Saturday, November 30, 2019

Prayer, day 2496: For St. Andrew's Day

Almighty Creator,
Your song of love resounds
within the wave and the shore,
the wind and the trees,
the birds and the sky,
calling us to You,
and we rejoice at your care of us.

May we reflect your love, O Christ,
like the sea reflects the rosy rise of dawn,
and abide within the enclosure of your mercy,
breathing in your wisdom,
breathing out your peace upon all.

Mend the tattered corners of our hearts
by the soothing balm of your compassion,
O Merciful and Beneficent One,
and gather within your embrace
all those whom we lift before You.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Prayer, day 2495

Early in the morning
we lift our hearts to You,
O Wondrous Light:
come, let us add our song
to the wakening Earth's.
Before your radiant goodness
we bow, O Holy One:
may our voices ever sing your praise!
You have laid our your paths before us:
may we ever keep our feet within your way,
that we may worship You in all things.

Lord Jesus,
You lead us with gentleness and truth:
teach us to ever serve You
and one another
with joy.
Make us
a compassionate, faithful people,
living into your gospel of love and faithful action,
we humbly pray, O Lord.
Help us to renounce
the fears and failings that lead into darkness,
and claim our place
within the Beloved Community.

Gather our prayers into your keeping,
O God,
and and bless and keep those whose hope is in You.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Prayer, day 2494: on Thanksgiving Day

God of Abundant Grace, 
your love preserves us 
and calls us to wakefulness and compassion: 
we raise our hearts in thankfulness and praise. 

You, O God, call all the stars by their names, 
and set them dancing overhead to our wonder and delight. 
You teach the birds their songs 
that lighten our hearts and call us to joy. 
May we tend to the earth, and to each other,
with steadfastness and gratitude, 
always seeing your imprint, Lord Christ,
wherever we look. 

May we treasure friends and loved ones, 
companions and fellow travelers on this earth, 
and reach out to those around us in love and kindness. 
May we seek to mend the wounds we have created,
and forgive those who have hurt us.
May we ever cultivate being honorable and compassionate,
being just while loving mercy and grace,
seeking purity while acknowledging our humanity.
Holy One, send your angels to tend to those
who call upon You and depend upon your care,
especially those away from home,
and those whose needs we place before You,
that your peace, surpassing all our knowing,
may be our embodied prayer.


Shaped by Philippians 4:4-9, the epistle for Thanksgiving Day

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Prayer 2493

With grateful hearts 
we pray to you, O Lord Our Peace and Shepherd, 
to give thanks for your blessings without number: 
Holy One, hear our prayer, 
and let our thanks and praise come to You. 

O Great Life, Life Giver to All, 
sustain us in wisdom and integrity this day, 
that we may tell out your greatness 
and extol your lovingkindness in all our ways. 

Bear us up by your grace, O Sustainer of the Worlds, 
and draw us to you despite our faults, 
that we may be led deeper into holiness, 
transformed by your love into true disciples, 
that we may be blessings to those around us. 

Wonderful Teacher, Spirit of the Eternal God, 
pour out your truth upon us, 
and grant your favor and blessing 
to all those for whom we pray.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Prayer 2492: Inspired by Matthew 19:13-14

Lord, night is over, 
and we give thanks to You for the gift of this new day: 
may we use it for the bold proclamation of your love. 

Blessed Jesus,
with loving hands and compassionate heart
you welcomed the little children to come to you: 
you rebuked your disciples for their hardness of heart. 
Help us to unstop our ears
that we hear the cries of the little children in our midst, 
crying out from detention for mothers and fathers, 
seeking food for their hunger in a land of plenty. 
Awaken us to their cries, Lord Christ, 
and let our silence not condemn us. 

May we thus live into the wisdom and compassion 
that are the foundation of your path, 
that our souls may flourish within You, 
O God of Salvation. 

