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For what shall we pray?

“For what shall we pray?” is a weekly post inviting individuals, groups, and congregations to lift up our world in prayer. This resource is prepared by a variety of leaders in the ELCA and includes prayer prompts, upcoming events and observances, and prayer suggestions from existing denominational worship materials. You are encouraged to use these resources as a starting point, and to adapt and add other concerns from your local context. More information about this resource can be found here.

 

Prayer prompts:

For peace among nations where war and violence rage, especially Palestine and Israel, Syria, Myanmar, Russia and Ukraine, and Sudan…
For those facing infertility…
For safe and just resolution to protests in India, South Korea, and Poland…
For the memory of Nex Benedict, and for all who face bullying and violence…
For those who suffer abuse…
For those experiencing continued flooding and mudslides in California…
For all victims of gun violence, especially in Burnsville, MN; Tooele, UT; Allentown, PA; Overland Park, KS; Colorado Springs, CO; and Hollywood, FL…

Events and observances:

February observances: Black History Month, American Heart Month

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, martyr, died 156 (Feb 23)
Elizabeth Fedde, deaconess, died 1921 (Feb 25)

Prayers from ELCA resources:

A set of worship resources for the crisis in the Holy Land is now available on ELCA.org. Several prayers are provided that could be used during the prayers of intercession or at other times, in public worship or for devotional use at home or in other settings. PDF DOC

The Churches Beyond Borders 2023 Advent Cycles of Prayers is now available. The prayer resource calls for justice and peace, especially for churches impacted by the war in the Holy Land, and for lifting up Palestinian Christian communities and ministries and the congregations and institutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

A prayer for social justice (ELW p. 79)
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may move every human heart; that the barriers dividing us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; and that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer in the face of prejudice (ACS p. 51)
O God, you divinity transcends distinctions of gender, and through the generations you widen our awareness of human diversity. We gather here before you in our various expressions of gender identity, all of us one in Christ Jesus. Bring our society to peacefulness concerning a wider understanding of gender. Give courage and healing to those who express outwardly the gender they testify as gift from you. Open the church to their witness. We ask that with your creative Spirit you cultivate new relationships, mend old wounds, and nurture communities of respect, for the sake of the one who embraces all persons in love, Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

ELW = Evangelical Lutheran Worship
ACS = All Creation Sings: Evangelical Lutheran Worship Supplement

Additional topical prayers are found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pp. 72–87) and All Creation Sings (pp. 46–55), as well as in other resources provided in print and online at sundaysandseasons.com.

Crafted intercessions for every Sunday and festival are provided in the Sundays and Seasons worship planning guide published in-print and online by Augsburg Fortress. Further assistance for composing prayers of intercession can be found here: Resources for Crafting Prayers of Intercession

Prayer Ventures, a daily prayer resource, is a guide to prayer for the global, social and outreach ministries of the ELCA, as well as for the needs and circumstances of our neighbors, communities and world.

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February 25, 2024–Lose Your Life?

Cee Mills, Burlington, NC

Warm-up Questions

  • What’s the biggest thing you have sacrificed in order to get to do or have something else?
  • What’s the biggest thing you have gained by being a follower of Jesus?

Lose Your Life?

The idea of losing is counter to what American culture defines as good. When you think of sport teams, contests, or any effort you make, the idea of losing is the opposite of what you expect or want.

I remember the first time I played an organized sport. All of us had a lot to learn and were not proficient at scoring or keeping the other team from scoring. We were young and, honestly, did not care. We were happy to be with our friends and our coach was always smiling. He used to say all the time that showing up was winning.  It was not until I got to school sports teams that I learned about defeat. 

I often wonder what life would have been like if showing up as winning had been the posture of school sports. It’s hard to imagine that in a world so preoccupied with keeping score, measuring performance, and having the most – the most points, the most talents, the most money, the most beauty. I am truly grateful that early on I had a coach who was beyond scores and cared about the more important thing – showing up. Whether we double dribbled, shot the ball in the wrong basket, or fell down and cried – he cheered us, encouraged us, and celebrated us for being there.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some of your early experiences around winning and losing?
  • Who in your life has encouraged you not based on your achievements but just for showing up?
  • How can you encourage others for showing up? 

Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Romans 4:13-25

Mark 8:31-38

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Jesus is now in his public ministry. He tells anyone who will listen about the suffering he must undergo.  Jesus speaks of rejection and being martyred. He prophesies about his resurrection. 

I’m sure it was hard to hear. He insults the religious and governmental leaders. He seems to invite disdain and death. It gets so bad that one of his closest disciples, Peter, pulls him aside and demands he stops speaking this way. He wants Jesus to stop; Jesus is speaking of things Peter does not want to happen. He rebukes Jesus.

Jesus turns right around and rejects Peter’s words. The words of Jesus are hard, but they are the way to salvation. Even though Peter is his close friend, anything that is not part of God’s plan must be rejected. Jesus goes so far as to name the source of this rejection of God as Satan – because only Satan would reject the Word of God, even if it is hard. So, Jesus rebukes Peter.

Jesus then turns towards the crowd and explains the cost of following him. If the people there want to be comfortable and safe then this path is not for them. If they want to decide what gets shared and how it gets shared and with whom it gets shared – they are following the wrong one. 

They need to be willing to lose friends, status, family, and their very own lives for the sake of sharing God’s Word in truth, because that will restore the relationship with God. Jesus asks them to choose whom they will follow and lets them know one choice pleases God and the other does not. One choice follows God, and the other does not. If they want to follow God, they need to know that Jesus will not only have to say these hard things, but also follow this hard path, so that the world might be saved. 

