Thursday, August 17, 2017

Prayer 1665: for transformation

God of Love,
cast the mantle of your mercy over us,
and bring us to peace and harmony.

Help us cast away our sinful impulses to disunity and division,
our worship of self and power.
Lead us from the base instincts of fear and anger
that we may be wise, just, and compassionate.
Beloved Jesus, we have wandered far from You:
let us hear your call to us,
and open our hearts to your truth.

Lord, you are the champion of the dispossessed
and the hope of the hurting:
take us by the hand, we pray.
Pour out your Spirit of Holiness upon us, O God,
and bless and keep those in need of comfort.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Prayer, day 1664: for hearts open to love

O God Almighty,
open our eyes to your wonders
and open our mouths to speak your praise.

O Christ, you opened your arms to embrace the world
from the heights of the cross:
may we be drawn into your embrace.
Open our minds to your wisdom,
that we may walk on paths of righteousness and justice.
Open our hearts to receive your words,
and allow them to take root in our hearts.
Open the clenched fists we nurture
that we may let go of fear and hatred
and join hands with our brothers and sisters
to seek peace. 

O God, your Mercy is as vast as the night sky,
yet your love shines as the noonday Sun:
hear our prayers we offer before You.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Prayer 1663: for courage and repentance

Grant us the courage to step out on the troubled waters.

Most Loving God,
You have generously given us life and breath:
may we use it to serve the cause of equity and truth.

Let us seek to love our neighbors as ourselves,
and fight alongside them against hatred,
for so we show our love for You,
O Merciful One.
Help us put on the armor of light
and cast off the works of darkness
as true disciples of your Word.
Let us renounce accomodation of evil,
confessing our feeding it through silence
or excusing it for our own comfort.

Let us not be so blinded by our own hurts or fears
that we lose compassion and empathy for others.
Lord of All Hope, create in us clean hearts,
and grant grace and peace to all for whom we pray.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Prayer, day 1662: on the feast day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, martyr for civil rights

On this day 3 years ago, we marched for peace and justice in Ferguson after the murder of Mike Brown, and I thought of the witness of Jonathan Daniels as county police pointed automatic weapons at us and watched us through scopes.
THIS is what the march looked like, and we were met with a military response.

O God,
You tenderly hold our souls in your hand:
hear our prayer.
Teach us, O God,
to act so that we are a blessing to others.
Bring forth in us perfect love,
in which we see all life as connected and mutually dependent.
Make us more prone to wonder than to wander,
grounding us in your Wisdom,
uplifted by grace.
Strengthen us
to offer our lives to one another,
and ground ourselves in your Beloved Comunity.

Cradle us to You in our pain, despair, or fear,
and brush away the tears of those who mourn,
O Loving One.
Open our eyes to the blessings we have
even in the midst of trouble.

Help us hold fast to your hand as little children,
trusting always that You are with us.
Hear the sighs of your beloveds,
and send your Spirit to comfort and bear up those we now name.


570, adapted

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Prayer 1661: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith in action in Charlottesville. Photo by Christopher Mathias.
Lord, we give thanks to You,
and we come before your altars
to be strengthened by your Word and sacraments.

Forgive us our sins:
our hard-heartedness in the face of need,
our abandonment of your law of love.
Lord, let us not keep silence
when brethren conspire to kill
or sell their brother into slavery.

Let us remember your voice, O God,
is not in the storm,
but in the linked arms of those
whose embrace stands against hate and violence.
Give us faith, O Holy One,
to know that all is possible through love,
especially victory over evil.

Reach out your saving hand to us,
that our faltering hearts may be strengthened
to stand for truth and hope.
Let us go forth into the world
inspired to take up our cross
and step out onto the turbulent waters
in the name of Christ.

May the power of the Holy Spirit
seize our hearts and minds
and lead us to redemption.
Holy One, we lay our cares and anxiety before You-
pour out your mercy on all those for whom we pray.


Readings for today: Proper 14, Year A

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Prayer 1660: for renewal and strength

Holy One,
You have guarded us in the depths of night,
and we turn to You like a child in her mother's arms.
Spirit of the Living God,
hover over us and renew our souls,
as You seek to work creation anew within us.

