Litany for the Children and Families of Syria

How Long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue [them] from their ravages,
[Their] precious li[ves] from these lions...
Awake and rise to [their]defense!
Contend for [them], [our] God and Lord!
 - from Psalm 35

"Omran, Angels are Here" painting by Judith Mehr. ( via )

"Omran, Angels are Here" painting by Judith Mehr. (via)


God, we weep with you over the war in Syria.
Our brothers and sisters are in despair.
This war is without end:
The unending unthinkable.

We weep with the mothers
Who have lost their babies in deadly chemical attacks.
We weep with the fathers
Who cannot keep their families safe from harm.
We weep with the orphaned children
Whose parents have been separated from them.
We weep with these families
Who are our family.

Let your angels surround them in their distress.
Let your mercy come to them.
Let your peace be a miracle among them.
Let your life be a victory over death.

Rescue them, Lord God.
Move mountains to save them.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Amen

Litany for International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women's Day.

Oh God, who has created all human beings with dignity and love:
We lift to you the women of the world
Our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends
Worthy human beings, beloved by You.

Speak deeply into the souls of women and girls today
Tell them their worth, value, and strength.
So many women have been dis-empowered
Abused and enslaved
Pushed to the margins of societies worldwide,
Their voices never heard.

But you, Lord, have redeemed the lowly.
You have scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts (1)
You have lifted up the humble (2)
The Mighty One has done great things for us (3).
Even now, you are bringing justice for women,
Wave upon wave over the earth.
Even now women of wisdom are rising to leadership
In churches, organizations, governments, and arts.

Give courage to the women working
For equality and the good of their sisters and brothers.
Keep them from temptation and evil. (4)
And may the next generation rise up freer than the last.

Amen

(1) Luke 1:51
(2) Luke 1:52
(3) Luke 1:49
(4) Matthew 6:13

Litany for Journalists

God, we bring before you now those brothers and sisters
Who work to bring us news about the world we live in.
They are in a time when they must double down their efforts
To dig deep and bring truth to light.

Merciful God, protect them
Bring them help and respite,
Care for them
And for their families
Let no evil harm them,
And no foe alarm them.

When enemies line up to hurl insults
Give them blessedly deaf ears.
When world leaders malign their efforts,
Give them proof of their worth.
When exhaustion sets in,
Give them reliable friends and allies to help.
When they are tempted to bait clicks with sensationalism
Give them firm resolve and ethics.

Let truth and transparency be their guideposts.
Let freedom and civil liberty light their way.
Let insight and analysis spur them on.
Let strength and nobility characterize their work.
 

Amen

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

Litany for Fake News

God, we know that you desire truth in our innermost beings,
And you teach wisdom to our secret hearts (1).
We know that you detest lying lips,
But delight in people who are trustworthy (2).

All around us, fools conceal hatred with lies,
And spread slander (3),
So much so that we have trouble knowing what's what.
Keep us from temptation, and deliver us from evil;
Give us discernment and wisdom
That we might not mistakenly take part in spreading falsehoods.

Help us to be resolutely truthful -
Beacons of reliability where distrust abounds;
Anchored to truth in every circumstance,
Even when the truth is inconvenient or distasteful.

And stand connected with us in our every interaction
Both in person and in the digital world
So that we can respond with calm resolve,
     With patient listening,
     With merciful understanding,
     With compassionate love,
     With firm knowledge,
     And restrained opinion;
To every friend
And every perceived enemy.

We know that you require us to speak truth from our hearts (4).
We commit ourselves to spreading Good News to all.

Amen

 

(1) Psalm 51:6
(2) Proverbs 12:22
(3) Proverbs 10:18
(4) Psalm 15:2

Litany for Government

God, we seek your wisdom for how to live today, in this time and place.
We ask help from you
To remember that we are citizens of heaven first and foremost. (1)
Help us, oh God,
To live with integrity and fidelity to Christ even while under human government.
Help us, oh God,
To practice peace and resurrection in our every action. (2)
Help us, oh God,
To exercise our rights and privileges on behalf of the vulnerable.
We need the mind of Christ.

