Litany for Christmas Eve (Year C)

From a reading of Luke 2, the Lectionary gospel for Christmas, Year C.

God, we can’t help but feel a bit scandalized
About the way the Son of God was born to earth:
There was no room
There was no bed
There was no midwife
And no fine baby blankets

And when the Mother had finished her work
She wrapped her babe -
The hope of nations -
In strips of homespun cloth,
And laid him to sleep in a manger,
The humblest of corners.

But still, whenever we think about that night
We sigh with relief;
Because we know that for you,
We don’t have to put on a show,
We don’t have to fake anything,
We don’t have to hide the truth of ourselves,
We don’t have to have everything spotless and together,
Before you come in our door.

The most monumental works are done in the smallest increments.
The most glorious hymns are sung by the croakiest voices.
The most brilliant cathedrals are built by the roughest hands.
The most fervent prayers are prayed by the gentlest souls.

Even as the tiniest baby,
The Christ was telling the glory of God.
The highest heights are made low for you.
You level the roughest terrain (1).

Amen

1) Isaiah 40:4







Advent Week 4 (Year C): Look Up, There’s Love

Mary’s Magnificat is part of the Lectionary selection for week 4 of Advent. One of the most beautiful and stirring prayers in scripture, spoken by a young woman of humble origin, accepting a dangerous long-term mission with gratitude, grit, and grace.

God, you are mighty in Love
You have done great things for us:
Lifted up the lowly
Filled the hungry with good things.
You have helped us
And showed us what mercy looks like (Luke 1:52-54);

Mercy has gathered bone and sinew.
Love has taken on flesh,
Saving us from heartless wandering
And merciless suffering.

Love’s Ambassador showed up and invited us
Into the work of building outposts,
Enclaves of lovingkindness,
Starting within our own hearts.

The work begins within us:
The Community of God grows within our beings
And blossoms outward to other people,
To become a network of love,
Blanketing the world:
Each intersection a soul.

We have only to wait a bit now,
While the momentum builds.
The day is coming
When love will reach a critical mass
And its reality will overtake fear.
All our waiting and working will be complete.

We thank you, oh God,
For the gift of Love within us.

Amen


Advent Week 3 (Year C): Look Up, There’s Joy

This litany draws from the Lectionary readings for Week 3 of Advent, Year C.

God, one of the best things about the way you made things,
And the most challenging for us,
Is that joy is always available.
Returning to love is always an option,
Even in the midst of turmoil;
Even in distress.

We know that we always have access to joy
By choosing to be in the present moment,
To practice gratitude,
To pay attention,
To be mindful,
To surrender.

When we become awake to you, God,
We open the door to joy;
We open the door to your constant loving acceptance,
And to the gladness of your presence.

Sing aloud, and shout!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart (1, 2)!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against us,
And has turned away our enemies (1).

God rejoices over us with gladness.
God renews us in love.
God exults over us with loud singing (3).
We share in the joy of God.

Amen.

  1. Zephaniah 3:14,15

  2. Philippians 4:4

  3. Zephaniah 3:17

Advent Week 2 (Year C): Look Up, There's Beauty

Look, I know week 2 of Advent is usually about peace. But the lectionary passages for the day are so strongly themed with beauty, particularly the Apocryphal passage, that I couldn’t resist. Plus, it’s how we’re interpreting it this year at Peace for our Advent sermon series entitled “Look Up". So, a little beauty in your Advent mix this year.

God, it’s easy for us to get bogged down
In our to-do lists,
The problems we must solve,
The needs we must meet,
The expectations we put upon ourselves,
The crises we must manage --
And forget that beneath everything
There is the hum of beauty.

Beneath dust and decay,
There is a sheen of value.
Beneath disease and distress,
There is a sparkle of wisdom.
Beneath the appearance of death,
There is the glimmer of rebirth.
Beneath the cloak of sorrow and affliction,
There is the endless beauty of the glory from God (1).

Awaken us, oh God, to the beauty beneath,
The beauty that confronts us
With your presence and power,
Your plan and purpose.

