Ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around

civil rights march / GPA Photo Archive / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
 
Almighty God, Thou has called us to walk for freedom, 
    even as Thou did the Children of Israel.  
We pray, dear God, as we go through a wilderness of State Troopers 
    that Thou will hold our hand.  
We pray, dear God, as we must go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, 
    that Thou will go with us and strengthen us for the task.  
Keep us strong.  
Keep us calm.  
Help us to love our enemy.  
And above all, keep the fires of freedom burning in our hearts, 
    so that no matter what happens, 
    ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.
Because Thou, dear God, has set us into this place.
Thou has sent us to fight, not just for ourselves,
    but to fight for this nation 
    so that democracy might exist here for the whole world.
Keep this vision in our hearts,
    and may we one day wake up and find the state of Alabama,
    where all men might vote, 
    where all children might get a decent education,
    where every man and woman might find a decent job
        according to his or her abilities,
    and where every man and woman 
        might be able to live together as brothers and sisters
    and violence and bloodshed and hatred and prejudice
         shall be no more.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
 
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 -1968, American pastor and civil rights activist
 
_________________________
 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they shall be satisfied.

 

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May we encounter You today

image / Harold Copping / Wikimedia Commons
 
Loving God, our faithful father, you who created us in your image and likeness, and are willing to meet with us here, as market vendors, barbers, mothers and fathers.
 
We confess that in our sweat and toil, we often forget your presence.  In our struggles and weariness and frustration we are often lukewarm.  Forgive us.
 
Tabernacle with us.
We need you now more than ever.  Drained of strength and energy we come, that we might be re-energized and filled.
 
So come Lord. Come as the wind, blow your breath gently over us, blow the dust off our lives. Come as the fire, burn out all the hate and anger we feel towards those who oppress us and treat us unfairly.  Come as the water, wash the dirt of poverty off our stalls, the marketplace, and our lives.
 
Come as the dove – settle all matters concerning us.  Let peace reign.
 
May we encounter you today.  Ignite our hearts to worship and serve you.  Take your place and rule and reign in Jesus’s name as we leave our struggle at the foot of the cross and liberate us to worship you. Amen.
 
complied by Claudio Carvalhaes, professor of worship in New York City
 
_________________________
 
 
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.

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Be Thou My Vision

image / Donatas Dabravolskas / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons
 
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
 
Dallán Forgaillc. 560 – 640,  translated by Eleanor Hull 1912
 
_______________________
 
 
 
I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.

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Shine brightly, star of God

image / Stern von Betlehem / wikimedia commons
 
Shine brightly,
star of God,
and guide our wandering world
to where a prince of Peace is born.
 
Where children wish upon a star
or wise men scan the universe in hope
let your bright beams
surround their dreams
and guide their hesitating feet
to where a miracle is born.
 
Enable each of us
to make a New Year’s journey
leaving behind the prejudices and fears
of yester-year,
embracing a fresh openness
by which we welcome all world pilgrims
whose journeys end in worship and humility.
 
Be a sign today
of mercy and of love
like a rainbow in spring
or the bright summer sun,
and show us how our lives
can include the forgotten and forlorn,
    the grieving and the hurt.
 
And we will offer
to our God
now seen and touched in straw-filled bad 
the best gifts in the world:
our joy, our grief, our life.
 
David Jenkins, minister in the United Reformed Church UK
 
____________________________
 
 
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

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I want to finish well

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
 
O Lord, I want to finish well.
As the years march on, it is painful to realize I no longer possess
    the physical skills or energy I used to have.  
But even more frightening are the persistent temptations 
    that threaten to wear me down.  
The enemy knows my weaknesses, 
    and day after day, month after month, year after year, 
    he knows which temptations are most likely to attract me.  
I am afraid that, in a moment of weakness, I will sin boldly 
    and then have to live with the tragic consequences.  
Please keep me away from circumstances 
    where the temptation will be too strong for me to overcome.  
I don’t want to let an evening of fun ruin a lifetime of faithfulness.  
 
