Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prayer 671

The Rev. Mike Angell and I sing during sabbath time at convention with some great friends!

Holy One, we bow before You, and come into your courts rejoicing in the power of your Spirit, singing praises to your Son. Let us tell out the wondrous story all creation sings: the love of God endures forever! 

Each gust of wind flutes through each blade of grass, singing a hymn of praise to the God who makes us one. The canopy of the sky spreads its azure testimony before us, revealing the handiwork of the Most High. 

Let us sing out before your altars, O God, placing our cares before You, that we may worship You night and day. 

We are God's beloved: what have we to fear? Our help comes from God, whose mercy endures forever! 

Loving one, extend the hand of your blessing upon us especially over those we now name.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jesus on the Border: A commentary on Matthew 25: 31-46

I wrote this back on July 16 for's Speaking to the Soul on tomorrow's gospel; the link can be found here. Thought I'd repost it, especially in light of President Obama's executive order on immigration this week.

Today’s gospel starts with a discussion of separation. In the vision of judgment Jesus describes, one people will be separated from another, and he compares them to the sheep and the goats. Using symbolism that appears repeatedly throughout scripture, the sheep are those who are blessed and obedient to God’s will—in this case, God’s will of radical generosity and care for others: feeding the hungry and providing drink for the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and those in prison. Jesus’s vision makes it clear that he himself had been welcomed when the poor, the sick, and the outcast had been cared for.

Psychologically and sociologically speaking, the boundaries of our world usually progress from our own self, to our family, to our neighborhood, to our community, to our state, and to our nation. Some of us include other circles within this mental Venn diagram: our parish, our diocese, our denomination, and the Church overall, in the case of Episcopalians.  It is a common occurrence in our culture to see a sharp separation between ourselves and others. This is nothing new.

Throughout scripture, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, there are dozens of laws and reminders to treat the strangers and the aliens among us with hospitality and compassion. Closer to home, there is Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, which he told in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” In short, the answer was, “Not whom you expect.”

We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves by being reminded that that neighborhood encompasses those we traditionally think of as rivals and enemies.  We are called to care for those who seek our help. Again and again, we are called to break down the barriers that separate us in response to the vision of the kingdom of heaven, as Matthew likes to phrase it--  a unified humanity in a unified creation bound together in love to God and each other.

We are commanded in our gospel reading today to welcome the stranger, with dire consequences if we fail. Yet we seem to have more than enough problem welcoming our neighbor, much less the stranger among us. It seems modern society is more fractured than ever, both in the United States and elsewhere in the world—even among our countrymen there is so much contempt and denigration directed at those we have deemed different from us. If we can’t love our neighbors, how can we respond to the stranger and the alien among us?

We are not seeing many good results regarding the increasing crisis along the US southern border, where, in just the last nine months, 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been placed in detention while seeking asylum from violence in their homelands.  We have read reflections on this crisis in just the last few weeks from our Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention, and the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, to name but a few.

But the challenge of care for those who are outcast is certainly not limited to the United States. In Israel, we have the ongoing bloodshed between Hamas and the Israeli government in Gaza. Earlier this spring, anti-immigrant candidates in Europe received a shocking amount of support in European Union elections, buoyed by a backlash against a surge of refugees from Europe and Africa. In Africa, refugees flee Nigeria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, to name but a few areas of turmoil.

The ancient Hebrews were commanded to provide for the orphaned and the alien among them, which was an act of remarkable generosity if one considers what a small people they were, often subject to displacement themselves. We Americans are blessed to have been largely immune as an entire people to displacement. Does that mean we can have no understanding for or humanitarian response to those who have been torn from their families and homes, and who have experienced warfare and bloodshed?

We are called to transform our vision of the “least of these” from nuisances who place demands upon our finite resources of money and compassion. Again and again, we are called to remember that Jesus was not, and is not, the one everyone expected. He was not born into the ruling classes, from a powerful family, from a cosmopolitan city in the center of the empire. He was not the warrior king who would restore the political fortunes of Israel.

For those of us who cling to Jesus’s teachings today, we are reminded that Jesus not just was but IS. This is why scripture still speaks to us. “As it was, is now, and ever shall be.” We read about the Jesus who was, and many of us try to appeal to the Jesus who will be, but we often forget about the Jesus who IS , right now. Can we understand that Jesus is among us now? The face of Jesus still is the face of our neighbor, the face of the poor, the sick, and the refugee.

In Jesus’s parable, the goats, those who did NOT respond with openheartedness to those who were vulnerable, protest that they did not turn away Jesus, because they did not recognize who Jesus was at the moments when compassion was called for. Jesus stands in solidarity with “the least of these”—those who cling to the margins of society, those who were easily spurned or shunned, those who are seeking to survive.  These are our neighbors. These are the faces of Jesus.

Repeatedly, we have to be reminded that the Jesus we claim to follow is not the Jesus we expect. Jesus was not really that well-groomed, handsome man who smiles at us from so many paintings, sculptures, and, lately movies. Jesus is, however, the one who calls us to open our hands and our hearts, to love as we have been loved, to give as well as receive. Jesus calls us to serve him, to see his face in those we could turn away.

Prayer 670

Moi and the newly Rev. Chester Hines after his ordination yesterday at the 175th Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Missouri.

