Through the Spring and Summer, and now into Fall, we have borne the grief of a global pandemic, endured a massive loss of life and of livelihood, and protested escalating violence against Black Lives. Even as we wait on the help of Almighty God, we are compelled to stand up; to defend the cause of righteousness. With boldness in our prayers and by our actions we seek to redeem the soul of our nation.
Sharing Love (Acts 4:32–5:11, NRSV)
The Scripture reading is drawn from Sunday’s lesson for November 22, 2020 ©Uniform Lessons Series, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.
4:32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). 37 He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
5:1 But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; 2 with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” 5 Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. 6 The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.
A Prayer Based on the Belhar Confession
Today’s prayer by the Reverend Dr. Sheldon Sorge, General Minister of Pittsburgh Presbytery, is from, “United Against Racism: Churches for Change,” ©New York: Friendship Press, 2018, p. 116-117. You may purchase the book through Friendship Press, on their website at store.friendshippress.org.
We acknowledge that the unity of your church is both your gift and our obligation, both a binding force and something we must diligently seek. Our Lord Jesus prays for our unity yet leaves it to us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.
We confess that we have spurned your gift of unity; we have broken the Spirit’s bonds. We have permitted racial descent, along with other social factors, to determine who belongs and leads in our fellowship. In so doing, we have sinned against you, impoverished ourselves, violated our brothers and sisters, and diminished the credibility and effectiveness of your church in the world. In your mercy, forgive us.
We pray that your Spirit would so move upon us and among us that we would let nothing bar us from communion with anyone who has true faith in Jesus Christ. Stir up in us actions, not mere words, that reach out in direct connection with people whose ethnic heritage is different from our own. Make us into a city on a hill, a light to the world, a public demonstration of your reign in which all peoples are joined in full reconciliation. Rouse up our anger at all the ways racial discrimination persists both in the church and in the world, that we would no longer be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds. Create in us a clean heart, and renew in us a right spirit.
We reject the prejudice, fear, selfishness, and unbelief that deny the reconciling power of the gospel. We embrace and honor all our brothers and sisters in Christ from every race and nation, and we resolve to be likewise peaceable to all persons regardless of creed. Unto you be all honor and glory in this world and in the world to come. In the name and for the sake of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Note: The full text of the Belhar Confession is printed in The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Part 1 (Louisville, KY: PCUSA, 2016), 285-97.