Spirit of the Living God, 
who sustains us by mercy and upholds us by grace, 
hallow us to the service of God today, 
and pour out your blessing upon those for whom we pray.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Prayer, day 2491

Most Merciful God,
morning spreads its beauty before us
as the earth awakens from its winter slumber,
as we marvel at the wondrous works of your hands
and your blessing of us with creation.

May we pull back the veil of our hearts,
and turn to true repentance for our sins,
that we may return to following Jesus,
our true advocate, Savior, and guide.
May we make our hearts a temple of your grace, O God,
and a holy habitation for Christ,
empowered by your Holy Spirit.

Hear the humble prayers of your people,
as we bring before You the cares and needs of your beloved children,
for we all stand in need of your comfort and strength.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Prayer 2490: For the Feast of Christ the King

Lord Jesus Christ,
we bow before You
and offer you our humble praise
for Your countless blessings in our lives.

Reign over us and remake our hearts, O Savior,
that we may follow you wherever you lead us,
and joyfully bear your gospel into the world.
Give us the wisdom and will
to acknowledge you, O Holy One,
as our teacher, model, and guide,
that we may plant our feet firmly
in the path of justice and peace.
Supported by your grace and mercy,
may we serve You with faithfulness
and be a blessing to others, Mighty Counselor,
standing alongside the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized,
the stranger and the seeker.

Prince of Peace, grant your healing
to all those in need,
and your blessing to all those we now name,
as we humbly pray.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Prayer 2489: For the Second Day of Diocesan Convention and Election of a Bishop

O God, You are our wisdom and our guide: 
bless and keep us this day. 

Send your Spirit upon us,
God of Grace and Mercy, 
and lead us into pastures of plenty, 
that we may be refreshed and restored 
to be your light and truth in the world. 

Make us bold in discipleship, 
steadfast in prayer, 
and united in spirit, Beloved Savior. 

Grant us wisdom and courage 
 that we may be resolute 
 in seeking your will, O God, in all things. 

Extend the shelter of your mercy 
over those for whom we pray this day.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Prayer, day 2488: for Diocesan Convention

O God, You are our refuge and our rock: 
we put our trust in You.

Help us to work together in harmony
in the work You have given us,
and let our deeds bring honor to Your name.
Let us make your Word and commandments our sure foundation,
and seek always to forgive rather than condemn.
Let us remember the generous love You have given us,
and uphold each other in our trials and needs.

Help us testify to the world
about your grace and mercy
by our love and example, Blessed Jesus,
and help us lift up the banner of love and compassion.

Extend the shelter of your mercy
over those for whom we pray this day.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Prayer, day 2487

Most Holy God,
whose house is founded on justice,
and abiding faithfulness,
we raise our hearts to You this day.
We humbly confess our sins:
our lack of kindness and humility,
and the injuries we have inflicted on others and against You.
Open our hearts to receive your Spirit, Almighty One,
to remake us as joyful disciples of your Law of Love.
Help us dedicate ourselves
to building rather than destroying,
loving rather than fearing.
Let us remember that
we ARE Christ's body in the world,
and work for reconciliation,
and justice for all.
All creation rests within your loving hand,
O Creator and Redeemer:
increase our faith
a mustard seed at a time.
Bless us with loving, hopeful hearts
and compassionate spirits, we pray.
Gather within your mercy
all those whom we now name in our prayers.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Prayer 2486

We lift our prayers to You, O God, 
by whose hand we are supported 
in every hour. 
Let our praises rise to you like incense, 
and may our prayer bring us within your sway,
to the renewal of our spirits in love and charity. 

Draw us near to You, O Love Divine, 
and shape us by your truth,
that we may walk faithfully in your paths today.

Keep us in the hollow of your hand, Lord Christ,
and on the lee side of your sheltering love,
that we may be forces of healing and reconciliation
in your Holy Name.

