Thursday, June 22, 2017

Prayer 1609: making our lives an offering

Pray at all times.

Most Merciful God,
Earth-maker, Redeemer, Life-Giver,
we lift our hearts before You in oblation and praise.
You have given us life, O God,
all that we are as your gift,
that we may be your peace and blessing in the world.

May we hear and live into your call to us,
and live in love and charity with each other.
May your Spirit move over us
as it moved over the waters of creation,
and awaken the full humanity within us.
May we honor You and praise your goodness
and be your hands of healing
reached out in blessing over all people.
May we turn toward the path of wisdom,
and ground our lives in deeper knowledge of You.

Be with us this day, O Lord,
and bless and comfort those for whom we pray.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Speaking to the Soul: Speaking to the Soul, June 21, 2017

Jesus, the Word- detail from a door at La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.
Daily Office readings for June 21, 2017

On Monday, my friends Andrew and Maria and I were blessed to go on a retreat with our bishop as the day of our ordination to the priesthood draws near. One of the things we did was to go over the liturgy for the ordination of a priest. We carefully examined and discussed the language that is used in the liturgy, because, as Bishop Smith reminded us, words matter. This may seem to be an obvious point, but this is actually a statement that receives a lot of resistance right now, especially in our political discourse. As a former English teacher, the idea that words do NOT matter is actually puzzling, and even a bit frightening. As a former history teacher, I recall times when words have been used to the great benefit of humanity. I have also known of times and places where political leaders have used words to inoculate themselves as they have gone about perpetrating great evils, where words have been used to insert terrible concepts into the political discourse through the use of euphemism and doublespeak and sometimes the outright undermining or subversion of the power of words.

No, I believe that words matter. And so do most of the world’s great religions: in Islam, the only Qur’an that can be called a Holy Qur’an in one that is written in Arabic, the language of Muhammad, and a person who has memorized every single word of the Qur’an is called a hafiz, which means “guardian.” For generations, the Torah existed in through memorization. Now, there are actually two Torahs, the written Torah, which we see preserved in the first five books of the Christian Bible, and the oral Torah, which is commentary and explanation about the written Torah preserved in the Midrashim and the Talmud. In the book of Genesis, both Jews and Christians are reminded that God spoke creation into being, commenting on the goodness of creation aloud at the end of each “day.” In the Christian gospel of John, the Word of God is described as being present within creation itself, and Jesus is identified as that living Word.

Words matter. That’s why my attention was caught when I saw that the Pentecost event in the Book of Acts was one of the readings used today in the daily office. In the reading from Acts 2:1-21, we are reminded of the power of words in the response of the disciples after the power of the Holy Spirit comes over them, giving them the gift of language. In a blink they are outside, in the streets, doing exactly what the disciples were told to do in our gospel reading—they are out in the world, testifying to the power of God as revealed in Christ to the people they encounter there. It’s probably the most excitement you and I have ever heard coming out of a church meeting.

In a kind of reverse of the curse of the Tower of Babel, now these disciples, many of them simple country folk, have just learned to speak other people’s language. I think that’s an important point for us too in the Church today: we are called to speak to people in their own languages first, rather than expect them to immediately understand the language of Christianity.

Through the power of the Spirit, we are reminded that language is power, empowering us to carry the gospel of Christ throughout the farthest reaches of the world as disciples, evangelists, and teachers—as Christians who are the Church.

But the disciples’ first new language came as a challenge even earlier, for them as well as us. As soon as those early disciples answered Jesus’s call to follow him, they had to learn the language of Jesus—a strange language, then and now, awash in a grammar of grace rather than a grammar of vengeance. 

We are still learning Jesus’s language of reconciliation today. It is the language of salvation, but not salvation for selfish ends. Rather, this language calls all disciples, them as well as us, to find the vocabulary for helping to repair the world and our relationships within it, with each other and ultimately, with God. This idea of responsibility of faithful people to repair the world is what our Jewish brothers and sisters call tikkun olam—the repair of the world.

