Categories
liturgy Poetry Prayer

A Confessional Prayer

Ever-patient God, 
Jeremiah's ancient words stir within me
You let truth tumble from his lips
down through the ages
to land on my restless spirit
sour grapes are frequently easier to ingest
than the word You would inscribe on my heart
this troubling truth awakens desire in me
yet do I reach for society's sour fruit
or the sweetness of Your words and ways?

Maker of mercy and miracles,
the psalmist sings of Your help and Your hope
while I continue to reach for grapes
knowing my lips will pucker and I will remain hungry
my reluctance to accept the sweet abundance You offer
makes me wonder if I am wrestling with You
or with my own misguided need to be strong and fr
please hold me fast until I hear you calling my name
one more time, breaking the spell woven
by society's deceitful lies
masquerading as nourishing,desirable fruit
though they serve only to sour all
may I have the courage to endure Your grip
and the wisdom to receive Your word (again)


Fierce and gentle God,
how often I have turned from Your ways
let go of Your promises
as if Your word means nothing
as fragile and fleeting as ash in the wind
Your love is endures through all things, all times, all places
when pain is overwhelming, You abide
when I am lost and wandering, You remain
when I insist on eating those deceitful grapes
You wait with honey in hand
for that moment of repentant return
how is it that any of us are worthy of Your love
Your mercy
Your forgiveness
Your eternal patience?

Giver of life and love,
Forgive me for choosing simple, self-serving actions
over the complexity of Your ways
of loving neighbor and self
of serving You and creation
Forgive me when I pester You with trivial concerns
and the sourness of my prayers distances me
from the sweetness of Your love
Forgive me when I fail to turn to you with gratitude
with full recognition for all that is good in my life
Forgive me each time I don't see You
in a neighbor's need
Forgive me for thinking I am on my own in the wilderness
as if You aren't there
along with that immeasurable cloud of witnesses

Gracious God,
write Your word on my heart anew
even knowing that we will wrestle again (and again)
and my pestering prayers
won't always be filled with true need
my deepest desire is to live in Your abundance
build Your kingdom
travel Your holy ways
and embody Your love
always
I am yours

Amen.

RCL – Year C – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 13, 2019
Jeremiah 31:27-34 with Psalm 119:97-104 or
Genesis 32:22-31 with Psalm 121 and
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 and
Luke 18:1-8

Photo: CC0image by Elias Sch

Categories
liturgy

Litany of Confession, Isaiah 58

One: God of all people and places, you have shown us how to live peacefully with all our neighbors.

All: We are to serve you rather than ourselves. The only finger of blame we are to point is at ourselves. We should not speak evil to or about those around us. We are to share our food with those who hunger and take care of the vulnerable among us.

One: You tell us that if we do these things, gracious God, gloom will give way to noonday light and you will guide us in all things.

All: If we share our resources and ensure justice for all our neighbors, then our needs will be satisfied. Our thirst will be quenched and we will be strengthened for the days to come. We will flourish like a well-tended garden. We will know abundance.

One: God of hope and healing, we can lament and cry out to you over all that is lost or broken or covered in despair. Or we can let go of our selfish, fearful ways and seek to build your kingdom here and now.

All: As long as we believe the lies of those in power, we will remain divided and we will live in ruins. Yet, if we live in Love, we will give way to generations of peace. If we dismantle fear, ignorance, and hatred, we will be repairers of the breach. We can restore our streets for all who travel on them.

One: You remind us, steadfast God, that we need to rest and be renewed in body, mind, and spirit. If we neglect our own rest, we neglect you.

All: It is to easy for us to deny our need for sabbath. We focus too much on our calendars and forget that spending time with you makes so much more possible. If we come to you in delight rather than out of duty, you nourish us and prepare us for what is to come.

One: Forgive us, Patient God.

All: Forgive us for believing the deceit of today’s Empire. Forgive us for believing division and isolation and independence satisfy our needs.