Secure within your embrace, O Holy One,
we ask that your blessing descend
upon those we remember before You.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Prayer 2485: Inspired by Caedmon's Hymn

O God the Maker, whose creation 
brings forth stuttering praises of awe and wonder 
from the untutored tongues of your children,
our hearts overflow with your marvelous love. 

Holy One, you weave the silken tapestry of heaven,
glorious to drink in and refresh our faith, 
spread overhead like the canopy of a mighty oak 
drawn anew to contemplate the depth of your wisdom.

Our feet firmly planted among the grasses, 
our eyes lifted to the spangled expanse 
 of the roof of the world You have made, World-Warden;
we stretch heavenward like tender saplings.
You have fashioned this Earth as our home, 
and made it holy by the work of your fingers 
for all to rejoice in your bounty.
Gratitude and wonder are the foundation of our prayer,
surging up like a spring of water from our souls. 

And now, O Creator, 
gather our swirling thoughts 
within the bounds of your mercy, 
and grant your blessing upon us, 
and all who turn their hearts to your light
as we pray.


Photo: Ruins of Whitby Abbey, from the British Library entry on Hilda of Whitby.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Resurrected Creation: Sermon for Proper 28C: The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

I stand before you today wearing a stole I was hoping I wouldn’t have to wear today. This orange stole was created to support Bishops Against Gun Violence, and I wear it today in mourning for the victims of yet another school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. I wear it in response to the murder of a mother and three of her four children in San Diego at the hands of her estranged husband -and a gun. 

I wear it in memory of all the “children born for calamity” that our passage from Isaiah brought to mind. As I was studying our scriptures in preparation for this sermon, that phrase hung heavy on my heart. 

It’s a problem all over the world—it’s true. On one of her latest albums, singer-songwriter Dar Williams wrote a song called “I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything,” which tells the story of a very young refugee boy who faces the constant possibility of being pressed into service as a child soldier, an illustration of a “child born for calamity” as Isaiah speaks about. Imagining herself in a refugee camp, she imagines seeing a little boy by himself: 

“Oh what have we here, he must be three or four, 
Shaken out of a boot on its way back to war 
And he’s not looking for a father or a mother, 
Just a seven-year-old brother, 
On this smudged line border camp of refugees, 
I am the one who will remember everything. 
I am the one who will remember everything. 

So where are we now, he must be five or six, 
Just running around, hungry kids, sharpened sticks. 
And he will grow with pain and fear and jealousy, 
Taken in by schools of zealotry, 
Who train orphans to make orphans evermore.
I am the one who will remember everything.” 

I was remembering this song, and hearing Dar sing it, and I was haunted by the knowledge of yet another school shooting-- the 30th school shooting this school year alone in America. Thirty. Then came the news of the massacre of that family in San Diego. It is this kind of thing that we long to see swept away in the new Jerusalem that Isaiah predicts where “never more will children be borne for calamity,” according to Isaiah’s sweeping vision of resurrection and renewal of all creation. 

In a world oriented to justice and peace, such as that described here at the end of Isaiah, these kinds of tragedies are unimaginable. In the new creation awaiting birth in our reading, such cruelty and abandonment of the innocent to the grist-mill of slaughter and abandonment would be unimaginable. We struggle under the weight of so many griefs, so many tragedies. And even worse than the tragedies themselves is the knowledge of so many of us refusing to attempt change, of too much shrugging of the shoulders and too many declarations of “That’s just the way the world is.” 

Isaiah 65 calls us to remembrance of our responsibility for the brokenness of the world—either through our selfish choices or through our easy acceptance of pain and suffering. Isaiah calls us to repentance—and then also to hope and resilience. 

The promise in Isaiah that God is setting creation aright should sound familiar—we hear it repeatedly throughout the latter part of the Book of Isaiah. The promise of creation, of the kingdom of God, is finally going to be fulfilled. This will be a time of peace, justice, and plenty. Jerusalem will be God’s city; in other words, the new Eden. The memories of war, violence, pain, and death will be wiped completely away. The laborers will enjoy the fruits of their labor, and blessings and mercy will be freely given to the people who inhabit on God’s holy mountain.

