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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)
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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
Poetry Prayer

Weak and/or Lovely

beach-1822598_1920.jpgHoly One
where we see weakness
you often see loveliness
In Jacob you saw a future unimagined
as he lied and deceived
ran and scrambled to eke out a living
You gave him dreams
and opened his heart to love
slowly transforming him
from selfish fool
to father of a nation
whose legacy yet lives

Gracious God
You would make us lovely
even in our weakness
When we fail to see value
in ourselves, in our neighbors,
in your creation, or in you
you claim us as your own
and wait for us to see as you see
You would open us to love
even as the world turns away
seemingly embracing hatred,
violence, deception, and despair
Transform us from fearful fools
into a people whose weakness
is lovely

Merciful God
We are weak
We give in to fear and hatred
We listen to powerful voices
whose only desire is to keep us silent
slaves to shame, ignorance, and division
Make us lovely
Teach us
extravagant love and radical hospitality
Empower us
to liberate, to learn, to heal
for your sake
and for ours

Amazing God
Our sight is limited
Our dreams are small
You offer us a kingdom without limits
and we hide from the liberation
your vision brings
Heaven and all its beauty
is here and now
ours for the asking
if only we let go of ourselves
step into your great love for us
and open our eyes
to see you all around us

Dear God
we are weak
and lovely
short-sighted and visionary
fearful and fierce
We would be as Jacob
human and holy
if you would but touch us
with Grace

 

For sermon help, try here.

 

RCL – Year A – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 29:15–28 with Psalm 105:1–11, 45b or Psalm 128
1 Kings 3:5-12 with Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26–39
Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52

Photo: CC0 image by Sasin Tipchai

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
Poetry Prayer

What are You Looking For?

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This question Jesus asked those first two who followed him –  “What are you looking for?” – haunts me. I can’t escape from it. Those two followers neatly avoided answering it. I don’t thing they were all that concerned with where Jesus was staying so much as they wanted to stay with him a bit longer. Maybe if they hung around with him long enough, they would know what they were looking for.

What follows is a kind of dialogue that came to me while contemplating this question.

What are you looking for?
usually my keys or my glasses or my phone
sometimes my wallet or that thing I just had in my hand

What are you looking for?
something to make for dinner and tomorrow’s lunch
warmer socks and a heavier sweater

What are you looking for?
a wifi connection and a hot cup of tea
a few minutes to finish this task

What are you looking for?
time to be still and relax before the next meeting
an hour or so to go for a walk and release this tension

What are you looking for?
okay… okay… maybe some answers
more hope or more light or…

What are you looking for?
I don’t know… there I’ve said it
I don’t know, exactly

What are you looking for?
an end to violence and hunger and homelessness
and illness and fear and hatred and ignorance

What are you looking for?
You. Christ. I am looking for You
in them and in me and in everyone

What are you looking for?
what I can do… what I can be…
how can I, how can we, embody you?

What are you looking for?

RCL – Year A – Second Sunday after Epiphany – January 15, 2017
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Photo: CC0 image by Martin Winkler

Categories
Bidding Prayer Prayer

Neither End Times nor the New Jerusalem: A Bidding Prayer

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Come, let us pray for the people of God scattered throughout the earth.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of Love and Grace, we offer our prayers and praises to you for faithful people everywhere. We trust that you hear the prayers of your people of all times, places, and religious traditions. Open all of us to your vision of a new heaven and a new earth, a vision of peace for the whole of creation. Grant us the courage to set aside all the division we have constructed between and among those who call your name. May your patience continue as we endeavor to turn from our human ways.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

Come, let us pray for those gathered here and elsewhere.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Visionary God, you spoke your Word of love right out loud. Over and over again you have painted a picture of peace and justice and have asked us to help make it real. Somehow it has always been easier for us to shelter ourselves from our neighbors and hide behind walls of fear than it has to courageously embody Christ in the world. Renew your vision within us. Strengthen us with your grace and mercy for the time has come for us to be the Body of Christ in new and surprising ways that we have yet to imagine. Let us remember that we are yours and you ask us to love one another.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

Come, let us pray for all people and nations.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of justice and compassion, you created human beings in your image and filled us with the breath of your Spirit. We have yet to figure out that our enemies are your Beloved and that the gifts of creation all belong to you. We can turn our eyes from the horrors in Allepo or the injustice in Standing Rock or the violence in our streets. We can claim one nation over another but we cannot change the fact that your creation has no boundaries or borders. Teach us to view the world with your eyes. Fill us with passion and compassion so that we may be peacemakers and justice-seekers until your New Jerusalem is made manifest. May we be Christ to one another and to all our neighbors.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

Come, let us pray for this country and all those who live here.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Loving God, you see us for what we are. You know the depths of our division and the fragility of our hope. As with all nations, you envision a future of unity and peace where we live side by side and recognize you in one another. We lift up to you all those who lead this nation and those who have been elected to lead in the days to come. May your vision become their vision that we may heal all the broken places. May we claim your vision as our own and have the courage to become a nation that proudly celebrates diversity and welcomes those who seek sanctuary and home.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

Come, let us pray for all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of healing and transformation, your loving kindness never wavers. You are the hope amid our despair and the peace in the chaos. We so easily lose ourselves in the storms of physical sickness, mental illness, or spiritual despair, yet you remain constant. You see those we do not wish to see and desire for us to care for those who are in need. Until the day when we can love with your love, we pray especially for those who lose themselves in pain, those who struggle with addictions, those who suffer symptoms of mental illness, those who are suicidal, and those whose bodies have betrayed them. May we agents of your compassion and healing so no one suffers alone.