We know that by the tender mercy of our God,
The dawn from on high will break upon us,
And the beauty of God will overwhelm our senses.
May we be alert, and looking for it.

Amen

1) Baruch 5:1


Advent Week 1 (Year C): Look Up, There’s Hope

Our Advent preaching series for this year is entitled “Look Up.” I’ve developed this years Advent litany series to play on that theme, as well as follow along with the Lectionary passages for the season. This one, the first in the series, centers on Luke 21 and Psalm 25.

God, the nations rage.
The earth shudders.
Storms, fires, and violence abound.
The people are in distress.

In the midst of turmoil,
In the midst of trouble and need,
In the midst of swirling forces
We look up.

So intent on the needs and crises before us,
We raise our downward gaze.
Shifting away from our worry and despair,
We adjust our focus.
Heavy-hearted, weighed down by the cares of this life (1),
We release our burdens.

We look up to the heavens,
To signs in the sun, moon, and stars (2).
We look up toward the horizon,
To the coming dawn,
Because you are our help.
Your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness.
Do not let us be put to shame
Because we trust in you.

We stand up and raise our heads;
Our redemption is drawing near (3).

Amen


  1. Luke 21:34

  2. Luke 21:25

  3. Luke 21:28

Litany for You're Enough, a.k.a. Litany for Hannah (Year B, Proper 28)

This week’s Lectionary reading brings us to the story of Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel. Hannah’s culture has taught her that to be worthy as a woman she must behave appropriately (1 Samuel 1:16), be wife to a decent man, and bear male children. Sons. Sons are the pinnacle of womanly accomplishment and worth in this context. Hannah has everything else: a husband who loves and prefers her over his other wife, a household, social status, food on the table. But she has no son, a situation she mourns bitterly.  And, even worse, her husband’s other wife rubs it in her face all the time. Rivalry and jealousy between these women makes the pain of her barrenness even worse. We can imagine her home being fairly toxic on the inside, despite appearing prosperous on the outside.

So Hannah regularly pleads with God to give her this thing, this one thing that she believes will complete her life and save her from worthlessness. She weeps and mourns bitterly before the Lord. So bitterly in fact that Eli the priest thinks for a moment that she has come into the temple drunk.

And God in God’s mercy capitulates. God gives her what she wants, the son she bargains and begs for, that she believes will fulfill her. Which is great! And a kid is a good thing to want! God is pretty nice like that, although that’s not everyone’s story. Plenty of people beg and plead for things (or babies) they want and never get them. Or they get them in ways they didn’t anticipate.

But here’s the secret: when we circle back around to the love and regard of God, the truth we’ll eventually find is that we already had what we needed. There’s nothing we have to do or have to make God love us. God’s love is before and behind everything; it’s the base-level assumption we can make. The abundance of love we get doesn’t depend upon our relationships with other people, or what we do, or how healthy we are, or what babies we have or don’t have.

All the ways society tries to sell us on the idea that we aren’t worthy as we are, we aren’t enough as we are, we aren’t pretty or thin enough, we aren’t rich or accomplished enough, we aren’t nice enough, we aren’t bold enough - it’s all rubbish. You’ve got exactly what you need to be loved and welcomed by God.

So, Hannah, we’re really glad you had Samuel - that turned out pretty well. But if you hadn’t, you’d still be worthy of a story.

God, our culture is always sending us messages
That say we aren’t enough.
Our economy is always trying to sell us something
That will make us worthy.

When the whole truth, and the whole message of Christ
Is that the Community of God is right here, right now,
And we have everything we need to live in it,
To be fulfilled by Love.

Yes, there are things we want to do and have in this life,
But none of them make us worthy of love.
Our dignity and belovedness are innate -
The love of God toward us is a given.

So much of the work we are here to do
Is to learn to notice love -
How it’s already abundant
Already evident
Already the fabric of the universe
Already shareable.

Our belovedness, and the resources that affords us
Are what we must wake up to,
So that we can silence the voices that shame and destroy,
And be a people who walk in love.

