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 Revealing

Last week’s news about large-scale sexual abuse of children by clergy in a Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania has shaken and sickened a lot of people, myself included. It’s another example of the great revealing (apocalypse) that is happening in these days. Hidden things are coming to light. #metoo and #churchtoo are happening. White supremacy and racism are coming to the forefront of the collective consciousness in a new way. Motives and deep-seated sins, what the scriptures call “powers, principalities, and spiritual forces,” are being revealed. Evils that have gone unacknowledged (in a mainstream way) are coming into light.

I believe this is the Community of Heaven breaking in. And our task is not to resist it, but to become contemplative, to listen and examine our complicities, to search our own hearts; to “get our people,” as my Black teachers say - by which they mean we should be speaking to our own tribes and inner circles and helping them get on board and understand.

Whenever I think of what’s been happening the last couple of years*, I get the image in my mind of a glacier moving over a land mass, slowly slowly, leaving behind a mess of rubble and fertile soil and reshaped landscape. Our first step is admitting our landscape needs reshaping, which we can’t see unless we step back far enough to get a good view. The evidence is in every school shooting, every Black life ended by police, every Nazi rally, every sexual abuse scandal, every Latinx child separated from her parents at the border, every executed prisoner, and on and on. Without a doubt, our landscape needs reshaping.

And it’s coming. Millimeter by millimeter. Breath by breath. Prayer by prayer. Awakening by awakening. It’s coming and is happening now. The kingdom of God is at hand. The Community of Heaven has work to do. We shirk and deny and resist and cling to the past at our own risk. Help or get out of the way.

 

God, forces are at work in our world,
Which are at odds with your goals:
Death and destruction,
Injustice and abuse,
Apathy and self-centeredness,
Violence and hatred,
Status quo and inertia,
Distraction and disregard.

Evil is being revealed,
And hidden sins brought to light.
But ahead we can see,
Your kingdom coming,
Your people awakening,
Your glory shining.

We can see how today’s messy revealing
Is tomorrow’s hope,
How the rubble of today’s destroyed systems
Is tomorrow’s fertile soil.

So we trust,
And we follow,
And we stay awake
And we keep watch.
And we don’t shirk our work,
And we don’t deny our complicity,
And we don’t disempower the prophets,
And we don’t silence the marginalized.
And we don’t surround ourselves with so much noise that we can’t hear your voice.
And we don’t allow ourselves to despair.

We beat our swords into ploughshares.
We set our tables and open our doors.
We make way for the Community of God.
We prepare the way of the Lord.

Help us to humbly accept all the change that must happen,
In our society and in our own hearts,
To work together for new life and for good,
And to walk the peaceful way of Christ. Amen

 

*Really, what's been happening has been happening for a couple millenia, with various movements and intensities. I'm taking a micro-within-a-macro view here. With lots of gratitude and appreciation for the saints who have gone before me.
 

Litany for Back to School

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God, as our children return to the rhythm of the school year,
We ask for blessing upon them:
That they may learn and grow,
That they may make and be good friends,
That they may have their minds opened,
That their hearts may be soft,
That they may be protected from evil,
That they may be filled with love.

As they make independent decisions each day
Be with them.
As they work and play
Be with them.
As they relate to other people
Be with them.
As they navigate tricky situations
Be with them.
As they confront their own hearts
Be with them.

For their teachers we pray for endless wells of patience-
Let it be so;
Wisdom and insight into each child-
Let it be so;
Creativity and abundant resources-
Let it be so;
Blessings on earth and in the spirit -
Let it be so;

We know that safety is never guaranteed for anyone,
But we ask for it anyway -
That your angels would guard and keep them,
That kind people would surround them.

Give us wisdom as we raise and teach them,
To model kindness, empathy, and awareness,
To encourage creativity and open-mindedness,
And to love and welcome them whole-heartedly.
Amen

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 Embracing Race

As I have been getting an education on race, and as injustices and harm continue to happen, and as our society's inherent racism continues to be revealed; I feel compelled to write about race. I write as a white person primarily to white people. I write as a pastor, sometimes preacher, friend, and as an ally of People of Color. If you need a place to start your education, I recommend Austin Channing-Brown's _I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness_.


