Friday, September 30, 2016

Prayer 1348

The rear of the nave of All Saints' Chapel, Sewanee.

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.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Prayer 1347

Worship at Sewanee during the DuBose lectiures with former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Almighty God, we thank You for your protection and care over us in the night. Help us to walk in the way of wisdom today, worshiping You in all our words and deeds. Help us, like Jesus, to be with and for others, emptying ourselves to be filled by your Holy Spirit and do your will. Holy One, grant us your grace and peace this day. Be with all who travel, that they rest in your traveling mercies. Place your hande especially on those who call upon You in joy and in anxiety.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Prayer 1346- for peace, love, and unity

The Memorial Cross at the University of the South, Sewanee, at dusk.

Most Holy Lord, God of All Tenderness, we arise with joy to seek your truth, and be led like children into your ways. We give thanks for the love that supports us, for companions and loved ones who keep faith in joy and sorrow.

Forgive us for our offenses, and uphold us in the embrace of your love and mercy. Lord Jesus, we pray for justice and wisdom to roll down like waters, to lift us like a tide over the shoals of division and disaster. Give us hearts open to each other, enlightened by your gospel, transformed by love and faith. 

Strengthen the hands and skills of doctors, nurses, and caregivers, that they may persevere in compassion. Gentle us, as a mother soothes her restless children, and let your embrace bring us to peace, we pray. 

Holy One, you press upon us behind and before: envelop those who call upon You in your unfailing mercy.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mustard Seed Grace: Speaking to the Soul, September 27, 2016

Bleeding Hearts outside St. Augustine's Chapel, Vanderbilt University.

Luke 17:5-10 

There are many times in scriptures when I can picture Jesus with his hand on his face, looking abashed or stunned. Usually I think of Jesus doing this when I continue to do something stupid, or fail to have faith in some unbelievably generous promise, like grace for either myself or for others, when I am all too willing to hold a grudge to my heart and nurture it like a bosom companion. This coming Sunday’s gospel recounts one of those times when I imagine Jesus felt that way with his apostles when they just don’t seem to get it. But Jesus keeps trying, both with his apostles and with us. And thanks be to God for that. 

Just like us, the apostles keep being presented with teachings that are hard to accept. And worse, they are apostles—the people closest to Jesus. If they can’t understand Jesus’s radical message of community and mercy, how can anyone else? So our reading this Sunday starts with a request that most of us have probably made in our prayers: “Please, God, increase our faith!” 

The apostles are leaders and examples for those who are newer to the faith. Those disciples with authority, such as the apostles, have extra responsibility to first of all model the utmost charity and gentleness to those they lead, and cruelty or haughtiness that causes the “little ones” to stumble when they make mistakes draws harsh condemnation from Jesus. As we have been reminded repeatedly and directly over the last several weeks, maintaining the Christian community requires that members treat each other with ethics, love, forbearance and integrity. Apostles can’t be good leaders if they seek any opportunity to break the hearts or the faith of those who are subordinate; instead, they must exercise what the late, great preacher Fred Craddock calls “responsible love” that does not “cause one of these little ones to stumble,” as 17:2 states. “The shape of this love is to rebuke in order to correct, and to forgive, even if it is repeated seven times in one day…. [The verses immediately before our gospel in Luke 17:1-4] assume the following: the relationships among the disciples of Jesus are based on ethical standards, the violation of which is sin; what brothers and sisters do is not their business alone but affects the community…” 

Thus the apostles here are asking for the faith to forgive even if the offender continues to offend. There are no limits to this requirement it seems—even if the offense is repeated seven times a day, so long as the offender states that he or she wishes to repent. They can never give up on the one who offends, for that is exactly how God treats us, and the entire point of being a disciple is to emulate as much as humanly possible the example set by one’s master. 

If ever the gospel spoke to our current context, I would think that this would be one of those times. We are awash in a debate in this country of what justifies force being used against persons, particularly those of color, by the police. Our policing policy seems to be based upon the idea that those convicted or even suspected of crime deserve harsh treatment, including the inflicting of pain, injury, and sometimes, even death. Yet the story that gives us hope in the gospels is repeatedly that of what the songwriter famously referred to as “amazing grace… that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found—was blind but now I see.” Are we really comfortable with giving up on the hope of redemption for our brothers and sisters, when, if truth be told, we are all ever so grateful forgiveness and redemption are available for us in our own lives? 

I repeat: Jesus makes it clear that we can never give up on the person who offends, who hurts us, who even betrays us, because that is exactly how much God forgives us. 

It’s stunning to contemplate. 