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Peter pulled Jesus aside?
  • When Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!” how do you think Peter felt?
  • What was God trying to convey to Peter in this exchange?
  • What does God convey to today’s disciples when Jesus asks, “…what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

Activity Suggestions

  • In small groups of two to three, talk about the ways you face the challenges of doing things the Jesus way in everyday life. Share times you were successful and times you were not. Share how you can follow Jesus’ example. (For example,  patience with a sibling. Focus on your own faults and how people showed you patience. Write sticky notes to encourage you to be patient.) 
  • Jesus is trying to get the disciples to understand his reason for coming to earth. On a sheet of paper, tell the story Jesus shared in verse 31 in 20 words or less. Then share your story with three friends.

Closing Prayer

O God, we thank you for the many brave sacrifices you have made for the sake of the world. Help us to see our lives as a gift to you and to be willing to follow you wherever it takes us. Help us to be willing to let go of anything that hinders following you. Amen.

 

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2024 World Hunger Lent Study: Week 1

Reconciliation

Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm 25:1-10

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

During Advent we reflected together on what it means to encounter God. We contemplated the spaces where God is revealed to us, the invitation to be part of God’s work in history, the vocation to which the church is called today and what it means to be grasped by the proclamation of Christ’s birth. Now, during Lent, we return to this journey, exploring the many ways we encounter God as we respond to hunger, poverty and need today. In this first session we will explore the act of reconciliation, the restoration of wholeness to relationships and to people when injustice makes the fullness of life in community impossible.

Jerri Eliano de Quevedo and his wife, Sirlei Eloí, live in the Kilombo Monjolo, a community in the municipality of São Lourenço do Sul in Brazil. Like many kilombola — descendants of the 4.5 million enslaved Africans brought to Brazil between 1570 and 1857 — they support themselves and their children principally through farming a plot of land in the kilombo. The plot is small, about 2 hectares. Given the frequent droughts, inadequate infrastructure and insufficient legal or political protections, making a living in this community can be incredibly difficult. In the past Jerri and Sirlei have tried to find work in urban centers outside the kilombo, but they have no access to education, so few jobs are available to them.

For Jerri, finding a way to stay on the land while feeding his family is not just a matter of finances but also of kilombola cultural identity. “The kilombolas always had to grow their food in small spaces, all together, because they didn’t have much land,” he explains. “This, for us, is cultural, and working in another way is out of our custom.”

A cultural relationship with and ecological knowledge of the land are central to kilombola history. From Africa the kilombola brought seeds and extensive knowledge of crops, which helped some of them to develop sophisticated agroforestry and farming systems. Yet access to sufficient land has always been a challenge for kilombolas, whose communities sprang from their resistance to slavery. As Edward Shore describes in the Texas Law Review, “Wherever there was slavery, there was also resistance — which assumed many forms. One such form of resistance was the formation of communities by [people who had escaped enslavement], known in Brazil as mocambos and kilombolas, demonyms of Kimbundu (Angolan) origin that signified ‘hideouts’ and ‘encampments.’”¹ Kilombolas in Brazil are similar to maroon communities in the United States, where self-liberated enslaved people formed isolated or hidden settlements.

These communities quickly became an important and visible part of Brazilian life but remained frequent targets of vilification and violence, both during and after slavery. Kilombolas were often forcibly removed from their land, and laws were passed in the 19th century that prevented them from owning land without official government titles, something most kilombolas were unable to obtain. In the century after Brazilian slavery ended in 1888, kilombolas faced significant obstacles to legal protection, education and economic opportunities.

In 1988 a new constitution in Brazil promised to protect AfroBrazilians’ rights, especially the right to land. Shore writes, “Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery (in 1888) became the first country to constitutionally guarantee the collective land rights of the descendants of enslaved people.”² Though there is work to be done to fully guarantee kilombola rights, kilomobolas across Brazil have joined together to grow local economies and defend their constitutional right to land. The oppression of kilombolas testifies to the need for full reconciliation, to bring full opportunity for dignity and life to a people the world actively marginalizes.

The Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil (IECLB) and its diaconal arm, the Fundação Luterana de Diaconia (FLD), have journeyed with Jerri, Sirlei and the Kilombo Monjolo in this work, in partnership with the Center for Support and Promotion of Agroecology (CAPA) in the southern region of the Rio Grande do Sul state. This work is supported in part by ELCA World Hunger. Through the project, kilombola farmers joined together in cooperatives to gain access to seeds, training and new opportunities. “The community started to change,” Jerri says. Over time, other entities, including universities, began working with the community. “We began to have support, and life got better.”

“The work of CAPA within the community is about accompaniment, partnership and joint construction, and with open dialogue, creating the farming projects and other activities,” Jerri says. The kilombola communities, which practice their own ancestral spirituality, have worked with CAPA/Lutheran Foundation of Diakonia for decades. In addition to the farming projects, the partnership has helped as the kilombola market handicrafts, share technical advice, and acquire legal documentation, housing and access to spaces for public policy advocacy.

The most important work, though, according to Jerri, has been winning recognition of the community as a kilombola. “In my
understanding,” he says, “the work of CAPA so that we were recognized as a kilombola community was fundamental, so that today we could be in spaces of discussion, commercialization and seeking our rights.”

The project has helped Jerri and Sirlei diversify their crops, access markets and increase their income. Through it all they
have been recognized for their identity, dignity and rich history. “When we came to Brazil, it was not to be merchants but to be
traded,” says Jerri. “So this has brought us a big change, bringing respect and visibility.”

Jerri and Sirlei’s story shows how historic and ongoing injustices leave families vulnerable to hunger. Hunger is not incidental or accidental. In the case of Brazilian kilombolas it is the direct result of oppression and injustice — slavery, racism, discrimination, inequity, violence. Yet their story also reveals their witness of courage, strength and resilience as we work together toward a just world where all are fed.

