Prayers of the People • December 31, 2017

Prepared and read by our People’s Warden, Malcolm McEwen

What is the church?

A charismatic preacher with a gift for engaging with people of all ages? Sacred music from across the centuries, presented by gifted musicians? Enthusiastic volunteers working on a variety of causes? A social club for people with common interests? A hot drink on a cold day? A comfy chair to sit in and chat with friends?

The church is where the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

Lord, thank you that we have not just news, not fake news, but good news for everyone. Thank you that, despite all the distractions at this time, the Christmas story still shines through. If we stop, we would be as amazed as the shepherds on hearing the angel’s proclamation. Can it be true, a king is born in Bethlehem? Give us that faith to believe the supernatural and to act, to go in search of the saviour, and to worship him as we ought. And then go from there to tell others.

The church is where the truth is cherished.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Truth, not lies. Truth in all its senses – theological truth, relationship truth, truth about the world around us. The church is where truth is cherished but not legalized, where doctrine is not dogma. Lord, treat us gently and show each of us where we hide the truth, or turn away from it. Let not labels – liberal, evangelical, social justice movement – cause us to put up barriers between each other. May there be love between us all that accepts who each one of us is, but also sees what we can be, that in God all things are made perfect.

The church is where you are worshipped.

We thank you for the richness of variety in worship services; that we have so much to choose from in terms of worship styles and traditions. Give us a spirit of openness to appreciate this richness and thus hear your voice speaking to us in different ways. We pray that you would always be the focus of those leading the service, in choosing sermon themes, music, readings or prayers, and that those hearing would be drawn to you.

We thank you for all who contribute to our worship services every week, from preparing bulletins and scheduling volunteers to running choir practices and serving the Eucharist.

The church is where the needy gather.

Christ came into the world to save sinners, and therefore in coming to church we acknowledge our need for a saviour. Need does not recognize age, skin colour or language, we are all the same, in that we were all far from God when we heard his call. Forgive us when we put on the mask of self-sufficiency, when we are happy to help others in need but do not admit our own needs. Give us the humility to accept assistance from, and to minister to, our brothers and sisters.

The church is where the hungry are fed.

We thank you that the church is not just a social club for the like-minded, but a shelter for those who need feeding. We thank you that on a weekly basis people are provided with both spiritual food and physical food. Lord, may we never drift away from providing both in this place. May we always be a refuge, where a stranger can find both a bowl of soup and spiritual sustenance, echoing Mary’s song that the hungry shall be filled with good things.

The church is where people expect us to be.

Lord, we might like to think that Canada is a Christian country but what happens at Christmas really shows that it is a secular place. The paradox, though, is that those outside still look for Christians to be where they should be – at church. May we not stop gathering together as the people of God and may this place of St Margaret’s be a beacon of light for our neighbourhood.

The church is your body, your presence in the world.

That is not an option, we cannot go virtual. A body is living, breathing, growing.

That is our challenge every day, not a resolution but a faith commitment.

We say every week that your power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

Lord, may we see that in the coming year, in ways that cannot be doubted.

Amen