Friday, October 30, 2020

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Reflection Before the Election



This Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of All Saints on the day it actually occurs in the calendar, and we will combine with it our observation of the Feast of All Souls, which normally falls on November 2. We will remember all those we have lost, those who have gone to be with the saints, and whose lives continue to touch ours.

The gospel we will hear will be Matthew 5:1-12, when Jesus sits down on a mountain to teach the crowds, and we receive one of the two versions of the Beatitudes in the gospels.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, 
     for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, 
     for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
     for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, 
     for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, 
     for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, 
     for they will be called children of God."

I especially give thanks this year for this gospel being before us as we head into next week. Many of us are anxious for an extra reason in the next few days: the election on Tuesday. We have all heard people, even before voting began, anticipating their idea of the worst and vowing to resist violently and to turn on their political opponents.

This is NOT the American way, nor is it the way of people of faith. But it does have precedent in American history.

In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president in a fractious election that featured the vote split among four candidates. After the electoral college met in December of 1860, states began attempting to secede from the Union, even before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. Seven states had announced their decision to part by the time Lincoln addressed the nation in his first words as president. In his First Inaugural address, he appealed to calm, reason, and affection, to shared history and values. Lincoln closed with this plea:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

In the end, Union prevailed, albeit at great and terrible cost, but unity remains harder to come by, even now. Yet it is never too late to turn aside from the forces of division, and embrace hope.

Look back over that list of eight blessings from Matthew. Each of them refers to better angels of our nature. Each of these blessings begins in the present (Blessed ARE…) and points to the future (for they WILL BE…), except for the first and the eighth statements, which say that the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted are blessed “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

Is. Present tense. And so too, our political lives are rooted in the present, but should look forward in hope to a better future for all.

The Beatitudes remind us that those who are especially blessed of God are not the high and mighty ones, but those who are on the side of those the world esteems little: the poor, the weak, the suffering, the innocent, the peacemakers, and those who persevere in discipleship even when they stand at risk of unjustly losing all the things the world values. The Beatitudes are addressed to the Church, to those who proclaim that they are disciples of Jesus. Those who are blessed are those who look beyond themselves.

During these next few days and weeks especially, I bid your prayers, and know that I pray for each of you as well as our nation and our world. No matter what the results on Tuesday or however long it takes, I pray for us all to be bold witnesses and peacemakers who stand for justice, unity, and respecting the dignity and worth of every person.

There will be special services at the Washington National Cathedral on both Sunday at 3 pm CST and Wednesday at 11 am. I also ask you to join me for a special prayer service online at 7 pm on Tuesday streamed on Facebook live at St. Martin's Facebook page.

In Christ,
Leslie+

Prayer, day 2844



O God of Grace, You are our salvation:
may our eyes behold your light
and illumine our hearts with Love.
Your Love, O God, is a soothing balm:
the merciful gift of Love
sets us on solid rock when we flounder.

Let us place before You
the hurts that burden us:
your Love heals us and sets us free.

Let us place before You
the aches and pains of weary hearts:
your Love heals us and releases us to joy.

Let us place before You
our woundedness and fly free of its pull:
your Love heals us and reminds us to love each other.

Let us place before You
the fears that hold us back from loving others:
your Love heals us and makes us whole.

Let us place before You
our failure to see You in each other:
your Love heals us and calls us to be loving in all things.

May our silences and our words,
our actions and our thoughts,
our hands and our hearts
be instruments of your love today.
May your love rest upon all who cry to You,
O God of Tenderness,
especially those whom we now name.

Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Prayer, day 2833



Great is our God, and greatly to be praised:
God's mercy is everlasting!

You welcome us into Your embrace, O God,
and there we take our rest and find new strength.

You number the stars and comfort our sorrows,
knowing us all by name.

You teach the sparrow its song
and fill our hearts with thanksgiving;
all creation sings its praise of Your goodness.

Let us abide with You in this moment, O Loving One:
Your love envelops us now and forever
as we lift up our intercessions
before your gracious countenance and pray.

Amen.

