Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Prayer 799

God of Hosts, we bow before your glory, and bend the knee of our hearts before You.

In humble supplication, we ask You to forgive us all our offenses, and set new hearts within us, fixed on doing your will. With your saving hand lift us up, O Holy One, that we may be a holy people wholly dedicated to You. Nourished by your word and strengthened by our meditations, may we serve You this day with gladness. May we carry the banner of your salvation and peace into the world, serving the cause of Christ to proclaim your reign.

Loving One, send out your Spirit to bless and inspire us, and guide us in our journey to your truth. Draw us within your embrace, Lord Christ, and grant your peace to those we now name.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Prayer 798

Lord God, You call us into a new creation with You, and call us all each by name in love and tenderness. May we always seek to take You by the hand in all our ways, that we may never stray from your paths of mercy. 

Light a fire within us to build up your kingdom, and to establish a sure foundation of justice within our lives. Empower us with wisdom to work in the name of your love and hope, that we may truly live in peace and plenty before your throne. 

Cast your blessings like spring rain upon those who call your Name, and envelop us in a mantle of compassion and service to all. Bend near to all who are in distress or anxiety, O Healer, and place your hand of benediction on those we now name.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prayer -Day 796

Loving One, we hunger for your presence, and praise You for your constancy. Let us walk faithfully in the path You have shown us through your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Send your Spirit among us as a mighty wind to propel us across the seas of our troubles. Regard not our weaknesses but our desire to draw closer to You; forgive us for failing to see your goodness in others. Let us knit ourselves together in gentleness and kindness; hasten your kingdom within us. Lord, we lay our cares and concerns at your feet: send your peace to those whom we now name, especially those we now name. Amen.

(reprise of 246)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Prayer for Day 794

Glory to You, Loving One, glory to You: we rise to sing your praise. All things come into being at your Word: let all I do and all I am be inspired by You. You have molded all creation to work in harmony: let our love and obedience be a witness in the world. You abide with us in faithfulness even when we falter: may we seek you always in our need. You hold all our times in your hand: be with those who laugh and those who weep. May your Spirit rest upon those whose needs are known to You alone, and those whom we now name.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prayer 793- Feast of the Annunciation

On the Feast of the Annunciation
O Holy One, may we stand before your courts, and hear and obey your call of love and faithfulness. 

May we open our hearts to welcome the good news from your prophets and messengers, O God, who sing out your salvation. May we hear your call and respond as your humble servants, eager to serve You and each other. 

Make us vessels in whom your truth overflows, for your love so great that we cannot contain it. Send us forth to do your will, to build and heal and comfort in the Name of the Lord. Press upon us the seal of your Spirit, and commission us to serve You with all our hearts. 

Draw us within your courts, O Almighty, and place your blessing upon those we now name.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Prayer 792

Our praises rise to our Creator and Protector, whose mercy endures forever! 

At your command, O Holy One, all things come to be, now and forever: we give You thanks for our manifold blessings. Some put their faith upon the power of fortunes or of princes, but we rest upon the love of God as our sure foundation. 

May we put our trust in the light of the God Who Saves, whose way is straight and sure. Loving One, be the wind at our backs that sends us upon our journeys, and guides us upon your way. Draw us within your embrace, O Light of Light, that we may dwell forever in the household of the Almighty. 

O God, our shield and our refuge, watch over us in all our ways, for you call us to paths of righteousness and peace. Place all who call upon You within the broad plain of your mercy, O Lord, and bend tenderly over those we now name.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Prayer 791

Almighty God, we lift our hearts to You as your children, and place our hands in yours to be led into your presence. 

May we fill our hearts with your love and wisdom, and drink deep of waters of peace and justice which flow from your throne. Refresh and replenish our souls, O Holy One, that we may spring up from our resting places and do your will today. 

Keep us as the apple of your eye, and make your face to shine upon us, that we may be instruments of peace and compassion to all. Guide us into the paths of righteousness, that we may walk gently upon the earth and seek companionship with all creation. Pour out the oil of blessing upon all who seek your truth and call upon You.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Church Under the Cross

This was also posted at The Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on March 22, 2015.