I think we can all understand that the apostles felt the same disbelief that we feel contemplating this. “No way!” the apostles instinctively react, and they ask for more faith in response. How much do we struggle with this, if we have anyone in our lives for long enough that their habits, quirks, and flaws begin to irritate us or provoke us to forget any good qualities they may have. Of course, once we concentrate on the flaws of others in the community, on times perhaps when they have let down their guard, and their weakness or broken humanity is put on display, the response real apostles (and real leaders) make next is crucial in modeling God’s kingdom-- which is true, steadfast love. 

Can we love imperfect people? Of course we can—if we don’t forget our own imperfections, and the forbearance we ourselves have received seven times a day. If the apostles themselves forget that they too have times when they have been just as weak and just as prone to error and brokenness, they can cause the “little ones” to stumble from the path that leads to redemption. 

But MORE faith isn’t required. Instead, Jesus then makes an important point in verses 5-6: you don’t need to have a huge amount of faith to do this. You just need a tiny bit, Jesus assures us. Faith the size of a mustard seed can produce wonders and miracles. With God’s help, anything is possible—including transforming our sometimes tiny, grinchy, mustard-seed-sized hearts, made haughty through believing that we have the right not just to judge others but cut them off into darkness and perpetual condemnation. We ALL—no matter who we are or what we have done-- deserve to be loved in spite of ourselves, and we can have faith that that is exactly what God does. 

In fact, that’s where our collect for this Sunday seems particularly appropriate to the gospel. It reads: 

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

God’s grace is limitless, even as our faith is limited and faltering. It is truly amazing. And, as disciples of Jesus, God’s love and grace made incarnate in the world in human shape, we are called to go and do likewise. As the Body of Christ, we too are called to embody faith, grace, forgiveness and mercy. If only we have the faith of a mustard seed in Jesus's promise of grace.

(This post was originaly published at Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on September 27, 2016.)

Prayer 1345- for our journey through the day

A large chunk of the Episcopal contingent who took part in the CROP Hunger Walk in St. Louis, September 25, 2016.

God of Mercy, let our prayers rise to You with the morning mist, carried to You upon winds of faith and hope. 

We praise You and bless You, Our Rock and Protector, for watching over us through the depths of the night. 

From our rising to our resting, let us fasten our thoughts upon your commandments, that we may dwell in love. 
In all our pathways, may we walk in wisdom, gentleness, and peace. 
In all our trials, may we rest in the arms of our Savior, Companion in joy and in struggle. 
In each moment, may we be alive to the beauty of your creation in all we encounter. 
At day's end, may we lie down in peace, and rest once more within the unfailing goodness of our God and Creator. 

Fill us with grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, O Holy One, and press your blessing upon those we remember before You.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Prayer 1344- for reconciliation

Detail from a crucifix at the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris.

Holy One, we rise this day remembering our gathering at your altar, proclaiming your saving deeds and love for all of creation. 

You brood over us, O God, as a mother tenderly cares for her children, modelling compassion and reconciliation. 
Our lives are dependent upon your grace, Lord, in your reaching out to us again and again, even sending your Son to lead us. 

How then, can we turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, who suffer injustice, oppression, and want? 

Call us out of our own carelessness into the light of love and community, as a shepherd calls his sheep. 
Let our lives be a testimony to your abundance and holiness, Lord Christ, as we endeavor to live as You lived. 
Heal us of our hard-heartedness, and let us try to walk in the way of peace and justice. 

Accept our whispered prayer offered to You, Merciful One, and rest your benediction on those we now name.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Prayer 1343- 19th Sunday After Pentecost

Most Merciful One, purify our hearts that we may gather in your courts with thanksgiving. Help us to meet Jesus at the altar, known to us in the drawing together of the Body of Christ. 

Let us remember who we are called to be: Christ's hands, heart, and mercy in the world. Lord, forgive us our hard-heartedness: open our eyes to see the Lazaruses lying at our gates, and bring us to see Christ's face in each one. Let us remember our call to be bound together in love and hope, sharing each other's burdens with compassion. Let us work for the cause of peace and healing in the world, united as one people, without exception. 

Loving Savior, place your hand of healing upon us, that we may be reconciled to each other, and bless those we now name.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Prayer 1342: For conversion of hearts

Resilience. A flower pushes through an ancient wall in Girona, Catalonia, Spain.

Lord Jesus, we lift our hearts to You to be filled with your limitless love as we walk in your path of peace. In your mercy, forgive us our failures, our jealousies, our maneuvering against each other regardless of cost. 

Make us faithful in little things, that we may be worthy of bearing your Holy Name into the world, O Holy One. Teach us to always walk in mercy and forgiveness, compassionate and welcoming to the stranger. Make us upright and generous, like a green olive tree in your house, O God, and make us a blessing to those we meet. Make us happy to serve others, Lord Christ, especially the lost, the forsaken, and those in any pain or grief. 