Willing, with God's Help: Speaking to the Soul, October 29, 2020



One of the things I love most in the Episcopal Church is the way our liturgical year circles around repeatedly to remind us of our entry into the Church through baptism. This Sunday, the Feast of All Saints, we will again repeat together and affirm for ourselves the covenant made in our names at the time of our baptism. These promises are usually made in our stead—but several times a year, we get a chance to commit ourselves anew to those markers of a Christian life.

Especially as we face the strains and anxieties of the last week before this election, and as we watch COVID19 infections spiral upward, we may wonder what we can do, right now, to enact peace and justice in our communities. Our worship gives us guidance, and specific guidance, at that.

The first three questions, found on pp. 304-305 in the Book of Common Prayer, recapitulate the Apostles Creed by asking, “Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?” The last five questions then move to actions that flow out of those beliefs—actions that outline the wisdom of God that bears good fruit in our lives. We know that these questions shift from beliefs to action by the change in the question words themselves, in the shift from “Do you believe?” to “Will you?”

Listen to the active verbs in these questions:

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? 

And in answer to each question, we answer “I will, with God’s help.” That’s also key.

The life of faith is NEVER a life lived in isolation, thrown upon our own meager and faltering resources. The life of faith is always strengthened and aided by God’s abundant mercy, grace and love. The life of faith is lived in community with God and with each other. That’s why we celebrate baptism in the midst of community. That’s why the wisdom of welcome and love is so important. And that also why the wisdom of welcome and love we are called to practice as a community of wisdom seekers is so extraordinary when actually put into practice.

Will you continue in learning, in fellowship, communion, and prayer?
Will you persevere against sin, repent, and return when you miss the mark?
Will you proclaim God’s good news of reconciliation by who you are and what you say?
Will you seek, and serve, and love all persons as much as seek, serve, and love yourself?
Will you strive and respect every human being, and not just tolerate but celebrate their dignity—rich or poor, sick or well, friend or stranger, old or young?

This is the wisdom of welcome, beloveds, that we are called to commit to as disciples. Wisdom that doesn’t seek advantage or calculation, but, always and everywhere, serving each other in purity, gentleness, and love.

Ultimately, as we recite these statements again, we are called to reach down deep inside ourselves and determine if we are, indeed willing—to commit an act of will—to dedicate ourselves

to learn,
to worship,
to pray,
to persevere,
to repent,
to return,
to proclaim,
to seek,
to serve,
to love,
to work for God’s values,
to respect each person.

The heart of the Christian life is shared life. A shared life is an abundant life. The promises we make as Christians we make with one voice in community at baptism-- as individuals, yes, but also as the community of Jesus in this place, within the universal Church that exists through time. With God’s help, may we always re-member and embody the welcome we have received into Christ’s Body, and continue to witness to the abundant welcome and love of God we each ourselves receive, again and again, through our Savior, Jesus. No matter what the coming days might bring, we have hope, because we have God’s help.



This was first published at Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul, October 29, 2020.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Prayer, day 2832



I will praise You, O God, with my first thought
as morning joy bids me to rise.
The stars sing out your praises;
their song resonates
even beyond the blue veil of day.
Your love is the foundation of the earth;
all creation rests within your embrace, O Steadfast One.

Our longing hearts turn to You:
Your Word is a lamp for our feet,
showing us the way home,
the way of peace and justice.

We thirst for your wisdom, O Redeemer:
pour out your Spirit within us,
heal and refresh us by your grace.

Let us answer your harvest call, Lord Christ,
and like workers at the harvest
ear your abundant peace into the hungry world.

May the mantle of your goodness envelop us,
O Holy One,
and all those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Prayer 2831



Almighty God,
breathe your hope into us at our rising,
that we may center ourselves within You
throughout the day.

Plant your gentleness like an oak,
deep within our hearts, O God,
that the branches of your blessing
may shade us always.
Imprint your Spirit upon us, O Holy One:
fill us with your truth,
so that we may proclaim your justice and peace
in all places.

Let our lives proclaim our love
for You, Lord Christ,
and may our actions be testimony
to your compassion and love.

May the beauty of this fragile world
fill us with awe and wonder,
that we may tenderly minister to all living things.

Strengthen and guide
all doctors, nurses, surgeons, and caregivers, O Lord,
and bless them for their care and skill.

Remember those who call upon You, O Redeemer,
and send your angels to minister
to those we now name.

Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Prayer 2830



Beloved Creator,
Keeper of Our Souls,
we rest within your unchanging lovingkindness
and seek to center ourselves in your wisdom.
We lift our grateful eyes toward your countenance,
and give you thanks and honor.

May we trust in all your promises, O God,
and recover the open-heartedness
which you impacted in us from our birth.
May we throw off the contempt
that corrupts our hearts
and instead root our faith
in the fertile ground of your tenderness and mercy,
O Eternal Wisdom.

Blessed Jesus,
may we order our lives
in imitation of your healing and reconciling ways.
Like little children,
may we run toward love,
and trust in its power
against the testimony of a world
that sells fear and isolation.
May we see
in a handful of earth
your provision for us
and your call to stewardship
in service to creation.

Spirit of Life,
may we serve you in integrity and generosity,
and testify with our lives
to the liberality of your grace
as we ask your peace
to rest upon these beloved children.

Amen.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Loving God- A Beginner's Guide: Sermon for Proper 25A




One of my favorite movies of all time—favorite because it can lift my spirits more than almost any other movie, is The Princess Bride. I love its blend of, as one character lists at one point, “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles.” I am one of those people who can quote scene after scene from this movie, and apply lines from this movie to almost every situation, just like my friend Shug Goodlow can do with The Godfather.

The movie centers around a grandfather coming to read a book to his sick grandson. The grandson is skeptical, but the grandfather talks him into it, and off they go. Only a few pages into it, though, the boy stops his grandfather, who is describing how the main characters meet and fall in love. “Hold it, hold it—are you trying to trick me? Is this a kissing book?” he asks with disgust. The grandfather urges his grandson to let him continue reading.
(1) Sure enough, soon there’s plenty of fencing, fighting, giants, miracles, and torture. There’s even rhymes. But in the end- literally, the book—and the sharing of the book-- is about love. All kinds of it.

The entire book is distilled down to the idea that love is the greatest thing in the world—and that there are many ways to show love. 

You can show it by doing whatever you can to make the one you love happy, even in as small a thing as handing her a water pitcher she could have gotten herself but that she asks you for just so she can be near you. 

You can show love by never giving up on rescuing the one you love even if you think they’ve forgotten about you. 


You can show love by never forgetting the beloved father you lost in childhood, and doing anything you can to seek justice for him. 

You can show it by spending an entire day sharing a special book with someone you love, even if you have to convince them repeatedly to stick with you. 

Truly, there are dozens of ways love is demonstrated in this sweet, funny, fairy tale. Love sums it up.

In The Princess Bride, the hero, Westley, faces all kinds of opponents, and he overcomes or wins over every one—even the giant. Looking backward from today’s gospel reading from Matthew 22 over the last several weeks, Jesus has now come full circle in being confronted by nearly all the major factions and parties of the day within Israel. The scribes, chief priests, Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and now the Pharisees again, but this time adding in a lawyer—they all have now confronted Jesus and questioned him and his authority. 

And these are groups that usually would not be seen as allies. The Herodians were secular Jews who supported a puppet king of the Roman empire. The chief priests and scribes possibly included both Pharisee and Sadducees. Pharisees were those who acknowledged the power of traditional teaching of the rabbis alongside scripture, while the Sadducess didn’t—they were like the fundamentalists of their time in giving authority only to what was written in scripture. But one thing all these groups could agree on—that Jesus posed a threat to their power and their understanding of themselves as being “right.”

Today, they put the lawyer forward with a question to engage in a battle of wits with Jesus. Looking over the entire span of scripture, the lawyer asks a deceptively simple question, with a smirk calling Jesus “Teacher” when they have just spent several chapters challenging that. The question is this: which law in Torah is the greatest?

With supposedly 613 separate laws in the Torah (365 of them negative), this had been a subject of debate for centuries. And many attempts had been made to distill these various laws down to an easier number. 

Jesus once again puts a twist on his answer. The Law, he says, can be summed up in two things. First, he quotes Deuteronomy, a statement known as the Shema, a prayer that Jews were required to recite morning and night every day: Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes back to Leviticus and pulls this lesser-known verse out and sets it alongside the Shema: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And he says this is the same as the first.

Jesus boils down the essence of the Law down to love.

Think about this as what he DOESN’T say the law is about.

