Lenten Evening Prayer

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Opening Responses

Leader: Come to us this night, O God,

All: Come to us with light.

Leader: Speak to us this night, O God,

All: Speak to us your truth.

Leader: Dwell with us this night, O God,

All: Dwell with us in love.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Thanks be to you, O Christ,

All: For the many gifts you have bestowed on us, each day and night, each sea and land, each weather fair, each calm, each wild.

Leader: Each night may we remember your mercy given so gently and generously.

All: Each thing we have received, from you it came; each thing for which we hope, from your love it will come; each thing we enjoy, it is of your bounty; each thing we ask, comes of your disposing.

Leader: O God, from whom each thing that is, freely flows,

All: Grant that no tie over strict, no tie over dear, may be between ourselves and this world. Amen.

The Word of God

Leader: O God, as these words are read,

All: In our hearts may we feel your presence.

– The Readings –

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Job

Job is a good man and knows it, as does everybody else including God. Then one day his cattle are stolen, his servants killed, and the wind blows down the house where his children happen to be whooping it up at the time, and not one of them lives to tell what it was they thought they had to whoop it up about. But being a good man he says only, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Even when he comes down with a bad case of boils and his wife advises him to curse God and die, he manages to bite his tongue and say nothing. It's his friends who finally break the camel's back. They come to offer their condolences and hang around a full week. When Job finds them still there at the start of the second week, he curses the day he was born. He never quite takes his wife's advice and curses God, but he comes very close to it. He asks some unpleasant questions:

If God is all he's cracked up to be, how come houses blow down on innocent people? Why does a good man die of cancer in his prime while old men who can't remember their names or hold their water go on in nursing homes forever? Why are there so many crooks riding around in Cadillacs and so many children going to bed hungry at night? Job's friends offer an assortment of theological explanations, but God doesn't offer one.

God doesn't explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam. He also, incidentally, gets off some of the greatest poetry in the Old Testament. Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? Hast thou given the horse strength and clothed his neck with thunder?

Maybe the reason God doesn't explain to Job why terrible things happen is that he knows what Job needs isn't an explanation. Suppose that God did explain. Suppose that God were to say to Job that the reason the cattle were stolen, the crops ruined, and the children killed was thus and so, spelling everything out right down to and including the case of boils. Job would have his explanation.

And then what?

Understanding in terms of the divine economy why his children had to die, Job would still have to face their empty chairs at breakfast every morning. Carrying in his pocket straight from the horse's mouth a complete theological justification of his boils, he would still have to scratch and burn.

God doesn't reveal his grand design. He reveals himself. He doesn't show why things are as they are. He shows his face. And Job says, I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee. Even covered with sores and ashes, he looks oddly like a man who has asked for a crust and been given the whole loaf.

At least for the moment.

(From Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner, Harper & Row, 1973, pp. 46–47.)

Theodicy

Theodicy is derived from the two Greek words meaning deity and justice and refers to the attempt to justify the goodness of God in the face of the manifold evil present in the world. The problem exists for any theism that attributes both power and goodness to the deity. It may be expressed in a famous dilemma: either God is able to prevent evil and will not, or he is able to prevent it and cannot. If the former, he is not merciful; if the latter, he is not omnipotent.

(From A Handbook of Theological Terms by Van A. Harvey, Macmillan Publishing, 1964, p. 236.)

Mark 14:12–16

12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover? 13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? 15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there. 16So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Evening Conversation

Prayers of Concern

Leader: O Christ, kindle in our hearts within a flame of love to our neighbor, to our foes, to our friends, to our kindred all.

All: O Christ of the poor and the yearning, from the humblest thing that lives to the name that is highest of all, kindle in our hearts within a flame of love.

Blessing

Leader: Be the great God between your shoulders to protect you in your going and your coming; be the son of Mary near your heart; and be the perfect Spirit upon you pouring.

All: Amen.


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