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Second Quarter
2018

 

J Nichols Adams et al

March 11, 2018, 4th Sunday of Lent

 

 

LectionAid 2nd Quarter 2018

March 11, 2018, 4th Sunday of Lent

God Made, Not Self Made

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22, Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

Theme: God's Grace

Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON

Starting Thoughts

There are no self-made citizens in the Kingdom of God. All of us are let in solely because of the incredible grace of God given us through Jesus Christ so that we might do the works of God. This, in a nutshell, is the message that the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians wanted to convey. In the text for today the writer reminds us of our sinful past. It's what some Christians acknowledge each Sunday near the beginning of worship in the Prayer of Confession, acknowledging that apart from God we are helpless sinners who long for a way out of the cycle of sin. John Newton acknowledged this even in his great hymn celebrating God's grace when he admitted, "I once was lost. Was blind…"
In our past we were sinners, the author of Ephesians writes, "following the course of this world." This refers to all that our culture teaches us from infancy about "how things are done." In the movie Babe there is a chapter entitled "The Way Things Are," in which "the little Pig with an unprejudiced heart" learns about the place and role of every creature on Farmer Hoggett's farm, including the rules and regulations that govern their relationships and work. Dogs can enter the house but not pigs. Dogs go out and help Farmer Hoggett with the sheep; pigs stay behind and eat and grow fat. Roosters are supposed to wake up the barnyard at dawn, not a duck. Or, in real life society, Jews have no dealings with Samaritans; men rule over women; religious folk maintain purity by avoiding contact with everyone "impure," and so forth. At the moment we are all reeling from the sudden realization that Hollywood treats women as less then men. But were we that surprised. As we think about the sinful world we live in we can come to realize that none of us are real heroes in Hollywood terms. We are all sinners even though we try to stay away from sin.
The great unspoken weakness of the humanist movement is that when we turn away from God and seek to improve our world we forget that often that is impossible to do. The humanist does not have God’s grace to fall back upon. Human endeavor is not always enough. Human technology is not always enough.

Exegetical Comments

Reminding us of this past when we were under the sway of powers that ruled this world, the writer begins verse 4 with the short but powerful word "But." We "were dead through our trespasses" (vs. 5), but God because of his "great mercy" has "made us alive together with Christ." Twice the writer states "by grace you have been saved," emphasizing that there are no grounds for boasting about our new status. It is God through Christ, and God alone, who have rescued us. Such an assertion goes against virtually every culture, especially our own, that looks up to "self-made" leaders. When we were young, we were taught that hard work would bring us success, meaning wealth and happiness. (Even if we never read a novel by Horatio Alger, we absorbed this teaching.) Along the way we learned that there were a few tricks, such as using people to achieve our ends and then moving on, and maybe even cutting a few ethical corners along the way ("business is business," "we don't live in a Sunday School world!"). The business section of our newspapers extols the achievements of captains of industries, and entire magazines (such as PEOPLE) are devoted to the details of their lives and "secrets" for success. Large sections at our local bookstores are crowded with books by and about such self-made leaders. Such are not the folk welcomed into the kingdom: as the hymn puts it, "I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see." The verbs are passive not active. It is not we who are the subject of the Ephesians text, "but God, who is rich in mercy." (vs 4)
The text ends with the assertion that the purpose of God's grace is "good works." The theology that uses God as the means for getting us into a heaven of eternal bliss misses the whole point of the New Testament (and of the Old, where at the very beginning of salvation history Abraham is told that he will be "a blessing" to many peoples). As leaders in the church we dare not entice people in by promises of happiness, "families that stay together," or the older, "pie in the sky." God calls us to join in the network of people doing God's will, from the many ministries of the local church and the personal opportunities each member has every day, to the far-flung projects of the extended church around the world. Indeed, we preachers at this point might describe some of the ministries—shelters for abused women and children; peace-seeking teams in Palestine and Ireland; hospitals and clinics in rural regions and crowded cities of Asia and Africa; service projects and exchanges with congregations in Latin America; disaster relief and self-development of people endeavors.
Few people, especially those outside the church, have any idea of the vast people-serving work of the many churches, Protestant and Catholic, without which the world would be a far colder and darker space. But all of these, great as they are, provide us with no grounds for boasting—they are but manifestations of the destiny for "which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." (vs 10b) But we do not need any of the vain compensation gained from boasting, because as the old gospel hymn puts it, when we "do his good will. He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey."