He doesn’t say it’s about believing certain things- especially ones that Christians nowadays often argue about..

He doesn’t say it’s about who will get into heaven or “personal salvation.”

He doesn’t say it’s about casting out folk you don’t like or don’t approve of.

He doesn’t say it’s about being RIGHT. He doesn’t say it’s about God being vengeful or punitive.

He says it is about LOVE. And further, he states very clearly that the best way to put your love for God into action is by loving those around you—your neighbors, whether you even like them or not, your political opponents-- it doesn’t matter. He equates those two things as being the same.

Think about that! And then wonder at how revolutionary an idea this still is, 2000 year later! Love that isn’t about individual, personal relationships with Jesus so we can escape punishment, but love that is grounded in forming a community in which all are welcome—what Matthew calls the Kingdom of Heaven, or Dr. King called the Beloved Community.

Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that everything in the Law and Prophets is meant to create a community in which justice and peace prevail—what we would call “heaven on earth.” The heart of God’s kingdom on earth and in our hearts, which was considered to be the seat of a person’s will, is LOVE. That is what makes Jesus’s message so compelling, then and now.

Our Presiding Bishop nearly always includes in every one of his sermons this observation: “If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.” Jesus states the same thing quite clearly here. 



Love is the only thing that can change the world. So why do we have such a hard time doing it?

There is a poverty of real love in the world—and this is true 2,000 years after Jesus’s earthly ministry. We’re too prone to toss off the word love and make it seem common. We love our friends. Most of us love our families, even if that means we have to make our families intentionally rather than by birth. We love our pets. We love Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock group Heart.

That’s not the kind of love Jesus is talking about, however- love that is a response to something we first get. The love that Jesus talks about is grounded in compassion and generous acceptance. It is what Episcopal priest and humanitarian Becca Stevens talks about when she talks about love healing—and if you listen to her, that healing comes from the inside out as much as the outside in. The kind of love Jesus is talking about is also grounded in self-discipline. It is rooted in an open-heartedness that post-modern culture tries to drive out of us with every effort at distraction at its disposal. 

When I was a kid, there was actually a popular novel whose tag line was "Love means never having to say you're sorry." What nonsense. Our entire culture tries to convince us that love shouldn’t be hard work. The mere fact that Jesus has to keep telling us to do it tells us that it IS.

So where do we begin? One tangible way to step toward this kind of love is by practicing justice for others—to stand alongside those who are often denigrated or seen as “less than” in our society, and to treat them as we ourselves would wish to be treated. Isn’t that kind of fairness the basis for true justice, and isn’t that kind of justice the foundation for true peace?

What if we were to try it?

It’s the kind of love that calls us to reconsider the kind of off-hand cutting remarks that are poisonous to communities. It’s about giving people the benefit of the doubt and offering the grace we would want to receive when people aren’t being their best selves. We can acknowledge our own woundedness, and instead try to see the pain behind others’ actions, rather than lash out ourselves.

And in this time of COVID, we love each other by remembering what true worship of God is all about. I know we all want to be back together to worship like we used to. It was easy. It was familiar. It made us feel good. But to do so would be to endanger each other. I know many otherwise capable people who have either imbibed the dangerous idea that putting the Lord your God to the test against all evidence is somehow a sign of faith (the “God will protect me because I have faith” cohort) OR who view worship as entertainment and social time more than a time of reverence for God and neighbor. Worship is NOT a “right.” Worship is something more important— a state of the heart, mind, and soul. It’s LOVE in action.

We like to quantify things. That’s why stewardship campaigns are so difficult for everyone involved. We are not a part of one of the traditions that flat-out tell you how much it costs to be a member of this community. Some places are upfront, and say, “Ten percent of your income.” Man. That’s a lot. More power to those people who make that commitment. But most of us resist that. However, love IS about giving without fear, but with boldness and joy. 

Especially in this time, the world around us is desperate for signs of this kind of love. The kind of love that blesses us with a grounded awareness of where the hurting is around us, and calls us to minister to those needs in the name of the God we are called to love. That makes visible the God who IS love—unchanging love that seeks to change the world.

It's about living into this blessing from A Black Rock Prayer Book:

The world now is too dangerous
and too beautiful for anything but love.
May your eyes be so blessed you see God in everyone. 

