account with John and Jesus' baptism, leaving out any mention of Jesus' birth or his genealogy.
In the Hebrew Scriptures the rainbow symbolizes God's constant care of creation and the divine promise that God will never again totally flood it, no matter how much rainfalls or humanity sins. The symbol of water involves God's promise through the Son that long sought new era of sinful humanity has begun. After a period of testing similar to that of Israel's forty years in the wilderness, Jesus goes about calling for all to repent. But unlike John, he goes to the people, rather than drawing them to him in the wilderness. Jesus moves among the crowds in villages and cities as he asserts that the kingdom of God is at hand. And we will soon see that, although there is judgment, as with John, the main emphasis is upon accepting and living in a new relationship of love with God and neighbor. (John did teach an ethic of sharing and justice, it should be noted, though only Luke gives a summary of this. See Luke 3:10-14)
The basic message of this sermon is looking for signs of God all around us. I think most people who have any spiritual maturity recognize that there are false signs in our lives. But there are certain signs around us of God’s love from Rainbows and Snow bows to fall leaves and the first flowers of spring. There are also many other signs within the church of God at work from Baptism to the loving care most churches give their members. Just look for the signs.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
Despite denominational differences in how baptism is administered, a common characteristic in virtually all baptisms is that the baptized person's name is spoken as the individual receives the sacrament. Through baptism, though, a person is shown that his or her ultimate identity is being a child of God. The California Milk Processor Board is hoping that some small town might be willing to change its identity. Last October the organization sent "Got Milk?" T-shirt and a letter to the mayors of 20 small California municipalities, asking that they consider changing the name of their community to Got Milk, California. As an incentive, the Milk Board offered to construct a "Got Milk?" museum in the town that undergoes the name change and to make a substantial contribution to the local school district.
When some people read that Satan tempted Jesus, they question whether such an evil power really exists. Some African athletes, though, certainly believe in evil powers. The soccer teams of several African nations look to witchcraft to help them win games. During last summer's World Cup, Senegal amazed its fellow African nations when they rejected that strategy and almost made it to the semifinals, relying solely on their ability. Teams from Ivory Coast and Mali have a reputation for resorting to black magic. They have been known to bury animal parts in the soccer field at midnight and to employ witch doctors to cast hexes on the opposing team from the sideline. Last February an assistant coach for Maili military officials dragged the Cameroon team off the field when he was suspected of possessing a lucky charm.
Many of us would have a difficult time imagining what it would be like to be completely alone for forty days. The owners of a English estate recently advertised for a hermit. More than 200 years ago, it was somewhat common for British estates to employ hermits to dwell in the surrounding caves. Last summer the owners of the Shugborough Home in Staffordshire, in the central part of England, placed an ad in the newspaper, indicating that they wanted to reinstitute that tradition. In response to their notice, they received a considerable number of applications. The job requirement is that the hermit would be expected to live in a cave on the grounds of the estate and cut off all human contact, except for scaring the occasional tourists who visit. The position would also require the person to give up shaving and bathing. The job apparently pays rather well, but it does tie the person to a five-year contract.
Reports found every day in the newspapers are examples of our need to repent. One rather extreme example of the depths to which our society has fallen took place in January 2002 in Las Vegas. A woman was killed on New Year's Day when three cars struck her as she tried to cross a street. The first two vehicles sped away. While the woman was pinned under the third car, passersby robbed her by rummaging through her purse, wallet, and backpack. The thieves left the scene before police arrived.
The assumption is often made that people always know what the right thing to do is. A recent ethics program, however, calls that assumption into question. Most companies suffer from employee theft. Quite often the items that are taken are rather inexpensive—pens, pencils, paper—but sometimes the stolen goods are more costly things, such as tools or computers. It is estimated that employee theft costs American businesses about $400 billion every year. A large company had its customer service employees take part in a day-long ethics training program. To test the effectiveness of the training, the company asked all of its workers to stay an extra hour one day to complete a survey. When it was time for them to leave, they were told that each of them could take two dollars from a jar of coins to compensate them for the extra time they put in that day. Although the workers felt underpaid for their efforts, those workers that had completed the ethics course were less likely to take more money than they were told to take. That experiment also found that when the employees were told that the money had come from their bosses' pockets, they were less likely to steal, apparently demon strating that people find it easier to steal from a "faceless company" than from a person.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit often seems to cause people to be on the move. In Jesus' case, the arrival of the Spirit at his baptism led him to head out into the wilderness. Researchers have concluded that some people are more genetically inclined to be open to moving to new places. The specific gene, DRD4, seems to affect whether people are content to stay where they are or whether they tend to want to be on the go. One variation, known as the 7R form, is linked to people who are more active, more likely to take risks, and hungrier for new experiences. Scientists speak of the possessors of that gene variation, or allele, as being "restless." Biochemist Robert Moyzis of the University of California-Irvine concludes that the same genetic impulse that causes people to be restless is the same impulse that motivated whole populations of people to migrate from one place to another. In South America, where anthropologists believe the first settlers of that land had originally migrated from Asia over 12,000 years ago, 60% of the native population possesses that 7R genetic variation. In contrast, in areas of Asia where the population has been known to be sedentary for centuries, less than 1% of the people possess that allele. So it is not surprising to find Jews who migrated great distances from Palestine have a significantly higher occurrence of the DRD4 than the Jews who remained in the Holy Land.
