Confessional Prayer for the End of the Liturgical Year

agriculture-1816_640Shepherding God, you want only goodness for your people. At the close of this liturgical year, a good look around makes it clear that your ways are not always human ways. If your ways were our ways, all would have safe housing, food and drink enough, proper care, and justice in all things. Too often, these basic needs are denied and people are left to wander far from your pastures. In a world of abundance, it is truly sinful that so many go without proper shelter, nutrition, and care. Show us how to change our ways lest we squander the blessings of this earth.

Steadfast and faithful God, have mercy on us. Grant to us the spirit of wisdom and revelation the Apostle Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus. We truly need the eyes of our hearts opened that we might see the hope you have for us, to experience the richness of your abundance, and the transforming power of life in you. There is so much more we could do with all that we have been given. Yet, we so often remain paralyzed by the overwhelming needs of the world around us. Sometimes, we even get lost in our own lives, forgetting that we have sisters and brothers who need us to reach out with compassion and grace. Let us breathe deeply your breath of life that we may awaken to the wideness of your mercy.


God of promise and grace, usher in your reign of peace. Forgive us when we walk by the hungry and homeless people on the streets without even noticing. We seldom offer drinks to those who are thirsty or welcome the stranger among us with open arms. When we hear of those in need of clothing and healthcare, we often turn away. Instead of visiting those who are prisoners, we prefer to tell ourselves that they deserve to be there. It is too easy for us to turn away from those whose needs are greater than our own even while you call us to care for those who are hungry, thirsty, lost, naked, sick, or in prison. The news of murder and acts of terrorism are so common they fail to move us to action. Ambivalence and apathy often replace action in our daily living. We long for peace in the world, in our country, in our cities, in our homes, and in our lives. Teach us to walk in the way of peace.

Joyful, loving God, let the winds of your Spirit blow through our lives as we prepare for a new year, a new opportunity to serve you with our whole hearts. While the world is full of dark and broken places, remind us that we have not always failed. We have shared moments of joy and transformation. We have sometimes touched the heart of another with compassion and love. We have returned to you in gratitude for all of our blessings and asking forgiveness for all the ways we have contributed to the broken places. You continue to claim us as your own beloved children and we are thankful. May the joy of this knowledge enter us more deeply, enabling us to love our neighbors and ourselves. Hear our prayers in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Photos used with permission.

RCL – Year A – Reign of Christ Sunday – November 23, 2014
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 with Psalm 100 or
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 with Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

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Out of the Sand

As the liturgical year nears its end, the Gospel reading rightfully raises the question of what we do with our gifts. It would be easy enough to ask this question individually. We know if we are giving back based on what we have been given or if we have have left our gifts hidden and untouched. Certainly, reflecting on this is a good spiritual practice every now and then. What happens if we ask this question of a congregation or denomination or the whole of the Christian Church? We who are the body of Christ in the world, what are we doing with what we have been given?

I wonder about the Church and what we do with the gifts we have been so freely given. I don’t want to talk about the nuances of theology or doctrine or what membership requires. I want us to make a difference in the world because we embody Christ. I’m particularly desirous of changing the world for the better this week because of three news stories I encountered this week.

The first is: 47 people killed in bombing outside Nigerian school; Boko Haram suspected As I drove to work on Monday, I listened to this story on the radio. Boko Haram, the same group responsible for kidnapping more girls than we know, bombed a boys’ school. This extremist group is at least as terrifying as ISIS if not more so. Why did news of Kim Kardashian’s latest exploits eclipse this story very quickly? Moreover, what are we doing to prevent religious extremism and the fear and hatred that comes right along with them?

The second news story is: Top Delinquent Mine Has Deadly Legacy I don’t live in a mining community and I don’t think I know anyone who does. However, I was horrified that this kind of thing can still happen in 2014. Coal mining companies fined for safety violations and resulting deaths only to have the companies default on the fines. What’s worse is that they continue to operate mines and put people’s lives at risk. Why are these companies not shut down and why aren’t more people demanding safe and fair labor practices for these miners?