This language was filled with strange ideas, in which the greatest is the least, the least is the greatest, in which forgiveness and grace are more important than being right or self-righteous. Even after Jesus’s life on Earth was done, we can see that the disciples were still trying to make sense of that language. And we are too. We ourselves as Christians 2000 years later also continually work at acquiring that same language-- and it’s still just as alien and difficult for us as it was for them. The power of the Holy Spirit is here to help us continue learning Jesus’s counter-cultural grammar of grace and reconciliation.

The Spirit hovered over the waters at creation, and God spoke goodness into the world. The Spirit breathed the Church to life at Pentecost, and blew those disciples out into the streets with the explosive power of love and truth to proclaim the good news to those who most needed to hear it—and in their own languages. The Spirit hovers over us even now, hoping to reinforce the goodness in our hearts. The Spirit is always trying to speak to the soul, using a language that we understood instinctively in childhood, but often have allowed to slip away as our hearts sometimes harden and we become more “worldly-wise.” That’s why the language of love that God imprinted on us at creation, during Jesus’s ministry and again at our baptism, often seems like a foreign tongue. It’s hard for us to trust in words like “grace,” “mercy,” and “forgiveness” for ourselves as being real, much less for us to speak and live them out to others.

But that’s exactly what we are called to do as the Church. We are called to speak to the soul of each precious person we encounter, and hear the echoed whisper of that goodness and love vibrating from them—especially when it’s hard for us to do so, when we allow our differences, our fears, or our suspicions to divide us rather than strengthen us. Words do matter when we are speaking to the soul, and the word is Love.

This essay was first posted on the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on June 21, 2017, with the title "Words Matter."

Prayer 1608: for kinship with all people

A rabbi prays for justice and peace with everyone on the steps of Christ Church Cathedral in 2014.

Almighty, Life-Giving God,
we praise You in joy before the rising sun.
Breathe into our spirits the gift of grace
and let mercy take root within us,
who know our manifold faults.
Forgive us our divisions, our fears, our jealousies,
and enlighten us by your living, eternal wisdom.
Help us to perfect ourselves in love
that we are living witnesses to You
through our words and deeds.
Guide us into generosity and empathy,
seeing your imprint in each person.
Unite us through love of You, O Redeemer,
who are known by many names but one truth.
Pour out your blessing over us,
and place your hand of healing over all.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prayer 1607: allowing the holy to shine through

Clumbine in bloom

Almighty God,
blessed be your Name throughout the earth,
and holy be your people who hear your call.

Let us praise our God for all our blessings:
for life, and light, and wonder in creation.
Lord you have made us in your image;
may we nurture the love and wisdom
you have planted in us to flourishing.
By the power of the Holy Spirit
and in imitation of Christ,
teach us to live in witness to God's grace,
in peace and mercy.
Blessed Jesus, guide us and bless us this day,
and draw within your embrace all those who call upon You.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Prayer 1606: for dedication to holy living

Asperging the growing crops in Shepherd Farm garden, who will eventually be used to feed the hungry.

Most Merciful God,
Source of All Hope,
Anchor of Our Hearts,
we praise and bless You in all the world.
Blessed are those who seek
to walk the path of mercy and healing,
whose lives give honor to You, O God.
May we live in recognition that all that we offer You,
even ourselves,
is already yours, O Holy One.
May we forever glorify You, Lord Christ,
by all that we do and all that we are,
grounded in love and empathy.

Spirit of Compassion, move over us and set us free to serve You,
and grant your peace and sanctuary to all who call upon You.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Prayer 1605: First Sunday After Pentecost

The harvest is ready-- let us be willing workers to gather it!

Holy Redeemer, we come before your altars today,
in praise and thanksgiving,
that we may live more deeply into your truth.

Send us as joyful workers
into your harvest, O God,
that we may live into your call in our lives.

Make us doers and healers,
witnesses to your glory,
seeking out the lost and the hurting in your Name.