Lord, may I finish strong in my walk of faith.
When I am old and gray and depart this earth, 
    I will meet you face-to-face.
I pray that you will be able to say,
    ” Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
 
Ron A. Beers 
 
_______________________
 
 
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, 
will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

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the birth

image
 
When waves of pain contort Mary’s body
her face is cramped and pale
Her eyes scuttle apart like crabs
The waves pull, recede again
 
and attack more violently
She clings to the wagon wheel,
grits her teeth, and her screams
terrify the beasts in the stable
 
Joseph, pacing nervously,
stumbles and falls
At last, seated, he strokes her back,
grasps her hand; his strength flows into her
 
Then a tremendous power moves within Mary
Like the sun emerging from a mountain ravine
the infant’s head appears slowly, deliberately
Joseph grips it in both hands
 
Now the baby’s cry flies out, rends the night
Joseph’s doubts dissolve
On the straw bed
Mary peacefully shuts her eyes
 
Yorifumi Yaguchi, born 1935, Japanese Mennonite poet and pastor
 
________________________
 
 
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

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prepare us to receive your gift

Adoration of the Shepherds / Gerard van Honthorst / Wikimedia
 
Lord, may you now let us this year once more approach the light, celebration, and joy of Christmas Day that brings us face to face with the greatest thing there is: your love, with which you so loved the world that you gave your only Son, so that all of us may believe in him and therefore not be lost, but may have eternal life.
 
What could we possibly bring and give to you? So much darkness in our human relationships and in our own hearts! So many confused thoughts, so much coldness and defiance, so much carelessness and hatred! So much over which you cannot rejoice, that separates us from one another and certainly cannot help us! So much that runs directly against the message of Christmas!
 
What should you possibly do with such gifts? And what are you to do with such people as we all are? But all of this is precisely what you want to receive from us and take from us at Christmas – the whole pile of rubbish and ourselves, just as we are – in order to give us in return Jesus, our Savior, and in him a new heaven and a new earth, new hearts and a new desire, new clarity and a new hope for us and for all people.
 
Be among us once again, on this final Sunday before the celebration, as we together prepare to receive him as your gift!  Make it so that we may rightly speak, hear, and pray, in proper, thankful amazement about everything that you have in mind for all of us, that you have already decided regarding all of us, and that you have already done for all of us! Amen
 
Karl Barth, 1886 – 1968, Swiss Reformed theologian
____________________________
 
 
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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bring healing in thy wings

image by Sharon Tate Soberon / flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Lord Jesus Christ, 
Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, 
    be born into our world.  
Wherever there is war in this world, 
    wherever there is pain, 
    wherever there is loneliness, 
    wherever there is no hope, 
come, thou long-expected one, 
    with healing in thy wings.
 
Holy Child, 
whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored,
    be born again.  
Wherever there is boredom,
    wherever there is fear of failure,
    wherever there is temptation too strong to resist,
    wherever there is bitterness of heart, 
come, though blessed one,
    with healing in thy wings.
 
Frederick Buechner, 1926 – , American writer and theologian
 
______________________
 
 
Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.

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waiting for us

Photo by Jack Bassingthwaighte on Unsplash
 
Silent Word, Creative Act, Hidden Truth, Revealed Love:
We wait for you.
To be precise, we are impatient for you to come and set things right.
We are insecure with our world,
    fearful of crime and disease in the streets,
    and anxious about ourselves.
We refuse your guidance, but we often wish you would act
    according to our plans.
We seldom pause to consider that you are waiting for us;
    for some genuine act of contrition;
    waiting for us to repent and change;
    waiting for us to listen and respond 
         with a burning passion to your truth, your justice, and your mercy.
Furnish us with humble hearts and willing spirits to receive you
    as you come to us through all the experiences of our lives.
Amen.
 
Allen P. Happe, 1938-1998, American Congregational Minister
 
___________________________
 
 
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, 
    and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 
while we wait for the blessed hope—
the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ
 

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