In the Bible readings for this first week of Lent, the author of 1 Peter reminds us of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the cost of the sacrifice and the consequences. Jesus, who was executed by an unjust occupying political power in Jerusalem, gives his life and, in doing so, makes possible our reconciliation with God. Whereas sin estranges us from God and one another, Jesus restores us to fellowship with God, so that we may be restored in fellowship to one another.

This reconciliation is more than just a good feeling, more even than the experience of forgiveness. It is a radical restoration of relationship with the One who knows us. Reconciliation has its roots in a Latin term meaning “to overcome feelings of distrust or hostility” or, in another form, “to bring together, unite in feelings, make friendly.” To be reconciled is to overcome conflict and transform a broken relationship — to be restored, often in a new way. For the writer of 1 Peter, this is the work of Christ. As the author writes of baptism, this is not merely the removal of offending “dirt from the body” but a more profound transformation of relationship.

As we are reconciled to God, God calls us to reconcile with one another. Lent invites us to think more deeply about what that means. Grace assures us that we need not worry about our relationship with God; Christ has reconciled us. But grace also impels us into the world, to be witnesses of reconciliation in every relationship. This is not easy work. It will take confronting the brokenness in relationships marred by racism, oppression, exclusion and injustice. Nor is it quick work. To be reconciled isn’t merely to apologize and be forgiven for past wrongs but to do the work of building together a new, shared world where each of us will be recognized and respected for the fullness of dignity we have from God, who created us.

 

Reflection Questions

What does it mean to be reconciled? Where have you experienced reconciliation through your own faith?

How can hunger ministry be seen as an expression of our reconciliation to God, the world and each other?

How does the story of kilombolas in Brazil demonstrate that reconciliation must mean more than apology and
forgiveness?

What relationships in society, the church and the world need to be transformed to end hunger?

 

Reconciliation

Génesis 9:8-17
Salmo 25:1-10
1 Pedro 3:18-22
Marcos 1:9-15

Durante el Adviento reflexionamos juntos sobre lo que significa encontrarse con Dios. Contemplamos los espacios donde Dios se nos revela, la invitación a ser parte de la obra de Dios en la historia, la vocación a la que la iglesia está llamada hoy, y lo que significa ser aprehendidos por el anuncio del nacimiento de Cristo. Ahora, durante la Cuaresma, volvemos a esta jornada, y exploramos las muchas formas en que nos encontramos con Dios mientras damos respuesta al hambre, la pobreza y la necesidad de hoy. En esta primera sesión exploraremos el acto de reconciliación, la restauración de la integridad de las relaciones y de las personas cuando la injusticia hace imposible la plenitud de vida en la comunidad.

Jerri Eliano de Quevedo y su esposa, Sirlei Eloí, viven en el quilombo Monjolo, una comunidad del municipio de São Lourenço do Sul, en Brasil. Como muchos quilombolas —descendientes de los 4.5 millones de africanos esclavizados traídos a Brasil
entre 1570 y 1857— se mantienen a sí mismos y a sus hijos principalmente a través del cultivo de una parcela de tierra en el quilombo. La parcela es pequeña, de unas 2 hectáreas. Dadas las frecuentes sequías, una infraestructura inadecuada e insuficientes protecciones legales o políticas, puede ser sumamente difícil ganarse la vida en esta comunidad. En el pasado, Jerri y Sirlei han tratado de encontrar trabajo en centros urbanos fuera del quilombo, pero como no tienen acceso a educación, hay pocos puestos de trabajo disponibles para ellos.

Para Jerri, encontrar una manera de permanecer en la tierra mientras alimenta a su familia no es solo una cuestión de finanzas, sino también de identidad cultural quilombola. “Los quilombolas siempre tuvieron que cultivar sus alimentos en espacios pequeños, todos juntos, porque no tenían mucha tierra”, explica Jerri. “Esto es algo cultural para nosotros, y no es parte de nuestra costumbre trabajar de otra manera”.

La relación cultural con la tierra y el conocimiento ecológico de esta son elementos fundamentales en la historia de los quilombolas, quienes trajeron de África sus semillas y un amplio conocimiento de las siembras, lo que ayudó a algunos de ellos a desarrollar sofisticados sistemas agroforestales y agrícolas. Sin embargo, el acceso a tierras suficientes siempre ha sido un reto para los quilombolas, cuyas comunidades surgieron de su resistencia a la esclavitud. Como describe Edward Shore en Texas Law Review: “Dondequiera que había esclavitud, también había resistencia, la cual asumía muchas formas. Una de esas formas de resistencia fue la formación de comunidades por personas que habían escapado de la esclavitud, conocidas en Brasil como mocambos y quilombolas, demónimos de origen kimbundu (angoleño) que significaban ‘escondites’ y ‘campamentos’”¹ Los quilombolas de Brasil son similares a las comunidades cimarronas de los Estados Unidos, donde las personas esclavizadas auto liberadas formaron asentamientos aislados u ocultos

Estas comunidades se convirtieron rápidamente en una parte importante y visible de la vida brasileña, pero siguieron siendo blanco frecuente de vilipendio y violencia, durante y después de la esclavitud. Los quilombolas eran a menudo sacados de sus tierras por la fuerza, y en el siglo XIX se aprobaron leyes que les impedían poseer tierras sin títulos oficiales del gobierno, algo que la mayoría de los quilombolas no podían obtener. En el siglo posterior al fin de la esclavitud brasileña en 1888, los quilombolas se enfrentaron a importantes obstáculos para recibir protección legal, educación y oportunidades económicas.

En 1988, una nueva constitución en Brasil prometió proteger los derechos de los afrobrasileños, especialmente el derecho a la tierra. Shore escribe: “Brasil, el último país de América en abolir la esclavitud (en 1888), se convirtió en el primer país en garantizar constitucionalmente los derechos colectivos sobre la tierra de los descendientes de personas esclavizadas”.² Aunque queda trabajo por hacer para garantizar plenamente los derechos de los quilombolas, los quilombolas de todo Brasil se han unido para hacer crecer las economías locales y defender su derecho constitucional a la tierra. La opresión de los quilombolas atestigua la necesidad de una reconciliación plena, para brindar plenas oportunidades de dignidad y vida a un pueblo que el mundo margina activamente.

La Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil (IECLB) y su rama diaconal, la Fundação Luterana de Diaconia (FLD), han caminado con Jerri, Sirlei y el quilombo Monjolo en este trabajo, en colaboración con el Centro de Apoyo y Promoción de la Agroecología (CAPA) de la región sur del estado de Rio Grande do Sul. Este trabajo es respaldado en parte por ELCA World Hunger. A través del proyecto, los agricultores quilombolas se unieron en cooperativas para obtener acceso a semillas, capacitación y nuevas oportunidades. “La comunidad comenzó a cambiar”, dice Jerri. Con el tiempo, otras entidades, incluidas las universidades, comenzaron a trabajar con la comunidad. “Empezamos recibir apoyo, y la vida mejoró”.

“El trabajo de CAPA dentro de la comunidad tiene que ver con el acompañamiento, alianza y obra conjunta y, con diálogo abierto, crear los proyectos agrícolas y otras actividades”, dice Jerri. Las comunidades quilombolas, que practican su propia espiritualidad ancestral, han trabajado con CAPA/Fundación Luterana de Diakonia durante décadas. Además de los proyectos agrícolas, la alianza ha ayudado a que los quilombolas comercialicen artesanías, compartan asesoría técnica y adquieran documentación legal, vivienda y acceso a espacios para la incidencia de políticas públicas. Sin embargo, el trabajo más importante, según Jerri, ha sido ganar el reconocimiento de la comunidad como quilombola. “A mi entender”, dice él, “fue fundamental el trabajo de CAPA para que se nos reconociera como comunidad quilombola, para que hoy pudiéramos estar en espacios de discusión, comercialización y búsqueda de nuestros derechos”.

El proyecto ha ayudado a Jerri y Sirlei a diversificar sus cultivos, acceder a mercados y aumentar sus ingresos. A través de todo, han sido reconocidos por su identidad, dignidad y rica historia. “Cuando llegamos a Brasil, no fue para ser comerciantes, sino para ser comerciados”, dice Jerri. “Así que esto ha producido un gran cambio, trayendo respeto y visibilidad”.

La historia de Jerri y Sirlei muestra la forma en que las injusticias históricas y actuales dejan a las familias vulnerables al hambre. El hambre no es incidental ni accidental. En el caso de los quilombolas brasileños es el resultado directo de la opresión y la injusticia —esclavitud, racismo, discriminación, inequidad, violencia. Sin embargo, su historia también revela su testimonio de coraje, fortaleza y resiliencia mientras trabajamos juntos en pro de un mundo justo en el que todos seamos alimentados.

En las lecturas bíblicas de esta primera semana de Cuaresma, el autor de 1 Pedro nos recuerda la muerte y resurrección de Jesús, el costo del sacrificio y las consecuencias. Jesús, quien fue ejecutado por un injusto poder político ocupante en Jerusalén, da su vida y, al hacerlo, hace posible nuestra reconciliación con Dios. Mientras que el pecado nos aleja de Dios y de los demás, Jesús nos restaura a la comunión con Dios para que podamos ser restaurados en comunión los unos con los otros.

Esta reconciliación es más que un buen sentimiento, más incluso que la experiencia del perdón. Es una restauración radical de la relación con Aquel que nos conoce. La reconciliación tiene sus raíces en un término latino que significa “superar los sentimientos de desconfianza u hostilidad” o, en otra forma, “reunir, unirse en sentimientos, hacerse amigable”. Reconciliarse es superar el conflicto y transformar una relación rota —ser restaurado, a menudo de una manera nueva. Para el escritor de 1 Pedro, esta es la obra de Cristo. Como escribe el autor sobre el bautismo, esto no es simplemente la eliminación de la ofensiva “suciedad del cuerpo”, sino una transformación más profunda de la relación.

A medida que nos reconciliamos con Dios, Dios nos llama a reconciliarnos unos con otros. La Cuaresma nos invita a pensar más profundamente sobre lo que eso significa. La gracia nos asegura que no tenemos que preocuparnos por nuestra relación con Dios; Cristo nos ha reconciliado. Pero la gracia también nos impulsa a entrar en el mundo, a ser testimonio de reconciliación en cada relación.

Este no es un trabajo fácil. Será necesario hacer frente a la ruptura de las relaciones empañadas por el racismo, la opresión, la exclusión y la injusticia. Tampoco es un trabajo rápido. Reconciliarse no es simplemente disculparse y ser perdonado por los errores del pasado, sino hacer el trabajo de construir juntos un mundo nuevo y compartido donde cada uno de nosotros sea reconocido y respetado por la plenitud de dignidad que tenemos de Dios, quien nos creó.

 

Preguntas de Reflexión

¿Qué significa ser reconciliados? ¿Dónde ha experimentado reconciliación a través de su propia fe?

¿Cómo puede verse el ministerio del hambre como una expresión de nuestra reconciliación con Dios, con el mundo y con los demás?

¿Cómo demuestra la historia de los quilombolas en Brasil que la reconciliación debe significar más que disculpas y perdón?

¿Qué relaciones en la sociedad, la iglesia y el mundo necesitan ser transformadas para acabar con el hambre?

 


¹ Edward Shore, “A Dream Deferred: The Emergence and Fitful Enforcement of
the Quilombo Law in Brazil” [Un sueño aplazado: el surgimiento y la aplicación
irregular de la Ley del Quilombo en Brasil] Texas Law Review 101:3, notas 24-25,
texaslawreview.org/a-dream-deferred-the-emergence-and-fitful-enforcement-ofthe-quilombo-law-in-brazil/

² Ibid, note 18.