In North Dakota, the Devils Lake High School sports teams are no longer nicknamed Satan. The school board voted last fall to change the team's moniker. One parent complained that calling children Satan was inappropriate. Other alumni contended that the name should stay as it had been for nearly 80 years, pointing out that the name was a perfect fit for the community. But in the end, the school board members voted 5-0 to exorcize Satan from their teams' jerseys.
Mark leaves it a little ambiguous whether the voice from heaven was heard by Jesus alone or by the surrounding crowds as well. If you're interested in a private message, then you need to consider having a one-way phone implanted in your teeth. Two British inventors recently introduced a prototype of such a device. Their tentative name for the gadget is the "telephone tooth." The device would allow a person to receive phone calls, listen to music, and even connect to verbal sites on the Internet without anyone around hearing a thing. In theory, the product would allow spies to receive secret instructions or athletes to hear their coaches from the sidelines. One drawback, though, is that the phone does not allow for the person to talk back or make outgoing calls. The "telephone tooth" would be a small device that would be implanted in a person's back molar. It would include a low-frequency receiver and a gadget that turns audio signals into mechanical vibrations, which would pass from the tooth to the inner ear as clear sounds.
When the Holy Spirit drove out Jesus into the wilderness, he faced many challenges. In like manner, many people in the world today have been driven from their homes and made to endure overwhelming problems. The United Nations estimates that there are more than 25 million refugees in the world who are exposed to torture, rape, and other forms of abuse in their own countries, yet those people are offered no protection by their governments. Among the internally displaced refugees, the United Nations found that ethnic and religious minorities are among the most persecuted.
Some might wonder why Jesus would have subjected himself to Satan and temptation like he did. But Jesus demonstrated that he did not consider himself above the law that God had given to all humankind. King Harald of Norway was caught speeding last October. He was traveling 10 kilometers per hour over the posted speed limit. An ordinary Norwegian citizen would have been fined the equivalent of $130 for the incident. But the king left the scene without paying a cent. According to Norway's 1814 constitution, the monarch is granted blanket immunity from prosecution for any crime or misdemeanor.
"The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God" (John Paul II).
"Holiness is the eternal moral power which must do, and do, till it sees itself everywhere" (P. T. Forsyth).
The great liturgical scholar Alexander Schmemann once observed, "Even though we are baptized, what we constantly lose and betray is precisely that which we received at baptism." (A Triduum Sourcebook [Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1983], p. 2.) The story of Jesus' baptism, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and his courage in the temptation in the wilderness bring us back both to the pivotal nature of our own baptisms as well as our source of power and strength to live into them through the temptations of the rest of our lives.
Men had claimed it by force for themselves throughout history. Others had had it thrust upon them. The whole world has given itself to finding a son of god. Caesars were not gods. Neither were Napoleon nor Hitler, though the people elevated them both to the station. Then in the Jordan River one day, as he was baptizing people who were ashamed of their sins, John was approached by his cousin, Jesus. All the precious Words of God that eloquently proclaim His love for humankind had become flesh. Not a son of god, but the Son of God was revealed in John's baptism of Jesus into our human circumstance. Jesus is the rainbow in the storms of life.
A rainbow and water are important in the classic family film The Wizard of Oz. Water takes on the destructiveness of the Flood when the Wicked Witch is drenched and starts to dissolve as she cries piteously "I'm melting! I'm melting" (This film is referenced in several ways in the more recent Signs, when simple water brings down the aliens who have invaded Earth.) In the hauntingly beautiful song that Dorothy sings, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" there is an almost melancholy yearning for that which is just beyond reach. No matter how dark things might look, Dorothy steadfastly believes that blue birds are singing "somewhere over the rainbow." Thus the song and rainbow for her are symbols of hope. Dorothy does finally reach her goal, "home," where she is a bit wiser and more appreciative of what she had taken for granted. Her hope has been justified.
