Thursday, October 31, 2019

Prayer 2466: Lord's Prayer Cycle Prayer 7- Deliver Us From Evil


Our Father in heaven,
loving Parent and Creator,
tender Mother,

deliver us from evil,
for we depend upon You wholly
when our courage falters
and our integrity is challenged.

Strengthen us in faith, 
O Shield and Refuge of Refugees,
that we may renounce the sin
of claiming helplessness
rather than acknowledge our participation
in systems of oppression and inhumanity.

O Lord Our Banner,
Opener of Blind Hearts,
enlighten our hearts and minds
that You may set us free
from the miserliness of spirit
that besets us in the face of fear and division.

Teach us to walk humbly
in the Way of Jesus,
that we may seek to perfect our devotion
even when it is inconvenient.
Instead, may we ever embrace those fleeing evil
just as You embrace and sustain us each day.

O Loving One, hear our prayers 
and grant your benediction and grace 
to those whose needs we now raise before You.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Prayer 2465: Lord's Prayer Cycle Prayer 6: Save Us From the Time of Trial


Our Father in heaven, 
loving Parent and Creator, 
tender Mother, 

save us from the time of trial, 
for we are prone to wander 
and lose our way. 

Make us stronger in our faith 

and more willing to wrestle with the angel of doubt. 
Guide us into living and loving more fully 
according to your precepts. 
Help us turn aside all vain ambitions 
and concentrate fully upon your Word. 
Give us courage to make our hearts bigger, 
even if that makes them bigger targets, 
for love is always the answer. 
Help us to persevere 
through the difficulties of life, 
knowing that You are always with us. 
Give us the sight to see hope amid darkness. 

O Loving One, hear our prayers 

and grant your benediction and grace 
to those whose needs we now raise before You.

Amen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Prayer 2464: Lord's Prayer Cycle Prayer 5: As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us


Our Father in heaven, 
loving Parent and Creator, 
tender Mother, 

strengthen us and soften our hearts,
for You call us to forgive others as much as You forgive us. 

Help us let go of anger and resentment 

when we have been wronged, 
and nurture understanding 
in place of feeding the weeds of rage. 
Help us to understand 
that all are wounded and in need of healing, 
including ourselves. 
Help us to lower our defenses 
and not impugn the motives of those we love, 
and remember they love us. 
Help us to judge only as harshly 
as we ourselves wish to be judged, 
and no more. 

For You are our loving God, 
and You forgive us repeatedly when we fail You. 
Teach us that in bearing grudges 
we grip a weight that will sink us, 
and when harboring anger 
we risk loss in a sea of recrimination. 

Let us embrace those who seek our pardon, 

and repair mutual injury 
with the balm of Love that never fails. 
O Loving One, hear our prayers 
and grant your benediction and grace 
to those whose needs we now raise before You.

Amen.




Image from Medium.com

Monday, October 28, 2019

Prayer 2463: Lord's Prayer Cycle Prayer 4- Forgive Us Our Sins


Our Father in heaven,
loving Parent and Creator,
tender Mother, 

we thank You for your forgiveness 
of our manifold sins. 

Again and again You call to us 
when we have wandered from your ways, 
and stubbornly separate ourselves from your Love. 
We repent of the evil we have done, 
the evil that is done on our behalf, 
and the very real hurt we have caused.

Forgive us when we place our selves 

as an idol in the sanctuary of our hearts, 
which should be dedicated to worship of You alone, 
O Redeemer.

Help us to acknowledge the sins done 

because we do not try to prevent them, 
and arouse in us the will to take action.

Teach us that the root of righteousness and salvation 

is found in fully opening our hearts 
to each other and to You.

Help us clothe ourselves 

and our motives 
in charity and obedience, O Christ. 
Help us direct our wills 
to the establishment of justice and peace.

Come into our hearts, O Spirit, 

and guide us in matters great and small, 
for your Love heals all our woundedness.

O Loving One, hear our prayers 

and grant your benediction and grace 
to those whose needs we now raise before You.

