Sunday, January 31, 2016

Prayer 1104- in honor of my father

Today marks ten years since my father passed away. Here he is doing one of his favorite things- a crossword puzzle. Although he dropped out of high school in the weeks after Pearl Harbor to enlist in the Navy,
he was a voracious reader and interested in lots of things.

In the bright light of morning, O Gracious One, we come before You, worshipping and giving you thanks and praise. Direct our steps into paths of peace and forgiveness, O Holy God, that we may walk humbly with our God. 

We give thanks for all who have loved us, even imperfectly, as we ourselves imperfectly love others. 
Help us to know and consider our own faults before we criticize others, and remember our own sins before we stand in judgment. 
Lord Jesus, we remember loved ones who have passed into your embrace: may we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom. 

Make of us a light of compassion and love to those around us and strengthen us to serve You, We pray, O God. Send forth your Spirit of healing and peace, Merciful God, and breathe your blessing upon those we now name.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Prayer, day 1103

One of the things I liked to do as a child was drive down the backroads of Oklahoma with my dad. Here are some greaffiti on  a bridge support on the old Routh 66 just outside of Sapulpa.

Merciful God, you encompass us in a mother's love and guide and protect us each moment. We laud and magnify your Name. Create in us the will to love, to encourage, to persevere, to act to being about your kingdom. Open our eyes to our brothers and sisters who need our help. Help us to see Jesus in the soul in pain, the homeless wanderer, the person right next to us. Help us to manifest your love in the world. And we ask your blessing upon those whom we raise up in our prayers.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Prayer 1102

What appears to be a grove of aspen is in fact all one tree. His name is Pando,
and he is estimated to be 80,000 years old and he covers 106 acres. Photo by J. Zapell.

Almighty God, accept our offered thanksgiving for your mercies, renewed every moment. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, the One who upholds all creation and stands alongside us in love and compassion! 

Lord Jesus, you encompass us in your wisdom and tenderness: we worship you with all our hearts. 
Holy God, Lover of Souls, we abide in your everlasting mercy; we seek and we are found. 
Help us to be transformed in loving and by being loved, anchored within your life-giving Spirit. 
May we let love heal us, strengthen us, free us, enflame us, remake us as we are called to be. 
You, O God, are our root and our sky: may we be like green olive trees in the house of God. 

Comfort the afflicted and embrace the sorrowful, O Holy One, and place your mantle of protection over those we now name, we pray.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Prayer 1101

Almighty One, we praise You, grateful for your embrace, for You are our Rock and our Shield, our All-in-All. Your Love, O God, endures forever: your compassion and care for all of creation holds us fast. 

Merciful One, forgive us for all our offenses, and renew right spirits within us, that we turn our face toward your light always. May we remember that our love of You calls us into unity, fellowship, justice, and peace, that we reject jealousy, fear, and hatred. 

We pray to You for all who are in danger, pain, or anxiety, and for those who have lost their way. Press the kiss of your blessing to the brow of all who call upon You, Lord Christ, especially those we now remember.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Prayer 1100

Robert Frei, head of Emil Frei Associates, passed away earlier this week. His company, founded by his grandfather, created beautiful works of stained glass for churches all over the country, This beautiful depiction of the Last Supper graces St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ferguson, Missouri.

I will rise from my bed with a song of joy on my lips, for the Almighty One is my portion and my cup. Breathe on me, Breath of God, and inspire me to purify my heart and set my feet within thy holy places. 

Grant me a discerning, tender heart, that I may walk gently upon the living earth, and treasure all that dwells therein. 
Teach me to love as You love, remembering your grace and mercy that binds up even the wounded heart. 

Your love, Lord Jesus, fills my soul to overflowing; I know that my Redeemer lives. 

Your way, O God, stretches before me like a verdant valley, and beckons me to take my rest at peace. 

Guided by your saints, open our hearts to receive your Love, O Holy One, and let your tender compassion rest upon those we place before You.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Prayer 1099

Lord Christ, we sing a song of praise for the mighty deeds you are doing, and open our hearts to you in joyful thanksgiving. 

Help us ascend to the seat of your wisdom, O Holy One, that we may treasure the mysteries of your abundant grace. Help us, O Lord, to rise above our fears and turn toward your light with hope renewed, for You are our Redeemer. Keep us strong in faith, O Holy Spirit, that we may live and serve You in gladness throughout each moment. 