The death of the Church has been proclaimed over and over. I’m sure we’ve all heard the bad news: the Church is dying—or, at least our church is dying. Young people see no need for church, especially millennials, the newspapers crow. More people identify as atheist than at any other time, we are warned. In a book of Lenten meditations entitled God is on the Cross, the great German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about “the dying Church” as well. Many Christians in Germany during World War II doubtless feared that the Church was dying then as dictators tried to either kill it or co-opt it, and as madness reigned across continents that groaned under the feet of armies marching under the banners of death. Looking upon this crisis, Bonhoeffer made this observation: Believers “do not believe in people or in the good in people that ultimately must triumph; they also do not believe in the church in its human power. Rather, believers believe solely in God, who creates and does the impossible, who creates life out of death, who has called the dying church to life against and in spite of us and through us.”

Bonhoeffer imagines the church “under the cross.” So too our gospel reading for today turns our faces toward the cross and dares to reimagine what it means, just as we are being called to reimagine the Church and what it means in this time and place. The gospel reading for today, which explores the paradox of how death can bring life, is the hinge upon which the good news of the gospel of John is proclaimed. This is the point at which, as Jesus says, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What caused this hour to finally come at this particular point? The world—in the form of some “Greeks,” which means us—has come to Jesus. And soon, soon, Jesus is going to be exalted—lifted up—on the cross and beyond the cross, held up to bring all of the world to God. What is considered by the world to be a sign of shame is instead going to be the means of exaltation.

In the gospel of John, this is the point where Jesus moves from his ministry toward his exaltation—and when we come to Jesus. Victory can push through to us at the darkest of times. For John, the crucifixion brings victory, because the cross brings the world to God. We don’t usually think of it this way, but the metaphor of the grain of wheat helps us remember this too. Jesus speaks again in paradox. In order to live we must die to all that separates us from the love of God. Those who die to themselves will finally have a full life.

How do we (and John) understand the paradox that the cross is a symbol of victory and power rather than dishonor and disgrace? A death which is a sign of torture is instead a triumph. This was a scandalous idea at the time it was formulated, as it also is for us. Crucifixion was the means of execution for rebels and for murderers, and it was a terrible, lingering way to die.

But by casting back to the events of the history of Israel, John sees that the saving power of the cross has already been hinted at. Last week we heard the story of the people of Israel being saved by looking upon a symbol of a serpent (or seraph, depending on how you translate the original Hebrew) raised up on a pole, and looking upon that sign saved them from death. The reading from John’s gospel last week started off making explicit the connection between this sign and the lifting up of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus is usually presented as being unafraid of the cross throughout John’s gospel. However, our reading today includes acknowledgement that Jesus admitted that his “soul was troubled.” Jesus is human. We always have to remember that, because if Jesus is not fully human, how can he save us and show us a better way to live that we ourselves can emulate? The love of God that we understand through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus lifts us all up and calls us to transformation.

The metaphor of the solitary grain of wheat falling to the ground is a homely, pastoral image, one to which many of Jesus’s followers could relate. That single grain must fall to the ground to be buried before it can spring to life abundantly and anew; otherwise it remains a single grain—and in the original Greek the term actually means “remains alone.”

There is a message here for us, as Christians and as Episcopalians, as well. Unless we as individuals are willing to be transformed—to let go of our old life of suspicion, and hardness of heart, and fear– we can have no trust in the love Jesus has for us, and we cannot be true servants of Christ. We have to break through the rocky soil of our own hearts to allow the seed of the promise of God’s love to grow. Likewise, unless we as the Church are willing to let go of how we have always understood ourselves, we too cannot break through to new life and new growth.

Prayer 790

Fairest Lord Jesus, draw us before your altars today, and feed us with your word and sacraments. Strengthen us in bonds of love, faithfulness, and charity, propelled by hope to build your reign in our hearts. 

May the shade of your blessing overspread us, and the peace of your fellowship bind us firmly together in your name. May we drink deeply of the living water from the wells of salvation, bought by You in your love for us. May we join hands across all that we allow to divide us, and see your face, O Beloved, in each one we see around your altar. 