The third story is: Supervisor threatens to hang worker for drinking from ‘white people’ fountain This is outrageous! Many of my friends and colleagues believe that racism is a “non-issue.” Clearly, it is not a non-issue if things like this can happen. Quite frankly, this story leaves me nearly speechless. I don’t even know what more to say except to ask, how seriously do we engage in conversations around racism? Are we doing all that we can to stop these kinds of things from happening?

Because I found myself asking, “How can this be happening in 2014?” too many times this week, I am asking our churches what they are doing with the abundance of gifts we have been given? It’s time to take our talents out of the sand.

In the meantime, please join with me in praying Psalm 123:photo-1415226181422-279a51ca056e

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of subjects
look to the hand of their ruler,
so our eyes look to the Sovereign our God,
until God has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O God, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
and its fill of the contempt of the proud.

Photo used with permission.                                                                                                        

RCL – Year A – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – November 16, 2014
Judges 4:1-7 with Psalm 123 or
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 with Psalms 90:1-8 (9-11), 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

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Bidding Prayer for Justice

Come, let us pray for the church throughout the world.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
Steadfast God of all times and places, hear our prayers for your church in all its varied forms. We give thanks for the guidance of your Spirit and the ways in which people throughout the world serve you and work for justice and peace. We know that there is much work to do even when we, like Joshua’s Israelites, are often tempted by the gods of the lands. Continue to have mercy on us and give all your people strength and courage as they seek to serve you and embody your forgiveness, grace, and love.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let us pray for the United Church of Christ here and elsewhere.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
God of the wilderness and the margins, we turn to you in these unsettling times. You have gathered us to be your body here and now, calling us to work for peace and justice for all people. Give us oil in our lamps that we may never fall asleep and miss out on the ministries you desire of us. Be especially with Geoffrey Black, our Minister and President, as he balances his ministry with preparations for retirement, and with all conference staff and clergy in these times of challenge and changes. Gather us anew that we may be united and continue uniting with others in our service to you.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let us pray for all the people of the world.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
Wondrous God of many names, we lift up to you our brothers and sisters around the world. You created humanity with an amazing diversity to reflect your light. Set us on a path that will lead us away from our fearful, self-protective ways toward a future filled with joyful welcome and radical inclusion. You did not create us for war, violence, and distrust. Rather, you would have us live in peace, trusting in your ways. May we walk in the way of peace, proclaiming all the wonders that you have done.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let us pray for the whole of creation.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
Creator and creating God, hear our gratitude of the gifts of the earth. Too often we take for granted this incredible world you have given to us. We tend to consume without thinking too much about where things come from. It is not too late for us to be good stewards of this planet. We can learn to live more gently, more kindly on the earth. The beauty all around us is more fragile than we want to admit and needs us to change our ways. Teach us to heed your call to be caretakers of the earth.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let us pray for our nation.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
God of all generations, we recognize that our country is one among many. While we focus on our needs here in this country, we know that people everywhere are calling on you for your wisdom, guidance, and grace. Even as we pray for peace and justice within our borders so, too, do we lift up to you countries with greater need than our own. Be with the leaders of this nation, especially President Obama, granting them the wisdom and courage to be advocates for those without power and privilege. May we all learn to work together to honor the vision liberty and justice for all.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 

Let us pray for those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
Compassionate God who knows our every weakness, shine your light in our deepest darkness. Sickness frightens us and reminds us that there are limits to our knowledge, our abilities, and even our lives. Sometimes it is hard for us to be gracious in the face of suffering, our own or our neighbor’s. Yet, you call us to love one another as you love us. Free us from our anxious ways that we may share our resources with those who suffer that all may find hope, comfort, and healing.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let us pray for all those who are grieving.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
God whose light no darkness can overcome, be with all those who mourn. Loss touches all of us sooner or later and it seems to come to some more than others. We pray for those whose hearts are broken and those who cannot imagine a future for themselves. Especially, we pray for those whose loved ones died suddenly by murder, suicide, accident or illness. May your church be a place of shelter until hope and life can be found again.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.