God, we can get an education in injustice,
If we are open to receiving it.
Soften our hearts, oh God,
That we may be willing to learn.

We acknowledge that the structures that make up our society have advantaged whiteness,
And disadvantaged People of Color.
We acknowledge that our Black and Brown siblings suffer in the same institutions and circumstances
In which whiteness finds comfort.
We acknowledge that privilege has suffering as its underbelly,
And oppression as its hidden cost.

We know that the time has come for our collective blindness to be revoked,
For the comfort of whiteness to lose priority,
For the weight of institutional injustice to be lifted,
For us to confront our pride,
For humility to become our prized virtue,
For listening to characterize our conversations.

Thank you for sending us the Christ
To show us a vision of a New Society
     A New City
     A New Era
     A New Government
     A New Law:
Where humanity is seen and valued;
Where privilege is a thing to be shared;
Where deference and gentleness are our best conventions;
Where institutions care for the disadvantaged;
Where race is not only tolerated, but embraced and admired;
Where diversity is beauty;
Where we are able to look beyond basic equality,
     toward Abundant Life and thriving for all (1).

And we are thankful, Oh God, for that institution begun by Christ -
The Church, the Body of Christ on Earth -
In which we re-imagine human relationships in light of Christ’s priorities;
And for this life you give us, which is love’s proving ground.

Amen

1) John 10:10

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.”

 

Litany for the Prophets (Year B, Proper 9)

This litany is inspired by a reading of this week's Lectionary passages from Mark 6 and Ezekiel 2.

God, we give thanks for the prophets of the world:
Those who speak the Good News into being,
Those who live out the mercy of Christ in a dog-eat-dog world,
Those who forsake honor and reputation,
Those who speak truth to power,
Those who leave their comfort behind.

For the poets, preachers, and saints,
We give thanks.
For the artists, peaceful protesters, marchers, healers, and humble warriors,
We give thanks.
For those who call out injustice and bring in grace,
We give thanks.
For those whose bodies, whose very lives, reproach the powers,
We give thanks.
For those who bind wounds, create space for lament, and listen deeply,
We give thanks.

We know that, most often, the ones who prophesy to us
Are the ones we ignore.
Most often, the prophets are the marginalized, the scorned, the killed -
Those who follow Christ’s footsteps.

May we be mindful of the prophets.
Soften our hearts, oh God.
May we heed their warnings.
Open our ears, oh God.
May their blood not cry out in vain.
Open our eyes, oh God.
May the bodies of the faithful speak beyond words.
Enlighten our minds, oh God.
May the wakeful awaken us.
Amen.


 

Litany for What Ails Us

This litany follows along with the week's Lectionary passages from Mark 4, Psalms 30 & 130, and Lamentations 3.

God, thank you for showing us over and over, in myriad ways,
That you care for us.

Even as Christ walked the earth in human form,
He healed ailments (1),
Brought life where death seemed imminent (2),
Cured diseases,
Welcomed little children,
Offered food for body and soul.

We are afflicted by so many sorrows and discomforts,
But you know them all.
We are brought low by various circumstances and particulars,
But you care about them all.

We suffer most when we distance ourselves from you.
We suffer most when we forget you.
Out of the depths we cry to you, God. (3)
Nothing about us goes unnoticed by you.

The steadfast love of God never ceases,
Your mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness. (4)

You have taken off our sackcloth and clothed us with joy;
You have turned our mourning into dancing,
So that our souls may praise you and not be silent.
O LORD our God, we will give thanks to you forever. (5)

Amen

 

  1. Mark 5:29,30

  2. Mark 5:41

  3. Psalm 130:1

  4. Lamentations 3:22,23

  5. Psalm 30:11,12

*Spanish Translation* Letanía para la Frontera

This is a Spanish translation of Litany for the Border. Many thanks to Ken Hanna for sharing this translation with us.