We raise our voices in praise and song to You, O God, our Creator and Light.
For our manifold blessings-- community, hope, faith, and love-- we give thanks to You, O Lord.
For all who are gathered as disciples, seeking to discern your will in our lives, we give thanks to You, O Lord.
For the Light of Christ, which uplifts our hearts and minds, bringing us into communion with You, we give thanks to You, O Lord.
For all who seek You, or a deeper knowledge of You, that your kingdom may be glorified on Earth as in heaven, we pray to You, O Lord.
For all who travel this day, for traveling mercies, that they be returned to their homes safely, we pray to You, O Lord.
For wisdom and justice to be strengthened and restored in our land, we pray to You, O Lord.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble, that the awning of your mercy shield and shade them, we pray to You, O Lord.
For those struggling against illness or pain, that your healing hand may uplift them, we pray to You O Lord.
Holy One, we pray especially for these, your servants we now name.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Prayer for the 175th Diocesan Convention

We thank You, Loving One, for the gifts You have given us in your generosity and everlasting love for us.
For the blessing of this new day, that we use it to the glory and worship of your Name, we thank You, O God.
For the blessing of our talents and abilities, for we all can do something in service of You, we thank You, O God.
For the blessing of friends and loved ones, and for those we will meet today to see your face before us, we thank You, O God.
We lay our prayers and petitions before your altar, O Loving One, for You uphold us always.
For those who are to be ordained as deacons in your church: Kevin, Nancy, Jerre, Rebecca, Chester, and Deborah;
Grant us the wisdom to seek your will, not ours, in all we do.
Grant us the will to fight for the weak, the outcast, the poor, and the lowly.
Let us seek always to hear the better angels of our nature & fulfill your command to establish justice and peace.
Grant us the strength to meet our challenges and trials with grace and perseverance, and rejoice in our blessings always. Amen.

Prayer 669

O God, You are our refuge and our rock: we put our trust in You. Help us to work together in harmony in the work You have given us, and let our deeds bring honor to Your name. Let us make your Word and commandments our sure foundation, and seek always to forgive rather than condemn. Let us remember the generous love You have given us, and uphold each other in our trials. Break the chains of fear and enmity we carry, and help us lift up the banner of love and compassion. Extend the shelter of your mercy over those for whom we pray this day.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prayer 668- for justice, unity, and strength

God of Mercy, bend near to hear the whispered prayers of your people, who come humbly before you. Give strength, O Holy Spirit, to all who fight for the oppressed and downtrodden, and let us take our place beside them. Amplify the prophetic voice of the ones crying out in the wilderness: may their words and deeds cause a garden of justice to bloom. Direct us to self-examination of how well we love each other, that we honor each other, all made in the image of God. May we treasure those who love us and pray for and love those who hate us.  Strengthen us to fight against all that diminishes us as your children, starting with our own fears and faithlessness. Encourage those who press against fear, sorrow, or illness, Most Holy God, and envelop them in your mercy and care. We pray your grace be made abundantly manifest in the hearts of these, your children.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prayer 667

The sun gilds the clouds in the eastern sky, and praises for the Creator ring from our hearts! Holy One, we are blessed to be able to come before You, and to proclaim the wonders of your love. Heal us of our pride and our enmity; call us into remembrance that You, O Christ, are in the midst of us. Clothe us in your grace and mercy, that we may be renewed and energized, charged by your blessing. Hold our loved ones in the hollow of your hand, and shield them from every foe.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Prayer 665

God is our shelter and our security: let us give thanks to God for all our blessings. Holy One, you set us within the lee side of the rock: protect us from the chill eddies of fear and uncertainty. Kindle our hearts with hope, and let us blaze anew with the fire of zeal for your good news. Place your hand beside us, behind us, and before us, that we may be enclosed within your holiness, knowing You as our Companion. Give refuge under your wing to those who are anxious or despairing, and refresh those with flagging spirits. Let us see your handiwork and claim your blessing upon us, trusting in your mercy and lovingkindness. Hear the cries of those we now name, and bear them up in your embrace.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Prayer 664

The Trinity in a flower.

Holy One, we give thanks to you, and with joy gather around your altar, bonded through your love. Let us sit in the presence of God, the source and root of all our being.

Let us sing praises to the Light of Christ, who calls us into fellowship with one another and sustains us in all our journeys. Let us be lifted by the Spirit of God our Savior, who fills us with wisdom and joy.

Let us fasten upon the Word of God, and place ourselves under the sway of Love that never ends.

Let us give thanks for the mercy and forgiveness of God, and seek to go and do likewise. We bring our intercessions before You, O Loving One, and raise up the needs of those whose cry is to You.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Prayer 663

Precious Savior, we turn our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to You, opening ourselves to your call in our lives. We kneel before You in love and humility, and ask that You send us to serve You and each other. Help us emerge from the valley of bitterness and doubt to trust in You as we seek to truly love each other. Tune our hearts to the song of the Spirit, and may our prayers ascend as joyful song. You, O Holy One, are the center of our being, and may all we are be drawn into the orbit of your grace and mercy. Reach out to the searching hearts of your children, O Loving One, and spread the balm of your love upon those we now name.