Loving God, you invite us all into this space today.
You welcome your treasured people in all our forms,
wholly beloved, beautiful, unique.
Into this moment, we come.
We worship you in celebration.
We give thanks for your love and grace,
your faithfulness and justice,
and with uninhibited praise, we sing.
May the Spirit breathe into us
through the spring winds.
May we embrace the soil
that feeds the earth.
May we gleefully delight in the
wildflowers growing in abundance.
In your creativity, we live.
We pray for soft and emboldened hearts,
in the name of our God, who hears,
Jesus, who sees,
and the Holy Spirit, who feels.
We invite you to hear from the Book of Nehemiah 2:1-8.
2 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
when wine was served him, I carried the wine and gave it to the king.
Now, I had never been sad in his presence before. 2 So the king said
to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be
sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king,
“May the king live forever!
Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves,
lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me,
“What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 Then I said to the king,
“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you
send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.”
6 The king said to me (the queen also was sitting beside him),
“How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it
pleased the king to send me, and I set him a date.
7 Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the
governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may grant me passage
until I arrive in Judah; 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest,
directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress,
and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.”
And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me.
The Good News of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
The grass withers and the flower fades,
but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Amen.
Sermon and Reflection
Where would you place yourself in this account? As the exiled? The emperor? Or an eyewitness?
As you ponder what’s happening in this country today (anti Asian hate, Derek Chauvin trial), can you see the exiled, the emperor, the eyewitnesses? What response is the Spirit stirring in you?
Lord and Giver of Life, as we come near to the
cross, we lament the history of prejudice and
violence we have incited between ourselves and
your faithful people, of whom Jesus was born.
Bless the children of your covenant,
Jew and Gentile alike, as we strive
together to attain the fullness of
your blessing for the world.
We pray for the Jewish people who possess an
eternal covenant with the Lord, who delivered
them from bondage to freedom;
For continued faithfulness
to God’s covenant with them;
For their flourishing in peace
as witnesses to God’s sustaining love;
For safety from all malice and harm;
For the fullness of redemption
for the sake of God’s Name.
That unity and concord may exist between
Israel and the Church, Jews and Gentiles,
in obedience to God’s will.
May we live out this in prayer in our world
with the help of God, who keeps promises,
Jesus, the Jew,
and the unifying Holy Spirit.
Go in peace, and live the church.
May you find community and belonging throughout the week.
(Good Friday Prayer by Dr. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
adapted with permission by Elise Bjork)
[Photo by Gemma Evans]