Thursday, December 31, 2015

Prayer 1073- New Year's Eve

Our hope is firmly fixed on the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth, who is our rock and our shield. Let us give thanks to God for the manifold mercies showered upon us. 

Holy One, draw us into thy safekeeping, and guide us with thy loving hand. 
May the hearths of our hearts be kindled with the flame of praise and worship, and our prayers rise to You like smoke on a winter wind. 
May we shine forth into the darkness with the light of Christ, and take up gentleness and compassion as our shield. 
May we rejoice in our common humanity, implanted within us at creation, and bring love to full flower in our lives. 

Send forth your angels, O Holy One, to guide and direct our steps, and tend to those who call upon You.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Prayer 1072

Eternal One, we give you thanks for the gifts you have given us this day. 

We ask that you extend your hand of protection over all those threatened by flooding or other weather. 

Bless and keep us, we pray, that we may treat each other as we ourselves wish to be treated. Forgive us our failures to keep peace with each other; help us strengthen our determination to live together in amity and fellowship. 

Keep watch with all who work to serve the common good, O Holy One, that righteousness and compassion flourish in our hearts. Lord Jesus, press the kiss of your blessing upon the brow of those we now name, as we pray.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Prayer 1071

Almighty, Loving Creator, we offer up our thanks to You for your many blessings upon us. 

Help us have the strength and wisdom to turn away from evil, no matter how small, and instead practice gentleness and charity. Accept our repentance, O Merciful God, for all our callousness and insensitivity, and guide us into faithfulness. 

You, O Lord, are our mighty rock, a fortress to keep us safe: we put our trust in you. 

Holy One, help us to turn our swords into plowshares and our stone hearts into hearts of flesh. Watch over all those who are threatened by storms, both within and without. Lord Jesus Christ, extend your comfort and blessing over all your beloved children.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Prayer 1070

Almighty God, we praise and bless you for the blessings of love and community, united under Christ's banner. Accept our offered praises for all that You have done for us, O Holy One, that we may magnify your Name in the world. Fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may joyfully serve You night and day. Preserve us, we pray, from all that seeks to wound or to threaten, especially cold or illness. Help us love each other and care for each other as You care for us-- without reservation or regret. Blessed Jesus, stretch forth your healing hand over us, and bless and keep those whom we now name.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Prayer 1069-- On Olivia's Baptismal Day

Mommy, baby, and Fr. Steve.

Let all the round Earth proclaim thy glory, O Creator and Savior, who blesses us and keeps us day by day! May the slumbering land sing out thy praise, O God, and the trees clap their hands in joy. May we join with the throngs of heaven to give thanks and praise to our God. 

Holy One, we lift up our hearts as we gather in your courts, united at your altar in love and remembrance. May we rededicate ourselves to discipleship and service in the name of love and hope, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Consecrate our hearts and our hands to your service, O Most High, and direct our feet into your paths of mercy. 

Place your healing hand upon those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, Lord Christ, especially those whose needs are known to You.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Prayer 1068- On St. Stephen's Day

We turn our eyes to the Rising Light, Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, giving thanks with all our hearts. 
Keep us, dear Lord, as the apple of your eye, and hold us in the hollow of your mercy and grace. Uphold us in righteousness and peace, and bring us in unity and charity into your holy courts. 

Teach us to serve each other and witness to your holy truth, as your servant Steven did, we pray. Preserve us from all sin and enmity, both from without and within, O Holy One, and open our hearts to your Spirit. 

Seal us with your blessing, O God, and remember those whose names we lay before You.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Prayer, Day 1067- On Christmas Day

The Holy Family; detail from a window by Emil Frei at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ferguson, Missouri.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God people on Earth! 

Holy God, we thank you for the greatest gift of all: the birth of your Son, Light from Light, Love Beyond Imagining! We bow before You, singing hymns of praise for all your many blessings: life, and love, and peace, and beauty. 

