Matthew T. Phillips

Speak to Us (Luke 10:38-42) [Prayer]

The Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost (B)
Scripture from the Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (C)
Pastoral Prayer
Centenary United Methodist Church
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 NRSV

Dear Lord and God, Father, Son, and Spirit:

We come into your house to worship this morning buffeted by a newly cold wind and surrounded by swirling, rapidly browning leaves, and the signs of the season call our minds away to things to come. It’s almost Thanksgiving: What will I cook? At whose house will we gather? Will we all get along this year? Will I be able to bear the newly empty chair at our table? And the mall already has its Christmas decorations up. Where will I find the perfect gift? Do I need a present for the neighbors this year? Will our house look pretty enough?

We have come into your house this morning, but our minds are scattered. Perhaps it is not the holidays but rather the chatter of our everyday lives that seem to move so fast the weekend comes as a surprise, not to mention the holidays. We have nearly limitless capacity to convince ourselves that our tasks, our plans, our intentions, are all good and essential to the continued turning of the earth. We have come into your house this morning; make this be a place where the rushing and the worrying stop, or at least get held off for a while; help us to come and sit at your feet and listen to what you are saying.

Speak to us about pain. We are experts at hiding our pain, but you set a different model: you shared your agony with us so that we may never know such deep pain ourselves. When we touch the scars on your hands, we know that you understand when we hurt. Help us to know the pain of those around us, and to share that which cripples us too, so that in fellowship our pain will get just a little easier.

Speak to us about teaching. Dedicated teachers, no matter their profession and whether in church or public life or middle school, are the only people who ever really change this world. So help us to hear you through those who would teach us. And give us strength to shape the lessons we teach by our lives every day to your Way, your Truth, your Life.

Speak to us about the change in the air; remind us that a new ruling party, new legislative goals, and new rumors of elections to come do not upset or fulfill your will for your world, but rather remind us that regardless of who leads us on earth, we can choose how faithful we will be as your people.

Speak to us about poverty, and speak to us about plenty. You spoke about money often while on earth: speak to us about it again now, for we spend too much of our energy on that particular worry. For some of us, it is a struggle to feed and clothe our families; others of us, with basic needs met, worry about other things: succeeding in business, securing an education, saving for those educations and for retirement. Either way, the pressures we face leave us worried and distracted about many things. Speak to us: there is need of only one thing.

Speak to us about love. During your life on earth you taught that the law and the prophets all had one goal: to help us love you. And you told us that we would achieve that goal best by loving each other. We yearn for laws to follow, or at least interpret; for rules to obey, or at least to impose on others. But share with us the good news that your kingdom breaks into this world with limitless grace, and with your grace make us bold enough to love one another, just as we are loved by the one in whose name we pray: Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and Spirit, one God, now and for evermore. Amen.