Transfiguration Sunday (Year C): Litany for Impatience

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A number of things are informing this week’s litany. One is the newest climate change news. Another is the UMC General Conference, which I’ve been following intently. And of course there’s the rest of the news in general. So as I read these Lectionary passage for the week, gosh I feel impatient! Ready for justice to be served. Ready for righteousness to prevail. Ready for the earth to be set right. I hear Jesus’ words “You faithless and perverse generation! How long must I be with you and bear with you?!” and I resonate with them. I resonate with that feeling of mixed longing and exasperation that I hear in those words.

This week is Transfiguration Sunday. We pay attention to the similarities between the story of Moses coming down glowing from Mount Sinai (Exodus 34) and of Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain, when he glows with light, and the voice of God from heaven affirms him (Luke 9). The text says that the disciples were “weighed down with sleep,” but somehow they manage to stay awake and glimpse the glory of Christ’s glowing light. And we pray for the courage, patience, and fortitude to stay awake long enough, and for our consciousness to be expanded enough, to see it in our time.



God, we are heavy with sleep,
Struggling for a glimpse of your glory (1).
We are impatiently and desperately waiting
For heaven to come on earth. ..

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-f

Epiphany Week 8 (Year C): Litany for the Hard Teachings

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This week’s Lectionary covers 1 Corinthians 15, and a continuation of Luke 6, the Sermon on the Plain. Like the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, Luke’s account contains some of Jesus’ most radical and counter-cultural teachings… themes religion has historically not applied or taught well. Instead of embracing non-judgement and non-duality, the church became famous for condemnation. Instead of loving enemies, the church aligned itself with warring powers.

These are hard teachings, especially for Western ears to hear. Especially for wealthy, privileged Americans to hear. We need these universal spiritual teachings in front of our eyes and in our ears, penetrating our consciousness anew in these times.




God, some of the teachings we received from Christ are difficult
Asking us to practice counter-cultural ways of being.

So much of us must die
To become alive.
So much of what we desire must be let go
For us to truly receive it…



Epiphany Week 7 (Year C): Litany for Loving Kinship

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This week’s Gospel reading includes Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. This account is also known as “blessings and woes,” as it differs from Matthew’s Beatitudes significantly. However, the spirit is the same, and they are incidentally not dissimilar to Mary’s Magnificat from a few chapters earlier in Luke. “Woe to you who are rich,” echoes Christ’s Mother’s words from years earlier: “he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (1).

I’ve been exploring themes of privilege and connectedness in this Epiphany series, and this week’s “blessings and woes” fit right in. Woe to you who are privileged, for your privilege blinds you. Blessed are you who who understand that we are all connected - by suffering, by need, by humanity… and that we are the very ones we judge to be lowly.

If we let them, this teaching of Jesus has the capacity to awaken us from our deadness, our un-compassion, our judgement, and into acceptance, forgiveness, and love. May it be so, and may we pray with humility and willingness to be transformed.


God, help us to cast aside all judgement,
All fear of Other,
All attachment to privilege,
All lack of compassion;
And to step instead into the glorious abundance of your community…

Love and Gratitude,

f

1) Luke 1:5







Epiphany Week 6 (Year C): Litany for Breaking Nets

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This litany is inspired by a reading of the Lectionary Gospel passage for the fifth Sunday of Epiphany, Luke 5:1-11. Jesus advises weary disciples who've fished all night to lower their nets just one more time...


God, we’ve been stuck in cycles of scarcity.
You bring us into abundance.
We’ve worked our fingers to the bone in our own power.
You invite us into the ease and flow of yours….

Epiphany Week 5 (Year C): Litany for Confronting Our Privilege

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The gospel reading this week comes from Luke 4. Jesus has just quoted Isaiah 61 in the synagogue on a Sabbath, stating that his mission is the same; that God “has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…” and so on. “Today, this has been fulfilled,” he says (Luke 4:21). His mission is freedom and deliverance and grace.