Come, Emmanuel, and rule in our hearts: guide us in paths of wisdom and peace. Let us fasten our hearts on all that is good and true: that today our Savior is born to us! Alleluia! 

Lord Christ, enfold us within your arms of love, and bring us within the circle of your light that we may shine into the world. Holy One, we ask especially that you place your tender hand of healing and peace on those we now name.


Born at the Right Time: Speaking to the Soul, December 25, 2015

Mother and Child, by Renoir

Unto us a child is born!

The scene is beautiful, yet none of the words that were spoken are recorded. After hearing Mary’s prophetic proclamation last Sunday, we know the birth of Jesus was not wrapped in silence, but that there was joy and exclamations and murmured words of wonder. The silent night will come later, as they sink into an exhausted sleep.

This is the birth of the Messiah, one who was born not just to his mother but to all of us. He comes wrapped in light and hope as his swaddling-clothes, yet born among the animals, among the hay and straw. Just when the night was longest, he comes trailing light and wonder behind him. A new dawn has come with his birth.

Yet there is also singing: Hosts of angels joining together in a chorus of praise and exultation, dancing and whirling over the heads of those shepherds, who see a glimpse of the heavenly host through a crack in the canopy between heaven and Earth, between time and eternity. And they are driven by their amazement from the hills to the little house where Jesus and his family rested on the bottom floor, among the cattle and cut rushes that line the floor.

All because of this child, who was born at the time we need him most. Although we have been plunged in darkness for so long, he will reflect light and joy upon the entire earth.

He will be God With Us, Emmanuel, born among the humble to scatter the proud and turn the powerful toward justice. Isaiah’s words confirm that he will be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” who will guide us into a kingdom ordered by justice and righteousness. He opens his eyes, is embraced and kissed, is held close upon the breast of his mother, wrapped in awe and expectation, with whispered promises of love and hope whispered into his ears. Perhaps he is like that baby described in Paul Simon’s “Born at the Right Time:”

Down among the reeds and rushes
a baby boy was found
His eyes as clear as centuries
his silky hair was brown
Never been lonely
never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
nothing denied to
Born at the instant
the church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
“Born at the right time.”

Born at the time we need to remember that we are people of joy, for Love Incarnate has come to live among us.  Born at the time we need to remember we are people of peace, for the Prince of Peace has come to live among us. Born at the time we need to remember we are people of hope, as we sing praises to our God whose sheltering faithfulness withholds nothing from us. Through him, God embraces the entire earth, and draws us all close upon our Mother’s breast, with whispered promises of love and hope breathed into our ears.

This is indeed, the time we need Our Savior most. He turns in his blankets, opening his eyes, and laughs in recognition at the angels dancing overhead, who sing just for him, born at the right time.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Prayer 1066- On Christmas Eve

Dawn, December 24, 2015.

Dawn drenches gold across the sky as we rise from our beds to sing out our praise, Lord God! With overflowing hearts we offer our thanks to You for your manifold mercies, for your glory which fills our spirits with joy. 

Abide within us this day, we pray, and guide us in pathways of compassion and gentleness. May hope arise in our hearts as we seek to live and learn from you, O Blessed Savior, delighting in your commandment of love. Draw us together in unity and amity, O Spirit of Truth, that peace and contentment may reign in our hearts. 

Holy One, press the hand of your blessing upon the hearts of those we now name, we pray.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Prayer, Day 1065

O Glorious One, put a new song in our mouths that we may raise our praises heavenward! Blessed Savior, whose light fills the skies, may your love fill our hearts. O Loving One who has blessed us beyond all measure, may we be truly thankful, and seek to give more than we receive. As Christ came into the world, vulnerable and humble, may we always see Jesus in those who seem powerless or weak. Let us hear the cry of the poor, the sorrowing, the suffering in the cry of the Holy One who will lie in a manger. As your angels sent tidings of joy to those who watched, send your angels to watch over and protect those we now name.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Prayer 1064

Blessed Savior, we lift up our hearts to heaven, giving thanks for all your blessings upon us. 

Make us mindful and gentle in our words and actions, that in our woundedness may we never wound another, we humbly pray. 

Guide us, O God, to always be loyal and steadfast friends and neighbors to all in whose lives we move. 

Teach us to hope, O Lord, that we may be filled with light and act with wisdom and courage. 

Holy One, teach us to dare to love in a world that cries out to You, that we may walk in paths of peace and compassion. 

Comfort those who worry or mourn, Lord Christ, and hold these beloveds in your hand, we pray.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Prayer, Day 1063

Window from Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Webster Groves, MO.

Loving One, thank You for bringing us in safety to this new day. Remind us of our many blessings, and prepare our hearts to receive the gift of each person we encounter today. Give us the strength to act in love, for love is the greatest gift we can both give and receive. Help us to see the face of Christ in each person we encounter, and do what we can to feed them in body and in soul. Guide us in all we do today, and sustain us in your ways. Hear the prayers and supplications of your people, especially those whose needs we now name.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Prayer 1062

It's someone's 16th birthday!  Doesn't seem possible....

Come to us, O Light Divine, and fill our hearts with knowledge of salvation! We thank You, O God, for the beauty of the Earth, and we laud and magnify your Name! 

Help us to welcome love and hope into our hearts as we welcome the Christ child into the world, O Spirit of Truth. 

Guide us into paths of righteousness, and lead us into unity and compassion for all living things. 

Give us the faith to do your will, O Holy One and serve you in peace and concord. 

Extend the hand of your blessing over all who call upon you, O Merciful One, and grant your peace to those we now name.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Prayer 1061

Glorious is the day that we can rise and give thanks to the Lord, who is making heaven and Earth! 

Set our steps upon the joyful path of wisdom and concord, Lord Christ, and unite us to You in hope. Send forth your Spirit in power to bring knowledge of redemption to those who wander, O God. 

Create in us loving, gentle hearts, and forgive us all our offenses, we pray. Help us to cast aside all that separates us from each other, and help us to forgive all those who have hurt us. 

Bring our wandering souls to rest in You, All-Merciful One, that we may center our lives upon your Great Commandment. Resting in your promise of love, O Holy One, we cast our concerns before the seat of your mercy, and ask your blessing this day.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The Rebel Mary: Speaking to the Soul, December 18, 2015

Visitation, by Franz Anton Maulbertsch

In year C, Advent is filled with people speaking truth to power. Last Sunday, John was a thundering prophetic preacher, fulfilling his own father’s prophecy that he would shine a light into the dark corners of the souls of the people, preparing the way in the wilderness. This Sunday, at long last, Mary gets her say. And she’s fierce.

This is not the meek and mild Mary we often see portrayed, the one who is throbbingly questioned in that pop song played in every mall in the land right now-- you know the one. The song that quaveringly asks if Mary knew that her baby boy was God, the one who would heal the deaf and blind and walk on water.

If you listen to the Magnificat, you know this song is utterly unnecessary. Mary knew all these things, and stepped unafraid toward this miracle she was called to embody.

We’ve seen stories throughout scripture of women who have spent their lives longing for a child, whose prayers are answered with a son, taking away their shame in a culture where a woman’s worth was often measured by who her husband was and how many children she could bear for him. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Samson’s unnamed mother, Hannah, and Elizabeth. Their responses varied when given the news that they were going to bear a child that was a particular gift from God:
Sarah laughed.
Hannah sang a song of victory.

Mary, though, hasn’t experienced a long period of childlessness—her entire life lies before her. Yet she is plucked from invisibility, is invited to embrace an unimaginable future, and responds with a battle cry of justice. Here she is, a teenaged mother, a peasant girl in a backwater of the margin of the Roman Empire, and yet she knows who she is, and that she had a choice that was hers alone. Mary responds with trust and power, but never surrender. With a crown of stars swirling around her head, she responds:

Let it be for me as you have said.

As the poet Denise Levertov recounts in “Annunciation”:

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
                        The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
                        God waited.