Amen.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Miracle of Being Here: Sermon for Proper 25C, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost


Okay. Now I know some of y’all love fall and all. The mere thought of pumpkin spice everything probably makes more than one heart around here go all a pitty-pat. 

Me? I am a girl who sees pumpkin spice macaroni and cheese as a sign of the apocalypse, and yesterday when I was in Home Depot they had already started busting out the cinnamon-marinated straw brooms (and WHY is that a thing???) and back in the back they were already getting ready to tear down the Halloween decorations at 10 pm next Thursday and start slapping up the inflatable Buddy the Elf lawn ornaments, and then, Good Lord, it’s winter. 

And y’all remember last winter, right? That was enough winter last year to last me five winters. 

When I was a wee little towheaded tomboy, summer was my jam. Summer meant freedom. 


And one of the best sounds to me of that summer freedom was the raspy chorus of the cicadas and grasshoppers, who actually are related to locusts, that reached a peak in the late afternoons from the trees overhead. Their song to me meant the joy of the freedom to be out of the house, riding bikes or playing baseball with my friends, afterward laying in the cool green shade reading science fiction or Mad magazine and then hiding them from my mother who would have NOT approved of my taste in reading material. 

The green cicadas were the annual ones. But when I was twelve, I witnessed my first hatching of the periodical cicadas. 

These cicadas come in 13-year and 17-year cycles, and that year one of the 13-year cycles brought swarms of what we mistakenly called locusts out early and strong. They were bigger, they were black with glowing red eyes. In other words, they were creepy and cool. They also had a slightly different song than the annual ones, and I was fascinated by the fact that the sounds could carry for over a mile, weaving with the other cicadas’ as well as grasshoppers’ song into a kind of locust fugue. 

Those childhood memories came back to me vividly in the summer of 2015. Do you remember what happened that summer? The 13-year cicadas and the 17-year cicadas BOTH hatched in the same summer. It may have been terrifying to many of you, but to me it was awesome. I did feel a little guilty about laughing and watching a grown man who looked like he was a member of the Hell’s Angels run screaming and flailing across the parking lot at the Home Depot in Kirkwood as a swarm of cicadas chased him, but mostly I just enjoyed it and the sound of their songs merging together. 


But in the Bible, swarms of insects, especially locusts, were serious business. They could literally eat people out of house AND home. Remember, locusts were so feared that they were used as an actual PLAGUE by God in the Book of Exodus. This was no phenomenon that only happened in Biblical times, either. In 1874, a plague of Rocky Mountain locusts so vast that they blotted out the sun over an expanse of twelve states and territories pretty much ate all of the Great Plains down to stubble. It was kind of their last hurrah, because by the 20th century this kind of locust had become extinct. 

I tell you these stories to explain to you the context for the resounding hope and relief heard in our readings from Joel and Psalm 65 today. The Book of Joel was written in response to a cataclysmic plague of locusts that spread over several years and nearly drove the people of Israel to starvation. That time of trial, though, is receding in the background as the prophet speaks to us this morning. Instead, what we hear in our verses today is a vision of restoration, renewal, and rejoicing. The land, which has nearly been picked clean by clouds of insects that were said to resemble moving walls against the sky, is going to be brought back to flourishing. The time of terror of looming starvation is over. 

Right in the midst of the reading for today the people hear the promise of recovery and even future flourishing, with overflowing grain, wine, and oil, which are always the three symbols of the good life. Regardless of what has been endured in the past, a new day is upon the people. They are called to rebuild the foundation of their community by faith and thanksgiving. 


And then Joel goes further, and promises a pouring out of God’s own Spirit upon the people: 
“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; 
    your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
your old men shall dream dreams, 
   and your young men shall see visions.” 
 The terror of the locust will be swept sway, and the abundance of the Earth will be so profound that the fear of starvation and being wiped out will itself fade away. Instead, in addition to a physical renewal, the people will experience a SPIRITUAL renewal. 