Turn our hearts to your truth, and turn our feet to walk in paths of mercy, following the footsteps of saints and disciples who have gone before us. Shower us with your blessing, O Holy One, and stretch forth your hand of healing and comfort to those we now name.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ready to Hear, Ready to Speak: On the Feast of Thomas Cranmer

This was also posted at The Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on March 21, 2015.

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.”

The above is a collect written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, whose feast day we celebrate today, more than five hundred years after his martyrdom. Much of the Book of Common Prayer bears his imprimatur, even if many Episcopalians and Anglicans are barely acquainted with him.  Because Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the separation of the English Church from the Roman Church, he ended up shaping the first prayer books in use in the Anglican Communion even to our own 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Some of the greatest hits of the prayer book are his: “O God, make speed to save us; O Lord, make haste to help us.” “We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts….” “Give unto your servants that peace which the world cannot give….” The collect above is one of my favorite collects right from the start, since it touches upon a subject near to my heart: prayer.

“Almighty God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve….” How often many of us feel that we do not know how to pray, or what to say when we pray. Sometimes we get frustrated with defaulting too soon to what have been called “wish-list” prayers: God, watch over my mother and my father; help me get through this coming week; help heal Aunt Jeanne’s cancer, those kinds of things. At other times we get frustrated that this kind of prayer is all we seem to pray, other than the Lord’s Prayer. Yet Cranmer put his finger on an important truth: God is ready to listen no matter how much we stumble over words in our prayers. Yet perhaps sometimes we should just cut ourselves a break. My United Church of Christ brothers and sisters like to say that “God is Still Speaking.” We Episcopalians, people of the Book of Common Prayer, should always try to remember that God is always listening, lovingly and patiently, even if we feel we cannot find the right words. If in prayer we are not ready to speak, we can make ourselves ready to hear. Ironically, Archbishop Cranmer himself has provided us hundreds of the right words when we seem stuck, in his beautiful collects and prayers which he either translated or wrote himself.

“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 ….” Here, Cranmer touches upon the ideas of mercy and grace. Even during Lent, we Episcopalians do not like to think very much about sins—unless it is about those sins committed against us. We also do not think very much about salvation and how that works. Yet one of the most overwhelming realities we seek to grasp as Christians is God’s unending love for us. God’s love is one that seeks us out again and again and never rests when we hold ourselves aloof in our relationships with both God and each other. Abundant mercy, amazing grace—two different sides of the same coin. Mercy is shown in not punishing us as justice would demand but instead forgiving us. Grace is granted in GIVING us the blessing of salvation, right here and now, which we can never earn. Cranmer helps us ask God to pour out both grace and mercy over us, forgiveness and blessing, the weft and warp of our lives seeking God.

“…[E]xcept 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.” It is through Jesus and his incarnation, as God-with-us, that we have an advocate and guide in living our lives as a holy people, beloved of God. One of the things Christians do is pray in the name of Christ, our Friend and Companion—literally, “he who breaks bread with us.” When we gather around the altar at Eucharist, we gather with each other and with Christ, who feeds us, body and soul, satisfying our deepest longings for meaning in a world in which all too often we can feel adrift.

Cranmer’s latest biographer, Diarmid MacCulloch, notes in his introduction that Archbishop Cranmer was intensely private, yet his words live on today to touch and shape our most public expressions of faith through our liturgy. Thomas Cranmer is, in many ways, the bishop who still teaches us how to pray, and reminds us that God is ready to hear.

Prayer 789

Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels, Barbados.