And then in the section we’re given this week, Jesus goes on to speak a bit more about his mission. He gets more specific. As Karoline Lewis puts it, Jesus “...reveals for whom [he] has come -- the widows, the lepers, the outsiders. Jesus’ whole ministry will be for the least of these, over and over again. Moreover, Jesus is for everyone” (2). And with that revelation, he is promptly driven out of town, his life threatened, and he must escape by (presumably) miraculous means.

Why were those folks so enraged by Christ’s words there? Back to Dr. Lewis: “Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth is a prophetic message. Jesus tells the truth about the realities of our world, where the lowly are looked down upon, where the poor sleep in cardboard boxes under freeways, where the captives remain in their prisons, where the rich live exceedingly full lives.”  Jesus confronts their, and our, privilege.

The outcast, the forgotten, the marginalized, those who exist in the liminal spaces - those are always the ones at the center of Christ’s gospel. And we do well to hear, and to allow the spirit to work her grace on us as we confront our own privilege as hearers, to allow ourselves to give up the prized place of centrality in the narratives we tell ourselves.

It may make us mad at first. It may make us want to run Jesus, or whomever the prophet confronting us happens to be, out of town or off a cliff (3). But if we’re following Jesus authentically, we will have to confront our own privilege, grow some compassion, and get outside of ourselves. Here is a prayer for that process.

God, we know from the message and example of Christ
That the poor and helpless are beloved by you,
That the outsider and outcast occupy your heart,
That the lonely and the prisoner have your attention…

Epiphany Week 4 (Year C): Litany for Parts of a Whole

I find it interesting that the Lectionary always seems to speak so keenly to the current moment. The past few days I’ve contemplated the state of things, and Dr. King’s legacy, and how the Church (capital C) is doing, and how the country is doing. And I attended an MLK memorial/celebration march and service at a local sibling church, which was inspiring in some ways, but sobering in others. We have so far to go with dismantling white supremacy in this country, and within the American Church; and that is not a new or disputable fact.

What I’m learning from listening to and reading BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) activists is that we white people need to listen humbly, educate ourselves and our communities, and support the work. And a great way to support the work is by financially contributing to organizations that uplift BIPOC communities and meet their needs. I’m doing this as I can, and I encourage my white siblings to as well. Here are a few I’m particularly inspired by*:

Equal Justice Initiative
Million Hoodies
A Voice for the Unheard
Black Women’s Health Initiative
Partnership with Native Americans

I’ve written this week’s litany with the Lectionary selections in mind, which remind us of our unchangeable status as parts of a whole, as siblings, and as co-laborers. What hurts one sector of our Beloved Community, hurts us all. What uplifts, uplifts us all. Christ’s stated mission in Luke 4 is our mission, too. And…


We are all part of each other.
Our connectedness is unbreakable.
Any separation is only imagined.

If you’re looking for other litanies surrounding these topics, please check out
Litany for Justice and Equality
Litany for MLK Day
Litany for Addressing Racism
Litany for Embracing Race

*Even small amounts matter. But I know, not everyone can contribute financially. Do what you can, educate yourself via the multitude of free resources in local libraries and the internet, be curious, be humble. And may God bless your efforts.

Epiphany Week 3, Year C: Litany for the Party

This week’s Lectionary readings include the account of Christ performing his first recorded miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding. Also known as the time Jesus BROUGHT THE PARTY. There are so many interesting and fun details about the story: the way his mom talks him into it. The way the people react. The way he tries to keep it on the DL. His reluctance (I imagine a twinkle in his eye). The way he nonchalantly instructs them to “draw some out,” no big deal. 

And the most endearing part, to me, is what it says about celebration. That celebration is worth doing. That Jesus is able to look at this world, see it for what it is, accept it, forgive it, and still think it’s worth partying. 

And this is the lesson that Christ is teaching us:
That just when we think the party is over
And all our resources have run out,
There is abundance yet…

For the full text of this litany, go ahead and …

You’ll get access to Weekly Lectionary litanies, plus other content I post on a weekly basis, and various other liturgy-related goodies. Many thanks to all the new folks who have come on board in the past couple weeks. The party has only just begun!