As we begin to close out the liturgical year, and approach the Feast of Christ the King next weekend, therefore, what could be better than to hear again these words from Easter Sunday, helping us to reframe our expectations of resurrection away from what happens to us after we die to what could happen to us right now if only we worked to bring the kingdom of God near? 

I am convinced, beloveds, that it’s important to hear Isaiah’s words about what the kingdom of God looks like—and to be willing to open our hearts and our hopes to the idea that maybe we could try to bring the kingdom of God into being. Maybe? Let’s face it—trying it our way for the last 100,000 years has not worked so well. Perhaps we could actually try God’s way.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Our gospel talks about wars, and cruelties, and destruction. And although those words were written for a very specific context that Luke’s readers were themselves experiencing at that very moment, we only have to open our eyes to see much of the same going on in our world today. A world that humans have shaped, and for which humans must take responsibility. A world where too many proclaim almost gleefully that the church, that body called to bring the kingdom of God into being, is dying. A world where many seem even to be entertaining the idea that God, or God’s absence, is somehow responsible for that suffering and that dying, which is completely backwards.

It’s also exactly the same line of thinking that the people in Isaiah’s time entertained. The start of Isaiah 65 begins begins with a frank account of how far astray the people have wandered from remembering where their priorities and loyalties should lie. Like a betrayed loved one, God speaks in 65:1-3: 
 “I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, 
    to be found by those who did not seek me. 
I said, ‘Here I am, Here I am,’ 
    to a nation that did not call on my name. 
I held out my hands all day long 
   to a rebellious people, 
who walk in a way that is not good, 
   following their own devices; 
a people who provoke me 
   to my face continually…”

The mixture of frustration, heartbreak, and righteous anger in the face of rejection come through easily in these words. We get it exactly backward if we ignore the scriptural testimony that insists that every time we feel God’s absence, that we feel God’s abandonment, it is not through God’s actual leaving of us, but based on our wandering from God. 

That’s starkly stated at the beginning of Isaiah that sets the stage for our reading. The people were afraid that their religion was dying. And that’s similar to today’s situation too, I am convinced. That’s why I think I also get frustrated when I hear repeated, defeated proclamations—sometimes by leaders of the church!-- about “the dying of the church.” 

If the church is dying, we are called to see that the mission field lies before us, and that endless possibilities lie just outside our door to carry the gospel out into the hurting world! 

Hearken to this: We live a faith that proclaims death is NEVER the end! Rather than defeat, we are called to see the hope of resurrection! 

In Isaiah, God isn’t speaking about the end of religion so much as denouncing the end of faithlessness, and there’s an important difference in that. Yet after God lists the specific crimes of God’s people, nonetheless, God knows that there are some, few perhaps, who remain faithful, and for that faithful remnant God will continue faithful. It is then that this beautiful poem bursts forth about a new creation that is ongoing even as God’s listing of human faithlessness hangs over the scene. 

This capacity to forgive, forgive, forgive, to see beyond the worst things humans have ever done to the ongoing possibility of our redemption and repentance is one of the things that reminds us who are honest that were God is God, and we are not. Where humans carry grudges and vendettas and nurture injuries of long ago to our bosom as if they were some kind of boon companion, God always seeks us, always leaves open the door to repentance, reformation, and redemption. 

God makes it clear that what has brought this calamity of conquest and exile upon the people is their own faithlessness—their lack of care and concern for each other, certainly, but especially their lack of care for the oppressed and marginalized among the people. Worse, beyond the fact that they have abandoned principles of social justice, they have made a mockery of their religious practices—claiming to be faithful and holier than thou, but engaging in unclean practices and idolatry. 

 The word of warning from the prophet to the people regarding idolatry hits frighteningly close to home for us, too, in this time and time place, as we hear of yet another school shooting, another group of children killed, injured or traumatized upon the altar of gun worship, we cannot fail to understand that these words against idolatry speak to us right now, in a dozen different ways. 