Holy One, may we be centered within You today. With each moment, let us breathe in your wisdom, and breathe out your love. May we know that peace which only You give, and may we build our lives on a foundation of justice and compassion. May the Spirit of truth and righteousness envelop us in light eternal, that our paths may follow your word. Precious Lord, we hold within our hearts the needs and concerns of those who call upon their hope in You: bless and preserve those we now name.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Prayer 788

Lord Jesus, whose arms are eternally stretched wide to embrace us, be with us this day, and teach us. Teach us to embrace your call to repentance and renewal, that we may be brought before You as little children. Teach us to embrace this day and its beauty, rather than worrying about tomorrow. Teach us to embrace the poor and the outcast, for we are one in body and spirit. Teach us to embrace love, regardless of the cost. Teach us to embrace obedience, to empty ourselves so that You may fill us completely. Teach us to embrace those who do not understand us or reject us, and to love them wholeheartedly anyway. Precious Savior, place your hand of blessing over those we now name, drawing them to You in your mercy.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Prayer 787

At the Osage Forest of Peace in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, we lift our hearts in praise to You, Our savior and our redeemer, who calls us into unity with You and each other. We humbly confess before You our failures and inaction, our silences and our hurtful speech: forgive us, Lord. May we turn our hearts to You as a flower turns toward the sun, and clothe ourselves in the splendor of your love. Help us to be true ministers of your gospel of compassion and hope, rejoicing in your call to us to be your people. Accept the fervent prayers of your people, O God Most High, and send your angels to watch over us as we seek to serve You. Grant, we beseech You, your unfailing peace and strength to those we now name.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Prayer 786

Dreaming of Camp Phoenix mornings....

Holy One, open our eyes to see the wonders and signs of your power all about us. Stretch your mighty hand over us, that we may be led in paths of righteousness and compassion in our journeys today. Fill us with your wisdom, O Spirit, and preserve us in your grace, for we are prone to go astray and turn our hearts to foolishness. Feed us with your truth, Lord Christ, and encircle us in your embrace. For You, O Companion, are with us always, in sunshine and shadow, and call us into the broad and verdant land of your peace. Tenderly wipe the tear of those who mourn, and ease the burdens of those in pain, for your love's sake. Bless and keep those who call upon You, especially those whose names we place before you.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Prayer 785

(Based on a blessing of St. Patrick)

Blessed Savior, You are our armor in times of trouble: hear our prayer. Awaken in us a desire to love and praise You, for You are our companion in times of joy and in times of trouble. 

Guide us by your Strength, O God, and preserve us by your Power, that we may always walk before You. 
Instruct us by your Wisdom, and protect us by your mighty Hand as we seek to be your disciples. 
Direct us by your Way, defend us by your Shield, and send your angels to guard us night and day. 

Be with us, before us, and in us, Lord Christ, and send us out with a zeal to serve You with our whole heart. 

Fill us with a Holy Fire to spread your gospel of love and forgiveness to friend and foe, and place your blessing upon those we now name.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Prayer 784

Another detail from the windows at St. Stephen's in Ferguson.

Blessed Savior, bring us into your pastures of plenty today, and spread the shade of your right hand over us. Let us joyfully labor in the name of truth and love, for they are the foundations of your kingdom. Let us sing forever a praise song of your abundant mercy, recounting the horizon of grace that You stretch before us. All creation testifies to your glory and revels in your love, Most Holy God; may we join in the song forever. Tune us to the melody that binds the world together, that we live in fellowship with all the Earth. Turn our eyes to behold your wonders, O Creator and Comforter, for we know You are with us always. You heal the broken-hearted and give rest to the weary: make us vessels of your peace, filled to overflowing. May the light of your countenance shine upon us, and especially on those for whom we pray.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Prayer 783

Most Holy God, we kneel before your altars, humbled by your grace, thankful for your mercy, united by love of You. May we open our hands and our hearts to those around us, knowing that we are called to be one people united by your love. May we remember that whatever diminishes one, diminishes all, and never use others for our own gain. May we seek to be healing hands within the world, and treasure your creation as our beloved home. Lord Christ, may we lift you up in our lives, that we may look upon You and be healed of all that separates us. Holy Spirit, give us a fire within our hearts to serve the glory of God in all our thoughts and ways. Holy One, spread your awning of blessing over us, and especially over those we now name.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prayer 782

Another detail from a window at St. Stephen's in Ferguson.