Give us grace to be light to the lost
and protectors to the weak,
standing alongside the oppressed.

May we grow into our faith in You, Lord Christ,
bearing your love into the world in joy.

Spirit of Hope, guide each step we take today,
and pour out your peace over those we now name.

Proper 6

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Prayer, day 1604: for justice and peace

Detail from a window at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Ferguson, MO.

Blessed Jesus, You are the light and life of the world: guide us into justice and truth. 

Let us seek to keep the peace by keeping peace first in our hearts, banishing all fear and hatred. 
Let us seek to pursue justice by taking the hand of mercy and forbearance, remembering all that we have been forgiven. 
Let us have compassion instead of anger, love instead of suspicion, serenity instead of war in our hearts. 
Let us go forward in faith, renewed in hope, uplifted by God's abiding covenant of love. 

Draw us together, Most Merciful God, and send forth your Spirit to renew in us hearts of courage and the will to work together. Stretch forth your hand, O Holy One, and draw those we name beneath the shadow of your wings.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Prayer 1603: surrounded by God's embrace

Detail, The Embrace, Gustav Klimt.

We praise you, O Creator God,
who made us and blessed us with reason:
may our questing hearts rest in your wonder.
Make our hearts houses of prayer, Lord Christ,
and our spirits temples of praise and mercy.
Lord Jesus, you walked among us
to teach us the path of healing and wholeness,
compassion springing up in every step.
May our lives be testimony
to your grace and beauty, O Spirit of Truth,
and may we embody your Word and example.

Gather within your embrace, O Holy One,
all who are in pain, and all who mourn,
that they be comforted.
Pour your blessing over us like summer rain, O God,
and grant your peace to those we remember before You.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Prayer 1602: For the Epidemic of Gun Vioence

Yesterday, there were mass shootings in Alexandria, VA and San Francisco, CA, and countless others across our nation were wounded and killed through gun violence. When will we say enough,
and admit that we are choosing ways of life that deny our goodness and faith?
O God, your embrace has brought us safely to this new day;
may we rest ourselves within your mercy and love.

Forgive us, Lord, our headstrong and selfish ways
that lead to violence, exploitation, and cruelty.
Give us the wisdom and will
to lead ourselves into righteousness and peace,
as You have called us repeatedly
through the lips of prophets,
even at last
by sending your only Son,
whom we put on a cross,
himself a victim of our violence and fear.

Yet love is stronger than death,
and hope is stronger than fear,
and still we rise,
seeking to turn again and live by your will.
Awaken our hearts to receive your light
that we may instead dwell in hope, charity, and wisdom.
Give us the courage
to stand up to the forces of fear and hatred,
who profit from the bitter harvest they reap.

Comfort the mourning, O Holy God,
and, as our shepherd, gather the lost in your arms.
O God, our cry is to You and each other;
Send your healing Spirit over us, and all those for whom we pray.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Prayer, day 1601: For forgiveness and compassion

A palm frond unfurls as the warm summer air coaxes it to growth.

Like incense rising on the morning breeze, may our prayers ascend to You, O Creator and Redeemer. Let us breathe deep the goodness and mercy of God, rejoicing for the generous love of the One Who Made Us. 

May we welcome Christ into our hearts, that we may act in wisdom and compassion for all living things. 
May we place our arms around all who mourn, and offer care and relief for those who weep. 
May we seek reconciliation from one another, and forgive those who have wronged us, not only for their sakes but for ours. 
May the power of the Holy Spirit fill us with the firm assurance of the steadfast love of God, and knit us together, heart and soul. 

United in the fellowship of God's kingdom, we raise our prayers before our Shepherd and Savior.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Prayer 1600: in trust and assurance

For 1600 days, the answer to this question has been "Yes," and I thank God for all who have prayed with me.

Living God, Keeper of My Soul,
unto you I offer my heart
led by your Spirit in joy.

In humble trust I offer You my all:
You spread your love beneath me like a net
to catch me if I fall.

Lift me up to see your glory, Lord Christ;
from the aspect of love
let me see your ongoing creation within us.

