Pastoral prayer (prepared for NEXT Church closing worship)

Gracious God, as we prepare to go out from this place:
Help us to remember.
That is our prayer as our attention and our calendars start to turn back toward home. Help us to remember
because in remembering, O God, we find your faithfulness to us, and so we find hope. And we are hungry for hope.

Help us to remember
the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love that kindled in this place, the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love that we found in each other and rediscovered in ourselves.

Help us, O God, to remember the stories of the church that persists not because we have all the answers,
but because you simply will not let us go.
Your steadfast love endures forever.

Help us to remember and trust that “the church lives by a thousand resurrections” and resurrection does some of its best work in the dark.

Help us to remember the calling you have placed upon us all: to shine light into the darkness,
to offer an anchor in the storm,
to bind up the broken and proclaim release to the captives, to seek the welfare of our cities.

Help us to remember our people, our places, where the needs are great and the ache is strong: where chemo treatments continued in our absence, where hungers persisted, where families fell apart, where guns were used, where grief was renewed. As we head home, help us enter into those places but God almighty, you come, too,
for surely they need you more than they need us. Help us all to remember that.

Help us to remember your story, O God,
your story of creating and longing,
your story of building and planting and prompting,
your story of prophets who raged and disciples who didn’t get it, your story of angels stuck on repeat saying, “Do not be afraid,” your story of a brutal cross and a broken son,
your story of a stone rolled back and a brand new day…
which is, of course, your story of reconciliation and redemption and grace and good, good news. It is the story that is saving our lives.

So help us to remember, O God.
Write it on our hearts because the church that is next is about the story that always has been
and the love that always will be.

Help us to remember
today and every day that follows. Amen.