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 …

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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