Blessed Redeemer, lift me up by your love, abounding in mercy, that I may sing your praises from the depths of my heart. Draw me deeper into the mystery of your grace, O Holy One, for my soul longs for You. Search me out and rescue me when I have gone astray, for You are my Hope and my Shield. May your Word be a lamp unto my feet, and your grace a guide to my heart. Hear me when I call to You, and pull me from the shifting sands, for You are ever tender in your care. Give me a zeal to serve You by serving your gospel, and a heart to love others as I love myself. Loving One, be our companion in the way today, and broadcast your blessing and your peace to all who seek You.


Lectionary Notes: John 3:14-21

John 3:14-21
14Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."

First, a bit of context: Nicodemus is a Pharisee and as identified in verse one of chapter 3 as ”a leader of the Jews.” He has come to Jesus “by night,” possibly in order that the other Pharisees will not see him talking to this arrogant and rebellious self-styled teacher from the hinterland who is causing them so much trouble (remember last week? Yeah, not an act that is likely to win friends from the Pharisaic camp).

As we have discussed previously, light and darkness are important themes in John’s gospel: Nicodemus comes in the night also because he lacks true understanding of who Jesus is, but at least he is straining toward the light. Right now, he sees Jesus as a sort of faith-healer. Nicodemus points to certain signs—and signs are very important in the gospel of John. He is willing to admit that Jesus is a healer, a miracle-worker, and a teacher--  but that is as far on the journey of faith that he is willing to go. Will he eventually commit to Jesus and have true faith? Yet Nicodemus is beginning to be drawn to the light of Christ, for in v. 2 he states: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who is coming from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Nicodemus is a man torn between two worlds, just as the converts in Ephesus were, and he recognizes the delicate situation he is in. Following Jesus will probably cost him everything that has been important to him thus far in life, including his reputation and position within society. And Jesus doesn’t make it easy for him, speaking and what must’ve seemed like riddles, as Jesus is prone to do throughout much of the Gospel of John, in particular. Jesus talks of the necessity of being born again in vv. 3-8, and Nicodemus takes the metaphor literally, much to his confusion, and Jesus acts as if he is amazed that a teacher of Israle could not understand what he was saying. It must have been a long, humbling night for Nicodemus.

The verses right before our reading is significant: “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (vv. 12-13). Jesus then connects himself as the Son of Man to the incident in Numbers 21:6-9, when people bitten by poisonous snakes were able to look at a likeness of a snake on a pole and live. The snakes had been sent by God in return for the people’s disobedience and rebelliousness. Likewise, the Son of Man will be lifted up on a pole—the cross— and that action will also bring salvation (vv. 14-15).

Verse 16 is probably one of the most quoted verses in all of scripture, but it is also the link that holds together all of today’s readings. God’s gift of Jesus to the world, as God’s son, can draw those who truly see this sacrifice to a life with God if they believe in Jesus—only through faith, not by virtue of birth or anything else beyond our control (vv. 16-17).

Let’s return, then, to the figure of Nicodemus. Nicodemus, as a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel, has a lot to lose by allying with Jesus in the light of day. Nicodemus may have been “born of water” as a son of Abraham, but he cannot yet consent at this point to be born of the Spirit—to let go of any concerns about position and logic and to just have faith in Jesus as the Son of Man and the Son of God. To be born of the Spirit is to be not just “born again,” but to be—more importantly—“born from above.” Until we are ready to have that faith, we are like ones still in the womb. But once babies are born, they emerge from the waters of birth into the light of reality. Jesus invites Nicodemus-- and all of us--  to emerge from the darkness into the light of faith.

(4th Sunday in Lent B)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Prayer 781

A detail from an Emil Frei window at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ferguson, MO where I am doing an internship. Please pray for peace and justice in Ferguson.
Open our hearts, O Blessed Savior, that we may be filled with fire for your call to love and repentance. Accept our heartfelt remorse for all our sins; for our actions, and for the times we did not act in the face of wrong. May we dedicate ourselves to building your kingdom: to empower, to encourage, to work for enlightenment and peace. May we seek to be healing hands in an aching world, Lord Christ, grounded in true love and faithfulness. May we plant peace where there are now barren fields, and may we start within our own troubled hearts. Make us a people for others, embodying generosity, humility, kindness, and wisdom, working peace in your name. Holy One, we lay before You our cares and concerns, trusting in your mercy, rejoicing in your steadfast love.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Prayer 780- Inspired by Psalm 23

