Thursday, June 30, 2016
Lord, with outstretched hearts we lift up to You:
we acclaim You and bless You,
our God and Creator of all that is.
Make of us mighty redwoods
in the House of God;
make us a dwelling place of beauty and holiness.
Let your peace pour down upon us
and sink into our very souls,
refreshing us like a cool rain.
Let our roots spread deeply
into the wisdom and love of God,
the Ground of Our Being.
May our arms open wide
to embrace all creation,
reverencing and sustaining all life
as your beautiful gift and blessing.
May we reach toward
the bluest firmament of your love,
O Holy One,
and provide a canopy of blessing to all we meet.
May we remember
our dependence upon each other,
and rejoice in the fellowship of Christ
that makes us one.
At day's end, may we look out
upon the time You have given us
and be glad,
and sing out your blessings with gratitude.
May our whispered prayers be carried to you,
gathered by the wind of your grace
that dances about us.
United within your steadfast faithfulness, O God,
we lift our prayer to you,
and ask your blessing upon us.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
|Franciscan brothers in Muir Woods|
Most Merciful God, we come before You to give You praise, and to bear your name into the world in love.
We confess to You our wrongs upon our beds; we have pondered our wrongdoing through the deep of night. Forgive and strengthen us as the sun leads us through the day, Blessed Savior, that we may walk in wisdom and grace.
We ask your protection from all snares and enemies: may we work to heal the wounds without and within. Let us never seek to help ourselves at the expense of others, but always seek to build the Beloved Community.
Uplift us through your Spirit of peace and compassion, O Lord, that we may reflect your love into the world. Rest your favor, O Holy One, on all who suffer or seek relief, especially those we now name.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Almighty God, we lift our eyes to You, our Help and our Fortress, and place our trust in You with joyful thanksgiving. You have kept us under the cover of your right hand during the night: in your mercy, hear our prayer. Cast away our offenses and accept our repentant hearts; forgive our sins, we humbly pray. May our tongues sing out your marvelous ways, O Holy One, and our lives testify to your grace and mercy. Place your strengthening arm under the heads of the weary, Lord Christ, and your benediction upon all who call upon you.
Monday, June 27, 2016
|And we do.|
Almighty, All-loving God, be with us this day, for night is past, and the fields ripen with grain, calling us to love and to work.
Make us lovers of your creation and all that is in it, filled with wonder at the stars and at every grain of sand.
Make us lovers of all your children, saints and sinners, remembering that each of us has both within us.
Make us lovers of your gospel, carrying it within our hearts and testifying to it with our acts.
Envelop within your grace all those that suffer from any need or trouble, we pray, Lord Christ, that we may sing out your love. Help us to trust in your abounding faithfulness, O Holy One, and embody your promises of mercy and peace. Place the kiss of thy blessing and the peace of thy Spirit upon those whom we now name.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
|Love heals, and always wins.|
Most Merciful God, we gather around your altar, united in love to You and each other.
With joy, let us turn our faces in anticipation of the coming of your kingdom, Lord Christ, and worship in the beauty of holiness.
Let us walk in love and Christ loved us: and take up the road of peace and justice.
Let us work as love and through love and by love in the world, remembering that we are made by God from God's own self.
Let us always be led by the example of Jesus, held as a shining banner before us, singing praises and working healing in his name.
Holy One, rest your Spirit of mercy and reconciliation upon us, and upon all whom we now name.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Bless and keep us, Loving One, and hold us in the hollow of your hand. Give rest to the weary and justice to the oppressed, Lord Christ, using us as the instruments of your mercy. Make us strong in the ways of wisdom and peace, and help us to put aside our hurtful ways. Shield us from those who wish us ill, and help us live lives of authentic grace and compassion, immersed in your gospel of love. We ask that your Spirit of Healing and Comfort rest upon those we now name, and grant them peace.
Friday, June 24, 2016
|In Muir Woods.|
Almighty and Ever-Loving God: we praise and bless You for all the wonders you reveal to us through your mighty hand.
Lord, we confess to You our foolishness, our pettiness, our headstrong ways: forgive us for allowing them to lead us to sin. Lead us like children, Lord Jesus, and let us seek your embrace when we are tempted to wander from your side.