Yet, all is not lost. To those who remain faithful, who see the scars and wounds being inflicted in society, God offers a word of comfort, consolation, and hope- even more of regeneration and resurrection- that word that is at the center of our faith as Christians. 

It is at this point that we see the beautiful vision of Isaiah 65:17-25. The Edenic vision laid before us in this joyful promise of ongoing creation and recreation, new life and resurrection is striking: long life, health, absence of strife, and utter contentment with abundant food and peace for all, and once again the kind of intimacy with God that is the subject of longing since the fall of humanity. Indeed, in this new Eden, the serpent is prevented from being able to do his dastardly work from the get-go, as it is already marginalized rather than given the freedom to live without the mark of its duplicitous ways already stamped upon it—in verse 25, it alone has dust as its food. 

This time, we won’t have the serpent to point the finger at, in other words. This time, God makes it clear that the first cause of bringing our common life together is our own commitment to justice, mercy, and real peace, which is always founded on equity and action, not merely the “lack of war.” Underlying all of this beautiful vision is the idea that we have a responsibility in bringing about this world. We hear the promise that infants will live to ripe old age—and are reminded that we are called by God as faithful people to love all children as much as we love our own as part of making that dream a reality. 

In other words, this new creation is dependent upon the transformation of our relationships, both with each other and with God. This resurrection is dependent upon our decision to put the love we are called to embody into action, in decisive and insistent ways. We are called to be a people of hope, a people who dream dreams, as we were reminded a couple of weeks ago—but also a people who act to make those dreams reality. Resurrection of creation does not happen unless we take what we profess on Saturday or Sunday and take it on the offensive—an offensive of love, mind you, but an offensive nonetheless-- throughout the week. 

There are three particular emphases in the description of a transformed heaven and earth in this reading: 1) rejoicing, both by the people and by God; 2) life itself is transformed so that all can flourish without one life being sacrificed for another; and 3)relationships themselves being transformed by virtue of the new life and community that will be formed as a result of God’s creating, energizing act. Indeed here, our relationship with God will be so transformed that “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” 

The middle of our reading mentions that no more will one person enjoy the fruits of another person’s heritage. Leviticus 25 talks about the “Jubilee Year,” a year of rest and restoration that would occur every 49 years, kind of sabbath year of sabbath years. In that year, all bondservants would be freed, the land would be allowed to lie fallow and rest itself in its own sabbath, and any land that had been sold away from its owners would be restored so that no one would be deprived of their patrimony. 

Three major shifts will take place: God will take joy in this new work; justice, contentment, and peace will take the place of weeping, vulnerability, and injustice; and relationships and the order of nature will be transformed so that none must suffer or be deprived so that another may prosper. If we all understood that we are members of one community—the kingdom of God—we might not just be satisfied with a human calculus that divides our fellow human beings and children of God into circles of ”them” and “us”—which is unfortunately another way to say “losers” and “winners.” 

God is eternal. Love is eternal. How will we act in light of this knowledge? 

 Perhaps such a vision is exactly what we need, as more and more people talk about the “dying of the church,” as if that somehow lets all of us off the hook for living faithfully in this context. The joyful images of renewal Isaiah describes do not come without cost, without first a recession of faith and a loss of faithfulness. Isaiah 65 starts with a Dickensian admission that it really was the worst of times, and the best of times seems to be inconceivable. The first verses of that chapter detail a people who have lost their way in the darkness of their own willfulness. 

Yet after describing the waywardness of the people, Isaiah bursts forth with a vision of restoration so glorious that much of it is later recapitulated in the beautiful poem found in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation. It is no coincidence that Isaiah 65 is a reading that we also hear on Easter Sunday in the lectionary. The language is immediate and filled with NOW: God proclaims “I AM creating… I am about to create!” Those who believe that God is dead—open your eyes and see what CAN be! 