Holy One, set me high upon the rock:
though waves and tempests crash,
you keep me safe and hold me fast.

Grant me wisdom
that I may serve others and You
in truth and love.

Bless and keep us,
O Redeemer and Friend,
and pour out your mercy on those for whom we pray.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Prayer 1599: On the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting

Today we remember especially those murdered in the terror attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL,
June 12, 2016, may they rest in peace and rise in glory,
and may all who were wounded in body or spirit find healing and comfort.

Most Merciful God, we bow before You,
opening our hearts to your guidance and correction.
You have called all creation to yourself, O Creator,
and delight in every living being:
hear our prayer.

Forgive us our sins,
our apathy in the face of hatred,
our inability to look beyond our personal concerns
to see the cares of others.
May we hear your call to mend our relationships,
and amend our lives by the power of the Spirit of Love.
May we stand with all
who are marginalized by enmity
as we seek to walk in Jesus's footsteps.

Lord, rest your peace upon all who suffer
and upon those who mourn due to violence and hatred.
Accept these prayers we offer, O Redeemer,
and grant your blessing on these for whom we also pray.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Prayer 1598: Trinity Sunday

Icon of the Trinity

We praise You, O Merciful One:
Earth-maker, Love Incarnate, Life-Giver,
who holds all our days in your keeping.

Create in us clean hearts, O God,
and send your Spirit to move over us
and bring us to new life in You.
For You have given us life
that we may serve You and each other,
and that is heaven on Earth.
Unite us in hope and compassion,
and lead us away from the temptation
of using others for our benefit.
Help us to live in unity and shalom, O Christ,
that we may proclaim your glory to the world.

Holy God, bless and sanctify us
to feel the holy dance of your love
within our hearts.
May our lives be taken up
and brought to completion within You, O God,
as we lay our concerns at your altar.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Prayer 1597: for true friendship

Here are some of my friends blessing my replacement car after an accident totalled my first one.
They took seriously my need for closure and healing with good humor and kindness, and that's real friendship.

Most Merciful One, we praise You and bless You,
lifting our hopes and prayers before You.
Let us seek not exploit others, or use them for our gain,
but instead celebrate the beauty within each person.
Help us to treat each other with tenderness and dignity,
that we embody the compassion of Christ.
Make us loyal friends and companions,
with words and hearts abounding in gentleness and hope.
Give us the insight to seek pardon when we have offended,
and to grant pardon when asked.
Help us to walk unencumbered in the Way of Jesus,
laying aside all grudges and resentments.
For You, O God, are the source of all blessing,
may we praise You with every breath that you give.
Hold us tenderly within your heart, Lord Jesus,
and grant your peace and comfort to these beloveds.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Prayer, day 1596

Holy Redeemer, we lift our voices in praise of your sheltering canopy of love, which You spread above us as deep and as broad as the night sky. 
You have carried us through the darkness to deliver us safely upon the shore of hope and faith.
Set us firmly upon your path of holiness and justice; make your way broad and clear before our eyes that we may not stray from You.
Renew our souls that we may be truly one in your Spirit of wisdom and truth.
Bend near, O Holy One; for while there is breath we will sing out our thanksgivings for your mercy and loving-kindness. 
Hold us within the palm of your hand, O Love Eternal; especially those we now name.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Prayer 1595: as a mother hen gathers her chicks

My friend Bobbi loves animals of all kinds.

Holy One, we lift our prayers to You,
strengthened by your Word
and rejoicing in your grace.

May we seek to serve You
in thought, word, and deed.
May we act with justice and mercy
and respond to the cries of the oppressed and the poor.
May we embody the love of Christ,
and offer healing and grace with every step.
Set us aflame for your gospel by the Holy Spirit,
that we may walk in its call to love and service.

Most Gracious God,
gather us to you as a mother hen gathers her chicks;
watch over us, and bless us this day.
We pray for those whose needs we remember,
and ask your blessing, O God.