Litany for Dark Days

The prophet Amos says the  “Day of the Lord is darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it.” This week's Lectionary reading includes that passage from Amos 5, as well as others referenced in this prayer.



God, we are weary, weary.
The days are dark.
All day long we contend with evildoers.
We wake to discover more death.

We know that when the days seem dark
We must persevere;
That discipleship is costly,
And the risks of faith are great.

We may be outcast.*
We may be silenced.
We may be slandered.
We may be killed unmercifully. *
But we know that, despite the shame and chaos of the hour,
You are still our help and deliverer (1).

Help us, as we go along, to keep our lamps filled and trimmed (2)
That we may wait with hope
In a circle of light -
Awake and ready for action (3).
We are poor and needy,
Yet still in your care (1).

These are days of darkness and change,
The Day of the Lord, unfolding; (4)
So. Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an everflowing stream (5).

Amen


1)Psalm 70:5
2)Matthew 25:4-7
3)Matthew 25:13
4)Amos 5:20
5)Amos 5:24

*as the pastor and prophet Jonathan Martin was last week cast out of Liberty University for speaking against the actions of its administration and calling for a prayer vigil
*as were the 26 people (plus 20 more injured) mowed down with an assault rifle as they gathered for worship this past Sunday. And the 58 (plus 489 wounded) the month prior in Las Vegas.

Litany for Hatred

This week's Lectionary...

You shall not render an unjust judgment;
you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great:
with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people,
and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor:
I am the LORD.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin;
you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:
I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:15-18)

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:36-39)

 

God, we acknowledge that, at some point in our lives, we all harbor hatred in our hearts.
Forgive us, oh God.
We all, at some point, render unjust judgements on others.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of loving our enemies, we have hated them.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of welcoming the stranger, we have shunned them.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of listening to the voices of those who are different from us, we have silenced them.
Forgive us, oh God.

We have sat silently by while others gave way to hatred.
We have hated and been hated.
We have forgotten that all humanity is our kin.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.

We have hated those who’ve hurt us
Those with whom we disagree politically or theologically
Those whose color, ethnicity, appearance, gender or orientation is different from ours.
Those whose sins are different from ours.
Those whose customs are different from ours.
Those whom we perceive as dangerous.

Scour our hearts free of hatred
Fill us full of love instead -
Lovingkindness from your heart.
Let no injustice remain among us.
Rescue us from the walls that divide us,
And bring us back to Holy Communion.
Amen

 

Litany for Opening Up to God

This prayer is taken from this week's Lectionary selections (Proper 24, Year A): Exodus 33, Isaiah 45 and Matthew 22.


God, your goodness is always parading past us.
We have only to look out for it. (1)
You are always being gracious to us.
We have only to realize it.
You are always being merciful to us.
We have only to internalize it.

You cover us with your hands and show us your glory - as much as we can handle,
If we only attune ourselves to you.

We don’t direct the flow of your grace and mercy.
You do.
We don’t decide who gets what.
You do.
You show no deference to anyone
You do not regard people with partiality.  (2)

Though we don’t know you,
You call us by name. (3)
Though we don’t know you,
There’s no one else but you. (4)

We set our minds toward knowing you.
We open the spaces of our hearts to you.
We set our bodies in stillness, that we might hear from you.
We open our spirits to meeting with you.

You are always gracious to appear,
Surprising us with your beauty.

Amen

1) Exodus 33:19
2) Matthew 22:16
3) Isaiah 45:4
4) Isaiah 45:5

 

Litany for Jacob’s Ladder

The account of Jacob's dream of a ladder to heaven with angels ascending and descending it, and the words of God to Jacob, is part of the Lectionary for July 23.

God, in our dreams we see you;
Even in our sleep you speak to us.
Oh, that we would be so conscious in our waking,
So aware of you in our daily lives!

We dream of angels.
We dream of heaven.
We dream of ascending.
We dream of your kingdom coming down.

You were always with us,
Even when we didn’t realize.
The house of God is here,
The gate of heaven is here (1).

Let the blessing that began with Jacob (2).
Continue in us:
That you are with us, and will keep us wherever we go,
Always bringing us home to you;
That promises of your goodness
Will be fulfilled in us;
And that we will bless the world
By our presence in it (2).