Preaching Possibilities

We need to understand that no matter how hard we try there is and will always be a great deal of injustice in our world. The real answer to all the many injustices from Hollywood to every day life is God. God’s grace conquers all the injustices in our society especially the ones we never even see. This is never to say that we should not strive to remove all injustice in the world. But we always need to realize that God’s grace is the safety net for us all.

Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON

Different Sermon Illustrations

There can be little doubt that gender inequality does still persist in the United States, as some striking facts make clear: Women still make only about 80% of what men earn for full time work. Women are less likely to hold managerial or supervisory positions, and when they do, their positions carry less authority. “Housewives” are perceived as in the lower half of all groups in social status, below “blue collar workers.” Even when both partners earn wages, women do twice as much housework and child care. To be sure, American women have made substantial gains since 1970. But gains have leveled off since the 1990s, suggesting that the gender revolution may be stalling – or at least slowing down. (http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/how-gender-inequality-persists-modern-world)

Gender inequality is an issue that has been discussed in Hollywood and in the media over a long period of time. Such problems can be seen in the wage gap between actors and actresses. A survey conducted by The New York Film Academy in 2014 found that the top ten male actors collectively made $419 million compared to the top ten actresses who made roughly $226 million collectively. The highest paid actor in 2017 made $68 million while the highest paid actress made $26 million.
Opportunities within the film industry may be biased towards gender. Academy research study found that films with a female director exhibited a 10.6% increase in female characters on screen, and an 8.7% increase when a female screenwriter was part of the project. The same study found that "Visual effects, usually the largest department for big feature films, had an average of only 17.5% of women (employees), while music had just 16%, and camera and electrical were, on average, 95% male". Few film directors are women. Among the top 250 grossing films in 2016, only 7% of directors were female.
Inequality in film is also evident in the types of characters women portray. Whilst men can be seen playing characters within a number of different genres, women are typically under-represented in genres such as action and sci-fi, being more commonly represented in the romance genre. The New York Film Academy 2014 poll cited above also assessed gender differences in revealing clothing on screen. The poll found that while only 30.8% of speaking characters are women, 28.8% of those women wore sexually revealing clothes compared to 7% of male speaking characters.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is an organization that lobbies the industry to expand the roles of women in film.
The presence of racial inequality in Hollywood has also been debated. The Georgetown Law Journal of Modern Critical Race Perspectives published an article stating that “typically, breakdowns reserve leading roles for white actors, leaving only a small number of remaining roles for non-white actors.” A 2006 study by UCLA Chicano Studies stated that, "From June 1st to August 31st of that year...only 0.5% to 8.1% of roles were available for actors of color, compared to 69% of roles “reserved” for white actors. Moreover, only 8.5% of roles did not designate race or ethnicity, pitting white actors against actors of color". Furthermore, “Just over a quarter (25.9%) of the 3,932 speaking characters evaluated were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups; [74.1% were White]” A wage gap also exists between white actors and actors of color, seen recently in the potential reboot of "Hawaii Five-O" where actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park quit because their contracts offered 10% to 15% less pay than those of their white co-stars.
Non-white directors are also underrepresented within the industry. It is said that in 2008, only 5% of top grossing films had a black director. This under-representation can also be seen in films which have been critically acclaimed, for example, the only non-white directed film to win an Academy award was Steve McQueen for 12 Years A Slave, winning best picture. There is also a disparity in the budgets and box office grosses between films with white and non-white directors, with white director’s budgets being higher on average.
The Evolve Entertainment Fund was created January 2018 to provide a resource for people from under-served communities the opportunity to be find work in the entertainment industry.
Ageism also exists throughout Hollywood and affects more women than men. This problem is not new; young women have been cast with significantly older men for years. For example, “in the 1942 classic Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman, 27, played opposite Humphrey Bogart, 16 years older than her.”
Hollywood for all its bluster is often worse in the way it treats people even though the entertainment industry believes it should tell us all what to believe and do.