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Devotional: Shared Power

by Tomo Duke, Faith Action Network in Washington [about the author]

I visited the Washington State Capitol a few times this legislative session to advocate with our elected officials. I walked through buildings filled with elegant marble and golden interiors and observed many people dressed in fancy suits. I thought the grandeur created an illusion about elected officials’ status and power.

In a culture that tempts us to fall into idolization of elected officials or political apathy, what kind of power and accountability do we share?

 

POWER IN A UNIFIED COMMUNITY

In his Epistle to Ephesians, Paul reveals a vision of a new unified community among Jews and Gentiles through Christ. It is difficult to bear witness to this vision today in our contemporary political characterizations of red and blue, polarized ideologies, and deepening alienation between privileged and marginalized people. As the 2024 election season is rapidly barreling toward us, a competition for power is amplified. A true sense of a unified community seems remote.

But after sitting with Ephesians 3:10, I was reminded of the great power of God which redeems what’s been lost and reconciles what’s been divided.

Ephesians 3:10 claims the wisdom of God as the greater power which transcends earthly places and will reach “the heavenly places.” We must not be deceived by the worldly powers that possess an outer, physical manifestation – like the fancy government buildings and the elected titles. The inner wisdom from God appears embodied in our beings and our relationships with fellow human beings and creation.

Christ demonstrated His power not in military prowess but in His consistent presence with those of us described as lowly, afflicted and the ‘least of these’ by pouring out love. This power is never scarce but grows in abundance the more it is shared among all people, all creation.

 

LEADERS WHO MULTIPLY POWER

What I look for in elected leaders and candidates is deeper than their political party or position on hot-button policy issues. I look for those who ground their worldly power in their inner spiritual power that they are willing to share. I wish for leaders who multiply the power of the Spirit by releasing their attachment to the possession of worldly power.

Power is shared in moments like when elected officials step off the floor to meet their constituents, or when they value their time to just know and listen to their constituents by standing outside the power structures. Power is shared when constituents of diverse races, ethnicities and faith traditions from the district come together with their elected officials to share individual lived stories. Power is shared when we acknowledge humanity and equal dignity beyond one another’s societal role in the worldly hierarchy.

 

COMMON FRAGILITY

This is being posted on Ash Wednesday, a day when the church remembers, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Dust is our universally shared context. We often forget that we share in our fragility. For those in elected offices, who have the worldly power to affect millions of people at the stroke of a pen, I believe accepting the truth of our common fragility is especially important.

The spirit-filled power of love, justice and compassion needs to be shared among us and be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tomo Duke (she/her) serves at Faith Action Network (FAN) in Washington state. She was born and raised in Japan and has lived in the United States since 2014 as a first-generation immigrant. She graduated with a M.Div. from Duke University in 2023 and holds a B.S. in Political Science. Prior to joining FAN, she gained experiences in immigration service from humanitarian relief to policy advocacy for immigrant justice both in secular and faith-based contexts.

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For what shall we pray?

“For what shall we pray?” is a weekly post inviting individuals, groups, and congregations to lift up our world in prayer. This resource is prepared by a variety of leaders in the ELCA and includes prayer prompts, upcoming events and observances, and prayer suggestions from existing denominational worship materials. You are encouraged to use these resources as a starting point, and to adapt and add other concerns from your local context. More information about this resource can be found here.

 

Prayer prompts:

For peace among nations where war and violence rage, especially Palestine and Israel, Myanmar, Russia and Ukraine, and the Sudan…
For landslide victims in Turkey and families of those trapped, missing, or killed…
For peaceful resolution to farmers’ protests in India…
For all victims of gun violence, including victims of a subway shooting in the Bronx; members of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX; parade attendees in Kansas City, MO; animal cruelty investigators in Washington, D.C., high school students in Atlanta, GA; shoppers at a mall in Tampa, FL, and outside the Downtown Aquarium in Denver, CO…
For places experiencing flooding and severe weather storms…
For those who live with pain of body, mind, or spirit, visible and invisible…
For the church as we enter the season of Lent…
For peace and comfort as we confront our mortality, praying especially for those facing terminal diagnoses, those nearing death, and those who are grieving…
For the shalom of creation…

Events and observances:

February observances: Black History Month, American Heart Month

Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras (Feb 13)
Ash Wednesday (Feb 14)
Cyril, monk, died 869; Methodius, bishop, died 885; missionaries to the Slavs (Feb 14)
Parinirvana (Buddhism, Feb 15)
Martin Luther, renewer of the church, died 1546 (Feb 18)
Presidents’ Day (Feb 19)
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, martyr, died 156 (Feb 23)

Prayers from ELCA resources:

A set of worship resources for the crisis in the Holy Land is now available on ELCA.org. Several prayers are provided that could be used during the prayers of intercession or at other times, in public worship or for devotional use at home or in other settings. PDF DOC

The Churches Beyond Borders 2023 Advent Cycles of Prayers is now available. The prayer resource calls for justice and peace, especially for churches impacted by the war in the Holy Land, and for lifting up Palestinian Christian communities and ministries and the congregations and institutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

A prayer for the first Sunday in Lent (ELW)
Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us, and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your Song, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

A prayer of lament (from the extended “Prayer of Lament” resources in ACS)
Gracious God, keep us working and praying for the day when your justice will roll down like waters, and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Replenish our strength and stir up our hope as we look for signs of your coming reign. And fill us with the peace that passes understanding—the deep peace of Jesus Christ our Savior, in whose holy name we pray.Amen.

ELW = Evangelical Lutheran Worship
ACS = All Creation Sings: Evangelical Lutheran Worship Supplement

Additional topical prayers are found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pp. 72–87) and All Creation Sings (pp. 46–55), as well as in other resources provided in print and online at sundaysandseasons.com.

