A few weeks back I went with my mom to her small Presbyterian church in upstate NY. Her church couldn’t be more opposite from the one I served at in Texas. The church I worked had bands, recording studios, full choirs, several pastors, huge buildings and even an indoor play area. For years our staff spent every Monday planning, in detail, every move of the upcoming Sunday services. I loved my church.
None of that exists in my mom’s church. There things are simple, very simple. Nothing fancy. Nothing flashy. I highly doubt they have a team that spends hours and lots of man power to plan their upcoming Sunday services.
But God is there.
I think what I most love is how they know each other. Pretense goes out the window when you have known each other since childhood. I love when the pastor asks for prayers of the people. We used to read ours from a list of prayers gathered during the week. She just walks the aisle addressing each person by name. She knows them. So does everyone else.
I’m so thankful Jesus isn’t found in only one kind of church. He is wherever his people are gathered whether in a small church, house, a bar, or a mega church in Dallas. Jesus shows up where we are. I’m grateful he’s not as judgmental and picky as I am.
Below is a prayer we prayed at my mom’s church. Read slowly. Breath it in. Regardless of where you are … speak to your Jesus.
God of all ages and of every generation,
whose wisdom extends beyond the horizon
and whose care reaches the farthest depths of the sea,
we give thanks that we abide in the shelter of your encompassing love.
We hear how nothing — not even death itself –
can separate us from resting eternally in your presence.
We give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf,
how he arose victorious from the fetters of that ultimate bondage
and now prepares a place for us by your side.
We pray, O God, that you will remove from us
any encumbrances that keep us from realizing our destiny.
Remove the scales from our eyes
so that we can see clearly what you would have us do.
Help us to put our trust in Christ,
who alone can keep us from falling by the wayside
of self-deception, materialism*, false pride, or boredom.
Let our faltering steps be strengthened
by his willingness to suffer defeat on our behalf,
so that we can — from now on** — walk boldly in his name.
Cleanse us of whatever foolishness causes us daily to betray him.
When we expect him to work wonders on our behalf,
remind us through the testimony of Scripture
how he cared for all people.
When we would serve him only at our convenience,
startle us with his call to sacrifice all that we have and follow him.
When we would betray him before others
by our unwillingness publicly to proclaim him our Savior,
send your Spirit among us to renew our commitment.
O God, you have been “our dwelling place in all generations. . . .
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
We come before you in the name of Jesus, the one who redeems.
The one who taught us all to approach you, saying:
Our Father, who art in heaven…
Prayers of the People: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)James G. Kirk, When We Gather: A Book of Prayers for Worship for Years A, B, and C (Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2001), 236.