(Based on Psalm 23)
God is our shepherd and provider,
You claim us as your own.
God leads us into pastures that supply all our needs;
You give us rest, wholeness, and security.
God refreshes and revives our souls anew;
leading us into truth,
trusting us to follow and glorify God's Name.
You shield us by your strength and vigilance;
when trials approach us,
we have no fear,
for You hold us in your hand
even when the darkness of death looms.
You provide a rich banquet for us even as enemies look on;
You have consecrated us and blessed us abundantly.
Your steadfast promise of love enfolds us,
and goodness and mercy are our sure companions
as You lead us through our lives.
We rest securely in your arms,
and our home is with You forever.
O Shepherd, hear the call of your people and gather them close, especially those we now name.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Prayer 779

From the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris.

Lord Christ, You open your arms wide for us on the cross: may we run to your embrace and walk in righteousness beside each other. May the words of our mouths and meditations of our hearts be always pleasing to You, O Holy One, and help us grow in grace and wisdom. May we be steadfast in opposing evil, resolute in rejecting oppression, and hopeful in working for the common good. Gift us with the presence of your healing Spirit, O God, that we may be cleansed of all our sins and healed of all our infirmities in body, mind, and spirit.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Prayer 778

A waterfall in the Yosemite Valley creates a rainbow.

Bless the Lord, O my soul: may my heart sing out the praise of God, and give thanks as I rise. Holy One, with humble hearts we turn to You, seeking your guidance and protection as we live out your ways. Give us perseverance to run the race set before us today, and to follow in the path our Savior set before us. May we soak in your wisdom as a spring field opens its arms to the rain. May we raise our song in praise of your unbounded love for us, and reflect that love into the world. Accept our prayers as we lift them before You, that we may be drawn closer into communion with You. Almighty One, You know the inmost reaches of our hearts: send out your Spirit to envelop those whom we now name.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Prayer 776- inspired by Psalm 96

Muir Woods.

Let us sing to the Lord a new song: and give full voice to our thanks and praise for all the mercies of God. Let us spring up from our beds with prayers on our hearts, and glory in this day with prayers on our lips. Let us sing out a new song of justice and harmony, seeking others' welfare as much as our own. Let us sing a song of community, of thanksgiving for being bound together in love and faithfulness. Let us sing out that God loves each one of us, and honor God's loving power that shines throughout creation. Let us tend to each other and sow the seeds of love in every heart, grateful for the face of Christ in all. Let us praise our common bond of friendship, and cultivate hearts of peace and goodwill. Holy One, You are in the midst of us: let us make You a dwelling place within our hearts. Place your strengthening hand of blessing over those who seek You, especially:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Prayer 775- The 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday"

Blessed Savior, lead us and guide us this day, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples in word and deed. Let us walk with saints and martyrs for peace and justice, that every step be a testimony to your call to righteousness. Let us march joyfully toward your kingdom, remembering your call to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before You. Let us forge everlasting bonds of brotherhood and peace, and put our shoulders under the yoke of your love. Help us to bridge the chasms of fear and intolerance that divide us and lead us to anger and sin. Bring us through the winter of discontent and bitter tears to the vernal warmth radiating from the Beloved Community. Strengthen the weary, Lord Christ, and let the hearts of all be filled with blessing, compassion, and contentment. Seal us with your Spirit, and gather within your embrace those we now remember.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Prayer 774

Be our light in the darkness dear God, and our guide as we seek our way. May our prayers of thanksgiving and praise rise with the morning sun, for You are our God. Forgive us our sins, O Merciful One, for the times we have blamed others for our own faults. As the sun peeks over the rooftop, may hope rise within our hearts, that we may bring honor to your Name. May we remember that the quest for justice begins with truly loving others and loving You, our Redeemer. Bring us into the orbit of your wisdom, O Christ, that we may always sit at your feet and be filled with your truth. Bend near to those who call upon You, O Spirit of God, and shade them with your outstretched hand.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Prayer 773

Light of Light, we kneel before your glory, grateful for your care and guidance. Forgive us, Most Merciful One, for our failure to love You and each other, and accept our repentance with our whole hearts. 