Crafted intercessions for every Sunday and festival are provided in the Sundays and Seasons worship planning guide published in-print and online by Augsburg Fortress. Further assistance for composing prayers of intercession can be found here: Resources for Crafting Prayers of Intercession

Prayer Ventures, a daily prayer resource, is a guide to prayer for the global, social and outreach ministries of the ELCA, as well as for the needs and circumstances of our neighbors, communities and world.

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February 18, 2024–Dealing With Highs and Lows

Joshua Serrano, San Carlos, CA

Warm-up Question

Who is your favorite celebrity and why? 

Dealing With Highs and Lows

There is an interview popping up on different social media sources between Brad Pitt and Adam Sandler. Pitt recounts a story he heard about Sandler. 

In the story, Sandler was in college at NYU and had been taking acting classes. His theater professor took him out for drinks one night, but it wasn’t to tell Sandler what a great job he was doing. The theater professor was trying to let Sandler down easy, telling him that he didn’t have the ability to act. He didn’t think Sandler would make it in the acting world, so he told Sandler that he should pursue a different line of work. 

That, however, did not stop Sandler from pursuing his dreams. 

Adam Sandler went on to make some of the most iconic comedies of the 90s and early 2000s. His movies have made a total of $2 billion dollars in cumulative sales. That is not to mention that his current personal net worth is $420 million dollars. 

During the height of his success, Sandler was at a bar one night with his friends. He spotted his old professor from NYU. Sandler brought him back to his group and introduced the professor to his friends, saying, “This is the only professor ever to take me out for a drink.” 

In recounting this story, Brad Pitt was amazed by the kindness and humility that Sandler showed in a moment he could have used as an opportunity to point out how wrong his professor had been. 

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think that Adam Sandler responded the way he did?
  • What would you have done?
  • Reflect for a moment on when you experienced criticism or doubt. How did you respond?
  • How would you define humility?

First Sunday in Lent

Genesis 9:8-17

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Our Gospel reading contains two major events in the ministry of Jesus. The first is his baptism and second is his temptation. One seems to be such a high and the other was a low in his life. 

Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan. We know from an earlier scripture reading that John was baptizing people for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Yet Christians claim Jesus was sinless. In Mark’s gospel there is no answer as to why Jesus was baptized. We are left to try to make sense of it ourselves. 

Something miraculous happens at his baptism.  The heavens open, the Spirit descends like a dove on him, and a voice says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  What an experience that must have been — to hear the voice of God! 

What a highlight of his life! But things take a turn rather quickly. In the next moment, the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to endure temptations for over a month. 

Moments of crowning glory are followed by trials of anxiety, self-doubt, pride, or the temptation to judge ourselves and others too harshly. And after his baptism, Jesus was tempted like you and me! There are so many things that tempt us, yet I find great comfort in the fact that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are tempted. He was truly human and he was truly God.

It’s important to remember that, like Jesus, we will have highs and lows in our life. It is remembering that we are beloved children of God that matters. 

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Jesus was baptized? What memories or mementos do you have of your baptism? Do you have any stories, pictures, or videos of it?
  • Why do you think Jesus was tempted? Do you think that Jesus’ experiences of temptation help us relate to him more?

Activity Suggestion

On a blank sheet of paper write down today’s highs and lows. Then write down some prayers for each of the things that have been challenging and each of the things for which you are grateful. Feel free to share it with a friend. Or, just keep it and remember that Jesus is with us every step of the way. 

Closing Prayer

Merciful and gracious God, your son endured highs and lows. Help us to follow his example, and express gratitude when things are going well and come to you in faith when we are facing challenges. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

 

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Partner Organization Resources and Events

Each month ELCA Worship highlights resources and events from other organizations and institutions. These Lutheran and ecumenical partner organizations work alongside the ELCA to support worship leaders, worship planners, musicians, and all who care about the worship of the church.


Institute of Liturgical Studies

An ecumenical conference on liturgical renewal for the church today.

Creation, Not Commodity: The Church’s Liturgy in a Consumer CultureApril 9-11, 2024, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind.

Consumer or market culture’s role in our lives is so ubiquitous that we frequently fail to recognize its presence and influence over us. Even committed church folk will talk about “church shopping” when they move to a new location.

Visit valpo.edu/ils for more information and registration.
Registration is now open; early registration discount ends Feb. 29.


Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival

Transforming and connecting lives through faith and music since 1981.

Introducing two FREE compositions from Lutheran Summer Music by Anne Krentz Organ: Holy Manna, for solo instrument with keyboard accompaniment, and Be Thankful, for SATB chorus, descant, keyboard accompaniment, optional: assembly, handbells. Free sheet music download: https://www.lsmacademy.org/resources


Association of Lutheran Church Musicians

ALCM nurtures and equips musicians to serve and lead the church’s song.

Ponder Anew: a continuing education conference for church musicians, pastors and worship leaders
July 22-25 at Valparaiso University

With an emphasis on practical skill-building, you will be able to attend workshops and in-depth learning sessions on a variety of topics. Early registration closes March 19. Additional information about the conference, including pricing, scholarships, and accommodations, is available on the ALCM website.

Hearts, Hands, Voices: Local Workshops for Church Musicians

The schedule for 2024 workshops is continually being updated. These are one-day events for musicians to learn new skills, share best practices, build relationships and support systems, and introduce others to the ALCM community. Questions? Contact Contact ALCM.


Augsburg Fortress Events and Resources

Augsburg Fortress is an imprint of 1517 Media, the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Three-Day Feast: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter
Recent decades have witnessed the revival of the ancient liturgies of the Three Days—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. In this book Gail Ramshaw gives a little history and a lot of suggestions about how these services can enrich the worship life of your entire assembly.

 

Paschal Candles
The exclusive SCULPTWAX hand decorated artistry and its unmatched time-tested appliqué process, originally created and developed by Cathedral Candle Company, is still without equal. SCULPTWAX candles are prominently recognized first and foremost in the church candle industry.