And I wonder if you recognize this promise in Joel as one we heard at the start of this summer, on Pentecost Sunday? Because this is the very passage in Joel that Peter quotes from on that very first Pentecost after those who see the disciples out in the streets praising God after the Spirit is poured out upon them—and instead they get charged with being drunk before noon. Remember that? It’s that kind of renewal, regeneration, and hope that seizes the people in Joel, and the early Church after they had just gone through the trauma of the crucifixion. 

 “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; 
    your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
your old men shall dream dreams, 
    and your young men shall see visions.” 

They will join with all creation in singing God’s praises—which is what Psalm 65 describes. This abundant spirit that God asks us to welcome into our lives is the spirit of renewal of this community of faith and our commitment to the work of the wider Church at play in the fields of the Lord. It’s a vision of the reinvigoration of our sense of community and mission beyond these doors in the name of Love Incarnate. 

Psalm 65 carries forward that spirit of hope and renewal, singing out with thankfulness God’s grace to us even when we sin, and shouting out with joy God’s ongoing, creating spirit in the world around us. And even though it’s in no way a dependable translation, I do like the way theologian and pastor Eugene Peterson rendered this psalm in The Message Bible: 

Silence is praise to you, 
   Zion-dwelling God, 
And also obedience. 
  You hear the prayer in it all. 
We all arrive at your doorstep sooner 
   or later, loaded with guilt, 
Our sins too much for us— 
   but you get rid of them once and for all. 
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest 
   at home in your place! 
We expect our fill of good things 
   in your house, your heavenly manse. 
All your salvation wonders 
   are on display in your trophy room. 
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, 
   Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, 
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, 
   of mobs in noisy riot— 
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop, 
 they’ll stare in awe, in wonder. 
Dawn and dusk take turns calling, 
  “Come and worship.” 
Oh, visit the earth, 
   ask her to join the dance! 
Deck her out in spring showers,
   fill the God-River with living water. 
Paint the wheat fields golden. 
   Creation was made for this! 
Drench the plowed fields, 
  soak the dirt clods 
With rainfall as harrow and rake 
   bring her to blossom and fruit. 
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor, 
   scatter rose petals down your paths, 
All through the wild meadows, rose petals. 
   Set the hills to dancing, 
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep, 
   a drape of flax across the valleys. 
Let them shout, and shout, and shout! 
   Oh, oh, let them sing! 

I love this version because the sense of the miraculous, the abundant glory and generosity of God around us saturates each verse. And even though the word is never used in any of our passages, what speaks to me, especially from the Hebrew scriptures today, is a sense of gratitude and a naming and claiming of the everyday miracles that too often get overlooked in our busy-ness and short attention spans. 

I am convinced that we need to hear this word of abundance and gratitude today in the modern Church. We’ve been told that the plague of locusts is at our door. We’ve been told that believing that God exists is pointless to so many. The idea that God is still active in creation as depicted in Psalm 65 is sneered at as old-fashioned, passe, anti-scientific. 


I am convinced that part of the reason why so many people who feel the absence of the holy yet turn away from faith feel that way has to do with the smug, self-centered, self-righteous faith that is the public face of Christianity in far too much of the world. You know the kind. The kind that stands in the public places like the smug hypocrite in our gospel passage, who congratulates himself for not being a sinner, a loser in his own eyes. The kind of person who has made his own sense of superiority and self-righteousness his god, without an ounce of compassion, love, or empathy for others in his shriveled, grinchy heart. 

Friends, that is not the gospel that is proclaimed here in our doors, nor, hopefully, is that the gospel we proclaim with our lives once we leave here. 

The gospel we proclaim is a gospel of radical love, radical welcome, radical grace—which is actually redundant. Grace by its very nature is radical. Grace by its very nature is abundant. It is the gospel, fueled by abundant and generous grace, with the pouring out of God’s spirit setting our hearts ablaze so that we can BE Christ’s eyes, heart, and healing hands out in a world. 

The miracle and abundance of God’s grace is not only our foundation as the people and the seekers and the disciples of St. Martin’s parish. That abundant love that we receive is just as overflowing as that grain, wine, and oil in the prophecy of Joel. It what calls us together in this place, and joins us together not just to love one another but to embody that love out into a world as starving for it as if a plague of locusts had swept through and taken everything down to the ground. 