We pray for those human leaders in authority
That they may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly; (3)
That they may overcome self-interest with self-sacrifice;
That they may listen to the voices of the people they serve;
That they may have vision for good for all, beyond partisan goals and nationalism;
That they may resist temptation to wield their power for personal gain;
That they may resist tyranny, totalitarianism, and autocracy within their ranks;
That they may speak truth, and uphold it; (4)
That they may hold fast to laws which foster justice, and root out those that discriminate against the weak.
That they may seek peace and pursue it;(4)
That they may work for equality and benefit for all races, all genders, all religious and cultural expressions;
That they may champion the beauty of humanity from cradle to grave;
That they may regard kindness and cooperation as strengths;
That they may lead with humility, morality, compassion, and creativity.

Let everything that is hidden come to light -
The light that is Christ. (5)
And let all people live in the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Under the law of Love.

Amen

 

  1. Philippians 3:20

  2. “Practice resurrection” is a line in Wendell Berry’s famous poem “The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

  3. Micah 6:8

  4. Psalm 34:14

  5. John 8:12

 

Litany for the Earth

Here is the text of the first half of Psalm 24 (NLT).

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas
and built it on the ocean depths.

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols
and never tell lies.

They will receive the Lord’s blessing
and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Such people may seek you
and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.
                 - Psalm 24:1-6


God, we lament the destruction that has been done
That we have permitted to be done
By our silence and inaction
And by our direct action
To the Earth - Your creation. *
Forgive us, Oh God.

Even now we realize that our home
Is suffering
Its inhabitants are suffering
From lack of clean water and air
     Lack of life-giving nourishment
     Lack of safe habitat.

Help us to become aware
     Of the needs of humanity,
     Of the needs of generations to come,
     Of the needs of soil and creatures.
We acknowledge that we have a chance:
     To choose peace over profit
     To choose activity over complacency
     To choose a Greater Good over today’s convenience.

Arouse in us a new compassion,
A new willingness to change,
A new excitement to foster community,
A new faith in the abundance of your Kingdom.
A new zeal for establishing the Peace and Justice of God,
A new desire to set the Earth to rights
A new understanding of the connectedness of all things,
A new appreciation of the gift of Earth.

Amen

*Recommended reading for people of faith on the topic of Creation Care is Tri Robinson's _Saving God's Green Earth_.

Litany for Aleppo

God, we send the full force of our hearts
The whole weight of our intentions
In our petition
For peace in Aleppo.

Massive loss of life,
Immense destruction,
Atrocities committed by nation-states
Against civilians, including children.

Executions of innocents.
Bombings of aid caravans, hospitals, shelters.
Political impasse.
All for the sake of power, wealth, and empire.

May the perpetrators of these crimes be brought to justice -
Let them choke upon their power
And be brought low by their shame.
May they lament ever having thought of bombarding children.

Make some miracles happen in Aleppo, oh God.
Make peace real.
Hold those in power accountable.
Give authority to those who bring mercy.

Open the gates, that the king of glory may ride in
Mighty to save:
You, whose law is love
And whose gospel is peace.*

May the good news of peace
Finally reach those injured, traumatized, impoverished;
Those people whom you love and care for.
May peace walk in, arms laden with good things:
     Respite
     Healing
     Restoration
     Sustenance
     Safety.

Amen

Pray, share, and give to aid organizations on the ground in Syria.
mercyusa.org
preemptivelove.com

 

*lyric from “O Holy Night”

Litany for Kindness

God, make us attuned to your compassion,
To the kindness of your heart.

Transform our hearts and minds so that in kindness
We weep with those who weep.
In kindness
We rejoice with those who rejoice.

So that in kindness
We listen to the stories of others.
In kindness
We regard them as more important than our own.
In kindness
We allow ourselves to see hidden broken hearts.
In kindness,
We perceive a greater story.

In kindness
We care for the orphan and the lonely.
In kindness
We care for the sick and the prisoner.
In kindness
We care for those whose lives are just beginning and those whose lives are at an end.
In kindness
We care for those in crisis and in need of refuge.
In kindness
We care for those disregarded, disempowered, and marginalized.