 

Augsburg Organ Library: Easter, Series 2
Augsburg Organ Library Series 2: Easter, contains 36 pieces for worship or recitals based on Easter hymn tunes. The Augsburg Organ Library is a highly acclaimed multi-volume series that reflects the twentieth century renewal of the organ and its music.

 

Call to Allyship
How can churches do the work of becoming allies for the leaders they call? In belonging to a predominantly white denomination, ELCA members are called to listen and learn from its leaders of color to recognize the assumptions, biases, and harmful actions that result when congregations don’t do the work to become allies. Authors offer wisdom, storytelling, and concrete suggestions for churches preparing to call a leader of color. Call to Allyship is a must-read for call committees, church councils, social justice teams, and anyone prepared to do the work of understanding, welcoming, and celebrating these leaders.

 

Save the Date for Augsburg Fortress Summer Music Clinics

Join clinicians David Cherwien and Mark Sedio for Augsburg Fortress’ free summer music clinics this summer in any of our five locations! Registration information is still forthcoming, but now is the time to save the date:
July 16-17 in St. Paul, Minn
July 19-20 in Columbia, S.C.
August 1-2 in Philadelphia, Pa.
August 5-6 in Columbus, Ohio
August 9-10 in Chicago, Ill.


Music that Makes Community

Music that Makes Community (MMC) practices communal song-sharing that inspires deep spiritual connection, brave shared leadership, and sparks the possibility of transformation in our world.

Music that Makes Community announced a leadership transition in November.  After 8 years of serving as MMC’s Executive Director, Paul Vasile discerned it was time for a new adventure. We are grateful for his service and all the ways he grew this community of practice and shared resources so generously. To succeed him, the Board of Trustees hired Conie Borchardt, a long time MMC practitioner and facilitator.

To support you in planning your Lenten experiences this year, MMC is offering three virtual gatherings. On Monday, March 4, (4p ET) there will be Drop-In spaces with MMC leaders to explore and envision meaningful experiences for the Lent arc from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  The latter will specifically focus on Holy Week and Easter.  As always, our facebook group is an ever present place to start and continue conversations about creative liturgical music practices. Please visit our website calendar for more details!

May the Song support and nourish you during this little green time between Advent and Lent.  Please be in touch at hello@musicthatmakescommunity.org and keep singing.


Luther Seminary: Faith + Lead

Who plans worship in your congregation? Perhaps roles are shifting, and a common framework would be helpful. Or you’re trying a new worship service but want to keep the essential elements centered. Luther Seminary’s Faith+Lead has a new on-demand course A Lay Leader’s Guide to Planning Worship Experiences ideal for equipping individuals or groups to faithfully design worship that grows along with your community’s needs. Integrating multiple learning styles, this course will help you connect your understanding and hopes for worship.

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Devotional: Leader Values

by Frances Dobbs, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin [about the author]

I believe it is important to look to Scripture for values that our leaders should inhabit. The third chapter of Ephesians explores how Christ perfectly embodies leadership, making a clear example for worldly leaders.

When reading the story of salvation history, I believe we are reminded that God has a role in appointing leaders, but that leadership also comes with guidelines for how they act. Micah 6:8 states: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” [bold added]. These three values shape a biblical understanding of what a leader ought to be and are exemplified in Christ’s example.

Justice can be explained as proper relationship, both proper relationship between humanity and God, and also right relationship between humanity and one’s neighbors. When interacting with our neighbors, there is a consistent call to care for the poor, the stranger and the orphan. When God’s people fail in orienting their hearts to care for one another, the Lord rebukes them harshly. An example of this is Amos 2:6: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals”.

When defining loving kindness, one should focus on the right orientation of their heart. Hosea 6:6 says: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This verse in my view demonstrates that though burnt offerings are to be accepted by God, the focus is that one must have a merciful heart in doing so. Likewise with our political leaders, there is a call to do just things with a clean heart.

Lastly, walking humbly with God is marked by a desire to be in communion with God. There is a reciprocal relationship present, that in loving God, God’s people can be guided to act justly, and in loving the oppressed and vulnerable in our society, our behavior is pleasing to God. “May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper,” reads Psalm 72: 11-12. In other words, leaders of the world ought to walk humbly with God as God is the deliverer of justice to the poor and needy.

Again, it is Christ that exemplifies this image. Through Jesus’ presence on earth, leaders are given an example of which to follow. Their authority carries significance, but it is in justice, kindness, humility and the preference of the poor that they will be worthy worldly leaders.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frances Dobbs (she/her) is the Hunger Advocacy Fellow placed with the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin. She is a recent graduate from Marquette University with a B.A. in Political Science, a B.A. of International Affairs, and a minor in Theology. She is a Melkite Catholic which is an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. She lives in Milwaukee and commutes to Madison for work. She has engaged in a variety of volunteer opportunities including receiving her Girl Scout Gold Award in which she started a library for Amahoro Children’s School in Musanze, Rwanda.

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For what shall we pray?

“For what shall we pray?” is a weekly post inviting individuals, groups, and congregations to lift up our world in prayer. This resource is prepared by a variety of leaders in the ELCA and includes prayer prompts, upcoming events and observances, and prayer suggestions from existing denominational worship materials. You are encouraged to use these resources as a starting point, and to adapt and add other concerns from your local context. More information about this resource can be found here.


