Litany for Deborahs

This week’s Lectionary reading includes an excerpt from Judges 4, in which we meet Deborah the judge, who leads her people to victory and freedom from oppression. This one is for the Prophets, the Preachers, the Unconventional Leaders, the Unexpected Authorities; the ones not subsidized by major organizations, who are doing their work despite difficulty, and caring for difficult people; the ones who are re-imagining the world.
 

God, these times are sifting wheat from chaff; separating sheep from goats; and differentiating true leaders from corrupt imposters.
The foundations of society rumble beneath our feet.
We lift to you those who can envision a future of justice and peace,
And will humbly lead in its direction.

For those who judge justly in these times
We pray to the Lord.
For those who keep faith alive when everyone else is locked in fear
We pray to the Lord.
For those who hold the hands of their people and stay with them as they fight
We pray to the Lord.
For those who know the enemy is already vanquished
We pray to the Lord.
For those who remain calm and steadfast in danger
We pray to the Lord.
For those who move boldly forward while other leaders linger in the past
We pray to the Lord.
For those whose leadership has come at great cost
We pray to the Lord.
For those who have had to defy convention to live out their calling
We pray to the Lord.
For those whom society disqualifies, but have risen up anyway
We pray to the Lord.
For those to whom resources come scantily or not at all, and must rely upon the hand of God
We pray to the Lord.
For those whose authority is constantly questioned and tested
We pray to the Lord.
For those who have known abuse and subjugation, and the depth of our need for justice
We pray to the Lord.
For those working day after day, quietly and without fanfare
We pray to the Lord.
For those whom the margins tried to edge out
We pray to the Lord.
For those who choose not to cast stones, but shine lights
We pray to the Lord.
For those who are imagining and embodying New Creation
We pray to the Lord.

May the Spirit of God be present with the prophets of our time.
May they have the Mind of Christ.

Amen

 

Litany for Waking Up

I have heard this story so many times: this narrative of people waking up to injustice or abuse in institutions, then trying so hard to help the institution wake up, then discovering that there’s no forcing change and that trying so hard is burning their hearts down, then waking up to the reality that leaving is the only heartbreaking option. I don’t know if it’s actually getting more common, or if I’m just paying better attention to it, having lived it a time or two.

I have heard this story in marriages. In churches. In businesses. In nations and governments. Over and over again. It’s a dark, painful story that calls to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:14 (and Luke 9:5) to “leave...and shake the dust off your feet when you leave…”*

I don’t think Jesus says that glibly. He knows that leaving is a painful decision; he also knows that trying to force anyone to listen or change is a futile effort, and graciously give his disciples permission to move onto different, more open and receptive spaces. And that’s another thing I see happening. I see new spaces being created. I see a new reformation happening. I see new ways emerging. I see hope and freedom sprouting up. I see a winnowing.

But waking up is still hard. There’s hope and life in it, but also discomfort, grief, and sometimes confusion. It takes great faith to throw our precious grain up in the air, and trust that what falls back down, after the wind has carried the chaff away, will be enough.**




God, you are the one who wakes us up
When we are ready.
You wake us up to injustice.
You wake us up to love.
You wake us up to injury.
You wake us up to hope.

Sometimes we wake up and realize
That our institutions need change;
That our theology needs change;
That our habits need change;
That our politics need change;
That our hearts need change.

Sometimes we must suffer the scathing heartache
Of leaving behind ideas or institutions
That don’t work anymore, now that we’re awake.
Sometimes our waking requires parting.
Sometimes we can’t support.
Sometimes we are no longer supported.

It can feel like homelessness,
Like up-ending,
Like disowning,
Like failure,
Like giving up.
We wish it weren’t so.

We can only allow ourselves to change at your prompting;
We can’t force others to understand.

Let those of us who are waking, painstakingly and in various ways,
Have no judgement toward those who aren’t yet ready to arise.
Let no arrogance exist among us,
But only patience and compassion.
Let those of us who can stay and enact change,
Be strengthened and encouraged.
Let those of us who must leave,
Leave wisely and lovingly.
 

