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.
1 Corinthians 3:16
1 Timothy 6:16
I recently sat with my grandmother in the last days of her life. My mom and I were there holding her hand as she took her last breaths. It was a profound experience that has brought me to think about all the forms grief takes, and my own experience of grieving - how unpredictable it is, how sometimes consuming, how suddenly past only to reappear again. We grieve events, losses, trauma, time passing, people passing… and I’m coming to believe that grieving is not just some mental or emotional space that we are plunged into by life events; it is also a skill we can practice and hold space for. And the only way to get through this life whole is to learn the skill. If we can’t accept pain and process it through appropriate grief, we will be constantly resisting the experience of life. Through grief, we learn to integrate experiences we (dualistically) judge to be “good” and “bad”, bringing them into wholeness. The more life I experience, the more I’m convinced that learning to hold the tension of grief is as powerful a life skill as, say, positive thinking or good communication or self-care. Here's a prayer for skill-building, available on my Patreon page.
If my work has value to you and your community, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon, where you get access to exclusive litanies and content. This month’s Patreon-only litany is Litany for Grieving.
God, so many of us go around with anger simmering right under the surface of our emotions:
We’ve been wronged.
We’ve been traumatized.
We’ve been duped.
There is injustice.
There are broken systems.
We’re angry with ourselves.
We’re angry with others.
And sometimes we can’t understand what you’re doing so we are angry with you
We feel you’ve forgotten us.
We feel like the world is falling to pieces around us,
And you have failed us.
Our anger can be a useful tool
That propels us toward right action,
Fuels our good works,
And causes us to change.
But sometimes our anger doesn’t find its proper place -
It burrows down and festers;
Causing us more pain than the wound did to begin with,
And its effects seep out sideways.
Oh God, teach us to deal rightly with anger:
To funnel its energy properly,
To release it at the appropriate time and place,
To protect ourselves from anger gone bad.
Teach us how not to fight anger with anger,
But to be peacemakers and lovers;
Reflecting the image of Christ,
And covered in grace. Amen
I have also written Litany for Victims of Sexual Violence, on this topic. As I have watched the news lately, and heard from so many of my own friends who have trauma from abuse, assault, and violence, either sexual or otherwise, I feel its necessary to dedicate more time and space to these topics.
Oh God, when will victims cease to receive blame?
How long, O Lord, must we wait for justice?
When will the oppressed and abused be regarded?
How long, O Lord?
When will rulers cease to be tyrants?
How long, O Lord?
When will the poor receive mercy?
How Long, O Lord?
We speak to you of a tragic state of affairs.
We speak to you, Lord, about injustice.
We speak to you of the pain of the oppressed.
We speak to you, Lord, about struggle.
We look to the day when our righteous anger is no longer necessary,
When our vigilance is no longer needed,
When our activism is no longer relevant,
When our search for justice is done;
We look to the day when the warrior may rest,
The children be at peace,
The sword be laid down,
The mourning be comforted.
Our longing is known to you;
Our sighing is not hidden from you (1)
Come quickly to rescue us.
Make haste to help us (2),
O Lord, our salvation.
1) Psalm 38:9
2) Psalm 38:22
Woman, the world needs you. You can’t marry or mother your way to worthiness. Your own self, your own existence, your own recognition of the divine within you, is the gift.Read More
The Lectionary passages for this week contain images of the Divine Feminine in the form of Sophia, the Wisdom of God. She is mostly a forgotten idea among present-day Evangelicals, but other traditions have kept her alive. I myself have found solace and healing in studying her and bringing her into my thinking about God, and in reclaiming the Divine Feminine. I recommend reading this article by Jann Aldredge-Clanton for an introduction. Also check out our latest sermon series “God as She,” from Peace of Christ Church.
Oh God, the heavens are declaring your beauty;
The earth is proclaiming your character (1).
We mostly don’t hear this
Because we don’t stop long enough to listen.
Your own Wisdom is calling out to us
Day and night (2) -
She who is an emanation of your light,
A mirror of your being,
An image of your goodness (3).
She does all things;
She renews all things;
She orders all things;
She is better than any other light,
More worthy than any star (4).
If we don’t hear her,
It’s not because she isn’t speaking.
If we don’t see her,
It’s not because she isn’t there.
Oh God, open our eyes and ears to Wisdom,
To the beauty of your Person.
And make us ever more able to take you in,
To understand more fully,
To know more deeply,
To have patience to listen well. Amen
1) Psalm 19:1
2) Proverbs 1:20
3) Wisdom 7:26
4) Wisdom 7:27, 29
The Feast of Holy Cross is September 14.
To kill the hero is the utterest of mistakes;
Bad storytelling at best;
Stark failure at worst.
To glorify the tool, the rood, the cross
Admission of defeat at best;
Unhealthy obsession at worst.
And yet the worst mistaken failure is the world’s best story;
And the worst instrument the most shining (1).
Because when the worst shames the best,
Makes it meaningless and futile,
Reinvents its deathful purpose toward life -
Reimagines its ending as beginning….
Then we can be ushered into something entirely new.
And we can, maybe, grasp a new symbology,
Understand a new language,
Grow synaptic pathways previously unheard of.
If we can do this, then perhaps the sting of our own shame and torture and personal hells
Can become something else too?
1 Cor 1:18
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
I'll be leading worship again at this year's Nevertheless She Preached conference celebrating women in the pulpit in Waco, TX. If you can attend, you should! The preaching is amazing, and I'm pretty sure the music is gonna be sweeeet.
P.S. you don't have to be a woman to attend! Guys, you'll be so inspired too!
Hello and thanks for reading!
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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,
And we know that we must allow love to work on us, removing impediments,
Restoring us to our truest nature:
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.
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
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.
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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.
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.
1) Proverbs 9:3
2) Proverbs 9:6
3) Psalm 34:14
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
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,
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 -
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.
1) John 6:35
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.
1) John 10:10
This week's litany is inspired by the Lectionary texts for Proper 12 of Ordinary Time, Year B; including the account of Christ multiplying the loaves and fishes and, shortly after, crossing the sea on foot in John 6. Plus Psalm 145 and Ephesians 3.
God, who created all things and all people,
Every soul has its origins in you (1).
On planet and galaxy,
On land and sea,
You are the First.
Your stamp is on us all.
All our eyes look to you;
You feed us by your hand (2).
You divide fish and loaf,
Hungry bellies are no match for your abundance. (3)
We rest in your care.
You cross impossible distances to reach us,
Even into the dark,
Even into the deep,
Even into the storm (4).
And somehow, miraculously, you make us like you -
Filled with the fullness of God;
Understanding the height and length and breadth and depth,
And the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (5);
Strong in inner being and spirit.
Rooted and grounded in love (6).
Your universe is love.
Your language is love.
Your consciousness is love.
Your attitude is love.
Though we are but a speck of your knowing,
Among lands and seas,
Among planets and galaxies,
Your love is supreme. Amen
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:
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.