I discovered this poem a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share it with you. The poet, Marilyn Nelson, has written a series of poems about a monk named Abba Jacob, who is full of sage observation. Here’s the story she tells in her poem “Abba Jacob and Miracles:” 

One day Abba Jacob 
was praying in a sunbeam 
by the door in his underground cell, 
and the brethren came to him 
to ask him about miracles. 
One of the elders said, 
My mother's spirit came back 
and turned out all the lights 
the night we gathered for her wake: 
Was that a miracle? 
Another said, One spring evening 
a white rainbow of mist 
passed over our heads: 
Was that a miracle? 
They went on like this 
for several hours. 
Abba Jacob listened. 
Then there was silence. 

Big deal, 

said Abba Jacob. 
Miracles happen all the time. 
We're here, aren't we? 

We’re here, aren’t we? And isn’t that the real miracle that undergirds all the other miracles we encounter every day? We are here, and we are called to embody the abundant and generous love of Christ with joy and gratitude. THAT’S a miracle in this day and age. 

Here’s the thing: when it comes to miracles, I am convinced that there are three kinds of people in this world. 

First, there’s those who deny the existence of miracles, and see the world ticking along, predictable and dull and maybe even cruel, every day. 

Then there are those who only use that word for the really big stuff, like the tumor that rather than growing blinks out of existence and, despite all probability, disappears or the tornado that skips your block or the car that enters the intersection and shield the family crossing the street from being hit head on by the speeding car that tears through the intersection on a red light headed straight at them. For these people, miracles are when the odds are defied and the laws of nature get leapfrogged. 

Then there are those who see miracles everywhere. 

I’d like to ask you to consider being one of the proud members of group number 3. 

This poem reminds us that miracles surround us, but we miss them most of the time. We make it harder on ourselves to see the abundance of miracles that crowd around us because we too often look for the dazzling, the shockingly out of place. 

But let's try this: Close your eyes. 

Breathe. 

Whether it feels easy or difficult, here right within us is a miracle, one that happens without thought and cannot be stopped by a mere thought. 

Even though it happens on average for each of us 16 times a minute, 960 times an hour, 23,040 time per day, 672,768,000 in a lifetime if we live to the age of 80. 

If we witness the first one for someone, we acknowledge it as a miracle, and if we witness the last one for someone, that also can be a miracle nonetheless. 


We love that breath when it powers a beautiful sung note. Some of us get impatient when it powers a shout or a yell or a sour note on a beginner’s clarinet that shrieks like a banshee. But even then, that breath behind that sound is a glorious miracle, a reminder that there is someone here, among us, requesting our attention and hoping, really, for our kindness and care and protective acceptance in response. 

This community is a miracle. A miracle as real and necessary as breathing. And as we consider how we can support this community, we are really considering how we can support each other. We’re here, aren’t we? 

It’s important to remember that we are given the gift of each breath, and each day from God. Jesus constantly teaches us to use each one of our precious days to make the most of this life. As we all pray to increase our commitment and support for this community and each other in the coming weeks, 

I hope you consider the spirit of renewal and hope that is stirring in this place, and determine to help build a firm foundation at St. Martin’s that will endure for years to come. I hope your prayers lead you to go all in in the building together of a Beloved Community here that proclaims a message of ongoing renewal through the creating power of God active in the world right now, in miracles both small and great. 

Amen.

Preached at the 505 on October 26, and at 8:00 ands 10:30 am on October 27, 2019, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville.

Readings:
Joel 2:23-32Psalm 652 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18Luke 18:9-14

Prayer 2462: The Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost


Holy One, Blessed Are You 
by all peoples and across all ages: 
we lift our song 
with the praise of the hills clothed in joy, 
the meadows covered in flocks, 
and the valleys golden with grain. 