Blessed Redeemer, renew in us a spirit of peace and forbearance, that we may live in justice and contentment. Help us to honor your image in each other, and humbly serve each other in constancy and devotion. Help us walk gently upon the earth, that we may wonder at your love for us springing up from creation. Strengthen our determination to be your disciples in word and deed, that we may proclaim your goodness and love in all we do. 

Draw under the shadow of your wings all who are troubled in body, mind, or spirit, and smooth their sorrows and pain away. Unite us within the bonds of your love, and let your blessing come down upon us like the rays of the rising sun.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Prayer 772

Holy One, set us upon the broad and verdant plain of your mercy, that the hills may ring with our songs to Your glory. 

Forgive us our weaknesses and fears, of the times we have fallen short of your Love. 

 May we use our words to the praise of your Name, to build up those around us and to speak truth to power. 
May we use our hands to provide help to the oppressed and to bring healing and compassion into birth. 
May we use backs to share the burden of those bowed down, and to build a more just society. 

May we use our thoughts to pray unceasingly, that all we do be good and right, seeking your guidance, O God.  Lord Christ, encircle us with your outstretched arms of mercy, that we may orient our hearts toward your service and the service of others. Holy Spirit, alight upon the souls of those who call upon You, and lighten the hearts of those who pray.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

prayer 771

Let us join our hands and join our hearts within the holy assembly, praising and worshiping our God in a spirit of peace and charity. 

Make us constant in our love for You, O God; may we cling to the Rock of Our Salvation. Bring all things into unity before the welcoming hearth of your love, Most Merciful One. You are our Redeemer, Holy Lord: may we always humbly abide under the shelter of your grace. 

Give us a spirit of compassion, that we may earnestly serve You in all we meet today. Give us a spirit of longing for truth, that we may fill our hearts to overflowing with your wisdom. Give us strength to carry your banner in word and in deed, that we be joyful disciples of the gospel. 

Bear us up on the wings of your mercy, especially those whose needs we bring before You.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Prayer 770

Holy One, fill us with your peace, and center us with your love throughout the day. Accept our penitence for the times we have faltered, O God, and refresh our hearts to hold fast to faith. Awaken our spirits to the glory of your truth, and let them overflow with your love. Give us minds hungry for your wisdom, and discernment to follow your ways. Let us seek to make ourselves holy and pleasing unto You, that we may serve You in a spirit of joy and faithfulness. Precious Lord, place within your keeping all who seek You, and send your Spirit of healing over those who call upon You. Hold those we now name within the palm of your hand.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lent, Sacrifice, and Wilderness

The Hubster gazes across the valley at Yosemite National Park. We need to get to Yellowstone.

(This was also posted on the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul, March 1, 2015)

On this day in 1872, President Ulysses Grant signed the law establishing Yellowstone National Park in what is now Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. With this action, for the first time, the United States government set apart a large wild space, and declared it sacred. We declared that this beautiful place would not be seen as merely something to be used—that we wouldn’t look at the forests and geysers, and start calculating how much value we could extract for them on the open market, but would instead declare the value of these things merely in their beauty and existence.  In setting aside Yellowstone, we listened to “a voice crying out from the wilderness”—and acted, placing it upon an altar of preservation, and we later followed that with other great wonders, such as Yosemite, the Painted Desert, Biscayne, and Acadia. We responded to the truth that some places had enough value solely in feeding the spirit. This was a somewhat surprisingly foresighted act by a nation which was at the same time setting out on its rapid and sometimes heedless race toward industrialization, a race that threatened other natural wonders such as this. Yellowstone and her sisters are sanctuaries made by God— and on March 1, 1872, we declared that we recognized that they needed to be preserved and set apart by humanity as a deliberate act of will and honor.

           In the course of my time as a teacher of American history, one of the words that the students and I would discuss was the word “sacrifice.”  Usually one of the first meanings that came to mind was “a ritual in which something dies in order to appease a deity.” That’s the meaning we often think of when we see this word used in the earliest contexts in the Bible.  Sacrifices were often performed to seal covenants or to remind those involved later of the covenant promises that they had previously made —a topic that will come up frequently in our readings during this year’s Lenten lectionary selections. Another meaning of that word that commonly comes to mind, often almost at the same time, is “something that one gives up.” Coincidentally, this meaning is the one that we connect to the season of Lent, seemingly as a default response. “What are you going to give up?” we ask each other. Yet there is another meaning, the one that was alluded to in the first paragraph, that I like to hold on to when thinking about “sacrifice.”

           In the etymology of the word, “sacr” means “holy, set apart,” and “ify” means “to do or make.” Thus, at its basic, building-block level, a sacrifice is something that makes us holy. It is also something that is set apart from the common world, and held up as different in a special way. That is the meaning of the word when we talk of the Eucharist as “a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.” What if we looked at the season of Lent less as a time to give up things (of which we are usually only mildly fond anyway), and more as a time in which we are called to set ourselves and our view of time apart? What if we looked upon Lent not as a time of denial or appeasement, but instead as a joyful time to try to make ourselves holy and to seek to please God?

            In looking at Lent in this way, we also have to acknowledge that we are not always perfect in our attempt to set ourselves apart—far from it! We were not always perfect in our attempts to preserve beautiful places. Many other beautiful places disappeared before the approaching wave of industry and modernization. The Arkansas River, which is wild and exultant in its power near the place of its birth in Colorado, has been dammed and channeled so many times by the time it reaches my hometown of Tulsa that it is, in most spots, a sand-choked, muddy trickle in all but the wettest season.  Even within Yosemite in California, we at times faltered in our resolve to preserve its wild, sacred beauty: the legendarily lovely Hetch Hetchy Valley was flooded to create a reservoir to slake the thirst of rapidly expanding cities far to its west.  Yet, with Yellowstone, we began, for the first time in world history, a counter-cultural drive to stop our heedless rush to remake creation in our image, and instead, we sought to both preserve and provide access to a wild and beautiful place. In so doing, we were, in a way, perhaps hoping that this preservation and protection of Yellowstone’s rivers, geysers, and varied terrain would make US holy. That’s what a true sacrifice is: something that makes us holy. Something that sets us apart, and deliberately places us upon a different path.

            One of the objectives of observing Lent is to look again at how we promise to set ourselves apart in the baptismal covenant that we rededicate ourselves to periodically, and to examine how we can improve our adherence to those promises. As we begin Lent, some of us may have recited The Great Litany. Others of us may have prayed the Litany of Repentance in the Ash Wednesday liturgy itself. Both of these beautiful prayers serve to remind us both of the pitfalls and sins we need to avoid, but also of the ways in which we are dependent upon God. They also remind us that, as Christians, we have promised to set ourselves aside, to set our very selves apart, in order to be a holy people, a priestly people, sacrificed and sanctified and made holy by God and by our commitment to God.

            Lent can perform the same function in a different way—it is not a place, it is a period of time. It is a period of time—40 short days, some of the shortest of the year, usually—in which we remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, himself being tempted, as we read in last Saturday’s gospel reading from Mark 1:9-15. It is a time when we ourselves may recognize that we need a time in the wilderness—a time to strip away all the layers of daily concerns that often serve to separate us or distract us from the call we receive as Christians to reorient our lives in a Godward direction. On this day in 1872, we recognized that we all need time in the wilderness, to set ourselves apart. May Lent be such a time, a time not just of giving up some things, but more importantly a time to hallow and consecrate ourselves anew to God.

Prayer 769

Holy One, we worship You with all our hearts, rejoicing in your care of us throughout the night. Protect and preserve your children as they seek shelter from the cold and snow. Place the protection of your love over those who travel, and keep them safe. Remind us that You are always in our hearts wherever we are. Watch and keep all those who are in pain or anxiety, and give your angels charge over them. Merciful God, bless and keep those we now name.