Prayer prompts:

For peace among nations, especially between Israel and Palestine, Russia and Ukraine…
For all facing mudslides, floods, storms, and power outages in southern California…
For those experiencing the destruction caused by wildfires in Chile…
For elections and government transitions around the world, especially in Pakistan and Senegal…
For victims of a shooting attack in Istanbul, Turkey…
For those injured or killed in a factory explosion in Harda, India…
For those stranded by storms in China…
For all victims of gun violence, and for all areas of conflict in the world…
In thanksgiving for the gifts of BIPOC leaders in our churches and communities…
For the church, as we enter the spiritual disciplines and reflections of Lent…

Events and observances:

February observances: Black History Month, American Heart Month

Lailat al Miraj (Islam, Feb 8)
Lunar New Year (Feb 10)
Transfiguration of Our Lord (Feb 11)
Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras (Feb 13)
Ash Wednesday (Feb 14)
Cyril, monk, died 869; Methodius, bishop, died 885; missionaries to the Slavs (Feb 14)
Parinirvana (Buddhism, Feb 15)

Prayers from ELCA resources:

A set of worship resources for the crisis in the Holy Land is now available on ELCA.org. Several prayers are provided that could be used during the prayers of intercession or at other times, in public worship or for devotional use at home or in other settings. PDF DOC

The Churches Beyond Borders 2023 Advent Cycles of Prayers is now available. The prayer resource calls for justice and peace, especially for churches impacted by the war in the Holy Land, and for lifting up Palestinian Christian communities and ministries and the congregations and institutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

A prayer for those seeking deeper knowledge of God (ELW)
Gracious and holy God, give us diligence to seek you, wisdom to perceive you, and patience to wait for you. Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you; eyes to behold you; ears to listen for your word; a heart to love you; and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

A prayer for an end to prejudice and racism (ACS)
O God, in your divine mystery you embrace difference in unity, and you call your people to live in peace with all. We pray for an end to racial and ethnic prejudice. Free us from the dread of difference. Free the church from constricting traditions. Free our society from centuries of violence against the other. Break down the walls that separate your people by color, culture, or religion. Call us to repentance for our sins of racism and prejudice, known and unknown. Transform discrimination into a passion for justice. Guide us to nurture a society that embodies reconciliation and cooperation among all, for the sake of the one who embodies your love, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

ELW = Evangelical Lutheran Worship
ACS = All Creation Sings: Evangelical Lutheran Worship Supplement

Additional topical prayers are found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pp. 72–87) and All Creation Sings (pp. 46–55), as well as in other resources provided in print and online at sundaysandseasons.com.

Crafted intercessions for every Sunday and festival are provided in the Sundays and Seasons worship planning guide published in-print and online by Augsburg Fortress. Further assistance for composing prayers of intercession can be found here: Resources for Crafting Prayers of Intercession

Prayer Ventures, a daily prayer resource, is a guide to prayer for the global, social and outreach ministries of the ELCA, as well as for the needs and circumstances of our neighbors, communities and world.

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February 11, 2024–Affirmation

Rachel Larson, Blacksburg, VA

Warm-up Questions

  • When you are complimented for something you’ve done, how does that feel?  Why?
  • When you are criticized, how does that feel?  Why?

Affirmation

A dictionary definition of “affirm”:  “to offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement.” 

I received a letter from a member of the congregation I served.  In it she thanked me for my ministry, complimented something I had done, and said she was happy that I was her pastor.  Though I don’t remember exactly what she wrote, I do remember the feeling I had.  I felt happy and encouraged—proud that I was a pastor, looking forward to the day ahead.  In short, I felt affirmed.

On another occasion I received a note that expressed a member’s displeasure and disappointment in my work.  I remember how debilitating it felt.  I felt sad and discouraged.  It made me question my talents and calling.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you suppose it is so difficult for some to offer affirmation?
  • What have you said to another that was affirming?
  • Have you noticed any change in how you view others by finding something to compliment and affirm in them?

Transfiguration of our Lord

2 Kings 2:1-12

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The story of transfiguration tells of Jesus and his disciples Peter, James, and John— perhaps his closest friends—ascending a “high mountain apart.”  The mountain is not designated.  In Scripture, however, mountains signify a place where God is often present.

While there, Jesus’s appearance changes.  His clothes become dazzling white—perhaps an indication of God’s presence.  Then Elijah and Moses appear, talking with Jesus.  Elijah represents the prophets and the prophet who will point to the appearance of the messiah; and Moses, the law giver, the man who leads God’s people to the promised land.

Peter is so stunned, he blurts out that maybe it would be good to build booths, or shrines, to commemorate the occasion.  The gospel writer comments that Peter and the others are so terrified they do not know what to say.  

While all of these components of the story are important, and offer lessons for the readers, the most significant part of the story comes next.   A cloud overshadows the mountaintop and God speaks to those assembled there:  “This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him.”

When God finishes speaking, only Jesus remains.  Elijah and Moses have vanished.

In the story of Jesus’ baptism, God affirms to Jesus that he is God’s son and beloved.  In the transfiguration story, God affirms to the disciples that Jesus is god’s son and beloved. As one theologian has written:  “By listening to Jesus, we learn who he is and who we are.”

The stage is now set for Jesus’ journey to the cross outside the walls of Jerusalem.  

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Peter wanted to build booths on the mountaintop? 
  • Why does the gospel writer say about Peter, “for he did not know what to say, for they were terrified?” 
  • What do you think God wants to accomplish in this encounter?
  • How do God’s words of affirmation assist Jesus in his ministry?

Activity Suggestions

  • With a friend or two, take sheets of paper and each of you write down what you admire/like about the other(s).  What are their best gifts?  Then share what you wrote.  Is this easy or hard to do?  Why?
  • Read aloud the Old Testament text from 2 Kings.  Summarize in one or two sentences, what it tells us about these prophets and God.  What is the purpose of Elijah’s appearance in the transfiguration story?  What is the significance of his and Moses’ disappearance?   

Closing Prayer

Good and Gracious God, we thank you for our Savior Jesus.  Help us to listen to him.  And help us to remember daily your affirmation of us in our baptisms.  May we seek the good in all that we meet.  Amen.

 

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