Our amazing technology tends to cause us to focus on what we're able to accomplish for ourselves. Consider what has been accomplished in the realm of computers. The first Intel processor chip in 1972 was able to compute 3500 calculations per second. In 1989, the 486 processor could make 1,200,000 calculations per second. In 1993, the Pentium raised that number to 5,500,000. By 2000, the Pentium IV was doing 28,000,000 calculations per second. Computer technology is said to obey what is known as Moore's law: their speed and complexity double every eighteen months.

We tend to resist God's grace, because it implies that there are sins for which we need to be forgiven. Yet we resist confessing the sins we're guilty of. Shortly after World War II, Carl Jung observed that most confessions come as a mixture of repentance, self-defense, and even some lust for revenge. We admit our sins, justify ourselves, and attack, all in one breath.

March 30, 2003—4th Sunday in Lent Thomas Jefferson tried to emphasize the fact that there are limitations to all laws that human beings create for themselves. In an attempt to highlight the temporary nature of laws, Jefferson discussed an idea with James Madison, whereby a provision would have been added to the Constitution that would have effectively repealed any given law after a period of about twenty years. He eventually discarded that idea, realizing the confusion and uncertainty it would cause for society.

Sometimes we think of ourselves as being more invincible than we really are. University of Washington researchers have found that elderly people are more likely to be hit by cars in a marked crosswalk than they are to be hit in unmarked areas. They conclude that the problem is that in a crosswalk, elderly people assume they are protected because the law requires people to yield. But they end up getting injured and even killed because they fail to recognize that it ultimately requires an element of grace on the part of the drivers to hit the brake and allow the slow-moving person to cross the road. Although less than 13% of the American population is 65 or older, the elderly account for nearly 22% of all pedestrian deaths each year.

Our accomplishments constantly impress us. A seven-year-old boy in St. Paul, Minnesota, came up with such a new way to swing that his father ran out, filed, and received a patent for his swinging method. Steven Olson found that while seated, if you pull alternately on one side's chain and then on the other side's, while gradually introducing a forward-backward thrust, you can swing in an oval-shaped arc, as long as the side-to-side motion is greater than the forward-backward motion. If other children would like to swing in that way, they need to apply for a license to use patent number 6,368,227.

The writer of Ephesians invites us to envision how God is transferring us from one kingdom, the kingdom of evil, to another realm, the kingdom of God. He excludes the possibility of holding dual citizenship. Last November the citizens of Gibraltar were asked to vote on a referendum as to whether they would subject themselves to the sovereignty of both Britain and Spain. The ballot question read: "Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar?" The citizenry overwhelmingly disapproved. Of the 20,500 ballots that were cast, 98.9% of the people voted against the question. Rights over Gibraltar have been a long-standing bone of contention between Spain and Britain. Spain lays claim to the territory, which it ceded to Britain under the terms of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

Besides being a special effects spectacular, Jurassic Park was a commentary on the limitation of human works. While we often think we can achieve anything we set our minds to—at times even assuming that we can work our own way into heaven—Jurassic Park reminds us that our abilities come with distinct limitations. Following the discovery of some dinosaur DNA trapped inside chunks of amber, an entrepreneur seeks to exploit that asset to create a living dinosaur theme park. While all the details seem to be worked out on paper, the actual creation of the beasts soon turns the small island into a place of horror as the dinosaurs escape from their enclosures and begin to hunt their human masters.

In the process of trying to improve our own situations, we often make things worse. In the battle against crabgrass and other forms of weeds, in the attempt to create the perfect lawns for themselves, Americans pour tons of herbicides on their lawns each year. Pediatricians are now warning that many children are getting sick after being exposed to freshly treated lawns. Pets are also susceptible to the chemicals. In addition, the runoff of the chemicals drains into rivers and lakes, which ultimately contaminates people's drinking water.

The epistle passage drives home the point that our faith is a matter of life and death. Some Japanese restaurant goers seem to be attracted by the prospect that their dinner might be a matter of life or death. Fugu is one of the most famous fish dinners in Japan, particularly in the city of Shimonoseki, about 500 miles southwest of Tokyo. The white-fleshed fish has a reputation for carrying enough poison to paralyze someone within hours if it is not properly prepared. Apparently it is that "thrill" that attracts so many diners. The key to the preparation is the proper removal of the internal organs—particularly the intestines, liver, and ovaries—that contain the poison, which is estimated to be 500 to 1000 times stronger than potassium cyanide. About five or six people die in Japan each year from eating the fish.

