[This is that time of year when Athens First UMC gets really busy in preparing to welcome college students to campus. In this picture, we are putting church labels on 744 water bottles which we will give away this Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm in front of our church building. Yesterday, we blessed the water bottles during our worship services. We will also deliver welcome baskets to our neighboring fraternities/sororities and feed the parking meters for people looking to park just to let them know that we are a church that is seeking to put Athens First.]
O God, you have us surrounded! There is no place we can go where you are not already present in a very real way. During those times in our lives when we feel alone or afraid, remind us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
And so, in these next few moments, we silently lift up to you the names of people who have are now in glory with you, and who have blessed us along our faith journey. As we lift these names silently to you, remind us that this is another example of how heaven and earth are not that far apart. They are closer than we can even imagine. Hear the names of our loved ones as we lift them silently to you.
Just as these loved ones have been a blessing in our lives, help us to surround each other with a community love and forgiveness.
Together, we surround those who are physically unable to attend worship. We surround those who may be listening to our worship service on the radio this morning. We surround the college students who are beginning to arrive on campus this week. We surround students, teachers, professors, administrators, and support staff as they begin a new school year. We surround our Bishop and District Superintendent as they provide leadership for our churches in the West Ohio Conference and the Foothills District. We surround the person looking for a church home. We surround the churches and religious communities in our surrounding area. We surround the people who work at the police station, the sheriff’s office, and the fire station as they serve our community. We surround our mayor, our city council, and our judicial system. We surround our Growing Tree preschool families as they begin to meet here again. We surround the construction workers as they get things ready for our building improvements. We surround the people living in the Gulf States who have lost their homes and belongings from the recent flooding. We surround our Tuesday prayer team as they pray every week on our behalf. And we surround each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Just as you surrounded the disciples and taught them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, surround us in this moment as we pray together saying,
“Our Father, who art in heaven…”