One: Remind us once again, Holy One, of your promises and open our lives to your way once more.

All: When we take time to be still, to come into your presence, God of all, we recognize the yearning of our hearts. We yearn to be repairers of the breach, to live in your Love. Give us the courage to set aside our fears and foolishness, to accept your forgiveness, and trust in your ways. Hear our gratitude for your eternal call to live as your holy people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

RCL – Year C – Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 25, 2019
Jeremiah 1:4-10 with Psalm 71:1-6 or
Isaiah 58:9b-14 with Psalm 103:1-8 and
Hebrews 12:18-29 and 
Luke 13:10-17

Photo: CC0 image by 4064462

Categories
liturgy Poetry Prayer Uncategorized

Confession: Repentance and Witness

beach.jpg
 in the shadow of the cross
 in the echoes of the empty tomb
 in the busyness of everyday
 in the restlessness of the night
      to what does my life bear witness?

      some days I forget
            for part of the day (or the whole of it)
      some days I forget
            that my life is a living testimony to the One
      some days I forget
            that for some, mine is the face of Christ
            that my words are Christ’s words
            that my hands are Christ’s hands
            that my love is Christ’s love
            for some who know I call myself Christian
                  some days I get it all wrong

                  the lure of vain words and the power of lies
                  can settle in and whisper their own deceitful truth
                  and lead me away from all that I am created to be
                  letting me blend into a crowd of other lost souls
                  easily enticed with illusions and shallow promises

           then there are the moments when I remember
                 I remember that I am God’s beloved
                 I am part of the Body of Christ
                 I embody Love
                 I bring the Realm of God into the here and now
          when I remember
                 I am God’s own heart
          and I breathe deeply filling myself with the Breath of Life

          repentance opens my eyes to see where I have not
                followed Christ
                or loved my neighbor
                    or loved myself
                or been a careful steward of Creation
          again and again

          with each breath I take, forgiveness frees me
               to take a step in a new direction
               to reach out to one who seems other
               to find rest in my weariness
               to see how Creation comes alive again
          in this season of new life
 
in the shadow of the cross
     I lift my eyes to Hope
in the echoes of the empty tomb
     I hear the promise of life renewed
in the busyness of everyday
     I serve in gratitude
in the restlessness of the night
     I remember I am God’s beloved
          and my life is a witness to the glories of Resurection

Thanks be to God.
     Amen.

RCl – Year B – Third Sunday of Easter – April 15, 2018
Acts 3: 12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24: 36b-48

Photos CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe

Categories
liturgy Prayer

A Prayer of Confession as Lent Begins

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One:  Holy One, we gather at the edge of the wilderness, reluctant to go forward. We do not want to give up favorite foods, time on social media, set aside our phones, or make any other sacrifices that would lead us closer to you. We are comfortable in our routine and our ambivalence. Seeking you might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Left:  God of all nations, we stumble when we encounter someone who is “other.” We forget that all people are created in your image and your covenant of love is for the whole of Creation. We want to believe that your love is for us, and those just like us. We want to stay where we are and not move to where your love in our hands could do the most good. Going where you call might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Right: Peaceful and loving God, we sit back in silence while gunshots echo through our schools, our streets, our houses of worship. We tell ourselves that violence won’t touch our lives and that there is nothing we can do to prevent innocent deaths. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of violence and wait for you to fix what we have broken. Responding with Christian love might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Left: God of Creation and Covenant, we do not trust in your steadfast love. We do not trust that all your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness. We insist on having our own way. Satin does not have to chase us out into the wilderness, our own fear and foolishness will have us worshiping at the Tempter’s feet more often than we want to admit. Listening to you, believing we are Beloved, might mean we have to change.