O Dios, lamentamos el sufrimiento que está ocurriendo a los que buscan asilo en la frontera de los Estado Unidos.
Señor ten misericordia.
Oramos para el termino de la separación de familias, la desesperación de padres e hijos y la degradación de su dignidad.
Señor ten misericordia.

Lamentamos la violencia y corrupción que están forzando estos inmigrantes de sus países.
Señor ten misericordia.
Oramos por el término de gobiernos corruptos, organizaciones violentas y las vidas desamparadas en Centro America.
Señor ten misericordia.

Lamentamos la póliza hecho por nuestro liderazgo Americano que ha causado la trauma de niños y bebés.
Señor ten misericordia.
Oramos que el congreso inmediatamente haga legislación justa y humana.
Señor ten misericordia.

Lamentamos la indiferencia de nuestra sociedad, nuestra tendencia de ser insensibles y ciegos hacia las extranjeros, refugiados, huérfanos y viudas.
Señor ten misericordia.
Oramos por la reformación de nuestros corazones y que tengamos la compasión y sabiduría de Cristo.
Señor ten misericordia.

Por La Paz en Centro America.
Oramos al Señor.
Por la practicas humanas en nuestras fronteras.
Oramos al Señor.
Por un gobierno misericordioso y justo en nuestra tierra.
Oramos al Señor.
Por corazones quebrantadas hacia todos los que buscan seguridad.
Oramos al Señor.
Que el amor de Cristo nos obliga y nos una, desde los más humildes e impotentes hasta lis más privilegiados y poderosos.
Que La Luz de Cristo brille sobre todos nosotros. Amen.

Ordinary Time (Year B): Litany for the Desperate

This week's Lectionary passages contain such amazing stories and David and Goliath and Christ stilling the sea, but also a deep sense of God's care for the afflicted and desperate.

 

God, it’s mostly by our own collective blindness
That we have the poor among us.
This is the pit we have made and fallen into;
This is the net that has caught us (1):
We favored the rich
And disregarded the needy.

But, by your mercy, the needy won’t always be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor perish (2).

Over and over in the scriptures, we read stories of people who miraculously overcome great obstacles:
     Boys who slay giants with stones (3),
     Women who defeat armies with tent pegs (4),
     Full jars of oil and grain despite famine (5),
     Desperate fathers whose daughters rise from deathbeds (6),
     Locked prison doors flying open (7),
     Dangerous seas calmed at a word (8),
     Crucified Christ resurrected (9).
From these stories, and many more
We take hope.

For in our deepest desperation,
You meet us.
In our poverty of spirit,
You meet us.
In our blindness and apathy,
You meet us.

Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to in this life,
But your eye is always on the afflicted.
Come to us now, Holy One, in our desperation and need;
Still our storms;
Bring us all to a place of rest,
And make us glad in the quiet. (10) Amen.*


*I recommend including a pause for silence here.

  1. Psalm 9:15

  2. Psalm 9:18

  3. 1 Samuel 17:49

  4. Judges 4:21

  5. 2 Kings 4:1-7

  6. Mark 5:23

  7. Acts 16:26

  8. Mark 4:39

  9. Mark 16:6

  10. Psalm 107:30

 

Litany for the Border

If you're unaware of what's happening currently at the US Border, please read up on it. And pray.
 

Oh God, we lament the trauma that is happening to asylum seekers at the U.S. Border
Lord, have mercy.
We pray for an end to separation of families, the desperation of parents and children, and the degradation of their dignity.
Lord, have mercy.

We lament the violence and corruption that is forcing these immigrants to leave their home countries.
Lord, have mercy.
We pray for an end to corrupt government, violent power structures, and poor living conditions in Central America.
Lord, have mercy.

We lament the policy decisions enacted by our own U.S. leadership that have led to the traumatizing of children and infants.
Lord, have mercy.
We pray for humane and just legislation to be passed by congress immediately.
Lord, have mercy.

We lament our own societal apathy, our tendency to be blind and uncaring toward the alien, the refugee, the orphan, the widow.
Lord, have mercy.
We pray for the reformation of our own hearts, that we may have the compassion and wisdom of Christ.
Lord, have mercy.