Transfiguration Sunday (Year B): Litany for the Whirlwind

The Lectionary readings for Transfiguration Sunday, Year B converge upon the ascension of Elijah the Prophet in a whirlwind, and the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountain with Elijah and Moses, the “law and the prophets”, present. This litany is inspired by those readings and a prayer for us to experience transfiguration, change toward heaven, in the here and now.
 

God, let your kingdom come on earth.
Let the seed of heaven in our hearts
Grow, spread, and bear fruit.
Whether that manifests as miracles
Or as acts of kindness
Let Heaven and Now converge.

Whether or not we get our own whirlwind
Or chariot of fire;
You are still bearing us onward
Into your glorious reality.

Whether or not our own faces radiate sunshine
Or clouds speak from heaven;
You are claiming us,
Naming us beloved.

You are the source of all light,
The source of all love,
The source of all truth,
The source of all life.

In Christ, you shone as the dawn
As the Morningstar
In Christ, your light culminated
And was complete.

We give ourselves readily
To this ascension and transfiguration,
Which you are working in us,
And fills us with radiance.

Amen


 

Epiphany, Year B (Week 5): Litany for Healing

God, we look to you as Healer.
Heal us, oh God.

We look to the message of Christ for our hope:
The Kingdom, the Way of God is near.
You give power to the faint,
And strengthen the powerless. (1)
You heal the brokenhearted
And bind up their wounds. (2).

From our physical infirmities
Heal us, oh God.
From our spiritual blindness,
Heal us, oh God.
From our emotional woundedness,
Heal us, oh God.
From our weakness and corruption,
Heal us, oh God.
From our mental illnesses,
Heal us, oh God.
From our brokenness and trauma,
Heal us, oh God.
From our carelessness and apathy,
Heal us, oh God.
From our generational burdens,
Heal us, oh God.
From our hatred and violence,
Heal us, oh God.

Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (3)

We wait for you,
God, our healer.
Amen.

 

  1. Isaiah 40:29

  2. Psalm 147:3

  3. Isaiah 40:31

Ephiphany, Year B (Week4): Litany for Unclean Spirits

This litany is inspired by the account of Christ casting out unclean spirits in the Gospel lectionary passage for the week: Mark 1:21-28.

God we know that you have given us power
And authority
To deal with unclean spirits decisively.
Hallelujah.

We know that you have given us freedom
To be our truest selves,
To face our shadow side,
To live in victory.

Help us to deal with unclean spirits, as we encounter them:
Racism
Prejudice
Patriarchy
Inequality
Hatred
Addiction
Violence.

Whether the unclean spirits reside in others
Or in our own selves,
We become aware,
We exercise power in love.
We commit ourselves to being people who walk in the footsteps of Christ
Who tell the truth,
Who create peace,
Who rout out injustice.

Help us to know Christ so well
And reflect your image so clearly
That the world is different and better
When we have passed through it.
Amen

Epiphany, Year B (Week 3): Litany for New Creation

This litany contains references to selections from the Lectionary texts for January 21, 2018 (Year B).

God, even now, in ways we can hardly comprehend
The old is passing away.
Your voice, the voice of Christ, speaks to us:
“The time is fulfilled
the kingdom of God has come near;
turn from evil, and believe in the good news." (1)

All around the world there is turmoil
There is suffering, hunger, and war.
Here in our midst there is upheaval:
In our government, society, and streets.
But we see the subtle ways in which you work:
New creation steadily appearing.

Help us, oh God, to pay attention
To the nearness of your Kingdom,
To the rhythms of your working,
To the newness of life around us,
To the opportunities in our midst,
To the mystery of Christ within us.

For the present form of this world is passing away. (2)
New Creation has already taken hold
And is working and growing behind the scenes,
Beyond the screen of what our eyes can see.