All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Right: Merciful and patient God, we have failed to listen to you. We have let fear take hold of our lives more often than not. We have listened to those who would tell us that your love and your covenant with all Creation has limits. We have dismissed the needs of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We have denied the power of white supremacy and racism. We have turned away those who are hungry or homeless. We have devalued LGBTQ+ people. We have mistreated people with disabilities. We have ignored people with mental health challenges. We have not served our neighbors nor loved them as we love ourselves. Opening our lives to you might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

One: God of the mountain tops and ocean depths, we need you as we make this journey to Jerusalem. We are powerless over the gods of our making. We are easily fooled into believing that human ways are better than holy ways. We do not want to give in to all that tempts us. We yearn to trust you and believe that your love for us has no limits of quantity, quality or duration. We as that you would meet us once again as we endeavor to confront the Tempter and try again to live into your great love for us. We know we need you. Give us the courage to seek you in wilderness places in our lives. Teach us to know your ways even as…
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake. Amen.

RCL – Year B – First Sunday in Lent – February 18, 2018
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Photo: CC0 image by Hans Braxmeier

Categories
Bidding Prayer liturgy Poetry

Liturgy in the Aftermath

A Call to Worship and Benediction for Indigenous Peoples Day (Written for use in Worship at Living Table United Church of Christ)
Call to Worshipdreamcatcher-1082228_640
One: The sun rises in the East, awakening the world with light.
All: May God’s wisdom and understanding guide us through this day.
One: Warm winds blow from the South, bringing warmth and growth.
All: May the Spirit of Life strengthen us to meet the challenges of this day.
One: Out of the West rains come and rivers flow.
All: May the Living Water quench our thirst and lead us to new life.
One: Cold winds of change and challenge come from the North.
All: May God grant us the courage to face into the storms and hold fast until peace returns.

Benediction
One: As we prepare to leave this sacred space, let us be mindful of the guiding winds. As each day beings
All: May we embody wisdom and understanding, awakening to the needs around us.
One: When we encounter suffering and oppression
All: May we hold fast to justice and love, widening our circle of welcome.
One: As we hear the anguished voices of those seeking liberation
All: May we respond with radical hospitality to all who thirst, offering Living Water.
One: As we make our way through this world
All: May we hold fast to all that is good, seeking the way of Peace.

A Prayer of Confession and Bidding Prayer in the Aftermath of Las Vegas (Written for the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ)
sunset-188519_640Call to Confession:
One: In times of pain and anguish it is easy to turn to God in anger or frustration. We want to beg God to act, to change the circumstances in which we feel powerless. It is possible that God is waiting for us to make the changes required to bring about peace. In an attitude of repentance, let us open our weary hearts to God as we pray together:

Prayer of Confession
All:  Steadfast God, we turn to you, once again, in shock and horror. The impossible number of lives lost to bullets makes us want to blame someone, anyone, rather than look at the grief-stricken faces all around us. Long ago, the Psalmist told us to “seek peace and pursue it” and we have not yet begun to live in peace. Isaiah told us to turn our swords into plowshares and all we’ve done is build deadlier swords. Jesus told us to love one another just as he loves us and we can’t imagine a world where such Love exists.

Soften our hearts and “prosper the work of our hands” that we may have the courage to turn away from guns, violence, and war. Lead us away from our complacency, apathy, ambivalence, and shock into your “green pastures.” We yearn to be your body hear and now, yet we are distracted by fear, by politics, by our own sense of powerlessness. We claim that we are waiting for you to do something. Yet, you wait for us to repent and seek your holy ways of peace and love. Forgive us, O God, for we truly do not know the harm we have caused by our silence. Have mercy on us as we grieve. Move us through our excuses and into actions that awaken transformation in us, in our communities, in our towns, in our country, and yes, in the world. In Jesus’ name we ask that you hear our prayers. Amen.