When the bishops at the Second Vatican Council issued in 1964 their Constitution on the Church, the first part of their statement on baptism is echoed by a Protestant Country-Western singer in the movie Tender Mercies. The statement: "Baptism establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it, But of itself baptism is only a beginning…" In the movie Robert Duvall plays Mack Sledge, his life transformed by his marriage Rosa Lee, to a war widow with a young son, Sonny. Through her love and prayers, he has given up his drinking and some of his bitterness against his ex-wife. On the Sunday of Sonny's baptism Mack also is baptized in the little Baptist church. On the way home in their pickup truck Sonny asks if Mack can see any change in him. As a boy he apparently thinks that such an important event should work some physical change on him. Mack replies, "Not yet." The boy asks Mack if he feels or looks any different, and again Mack replies, "Not yet." There will be many events that will change them in the months and years ahead, much of them influenced by what began in their baptism this day. For Jesus himself baptism marked the beginning of something so new and powerful that he could never go back to his private life in Nazareth. The immersion in the water and the receipt of the Spirit and blessing launched him on his world-saving mission.
In his delightful WISHFUL THINKING: A Seeker's ABC Frederick Buechner states that although the form of baptism isn't really that important, "Dunking is a better symbol." Immersion symbolizes that everything unworthy in one's life has come to an end. "Coming up again symbolizes the beginning in you of something strange and new and hopeful. You can breathe again." I wonder if that is how Jesus felt after his baptism? (See Brian Wren's hymn below, which raises such questions.) (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking [San Francisco: Harper, 1993], p.6)
Older Protestant hymnals ignored the Baptism of Jesus, but a few hymns commemorating the event have appeared more recently in our hymnals. The best-known one (at least it appears in more hymnals) is Fred Pratt Green's "When Jesus Came to Galilee." After declaring that Christ came to share in our repentance (even though he was "God's holy one") and in our temptation, the hymnist sees the descent of the dove on Christ as the end of the hidden years, the hymn ending with "The age of grace begun." Green's 1973 hymn was followed six years later by F. Bland Tucker's "Christ, When for us You Were Baptized." The first two verses describe the scene at the Jordan River, the writer adding to the divine voice that Christ is "the suffering servant true." He then sums up Christ's ministry as one in obedience to God's call, which climaxed with his giving his life for everyone. The last verse is a prayer that Christ will baptize us with his spirit so that in "God's service, we may perfect freedom find." Perhaps most poetic is Brian Wren's "Lord, When You Came to Jordan," also written in 1979. The first two verses are a series of questions concerning just how much Jesus saw or understood what lay ahead of him during that sublime moment. The third (and last) verse states that although faith can live with questions, it "craves" to see what God is up to today, and then concludes with the prayer that believers will be brought to their own Jordan ushering them into the life of love, as was Christ.
In the science fiction thriller, The Matrix the hero Neo undergoes a type of baptism and rebirth. It is the bizarre story of a computer hacker who meets the leader of a group of misfits that call themselves the Resistance and live on a hidden space vessel. Led by Morpheus, they believe that Neo is the long-sought deliverer, their question echoing that of the disciples of John the Baptist concerning the identity of Jesus, "Are you the One…?" What they are resisting is the present state of humanity, which is being used by a matrix of computers that have overcome humanity and placed their bodies in pods so that the computers can use their psychic energy to generate power for the matrix. Though their bodies are held fast, their minds are under the illusion that the world in which they seem to live is the real world. Morpheus and his small band somehow have broken free of this and realize what the real situation of humanity is, even more in bondage than those who sang, "O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel." Their mission has been to search and find the One who can lead them in a successful revolt against the Matrix. Morpheus puts Neo through an intense training period that involves disciplining body, mind and soul. Part of the process involves what looks like a new birth, Neo descending though a long, watery tube and emerging, like a new born babe into his new awareness. His subsequent battle against the agents of the Matrix leads to self-sacrifice, and even a love-powered type of resurrection.
Christians often talk about being marked by baptism, many clergy actually make a sign of the cross on a child's head with their wet hand. Harry Potter bears upon his forehead a more visible mark, resulting from the attempt on his life by Lord Valdemort. Harry was just a baby during the attack, which killed his father and his mother. Harry himself was protected by the love of his mother, she is giving her life to save him. Lord Valdemort was able only to inflict a wound upon the infant, which when healed formed the shape of a lightning bolt. The love that saved him when he was an infant also saves him eleven years later when one of Lord Valdemort's henchmen was unable to hold onto Harry. The would-be killer's hands were burnt when he touched Harry's skin. Prof. Dumbledore tells Harry that he has been marked by the sacrificial love of his mother. Therefore, evil hands are unable to lay a hold of him.