1) Gen 28:17
2) Gen 28:14

Litany for Jacob and Esau

The story of Jacob and Esau is part of this week's Lectionary reading. The heartbreaking story of brothers who opposed one another and competed from the beginning, who only made peace after a lifetime of heartache and pain.

Before we were born, we were poised to be enemies;
We were taught to hate.
Before we were born we fought and tussled;
We were expected to compete.
Before we were born there was already bad blood between us
We were initiated into heirarchy.

We come from a long history of war-mongers,
Peace-breakers,
Persecuters and persecuted,
Slaveholders and slaves.
We never expected another way but to rule or be ruled.
We have never known anything different.

This way continued for a long time:
We perpetuated it because we couldn't imagine anything else
Until the Christ came
And blew our minds open with a new gospel.

He gave us a new paradigm for living:
To love our enemies
To bless those who persecute us
To turn our cheeks to violence
To lead by serving
To share from abundant hearts
To make love the greatest virtue
To forgive and be forgiven
To care for the weakest among us
To regard God, not as enemy, but as friend.

It has taken many centuries for these ideas to sink into our consciousness
But, hallelujah! We are progressing
Christ has reinvented living,
The old ways are passing away.
And may the power of the new idea, the good news, the new paradigm of Christ
Give us hope for the future.

Amen


 

Litany for Hagar

This week's Old Testament Lectionary passage is the story of Hagar, whom Abraham cast out into the desert along with her son. But God sneakily rescued her; even though she was a slave and a woman, the lowliest of the low, God valued her and protected her.

 

Creator, Protector of the Lowly
Defender of the Weak:
You do not despise the needy;
You do not cast out those without status.
Your eye is always on the underdog,
And you care for those on the margins.

You rescued the lowly servant girl Hagar
Who had no power, no authority to choose a life for herself.
She served Abraham to the utmost, even bearing him a child.
Abraham cast her out; but you, God, rescued her.
You gave her water in the desert and preserved her life.
Her child grew into a father of nations. (1)

Your ways are not our ways:
     Social Status
     Breeding or family line
     Material wealth
     Race
     Gender
The world categorizes and assigns value to people according to these things,
But you, God, see beyond, to the inner person.

(All:) Hallelujah!

Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
For I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life,
For I am devoted to you;
Save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God. (2)

Amen

(1) Genesis 21:8-21
(2) Psalm 86:1,2

Pentecost 3 (Year A): Litany for Wonders

The Old Testament text for this third week of Pentecost is Genesis 18, the account of messengers coming to Abraham and Sarah and informing them that Sarah will give birth to a child in her old age. When Sarah hears this, she sees the irony and humor of it - Now? After I’m old and gray and spent my youth hoping and praying for a child? Now? I imagine she laughed for joy and irony and disbelief and the ignorance of men. I imagine if she’d been texting her sister in that moment she’d be like IDK IF THESE OLD DUDES KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT WOMEN. WE ARE NOT ETERNALLY FERTILE. LOL!

But the Lord responds: Is anything too wonderful for me?

And so, old Sarah gets knocked up, gives birth, and names her kid “Laughter.” Wonders never cease.


 

Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? (1)
Nothing is too wonderful for you.
You make wonders bloom from your hands,
And from your imagination spring amazing things.

Your wonders will never cease.
Your wonders will never cease.

Old women bear children. (2)
Trees bear fruit out of season.
Rocks give forth springs of water. (3)
Seas part. (4)
Storms are stilled. (5)
Sickness and disease are cured. (6)
Whole nations are brought out of bondage. (7)
Crowds are fed from your hand. (8)
Dry bones are enlivened. (9)
The dead are raised to life. (10)

Your wonders will never cease.
Your wonders will never cease.

We enter your presence with thanksgiving,
And your courts with praise.
We give thanks to you,
We bless your name.
For you are good; your steadfast love endures forever,
and your faithfulness to all generations. (11)

Amen

(1) Genesis 18:14
(2) Genesis 21:2
(3) Numbers 20:11
(4) Exodus 14:21
(5) Matthew 8, Mark 4
(6) Matthew 10:8
(7) Exodus 20
(8) Matthew 14, 15, John 6, Mark 8
(9) Ezekiel 37
(10) John 11, Mark 5, Luke 8, 1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4, and many more
(11) Psalm 100:4,5

Pentecost: Litany for Spiritual Gifts

Pentecost is the day on the liturgical calendar in which we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts 2, and predicted earlier by Jesus. I've drawn from the Lectionary texts for this week, specifically Acts 2 and John 7, for this piece.