Words of Assurance
One: Hear the Good News: It is never too late to seek the ways of Love and Grace. In Christ we are forgiven and made new. By God’s grace we can leave behind these days of violence and bring about God’s dream of peace for the whole of Creation.
All: By the power of the Holy Spirit we will live in Love and seek to be the peace the world needs. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Bidding Prayer in the Aftermathhands-1926414_640
Come, let us pray for peace for the people of God who live in the aftermath of gunshots and violence.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of peace and hope, be with us in this place. Once more bullets have broken through our sense of safety and our hopes for a better future. We have reached a point where we grow numb when lives are stolen at the hands of a shooter. Compassion runs from us as we desire to place blame and demand that somebody do something to fix what is broken. Stir your Spirit within us and around us that we may help bear the burden of violence in our society, that we may find the courage to raise our voices with those of the grieving and wounded demanding change. Change our hearts, O God, that we may be seekers of peace and agents of hope.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
All:  Let your face shine.

Come, let us pray for people of faith, people who yearn for God’s ways of justice and peace to be made manifest here on earth.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Patient and Steadfast God, hear the cries of your people. We unite our voices with those of our neighbors who call you by other names, hoping that you will lead us in paths of peace. May we unite in service to you as we seek to respond to yet another nightmare, yet another time when your beloved children die senseless, violent deaths. May we overcome our fears and distrust of one another to work together to bring about your reign of peace. Unsettle us enough for us to reach beyond our pews to create conversations and actions that lead to lasting change. We cry out to you to do something. May the unrest of the Spirit fill us until we do something.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
All:  Let your face shine.Let your face shine.

Come, let us pray for our country and those who lead it.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Merciful and loving God, we recognize the deep wounds in this country where too often lives are destroyed for the sake of politics. Change our priorities. Empower us to make the changes that are desperately needed to disrupt this culture of violence with your ways of mercy and love. Strengthen us to embody you before one more life is stolen. Open the eyes and hearts of our leaders and politicians that they may all recognize that human lives have more value than policies and the wants of the NRA and other lobbies. May we dare to live in peace with all our neighbors. May the fire of Spirit fill us with courage and passion enough to demand changes to gun laws so that lives may be saved.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
All:  Let your face shine.

Come, let us pray for all those suffering in the aftermath of violence.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Incarnate and present God, words fail us when we think of the ways in which violence floods our streets. Las Vegas is one more atrocious tragedy in a stream of far too many in this country and around the world. When will we learn a better way? When will we realize that more powerful weapons do not yield anything more than an increase in deaths? You spoke words of Love. You command us to love one another. Remove from us this sense of powerlessness that keeps us from seeking justice. Remove from us the fear that binds us to this culture of violence that holds us captive. Remove from us all the excuses we make so that we don’t have to figure out what we can do to bring about real change. May the Spirit of Truth transform our hearts to keep us moving in the way of peace rather than falling back into complacency.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
All:  Let your face shine.

Come, let us pray for those who are grieving in Las Vegas and around the world.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Living and healing God, hear the pain and suffering of your people. How many lives must guns steal from us before we demand systemic change? Tears of sorrow flow like rivers year after year. We ask you to comfort those who grieve even while you work in us to turn us in the way of peace. We share this burden of sinful violence and desire to be free from it. Your forgiveness and mercy call to us. Awaken true repentance in each of us that we may turn to your holy ways, ways that bring healing to the hurting and hope to the grieving. May the Spirit take hold of us and not let us go until we bring Love into the world.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
All

Come, let us give thanks to God for the gifts of mercy, grace, forgiveness, healing, and love.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of power and promise, you hold us fast and do not let us go. Your steadfast love and patience with us, your hope for us, is an amazing gift. When we turn to violence, you offer peace. When we turn to despair, you offer hope. When we feel powerless, you offer transformation. When we feel lost, you offer love. Hear our gratitude for these gifts and so many more that reveal to us your dream for all your people. May gratitude move us to new places and inspire us to work for peace and justice today and in all days to come. In humility we ask that that words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer. In the name of Jesus the Christ, the One whom you sent to teach the way of Love, we pray…
Restore us, O God of hosts;
All:  Let your face shine.
Amen.

See also Something a Little Different for a poem on Hope. Later published in Barefoot Theology: A Dictionary for Pilgrims, Priests and Poets.

