Proper 12 (Year C): Litany for Prayerful Living

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This week I’m working on a sermon on the gospel Lectionary of Luke 11:1-13, Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer and Christ’s comments on prayer in general. My mind is going to the truth I learn over and over again: that prayer is formational, and not just intercessory. These days, the best definition of prayer I can come up with is this: living attentively to God. And this both forms us in our character and soul and gives us rapport with God so that we may ask for what we want and need. When the disciples ask him to teach them how to pray, he teaches them how to live. 


Oh God, teach us how to live attentively to you.
Teach us how to pray (1).
For by our attention to you,
We learn how to be in the world. 

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

Easter 4 (Year B): Litany for the Good Shepherd

This litany is taken from a reading of the Lectionary passages for the 4th week of Eastertide, Year B. You can also find Litany for Sheep here.


The Lord is our Shepherd
We lack for nothing. (1)
You are the Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (2)

As Christ has laid down his life for us
So we ought to lay down our lives for one another (2).

Beloved, let us love, not in word or speech,
But in truth and action.
By this we will be reassured:
That we believe in Christ Jesus,
And that we love one another
Just as Christ has commanded.

For the Good Shepherd has taught us by his good example:
To share with those in need (3),
To bring the outsider in (4),
To abide in the Spirit (5),
To lay down our own agendas,
To take up Love’s agenda. (6)

Lead us, Good Shepherd,
Into green pastures,
Beside still waters;
And restore our souls to your peace. (7)

Amen


1) Psalm 23:1
2) 1 John 3:16-18
3) 1 John 3:17
4) John 10:16
5) 1 John 3:24
6) John 10:17
7) Psalm 23:1-3

 

Ephiphany, Year B (Week4): Litany for Unclean Spirits

This litany is inspired by the account of Christ casting out unclean spirits in the Gospel lectionary passage for the week: Mark 1:21-28.

God we know that you have given us power
And authority
To deal with unclean spirits decisively.
Hallelujah.

We know that you have given us freedom
To be our truest selves,
To face our shadow side,
To live in victory.

Help us to deal with unclean spirits, as we encounter them:
Racism
Prejudice
Patriarchy
Inequality
Hatred
Addiction
Violence.

Whether the unclean spirits reside in others
Or in our own selves,
We become aware,
We exercise power in love.
We commit ourselves to being people who walk in the footsteps of Christ
Who tell the truth,
Who create peace,
Who rout out injustice.

Help us to know Christ so well
And reflect your image so clearly
That the world is different and better
When we have passed through it.
Amen

Litany for Wheat and Weeds

This week's litany comes from the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13, part of the Lectionary readings for July 23.

 

Here we are, God,
Waiting among weeds;
Trying our best to bear fruit,
Though many forces seek to choke us out.

Send your angels to us
To help and guide us.
Give us your protection
And let us rest in your goodness.

When all is said and done
We’ll be even closer to you:
Our wounds healed
Our hearts made whole;
Our trials will finally make sense,
Our lessons will reap a harvest of wisdom.

For you have sown good seed
Even though we’ve been confused sometimes.
Your goodness has stretched out long over your creation,
And you’ve patiently spared us time and again.
We’ll shine like the sun
Reflecting your light.

Amen

Epiphany, Third Sunday: Litany for Following


This week’s litany follows along with the Gospel Lectionary reading Mark 4:12-23, in which Jesus speaks the iconic words, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
 

Jesus, you have called us.
“Follow me,” you said…
“Repent, for heaven is near.”
We want to follow you.

Culture is also calling us.
The world wants it way with us,
Offering us success, power, revenge, comfort, prestige,
Usually at someone else’s expense.
We’ll leave it all behind
And fish for people instead.

For all the ways we are complicit in the world’s schemes,
Forgive us, Lord.
For all the ways we choose false peace,
Forgive us, Lord.
For all the ways we make ourselves blind,
Forgive us, Lord.

We want to follow you with everything we are
With everything we have:
Every footstep,
Every quiet breath,
Every act of peaceful resistance,
Every careful word,
Every healing touch,
Every helpful offering.
.
Strengthen us now, Lord Jesus, to do as you do:
To proclaim good news to the poor,
To heal every sickness and cure every disease, (Matt 4:23)
To set captives free (Isaiah 61:1).

Amen
 

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 Doing Hard Things

The Lectionary reading from the gospel of Luke for Sept. 4, 2016 (Proper 18, year C) can be found here.

Wow, Jesus, you really know how to throw down a challenge. Sometimes it feels like you are just trying to make things hard. Why can’t we have a nice gospel? Something pleasant, with sparkles and comfortable pillows and cocktails? But no, you are here going on about “carry your cross” and “hate your father and mother.” I thought I was supposed to honor my father and mother! To love them!

Here is where it becomes helpful for me to read commentary.

I am trying to catch the spirit of this, and indeed the spirit of every challenging thing Jesus is saying in this journey through the gospel of Luke. And I am struggling with it, wrestling with what is black and white on the page, and what is meant, and all the hidden context I don’t necessarily see from a 21st century perspective.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I am slow. And that it will most likely take me my whole life to wrap my brain around what Jesus is explaining to me, which is, as best as I can describe it now, this: the goodness of the Kingdom is not in material things, nor is it necessarily in those relationships which come easily to us - among people who are like us, the same skin color, the same language, the same economic status. The goodness of the Kingdom is in the invitation, the giving-away, the sharing, the awkward feast, the open-handed posture, the asking for help, the venturing out, the making connections, the lost and found, the embracing Other.