Revive and restore us,
planted firmly in hope,
that we may rededicate ourselves to You, O God.
Lead us to examine our hearts,
and purify our intentions,
that we may serve You
and each other
and all creation with joy.

For it is in giving that we receive,
and in serving that we lead,
as You teach us, Lord Christ.
Receive the whispered prayers of all who turn to You,
we humbly pray,
especially for these beloveds
whom we now place before You.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Prayer 1659: Confession and Repentance

Most Merciful God,
Author of Our Salvation,
let our prayers come before You
as we praise and bless your Name.

Pardon us, Lord, for our offenses,
our careless exploitation of others,
our heedless abuse of your creation.
Bring us out of error into truth,
and strengthen us to will to live humbly together,
in justice and in peace.

Lord Jesus, we put our trust in You:
may we devote ourselves to your healing ways,
empowered by love, not hate.
Place your hand of blessing, Lord,
over all who seek comfort in your embrace.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Prayer 1658: that our lives be testimony

Blessed Jesus, we thank you for the gift of this day:
make us worthy of bearing your Name in it.

Let today be a day in which we remember
the mercy shown us in all our failings,
and be ourselves merciful and kind.
Let today be a day made holy
by how we reflected God's mercy and compassion for all.
Let today be a day in which we act
renewed by our hope, faith, and trust
in God and each other.
Let today be a day
of reconciliation, liberation, and humble service.
Let today be a day in which it is known
that we honored and glorified God's love in all things.
Let today be a day
for acts of healing where there is pain,
and understanding where there is fear.

Let our lives be testaments
and living offerings to your saving help, O Holy One.
Almighty God, Creator, Savior, Life-giver,
open wide your hand and fill us with grace.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Prayer 1657: for discipleship

Loving God, we rise with songs of thanks and praise,
for you have brought us safely to this new day.

May your word, O Lord, be a light to our path;
may we trust in your guidance
and be led by your law of love.
Sustain our hearts in fath and hope, Lord Christ,
and unify them in fulfilling your work in the world today.
Spirit of the Living God,
fill us with the power of grace and holiness
that we may serve God in gentleness.
Give us strength to choose good and renounce evil:
make us peace-makers and healers in your Name.

Extend your saving help to those who seek You, O God,
and bless and keep all those for whom we pray.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Prayer 1656: for a revolution of hope

Glory to You, Most Holy God,
we rise to give you praise and honor.

Open our eyes by faith
to see your radiant truth;
open our hearts by hope
to nurture your law of love within us.
Lead us, O Jesus, in paths of compassion,
that we may take up your healing work with joy.
May we resist the works of darkness:
injustice, enmity, and falsehood,
and denounce all who profit through greed.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
work in us a revolution of hope,
caring for each other as You care for us, O God.

Lord, we rely upon your saving help:
place your hand of blessing and protection
on those for whom we pray.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Prayer 1655

Praise to You, O Creator and Preserver of Our Souls,
who holds our lives in your protecting hand!

We thank You for bringing us safely through the night,
giving your angels charge over our rest.
We remember before you our sins,
and ask your forgiveness, O Holy One.

Give us the wisdom and will
to restore the bonds of fellowship and love among us.
Lead us in ways of justice and peace,
and make us healers and reconcilers among all.

Lord Jesus, abide in our hearts,
and grant your peace to those we now name.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Prayer, day 1654

O God, we bless You and thank You for your manifold works.
Loving One, we raise our grateful hearts before You,
rejoicing for all our blessings.

Reconcile us to You and to each other,
that we may truly love as Christ loves us.
Guide us in the way of peace,
and give us tender, discerning hearts
to serve You and glorify your Name.

Help us to never cast aside love
when we have the chance to give it,
but bear us up on the wings of hope and trust.
Precious Lord, hear our prayers and petitions
as we lay them before You,
and consecrate and bless these, your beloved children.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Seeing what's really there: Sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration

When I was a kid, my mother bought me a little microscope and a set of glass slides. This was pretty awesome as a gift, because it reminds me that I have ALWAYS been a nerd. I mean really, how many little six-year old kids are thrilled with the gift of a microscope? Dolls I could take or leave, except my Mrs. Beasley doll, but I used that microscope for the next three years to look at all kinds of things—blades of grass, creek water, butterfly wings, and, my favorite, my own blood. That was a trip. It was amazing how something that looked one way with the unaided eye looked completely different with the aid of some magnification and some light. Magnification and light also were at work in the telescope my brother got about the same time—right about the time of the moon landings. We would train it on the moon in hopes that we could actually see the astronauts walking on the lunar surface.