RCL – Year A – Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 8, 2017
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 with
Psalm 19 or
Isaiah 5:1-7 with Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

Top Photo: CC0 image by Free-Photos

Center Photo: CC0 image by soonkeuk kwon

Bottom Photo: CC0 image by Myriam

Categories
liturgy Prayer

A Confession for Ordinary Time

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One: Holy God, you ask so little of us. You shower us with grace upon grace, flooding our hearts with love and forgiveness, and still we fail to notice you. We keep insisting that you come to us on our terms to comfort us and heal us. We want spectacular evidence of your love while we sit back and do so little. Hear our prayers as we confess our distance from you.

One: You show us a path that leads to justice, kindness, humility, and love.
All: Yet, we can hardly take a step without condemning our neighbor with fearful, hateful words or actions. We turn from those living without shelter and want someone else to fix the problem.
One: You lead us in ways of holiness and wholeness where all are welcome.
All: Yet, we refuse to follow justifying our inaction with traditions built on racism and white privilege. We reject immigrants and question refugees and grow angry at our own discomfort.
One: You invite us into relationships of trust like those you had with Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah.
All: Yet, we turn away, proud of our independence. We laugh at the ring in Rebekah’s nose and refuse to acknowledge our claim on us. We close our hearts to the most vulnerable among us because we are afraid of our own fragility and finitude.
One: You offer a life of abundance and freedom.
All: Yet, we cling to the ways of scarcity. We would rather keep what we have than risk losing any of it for the sake of a future we can’t believe will be full of good things. We simply do not trust that sharing our resources and expanding our communities will make us healthier and stronger.
One: You wait so patiently for us to follow where you lead.
All: Yet, we wait for you to mend what we have broken. We prefer to blame you for all the conflict, suffering, and destruction so we can remain on the sidelines while others sacrifice themselves for the sake of justice, peace, and healing.

One: Let us pray together…
All: Holy God, you have always responded to your people with steadfast love and faithfulness. Forgive us for our inability to follow you. We know that you yearn for the day when we set aside our fearful, self-protective ways. Open our hearts to all the ways in which we benefit from racist systems and discriminatory world-views. You would have us live in peace with all our neighbors. You would have us care for Creation with gentle, grateful hands. You would have us love and serve you by loving and serving all humankind. Forgive us. Mend what we have broken inside ourselves that we may be the mending that the world needs. May we let go of our self-serving sin to truly become your body here and now.

Silent prayer

One: Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
All: We come and take on this yoke of forgiveness and love. May God’s love for us be made visible in all our words and deeds. In Christ’s name. Amen.

RCL – Year A – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 9, 2017
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or
Zechariah 9:9-12 with Psalm 145:8-14
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Photo CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe</a

Categories
liturgy Prayer

A Pastoral Prayer of Confession

I’ve struggled to find appropriate words for this week. So I offer the following prayer. If you are looking for sermon help, try here.

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Patient and steadfast God, how is it that you continue to love us so completely? So many years have passed since you spoke with Micah and made it clear what we are to do. Yet, still, we ask what we can do to please you. We fill our lives with routine, worship you with hollow words, and make meaningless sacrifices to feel justified in claiming your favor. It seems that we would rather do almost anything other than what you ask. Self-preservation protected by hatred and fear seem more palatable than kindness. Hunkering down and clinging to our traditions and views of what the Bible says are so much easier than going out and actually doing justice. Mistaking self-hatred and shame for humility keeps us from taking the risk of wholeness. Have mercy, O God. Draw us out of our fear, away from false security and shallow beliefs, and into the abundance of life you offer. Remind us that your ways call us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Lord of all, so many of us claim to live in your tent and dwell on your holy hill. However, there are so few who are blameless and do what is right. Truth spoken from the heart is rarely heard these days, even from those who call your name most loudly. Threats to build walls and deny entry into this country based on religion sounds an awful lot like doing evil to friends and reproaching our neighbors. Fear and greed cannot be our ways if we want to live in your tent. Destroying sacred land with pipelines will not lead to peaceful living on your holy mountain. Remind us of your desire for us to be repairers of the breach rather than creators of more harm. Continuing the ways of the past only ensures the continuation of oppression and your Word speaks of liberation for all people.