God has changed us from nobodies into some bodies. According to Panamanian government officials, former world champion boxer Pedro Alcazar never existed. Apparently when Alcazar was raised in an orphanage in Panama's rural Darien region, his birth was never officially documented. As a result, his name does not appear in Panama's Civil Register, which is the complete listing of all the nation's citizens. The absence of his name from the register only became known when Alcazar's three sons went to court in a dispute over their father's will. The judge ruled that Panamanian courts did not have jurisdiction in the case because there was no legal evidence that Alcazar was a Panamanian citizen. When Alcazar traveled to the United States to fight, he did so with a temporary passport that was issued to him by Panama.

Anthropologists find that when societies employ human sacrifices, they primarily use people who have marginal status for that purpose. In Aztec culture, for instance, they mainly placed slaves, small children, captured warriors, and domesticated animals on the altars to appease the gods. The good news is that God does not consider us to have marginal status. Instead of allowing us to die in the service of the devil, God ransoms us and gives us life.

The Talmud criticizes people who take pride in their works, instead of boasting of God's grace. The Talmud declares there are seven kinds of Pharisees: 1) "Shoulder" Pharisees carry their good works around for others to see them; 2) "Wait-a-bit" Pharisees want others to wait until they perform some ostentatious display of virtuosity; 3) "Calculating" Pharisees perform good acts in order to balance out sinful acts; 4) "Economizing" Pharisees seek to do good at the least possible cost to themselves; 5) "Show-me-my-fault" Pharisees want to be shown the wrong they have done before they feel compelled to do a righteous act; 6) Pharisees of fear of God are like Job; and 7) Pharisees of love for God are like Abraham.

March 30, 2003—4th Sunday in Lent v
A few years ago there was a dead body that rode a New York City subway for five hours. Apparently the fellow died from natural causes. But even though dozens and dozens of people were constantly getting on and off the subway, the corpse was left to ride that subway for about five hours before anyone bothered to notify authorities. We can do a pretty good job at times of blinding ourselves to the problems that are right there in front of us. Especially when it comes to the problem of death, we can become quite skilled in looking away and pretending that the problem isn't there for us.

"The church, Paul says, is precisely a peaceable ambassador inviting trust (faith) in a treaty that's already been put into effect by God, not a warmongering general threatening `No treaty until you lay down your arms!'" (Robert Farrar Capon, The Fingerprints of God [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], p. 57).

"Faith is the only requirement that can be imposed without destroying catholicity because no community that requires specific human achievements for admission will ever be able to stomach the vast army of underachievers that faith lets in free" (Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], p. 40).

"God's holiness cannot be soiled; rather, it is a cleansing and healing agent. It does not need to be shut up and quarantined in the temple; it is now, through Jesus' healings and fellowship with the despised and rejected, breaking out into the world to transform it" (Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium [ New York: Doubleday, 1998], p. 75).

Many popular parenting books and magazines urge parents to keep a "gratitude journal." The idea is that when parenting gets tough, it is good to remember the good moments of being with children, the blessings inherent in parenthood that are sometimes hidden. To keep such a journal would be a powerful spiritual practice for all of us, not writing about our children, but about our own lives. When we keep such a journal, we will undoubtedly discover how many of the moments of life for which we are grateful come courtesy of others who have made our lives easier or led us in the right directions. We discover that rarely do we alone bring joy to our lives, but that joy comes with others. All of these are signs of the grace of God made manifest in the daily events of our lives.

Jesus spent eighteen years in his father's carpenter's shop. A man came in bragging about the crop he was expecting. His barns were not large enough. He wanted them pulled down and rebuilt bigger. "Barns" in ancient Israel were dug in the ground and lined with rock. There would be a spiral stair along the walls that went all the way to the bottom. To make a barn larger, one would pull the rocks down and take them out. The hole would then be enlarged and the rocks replaced along with extra rocks to accommodate the larger surface area of the walls. Then a wooden roof would be constructed over the "barn".) This was good news to Joseph and his sons. It meant work that would provide their livelihood. Before they could begin this project, his wife came by to see them. They would not need bigger barns. Her husband had suddenly died in the night. She needed them to carve out a tomb in the face of a cliff where she could bury her husband. "Soul, take thy easy. Eat, Drink, and be merry!" were the last words on his lips.