Divine Being,
From whom every miracle has come,
Every artifact and invention of creation,
Every living thing from your imagination:

Pour out your Spirit upon us
That we may dream dreams
See visions
And speak with prophetic imagination*. (1)

Pour out your Spirit upon us,
That we may have the gift of faith,
Rivers of living water
Flowing from our hearts. (2)

Pour out your Spirit upon us
That we may bring your ways here to Earth
Live out the compassion of Christ,
And embody your kingdom.

Pour out your Spirit upon us,
That we may speak to all in ways they can understand
Of your lovingkindness --
The great lengths to which you’ve gone to draw us close.

Pour out your Spirit upon us,
That the world in which we live might be changed
That heaven might be found here
And that hope and life may be realized by all people.

Amen

(1) Acts 2:17
(2) John 7:38

*Prophetic Imagination is Brueggemann’s term, not mine.

Ascension Day: Litany for Spiritual Power

This Sunday is Ascension Day, in which we remember the ascension of Christ into heaven. The week's Lectionary reading contained the word "power" 6 times. The word stuck out to me, and I was thinking about how the church calendar and Lectionary selections are leading up to the next BIG DAY, which is Pentecost. And about how mostly we go around completely forgetful that we have any access to spiritual power at all, that we have been shared power to change things, move mountains, bring healing and peace, offer forgiveness. Seems like a first step to tapping into that might be simply acknowledging it. Just speaking the word aloud seems to bring with it a new energy. So I invite you to pray this prayer with me, as we raise your awareness of our inheritance.

Sing praises, all the earth, sing praises!
Clap your hands, dance for joy, all you people! (1)
For the Holy One is ruler over all,
Overseeing with majesty, wisdom and love. (2)

The Christ has risen from the dead.
He has scoured hell and overcome it.
The Christ has appeared in life,
Proving himself and his word
The Resurrection and the Life, the Christ,
Has ascended into heaven and is seated at Yahweh’s right hand.
We, who look to Christ as our example and our teacher,
Wait upon his promise of power.

And indeed it has been given to us:
A spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know Christ (3)
That the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened
That we may know the hope to which we are called
And the riches of our glorious inheritance,
The immeasurable greatness of his power. (4)

Christ, Help us to know
Help us to listen and understand;
Give us courage to walk in the fullness
Of the power of Christ in us.

Amen

 

  1. Psalm 47:1

  2. Psalm 93:1

  3. Eph 1:17

  4. Eph 1:18-19




     

Easter 6 (Year A): Litany for Abiding Love

The Lectionary passages for the sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A) include Acts 17, John 14, and Psalm 66. I've been contemplating what it might mean to be powered by love, as if divine love were a battery that fuels us. Or as if, when we take the bread and the cup of Eucharist, we ingest love, it becomes part of us, and fuels our activity in the world. How might we train ourselves to run on love rather than on ego? How can we learn to operate on a new system? What spiritual practices might form that pathway in us?


Eternal Divine Love,
Creator and Parent of all,
Ruler of Heaven and Earth
We are your children, your offspring. (1)

You give to all mortals life and breath
And all things.
You allot the times of our existence
And the boundaries of our places. (2)

We confess our blindness to your presence.
Make us aware of you.
We confess the smallness of our concept of you.
Enlarge our knowing.
We confess our ego-driven tendencies.
Power us instead with Love.

We have searched and groped for you
Though you are not far from each one of us. (3)
We cried aloud to you
And you have heard our prayer. (4)
We bless you,
For you have not rejected us nor removed your steadfast Love from us. (5)

Help us to keep your commandments (6)
And to abide in your Love .(7)

Amen

 

(1) Acts 17:28
(2) Acts 17:25,26
(3) Acts 17:27
(4) Psalm 66:17,19
(5) Psalm 66:20
(6) John 14:15
(7) John 14:21

Easter 5 (Year A): Litany for Looking at Christ

Here are the Lectionary passages for this Sunday, May 14, Year A. I have utilized the 1 Peter 2 and John 14 passages.
 