The cheap telescope my family could afford really was not nearly capable of that amount of magnification and resolution, but we still would see some of the features of the moon more clearly than we ever had before. We also saw that some of the things we thought were stars were actually planets!

Those experiences with the microscope and the telescope completely transformed my perception of the natural world. Things are really NOT as they appear. I actually experienced objects differently once my knowledge of them had been changed through a shift in perception. I became aware- and for a little kid, weirded out—by the idea that that blade of grass was made up of thousands of green cells that looked like bricks, and that my blood wasn’t just red liquid but was made up of all kinds of weird round things floating in it. My mother never again had to tell me to not swallow pond water after I saw all the weird little critters like water fleas and bacteria flailing around in a drop of it.

Time can also do a similar trick to how we see things. When we are in the midst of some experience, we don’t really have perspective on it, especially if it is during a time of stress. But later on, our minds have a way of organizing our experiences so that we can make meaning of them.

For instance, I never really understood at the time I taught at the parochial school why it would later be important that I learned the “Hail Mary” prayer. I was just trying to survive making only 10,000 dollars a year and living without health insurance—and without car insurance, if my dad hadn’t continued to pay it). But later in my life, I was able to look back on that time with more gratitude, when I could, for instance, pray that prayer with my mother-in-law when she was sick, or teach it to my daughter when she needed to know it when it was prayed by her team before her CYC basketball games.

I’m not one who tends to hold with the idea that God “gives” us experiences for a reason. I’m more inclined to think that, later on, we attach the reason to the experience, particularly if the experience was difficult at the time we went through it, like when someone you thought was a friend betrays you, or someone takes a dislike to you for no discernible reason. I will admit that I found a great saying about that hanging on a plaque in an Ace hardware store the other day. It said, “There are two reasons why people are in your life-- to be a blessin’, or to be a lesson.” That saying made me laugh, but it once again makes a point about perspective, as well as about learning how to deal with stuff in our lives that can seem to make no sense. I do think we comfort ourselves or allow ourselves to move on in life by making meaning wherever we have an experience that puzzles or frightens us.

In today’s gospel reading, we see one of the most astounding perception-shifting passages in the Bible, and that is saying something. Jesus has been hinting to the disciples that he is more than what he seems to be, but they don’t get it. And let’s be fair—why should they? There certainly hasn’t been anyone like Jesus before.

Let’s set the passage in context: in the previous chapter, Simon declares that Jesus is the Messiah, and gets renamed “Peter.” Jesus then proceeds to foretell his death and resurrection, and then challenges his followers to “take up their cross and follow me.” He concludes chapter 16 with this statement: For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father,….” Then he takes them up on the mountain, and suddenly, their perception of him is forcibly shifted. And of course, Jesus’s three apostles who are with him do not know what to do with this experience of their friend and teacher suddenly being transformed into a dazzling figure. So they are rightfully astonished, and the same guy—Peter—who just a few verses back was expounding upon Jesus being the Son of God is now babbling and blathering about building little booths.

Their perception of Jesus shifts, and suddenly they see him more for who he really is, both human AND divine, the very things Peter had so confidently proclaimed earlier. Sounds simple when you say it, but it is obvious from a careful listening to the gospel that the Christians of Matthew’s time were still struggling to figure out who exactly Jesus is, just as we also are all these hundreds of years later. It doesn’t help that the story depicts Jesus as changing. I wonder if that is not a misstatement. Perhaps my friend Scott Gunn, the director of Forward Movement, is right when he says that Jesus was and is as he appeared at that moment all along—it’s just that the veil between his two natures was more forcefully pulled aside at that moment. Rather than saying that Jesus has changed, it’s more precise to say that the perception of Jesus is changed by this experience on the mountain. The perception we have of Jesus as a wisdom teacher and faith-healers is expanded by this glimpse into his true nature as the Son of God. And Peter’s there to see it all—kind of showing him what is really meant by his proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah.