In kindness
We consider how to maintain our hope.
In kindness
We consider how to serve our communities.
In kindness
We consider money and power as tools for good, not end-goals.
In kindness
We consider all humans to be made in your image.

The precious kindness of Christ,
Which firmly corrected and firmly forgave;
The precious kindness of Christ,
Which prevailed over death, violence, and empire;
Guide our hearts and mouths
And keep us in perfect peace.

Amen.


 

Litany for Standing Rock

God, we lift up to you our sisters and brothers at Standing Rock.
Show your goodness to them.
We give thanks to you for them,
For their strong witness against injustice.
We give thanks to you for them,
For their willingness to endure suffering peacefully.

Bless them, Oh God,
And let peace prevail.
Bless them, Oh God,
And let justice be done.
Bless them, Oh God,
And uphold their cause.

We recognize that this nation has succeeded
On the backs of oppressed peoples.
We recognize that again and again,
We have idolized profit.
We recognize that our collective greed
Oppresses those in the margins.
We recognize that our affluence
Comes at the expense of the poor, and of creation.

Forgive us, Oh God,
And have mercy upon us.

Open the hearts of our nation
To change
To mercy
To sustainability
To justice for all
To a greater good.

Heal those who have been wounded in this struggle,
Both physically and emotionally;
And bring peace and to a land that has known strife,
Whose ground is stained with blood and sorrow.

Amen

Litany for Humility

The Lectionary passage from the Gospels for October 23, 2016 is Luke 18:9-14. And, well, I encourage you to read it because I'd say here’s a passage we can use about now.

In fact, just the other day I read an article written by a pastor which declared that anyone who stood against his preferred presidential candidate to be under no uncertain terms a “pharisee.” I confess I was a bit offended and judged that pastor to be judgemental and pharisaical himself. After all, I’m only trying to navigate these murky waters as best I can, just like we all are. And they are VERY MURKY, stick-your-hand-in-and-it-disappears murky. And besides, I think you are wrong, nameless pastor. Dead wrong. Actually I’m certain that you are. And I am right, and I see through these murky waters more clearly than you do because I am further along on the path of enlightenment than you are, obviously.

And my certainty and righteousness leave me no room for humility. My defensive stance leaves no energy left in my heart for self-reflection. My internal list of all the good qualities I possess, which I immediately begin to recite whenever someone questions my motives, drowns out the small voice that invites me to spiritual formation, to consider how I might be part of the problem, what I might do to be part of the solution.

Does this narrative sound familiar?

I think we can subvert it. I think we can, in a sort of grassroots, guerilla way, which in my experience how mercy usually operates, BE THE CHANGE. We can reject mudslinging and turn our cheeks. We can lower our defensive fists and invite contemplation. We can loudly and decisively reject oppression, and then live prophetically and humbly into what comes after it is gone. We can listen to the chorus of angry voices around us, find where the pain is, and set about healing it. We can do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

At least I hope we can.

 

God, we turn toward you now.
Be merciful to us, sinners.

We feel we must defend ourselves.
We take refuge in you.
We feel we must silence others.
We choose to be still instead.
We feel we must rebut every argument.
We look to you for what is right.
We feel we must make ourselves appear powerful.
We remember that your power is made perfect in weakness. (1)

Help us to not point fingers or launch accusations.
Help us to quietly and peaceably stand up for what is good.
Help us to take care of our own hearts before criticizing others.
Help us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

We recognize that we are sinners
In need of mercy.
We recognize that we all see in part,
In need of divine perspective.
We recognize that we are all fighting a great battle,
In need of kindness. (2)

May we imitate the humility of Christ,
Who accepted punishment,
Who endured humiliation and slander
And used them for good.

We turn toward you now.
Be merciful to us, sinners.

Amen
 

  1. 2 Corinthians 12:9

  2. Quote attributed to Ian McLaren

Litany for Diversity

Do I have to say anything about this litany? Do I have to point out the headlines, the twitter feeds, the political season? I think not. I think we can acknowledge that we have some problems accepting one another, problems loving one another, problems with being kind. And I think we can acknowledge ways in which this political cycle has shown us our own hearts and characters in ways we needed to see. Some have said that it is God's judgement. But I am inclined to think it is God's mercy, moving us forward.