Thank you, Holy One, for your tender care of us in joy and in anxiety: let us turn our faces to the light of your love. Merciful One, we lift before You our needs and concerns: and ask your blessing especially on these beloveds we now name.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
|Window from Trinity Episcopal Church, Tulsa.|
Almighty God, we give you thanks for your abiding love and presence with us. We ask your forgiveness for any wrongs we have committed, determined to redidcate ourselves to your holy path. Through your Holy Spirit, guide the minds and the hearts of the doctors, nurses, and other healing hands who seek to bring rest and comfort. You are the Great Physician, who has given us reason and skill to use to help each other. We ask that your blessing rest especially on all who are ill, anxious, forsaken, or in pain. May they continue to persevere, and know always Your healing presence in their lives. Resting in the assurance of Your divine mercy, we ask a blessing in Jesus’s name on those we now name.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Most Merciful God, we lift our praises to You, the Source of All Life, and thank You for your care through the night.
Abide within our hearts and renew our spirits, Lord Jesus, that we testify to your grace and mercy in every breath.
Comfort all those who watch, weep, or worry this day, that they may feel your Spirit rest upon and embrace them.
Almighty Love, Holy Redeemer, give your blessing to us this day, and send your angels to watch over those we now name.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Holy One, you restore the hopes of the anxious and call home the lost: press the kiss of your blessing on those we now name.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Holy One, accept our prayers and praises we lay before You, and keep us within the bounds of your mercy forever. Awaken our hearts with the dawn, that we may worship You with our first thought, recalling the love and faithfulness of God. Fill our minds with deeper knowledge of you, Lord Christ, that we may walk your paths of peace and compassion. Send forth your comfort, O Spirit of Healing, upon all whose needs we now remember and lift before our God.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Prayer for fathers
We thank you for biological fathers, adopted fathers, and fathers in spirit. We thank you for fathers who work hard every day to help fulfill the needs of their families, who fix broken things and teach us how to do it ourselves, who embrace us and guide us, who love us even when they don't understand us. We know they reflect and embody your love for us as our heavenly Father.
Comfort those of us who miss our fathers this day, and strengthen and bless those fathers who work so hard to love, protect, and nurture their families this day and every day.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Most Merciful God, who created us to love God and each other, we praise your for the gift of this day. Help us to live into our calling to love You and each other, that we may receive your truth into our hearts. Teach us to love and forgive without reservation, as You yourself love and forgive us. Abide with us this day, we pray, and unite us to each other by the power of your Holy Spirit, O God. Draw those we now name under the awning of your protection and blessing, Lord Christ.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Almighty God, we raise our hearts to You in thanks and praise, and ask your blessing upon this day.
Bless those who labor, that they may be blessed with rest and security after their toil for us all.
Bless those who seek to heal: inspire their hands and minds; guide their skill and reason to bring comfort to the suffering.
Bless those who doubt, who engage their faith and God-given reason to seek deeper knowledge of You.
Bless those who take up their strength and power to determine to use it for the common good and love of neighbor.
Bless those who mourn, and may those who can bring them peace be willing to act out of love and compassion.
We pray to You, Lord Jesus, for the particular needs and cares of these thy children.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
|Reredos in evening light, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis.|
Blessed Jesus, we rise to give you thanks and praise, and kneel before you in gratitude for for your steadfast love.
Set our feet upon the path of peace and wisdom, Lord, that we may bear your light into the world.
Break the stubborn faithlessness with which we view the world, O Savior, and help us to see its abundant beauty.
Inspire us to honor you, our Redeemer, by tending to the world and each other, that we may embody your grace and truth.
O Holy One, throw your arms around all those who falter, suffer, or worry from lack of security or peace. Shield all those who work to heal the world and the wounded within it. Merciful God, we ask your encompassing blessing upon those we now name.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Fairest Lord Jesus, your love soothes as the cooling breeze in forest pathways, your peace refreshes our souls: come, Lord, come.
Abide within our hearts and bless us with thy wisdom and peace, we pray. For we are a headstrong people, prone to forgetting your way of light and wandering far from You.
Forgive us, Lord: open our ears to hear your call to return, to keep your commandments of love and compassion. Fill the hollows of our hearts with a holy longing to serve only You, O God, and rest your Spirit upon us.
Draw within your mercy all who cry out to You, O Holy One, and comfort those we now name.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
|The Judas kiss: exterior detail on the Passion side of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.|
A few weeks ago my middle daughter and I traveled to Barcelona with very dear family friends who are her godparents and who treated her to the trip for her high school graduation. One of the highlights of our trip was several hours spent at the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, which, even though unfinished, is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Inside and out, the church is filled with and covered by breathtaking art: stained glass, sculpture, friezes, spires soaring high above the skyline of Barcelona, engaging the imagination as the entire sweep of the gospels are represented within it, from the Nativity side on the east to the Passion side on the west.
