Cloth Prayer Cross.jpgMessage for Advent 3 on Luke 1:46-55 for December 12, 2021 given at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

Our 4 Themes for Advent: 1-Believing in Hope (Zechariah); 2-Belonging in Peace (Mary and Elizabeth); 3-Building in Joy (Mary's Song); 4-Becoming in Love-the Christmas Pageant

• “Dear God, could you please give me a good work ethic.”
• “I pray for healing after my mom’s passing.”
• “Lord, forgive me for I have lost faith and now I am trying to return.”

These prayers were tied to the cloth prayer cross at the entrance to our parking lot on St. Luke’s Drive. This project was started by the Faithful Innovation team as a way to listen to our community during the pandemic. This team was just getting started on listening and learning experiments in 2020 as the pandemic set in, so all of the in-person events and plans had to be set aside. This one idea was a great, non-contact way to start engaging with the community.

Some of the questions we were encouraged to wonder about in the Leadership for Faithful Innovation process included: What keeps you up at night? What are the losses you are grieving and the longings you hope for? What is God up to in our neighborhood and how can we help?

The prayers on the cloth strips reveal so much about what keeps people up at night in our community, what losses they are grieving, what longings they hope for and what God might be up to in their lives. We could weave them together into an Arapaho Neighborhood Magnificat, for in these nearly 100 cloth prayers, we hear echoes of the song that Mary first sang—a song of God coming in surprising ways, a God who lifts up the lowly, a God who brings justice and hope, a God who remembers mercy is for all.
Mary sings a song of joy because God calls her to participate in building and bringing about a new way of living in the world. God is not coming through the power and aggression of the state, but from down under—through relationship, and family, and community—building with joy from the bottom up.

I am going to read Mary’s song again, interspersed with prayers from the cloth strips from our community so you can hear that the prayers and songs of the kingdom we are building together today are still the same ones that Mary first sang out. Since the beginning of God’s presence in her life, the same Spirit moves forward through time to help us build with joy this kingdom of love and hope today.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

• I love you Jesus for your sacrifice and that I may have eternal life.
• God is the best ever.
• Jesus, Lord and Savior, thank you for loving us.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

• I love Jesus so much.
• Prayers for Divine order: Path, Purpose and Prosperity
• Prayers for growing in my faith
• Thank you for this wonderful life and bringing us to this Earth.

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

• Lord, be with those who are gathering and the elderly, and those families experiencing conflict.
• Prayers for faith among our youth and young adults
• God, thank you for my toys.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

• Jesus have mercy on us
• For our leader’s wisdom, patience, and perseverance
• That no more people die because others are selfish.
• Prayers for those who do not know the love of Christ, who have no hope

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

• For all victims of COVID, for kids to be safe in school, and our leaders to know what to do
• May God be with those at the US-Mexico border.
• Prayers for unaccompanied minors.
• Prayers to keep poor people safe.

he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

• For those whose livelihood has been hurt by the pandemic
• Prayers for action for injustice.
• For all who are incarcerated.
• Father, forgive us

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

• For nurses and healthcare workers
• Healing for our family members
• Comfort the grieving
• For those in surgery, pain and suffering
• For peace, love, and happiness

according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

• God, teach us to love you, and love others again.
• Prayers for us to feel your arms around us, and for peace.
• Give me your strength to embody your revolutionary spirit even if it causes me to share in your suffering.

What is God up to in our neighborhood? Members of our community are singing Mary’s song with their lives, and St. Luke’s is here to be the community that embodies this song, this prayer of love and hope and action for justice, so people have more than a piece of cloth! We are here so they have

• a hand to hold when they feel lonely
• a table of fellowship to share a meal,
• a prayer team to pray with them,
• a visitor when they are sick,
• a team with which to take action for justice,
• a group to travel with them to El Paso to learn about immigration!
• someone to weep with them when they are mourning,
• and someone to praise God with them when they are rejoicing!

This is what we are building with joy, with our Capital Campaign—a ministry that helps the people who left the prayers outside—feel safe and comfortable coming inside; and, so WE feel awesome and excited about inviting people here (and not worrying about whether there’s plastic on the pews because the roof leaks, whether elderly people or parents with strollers can get in the front door and so on). It is ultimately not about the building at all. It is about the mission with the people who are singing Mary’s song in their daily lives. 

Here is the last prayer from the cross I am going to share today: “Dear God, help me to do this job and do it successfully. Thank you for providing for us while I have been looking. Thank you for this church and for this prayer cross. Amen.”

In your bulletin is a short list of specific prayers from the cloth prayer cross. I invite you to take the card home with you and pray through this list from our community this week as a sign that just as our community is grateful for us, we are grateful for them. There are 12 of these prayer cards so you can exchange them in your household or among your congregational friends. If prayer is your super-power—I have a few rings with all 12 cards! You can ask me for a full ring after the service. 😊

We are leaning in, we are listening to our community, and we are learning how God calls us to build the kingdom here with joy, as our souls magnify the Lord.

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