Eternal Christ, Out-poured Heart of God,
Merciful One,
Originator of Forgiveness,
Author of Peace:

It is to you that we can look
When we want to see God.
It is to you that we can draw near
When we want to be close to God.
It is you that we can imagine
When we want to understand God.
It is to you that we can turn
When we need to take refuge in God.
It is through you we can go;
You’re a direct route to God. (1)

You were with us all along,
But we kept on rejecting you. (2)
Now, just in the nick of time,
We are wrapping our arms around you. (3)

We rely upon your gracious promise:
That if we ask for anything in your name, you’ll do it. (4)
We ask to join you,
To be part of that divine communion --
You in God, God in you, (5)
Us, dancing and working along with you.
Where you are,
There may we be also (6)

Amen

 

(1) John 14:6
(2) 1 Pet 2:7
(3) 1 Pet 2:10
(4) John 14:13
(5) John 14:10
(6) John 14:3

 

Litany for Knowing God, Even in Suffering

Here is this week's Lectionary-based litany, containing elements from Psalm 23, John 10, and 1 Peter 2. I threw in the Hosea cause I felt like it worked.

 

God, you are the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1)
We want to become more aware of you (2)

We hold as our example the Christ, who suffered
But did not threaten;
The Christ, who endured abuse,
But did not return abuse; (3)
The Christ, who bore pain -
By his wounds we are healed!... (4)

Because Christ revealed the heart of God.
You desire mercy not sacrifice (5).
Because Christ has shamed the principalities and powers.
You desire the knowledge of God, not offerings (5).
Because Christ has torn the veil and made way to the Holy of Holies (6)
You desire rich relationship with us, your creations.

Come, let us press on to know the Lord
His appearing is as sure as the dawn (7).
We hear your voice -
You call to us and lead us out (8).
Wherever we go, you are with us,
Comforting, loving, restoring, guiding (9).

Be near to us, Lord, in whatever darkness or suffering we must encounter in this life,
Help us to see every pain redeemed in the light of Christ’s love.

Amen
 

 

(1)1 Pet 2:25
(2) 1Pet 2:19
(3) 1 Pet 2:23
(4) 1 Pet 2:24
(5) Hosea 6:6
(6) Matthew 27:51
(7) Hosea 6:3
(8) John 10:3
(9) Psalm 23:4


 

 

Easter 3 (Year A): Litany for the Road to Emmaus

The Lectionary texts for the third week of Easter (Year A) include the account in Luke of Jesus walking with some disciples on the road to Emmaus. Shortly after Jesus' resurrection, they were walking along discussing all the things that had happened. Jesus joins them, but they don't recognize them, even though the "disappearance" of his body is what they're discussing. With a great deal of patience, Jesus walks along with them and expounds the whole story of how he got to be there, starting with Moses. But the disciples don't realize its him until dinnertime, after they've invited him in to eat, when he takes bread and breaks it and serves it to them - only then do they understand that it was him all along, explaining everything.

God, you are always being kind to us,
Always loving us toward yourself;
Just as Christ showed his wounds to doubting Thomas
With grace and kindness;
Just as Christ shared his story to the men walking the road to Emmaus
With patience and generosity.

It is this deep grace,
     This boundless giving,
     This patient character,
     This kind regard for all;
That inspires our hearts,
And by which we recognize you.

Relentlessly, you give of yourself
So that we might know and understand you.
Over and over again, you kindly explain the story
In words we can take in.
We know you instantly, the moment you break bread with us --
We can see you in your glorious reality.

Make our hearts ready for more:
     More understanding
     More responsibility
     More of your kingdom;
And graciously work with us where we are confused
So that we may see you in your full beauty.

Amen


 

Easter 2 (Year A): Litany for Fear

The Lectionary passage from the Gospels for the second Sunday in Eastertide is from John 20, in which Jesus appears to the disciples in the house where they are huddled up after the crucifixion, terrified for their lives, afraid the Jewish authorities will connect them with the rebel Jesus who was put to death over the weekend. The doors are locked, windows barred; I imagine everyone is tiptoeing trying to be quiet, trying not to need to use the outhouse.

Jesus, ignoring the locked doors, appears among them, right into the midst of their terror, offering them peace. He graciously lets them see his wounds. And then he breathes on them the gift of the Spirit. It's quite the entrance.



