When the Old Testament Israelites experienced a great deliverance from God, they sometimes piled up special stacks of stones. They called them Ebenezer, meaning stone of help. Every time they passed, the stacks would remind them that God’s help would be with them in the future, too. Atlanta Westside stands at an Ebenezer moment in our life together, so it seems fitting to offer an Ebenezer prayer for our Body.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit – you alone are Head of your Church and our little corner of it. Atlanta Westside belongs to you, each precious soul purchased with your priceless blood. You made us, and you are remaking us together into the image of Jesus. You are infinitely worthy of our loudest praise, our most joyful gratitude, and our most humble obedience.
Thank you, Lord, for your Gospel of grace that we need every hour. Thank you for the messy and mystic sweet communion of living life in church together. Thank you for drawing men and women into the family of God for the first time – and for reacquainting all of us with the wonder of grace and the transforming power of your Holy Spirit. We praise you for sending us in service to each other, to our neighbors, to college campuses, to people in need and to people around the world. We thank you for giving us so many fruitful relationships to build with together: lifelong friends, spouses, children. And we thank you for the beautiful new building where we will soon begin to worship.
Over these eleven years our body has often been dismembered – some by normal transitions of life, some by realigning with other corners of your church, some by death, and some by personal tensions never resolved. It all stings, Lord, but we grieve especially how we have hurt and been hurt by each other. Have mercy on us. We have been quick to proclaim words of truth, but slow to perform deeds in keeping with it. Have mercy on us. We have inadequately pursued or welcomed minorities. Have mercy on us.
Generous Father, don’t let us hoard our building. Give us the courage to give it away, to use it for ministry and for the good of our community, even if it gets banged up. Don’t let us be content to turn inward and be satisfied, but face us outward to welcome the stranger, the outcast, the poor and the needy. Grow us in redemptive ethnic unity. Make us anti-racist, and give us more of your proactive, Pentecost love to learn the heart languages of all people. Give us, if it is your will, more tangible expression of that diversity in our gathered worship. Above all, Lord, make us faithful to your Gospel of Grace – to love it, to live it, and to keep it always on our lips. In the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.