Wise and wonderful God, how foolish we are! How little we have listened to you and learned from our history. We know what happens when our leaders seek only to serve themselves. We have seen the results of worshiping everything other than you. Yet, we are still fooled into thinking that human ways will save us from ourselves. We fall for it over and over again. When will we stop blaming you for all the challenges we face while congratulating ourselves on our successes? You name us Blessed when we are peacemakers, justice-seekers, and risk-takers. You promise your presence when we bear witness to suffering and speak holy truth to human power. Why do we, so often, think the easy way is the righteous way? Let us hear and claim your blessing on those who repent, resist, and repair for we shall be engaging in holy wisdom and be called fools.

God of abundant blessings, may your words fill our lives, change our hearts, and call us from our self-serving sinfulness. We who rest in our privilege when others cannot find safe harbor cannot claim your blessings when we do not live them. Blessed are the oppressed. May our hands be actively bringing in the realm of God. Blessed are those who mourn. May we offer gentle comfort even as we cry out for justice on their behalf. Blessed are the meek. May we step out of their way so they may claim their rightful place on earth. Blessed are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness. May we cry out until all are satisfied. Blessed are the merciful. May we be foolish enough to learn the ways of mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart. May we have the sense to let them lead us to you. Blessed are the peacemakers. May we have the grace to seek peace and pursue it until we are called your children. Blessed are the ones persecuted for the sake of righteousness. May we all have the courage to take our place alongside those who are persecuted on your behalf. Blessed are the reviled and falsely accused ones. May we align ourselves with the innocent until we all live on your holy mountain.

Merciful God, your faithfulness to us remains a mystery. You shower us with grace, forgiveness, and love and we fail to respond with our whole hearts. Let this be the day when we claim the blessings you lay before us. Let this be the day when fear gives way to hope and we recognize your presence in the midst of chaos. This may be a season of light and revelation, yet we are reminded that you can also be found in the depths and nothing can extinguish your wisdom. May today be the day we truly make your ways our ways. Grant us the grace to repent of our sins of fearful selfishness, the strength to resist the pull of the oppressors, and the courage to repair the breach with all our neighbors. Have mercy, O God, and hear our prayers. Amen.


RCL – Year A – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – January 29, 2017
Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12


Photo: CC0 image by Petra

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

God, Have Mercy (trigger warning)

girl-757452_1920This morning I woke up exhausted. It’s one of those days that I can’t shake the heaviness of sleep. As always, there are reasons for this, not the least of which is a physical need for more sleep. But emotionally and spiritually I’m a bit wrung out. Usually, I have really good boundaries and can keep my issues separate from other people’s issues even if they are similar to my own. Not so this week.

Ever since that video tape of “locker room talk” was released, I’ve been inundated with stories told by cis women and trans women, white women and women of color, who have been assaulted. Everywhere I go, someone else is telling me in written or spoken word how, when, and by whom she was assaulted. I truly welcome these stories because I know the power in naming personal truth and speaking it out loud. My problem is that I am also flooded with images from my own story.

The truth is that I don’t remember when it started. I know from an early age I was taught that my body wasn’t mine to control. I could easily be pushed aside, shoved out of the way, forced to comply by those who were bigger and stronger than I was. From the time I entered puberty at age nine, there were the comments and the cat calls. Always. Everywhere. The teachers and college professors with lewd suggestions or inappropriate comments about my body. There was the man my father’s age who propositioned me when I was 17 saying, “I’m sure you’ve been loved before.” Date rape at 19. The senior pastor who responded to my statement that I felt called to seminary with, “So you want to be a DCE (Director of Christian Education)?” The college chaplain I met while in seminary who said, “Why would someone who looks like you go into the ministry?” Followed by countless church-going men who would hug too close, “accidentally” touch me in intimate places, and the few who’ve stalked me assuming I would want them to be in my life. I’ve never walked alone at night without being hyper-vigilant about my surroundings.