In the 60s and 70s, there was a lot of effort made by certain theologians to try to discover what they called “the historical Jesus,” and by that they meant they one whose presence could be verified by actual documentary evidence. Of course, what happened as this quest progressed was a stripping away of all of the things that would have made Jesus anything other than a first century Jewish peasant, and often people weren’t left with very much to actually believe in about Jesus. That’s why it is good to remind ourselves that we are engaged not in a scientific experiment, but in a quest of faith throughout our lives—not that there is anything wrong with scientific experiments mind you, because I am a BIG fan of science. Don’t misunderstand me. But science and faith sometimes do not ask the same questions.

What the disciples saw in this experience will never be fully captured in words or descriptions, or explained by science, probably. But one thing that is implied by this story is that Jesus is not merely a human being, limited to a human lifespan, but he is the fulfilling of the law and the prophets—that’s what is suggested by the appearance of Moses, the law-giver, and Elijah, the greatest of prophets. Jesus is the Christ, not just a peasant, although he certainly is that, as well. 

Going up on that mountain—mountains are often places where revelations happen—helps the disciples gain a new perspective, if not a new understanding—of what it means when they pronounce Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the World. And just when that vision has scared the bejabbers out of them, Jesus does that most human thing of all to bring them back from their terror—he touches them with his hand, reminding them that he is ALSO still their pastor and friend. And so he remains for us today.


Prayer 1653: Closing Eucharist at Camp Phoenix

O God, we place our offerings before you this day.
We offer you our thanks for the glory of your creation.
We offer you our love,
to be given to you and to each other.
We offer you our song.
We offer you our faith.

Many of us will come to your table today.
We thank you for the blessing of fellowship.
Help us to walk away renewed for the path today will bring.
Help us to go out into the world,
rejoicing in the name of the Lord.
We cast before you our cares and concerns
and ask for your saving help for those whom You love.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Sermon for Camp Phoenix, 2017: Christmas Presence

We have been on quite a journey this week. We started with the anticipation of Advent, as we looked forward to the coming of God to live among us, seeking a home among us and in our hearts. We centered our week on the celebration of Christmas, even though we are in the middle of summer, to remember that the coming of Jesus as God living among us can be celebrated at all times and in all places. We ended the week with a celebration of Epiphany, when the coming of the Wise Men reminds us that Jesus is Savior for all the world, not just for people of his own region or culture, but for everyone.

Jesus came to teach us how to be fully human, and in doing that, to be children of God following in the footsteps of the Son of God. What can we learn about this from the stories of Jesus’s birth?

Jesus was born as God-with-us to remind us that we all have been made by God and are deeply loved and precious in God’s sight. Each of us and ALL of us are so treasured by God that God sent God’s Son to us. Jesus came to show us that the way of God is the way of real justice and real peace. Jesus came as a healer to show us that the way of God is the way of reconciliation, kindness, forgiveness, and loving each other.

And the truth is, it’s sometimes hard to find real justice and peace in the world, because it’s hard to find real community in the world. If we all lived by ourselves, we wouldn’t need to talk about justice and peace, or healing hurts that many people carry from the actions of others.

So Jesus came to show us how to live together as a community of faith, calling us to see that our differences as individuals can be embraced rather than being things that divide us. Here at Camp Phoenix, we come together as a special community. We come from all over the diocese and even beyond. Yet we live together in family units—sparrows, finches, robins, blackbirds, falcons, owls, eagles. And as we do crafts and swim and play games and learn new songs and pray together, we come to see that Jesus’s presence can shine forth out of every single one of us.

As we think about the Christmas season, most people think of presents-- P-R-E-S-E-N-T-S.
But I want to ask you to think about something else: PRESENCE.

Jesus is the living presence of God’s wisdom and mercy in the world. That presence still today shines like a light from the hearts of all those who seek to live into the promises we will make in a few moments as we are reminded of our baptism, and as Jonas and Alastair will soon promise along with us: promises to renounce evil, put our trust in Jesus, and try to live according to his example for us, as it has been handed down to us throughout time, and as we hear summarized every time we pray before Communion.

The presence of God is made visible to the world through our words and actions, especially as we seek to serve Christ in ALL persons, whether friend or stranger, and love our neighbors as ourselves even when they annoy us. The presence of God is made known to the world through us, as we are willing to strive for justice and peace among all people, and as we respect the dignity of every human being, of every precious life we encounter.