Let us give thanks to God for all the blessings of our lives.
People are invited to share their prayers quietly or silently.
God of the famine times and the feast times, we give you thanks for all the ways you shower us with your grace. Our lives are full of busyness and distractions and we might fail to notice the small miracles of your creation. Yet in our quiet moments, we see your handiwork everywhere. We are grateful that you claim us as your beloved and we strive to live to honor you. May our lives be reflections of your abundance.
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.                Photo used with permission

RCL – Year A – Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost – November 9, 2014
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 with Psalm 78:1-7  or
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24 or
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

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Politically Speaking

It’s election season again and it’s risky to turn on the TV or radio. Social media isn’t much better. This year seems to have brought with it a whole new crop of negative ads. They are vile and make me not want to vote at all. Why is it that candidates seem to create only attack ads instead of actually telling us what they stand for? And the candidates who claim to be Christian! I really wish they would read this week’s passage from 1 Thessalonians and pay particular attention to the “urging and encouraging” Paul offers to “lead a life worthy of God.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the hatred and fear mongering. It hardly seems likely that reproductive rights and equal marriage rights will destroy any remaining fabric of American society. In fact, it’s more likely that treating women and LGBT folks as fully human in the eyes of the law might actually have a positive effect on society as a whole. But if we’re going to talk about equal rights, we also have to talk about the racsim that lies just below the surface of our political system and throughout most of the rest of our country. Unfortunately, nobody with any kind of political power wants to do that.

I am tired of hearing about Obama Care and how it has gone horribly wrong in the eyes of some. I want to know who is going to lead us into a time of peace, who’s willing to stand up and say that we have made a mess in the Middle East and stop feigning surprise at a war that never ends. I also want politicians who will stand against the Big Pharma, Tobacco, Oil, and Agriculture to support the rights of people rather than corporations. While I’m dreaming, I will add that I want candidates who will support environmental measures instead of fearing the cost because they recognize that the cost of doing nothing is far greater.

Honestly, I would not care what political party a person aligned themselves with if people mattered more than politics. What are you going to do about school shootings? Police violence in general, against black men in particular? Discrimination against women, transgender people, Muslims, recent immigrants? How about minimum wage and equal pay? Social Security and the mental health care system? Poverty? The public education system? Access to healthcare? My list goes on. And, no, I do not care what your opponent has done or not done; I want to know what you plan to do.

I really don’t want to go to the polls and vote for the lesser of the evils. I’d rather vote for someone I believed is actually trying to improve the quality of life for the least among us. I think about those early Israelites and how exciting it must have been for them to cross the Jordan with Joshua, celebrating new leadership, new land, new possibilities. Yes, it’s only midterm elections, but I’d really like to celebrate some new leadership and new possibilities that might lead us into being a new land.

So as you go to the polls, and I really hope you do go, vote for the candidates you think are most likely to live a life worthy of God.


(photo used with permission from )
RCL – Year A – Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost – November 2, 2014
Joshua 3:7-17 with Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 or
Micah 3:5-12 with Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

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If Moses Prayed Today

2014-09-27 11.14.03


RCL – Year A – Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Reformation Sunday – October 26, 2014
Deuteronomy 34:1-12 with Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 with Psalm 1 and
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

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Hearing the Name of God

2014-09-27 13.47.30


The God who just is.
If it were only that simple . . .

Once upon a time, it was.
Time and tradition have convoluted
the simplicity of a straight forward revelation.

Over the generations vowels have been lost
leaving us to guess at the pronunciation
not to mention the nature of the One who really Is.
An effort at piety and respect of the Holy taken to extreme
distanced the people from God to the point
where Another was sent to claim the title.
Jesus embodied the I Am fully:

light of the world
the One before Abraham even existed
the gate to salvation
the good shepherd who lays down his life
the resurrection and the life
the way, the truth, and the life
the true vine apart from which there is no life
the One before whom even soldiers fall

Let us not bury this One who is, who was, and is to come
in unnecessary pious traditions lest we forget
how to speak the Holy Name

This poem is published in Barefoot Theology on pages 176-77.