Through all the noise we hear the voice of God saying:
“You are loved.
You are love.
You love.”

Amen.


Litany for the Widow’s Mite (Year B, Proper 27)

This litany is inspired by this week’s Lectionary reading from the Gospel of Mark.

God, many of us don’t think we have much to offer.
We discount our gifts, creativity, or abilities;
Or we have trauma that keeps us from offering,
Or we don’t trust ourselves.

But we know that you see us and are inviting us to give,
No matter how small the gift.
We know that you accept us,
    Even our two-bit gifts,
    Our meagerness,
    Our poverty of heart;
Because you are abundantly loving,
    Abundantly patient,
    Abundantly kind,
    Abundantly generous.

And we know that when we offer up ourselves,
Our time,
Our resources,
Our attention,
You make miracles with what we’ve offered -
Water becomes wine (1),
Loaves and fishes become food for thousands (2),
Streams flow in deserts (3).

No gift is too small in your eyes,
No start is too humble,
No moment too late,
No effort unseen.

The smallest seed becomes the largest tree.
The most ordinary generosity changes the world.

So, we offer to you our mites and bits
And ask for them to be enlarged,
That you would expand our efforts and our seeing
So that we may be part of the transformation.

Amen

  1. John 2:1-11

  2. John 6:1-14

  3. Psalm 107:35

Litany for Neighbors (Proper 24, Year B)

This litany is inspired by a reading of this week’s Gospel passage from Mark 12.

Christ, you taught us the keys to life,
The greatest commandments:
Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength;
Love our neighbors as ourselves (1).

We are asked to love Love
And to serve Love.
Teach us what this means, oh God,
And help us to do it well.

So fill us with love, oh God,
That we don’t have room for anything else.
Let us be enlarged and expanded
And awakened by Love.

Let our eyes never veer from Love,
Our hearts never stray from Love,
Our minds be fixed on Love,
Our bodies dedicated to love’s service.
And as we do the work of learning to accept and love ourselves,
Let us also accept and love our neighbors.  

Let care and concern for our neighbors well-being and highest good
Be the hallmark of our work.
For these are our neighbor and our family:
The poor, the lonely, the sick, the prisoner
The underdog, the misunderstood, the ones who long,
The far-away and the beggar at our gate,
The flawed and the downtrodden
The familiar and the alien.

Love is who and Whose we are.
And love is what we do.
Amen.


  1. Mark 12:30,31

Litany for Good Things (Proper 25, Year B)

This litany is based on a reading of the Lectionary passages for this week from Job, Psalms, and Jeremiah: “With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble…”

God, you invented all things from nothing.
Your imagination was the beginning of everything.
We get to experience life and beauty
Because you imagined them.
We get to explore and learn in the world
Because you brought us out of yourself.

We get stuck a lot on judging things and situations.
We say “this is good and that is bad.”
We approve some things and condemn others.
We accept some experiences and resist others.

But the truth is, resistance causes us suffering;
No purpose of yours can be thwarted (1).
The truth is, we can’t know the vastness of your goodness,
And our best option is to surrender to it.

Even in what we consider trouble,
You do good things.
Even when we experience pain,
You do good things.
Even when all we see is chaos,
You do good things.

We surrender now to the Highest Good,
The Deepest Joy,
The Biggest Love,
The Best Life.
And it’s in you, God; made by and through you, for you, for us:
The Divine Goodness.

May we who sow in tears
Reap with shouts of joy (2).
May we seek Goodness
And find it all the days of our lives.

Amen

1) Job 42:2
2) Psalm 126:5



Litany for the Greatness of God (Year B, Proper 24)

This week’s Lectionary includes the passage from Job in which God sits Job down and sets him straight about who’s Who in the universe. Then the Mark 10 passage, Jesus sits his disciples down and sets them straight about the nature of Greatness. Taken together, the passages are an invitation to return to wonder and humility and trust; to refrain from centering ourselves in the narrative, and start looking both outside ourselves, and deep within.*


God, so often we are hunkered down, focused on our responsibilities,
Our eyes on our small screens,
Our awareness on our troubles or our achievements;
That we forget about your greatness and beauty.