God, you have made people of every imaginable kind
Colors and shapes,
Privileged and marginalized,
Rich and poor.

We have differences of every imaginable kind
Perspectives and worldviews,
Countries and cultures,
Philosophies and theologies.

We acknowledge that we tend to fear what we don’t understand,
And that love is more powerful than fear.
We acknowledge that we must work to understand each other
And that this work is Kingdom work.
We acknowledge that each perspective brings your nature into clearer picture
And that we need each other’s points of view.

Help us to love one another
Even though we are different.
Help us to celebrate one another
Even though we may not agree.
Help us to be kind to one another
Even when we have been hurt.
Help us to open the doors to our churches
    Homes
    Organizations
    Governing bodies
    Dinner tables
Even though it may feel awkward and impractical.

We know that the diversity of the people of the world is a good gift
For our growth and edification;
To help us see your vision for the world
Where there are neither slave nor free,
Male nor female,
One race nor the other;
But we are all free, beloved, and united
In the peace of Christ Jesus.

Amen


 

Litany for Haiti

Haiti has been devastated once more, this time by a hurricane. Entire towns have been ruined, and over 300 people have lost their lives. Right now people in Haiti are struggling to survive in the wreckage of a terrible storm. We can participate prayerfully in their healing. I have also written this litany, which can be used in times of natural disaster.

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

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 Haiti
For your kingdom come
Your will be done,
In Haiti as it is in heaven.

Amen

 

Litany for the Unworthy Servant

The Lectionary passage from the Gospels for Sunday October 2, 2016 is from Luke 17:5-10. I read it in the TNIV.

This passage feels disconnected to me. The disciples say “Increase our faith!” and Jesus starts talking about walking mulberry trees. Then suddenly he’s talking about an unworthy servant.

I feel bad for the servant in this scenario. He works all day in the field, and then has to come back and prepare a dinner and serve it to his boss before he’s able to rest and eat himself. Despite working all the stinking day long, he’s called unworthy, because he’s “only done his duty.” What, Jesus? What more do you want from a person who has labored all day, only to come home and labor some more at preparing a meal for his lazy boss?

I’m confused by this “unworthy servant” business. Seems to me like if you work all day, then you work all evening, you should get a rest and a thanks. But you only get thanks if you go beyond your duty? UNFAIR! And how this is tied to the disciples original question about faith? This feels like I will never measure up to Kingdom standards, even if I collapse at the end of the day with exhaustion.

 But maybe I’m getting it wrong. Maybe it’s an invitation, and not a noose around my neck. Maybe Jesus is inviting me to think beyond the bounds of my “duty.” Maybe faith is about thinking outside the realm of the probable or expected (moving mulberry trees with a word?). Maybe being a person of faith is less like being an employee, and more like being a freelancer of extravagant kindness?

What if the servant had worked all day, done his duty, fixed supper, served it up; and then also made a decadent dessert? Would he still be unworthy?

 

God of Extravagant Kindness:
You have gone above and beyond your duty to us.
You have given second, third, fourth, gazillionth chances.
You have given fullness of joy and life everlasting.

When we have given way to violence and chaos,
Still you regard us with love.
When we have made a mess of a culture based on exploitation and heirarchy,
Still you regard us with love.
When we have taken the legacy of Cain (1), and perpetuated it for millenia,
Still you regard us with love.
When we have rejected the Way of Peace that Jesus offers,
Still you regard us with love. *

Help us to see beyond the bounds of our duty:
Our immediate families,
Our work responsibilities,
Our debts and debates;
To the realm of the improbable and unexpected,
To the mountains that need moving within and without,
To problems of injustice that seem impossible to fix,
To the beggar outside our gate.

Help us to release into the world your Extravagant Kindness,
Your moving-mulberry kindness,
Your walk-on-water kindness,
Your decadent dessert kindness.

And may we, by imitating the love and grace of Christ,
Be regarded as worthy servants of God.
Amen

(1) Cain, who killed his brother Abel over a land dispute.

* Look, I know this section is heavy. But look what is going on in the world? Look at the violence and racial injustice. Look at what's happening in Charlotte. We have gotten a lot wrong and I believe God has things to say to us about it. We need to listen. We need to counteract the prevailing culture with extravagant love and kindness.

