A Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent, 2009

It’s a funny thing about messes, Lord.
Admittedly, most of the really sticky ones
we are quite capable of creating for ourselves.
And for those messes,
for those slip-ups,
and goof-ups,
and thoughtless words or deeds,
either done or undone,
we are truly sorry this morning, Lord.
And we are sorry for the messes that result from
our quite intentional bad choices,
our thoughts or deeds of vindictiveness,
or pettiness,
or insecurity,
or jealousy.
In fact, we take this moment, right now,
to look backward over the last week or so,
and with the gentle guidance of your Holy Spirit,
to bring all those messes
both accidental and intentional,
into the light of your righteousness,
and we say, “I am so sorry.”

– Silence –

We thank you for so many good gifts this morning,
and we also thank you that the messes of our own creation,
those evidences of our sinfulness and our brokenness,
provide for us reminders of our deep need for a Savior.
So, as we receive your forgiveness this morning,
teach us gratitude for that great gift and so many others.
And we say, “Thank you.”

– Silence –

We also acknowledge to you this morning
that we, in our broken state,
also live in a broken world.
And people we love and care about
are caught in messes that they did not make.
These are the messes that come with the territory,
the creaturely territory that we all occupy.
We have friends or family,
close or distant,
or we ourselves may be among those
who are caught in the sticky, messy web of suffering this day.
Chronic or even life-threatening health situations,
deep financial concerns,
badly broken relationships,
the harsher effects of aging,
the loss of someone we dearly love.
All of these messes need
your touch,
your presence,
your redemption.
And we say, “Have mercy, Lord. Have mercy.”

– Silence –

We thank you, O God of Hope and Mercy
that you are present in the messes we make
and the messes we live with,
that you are willing to sort through them with us.
But our text for today, Lord God,
our text for today talks about messes that you make.
Jesus, striding through the temple courts, turning over tables,
scattering animals right and left,
generally making a mess of things.

And we don’t much like it when you mess up the stuff that we think
is neat and orderly and un-messable.
We don’t like it when you overturn our systems,
our accepted rituals for social interchange
or religious practice.
It makes us really uncomfortable when you mess with us.
When you stir the pot of our prejudices,
our warped values,
our small cruelties,
our deeply held convictions
or ideas about ‘how things should be done.’
Don’t mess with us, Lord.
Don’t mess with us!

But then.
But then…we look at why you mess with us.
And we remember that:
you want us to be people of prayer,
not prejudice;
you want us to be people centered on worship,
not worry;
you want us to be people carried by grace,
not griping;
you want us to be people radiating love…
And we say, “Mess us up, Lord. Mess us up.”

– Silence –

We’ve brought our gifts to you again today, Lord.
Gifts and tithes and offerings.
Part of our money.
And we know you want to mess with our money.
So, will you take what we’ve brought today, Lord,
take it and really mess with it?
Use it to clean up the messes we make
and to mess up the places we protect.

Use our gifts to plant seeds of love, hope and peace
right here in this place where we are blessed to live.
And out there, in those corners of the world
where blessings are not so obvious,
where hope looks like
a warm bed in a covered place,
like clean water
and healthy babies
and educated children
and stable governments.
Thank you for the work of your kingdom that goes on
in places near and far,
and please, Lord,
mess with us when we forget that
your kingdom work starts in us.

In the name of Jesus,
who meets us in the mess and cleans us up,
and who messes with us in our stuck places
and shakes us up.

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