After that infamous video, people are talking about misogyny as if they’ve never realized it existed everywhere all the time. Of course, many of us have known through experience that women are objectified and degraded more often than not. Some are still endorsing this kind of behavior with a dismissive, “boys will be boys.” It’s been a long time  since I have felt unsafe just because I am female. But with all the hateful fervor stirred up and made acceptable, I’m a bit more anxious; I’m not as young or strong as I once was and I’m not sure how effective all that self-defense training will be in this middle-aged body.

Then last week a Black man was accosted by a white police officer for doing nothing more than walking down the street in a wealthy Minnesota suburb. The officer truly manhandled the young Black man. The video went viral and suddenly people are noticing that maybe there is something to the claims of systemic racism. Of course, there are still deniers. And there are still those who remain silent.baby-1317627_1920

Last night I spent three hours at the city council meeting where the mayor invited folks to come and enter into conversation. There was powerful testimony as people bore witness to how racism shaped their lives. White mothers expressing fear for the lives of their Black sons. Black mothers in anguish over the lessons of submission they must teach their sons. Black men speaking the truth of their anger, their pain, their having been shamed. White men naming their anger and their shame in the face of systemic racism and white supremacy. The many who bore witness to a demand for truth, for justice, for change. But too many shared the stories of their bodies, their rights, their lives being violated by police officers and “concerned citizens” just because they were driving, walking, talking, living while Black. It’s possible that an apology is coming from the mayor, from the city council. It’s long overdue and it is not enough. But maybe, just maybe, an apology from a white man in power to an innocent Black man victimized by racist police officers will be enough to change the direction of the conversation.

Confession is an essential part of human existence. I think it was Luther who said that confession is good for one’s soul. If we confess our sins, we accept responsibility for them and we can repent and receive forgiveness. Then maybe we really can repair the breach that has existed since the time before memory. We cannot keep acting as if there is a difference between personal and communal sins.

For now, though, there are too many of us who sit in the seat of the Pharisee. We express arrogant thanks for not being the misogynist, the racist, the arrogant, the ignorant, the politician, or that kind of Christian. We follow all the rules set by our church, neighborhood, city, or country. We put our heads down and keep moving along as if community sins were not our sins. It’s far easier for us to point our fingers at the tax collectors among us, than it is to look in the mirror. Isn’t it time that we stop this and beg for mercy instead?

Join me in confession. I confess that for most of my life I believed misogyny was normative and I remained silent when I was a victim of it and when others around me were victimized. I did not confront the men engaging in demeaning, lewd, or abusive talk or actions. In addition, I took out my anger and frustration on some men who did not deserve how I treated them. I confess that I was raised by a racist to be a racist. For much of my life I remained silent when those around me were victimized and I did not confront racist actions or racist speech. I have benefited greatly from white supremacy and systemic racism. God have mercy on me, a sinner.

RCL Year C – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – October 23, 2016
Joel 2:23-32 with Psalm 65 or
Sirach 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 with Psalm 84:1-7 and
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Top Photo: CC0 image by Lisa Runnels
Bottom Photo: CC0 image by btchurch

Categories
liturgy Prayer

A Litany for the Penitent

monks-1077839God sets a table overflowing with grace and invites all who hunger and thirst to come and eat and be satisfied.
Yet, we claim the table for ourselves alone and then fail to sit still and drink deeply.

With generosity and steadfast love God provides bread enough for the journey and longs to satisfy our souls with peace.
Yet, we live in fear of not having enough and expending a lot of energy on much that does not satisfy.

God speaks to us even now, calling us to remember that we are a holy people, called to embody love, grace, and mercy wherever we find ourselves.
Yet, we spend a lot of time building walls, creating divisions, listening to voices that nurture fear and hatred.