Amen

* I appreciate Sarah Bessey's writing on the topic of leaving, and also on staying.
**Matthew 3:12

Litany for Dark Days

The prophet Amos says the  “Day of the Lord is darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it.” This week's Lectionary reading includes that passage from Amos 5, as well as others referenced in this prayer.



God, we are weary, weary.
The days are dark.
All day long we contend with evildoers.
We wake to discover more death.

We know that when the days seem dark
We must persevere;
That discipleship is costly,
And the risks of faith are great.

We may be outcast.*
We may be silenced.
We may be slandered.
We may be killed unmercifully. *
But we know that, despite the shame and chaos of the hour,
You are still our help and deliverer (1).

Help us, as we go along, to keep our lamps filled and trimmed (2)
That we may wait with hope
In a circle of light -
Awake and ready for action (3).
We are poor and needy,
Yet still in your care (1).

These are days of darkness and change,
The Day of the Lord, unfolding; (4)
So. Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an everflowing stream (5).

Amen


1)Psalm 70:5
2)Matthew 25:4-7
3)Matthew 25:13
4)Amos 5:20
5)Amos 5:24

*as the pastor and prophet Jonathan Martin was last week cast out of Liberty University for speaking against the actions of its administration and calling for a prayer vigil
*as were the 26 people (plus 20 more injured) mowed down with an assault rifle as they gathered for worship this past Sunday. And the 58 (plus 489 wounded) the month prior in Las Vegas.

Litany for Stupid Fights

The other day my spouse and I had a Stupid Fight. You know, the fights you have sometimes with someone close to you that are about stupid nothing. The ones that happen all of a sudden, something just lights up - some irritant gets you in just the right spot while you’re washing dishes or a child. The ones that happen maybe when you’re both tired and oversensitive, or maybe there’s been an earlier, deeper offense; or maybe there’s some anxiety humming in the background. When whatever anger is below the surface of your calm finds a vent and erupts.

They are usually about the most mundane things, at least superficially. You can hardly remember why the conflict started. What you should have been able to shrug off or solve with one sentence becomes a conflagration. I most often observe these happening in the context of close relationships that are at some level “safe”, or at least longstanding.

Earlier on in our marriage, we would do Stupid Fights more often. Now we’ve learned a few things (not that we have it all sanctimoniously figured out, but 14.5 years is a fair amount of time for practice):

  • If your calm was that easy to crack, it was fake.
  • Either a) give vent to the emotion and let it play out without truly hurting each other, or b) someone take a walk.
  • The stupid fight is not the real issue, but it’s pointing to it.
  • The work is in the deeper, more vulnerable conversation that comes after, once the magma has cooled.

My wise friend Sharon says, “Emotions are messengers and messengers are angels.” I think she’s right. My experience with Stupid Fights is that they are often merciful messages telling us there is something needing attention.  They are opportunities for a meaningful conversation. The rub is this: the Stupid Fights are easy to blindly engage in and may even feel cathartic; but the real thing that’s beneath - the difficult challenging thing - is the one you’ve been avoiding. It’s the one that’s going to take some courage and vulnerability to talk about.

I’ve said this many times to friends who are getting married: Marriage is like a mirror that shows you your true self - you won’t be able to escape your own truth in it. But really I think any authentic relationship is a kind of mirror. It’s why church is always so messy: we are always revealing ourselves to each other whether we intend to or not, and generally trying to avoid what we don’t want to see.

All that to say: I’m a fan of Stupid Fights, with caveats. Have the Stupid Fight - fight well, without abuse! - then when it’s safe and the pressure is lower, do the real work the Stupid Fight was clueing you into.


God, we expend all kinds of energy avoiding ourselves.
We are difficult people.
Because we avoid our deepest selves, we tend to think you’re avoiding us too;
But you’re always close by.
You’re always mercifully holding up a mirror so we can see ourselves better.
Our best mirrors are our closest relationships.