Your ears, so you hear the cry of the poor.
May your hands be so blessed
that everything you touch is a sacrament.
Your lips, so you speak nothing but the truth with love. 

May your feet be so blessed you run
to those who need you.
And may your heart be so opened,
so set on fire, that your love,
your love, changes everything.
(2)

What do all the commandments tell us?

Love God. Love your neighbor. Change the world.


Amen.

Readings:

Links/Citations:
1) William Goldman, The Princess Bride script, at http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/princess_bride.html 
2) A Black Rock Prayer Book, used at Burning Man, http://www.ees1862.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/A-Black-Rock-Prayer-Book-2019.pdf, cited by Debie Thomas at Journey with Jesus, 18 October 2020

Prayer, day 2829: Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost



O God, our help and our rock,
we join in creation's morning hymn of praise
and offer you our hearts: hear our prayer.

Teach us to love as You love, O Holy One,
who forgives all our sin,
and whose mercy endures forever.

Teach us to love even those who oppose us,
and pray for those who hurt us,
that their hearts
and ours
may be turned to amity.

Lead us to do good for the sake of good,
as a testimony to your truth, Lord Christ.

Plant our feet in the way of justice and mercy,
upholding each other in love in your Holy Name.
Spirit of God, breathe your love into us,
and shelter those we lift before You in hope.

Amen.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Prayer 2828: Confession and Rededication



O Lord Our Peace,
we gather under the canopy of your blessing,
and breathe in your mercy,
for we rely surely upon your grace.

You brood over the verdant dark velvet of night,
O Fashioner of Light,
and bring forth all that is:
we offer you our hearts,
that you may remold and shape them
in tenderness and compassion.

Lord Jesus, Exalted Teacher,
Healer of the World,
bend near the places
where cruelty, anger, and contempt
mar our communities and our hearts.

May we hear your call
to renunciation and repentance
where we have numbed ourselves
to the tears of children,
to the groans of the hungry,
to the ill who must choose between shelter and care;
to the desperate flight of the refugee.

May we never twist your gospel
to support pain and suffering,
deception and exploitation
of the desperate.

May we choose instead
the walk in the broad path of integrity and hope.
Make us a people of compassion,
proclaiming your generous grace,
and extending the net of your mercy
beneath those who call out for aid,
that all may lift their hearts in praise, O God,
upheld by your sheltering hand,
especially those
whose names we lift before you.

Amen.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Prayer 2827: For Perseverance in Time of Pandemic



God of Abundance,
we center ourselves within your warm embrace,
feeling the soothing weights of your hand
upon the nape of our necks as we pray.

You, O God, know us each by name;
You inscribe your love on the seal of our souls
that we may be strengthened and molded
as perfect vessels to bear your wisdom and love
to places and hearts in shadow of fear and want.

May we turn aside
from pride, conceit, and division:
Come, Blessed Jesus,
lead us by the hand to follow your healing ways
that we may not lead others astray
by claiming your Name for our own prejudices.

Help us to let go of all
that lures us into exploitation and sin,
and instead open our hands and hearts
to be able to embrace the beauty and love you offer,
O Wonderful Counselor, O Mighty Teacher.
May we run the race you have set before us, Lord,
offering up our selves to your service
without limit or hesitation.

Help us to willingly sacrifice
for the glory of your kingdom,
O Shepherd of Our Souls
our impatience and impulsiveness,
that we may mindfully choose the Way of Love,
and continue to care for each other
and adopt new practices
to ensure the protection and well-being of our neighbors.

Spirit of Hope, set us afire
with zeal for our work in the gospel,
and grant the assurance of your presence and grace
to those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The First Rule: Speaking to the Soul, October 22, 2020

 


Our gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Matthew 22:34-46, depicts the Pharisees and Sadducees again attempting to test Jesus— I like to picture Jesus smiling gently each time one of his opponents unctuously begin to address him by a title they certainly didn’t believe : “Teacher…” they intone, and Jesus—and we know as we read along, that the game is afoot.