We forget to look at stars and clouds.
We forget to partake of silence and solitude.
We forget to listen to wind and whisper.
We let our attention wander away from you.

Remind us, oh God, in our daily bread and practice,
That you are the author of all things,
That you made love the building blocks of the universe,
That your kindness caused heaven and nature to exist.

Remind us, oh God, that we are both your handiwork and your Beloved,
That we are connected to all of creation,
That we are temples in which you dwell (1);
And yet you dwell in unapproachable light (2).

And when we get too busy trying to know you with our rational minds
Trying to think thoughts about you;
Bring us back to infinite enfolding love,
Which can only be experienced, felt, and surrendered to

Help us to return to wonder,
And turn our fear to love;
For you are clothed with honor and majesty,
Wrapped in light as with a garment (3).
You inspire wonder and trust.
All beauty has its origin in you.

Amen


  1. 1 Corinthians 3:16

  2. 1 Timothy 6:16

  3. Psalm 104:1,2

*I was especially encouraged by last week’s meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation. The God Particle particularly made my eyes leaky.

Litany for Social Justice (Proper 18, Year B)

This week's Lectionary selection seems particularly fitting, coming on the heels of the release of the "Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel" put out by a group of Evangelicals. I believe these texts and the teachings of Christ, as well as modern psychological and social science, all refute and shame that statement. It’s appropriate that this week’s selections center around themes of justice, compassion, and learning to see the world through the eyes of its most marginalized inhabitants. Our faith and the narrative stories it contains, our logic, and our research tell us that they have a better, wider view from the bottom of society than the over-40 white men at the top; and we choose how we respond to their perspective.

 

God, we know you look with compassion upon the lowly
The ones society ignores.
We know you listen to the cries of the weary and destitute;
Your eyes are upon them (1).

Teach us to follow true religion:
To not show favoritism to the rich (2),
To favor justice over comfort and convenience,
To care for the poor, the lonely, the orphan,
To demonstrate mercy,
To withhold judgement (3).

We know that the work ahead,
The work of righting wrong systems,
The work of providing for our weakest siblings,
The work of resisting evil programming (4),
Is the work of the Community of Heaven,
And never guaranteed to be easy.

Help us, Oh God our Healer,
As we re-evaluate our perspectives (5),
As we widen and deepen our listening,
As we learn the meaning of sacrificial love,
As we put ourselves in the shoes of the marginalized,
As we exercise humility.

May our faith be alive with good works,
With generosity and love (6);
And when we come into your presence,
And the fullness of your kingdom,
May we be remembered for our compassion,
The compassion of Christ. Amen

1) James 2:5
2) James 2:1
3) James 2:13
4) Psalm 125:5
5) Isaiah 35:5
6) Proverbs 22:9
 

Litany for the Heart (Proper 17, Year B)

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This week’s Gospel reading comes from Mark 7, where Jesus is challenged by some Pharisees as to why his disciples don’t follow all the rules they ought to. And Christ seems to think they are focusing on the wrong things, that the inward state of the heart is more worth working on.

 

God, the current of your love is flowing to us;
We don’t want anything to get in the way of it -
Not anything outside of us,
Or anything inside our own hearts.

We are beginning to understand that evil
Is whatever impedes love.
So help us, God; and don’t let us get caught in the trap
Of following rules,
Of observing tradition,
Of controlling behavior,
Of managing appearances,
And ignoring the state of our hearts.

We know we must be transformed from the inside out
That we must do inner work to become aligned with love:*
Disconnecting from judgement,
Releasing resentment,
Clearing hostility,
Relinquishing pride,
Cultivating compassion,
Creating peace.

And we know that we must allow love to work on us, removing impediments,
Restoring us to our truest nature:
God-children,
Love-centered,
Heart-open,
Christ-conscious,
Creative beings,
Reflecting your heart in ours.

Let our hearts, like beacons, point the way to yours,
Shining Love’s illumination. Amen


*I actually believe we ARE aligned with love, we just have to wake up and realize it, and clear out all the stuff that keeps us from seeing it. But for the purposes of the flow of this prayer, I’m using this wording.

Litany for Strength (Proper 16, Year B)

Much of the book of Ephesians is a re-imagination of how followers of The Way should respond to ordinary yet oppressive paradigms, subverting and disarming them. This litany is inspired by a reading of the Lectionary epistle for the week, from Ephesians 6, in which the author re-imagines weapons and weaponry in light of the paradigm of Christ. We no longer require conventional weapons and armor - they won't get us anywhere in this work. We need imagination and presence and persistence instead, the mind of Christ. We are invited into a new kind of strength, one that looks altogether different than violence, subjugation, and hierarchy; one that elevates Love's authority above all.

 

God, we live in soul-testing times
God, give us strength.
Times when evil is cloaked as politics and religion
God, give us strength.
When moral catastrophe is normal
God, give us strength.
When lies are told more often than truth
God, give us strength.

We put on the whole armor of God,
Belt of truth,
Breastplate of righteousness,
Peace at our feet,
Shield of faith,
Helmet of salvation,
Sword of the Spirit,
Daily rhythm of prayer (1).

We strengthen ourselves - not to kill
But to bring life!
To set free!
To wage peace!

Because we know that our enemies don’t wear human flesh,
But are found in systems, power structures, age-old traditions,
Powers of darkness,
Forces of evil;
And our best arms and ammunition
Are the love and light of Christ.

For freeing prisoners and making the dead rise,
God give us strength.
For breaking down injustice and resisting despair and apathy,
God, give us strength.
For undoing broken paradigms and rebuilding healthy ones,
God give us strength.

We ask for help, that we may be strong in times of trouble,
Steadfast under pressure,
Kind in the face of evil,
Peaceful in the wake of chaos. Amen

1) Ephesians 6:13-17

Litany for Wisdom (Proper 15, Year B)

This week’s Lectionary selections center around Wisdom, and the search for Wisdom. We see Wisdom personified as a Divine Feminine aspect in Proverbs; we hear God’s pleasure in Solomon’s request for Wisdom in 1 Kings; and we are exhorted to live “not as unwise people, but wise” in Ephesians 5. In the Proverbs, we are invited to eat the bread at Wisdom's table, and later in John 6, Christ identifies himself as that bread.


God, as Solomon asked for Wisdom of old,
So we ask for insight and understanding.

We hear Wisdom calling (1);
Let us answer her.
Come, let us commune with Wisdom:
Let us enter her house,
Eat of her table,
And enjoy her delights.

For you have offered yourself, oh God:
Wisdom, Word, and Bread -
Different facets of yourself, different metaphors;
Same loving Spirit.

Give us hearts that hunger and thirst for Wisdom,
For true wisdom and understanding:
That we may lay aside immaturity, and live,
That we may and walk in the way of insight (2).
That we may depart from evil, and do good;
That we may seek peace, and pursue it (3);
Making for ourselves and the generations to come,
A world rich in spirit, and rich in peace.

Amen

1) Proverbs 9:3
2) Proverbs 9:6
3) Psalm 34:14

Litany for Emotional Health (Proper 14, Year B)

This litany is inspired by a reading of the New Testament passage for the week (Proper 14, Year B)

God, help us to put away what doesn’t serve us,
What doesn’t serve Love,
What doesn’t offer forgiveness,
What doesn’t fit in your community.

We put away falsehood and dishonesty.
We put away destructive talk.
We put away bitterness and malice.
We put away power struggles.

Instead of repressing our anger,
We choose to examine it;
We choose to feel it,
We choose to release it.

We choose to deal honestly with our emotions,
And our difficult relationships,
And the pain we’ve experienced,
And so come clean to it all.

Help us to observe ourselves unflinchingly,
And to see down to the truth of what is.
For to honesty and truth
We add kindness and forgiveness (1).

Help us, Oh God, to be imitators of the Divine (2),
Living in full freedom, acceptance, and love. Amen

1) Ephesians 4:32
2) Ephesians 5:1

Litany for Bread of Life (Proper 13, Year B)

This litany is inspired by a reading of this week's Lectionary passages for Proper 13, Year B; specifically the Exodus 16, Psalm 78, and John 6, which are about desire and satisfaction.


God, we can spend our whole lives searching for things to fill us,
Our whole lives feeling empty,
Our whole lives looking for satisfaction,
Believing we are incomplete.

Many of us know this gnawing hunger,
This driving desire,
And we have tried many things to satisfy us -
     Possessions and pleasure,
     Rich food and drink,
     Misplaced intimacy,
     Achievement and status,
     Adventure and thrill.

None of these, of themselves, are bad -
it’s just that we tend to think they will fulfill us.
And then we find that the deep soul yearning -
     To be known,
     To be loved,
     To be at one,
     To be at ease,
     To be still,
     To be free -
        Remains.

Because these things can accent life, can be enjoyed, can accessorize life,
But they are not life.

And you sent us the Christ, to offer us a new headspace, a different mode of being,
A new fuel.
Christ offered himself as manna in this desert:
The Bread of Life. (1)

This is the new bread: that we realize our oneness with Christ
And with his community;
That we allow ourselves to be nourished from the inside out
And find ourselves transformed;
That we believe and follow his path of love and peace,
To arrive where we first began: complete and whole.

Amen

1) John 6:35
 

Litany for Compassion Fatigue (Proper 11, Year B)

In this week's Gospel reading, we see a tired Christ surrounded by tired disciples, looking for some rest and respite from their work. But they can't find it, even when they get on a boat and sail away to an empty place. Crowds of the sick and needy still find them there. And Christ sees the crowd and Mark's gospel says "he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd."

If you are suffering from compassion fatigue in these times, you're not alone. Maybe this litany will be helpful to you.

 

God, we bear witness to Christ:
In scripture,
In spirit,
And in our own experience.

We see the times when he and his disciples were exhausted
By the constant cries of distressed people,
By exerting themselves in service
By crowds and noise and need.

We have felt those same feelings,
And needed similar rest.

Help us not to grow irritable or resistant
To the needs of human beings;
But to have compassion for your people,
The sheep of your pasture.
For we are among them,
Hungry and in need of healing;
Hoping to touch the fringe of Christ’s cloak (Mark 6:56),
Hoping for miracles.

Help us to find respite from noise and distraction
And find connection with you,
Life with you,
Nourishment with you,
Peace with you,
Rest with you.

As as we daily enter the quiet place of restoration,
May we find you there.
And when we must go a little farther, pour out a little more,
May we receive our strength from you.
Amen

Litany for Dancing (Year B, Proper 10)

This prayer is connected to the Lectionary passages for Proper 10, the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B; specifically to the account in 2 Samuel where David accompanies the ark of the LORD into Jerusalem with dancing, music, and rejoicing.

 

God, we know that where your presence is
There is joy.
Where your glory dwells
There is joy.

As your servant David danced with all his might in the presence of the Ark (1),
So we embrace joy in the nearness of God;
You have not removed yourself from us,
Nor made yourself unavailable us.
We are your own people, whom you have blessed with every spiritual blessing (2)
Whom you love.

For surely you will speak peace to your people
When we turn to you in our hearts. (3)
Where you are, steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other. (4)

Oh God, grant that we may be so connected to your goodness,
And so aware of your presence,
That even when circumstances around us appear grim
We can have joy;
That even though we have all the facts (5),
We can rejoice;
That even though our dignity is suspect,
We can dance.

We carry your presence like arks within us,
Dancing as we go.
Amen

 

  1. 2 Samuel 6:14

2) Ephesians 1:3

3) Psalm 85:8

4) Psalm 85:10

5) From Wendell Berry’s poem “Mad Farmer Liberation Front”: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”