Bring us into fellowship and unity with one another, bearing each other's burdens and cherishing each other in amity and peace. Draw us within your sheltering arms, Blessed Savior, and grant the comfort of your embrace to those we lift before You.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Prayer 1098

Yesterday, we at Good Shepherd were blessed by a visit from Bishop George Wayne Smith,
who preached a wonderful sermon.

We rise from our beds to give thanks to You, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, for your love that passes all understanding. 

Who are we, O God, that You should take notice of us? Yet your mercies are new every morning. 

Bring us to completion in You, O Lover of Souls, and fill us with a reflection of your loving-kindness and faithfulness, we pray. At our rising, may we seek to embody Christ in the world; at our resting, may we sink into your loving embrace.

Secure in your compassion, strengthened by your grace and care, may we be guided by your Holy Truth to love and service this day, O Savior. 

We ask your blessing O God, on the works of our hearts and the works of our hands, that we be agents of justice, healing and unity. Stretch out your hand of blessing over all your people, and especially over those we now name.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Jesus Moment: Speaking to the Soul, January 24, 2016

Christ preaching in the synagogue, Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo 14th century.

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, the Holy Spirit is actively in pursuit of people. Zechariah was told that he would have a son, who would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth (Luke 1:15). A few verses later, an angel appears to Mary, and tells her that through the power of the Most High, the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will bear a child who will be the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Six short verses later, Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and sings a song of praise at the approach of Mary, the God-bearer. Elizabeth’s unborn child leaps for joy, animated by that same Spirit, just as had been foretold to his father Zechariah. After John’s birth, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit, and overflows with a song of prophecy and power (Luke 1:67). After Jesus’s own birth, as he is being presented in the Temple, the Holy Spirit guides Simeon into the Temple to see the baby Jesus, and elicits a song of thanksgiving and joy (Luke 2: 26-27).

In our gospel today, Jesus himself has been filled with the Holy Spirit after his baptism and time in the wilderness. That same Spirit leads him to the synagogue—a place where people think they know him, where they have categorized him in safe, predictable ways: this is Jesus, the carpenter’s son, raised in humble circumstances. And, really, are we that much different from Jesus’s neighbors? We know who Jesus is—or, we think we do. It’s funny—we think Jesus is just like us, and that makes us feel safe, smug even, sometimes. But Jesus is having none of that. Rather, Jesus calls us to be just like him. And that’s an enormous difference.

Right now we are roiled by political turmoil both within our church and without, and perhaps that’s the nature of human society—that very term “human society” implies that our eyes are upon ourselves rather than opened to see what God is doing among us in every moment. If the events of recent weeks have shown us anything, it’s that whenever we think we have Jesus sorted out into nice, neat categories, we are in danger of distorting his gospel message. We like the domesticated Jesus. The Jesus sung about in children’s songs, the ones who loves the little children of the world, the one who’s got the whole world in his hands, the sweet, silent baby lying in the manger.

But, as the Church especially, that is not the Jesus we really need, and that is not the Jesus we get, if we pay attention. The Gospel of Luke makes it clear again and again that the Spirit moves where She will, and fills us with power, coming upon us and resting upon us not to be filled with certainty but instead with possibility. That same Spirit which inspired Mary’s rebellious shout of prophecy and praise in the Magnificat pours forth from Jesus in today’s gospel. The words of Isaiah, coming from the mouth of Jesus, give us a foretaste here at the start of his ministry of what he is going to be about—and by extension, when the Church hears this passage, we are reminded of what WE are to be about. Called by the Holy Spirit, we have been anointed—set apart and specially commissioned—to proclaim through our words and our actions to

Bring good news through our words and deeds to those who are vulnerable and impoverished, both in body and in spirit;

Announce release and true freedom—the freedom not found in society but in the Beloved Community of Jesus-- to all who are captives, both in body and in spirit;

Open the eyes and heal those who are blind, both in body and in spirit;

Unbind the oppressed and liberate them from all that marginalizes them, both in body and in spirit;

Proclaim the Jubilee, a time of spiritual and physical abundance and completion—truly a rebellious act in a time of defined by real (and, for some of us, imagined) scarcity and want.