As I write these lines it is Advent, and a song keeps running through my mind. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the secular counterpart to the Advent hymn "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" is based on a belief system of works and rewards, rather than the grace of the Christian belief system. The singer warns the listeners, presumably children, that they had better be good or else. Santa is not interested in grace and forgiveness but only in performance. Although the song does not mention lumps of coal, everyone who hears the song knows that this is the alternative to the contents of his over-stuffed sack that he carries in his sleigh — "so be good, for goodness' sake!" (Goodness, of course, really meaning goodies. The difference between the secular Christmas season and the Christian Advent/Christmas is the same as that between the gospel of the apostle Paul (and his disciple if someone else wrote Ephesians)—grace vs. works.

The law detects, grace alone conquers sin. (Saint Augustine, Of Continence)

It is grace alone that separates the redeemed from the lost, all having been involved in one common perdition through their common origin. (Saint Augustine, Enchiridion)

Grace is necessary to salvation, free will is equally so; but grace in order to give salvation, free will in order to receive it. (St. Bernard, De gratia et libero arbitrio)

Grace is sufficient to enable us to be accounted entirely and completely righteous in God's sight. (Martin Luther, Preface to the Romans)

The chains of grace are so powerful and yet so sweet, that though they attract our heart, they do not shackle our freedom. (St. Frances of Sales, Treatise on the Love of God)

To receive grace we need only to love its Donor. (Mathias Scheerben, The Glories of Divine Grace)

Grace alone is enclosed by no limits. Being a ray of the Divine nature glorifying our soul, it has its measure and end only in the infinity of God. (Mathias Scheerben, The Glories of Divine Grace)

Charles Allen has written that he found three meanings for "grace" in the Bible: "the mercy and active love of God;" "the winsome attractiveness of God;' and "the strength of God to overcome." (Qtd. in The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations [Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1965], p. 200.)

As grace is first from God, so it is continually from him, as much as light is all day long from the sun, as well as at first dawn or at sun-rising. (Jonathan Edwards)

Church history can be viewed as the continual struggle between grace and law. The apostle Paul first fought and won the battle when March 30, 2003—4th Sunday in Lent he thwarted the attempt of Judaizing Christians to make gentile converts submit to the painful rite of circumcision before the could join the church. This lesson was lost during the Middle Ages when the church placed good works ahead of grace in a person's becoming acceptable to God. Even before Luther some reformers, such as Jan Hus in Bohemia raised their voices in protest, but were silenced by a powerful church that had substituted coercion for persuasive love. Luther managed to convince at least part of the church that the Scriptural teaching of salvation by faith and not works should rule in the church. Other leaders such as Zwingli and Calvin, who taught that justification by faith must be the watchword for Christians, soon joined him. When the church in England forgot this, the Wesley brothers rose up to proclaim a warm faith that saw Christians as responding to a loving, reaching-out Father, not earning their salvation from a stern, distant God or deserving it because they were born into the proper class. The battle continues in our own time between those who think we earn a place in God's kingdom, and those who believe that we enter as invited guest, assured of a place at the Messianic banquet table only because of the Lamb's blood shed for us upon the cross. Any who doubt the necessity for such a battle ought to turn on the TV and really listen to the message of commercial purveyors of luxury items and other pleasurable products. Or listen in on conversations in the elevator or the market as people talk about how they must be living right because everything is going so well (or the converse).

Although John Newton's great "Amazing Grace" is the best known and beloved hymn on the subject of grace, there are others also of great power. Although the word "grace" is not used in any of her five stanzas, Charlotte Elliott's great hymn describes the reaction of those who receive Christ's invitation to come. In early editions of the hymn, written to raise funds for a school for the daughters of poor clergymen, the text of John 6:37 was printed: "and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Each of the verses begins the same, "Just as I am without one plea," the writer's confidence based on the blood that Jesus shed for her on the cross. There is no waiting to clean oneself up morally, drive away any sin, doubt, or conflict. She just comes because "Thy promise I believe." God's love in Christ "has broken every barrier down." So now he prayer is to "be Thine alone." This hymn has probably reassured more people of the gracious love of God than any other single hymn. Certainly it has been the one sung as men and women have made a decision to accept Christ, whether it was as they actually stood up and went forward at an evangelistic service, or silently turned over their heart, mind and soul to Christ when sung at some point in the service. Although we might wish that she had recovered her health, Charlotte Elliot remained an invalid for the rest of her 82 years. In a way, maybe this is for the best, because she can never become a poster girl for the TV evangelists who promise great divine rewards for doing good works (such as giving a generous donation to their "television ministry.")