For peace in Central America,
We pray to the Lord.
For humane practices at our borders,
We pray to the Lord.
For just and compassionate government here at home,
We pray to the Lord.
For loving hearts toward all seeking safety,
We pray to the Lord.  

May the love of Christ compel and bind us, from the poorest and most powerless to the most privileged and powerful.
May the light of Christ shine upon us all. Amen

Litany for God Our Father

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This is a companion litany to Litany for God Our Mother.


God, who created fathers
And invented fathering,
Help us to see you more completely,
In your wholeness.

For those of us who don’t have fathers
Be our good father.
For those of us who have painful relationships with our fathers,
Be our good father.
For those of us who are fathers of children,
Be our good father.
For those of us who are spiritual fathers,
Be our good father.
For those of us whose ideas about fathering need reinventing,
Be our good father.

We know that for you, being a good father does not mean toxic masculinity,
Or domination,
But that you care for us with exceeding kindness,
     With attentiveness (1),
     With celebration (2),
     With generosity (3),
     With surrounding (4),
     With provision (5),
     With emotion (6),
     With love (7).

We know that you are father, mother, friend, helper
Lover of our souls;
Your love is constantly exceeding our expectations,
And redefining our terms.

May we reflect your fathering love,
Living in light of your example. Amen

1)Isaiah 65:24
2) Luke 15:22-23
3) Timothy 6:17
4) Psalm 32:7
5) Luke 11:11
6) Psalm 86:15, Zephaniah 3:17

Ordinary Time (Year B): Litany for The Seed

This week's Lectionary text includes the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a seed.
 

God, we know that your kingdom, your kin-dom, the Community of Heaven
Is like a seed -
It’s potential unknowable;
The smallness of the seed
Defying the magnitude of its becoming:
Bursting with life.

We don’t always know the end result
Just by looking at the seed.
Infinitesimal, full of potential, the seed is the start,
The prime of possibility.

The smallest of seeds
Can become the tallest of trees
Bearing fruit and shade,
Nourishing creatures,
Fractalizing, reproducing, and expanding,
Continuing out infinitely.

How should we understand big things?
By looking closely at small things.
How should we understand God’s Community?
By looking at its seeds among us.

This is what we want to be part of:
This ever-growing
     Ever-including
     Ever-sharing
     Ever-nourishing
     Ever-creative
     Ever-expanding, ever-life-giving communion.

May the seed find good soil in us. Amen

Ordinary Time (Year B): Litany for Crazy ol' Jesus

The Lectionary passages for Proper 5 (Year B) contain the story of the time Jesus' family thought he had gone crazy. His ideas and practices were so far outside of their comfort zone that they thought he'd gone nuts. The text says: “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind" (Mark 3:21).

This is what I love about him. Unexpected, unconventional, challenger of expectations and assumption; dumping old paradigms for what's sane and respectable and inventing new ones made out of entirely different stuff.

 

Christ, you arrived on earth with a lot of harebrained ideas.
People thought you were crazy
For your unconventional brand of kindness,
For breaking rules,
For making unexplainable miracles happen,
For re-interpreting scripture,
For rejecting violent means ,
For consorting with sinners,
For re-defining family (1);
For giving unexpected advice:
     Like, love your enemies
     Be humble
     Pray for those who persecute you
     Don’t judge
     Consider the poor
     Make peace.

You baffled everybody you met, from the time you were a child.
You’re still astounding us now.

It’s this same unpredictable grace,
This dazzling mercy,
This lively Love
This upside-down agenda,
That captures our imaginations many years after you last walked the earth in flesh.
We are captivated by you.

Look, here are our hearts:
Put your own heart in us.
Look, here are our minds:
Awaken them.
Look, here are our hands:
Show us the work to do.
Look, here are our voices:
Teach us to speak mercy.

You, crazy old Jesus! You ineffable Force of Love:
You’re the one we want to follow.

Amen
 

1) Mark 3:35