In the lectionary this year, we omit the interlude in which the Sadducees approach Jesus with a question about marriage in the afterlife, and instead move to perhaps the most foundational religious question for a student of Jewish scripture and law—and it was one the sages and lawyers had been arguing about for generations. Which, of the 613 commandments in Torah, was the greatest? With over 600 commandments to choose from, even winnowing out the really specific ones about eating and fabric and facial hair, there were still several contenders. Whichever one he chose, Jesus would need to be able to defend his answer. Jesus, five steps ahead of his adversaries as always, answers with a commandment linked to another commandment that together summed up the entirety of the Ten Commandments and all the subsidiary commandments around them.

I was thinking about this situation in the upcoming gospel as I was looking for a prayer request that had disappeared down my Facebook page. Now that so much of our parish’s ministry and liturgy is tied to Facebook, I am chagrined to find myself on that platform as much as ever, even though one of my resolutions back on New Year’s Day was to spend less time there.

Yet one of the fun little amusements that sometimes goes around social media involves a smart phone feature known as “predictive text,” where your phone offers you three words as you type to anticipate shortcuts for those of us who are rather fumble-fingered. Of course, people on Facebook have turned this feature into an amusing little game. The game usually starts with a prompt—a phrase you type in to start a sentence, and then you chose one of your phone’s three proffered choices, linked together one word at a time, until a thought is completed. The words and phrases you use most influence the suggestions, I’m told, and given my vocation, already the playing field is probably tilted toward theological language, so I gave it a whirl. Sometimes, you get gibberish. Sometimes, hilarity ensues. Sometimes, though, you get zen-like koans that bring you up short.

I decided to test how smart my phone was as I thought about that lawyer’s question. I typed in this prompt: “The first rule about faith is…” and my phone finished the sentence like this:

“The first rule of faith is that it is not being used to make the most important decisions in the world.”

Well, now.

I am probably going to turn this little gem over in my mind for a while. For a nation that argues a lot about “faith,” trying to twist it into a synonym for “ideology,” which it should be, rather than a descriptor for a determination to stand for what is life-giving in the world. I nonetheless am in agreement that faith is too often not a guide to our actions—unless that faith provides a context for doing what you were going to do anyway. And faith in each other is a sadly missing commodity in far too much of our national conversation. We talk about faith, but too often we make decisions out of fear or anxiety or cynicism.

So then I tried this prompt: “The greatest commandment in scripture is…” and this is what was returned by my phone’s predictive choices:

“The greatest commandment in scripture is to have mercy upon those people who are not in the same place as you are, and help them to learn the truth about God’s love.”

Given that one of my favorite ways to paraphrase Jesus’s answer is from the prophet Micah: “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” once again it appears that my phone has touched upon part of the inner wisdom of Jesus’s answer to the lawyer in our gospel.

I now wonder what it would be like, in this time of intense division and vitriol, if we couldn’t be guided by this idea: to deal kindly on those who are at a different place on their spiritual journey, to listen and converse in kindness in service to deepening our relationships, and in so doing embody God’s love. Because the truth of God’s love is that it never, ever gives up on us. Can we argue that we aren’t called to likewise not give up on each other, as each of us are made in the image and likeness of God?

Jesus’s answer does the same: to love God, love your neighbor. Love your neighbor, and you are demonstrating love for God. Love as a determination to embrace dialogue, even when those with whom you are speaking may not have the most open hearts to your responses. That’s okay. Maybe those observing your dialogue will be the ones to embrace your message.

The first rule is the rule of love, and the faith that flows from love.



This was first published at Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on October 22, 2020.

Prayer, day 2826



Eternal, Almighty, Merciful God,
we lift our hands to you in gratitude
and lay our hearts before You.

Turn to us and forgive us our sins,
O God of Grace,
and help us put away our willful ways,
our acquiescence to callousness,
our failure to walk in each other's shoes.
Lord, give us open hearts:
when strangers approach us for help,
let us see that You are coming to us, Lord Christ,
and respond in love and compassion.
Renew a right spirit within us,
that we may follow in the Way of Jesus
carrying a banner of healing and reconciliation.

Loving One,
send out your Spirit to bless and inspire us,
and guide us in our journey to your truth.
Place all who call upon You
within the broad expanse of your mercy, O Lord,
and bend tenderly over those we now name.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Prayer, day 2825: Inspired by the Jubilate



You are the source of all goodness, O God,
and our shelter in times of trial.
The lands ring out their joy to God,
whose mercy never fails.
God calls each one by name,
and we answer our shepherd's call.
We know You have made us
and are with us, O Loving One,
and we sing your praise.
Your gates open before us;
let us enter with thanksgiving,
sure in your reception and protection of us.
We call upon You and You answer us,
for your faithfulness endures from age to age.
Strengthen and vouchsafe those who call upon You,
especially these for whom we pray.

Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Prayer, day 2824



Let me sit in stillness,
and open my heart to the presence of God,
to mend the cracks,
and to fill the corners and crevices.
Infuse my spirit to overflowing, O Holy One,
for in silence I wait upon Thee. 

Like cool water over dry and thirsty ground,
let your wisdom and peace wash over me.
In the face of storms within and without,
You have made this space within me
one of sure reliance upon your goodness. 

Let me drink deeply of your wisdom, O Christ,
and may I go forth in the name of justice and mercy today.
May I carry a Spirit of Loving-kindness within me,
and walk humbly with my God
and my fellow-beings. 

May I be a voice
of compassion, love, comfort, and healing
to those I meet.
May I attend to your truth in all my ways, O God:
let my prayer come to Thee as I pray.

Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Prayer 2023: A Prayer from the Woods



Most Merciful Creator,
renewing and brooding over all the Earth,
like a mother bird sheltering her little ones
under the Lea of her wings.

We give thanks for your steadfast love,
and turn to you in faith.
May we use this day to your service, Lord Christ,
bearing your good news like a banner over us,
declaring the power of love over fear and division.

May we see your image, O God,
in each person we meet,
and the imprint of your craftsmanship
in each fallen leaf and mossy stone,
and gossamer web bejeweled by rain.

May we give our allegiance to your call to us,
O Shepherd of Our Souls,
over powers, principalities, and tribe,
that our love may be our witness
and our shield against the forces of division.

Blessed Trinity, Loving Unity,
grant your Spirit to reign in our hearts and minds,
that we may be lovers of truth.

Grant your angels charge over us,
and over those who seek your face,
O Holy One,
and let your peace rest
upon all for whom we pray.

Amen.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Prayer, day 2022: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost A





Blessed Savior,
You call us to walk in love,
and are the Light that illumines our steps.
All that we have and all that we are
is a precious gift from God,
who calls us to generosity and compassion,
knit into our hearts in creation.

Help us to hear your life-affirming Word,
and respond generously and joyously,
in awe of your grace, O God.
We know that you call us to praise
as well as sacrifice-
making holy our lives,
which belong entirely to You.
So let us give to God
that which is God's,
and sing praises for God's grace and mercy--
the breath that supports our song.

Spirit of Life and Light,
envelop us,
enlighten us,
inspire us
to humbly serve the cause of Love.
Gather us together in hope,
and place your seal of comfort, Lord,
on all for whom we pray.

Amen.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Prayer, day 2021



God of the universe
and God of the caterpillar,
God of the cosmos
and God of the sparrow:
your eye is upon us,
guarding us this day,
and we praise you
from our heart and our marrow.

Bright Morning Star,
Prince of Peace,
we are shaped by your gentle hand
like a potter working at the wheel:
make us worthy vessels
to be filled with your wisdom, Lord Christ,
healed and restored
by your grace and everlasting love.

Holy Spirit,
Advocate and Sanctifier,
set our hearts and souls ablaze
in service to the way of love,
walking gently upon the Earth
as companions to each other.
Holy One, you know our cares
before we ask:
grant your peace upon those
for whom we pray.

Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Prayer, day 2020



Most Merciful God,
we rise to greet this day You have made,
hearing the praise song of creation
testify to your glory.
May we echo that praise in every moment,
from our rising to our resting,
and bear witness to your Love.

We thank You for your manifold blessings,
especially your fellowship of saints and companions
who guide us in wisdom.
Set our feet firmly
in the paths of peace and compassion,
O Holy One,
and help us to love unreservedly
as Jesus taught us.
May your Spirit descend upon us like a cloud,
that our tongues may tell out your wonders,
O Earth-maker.

God of Compassion,
bend near to all who seek You,
and envelop all who call upon You with hope
as we pray.

Amen.