We often expose each other’s weakness,
     Irritate each other,
     Make each other angry,
     Hurt each other.
We say things we don’t mean
And things we do.
We hold grudges.
We disagree.

When we are in conflict, give us the energy and courage to do the real work:
To be vulnerable
To share and listen
To resist shame
To let our anger and pain teach us
To explore our own souls
To be kind
To be merciful.

We embrace the messengers that point us to the deep issues:
Thank you for emotions.
Help us to hear the messages
And do the messy work of transformation.

Amen

Litany for Hatred

This week's Lectionary...

You shall not render an unjust judgment;
you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great:
with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people,
and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor:
I am the LORD.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin;
you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:
I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:15-18)

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:36-39)

 

God, we acknowledge that, at some point in our lives, we all harbor hatred in our hearts.
Forgive us, oh God.
We all, at some point, render unjust judgements on others.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of loving our enemies, we have hated them.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of welcoming the stranger, we have shunned them.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of listening to the voices of those who are different from us, we have silenced them.
Forgive us, oh God.

We have sat silently by while others gave way to hatred.
We have hated and been hated.
We have forgotten that all humanity is our kin.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.

We have hated those who’ve hurt us
Those with whom we disagree politically or theologically
Those whose color, ethnicity, appearance, gender or orientation is different from ours.
Those whose sins are different from ours.
Those whose customs are different from ours.
Those whom we perceive as dangerous.

Scour our hearts free of hatred
Fill us full of love instead -
Lovingkindness from your heart.
Let no injustice remain among us.
Rescue us from the walls that divide us,
And bring us back to Holy Communion.
Amen

 

Litany for Opening Up to God

This prayer is taken from this week's Lectionary selections (Proper 24, Year A): Exodus 33, Isaiah 45 and Matthew 22.


God, your goodness is always parading past us.
We have only to look out for it. (1)
You are always being gracious to us.
We have only to realize it.
You are always being merciful to us.
We have only to internalize it.

You cover us with your hands and show us your glory - as much as we can handle,
If we only attune ourselves to you.

We don’t direct the flow of your grace and mercy.
You do.
We don’t decide who gets what.
You do.
You show no deference to anyone
You do not regard people with partiality.  (2)

Though we don’t know you,
You call us by name. (3)
Though we don’t know you,
There’s no one else but you. (4)

We set our minds toward knowing you.
We open the spaces of our hearts to you.
We set our bodies in stillness, that we might hear from you.
We open our spirits to meeting with you.

You are always gracious to appear,
Surprising us with your beauty.

Amen

1) Exodus 33:19
2) Matthew 22:16
3) Isaiah 45:4
4) Isaiah 45:5

 

Litany for Las Vegas

I was awake at 4 am, reading the grim news from Las Vegas. Grabbed my phone to check the time, and there was the headline. Why did I wake up? Did some part of me know that the worst mass shooting in US History had just occurred? I don't know, but I know we're all connected and when one part hurts the other parts feel it. If you want to keep praying, you can pray Litany for a Terrorized CityLitany for Gun Violence , and Litany for Grief also.


God, we are at a loss.
The violence that has happened
And continues to happen
Does not compute.

How many of our citizens must die
Before things change?
How many of our children must we lose
Before justice is done?
How many lives and bodies must be broken
Before we are saved from ourselves?

We know that sometimes your justice
Looks like letting us reap what we sow.
We know that sometimes your love
Looks like allowing us to make choices.
We know that sometimes your wisdom,
Looks like giving us dominion.

We made a mess
With weapons and war
With grudges and judgment
With violence and bad choices

We give dominion back to you
Asking for your mercy.
We give our hearts and souls back to you
Asking for your help.
We give our mess back to you,
Asking you to save us.

Forgive us, Oh God,
And care for those we've lost.