God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

Come, let us pray for all those who are mourning.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
Ever-present God, you claim us as your beloved children. You gift us with blessings and strength beyond measure. And you know the very moment our hearts break and grief floods in. We grieve for lost dreams, lost hope, lost loves, things that have ended, things that will never be, and things we have lost. There is no limit to the ways in which our hearts can break or the depth of pain that floods in. Yet, it is often in the very depths of our lives that we encounter you and the possibility of new life takes hold. As you are patient with us, so may we be with each other offering gentleness and mercy to those who weep.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

Come, let us give God our thanks and praise.
(people may silently or quietly voice their prayers)
God of generosity and blessing, you yearn for us to see all that you have given to us so that we might rejoice in your presence. You give us all that we need and have shown us the way of love. As we seek to follow you and help bring about your vision of a new earth, may our fears be overcome with gratitude and our anxiety transformed to generosity. When we quiet ourselves enough, we know that you are the way to life and we are filled with gratitude. May we discover anew our capacity for love and justice as we offer praise to you.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayers.

RCL – Year C – Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost – November 13, 2016
Isaiah 65:17-25 with Isaiah 12 or
Malachi 4:1-2a with Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Photo: CC0 image by Bess Hamiti

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
Musings Sermon Starter

Hosea’s Children are Alive and Well

Centuries have passed since Hosea was preaching to the people of Israel. However, the words could be applied to the people of God today. We who are so lost that we hardly hear the words of love God speaks to us daily could easily be the children of Hosea. The children whose names were an indictment of Israel’s sin, their rejection of God’s ways could be children of today.

black-and-white-1283234.jpgWith greed, corruption, violence, and hatred filling the airwaves, Hosea’s first-born son, Jezreel, belongs to us. His name is an indication that God has noticed Israel’s behavior and there will be consequences. Surely, God has noticed how we have turned against each other and forgotten the ways of justice, kindness, and humility taught by Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus. Although I would not say that “God sows” them so much as they are a result of our behavior, death and violence are surely the consequences.

Hosea’s daughter, Lo-ruhamah, symbolizes God’s dissatisfaction (disappointment? disgust?) with the people’s ways. So God will have “no pity” or “no compassion” for the people of God. They have turned away and embraced the god’s of their own making rather than trusting in the God of their salvation. Lo-ruhamah lives today and is reborn every time one child of God shoots another out of fear or vengeance and claims, instead, to be administering justice or keeping peace.

The prophet’s youngest son, Lo-ammi, is a clear statement that Israel is not behaving as the people of God ought. God no longer wants to claim God’s own people. If that is not true today, I don’t know what would be. Surely, God does not want to claim us with all the hatred, the separation, the racism, the homophobia, the transphobia, the sexism, the zenophobia, and all the other fears that divide us. Just as surely, God does not want to let us go; God is waiting for us to return to God’s ways, the ways of salvation, of life, of justice, of kindness, of humility, and love.

And, yes, many of us want this, too. We keeping asking how we get there and what we can do. In recent weeks the Gospel texts have given us some indication. There was the command to show mercy to our neighbor’s in the “Good Samaritan” passage. Last week was an invitation to sit at the feet of Jesus in this moment and listen until we are able to set aside distractions and serve with purpose. This week is a continuation of these lessons in a call to prayer that inspires action.

The text begins with the Prayer of Jesus. These words are so familiar to many of us that we have long-since stopped paying attention to what they might mean for us. I don’t think Jesus intended this to be the signature prayer of Christianity so much as he wanted his disciples to pray for what they really needed in a way that honors both God and the one praying. This prayer reminds us that we need God in our daily lives to ensure that we are working to bring about God’s reign, not taking more than we need, forgiving others as fully as we have been forgiven, and paying attention so as not to stumble into evil. If we can do these things through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we make the world a better place.

When this kind of prayer becomes a part of us, we are more likely to receive our neighbors with kindness and offer mercy and hospitality. We are more likely to share the gifts we have been given rather than hoarding them for a day that might never come. True prayer changes us. It removes the barriers we create to protect ourselves and reminds us that we are loved even when we act in unlovely ways.work-101556_1280

Several times on FB this week, I saw the meme, “Faith may move mountains, but don’t be
surprised if God puts a shovel in your hands.” Prayer, like the one Jesus taught his disciples, puts the shovel in our hands. If we are truly praying for God’s guidance, we will have to shovel out the fear and hatred that so often fills our ears, our hearts, and our pews.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Hosea’s children to feel at home in my house or my church. I don’t want to have to worry about the consequences our behaviors have sown, feel the lack of compassion, or be living outside the reach of God’s love. I am tired of seeing black bodies oozing red blood on our streets. I am tired of police officers abusing their power or letting their own fears control their impulses. I am tired of police officers being shot while trying to do their jobs. I am tired of churches closing their doors to LGBTQ+ people. I am tired of women being chastised and degraded when they seek positions of leadership. I am tired of one faith tradition claiming superiority over another. I am tired of ignorance fueling fear of immigrants and refugees. I am tired of violence and hatred. Justice, kindness, and love have to be easier than this constant fear, hatred, and violence. My shovel is not nearly big enough. Perhaps you will dig with me until Hosea’s children no longer find a home among us.