Body and spirit, body and spirit—these are unified and brought to life through the power that Jesus speaks through to us even today as we listen to this gospel. This is the blueprint, the battle plan, for those of us who dare to call ourselves children of God. Animated by his willingness to surrender to the Holy Spirit, Jesus has just dropped a truth bomb before us, and, just like those in the synagogue, the eyes of each and every one of us can’t help but be fixed upon Jesus as the meaning sinks in. Here, in the Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop joyfully and repeatedly reminds us that we are members of the Jesus Movement. But we can’t be part of the Jesus Movement unless we also see that now is a Jesus Moment. The Spirit seeks to shake us loose but set us free. We are called to be a Spirit-filled people, with each moment a revolution—a literal turning and reordering from the power of culture to the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our Moment. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.

(This was first posted at Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on January 24, 2016.)

Prayer 1097

The doorway to the chapel at Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis.

In peace, we pray to you, Lord God. All that we have and all that we are in rooted in You, O God, for You made us and sustain us in every breath. 

Let us be joyful in the presence of the Almighty One who bends to tend the sleeping earth and waken the saints in steadfast love. Come, let us gather in the courts of the Lord, and worship our Creator and Redeemer! Let us raise up our prayers and our songs, our hands and our hearts, to be sanctified to holy service. Let us tell out our gratitude for the love of our Savior, and shine forth with the light of Christ in the world. 

Send your Spirit like a mighty wind to enlighten us, O God. May we receive your Son into our hearts, and walk in compassion with all the earth. Shine the light of your countenance upon us, O Merciful One, and bless and protect all those who come before You.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Prayer 1096- on the Third Anniversary of the Prayer Circle

On January 23, 2013, I decided on a whim to start a "Mutual Prayer Circle" on Facebook, because so many of my friends and I were praying for each other. Each day, I pray the daily office, and then I write a prayer and keep a running list of those who had been commended to me for prayer by the group. The prayers themselves are then tweeted, line by line, on twitter, first on the church twitter account and then on my own personal account. Other people have both joined in praying and in asking for prayers. Today is the third anniversary of that group being formed. I am deeply awed that this ministry has resonated with so many people. May God bless us and preserve us, and may we always know the importance of prayer.

Almighty Creator, You are our Life and our All: Blessed be your Name in all creation! 

Be our Mother and our Father, O Love Divine, for you bear us in the world, and we find rest, comfort, and strength in your embrace. 
Be our home and our refuge, O Holy One, for all like sheep we are prone to wander astray. 
Be our light and our guide, O Blessed Savior, as we seek a path that honors You, and bears your hope into the corners of darkness. 
Be with all who have worried or wept in the night, O Protector, that they may know that You are ever near. 

Gathered in your Name, Most Merciful One, we bend the knee of our hearts before You, offering our all to You. Accept our prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, Lord Christ, as we pray especially for these beloveds.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Prayer 1095

One of youngest parishioners reached for the gospel book, and he delighted in it.

Almighty Creator, who guards us through the night and guides us through the day, we thank you for keeping us in the hollow of your hand. 

You, O Holy One, are the source of our life and our breath; all that we have and all that we are is rooted in You: bless us, we pray. Make us steadfast in hope, remembering always you abounding love and mercy showered upon us. Ignite our souls with the sacred fire of wisdom, that our lives may sing out the glory of your gospel, O Christ. 

Rest your comforting and healing hand upon the heads and hearts of those who suffer pain or anxiety, Blessed Savior. Guide those who call upon You into resolution and peace, O Merciful One, especially those we now name.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Prayer 1094

Almighty God, the day is upon us, and we rise to give You thanks for your blessing and care in each moment of our lives. 

Holy One, you perfectly love us, even in our imperfections and our weaknesses: forgive and restore us, we pray. May we seek a renewal of our spirits, and let go of old anger and hurts, that we not inflict them ourselves upon others. May we remember the overwhelming grace and mercy of God freely given to us in forgiving those who have wronged us. 

May we welcome the living Savior into our hearts, that we may be filled with wisdom, gentleness, and love. May we walk mindfully along the pilgrim path, compassionately serving each other and our God. Lord Jesus, help us to serve you in peace and goodwill; bless and comfort all whose hope is in you.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Prayer 1093

Glory and honor and praise be to God, who is making creation and who renews our hearts! 

May the Lord of Hosts bless us and keep us, and make us one people, rooted in creation, abounding in love. 
May the Lord refresh our hearts and renew our souls, that all who walk with God walk in the paths of peace. 
May the Lord comfort the trembling, strengthen the weary, and embrace the penitent, that all may find rest in the Eternal One. 