When the Church baptizes a child, that action concerns me, for that child is thereby connected to that which is my head too, and engrafted into that body whereof I am a member. —John Donne
The content of Jesus' preaching is set right at the beginning of his ministry in v. 14 of Mark: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." The great novelist and Christian mystic Count Leo Tolstoy wrote in his book The Kingdom of God "The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God; and this can be done only by means of the acknowledgment and profession of the truth by each one of us." In 1917, some 24 years after Tolstoy wrote his book, social activist Walter Rauschenbusch stated in his book A Theology for the Social Gospel, "It is for us to see the Kingdom of God as always coming, always pressing in on the present, always big with possibility, and always inviting immediate action."
British writer Christopher Dawson provides a needed caution for any who think that the kingdom is something we build: "The Kingdom of God is not the work of man
and does not emerge by a natural law of progress from the course of human history. It makes a violent irruption into history and confounds the work of man." (Christopher Dawson, The Kingdom of God and History, 1937.) H.G. Wells, even though a skeptic, would seem to agree with his fellow British writer when he wrote, "This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus…is certainly the most revolutionary doctrine that ever stirred and changed human thought…no less than a bold and uncompromising demand for a complete change and cleansing of the life of our struggling race." (H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, 1920)
We do not bring in the kingdom, but we do play our part in its coming, several hymn writers assert. In Ernest W. Shurtleff's popular "Lead on, O King Eternal" the world is seen as a battlefield in which Christians call to God to lead us against the forces of sin. Although the images are from the military, echoing some of the apostle Paul's exhortations, the writer makes it clear that it is "not with sword's loud clashing" that the battle will be won, but "with deeds of love and mercy, the heav'nly kingdom comes." Set to a martial tune, this hymn has long been a favorite one to conclude a service emphasizing Christ's call to service. Its author was an American Congregational minister who served churches in California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, after graduating from Harvard University and Andover Theological Seminary. His most memorable service began in 1895 when he organized the American Church in Frankfort-on-the-Main, Germany and then, from 1906 to 1917, was in charge of a student organization in Paris. During World War I he and his wife threw themselves into relief work for the victims of war. He wrote this hymn at the request of his Andover classmates for their Commencement Service in 1887. Thus "the days of preparation" refers to their years of college and seminary studies, but could just as well mean the time that the worshiper has spent in church school and worship.
Frank Mason North's "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life" is perhaps the most beloved of hymns calling us to serve Christ "in haunts of wretchedness and need." It fairly breathes with the spirit of the Christ who ministered so tenderly to "famished souls" weighed down by "human grief and burdened toil." It is that rare hymn which includes not the standard three or four, but six verses, the last two verses comprising a prayer asking Christ to come among us and "tread the city's streets again" until at last the world "shall learn Thy love" and see "the city of our God." The author was a New York City-born Methodist minister who served various pastorates in the east and then became a denominational officer in a New York missionary agency and Secretary for the Methodist Board of Foreign missions. He also served from 1916 to 1920 as President of the Federal Council of Churches. When Prof. Caleb Winchester, a friend serving on a committee to compile a new Methodist hymnal, asked Dr. North to write a hymn on the theme of missions, the clergyman protested that he was not a hymn writer. However, he promised that he would try. A little later while preparing a sermon based on Matthew 22:9 he was struck by a newer translation that rendered Christ's command as "Go ye therefore into the parting of the highways." Dr. North thought of the teeming roads of his New York City and of the overcrowded slums and their inhabitants he knew so well from his mission work. Thus, was he inspired to write the first two verses. The rest of the hymn also arose out of his service among "the multitudes" who longed "to see the sweet compassion of Thy face."
