Litany for Confession

I’m gradually waking up to the understanding that my greatest and most pervasive sin is lack of compassion, which is to say, lack of love. Sometimes it looks like apathy. Sometimes it looks like pride. Sometimes disgust. Sometimes hurried-ness and preoccupation. Sometimes it looks like laziness. Sometimes it looks like blindness. Sometimes it looks like somebody else’s problem.

It’s all the same thing, the same root cause: a lack of compassion in my heart, a seed that fell among thorns (1). There wasn’t enough compassion to move me. There wasn’t enough to get me to DO anything. Because true compassion MOVES; and true compassion DOES.


If I were sitting with you over wine or coffee I could tell you a lot of stories about a lot of missed opportunities. A lot of times I didn’t say hello, didn’t open the door, didn’t call or send a note , didn’t pull over on the side of the road, didn’t rifle my purse for cash to put in a cup, didn’t want to get up early or stay up late, didn’t want to give up some luxury, didn’t see whatever pain was right under my nose. Didn’t go, didn’t do, didn’t move. A lot. More than I want to think about.

I prayed for a friend the other day who has a long-standing health issue and I felt the compassion of God toward her. She expressed frustration with this. Why should she care if God has compassion toward her if it leaves her in pain all the time? What good does God’s compassion do if she’s not healed of her affliction? I resonate with her frustration--that’s hard.

But how about if I turn that mirror on myself: what does my compassion do? Does it feed hungry people? Does it lament alongside folks who are grieving? Does it care for orphans and lonely folks? Does it speak encouraging words? Does it make peace? Does it foster equality and work for justice? Does it grow legs and walk around? Do I embody it?

Usually not. And sometimes it smacks me in the face, but mostly I get away with it.

Note: I have written this litany in first person because it is my personal prayer. If you want to pray it too, go ahead. It could easily be adapted for congregational use by changing “I” and “my” to “we” and “our."


God,
I have sinned against you in thought, and word, and deed;
In things I have done,
But mostly in things I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart.
I have not loved my neighbor as I love myself (2).

Half the time, I haven’t even realized my neighbor was there.

You were thirsty and I didn’t give you a drink.
You were naked and I didn’t clothe you (3).

I have gone around blind,
Preoccupied,
Self-absorbed,
Lazy,
Prideful.

I have blamed it on
Family responsibilities
Lack of time
Not my problem
My smallness (4).
Fear of doing it wrong.

If compassion is a seed, then I am the thorny soil (5).

Forgive me, Oh God,
According to your mercy.
According to your great compassion
Blot out all my iniquity (6).  

I have nothing to offer you
Except a broken and contrite heart (7).
Remake my heart out of love,
And let love be the heart of my life.

Amen

  1. Parable of the sower, Matthew 13

  2. This language is adapted from the Prayer of Confession from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

  3. Matthew 25:35,36

  4. Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

  5. See item (1)

  6. Psalm 51:9

  7. Psalm 51:17

     

Litany for Goodness and Mercy

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)

 

God of goodness and mercy: we admit that we have gotten off-track.
We know we need to do justly,
Love mercy,
Walk humbly. (1)

We are enticed by retribution
And take vengeance for ourselves (2).
We are enamored by damnation
And forget about goodness.
We are in love with judgement
And disregard mercy.

We need a change of heart.
Christ, have mercy on us.
We need to look into your eyes and have our inner world transformed,
Before we begin work on the world around us (3).

Transform and renew us now (4)
Into the image of Christ,
Into a peace-making people,
Into a just and merciful people.

May we scatter seeds of goodness and mercy wherever we go,
And live in the light of your presence always. (5)

Amen

 

  1. Micah 6:8, which Phyllis Tickle says is the motto of the Great Emergence.

  2. Romans 12:19

  3. Matthew 7:3

  4. Romans 12:2

  5. Psalm 23.6

Litany for Generosity

The Lectionary reading from the Gospels for this week July 31, 2016 (Proper 13, Year C), Luke 12: 13-21:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

I read this passage over and over this week, and each time my question has been this:
What does it mean to be rich toward God?

I wonder if the answer might begin to be found in the section that follows, verses 22-34. Here we are invited to be free from worry about food and clothing because we are assured that God cares for us. Bird and flowers have no storeroom or barn, and God provides for them, so surely God will provide for us.

But if we want to know how to be rich toward God, it’s this part that is the clincher, and the hardest to swallow:

“But seek his kingdom and these things (food, drink, clothing) will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid… for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail.”