As I contemplated the terrible events that have unfolded in Orlando in the last several days, leaving 50 innocents dead in two separate, infamous shooting incidents, it was imagery from the Passion side that I recalled, largely the work of Josep Maria Subirachs. To the left of the central doors to the Passion side, Subirachs created a heart-rending depiction of the Judas kiss. At the heel of Judas, a serpent lurks, reminding the viewer of the original temptation to abuse human freedom to our downfall.
It is the image of that kiss that arose in my mind as the terrible news of only the latest instance of mass murder continued to blare from news sources throughout the day on Sunday. And this is just the latest and most horrific attack, built upon piles of harassment and violence faced by too many of our fellow children of God day in and day out, unleashed by the simple act of loving and hoping to be loved that should be celebrated rather than ever vilified.
It has always struck me to the heart that an act of love and friendship becomes the vehicle for handing over the Prince of Peace to judgment and death. Matthew 26:46-50 depicts Jesus’s foretelling of the terrible events to follow:
‘Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’ While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
One of the stories to attempt to explain the motives of the gunman in Orlando is that he was angered by seeing men kissing in the streets. Other news sources report that he had patronized the nightclub he attacked in the past. Whether this is true or not, the idea that a kiss could lead to so much hate and violence is one drawn straight from the pages of scripture—and then leaps straight to voices echoing from too many statehouses and even, most horribly, pulpits, promoting hatred of so many of our brothers and sisters based solely on whom they love. The idea that someone with such a propensity for evil could nonetheless be found worthy of being legally allowed to purchase weapons of mass murder with nary a blink of an eye by authorities at the state and national level is an appalling betrayal of its own. When will we cry, “Enough!” and act? Is this really who we are called to be as a people?
|Peter grieves his betrayal of Jesus|
I remembered that just to the south of the sculpture of the Judas kiss were two other sculptures. One was of Peter bowed down by grief after realizing he has denied even knowing the one he had sworn to love; in the background are scenes from Jesus's path to the cross and from his entombment, reminding us of the awful calculus of fear that destroys the very spirit of anyone who has a heart. The other is of Pilate washing his hands of any imputed guilt for the condemnation of an innocent man. I thought of a hundred families and hundreds more this week mourning the pain, suffering, and loss of their loved ones while the familiar excuses of powerlessness to stop the chain of death and destruction ooze up from every direction. And tears welled in my eyes all over again. When will we cry, "Enough!" and remember where our love is supposed to lie?
(This was originally posted at the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul, June 14, 2016.)
Lord Christ, for You our souls wait in silent reverence, grateful for your love, eager to follow in your ways. Breathe out your Spirit upon us, O Holy One, that we may seek You with all our strength. Open our minds and wills to turn back from our careless ways, and instead open our hearts to You and to each other. Strengthen us to help those worn down by care, pain, or grief, and press your healing kiss upon them. We lift up before You these loved ones, Lord Jesus, and ask your blessing upon them.
Monday, June 13, 2016
|The scourging of Jesus, exterior of La Sagrada Familia Basilica, Barcelona, Spain.|
Search out our hearts, O God, and purge us of violence, anger, resentment, and hatred.
Refresh and renew our souls by your Incarnate Love, our Lord Jesus Christ, and rest your Spirit upon us, we pray. Teach us how to reflect the power of love into the darkest corners we have created, and walk in the way of Christ.
Strengthen all gripped by pain, anxiety, or hopelessness, O Holy One, and send your holy angels to tend them. Awaken our spirits to your eternal presence within us, O Savior, and make your face to shine upon those we now name.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
|Jesus prays in Gethsemani; detail from a door at La Sagrada Familia Basilica, Barcelona, Spain.|
Holy One, we raise our voices in praise and prayer to You, grateful for your abundant works in our lives.
We own and lament our manifold sins and failures, O God; give us courage to do right even in the face of resistance. May we work for the common good, for peace and justice, honoring the dignity and worth of all persons. May we act as Christ's hands and heart in the world, and be forces of healing and reconciliation.
Lord Jesus, envelop us in your healing love, and bless those for whom we pray.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
|Processional Cross, La Sagrada Familia Basilica, Barcelona, Spain.|
We praise and bless You for the gift of this day, Lord Christ; accept our prayers and petitions as we give You thanks. We adore the One who calls us to full life within Creation, and join the chorus of angels who sing the praise of the holy.
May we love each other with tender mercy and gentleness, compassion springing up after every step. Make us bearers of peace who burn brightly with the holy fire of your love, Lord Jesus.
Give rest to the weary and hope to the anxious, O Eternal One, revealing the healing presence of the Spirit in all trials and joys. Sustain us by your grace, Most Merciful One, and grant your blessing to those we now remember as we pray.
