Gathering Prayer 1: Send Us a King
Lord God, from times of old we have longed for a ruler, prince, president or prime minister, who is kind, merciful, gentle and just. We live on stolen land, and we do not know how to make things right. We see the rich get richer, while the poor cannot find their daily bread. We watch politicians favour their cronies, and single mums struggle to get by. Fear is cast over the nation; and person after person is shunned and despised. The land groans, victim of our violence and greed; the land floods and burns in protest. Response: Send us a king who will put everything right.
Gathering Prayer 2: Occupied Territories.
God-with-us, Emmanuel, you were born in occupied territories, humble, vulnerable and poor, yet foreign kings and pagan princes and numerologists recognised the wonder and glory of your birth. Open our eyes to your presence in strange places, and in all the world that you love. Response: O come, let us adore him.
God-with-us, Emmanuel, send your Holy Spirit among us, that we might follow your star, see by the light of your grace and truth, and offer our gifts wherever we find the Christ-child. Response: O come, let us adore him.
God-with-us, Emmanuel, guide us into the ways of freedom and peace, and show us how to live out the culture of your kingdom in our occupied territories today. Response: O come, let us adore him.
Prayers of the People: Recognising the King
Let us pray for those who are searching for a people of love and justice, and a place to share their gifts. (Spoken prayers and sung response).
Let us pray for the powerful, that they will no longer fear change, but will work for the good of all. (Spoken prayers and sung response).
Let us pray for the church, that it humbly recognises truth, even when that truth is discerned by strangers. (Spoken prayers and sung response).
Let us pray for those who are suffering, that they find good news in Jesus Christ. (Spoken prayers and sung response).
Let us pray for the the whole world, that in humility, vulnerability and nonviolence, it recognises and worships the king. (Spoken prayers and sung response).
Prayer of Commission: Not Among the Proud
Go now, seeking God’s life and God’s glory not among the proud or the powerful, but among the fragile, the humble, the vulnerable, the poor. And as you seek, test the wisdom of foreigners and pagans: for they may be the first to recognise the incarnation. For this is our epiphany: our eye-opening heart-stopping humbling truth of God: so let us carry that revelation as we seek God’s presence in every strange and humble dwelling of the world. Amen.
“Send Us a King” draws on the imagery of Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14. All prayers written for Sanctuary, 6 January 2019 (Epiphany) © Alison Sampson, 2019. No written sermon tonight; instead, we exercised our hermeneutical muscles together reflecting on Matthew 2:1-12. Questions and comments raised by the text included:
- Why didn’t the chief priests and scribes called in by Herod travel with the wise men to find the baby in Bethlehem? Was it because they wouldn’t listen to people outside their tradition?
- Why did the wise men go to Herod’s court first? Was the star not very clear, or did they just assume the baby would be in a royal court (the obvious place)?
- Why did the wise men see a star, and not angels like the shepherds? Is it because they came from a different tradition and culture? How does God use different means to communicate with different people?
- What is the astronomical significance of the star? (One possible answer: Jupiter and Saturn coincided twice in the year 7; Jupiter was the royal star; Saturn was sometimes associated with the Jews.)
- We noticed it takes time to find the baby, and even following the signs the wise men go to the wrong place first. Was the wise men’s visit to Herod’s court all part of God’s plan, or was it a mistake?
- Did Herod truly want to worship the baby, like he said? Why do we mistrust the words of our politicians?!
- When have we observed non-Christians or ‘outsiders’ recognising truth about our faith and traditions? Are we willing to listen? (e.g. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; Marriage Equality; climate action; gender studies; etc.)