Lord Jesus, breathe your spirit into the corners of our hearts, and set our hearts ablaze. Hear, O Lord, our prayers, and bless and keep those who call upon you, especially those we now name.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Of Power, Covenants, and Love: Speaking to the Soul, January 19, 2016

Rainbow at Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite.
Sometimes, it seems, God taps us on the shoulder to awaken us, and the last few days have been no exception. Much of the Episcopal/Anglican world has been abuzz with what did (or did not) happen at the Primates’ Meeting last week. Yesterday, we remembered that great prophet and martyr, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There are some common currents that run through those events and our reading today from Genesis in the daily office lectionary.  In all these things, there seems to be a thread related to power, covenant, and freedom that binds them together.

Today’s reading from the Hebrew scriptures is from Genesis 9:1-17, which sets forth the promise of God to Noah at the end of the story of the flood. However, after I read it, I flipped back in my Bible and read the end of the creation account in Genesis 1:26-28. This is where in the biblical story we are first reminded that God created humans in God’s own image. Through establishing a covenant with us in creation, God showered humanity with gifts: our beautiful, fragile Earth, our only home; the breath of life itself; and most importantly, freedom, and the power that must accompany that freedom, if it is to mean anything at all.

The reading from Genesis 9 in the daily office lectionary today also speaks about freedom, power, and covenant, just as the story from Genesis 1, although with some differences:

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth….Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”—Genesis 9:1, 8-11

The language used as God speaks echoes with phrases from the Genesis 1 reading. Once again, humans are ordered to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Once again, humans are given power over every living thing. However, there is an interesting difference in the covenant with Noah and his family: this is not a two-way covenant. It is actually a three-way covenant: between God, and Noah, and with creation itself as well. The voiceless are part of the covenant, and specifically acknowledged as being included. Dr. King also understood the importance of contract and covenant when, in his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he spoke of promises of inalienable, God-given rights made but NOT fulfilled, promises of freedom and justice for all, promises that rest upon that same freedom and love that is an intrinsic part of God’s relationship with creation.

In endowing humanity with power and freedom, God made possible a real relationship of love between God and humanity, for love must be freely given. Love that is coerced is actually the opposite of love—it’s domination and tyranny. God created human beings with free will—including the freedom to reject God and reject God’s intention for creation even as we simultaneously long for God, the Infinite One. In giving us free will, in seriously desiring relationship with us, God gave us power. Yet the greatest way to exercise that power is through love, as Dr. King reminded us again and again. This reminder is rooted in the concept of covenant. It is indeed ironic that our current situation in the Anglican Communion has to do with arguments about covenants. On the one hand, there are covenants that were never made--covenants that sought to deny and restrict the full personhood and acceptance of all of God’s people, male or female, of every race and sexual orientation or gender identity. Part of this latest argument is, ironically about another type of covenant: marriage. Marriage, too, just like the covenants in Genesis, is a covenant that is rooted in love and the proper use of power, that offers rights and privileges, yes, but is also based on both fulfilling and yet sometimes limiting our freedom—all in the name of love.

This point might cause us to go back and look at those stories of the covenants again. The stories we tell—and scripture falls within this field—are always stories about ourselves, or we do not find them very compelling, much less enduring. In telling this story in Genesis about ourselves, I wonder how different the story would have been if, instead of being stated as “dominion over” the rest of creation, we would instead have been able to see that God was calling us not to use but to love and care for every living thing that moves upon the Earth. Love, like power, only exists through the agency of freedom, but the difference is that love uses its freedom to limit itself in the interests of the object of love, the beloved. God loves humanity so much that God gave us freedom in the interest of making us understand our heritage as ones made in God’s image. That’s our potential. The tragedy of human history, however, is of using our freedom not for the glory and love of God but for the glory and love of ourselves. Too often our freedom is rooted in a failure to pour ourselves out in love to our God and our fellow creatures, as Jesus does on the cross.

We in the Episcopal Church have declared that we will stand with those who have been excluded from full participation in the rights enjoyed by others, which is why we remember and celebrate the life of Dr. King as a saint of God. Further, we stand with those who have been excluded throughout history from the full protection of the Church, whose full humanity has been denied based on fear and prejudice. Real, lasting love is sacred, and is a blessing that should be blessed by the Church, called as we are to embody the love of God in the world. As Christians, we are called to understand that the greatest power in the world is love, because it comes from God, and is the foundation for all covenants.

(This was originally posted at Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on January 19, 2016.)