Friday, June 10, 2016
This Sunday, our story from Luke’s gospel recounts the incident in which Jesus’s feet are washed by the notoriously sinful woman. The story was (and is) shocking, because it is a story of the breaching of barriers between those who benefit from privilege and those who do not.
The main part of the story deals with a meal at the house of a Pharisee—only belatedly given the name of “Simon.” A woman behaves in a shocking way—and most of the people around the table expect Jesus to know who exactly this woman is, and to rebuke her for her improper actions. It’s important to note that the woman is identified not by name, but only as “a sinner.” Unlike every one else in the story, she alone is identified with such a pejorative. We’ve got a Pharisee named Simon; we’ve got a Teacher named Jesus; we’ve got those who are at the table (and supposedly righteous folk); we’ve got women who were healed by Jesus and became his disciples regardless of rules about the proper behavior of women; and we’ve got a “sinner.” Then, as now, her status as an outcast in the eyes of the community of decent folk is understood as robbing her of her claim to full humanity, especially because she is not just a woman but a woman condemned by the common opprobrium of the community. And we still behave the same way. Here we sit, two thousand years later, imitating with the wrong characters in story, still prone to self-congratulations and self-righteousness, too eager to condemn others while demanding mercy for ourselves. We still want to insulate and separate ourselves from others rather than practice the radical hospitality of Jesus that recognizes no barrier as insurmountable except stubborn hardness of heart.
There’s a lot of talk lately about barriers and walls in our American political life. Yet, when looking over this passage, I noticed a lot of tacit walls being taken down stone by stone. We start with walls to protect purity and privilege-- the Pharisee maintained his purity by erecting a virtual wall between the notoriously sinful and himself. In his head, even though he has invited Jesus under his roof, he starts trying to toss Jesus over this proverbial wall when he thinks he has found proof that Jesus is a fraud. Jesus points out that the Pharisee, in his zeal to maintain to maintain his wall, has violated all the norms of hospitality. Jesus breaches the wall between the Pharisee’s thoughts and the action of the story, demonstrating that this is no ordinary wandering holy man, but at the very least a prophet—and we’re in on the secret that Jesus is so much more than that.
It’s always been a puzzle to me how the Pharisee gets so condescending about the woman approaching Jesus at his own table and under his own roof. This woman has broached the wall of “polite society.” The story makes clear that the Pharisee certainly was familiar with the woman and her reputation, yet somehow she got into his house and is now making this scene. As a matter of fact, perhaps he resents the fact that his dinner invitation to this wandering teacher has resulted in all the riffraff of the town from pressing into his doorways. The Pharisee fears being overrun and defiled by being brought into contact with people who do not meet his requirements for decorum and decency. In the Pharisee’s world, only those who behave in certain ways have the right to come inside the walls of regulations he and his fellow Pharisees have created in order to keep themselves pure and undefiled. From beginning to end, it’s also interesting that the female characters outnumber the male characters. It’s not often that happens in scripture-- and there goes another wall.
Jesus smashes a proverbial wall when he allows a notorious woman to touch him in a very personal, humble way, shocking the sensibilities of that time and that place. Yet rather than be shamed, she is forgiven and sent away, freed and healed by the authority of Jesus himself. Another wall cast to the ground. Even at the end of our gospel passage this week, we see Jesus breaching a wall again by hanging out with women who have required healing from him.
But here’s the problem with walls: as much as we think they keep “undesirable” people out, they also keep the fortunate ones penned in. In the end, both are in a cage. And even a cage of your own making is still a cage. Walls hold us in and limit us as much as keep others out. We like to think that walls will keep us safe, or at the very least will keep our possessions safe. We ignore the fact that for every story in which walls protect people, there are two stories in which walls are used to imprison people. With every wall we make, we overlook the fact that we have made ourselves feel ever more alone and therefore vulnerable.
In forgiving and loving the woman who anoints his feet, Jesus reminds us that the love disciples are called to embody is a love without limits, or we all stand condemned. The story of Jesus is all about dismantling walls—certainly not building them. Jesus was constantly violating boundaries and deliberately moving into liminal spaces in order to realign the thinking of the religious authorities about what God’s love was really about. Jesus came preaching repentance to all, because, as Romans 3:23 reminds us, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All have sinned, yet grace is available to all as well—if we are willing to trust in grace rather than some sort of human calculus Jesus was constantly tearing down walls- between clean and unclean, between the poor and the privileged, and in our story today, between those who congratulate themselves on their ability to determine who is “in,” and who is “out--” who is a “sinner,” and who is “righteous.”
(This was first published on Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on June 10, 2016.)