Litany for 9/11

Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This litany will also be posted on Godspace. I have reposted it here for the sake of my catalog.


God, we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
We know that you remember them too, and are keeping them in your care.

We acknowledge the pervasiveness of violence in our world:
    Sometimes it explodes with intent to kill
And has its success, as on 9/11.
And sometimes it creeps in subtly:
    In attitudes and mindsets, in worldviews and passing words.
We find it even here in our own hearts.

Cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and restore us to justice.
We rely upon your mercy.

Grant that we may forgive those who have committed atrocities against us
And remember them also to your merciful love.
We hear your words to us: “Do not resist an evil person;” (1)
We are baffled and astonished at this instruction.
We have no paradigm for understanding a peaceable kingdom,
Other than your example.

Console us in our grief, Oh Lovely One.
Speak to us in our confusion.
Guide our feet on the path of peace. (2)
Be to us a light in darkness,
A lamp of peace drawing us lovingly in.

Amen


(1) Matthew 5:39
(2) Luke 1: 78-79
 

A Bilingual Litany: Litany for Wars (English/Arabic)

My friend Sara, who is from Jordan, helped me with some Arabic phrases for bilingual litanies. "Emnahna al salam" means "grant us peace."

em-NAH-HH-nah AHL sa-LAHM (you make the H-sound as a syllable)

I encourage you to try saying the phrase out loud, even if the words feel strange in your mouth, to speak in solidarity with those Arabic-speakers whose nations are at war and in deep suffering. Your willingness to discomfort yourself in this small way then becomes its own kind of prayer: stumbling, mis-pronounced, and self-conscious, but heart-felt. I have Syria in mind for this litany, but the name of any war-torn nation may be substituted.

God, wars rage and nations are in turmoil.
Emnahna al salam.
Only the power of God can turn hearts and minds toward peace.
Emnahna al salam.

In your mercy, look upon the people of Syria.
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon the poor and vulnerable;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon the sick and wounded;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon the government and political leaders;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon those whose pockets are lined by war;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon those who are caught up in violence and cannot see a way out.
Emnahna al salam.
Bring your justice and mercy swiftly.
Emnahna al salam.

Spoil the plans of those who instigate trouble because of greed and power-hunger.
Emnahna al salam.
Rescue those who are suffering from violence and unjust government.
Emnahna al salam.
Fill the hearts of those who can help with compassion and strength.
Emnahna al salam.
Empower leaders whose hearts understand the goal of Love, and who enact justice.
Emnahna al salam.

May the spirit of Christ, the Prince of Peace, be strong in that region.
Emnahna al salam.

Amen

For the Martyred French Priest: Prayers from the BCP

If you follow the news, you'll find much to be sad about, things that have happened in the last few days and weeks, both at home and abroad. But I'm especially sad for the priest who was leading mass in France when terrorists attacked the church and killed him. His name was Father Jacques Hamel. He was 85 years old. A presumably peaceful, elderly pastor leading prayers. I wonder if they were praying for peace, for an end to violence in their country, for the comfort of the families of those lost less than two weeks before in the tragedy in Nice.

I think it's poignant that the day before Father Hamel's own martyrdom, he had celebrated the feast of Saint James, who was the first of Jesus' twelve disciples to be martyred. He went to mass the next morning to meet his own death at the hands of broken, confused people. I wonder if he felt compassion for them. Did he say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" ?

I would like to offer prayers for Father Hamel, this recent addition to the great cloud of witnesses. I feel sheepish because he'd been praying liturgy all his life, 85 years; and here I am a novice dipping my toes into the liturgy and history of faith in Jesus, "fooling with it" as Phyllis Tickle would say in her Tennessee way. So I offer these prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servant Jacques Hamel;
and we pray that, having opened to him the gates of larger life,
you will receive him more and more into your joyful service,
that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past,
he many share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen (1)

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death:
Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way
that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness;
for your tender mercies' sake.
Amen (2)

(1) Collect for the Departed, p 253, Book of Common Prayer according to the Episcopal Church
(2) Burial II, p 505, Book of Common Prayer according to the Episcopal Church