Jesus came into the world as one of the most fragile things imaginable: a newborn human baby, born into a poor family in a dusty barn—not even a house! in one of the most oppressed corners of a powerful empire. But he came into that particular family for a reason—so we would know that God understands all the problems we may have in our lives: so that we would know that Jesus himself understood injustice, and poverty, and oppression.

Jesus faced all kinds of challenges that while he was growing up could have made him angry and resentful, because his family did not have it easy from the moment of his birth. But instead of lashing out, Jesus responded with love, with real strength, in seeking to show us a better way to live in which we truly care for each other—in which we heal each other, forgive each other, and cherish each other.

God came to dwell with us AS one of us so that we could learn how to live as eternal children of God. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has a saying he likes to use: “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” Jesus again and again reminds us to love God, and love your neighbor, and love yourself, too, as being a beautiful child, beloved by God, whether you’re three months old or 9 years old, or 12 years old, or even 62 years old.

Jesus came into the world as a vulnerable little child to remind us that we are all children of God. Jesus is still present among us today, and asks to come into our hearts and minds and spirits. It is good that we remember that we close each night here at Camp Phoenix singing a special prayer remembering that we share that same baby Jesus who needed a place of safety, a place of sanctuary. And we can give it to him, as our best present or gift—the gift of ourselves, offered to God and to each other:

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
sanctuary for you.

As we get ready now to remember our baptisms together, as one Camp Phoenix family, we will remember that at our baptism, we promise to be sanctuaries, pure and holy, for God. As a community of faith, we can help each other be sanctuaries for God. We promise to love each other and support each other as followers of Jesus forever, even after camp is over. Even when camp comes to an end, the love that Jesus brings into the world will remain with us and keep us together as one family of God, always.


Prayer 1652

Heavenly One,
we raise our hearts and voices
in praise and thanksgiving:
hear our prayer.
Forgive us for the hurts we have caused,
and bring us to new life in your mercy.
Make us disciples,
living into your wisdom and truth,
bearing your light into the world.
Lead us into reconciliation and justice,
that we may walk in the way of healing.
Lord, we ask your blessing,
and lay our concerns before you as we pray.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Prayer 1651

Enter into our hearts, Blessed Jesus:
The whole earth rejoices as your light is revealed!

Unify our hearts and spirits
within your Beloved Community, O Emmanuel,
That we may reveal your saving love.
Forgive us our sins against you,
each other,
and your creation;
Teach us to walk in your healing ways forever.
Draw us into deeper understanding of your power and grace: 
Lead us in mercy and compassion for all.
May all people turn to the Light of Love Incarnate,
and see anew the wonders of creation, we humbly pray.

Holy One, we bring before you
our cares and our thanksgivings:
Pour out your peace over those we now name.


Prayer 1650: Day 4 at Camp Phoenix

Jesus, Light of the World,
Shine upon us and grant us peace.
Strengthen us to bear your light into the world,
Rejoicing and praising your name.
Make your home in our hearts,
To guide us wherever we go
Walking in love and hope.
We lift our prayers to the Prince of Peace,
And ask your blessing upon these beloveds.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Prayer 1649: Inspired by the Magnificat

Almighty One,
Our souls proclaim your greatness;
Our spirits rejoice in You, Our Savior!

Have mercy on all who call upon You
from generation to generation,
for You are our help and hope.
Lift up the humble,
and shelter all who seek refuge
beneath your mighty arm.
We rest upon the promise of your mercy:
extend the power of your blessing
over those we now name.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Prayer 1648: On the 1st Day of Camp Phoenix

Blessings and praise to You, O Lord of Hosts:
we come before You, to worship and give thanks.
The shades of night are drawn aside:
your glory fills the skies with beauty.

We thank you, Father, for the gift of your Son,
sent to teach and heal us,
to knit us into one Spirit.
Lead us in holiness and justice,
as you have taught us, Lord Jesus:
may we seek to do your will in all things.
Hallow and bless this day, we humbly pray:
fill it with justice, amity, and fellowship.

By the power of the Holy Spirit,
preserve our hearts and minds in hope,
and grant your peace to those we now name.