Jesus walked a way of love, speaking hard words of truth, offering forgiveness without end.
Yet, we continue to deny our sins, hide our brokenness, and forget that we are loved more deeply than imagination can go.

In these quiet moments of worship, we recognize how much we thirst for God and how often we have failed to bear fruit as we try to live as if we have no God.
And God patiently waits for us to see the table set for us with such grace; the invitation never ends.

So now we repent honestly and openly.
We say aloud that we have been fearful and stingy with our neighbors and ourselves. We have judged others as unworthy to avoid confronting the broken places in our own lives. We have participated in racism, sexism, classism and other prejudices that separate us from others who bear the image of God. We have lived in fear of those who know God by different names. We have treated others and ourselves as though we have no value. We have not lived as beloved children of God. With humble hearts and open spirits, we ask for forgiveness.

God’s mercy is without limits. God’s love for us is not determined by our actions or failures to act, abilities or limitations, wealth or poverty, wholeness or brokenness. God claims each of us and calls us by name and offers forgiveness and mercy to all who come seeking.
Today we come to God’s table once more. We welcome God’s forgiveness as we try to forgive ourselves and others. We begin anew to love our neighbors and ourselves, to embody the gift of God’s love.

Amen.

(If you are looking for sermon ideas, you might want to try here: revgalblogpals)

 

RCL – Year C – Third Sunday in Lent – February 28, 2016
Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Photo CC0 image by Jose Antonio Alba

Categories
liturgy Prayer

Praying the Texts

If you are preparing a sermon this week, you might want to look at the reflections I shared here. Otherwise, here is my prayer based on this week’s texts:

2012-08-09 20.43.56God of all creation,
You knew the Prophet Jeremiah before he was born
and set him aside to speak your word to a people in need.
He doubted your choice to make him a prophet,
maybe even after your touch put words in his mouth.
You gave him such power.
He could destroy or build with his words that were truly yours.
Forgive me when I am filled with more doubt than Jeremiah ever was.
Forgive me when I don’t want to speak your words at all.
Perhaps even more so, forgive the times when I fail to see, acknowledge, or wield the power that comes with being a prophet, even a small one.
Touch my mouth once again, Holy God, to lessen the doubt that silences your voice.

Cape Trip May 2010 028 (2)God who is unfathomable love,
You inspired Paul to call a community into embodying you.
He articulated your vision for your people so clearly.
I’m not sure that I pay enough attention to these words that are so familiar.
The love Paul describes is not the warm, comfortable kind that I want it to be.
Your love is more.
Your love asks me, calls me to be more.
Your love challenges me to let go of arbitrary distinctions and quick judgments
until I am able to see you in every face.
Forgive my desire to tame the wildness of your Spirit and limit you to my understanding.
Touch my heart once again, Holy God, to dampen the fear that limits your love.

God Incarnate,
You risked human fragility to show us the way of peace.
You revealed yourself in the presence of those who knew you from boyhood.
They turned from you.
How like them I can be!
I’ve known you for many years, or I think I have.
But when you show me something new or call me out of my comfort,
I respond with disbelief if not outright anger.
I don’t want to see my face in the crowd that eagerly wanted to throw you off a cliff,
but I’m there more often than I want to admit.
Forgive me.
Touch my feet once again, Holy God, to alleviate the reluctance that keeps me from readily following you.

God of steadfast love and incredible patience,2013-04-04 19.21.05
hear my words as I pray with the Psalmist,
“In your righteousness deliver and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.”
These words have power even when I forget them.
These words can anchor me on the days when the cries and the needs and the despair of your people overwhelm me.
Forgive my moments of forgetfulness.
Touch my hands once again, Holy God, to lighten the burdens that prevent me from carrying hope out into the world.

Hear my prayers and the prayers of all in Christ’s name. Amen.

RCL – Year C – Fourth Sunday – January 31, 2016
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30