God, we are caught up in fears
Of things known and unknown
As the disciples huddled in a house, fearful after Christ’s death
So we tend to lock our doors.

We forget that when we lock our doors, nothing can enter
Neither the bad nor the good.
But Perfect Love doesn’t need a door -
Christ has appeared among us, even so!

Into our darkest, most fearful places
Jesus has walked right in!
Into our most doubtful moments
Jesus has spoken Peace. (1)
We saw in his wounds, the evidence of death and pain upon him,
Our worst fears realized in his flesh.

What we learned is that our worst fears are not the end:
Life has overcome death;
Joy has overcome pain;
Love has overcome fear. (2)
The one who went before us, straight into the heart of darkness --
The Risen Christ has overcome the world. (3)

Breathe upon us, Lord Christ:
The breath of hope and peace,
The breath of Perfect Love,
The breath of the Spirit of God. (4)

Amen

(1) John 20:21
(2) 1 John 4:18
(3)
John 16:33
(4)
John 20:22

Resurrection Sunday (Year A): Litany for the Story

Here are the Lectionary texts for Easter morning, Year A. I have tried to draw elements from each text, plus an additional reference from John 2. Hallelujah! He is Risen!

 

God, You have loved us with an everlasting love;
You have continually been faithful (Jeremiah 31:3)
You are our strength.
You are our salvation. ((Psalm 118:14)

This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth:
He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed.
He was put to death on a cross and his body laid in a tomb. (Acts 19:38,39)

“Tear this temple down,” he said,
“In three days I will rebuild it!” (John 2:19)

And so it is:
On the third day,
As the disciples Mary and Mary Magdalene have seen:
Christ’s tomb is empty! (John 20:1)
An angel has rolled away the stone: (Matthew 28:2)
He is not there.
He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

We celebrate the story of Jesus Christ:
Birth, work, death, resurrection.
And we have been raised with Christ,
Who is our life. (Col 3:1,4)

Amen



 

Good Friday: Litany for Scapegoats and Surprises

The texts for Good Friday (Year A) are expansive and rich. In the end, I had to veer away from them specifically to get a better overall picture. I could have written a whole litany on Peter resorting to violence (scolded by Jesus) and then denying Jesus. I could have written a whole litany with imagery from Psalm 22, which Jesus quotes in his last breath. I could have written a whole litany on "approaching the throne... with boldness" from Hebrews 10. It was just too much to pull together into a bite-sized congregational litany. Alas.

Hallelujah to the Lamb of God
Who was sacrificed;
Who was Scapegoat,
Who willingly went to death,
Who gave himself over to principalities and powers
So that they could be undone.

Everything we thought we knew about justice,
Everything we thought we knew about God
All our expectations of power and force
Our preconceived notions of victory
Were overturned in Christ
The old ideas are shadows.

Christ, who went to death
To prove life;
Who went to defeat
To prove victory;
Who went to darkness
To prove light.
Who went to pain
To prove joy.

We wait with you, Son of God, in mourning and quiet,
In the darkness of Good Friday,
Until the day dawns
And the Morning Star surprises our hearts. (1)

Amen

(1)2 Pet 1:19

Maundy Thursday (Year A): Litany for Dinner and Foot-washing

The Lectionary texts for Maundy Thursday include the account of the commands concerning Passover remembrance in Exodus, of Christ's celebration of Passover in 1 Corinthians, and the story of Jesus washing feet after dinner from John 13. Jesus brings the Passover story right back to himself, and then ties it up with a bow of down-and-dirty servanthood.


God, we receive the love of Christ.
We receive his great example,
We receive the power and work he demonstrated by your spirit;
And we receive the commands he has given.

This is Christ’s command:
That we love one another (John 13:34)
Just as Christ loved his disciples and others he met.
As Christ has done so must we do.

This is Christ’s example:
Washing the feet of his friends; (John 13:14-15)
Humbly doing the work of a servant
Becoming vulnerable, laying down his life.

This is Christ’s legacy
Which we receive as the gift of heaven:
Where once there was sacrifice,
Now there is mercy.  (Hosea 6:6)
Where once there was flesh and blood,
Now there are bread and wine. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The mercy of God has been made known in the body of Christ.
The character of God has been made known in the work of Christ.
He has shown us a way forward,
And we will follow the path of peace.

Amen