By your grace, dwell in our hearts and minds, O God, and place your hand of blessing on those who call upon You.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Prayer, day 1340- For the hope of justice

Fountain, Japanese Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden.

Almighty God, we draw together to worship You in thought, in word, and in our actions. 

Let us make this day an oblation of Love to You, filling our hearts like a deep well, to pour out mercy to a thirsty land. 

Help us quench the fires of division, and seek only to do Your will today. 

Spread the cooling balm of your compassion over all those who are in sickness, pain, anxiety, or sorrow, especially those we now name.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Prayer, day 1339- For Peace

Autumn begins today at 9:21 am.

Loving One, we place ourselves before you in prayer and worship, seeking your peace which surpasses all understanding. 

Help us to live in peace and understanding with each other, loving others as we love ourselves. 

Guide us to a more perfect understanding of your will so that we may act according to your commandments. 

Remind us that it is your will, not ours, that needs to be done. 

Send, we pray, your Spirit to guard and comfort those who are troubled or in pain today.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Prayer, day 1338

Almighty God, what is done is done. Teach us what to do with that, and teach us how to be wiser. 

Teach us to truly love our neighbor, and remember that our neighbor includes the stranger in our midst. 

Teach us that our first duty is not suspicion, but love. 

Help us reorient our hearts, dear God, that we be united, not divided. 
Help us to see You in the face of every person we encounter, even in the faces of those of different races, creeds, or religions. 

Heal the hearts of those who are in pain, distress, anger, or grief, O Lover of our souls, especially those we now name.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Prayer 1337- For Terence Crutcher

Justice for Terence Crutcher, and an end to execution on the streets.

Most merciful God, abide within our hearts, and guide us in your way of justice. 

Help us to repent of the sin of fear of those different from us, denying your goodness in each other. 
Forgive us for dividing your children into "us" and "them," and privileging comfort over justice. 
Forgive us for extolling violence even as we decry it and allow it to stoke our fears. 

Help us love Christ's face in every person, and honor the dignity of God's image in every person without fail. 
Help us remain true to God's repeated command to stand with the oppressed, the sorrowing, the marginalized. 

Let us keep the peace through walking in justice and compassion for the oppressed. 

Lead us into loving You by loving each other, and replace our hearts of stone with hearts beating true for your kingdom of peace. 

Gather up our prayers, O Holy One, and give your angels charge over those for whom we pray.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Prayer 1336

Almighty One, let our prayers rise to You as the morning mist, that we may praise You in each moment of this day.

Forgive us our sins and pride, and convert us anew to love and service, we humbly pray. Dwell within our hearts, Lord Jesus, and help us make them into a temple worthy of your mercy. 

Give us the grace to serve You fully, Lord, and carry your gospel into the world in all we do. Give us strength to seek out your path and walk in your ways in love and service. 

Crown the spirits of those hurting, anxious, or oppressed with your blessing, O Holy One, especially those we now name.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Prayer 1335- 18th Sunday After Pentecost

Marigolds in Shepherd Farm garden, Church of the Good Shepherd, Town and Country, Missouri.

Most Merciful God, we thank You for the weekly remembrance of the resurrection of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us gather before God's altars with joy and in peace with all, remembering your unending mercy and love. 

Forgive us our failures and faltering faith in You and each other, that we be rededicated to turning away from sin and hatred. Remembering the unbounded grace, mercy, and forgiveness we receive, let us go and do likewise in our lives. 

Help us to be faithful in small things as well as great, as we seek to be remade in the way of Jesus. 

Send, O Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit to help heal the world through our willing hands, and place your blessing on those we now name as we pray.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Prayer 1334- for discernment

It's Saturday, so, God willing, it's the day that includes the 5:05 service at St. Martin's in Ellisville this evening.

Most Merciful God, receive our prayers and praises, that we may serve You in unity and peace. 

Give us discerning hearts and a will to serve, singing with joy as we are called by our Shepherd's voice. Guide us by your light, O Christ, and open our eyes to your truth, that we may be renewed and transformed. May the beauty of God enlighten us, that we may reflect and testify to the Light, animated by love and wisdom. 

Shield and comfort all who are in distress, O Holy One, and make us bearers of peace and unity in your Name. Gather within your embrace all those for whom we pray, Blessed Jesus.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Prayer, day 1333

Almighty God, fill us with the light of your wisdom, that we may carry your banner of truth into the world. 

Make us disciples in word and deed, that we may work to heal the world's divisions and lighten the burden of the oppressed. 

Bless the hands of those who heal, especially doctors, surgeons, and nurses, that they may use the gifts you have given them skillfully. 

Bless the hearts of those whose compassion is an inspiration, and guide us to be more like them. 

Spread your mantle over us as we seek to serve You, O God, and extend your blessing over those we now name.