Here is a small list of showing God at work in our lives. Sign One: We can be sure God is alive and active in our lives if we have a growing sense of God’s unconditional love for us. Not to have this is to live without the heart of the Good News and so to need healing prayer that would remove whatever prevents us from believing the Good News of God’s unconditional love. Sign Two: We are growing in compassion for others and ourselves. The heart of God is a heart of compassion for all creation. If we allow God to touch our hearts we will gradually share his compassion for the poor, the hurting and for what is broken in us. Sign Three: We will have a growing desire to forgive life’s hurts. As we experience God’s mercy for us, we will be led to share his mercy with all who have hurt us. It may take a lifetime to forgive huge hurts even partially, but that desire to work on them will be present. Sign Four: We will have a growing desire to spend time with God in prayer. When it comes to decisions we will especially want to seek God’s will Jesus says: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4). Sign Five: We will have a growing desire to let God into the way we handle our finances. We will gradually become more generous to the poor and church. Sign Six: We will have a growing desire to become involved in ministry and service to others inside or outside the parish. We are becoming more aware that all is gift, my time, talent and treasure. All is blessing, and I want to share my blessings with others. Sign Seven: A growing respect for the lives of others and God’s creation. I will respect and be prolife from womb to tomb including those on death row. I will love and care for God’s creations and environment. Sign Eight: We will gradually learn to trust God in all things. Trust and courage will replace fear and anxiety. (http://uploads.weconnect.com/mce/f90a34bcd66e597a5d391005bf1e14a7c70f1d2c/ReflectionsSundayReadings/CycleCReflections/Lent2C.pdf)
God can get your attention through pictures and symbols. Did an image or something symbolic come out of nowhere? You might have accidentally brushed if off as something else, but it could be God. When The Holy Spirit steers your focus somewhere and then speaks spiritually through the moment, listen carefully. (http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/galleries/8-signs-god-is-trying-to-get-your-attention.aspx?p=2#GiJI6BCKtqHY16Wf.99)
The Lord will use family, close friends and even total strangers to speak a word into your life that will pierce an area God is trying to deal with. God can use these people to bring you the gospel and give you solid advice. These people want the best for you, and God will choose people that you trust to really deliver important messages. Rely on your friends during the dark times. (http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/galleries/8-signs-god-is-trying-to-get-your-attention.aspx?p=3#HGJfEE2bvEoxxrkT.99)
Sometimes we have more energy, your spiritual sensitivity will heighten and engage in deeper understanding. Simple activities, like watching a movie or TV show, will speak to you in different ways that have depth of meaning others might not get. God might be blessing you with knowledge and wisdom you didn't even know you had. This is one of His ways to get your attention. (http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/galleries/8-signs-god-is-trying-to-get-your-attention.aspx?p=6#o0JDHkGdvTrxeUTZ.99)
On the flip side, God might make you feel that something is just not right and you have no sense of peace. There’s a feeling of overall uneasiness in your life. Sometimes distraction can deafen our ears to the voice of The Holy Spirit. In this case, the absence of peace is a loud and clear sign that God is trying to get you to pay more attention to Him. (http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/galleries/8-signs-god-is-trying-to-get-your-attention.aspx?p=7#KIEdEKfuuetF7QZ5.99)
Yes, God does and can come after our comfort zones to get through to us. If you’re experiencing transition or life change, ask God to speak to you and give Him your undivided attention. If you feel He is trying to push you out of the box you've stuck yourself in, don't push back. Instead, let yourself open to these new experiences. These life changes might be a big part of His plan for you. (http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/galleries/8-signs-god-is-trying-to-get-your-attention.aspx?p=8#uZWjI2ZWmpFkSasy.99)
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: Lift up your hearts to God! Put your trust in the Lord, for God will never abandon you.
People: Teach us Your ways, O Lord; show us the way You want us to go.
Leader: Lead us into the truth, for You are the God who is our Savior and Deliverer.
People: Forgive us for our sins and hold us in the embrace of Your steadfast love.
God of mercy, like Jesus in the wilderness, we find ourselves constantly being tempted by the wiles of the devil. But unlike Jesus, we often succumb to those temptations, and we fall into sin. We allow our impulses to govern what we do, and we forget Your ways. We exchange our worship of You for devotion to lesser things. We focus on the momentary pleasures of this world rather than paying heed to the eternal joy of life in Your Kingdom. Release us from our sin, and renew a willing spirit within us, so that we may live each day as Your faithful disciples. In the name of our gracious Lord we pray. Amen.
Blessed Lord, throughout our lives You give us signs of Your constant love. As we look to the sky, the rainbow is a sign of Your abiding care for all creation. And as water is consecrated for its holy use in baptism, we see yet another sign of Your never-ending grace. As You now look upon us and the gifts we bring, see them as a sign of our faith and devotion. We ask this in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Creator God, You are Lord over all that You have made. Just as a rainbow arcs from one end of the sky to the other, so also Your love and compassion extend to the ends of the earth. Not only are You the one who formed us, but You are the God and Father of people in every land. Help us then to live as brothers and sisters. Set aside our racial and national bigotries. Bring an end to the suspicions and fears that pit one people against another. Rather than focusing on our differences, enable us to discover the common ground we share with one another, particularly the unity that may be found through our faith in You.
Your goodness, O Lord, is not only upon the human race, but upon every creature that moves over the face of the earth. Teach us, therefore, the proper respect for the world around us. Lead us to be careful stewards of Your creation. Show us what it means to live at peace not only with our fellow humans, but also with the plants and animals that share this world with us We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.