She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

And now this Sunday, Mary goes to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, and the power that passes between these two women and the miracles they bear inside them produces a war-cry from this young girl, the first woman to preach in the New Testament. What bursts from her but power from the powerless, hope from the whirlwind, empowerment that bursts every boundary?  What does she sing out in wonder and exultation, as she places herself in the hands of Holy Spirit?

A vision of a world turned upside down, where the oppressors are thrown down, and the lowly are lifted up and exalted. A world in which the mighty arm of God sweeps away injustice and oppression, where those who serve themselves will be spilled from their empty thrones.  A banquet where those those who hunger are satisfied, and those who have gorged themselves depart bearing the clinking chains of their insatiable greed. This God remains faithful and merciful to those who call upon the Holy Name, and will reclaim the lost in answer to promises whose memory still burns with power across generations and time, to deliver the oppressed from systems of injustice and the void of abandonment.

Mary the rebel, the righteous warrior with peace as her shield, sings a song of defiance, liberation, and deliverance. She lifts her hands and heart to God, and calls us to join in, too. Free to sing out with her our hopes for a world remade and repaired by justice. Free to offer our emptied spirits like a bowl to be filled with the promise of salvation, to respond in faith and courage with this anthem of expectation:

My soul overflows with the greatness of God,
My spirit sings unending praise to One Who Saves,
the One who lifts up the lowly servant who dares to be
the handmaiden of God Most High.
Surely, from now to time unending
All generations will see that I have been blessed.

Visitation, from Vie de Jesus Mafa

(This was first posted at Episcopal cafe's Speaking to the Soul on December 18, 2015.)

Prayer 1060

Ring out your wisdom in our souls, O Holy One, for we know that your love is from everlasting. Let us sing out our gratitude for all your blessings, Lord Jesus, and be renewed by your mercy. 

Kindle a fire in our hearts from your steadfast love and faithfulness, that we may blaze forth anew in hope and love. 

May we worship you with every breath, and seek your pathways in every step. May we work to repair the hearts of those who are hurting and welcome the abandoned. May the light of Christ illumine every corner of our spirits, and teach us that all are One in You, O God. 

Let us seek to be healers and helpers, comforting those who mourn and lifting up those who are troubled. Beloved Savior, wrap the mantle of your safekeeping around those for whom we now pray.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Prayer, Day 1059

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, December 16, 2015

Prayer 1058

As the light arises in the East, so the dawn from on high breaks over us: Come, O Light of Christ, and fill our hearts! 

You, O God, are full of mercy and loving-kindness: may our souls sing out and magnify the Lord, who has done great things for us! 
May we rise from our beds with a song on our lips, for the Almighty is our Shield and our Strength. 

Set our hearts and minds upon the pilgrim's path of justice, wisdom, and equanimity, O Holy One, we pray. 

May we radiate joy and contentment in the courts of praise, and turn our hands to tikkun olam, the repair of the world. May we come at your call, Lord Christ, and rejoice as we are gathered into your embrace. 

Bless and keep us as the apple of your eye, O Redeemer, and make your face shine upon those for whom we pray.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Prayer, day 1057

O God, we lay our burdens before you. In their place let us take up the cause of sacrifice: to do your will, to walk in your ways, to obey your commandments. In their place let us take up the cause of love: to love You, to love each other as our neighbors and friends. In their place, let us take up the cause of justice: for the poor, the weak, the refugee, the oppressed. In their place, let us take up the cause of peace: among families, among communities, among nations. And we place before you these loved ones who are anxious, troubled, or in pain, and ask that you give your angels charge over them.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Prayer, day 1056

O Love that Passes All Understanding, we thank You for this life, the greatest gift of all. We glorify You: if even the stones and trees sing praises, who are we to keep silent? We abide in You as a baby rests in her Mother's embrace. Let your will be to us as the wind beneath the wings of the migrating flocks. We ask your protection for those for whom we pray today.