Trust in God at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before God;
God is a refuge for us.
Power and steadfast love belong to God. (3)

Amen

  1. Mark 1:15

  2. 1Corinthians 7:31

  3. Psalm 62:8,12

Epiphany, Year B (Week 2): Litany for Being Seen

The account of the calling of Nathanael in John 1 (Lectionary for Second Sunday in Epiphany) has fascinated me for many years. I’ve never been able to definitively puzzle it out. But the narrative of it draws me in. I can imagine how Nathanael might have felt, waiting, hoping for something; perhaps all his life. Perhaps events in his life made him cynical. Perhaps he chose to watch from the edges, partially hidden. Perhaps he thought he’d never been seen, and had given up hope of being seen. Perhaps he’d lost so much he thought he’d never be found.  It seems like he and Jesus have a secret exchange here, buried in the dialogue. And whatever it is, it seems to be what he needs, because we can feel Nathanael’s heart open and his guard drop, simply from knowing that Jesus has seen him.  It occurs to me that this is part of what Epiphany means: we get in on the secret that God sees us as intimately as Christ saw Nathanael.
 

God, we are all hoping you’ll come looking for us,
Though our hearts might be hard --
Or maybe we have been running and hiding for a long time...
We want you to see us.

We want the Creator to pay attention to us
We want to be seen.
We want Someone, Something powerful to take an interest in us.
We want to be known.

Our deepest longing,
Our secret hope,
Our shadowy leaning,
Our mundane pain,
Our hidden dream,
Our forgotten spark:
These are things we long for a savior to save
For a flame to kindle.

You saw us all along:
Quietly observing
Keenly attending
Actively loving.

No matter what fig tree we hide beneath (1),
You see us.
No matter what bravado or sentiment we hide behind (2),
You see through.
We can rely on you to know the truth of us.
We can trust your mercy.

And, when we finally become aware of your merciful regard
We have seen the truth of you.
So, with gratitude and awe
We reflect your love.

Amen

1) John 1:48
2) John 1:46

Epiphany, Year B: Litany for the Wise

Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, after the twelve days of the Christmas feast. This litany incorporates references from the Matthew 2 and Isaiah 60 passages in the Lectionary for the feast of the Epiphany. I've also included some additional references.

God, we know that one way wisdom begins
Is in curiosity.
We know that the way to finding
Is by seeking.

Many people throughout history have been renowned for their wisdom
And remembered for their insight;
People who sought and studied
People who waited and looked.

And just as the Magi were guided by the heavens to the infant Christ,
So all who search for Christ will find him. (1)
Just as the ancient prophets and saints sought the wisdom of God
So all who search for wisdom will find her. (2)

Just as Christ has taught us about wisdom:
Ask and it will be given,
Seek and we shall find,
Knock and the door will be opened. (3)

Awaken in our hearts, O God
A desire for wisdom.
Awaken in our hearts, O God
A hunger for consciousness.
Awaken in our hearts, O God
A yearning for your kingdom.

Help us to keep our priorities straight:
To seek first your kingdom,
To trust that you have provided. (4)
And we will say to our people:
“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and rulers to the brightness of your dawn. (5)

Amen
 

1) Matthew 2:1-2
2) Proverbs 1:20-24
3) Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9
4) Matthew 6:33,34
5) Isaiah 60: 1&3

Transfiguration Sunday: Litany for The Morning Star

Transfiguration Sunday marks the end of the season of Epiphany. The season of Lent follows. Transfiguration Sunday celebrates the day in which Jesus was confirmed by God as divine before the apostles. The Lectionary passages for the day tell the story, as well as its precursor story, that of the transfiguration of Moses in the book of Exodus. In an unexpected appearance, Moses himself is also witness to Jesus' transfiguration as described in Matthew 17.


Jesus, we have seen your majesty (1)
And we are captivated
By the light of your face, shining like the sun
And your clothes, dazzling white. (2)
You are more important than all who came before or after you:
More than Moses, or Elijah;
More than any prophet, priest, or king;
More than any pastor, politician, or world leader.

In you every message is confirmed (3)
Every message of hope
Every message of peace
Every message of reconciliation
The identity and character of God
Made known in the Son (4):
     Reckless forgiveness
     Radical Love.

We will look to you.
We will live by your light
Until the day dawns
And the Morning Star rises in our hearts. (3)

(1) 2 Pet 1:16
(2) Matt 17:2
(3) 2 Pet 1:19
(4) Matt 17:5
 

Epiphany Seventh Sunday: Litany for Aliens and Evil-Doers

This week's Lectionary passages are PREACHING to me. Unless you read them, particularly the Leviticus combined with the Matthew 5, you probably won't connect with this litany. Those church folks who scheduled the readings really were thoughtful and thorough in their choices, because these four passages are like bells that chime in harmony.

 

God, we hear you asking us
To extend the bounds of our love,
To consider new groups of people worthy of our regard.
To cast a bigger net.

We are supposed to love widely
To forgive deeply
To share sacrificially
To give generously
Even to those we consider undeserving
Even to those we consider dangerous.

Strengthen us, Oh God,
to follow your ways:
Because loving our enemies is not for the faint of heart (Matt 5:44);
Giving to the poor decreases our profit margins (Lev 19:10);
Welcoming the alien makes for awkward cultural situations;
Caring for the differently-abled is inconvenient (Lev 19:14);
Not resisting evil-doers interrupts our self-defense mechanisms (Matt 5:39);
And grudges are our favorite burdens to bear (Lev 19:18).

We would often rather be normal, nice, politically-correct people.
And normal people don’t do the things you recommend.
But you aren’t asking us to be normal.
You’re asking us to be Kingdom-people.
You’re asking us to live by the law of love.
You’re asking us to lay down our lives

Strengthen us, Oh God, to follow your ways,
And to love neighbors, aliens, and evil-doers as ourselves (Lev 19:18).

Amen

Epiphany Sixth Sunday: Litany for Thoughts

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, we hear Jesus saying that what happens in our interior lives matters just as much to our wholeness as what we manifest in our behaviors. Our thoughts have weight, and we must be just as ruthless in weeding the bad ones out as we are to keep ourselves from harming others overtly.

 

God,who knows our hearts, minds, and intentions
We know that what happens within us
Is as important as what manifests outside us.
Our thoughts matter,
Our words matter,
Our actions matter.

Transform our minds
That we might not sin against you
In thought, word or deed,
In action done, or left undone.

Forgive us for the violence inside of us.
Make us deeply peaceful,
    Deeply loving
    Deeply reconciling
    Deeply self-aware
    Deeply humble.

Help us to re-frame our problems in actionable terms.
Help us to re-train our brains to joyous thinking.
Help us to remind ourselves constantly
that you are always present with us,
And to live wholesome and positive lives
Both within our minds and outside of them.

Conform our minds to love
And our intentions to peace,
So that what reverberates out to the world from us
Is only life and light.

Amen

Epiphany Fifth Sunday: Litany for What To Do

This litany is taken directly from Isaiah 58, Psalm 112, and from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount iMatthew 5. Each of those is part of the Lectionary selection for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany.

Merciful God,
We receive your instructions about what pleases you:
To loose the bonds of injustice,
To free the oppressed,
To share bread with the hungry,
To provide shelter for the homeless poor,
To cover the naked,
To be present to our kin. (1)

You have said: “If you offer your food to the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
Then your light shall rise in the darkness
And your gloom be like the noonday.” (2)

You have said: “It is well with those who deal generously,
Who conduct their affairs with justice.
They are not afraid of evil tidings;
Their hearts are steady;
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
In the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” (3)

We acknowledge that what is wisdom to you seems like foolishness to the world;
    That the commands and example of Jesus seem ridiculous, and risky;
    That if our goal is to save our own lives, we will lose them;
    That, in your kingdom, giving is better than getting. (4)

Lord, give us strength.
We are the salt of the earth.
Lord, give us wisdom.
We are the light of the world.
Let our light shine brightly,
So all may see the goodness of God. (5)

Amen

1) Isaiah 58:6,7
2) Isaiah 58:10
3) Psalm 112:5-9
4) This theme appears multiple times in the New Testament. My favorite is Luke 6:38. Also, Acts 20:35
5) Matt 5:13-16