Amen


 

Prayers for Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, Mexico and India

Here are some prayers to pray in your groups or congregations for the people in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Mexico whose lives have been dramatically affected by hurricanes and earthquakes, and those in India where 1200 people have died from major flooding. Please pray aloud together in your congregations. I believe the act of praying aloud together breeds compassion and action in our communities.
 

LITANY FOR NATURAL DISASTER 2 (originally published as Litany for Haiti)
*substitute location name as needed

God, author of Creation
Giver of Life:
We call upon your mercy and compassion now.
We pray for the people of *Puerto Rico*.

We pray for the hearts of the world
To be moved with compassion
We pray for the feet and hands of the world, ourselves included,
To be moved to help.

Where there has been devastation,
Bring renewal.
Where there is suffering,
Bring comfort
Where there is need
Bring provision.

The world has great need of the mercy of God
As demonstrated by Christ,
As demonstrated by the global Church
As demonstrated by individuals.
May your spirit alight on that place as never before,
Bringing life where death has reigned.

We pray for *Puerto Rico*
For your kingdom come
Your will be done,
In *Puerto Rico* as it is in heaven.

Amen

 

MORE RESOURCES

Litany for Natural Disaster

Litany for Post-Disaster Trauma

FOLLOWING A NATURAL DISASTER (an Anglican prayer via)
God of Creation,
you set our lives on a planet
where both beauty and danger are found.
Hear our prayers for those who have been overcome
by disastrous [famine/flood/earthquake/fire] in [place].
Help heal the pain of those who are injured.
Strengthen with your presence
all who are numb with fear and distress.
Guide those who anxiously search or wait. Amen.

from Service Book for the Use of Ministers by the United Church of Canada,
United Church Publishing House, 1969.

LITANY IN RESPONSE TO A NATURAL DISASTER (this one is longer and more formal, but nice and thorough) by William (Chip) Stokes

 

 

Litany for Kneeling

God, here we are:
Skin-cloaked souls
Fragile and vulnerable
Wrapped up in our humanity.

We see from a human perspective,
We judge by limited input.
But you’ve always seen from Love’s vantage point,
High above our vision.

Somewhere along the way
We forgot our true home
Our citizenship in your kingdom (1)
Our first love (2)
Our debt of belonging
Our deepest allegiance...

To Christ
Who knelt to pray
Who emptied himself
Who endured torture
Who lay down in a grave
At the hands of Injustice.

Let those who kneel
Kneel reverently.
Let those who kneel
Kneel passionately.
Let those who kneel
Know to whom they bend.

Help us to see more and better.
Help us to respond to all with Love that listens.

Nations may boast of their tanks, flags, and bombs
But we boast in the name of the Lord and the Christ (3):
The Lord who opposes the proud (4),
The Lord who works justice for the oppressed (5).
We pledge allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom.
We kneel before Christ and his mercy.

Amen

1) Philippians 3:20
2) Revelations 2:4
3) Psalm 20:7, Galatians 6:14
4) 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34
5) Psalm 103:6

Litany for Post-Disaster Trauma

In the wake of Irma, Harvey, and the devastating wildfires in the west; and in commemoration of the disaster of 9/11/01, I offer this litany.

God, we are thankful
For those who have survived,
For those who have helped and responded,
For what spaces are left to rebuild in,
For the people who embody love,
For experiences that teach us what matters.

We acknowledge that those beset by disaster have endured great trauma:
The losses and mess,
The danger and fright,
The distress to body and soul.
These are deep wounds, real wounds
That take time to recover from.

You weep, oh God, with those who weep.
You mourn with those who mourn.

Heal your people, oh God.
Rescue them from their distress,
Enfold them in your kindness,
And surround them in your care.

Make of us a strong and resilient people:
A people prone to compassion,
A people prone to good works,
A people prone to patience,
A people prone to listening,
A people healed and whole.

Let the work of rebuilding --
Lives, homes, livelihoods, communities --
Be the work of new life and imagination;
The work of Heaven-on-Earth

Amen