RCL – Year A – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 19, 2014
Exodus 33:12-23 with Psalm 99 or
Isaiah 45:1-7 with Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

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Between Idolatry and Rejoicing There is Gratitude

2014-10-08 16.13.59Something odd happened this morning. Odd in a good way. I had prepared a group activity for my usual Wednesday morning group called, “Building Hope.” It turned into more than a simple activity for my patients. It actually went far deeper than I would have ever guessed. The exercise  is a simple activity in which I had a tree without leaves painted on a poster board. I handed out apple cutouts and ask the patients to write down whatever they feel grateful for. We had a good conversation about gratitude and how it shifts one’s focus to positive things even while it doesn’t change the negatives. Then we stuck the apples on the tree.

Next, I handed out leaf cutouts and asked them to write on the leaves anything they wanted to let go off, let fall off like the autumn leaves. We talked about these things as we stuck them on the ground around the bottom of the tree. And then the hard part of the discussion. What keeps you from letting go? What prevents you from feeling grateful for what you do have and are able to do? They named a few things like illness, envy, frustration, and habit.

This little exercise made me think about the ancient Israelites and the early Christians in Philippi. My patients weren’t exactly creating idols or rejoicing in the Lord, but the underlying issues are rather similar. Gratitude came easy for them. They could name many things they were grateful for from the beautiful fall weather to family and friends who love them. Recognizing what they needed to let go of was also easy. They did not hesitate to write down guilt, anger, shame, illness. But, ultimately, they could not see gratitude as a way of letting go. It’s hard. Sometimes too hard is what they said.

I think of those Israelites who had so much to be grateful for, so much to rejoice in. But they had forgotten the parting of the sea, the manna from heaven, the water from stone, and the smoky lightning and thunder that accompanied Moses giving them the ten commandments. They could only see the wilderness around them and they were desperate for a god they could see and touch.

I suspect that those folks in Philippi were having trouble remembering all that God had done for them as well. They were probably only seeing the arguments over how to live as a proper follower of Jesus, the persecution of believers, and the difficulty of going a new way. Otherwise, why would the advice have been to rejoice in the Lord always? I’d bet there was some yearning for a god they could see and touch, too.

And, honestly, I’m right there with them. I want answers to the evils of ISIS, global warming, ebola, and war. There are days when I can only see wilderness for miles. It’s lonely and scary. I’m not about to build a golden calf to help me let go and make room for gratitude and joy, but I will admit that I’ve worshipped lesser gods with flimsy altars. They sneak in without needing much of an invitation. They take over quickly with their illusions of satisfying the deep hunger and the ever-present yearning for a peace that will last.

These little gods that create the illusion of happiness are a poor substitute for the God who saves and truly does offer peace and joy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s all about gratitude. If the Israelites had focused on all that God had blessed them with and given thanks right there in the middle of the wilderness instead of seeing only their fears, they would have had no need of a golden calf. If the Philippians had remembered all that Jesus had done for them instead of focusing on whatever issue was dividing them, they would not have needed a reminder to rejoice in the Lord. If I remember God’s deep and abiding love for me, then I have no need of the little gods that populate my life. Like my patients realized this morning, gratitude doesn’t change the bad stuff, but it helps to make us less afraid to let go enough to make room for change in us.2014-09-17 11.13.15-1

I’m still thinking about this need to remember and be grateful in an active kind of way. There would be so much more room for joy and gentleness if worry didn’t take up so much room. These things won’t fix the problems in the world immediately, but what if everyone followed the advice given to the Philippians so long ago?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

RCL – Year A – Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 12, 2014
Exodus 32:1-14 with Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or
Isaiah 25:1-9 with Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

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