 

God, We hold our lives loosely before you
Offering them up to you.
You have asked us to trust in you.
We trust in you.
You have asked us to be loyal to you.
We give you our loyalty.

Help us to get our priorities straight
To honor you with everything we own, and everything we relinquish.
We entrust you with the people we love
Understanding that your love is greater.

We acknowledge that following Jesus won't always be easy.
We acknowledge that we will be asked to Do Hard Things.

Help us to become willing
To follow you,
To endure whatever suffering we must encounter,
To humble ourselves,
To let go of things that hold us back,
To risk our security,
To embrace awkwardness,
To go all-out for love.

Everything we have, every relationship, every possession
Is nothing compared to the richness of your kingdom.
Everything required of us in following you,
Is nothing compared to the joy of your presence.

May we faithfully follow the example of Christ,
And live in his light.

Amen

 

Little Litanies: Help, Jesus!

In this kid-friendly litany, kids are invited to say or shout “Help, Jesus!” as the simple refrain. The grown-up reader could use a hand signal to communicate to the kids that it’s time to say their part.

Jesus, we know that you love and care for us and hear us when we pray:
Help, Jesus!

In all things, at all times, we can pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we feel scared, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we feel sad, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we have misbehaved and gotten in trouble, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When are sick or have hurt ourselves, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we have hurt others and need forgiveness, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When others have hurt us and we need to forgive them, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we have a grumpy, bad attitude, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we are tempted to disobey our parents or teachers, we pray:
Help, Jesus!
When we have to do hard things, we pray:
Help, Jesus!

Our whole lives long, we want to remember you and pray:
Help Jesus!

Amen



 

Litany for Doubt

In contemporary church-y, Jesus-y culture, we have little language to express doubt; and little room in our paradigms for sitting in the tension of it. Mostly, you are either in, or you’re out. I find that lots of people have a sophisticated (or at least wordy) theology about doubt and they know all the right answers, and usually those are the folks who have never actually traveled it. It’s easy to say, from a place of faith: you should put a lid on your doubt.

I don’t want to do that.

My personal experience with doubt has been informative and valuable. I feel that Jesus’ response to my doubt has always been a gracious “Here, touch my hands and side” (1); and “I saw you under the fig tree” (2). For better or worse, I want to explore it, to remember what it felt like when I was there, and allow it to portray my faith in relief, with depth and shadow and dimension. I feel pretty sure that to doubt is to admit that mystery is an ingredient of faith, a color in its spectrum.

This litany uses more poetic imagery than most of what I post. But I have found that regular words aren’t enough to give vent to doubt. If the entree is hard questions, it needs a side of groaning, and a chaser of silence.

Honestly, if you are in a season of doubt, and you are able to pray this (or any) prayer at all, well, good for you. And if your “sometimes” is moving toward “always,” then Blessings, Sister. Blessings, Brother.

Litany for Doubt

God, sometimes we feel as if You are not there at all.
We cannot hear You through the static of our emotions,
   the cacophony of voices,
   the fullness and the void.
We cannot see You in the fabric of the visible and scientific.
We cannot feel You in the tension and the grit.

People say “God doesn’t exist” and sometimes we believe them.

We want to believe You.
We want You to be Good. Love. True.
Help our unbelief. (3)

We have been hurt. Shattered, perhaps.
We have been disappointed, and are inclined to minimize risk.
We can say with the Psalmist: “All day long I have been afflicted,
    And every morning brings new punishments.” (4)
Let Your grace pierce the armor we set about ourselves.

Have mercy on us in our doubt, and meet us in our weakness.
Where we are skeptical, be gracious to us.
Where our expectations are unmet, be generous to us.
Where we have unanswered questions, gently teach us.

We acknowledge that doubt is an opportunity to become deeply quiet,
   To wait.

On our own we can hardly open the door for You.
We will need You to stealthily creep in.
We will need Your patience, and all the loving-kindness You can muster
To make up for our lack.

If there is any language we can understand,
Surely it is Love.
If there is any small spark our eyes can see,
Surely it is Love.

Amen
 

  1. John 20:27
  2. John 1:48
  3. Mark 9:24
  4. Psalm 73:14

 

Litany for Loving Those With Whom We Disagree

God of Love, fill us anew with the energy of your love
For we find ourselves in conflict and disagreement with our sisters and brothers;
But we want Your heart to move us.

We confess our tendency to cast judgement on those whose ideas differ from ours.
We confess our tendency to consider ourselves superior.
We confess our tendency to blame, call names, castigate, and demean.
We confess our tendency to speak truth in righteous indignation, and not in love.
We confess our tendency to use sarcasm as a weapon of righteousness.
We confess our tendency to obsess about being right.

Help us to have patience with those who do not share our perspective.
Help us to have grace for those we consider to be in the wrong.
Help us to extend forgiveness to those who hurt us or those close to us.

May we find, in each circumstance, those places where we are complicit.
May we attend to the log in our own eye.
May we remember that the good news of the Kingdom of God is steadily creeping in,
   That fear, defensiveness, and violence are alien to it;
   That peace, beauty, and gentleness are its hallmarks.
May we compass our movements by Love’s true north.

We relinquish our need to win arguments.
We relinquish our need to demonstrate our superior worldview.
In those opportunities we get to peaceably speak our opinion, may we do it with
    Love
    Joy
    Peace
    Patience
    Kindness
    Goodness
    Faithfulness
    Gentleness
    Self-control
And may Christ be glorified by our every word and action.

Amen