RCL – Year C – Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – July 24, 2016
Hosea 1:2-10 with Psalm 85 or
Genesis 18:20-32 with Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

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Bottom Photo: Photo: CC0 image by 15299 A

Categories
liturgy Prayer

Pastoral Prayer for Humility

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Mysterious and wonderful God, throughout human history you have been present. You have shown up and repeatedly demonstrated your power, a power beyond human understanding. We want to believe that we know the whole truth of you who are. We lament when you don’t seem to act in the dramatic, awe-inspiring ways as you did in the days of the Prophets. We want you to consume our offerings—plates, coins, altars, and all. But we are also terrified for what that might mean. Forgive our self-serving foolishness, and remind us of the depths of your mystery and wonder.

God of all people and places, you are known throughout the world by so many names. You are honored by worship and songs of praise in countless tongues. Somehow, still, we want to know that the name we call you is the one true name and our worship is the one true worship. Our quest for certainty often closes us off to your abundance. We forget that all the people of the world are your children. We are filled with fear and hatred when we ought to be living in love and praying for peace. Forgive us when we believe that our small view of you defines the whole of you for ourselves and for all peoples.

Singing and creating God, you make all things new again and again. You want us to sing you a new song, a song that opens all to the glories of your love. We are so easily swayed by shiny, fleeting things or fooled into believing that the gods of our own making are enough. We blame you when things go wrong and we suffer. Yet, we fail to sing your praises when we are well and happy. We judge others as less deserving when compassion and justice are what you ask of us. Stir your Spirit within us that we might let go of a faith too small and open ourselves to all the possibilities you hold for us. Forgive us when we forget to sing to you and when we are too comfortable to create what needs to be.

God of love and mercy, you claim us as your own. You know our names and you hear the secret whisperings of our hearts. You thought Creation wonderful enough to send Jesus to show us the way of love. Even when humanity responded in fear and violence, you did not let the story end there. Instead you spoke Love and breathed out Life. Still, we seek the approval of those around us long before considering you. Show us your way once more; call us off paths that lead to violence, hatred, and harm. Forgive us when we act as if your love and mercy do not exist.

Patient and steadfast God, you love us as we are. You so patiently wait for us to see you, hear you, love you. We think faith is something to be measured even though Jesus made it clear that even faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. When things go wrong or we didn’t notice the answer to our prayers, we think we did not have enough faith or that we did not pray correctly. We worry too much about how much faith we have or what “right” faith might look like. You tell us simply to believe – yes, I believe; help my unbelief or no, I don’t belief. That’s all it takes. You provide the rest. Forgive us when our narrowly defined faith gets in the way of our experiencing the miracles all around us.

Holy One, you are beyond our knowing. With humble hearts we lift up to you all the places of pain in the world. Teach us anew how to embody Christ right here and  for all those whom we meet. Fill us with humility enough to walk with you, bring justice into the world, and act only with kindness. In gratitude, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

For sermon help, you might want to go here.

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RCL – Year C – Second Sunday after Pentecost – May 29, 2016
1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39 with Psalm 96
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 with Psalm 96:1-9
Galatians 1:1-12
Luke 7:1-10

Categories
liturgy Prayer Uncategorized

Easter Then and Now

Here’s a little meditation that came to me while preparing worship for this week. If you’re preaching and looking or sermon help, you might want to try here.

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.
On the first day of the week, as the sun rises,may we come seeking You, bringing all that we have prepared.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.
May we experience the blessing of the stone rolled away, that we may enter in, and discover it empty.

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.
When we do not encounter what we expect, may we recognize your messengers among us and be dazzled.

The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
So often we look for the living among the dead and fail to notice holiness. May fear and trembling bring us to holy ground reminding us who You are.

He is not here, but has risen.
You are not in the emptiness; You live!

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
May we remember all that You have told us. Human sin, death, and violence are not the end. Divine Love rises again and again and again.

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
Let us hear these sacred promises once more and leave behind emptiness as we share love with all the rest.

Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
Our lives are to be testimonies to You. We are to embody Love enough to call others to life – in Brussels, in Aleppo, in Abidjan, in Ankora, in Gaza, in Chicago…

But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
But these words seem an idle tale to so many and the world is unlikely to change.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Except for the ones who get up and run to see the emptiness for themselves. These will see and believe and be amazed. These will embody Love that shows no partiality.

Christ is risen!
Alleluia!
Amen.

RCL – Easter – March 27, 2016
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12

Photo CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe