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Friday, 21 August 2009 11:00

Prayer Service: Runaway Train

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A Prayer for the Lost and Broken (Scripture-Song Worship Experience)

This prayer is a basic celebration of the Word, ideal for a short opening or closing prayer. It can be expanded by adding optional songs, additional readings, etc. The proclamation of a "Scripture-Song" reading is accomplished by mixing verses of the reading with portions of the song in a dialogue fashion. When practiced beforehand (especially if the proclaimer wishes to memorize the Scripture passage) and proclaimed clearly, in dialogue with the song, the experience can be a creative, inspiring, and involving encounter with the Scriptures in our own time.

In the "Scripture-Song" which follows, portions of the reading will be proclaimed during an instrumental bridge or other portion of the song. It will be necessary to pause the song once, using the tape-or CD player's "pause" button. No alterations to a recording of the song are necessary. Simply practice the reading/timing beforehand for an effective proclamation.

• A copy of the song "Runaway Train" from the Soul Asylum album, Grave Dancers Union.
• If desired, a table set up with the Scriptures, a candle, and plants.
Ministers Needed
• The prayer can be led by a single presider or by a presider and a reader who proclaims the scripture-song.

Order of Service
Opening Prayer
LEADER: God of healing, God of forgiveness,
Many of Your people are lost or hurting.
And sometimes, we, too find ourselves on that train
of despair or pain.
We gather at this time to pray for those who most need Your love.
Remind us once again of the healing, reconciling mission of Your Son.
Let us accept the comfort He brings when we are the broken ones,
And let us accept the challenge to be healers and guiding lights for those who walk the tracks of hopelessness or hurt.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Gospel Reading (with interacting song)
Matthew 9:9-13 with "Runaway Train"

To proclaim the gospel with the song, have the tape cued to the beginning of the song. (It's a good idea to start with both the "Pause" and the "Play" buttons depressed).

Begin the reading (with the tape still on "Pause"), proclaiming verses 9-10. At the beginning of verse 10, lift the "Pause" button, allowing the music to come up while you finish the verse:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. (Start song) While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.

Allow the song to play through:

Verse One -- "Call you up in the middle of the night..."
Refrain -- "Runaway Train, never going back..."
Verse Two -- "Can you help me remember how to smile..."
Refrain -- "Runaway Train, never going back..."

At the end of the second refrain, there is an instrumental bridge. Over the instrumental bridge, read verses 11-13 of the gospel:

The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
(If timed correctly) the reading will end just as the instrumental bridge ends and Verse Three begins ("Bought a ticket for a runaway train..."). Let the song play out.

After the final refrain, you may want to repeat verse 13 of the gospel for additional emphasis:

Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

It may be appropriate to share a brief reflection on the gospel, the song, and the theme of "those who are lost and broken." Include the following thoughts in your own words:
(Ask rhetorically) How many of us know people who are on "runaway trains?" How many of us are on one themselves? The simple reminder of the gospel (whether we are the ones ministering to someone feeling lost and broken or we are the lost and broken in need of ministry) is that our God is a God who cares about people on runaway trains. In fact, in the person of Jesus, God makes a point to search out the sick and hurting. Jesus was known for the company he kept and often he was the "blowtorch burning" for "fireflies without lights." And if that scandalized the prim, the proper, or the self-righteous, he would remind them that to such belonged his mission ("those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do"). So, if we know people who've bought tickets on those trains, let us remember the special place they have with Jesus. And if we are the ones on that train, there is only one conductor qualified to lead us off, one physician who can heal our every ill.

Option: Prayers/Response
If desired, other prayers, responses, or symbolic acts can be added to the prayer to create a more lengthy service. One short, but concrete way to respond in prayer to this gospel is to invite the participants to call to mind the names of people they know who are on "runaway trains." These names can be recalled in the silence of memory or simply spoken aloud (first names only). Invite the entire group to lift their hearts in a special prayer for those individuals and all the unnamed riders of the runaway trains of our world.

Concluding Prayer
The leader may conclude the prayer in these or similar words:

LEADER: Loving God,
We come to You -- not with sacrifice, but in praise of mercy.
We ask for your mercy and healing on all those who are lost and broken, riding the rails of a runaway train of despair or sin.
Send forth the Spirit of Your Son to be the healer and light to their pain and darkness.
And send us forth, as merciful disciples of Your Son, to continue His mission.
Don't let us settle for "saving the saved," but remind us to cross the tracks, as Jesus did, to bring light and peace to those who most need it.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Copyright - Center for Ministry Development, PO Box 699, Naugatuck CT 06770, USA, 203-723-1622;
Used with permission, all rights reserved


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