SELL MY POSSESSIONS AND GIVE TO THE POOR? Is that what it means to be rich toward God? You’re telling me that life isn’t found in having an abundance of possessions; but life IS FOUND in giving possessions away? And somehow that gets me invisible, indestructible treasure later?

I see why the rich young ruler turned away a few chapters later. It's a hard paradigm to understand. Our culture isn't geared this way. If I had to choose three words to define the culture I live in, they would be More, Mine, and Now.  And I have to wonder: if we could get this whole being-rich-toward-God thing right, if it could somehow miraculously enter our (my) thick skull(s) and take root there, how many problems would be solved?

So here it is my friends, the upside-down kingdom at its finest, most unexpected, most difficult, and most life-giving; where less looks like more, mine becomes yours, and now steps aside for the long view. Let's pray.


God, we know that you have been pleased to give us your kingdom.
Make us generous, as you are generous.
You have been rich toward us, with resources, with love, and with your Spirit.
Teach us how to be rich toward you.

We understand that greed is often rooted in fear.
Of not having enough,
Of not being well-regarded by others,
Of being powerless.

We ask you to transform our fear into radical love
Open-hearted generosity,
Trust in your unending care for us,
Willingness to go all out for your kingdom.

We confess that we have held tightly to our material possessions.
Forgive us.
We confess that we have been afraid we won’t have enough.
Forgive us.
We confess that we are part of a society preoccupied with wealth and ease.
Forgive us.
We confess that we don’t know how to be rich toward you.
Forgive us.

Help us to see our possessions in light of the good news of the kingdom of God.
We seek your kingdom.
Help us to see our lives and work in light of your generosity.
We trust in your graciousness.
Help us to see your face in the poor and powerless.
Your kingdom is abundant with life, enough for all.

Amen

 

 

Litany for Creation Care

Creator God, whose art and beauty are evident in every molecule of Creation, You made the universe - planets and solar systems, earth-home, plants, creatures - and called it good.
You made human life the pinnacle of that work, even choosing to incarnate that work in the Person of Jesus; and giving humanity those great and terrible gifts: choice and dominion.

Receive our confession now.

We have regarded your Creation only as a resource to be spent, not as a gift to be stewarded.
We have polluted air, water, and land.
We have destroyed ecosystems and species.
We have exploited and razed entire sections of earth.
We have created mountains of unnecessary waste.
We have valued material wealth and convenience above the health of our bodies and those under our care.
We have forgotten our own temporality, that other generations will come after us needing a home.
We have forgotten that You created life and it is precious.

Where we should have stewarded, we exploited.
Where we should have protected, we left vulnerable.
Where we should have respected, we chose to disregard.

Grant that we may come to a new hope and understanding of Your Creation, our relationship with it, and our role within it.
Grant that we may find ways to participate in its healing and renewal.
Grant that we may become willing to develop new habits and ways of interacting with the world, that consider its beauty and welfare.
Grant that we may re-imagine prosperity, economy, and civilization in light of stewardship of Creation.
Grant that we may more deeply understand Your nature through your Creation.
Grant that we may more deeply understand the interdependence of humanity and earth.
Grant that we may extend the work of Christ on the cross to a creation groaning and waiting expectantly.
Grant that we may have a renewed hope for the future of Creation - redeemed, reconciled, restored to its proper place and function.

May gratitude and the love of Christ govern our every interaction with humans, creatures, and the earth.

Amen.



 

Litany for Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness

To you, God, we turn to have our hearts filled with love.
Give us new wine skins and fill them with new wine.

We remember that your love is for all people, and that the blood of Christ was shed for all:
For the accepted and for the marginalized
For the poor and the wealthy
For the weak and the powerful
For the ill and the healthy
For the simple and the nuanced

We remember that forgiveness does not have regard for the nature of sin; it merely smiles, nods, and sends it on its way; irrevocable, irretrievable.

Hallelujah.

We confess our tendency to think we are better than others.
We confess our pride in minimizing our own sins.
We confess our being blindly certain of our limited understanding.
We confess our snatching the right to judge out of the hand of Jesus, whom we say we trust.
We confess our letting go of our God-given right: to love our neighbor.
We confess our worship of our own ideas about Jesus, rather than the actual Person of Jesus.

It is to that Person that we cry now:

Have mercy on us according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion. Blot out all our iniquity and lead us in the way everlasting.

Amen