It becomes as simple as this: are we a resurrection-shaped people, or not? Is it possible for us to drop our thin veneer of cynicism to take seriously the idea that resurrection is at the very center of our faith? Isaiah 65 calls us to reclaim our faith with not just boldness but with joy. Real joy. Real hope. Real energy. 

Beloveds, the world is feverishly a-thirst for the message we bear as Christians who proclaim the God who we encounter: a God who calls us to love, who calls us to proclaim a jubilee of redemption against the machinery of hopelessness that only serves the cause of the oppressor, who calls us to walk in integrity and unity in the face of division and fear. A God who calls us into partnership in this new heaven and new earth, who strengthens us to see that what can be has been here all along. We only need the faith and the will to never, ever give up. It's time to start working toward that resurrected creation. 


Preached at the 505 on November 16 and at 8:00 and 10:30 am on November 17, 2019 at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville, MO.

Isaiah 65:17-25Canticle 9 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13Luke 21:5-19

"I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything," from In the Time of Gods, by Dar Williams, 2012.

Prayer, day 2483: 28th Sunday After Pentecost

Holy One, we feel the weight of your hand upon us,
and know You are near.
When we run from You,
and seek our own way,
still You are with us;
your Love is the air we breathe.
When fear rises
like a rogue wave over our heads,
the mighty hand of Our Savior is there,
and You hold us fast.
When a love passes away,
Your love, O Lord, is never shaken,
and abides with us through grief into new light.
When joy comes in the morning,
and truth and peace have embraced,
You are within us in that joy.
Revive our spirits and refresh our souls,
O Lover of All,
and create in us the will to love and serve You
and each other
without fail.
Open our minds to receive your wisdom, O Christ,
that we be Your Body within the world,
all for your Love,
which never ceases.
Bless us and keep us
under the shadow of your wing, Holy One,
and bless all those for whom we pray.


Friday, November 15, 2019

Prayer, day 2481

Wondrous Creator,
all that is has been hallowed
and shaped by your loving hand:
help us to see the wisdom and beauty
You have woven into the fabric of creation,
and knit into the bones of all living beings,
from rock and tree to stranger and friend.
We are tiny seedlings seeking your light,
O Holy and Blessed Maker:
make us mighty redwoods in the grove off your kingdom,
interconnected at our roots by love and faithfulness.
Help us to grow upright with integrity, Blessed Savior,
generously giving comfort to others
like the cool shade of a glade at noonday.
Lead us, O Spirit of God,
to stretch our arms ever toward each other,
and to be a blessing for the world.
Grant your mercy, O God,
on all the concerns we bear in our hearts,
and grant your peace to those for whom we pray.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Prayer, day 2480

Bright Morning Star,
we seek your light and guidance.
You herald a new dawn for those who feel lost or alone.
Your light brings promise
of the dawning of a new day
 a day in which all things are made new.
Inspire us to focus on your rising,
which drives all shadows from our hearts.
And, we pray, be a beacon of hope and fortitude,
especially to those for whom we now pray.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Prayer 2479: For Integrity

O Lord Our Helper, 
we lift our eyes to You, 
that You may guide and direct us this day. 

Grant us a thirst for wisdom, O Great Counselor, 
that we may walk in your paths with integrity 
and demonstrate your truth without fail.
May we pull down the corruption within our hearts, O God, 
and turn to follow your ethic of loving one another 
and seeking healing and abundance for all. 

Turn us, O Shepherd, from pursuing our selfish desires;
let us love You and your law with undivided hearts. 
Teach us how to live together 
in pursuit of the common good, Lord Jesus,
bearing with each other in lovingkindness, 
caring for the stranger, the lost, and the oppressed 
as You taught us. 

Anoint us by your Spirit 
to be renewed by your right hand
that we may walk in holiness and purity of heart, 
O Most High;
and look with favor upon those for whom we pray.