God of Kindness and Redemption, 
You see into the corners of our hearts: 
have mercy upon us, 
for we know too well our sins, 
and are dependent upon your abundant grace and mercy.
Yet we pray to You in humility,
not seeking to justify ourselves 
 but to open our hearts and minds 
to be molded and fashioned as your children. 

Preserve us from pride and self-righteousness, 
and lead us to walk in the ways of compassion and empathy, 
as Jesus modeled for us,
all the days of our lives. 
Help us to celebrate your unbounded love and restoration;
may we share our abundance and our labor 
as disciples bearing your light and love 
into a world that knows only scarcity. 

Fill us with the joy of your bounty, O God, 
and pour out your Spirit 
that we may, by our joy, testify to your glory. 
Watch over those whose needs we now remember, 
especially those we now name.

Amen.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Prayer 2461: The Lord's Prayer Cycle Prayer 3- Give Us Tomorrow's Bread Today


Our Father in heaven, 
loving Parent and Creator, 
tender Mother, 
we ask that you give us tomorrow's bread today, 
that we may lay down to rest in peace 
and rise in strength and hope to do your holy work. 

Help us to remember and help those who are hungry 
each time we ourselves give thanks at table. 
Bless the farmers with a bountiful harvest 
and bless them and for their love and care of the earth. 
Grant that all who produce our food 
do so safely, sustainably and humanely. 
You sustain us with abundant grace: 
make us hunger for that bread that gives eternal life. 
Bring us together at your table 
for that heavenly banquet which unites all in your kingdom. 
May we be strengthened and renewed 
in communion with You and each other, 
and inspired to spread your Love into the world. 

Watch over those whose needs we now remember, 
especially those we now name.

Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Prayer 2460: Lord's Prayer Cycle 2: Thy kingdom come


Our Father in heaven, 
loving Parent and Creator,
tender Mother,
we pray that your kingdom come on earth 
as it is in heaven. 

Reign over us, Almighty God, 
that we may live our lives 
in service to You and to each other. 
Let us always remember that You are God, 
and we are not. 
Make us humble, compassionate, and unified,
re-enacting the broadness 
of God's table of kinship in heaven.

Let us be dedicated to doing your will 

by being a holy people 
founded upon mercy and fellowship. 

Let us denounce and end the systems of oppression

of which we are a part,
that steal from the poor to enrich the powerful,
that justify the terrorization of the marginalized;
that imprison children and rips apart families
who seek refuge from famine and wars from which we profit.
Let us instead work 
to bring your dream for humanity to life,
and demand justice and equity 
of ourselves and of our leaders. 

Watch over those 
whose needs we now remember, 
especially those we now name.

Amen.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Prayer 2459: The Lord's Prayer Cycle 1: Our Father in Heaven


Our Father in heaven, 
loving Parent and Creator, 
tender Mother, 
we pray that your name be made holy. 
Let what we do hallow your Name, 
for it is through our actions that You are made known. 

Let the words of our mouths enlighten darkness, 
dispel enmity, 
and heal ancient wounds. 
Let us act honorably and compassionately
toward the least in our society,
that all may live together in justice and peace. 
Let us remember that your Love is a sacred calling, 
and that as your people 
we minister in Your Name in everything we do. 
Grant us the strength to be gentle 
and the wisdom to be foolish 
in the name of Love. 

Watch over those 
whose needs we now remember, 
especially those we now name.

Amen.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Prayer 2457


Beloved Creator, your hand 
has hovered like a bird over us 
through the swells and the troughs 
of the waves of night, 
and our gratitude rises to you 
like mist at the shoreline of the day. 

Strengthen our determination to live 
in integrity and truth, 
compassion and empathy, 
honoring the spark You have placed in each heart, 
down to the smallest wren, 
guided by your love, Lord Christ. 

May we be known by our love 
that reflects your commandments, O Holy One, 
and live in the imitation of Jesus, 
who showed us how to live 
according to the dream You have for us, O God. 

May we lie down at ease 
at the end of the day, 
secure in our fidelity to your truth, 
and the tenderness with which 
we have tended to each other. 

Lord, gather us into your embrace once more, 
and grant your blessing to those for whom we pray.

Amen.