If it were not for the grace of several gentile Poles, pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman would have been put to death in the Nazi holocaust. Roman Polanski's powerful film The Pianist is the story of a survivor who lived to tell his tale, thanks to those willing to risk their lives for his sake. Once a renowned concert pianist, he and his family are barely surviving in the Warsaw Ghetto. Szpilman manages to earn a little money by playing in a café. One disastrous day he and his family are rounded up by the Jewish police and sent to the train yard to await further orders. There a Jewish kapo, who had once been a family friend, pulls Szpilman out of line and thrusts him behind the wall-like row of guards watching over the prisoners. When the Szpilman frantically tries to rejoin his family the guards refuse to let him go back. His hapless family is herded into the cattle cars along with the rest of the deportees. Szpilman tearfully returns to the ghetto and hides out for a time. He manages to leave the ghetto and finds refuge in the home of the woman he had been interested in romantically before the war. She is married now to another Pole, who has a leading part in hiding Jews and other escaped prisoners. Soon he conducts Szpilman to a safe apartment, where the pianist becomes a witness to the German attack on his countrymen during the Ghetto Uprising. Soon he has to leave, and finds sanctuary in the home of still another Pole. Later, during the last days of the War when much of the city is reduced to rubble by bombing and artillery barrages, Szpilman even is the recipient of grace through a German officer (amazing grace, indeed!). The Pianist has been hiding in an abandoned mansion when a German commander moves in to set up his headquarters for his rear action troops. At night he discovers Szpilman. Learning that he is Jewish, he asks what he did before the war. Skeptical of the answer "Pianist," the German leads the Jew to the home's piano and demands that he play something. Szpilman, after pausing for a few seconds, launches into a classical piece, and the German listens approvingly. Not only does he not turn in the pianist, he brings him food, and when the German unit pulls out just before the Russian advance, the German gives the Jew his fine officer's overcoat for protection against the cold winter winds. Ironically, it is that coat, given as an act of grace, that almost gets Szpilman killed. The advancing Russian troops see only a Nazi coat from afar, not a cold, scared Jew. Szpilman has to flee for his life until he can convince the liberators of his country that he is a Pole, not a Nazi or a collaborator. Such are the strange, round about ways of grace.

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Invocation

Gracious Lord, we gather here today not because we are deserving of Your love. Rather we come here because Your love embraces us despite our unworthiness. As we stand in Your holy presence, take away any pride that we cling to. Especially as we assemble for this time of worship, cause us to focus not on what we have accomplished for ourselves, but on what You have accomplished for us through Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Mighty Ruler, You are the one who formed us from the dust of the earth. You are the one who has filled us with the breath of life. All that we are, and all that we have, is a gift from You. Yet at times we delude ourselves into thinking that we are self-made people. We savor the honors that have been bestowed on us. We glory in the titles that we possess. We marvel at the power that we wield over others. Holy God, forgive us for our vain pride. Grant us humble hearts, so that we may give all honor and praise to You alone. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

Compassionate Lord, Your generosity toward us is more than we can comprehend. Help us each day to count our blessings and to offer to You the thanks that You so richly deserve. Receive our gifts as a sign of our gratitude. In Christ's holy name we pray. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

O Lord, giver of wisdom and kindness, we live in a world where love is often lacking. Many times we think of love in terms of self-love. Or at times we equate love with the illicit romances that appear on our TV screens or in our movie theaters. Frequently we offer our love in a rather calculating way, extending love to those who we figure will reciprocate with equal or greater amounts of love to us. But as we look to You, we discover what true love is.
Through Your Holy Spirit, fill us with that love so that we may focus more on the welfare of others, rather than concentrating so much on our own welfare. Rather than striving constantly to build up ourselves, in terms of wealth or prestige or honors, lead us to strive to build up Your Kingdom. Grant that we may have truly humble hearts. Take away the envy and competitive spirit that at times causes us to wish for the downfall of our fellows so that we might be exalted in the eyes of others. Form us into the people not that we want to be, but into the people that You created us to be. We pray in the name of our gracious Lord. Amen.