Litany for Freedom

The lectionary reading from the Gospels for August 21 is from Luke 13:10-17.

I love this part of the story. I get a smile on my face every time I read it. In part because I enjoy breaking rules and sticking it to The Man. It’s the stage-3, rebellious teenager in me. No actually I wasn’t very rebellious until I became an adult and I started to see the cracks in the whole faith-schematic that I was a part of. I came to adulthood in a denominational world of fundamentalism, rules-adherence gospel, and church power struggle. Pastors were routinely “voted out,” having had factions rise up against them from within churches. Families who didn’t follow the rules were made unwelcome.

I witnessed all this. I witnessed an aversion to ecumenicalism, resistance to anything “tainted” by any other theological perspective, and unwillingness to build community bridges. My perception of the church was colored by the fact that there was always drama and disagreement within it. Calvinism was gospel and the gospel was Calvinism, and war was a valid tool for spreading it. The message to me as a young woman was: God is happiest with you if you are married, mothering children at home, submitting to your husband, being quiet and dressing modestly. My interests in theology and leadership were misplaced, so I was told, so I shut them down for many years. I don’t say all this as a judgement; I say it as part of the story of what I experienced as a young person, and what brought me to where I am today.

Eventually that vague sense of dread became a personal revolution. I came to a place in which I said: I don’t want this anymore. This is not good news. I am not sure who I am, but it isn’t who they say I am. Scratch it all, start again. But keep Jesus, I like him even though he confounds me every time I open the book.

Jordan and I married and moved far away from home. We flipped a coin to decide where. We landed by the grace of God in the bosom of a little community that was trying to follow Jesus together, to be emotionally healthy, to work through disagreements in raw but authentic ways. The little church was, of all sacrilegious and heretical things, pastored by a woman! We were a bundle of misunderstood theology, church resentments and wounds, and in the midst of a great deal of life-shock; but gradually we moved toward healing and towards Jesus.

That church broke all the rules we had been taught. Talk about our feelings? Emotional health is important? Reconciliation is a thing? Women can do stuff and the wrath of God won’t descend? We don’t have to choose between faith and science?! There are other ways of approaching scripture?!! ...So many yes’es and so many broken rules that healed our sore hearts, and so much freedom.

So when Jesus does this in Luke 13: breaks the Sabbath, which is a gift and an invitation to be free, and sets a woman (a woman!) free from literal physical bondage on entirely the WRONG DAY OF THE WEEK; I just want to dance a jig, and often do. I think of that woman, how Jesus took hold of freedom on the day which most people considered their hands to be tied: Oh, we can’t do anything to help, it’s the Sabbath too bad so sad we won’t risk incurring God’s anger for one little woman. And Jesus said nope; you’ve got it wrong, the Sabbath is meant to free you not to bind you, the Kingdom is here now and everyday I’m letting freedom ring! Hallelujah! The entire crowd was rejoicing (verse 17), and so am I! Oh, hallelujah.

If you have been freed, or are hankering for freedom, I invite you to pray.

Jesus, so often we miss the point of your invitations.
We strap them to ourselves as weights and constrictions
When you meant them to free us.

You invite us to Sabbath
To rest
To contemplation
To community.

You invite us to think differently
About rules
About assumptions
About what the Kingdom of God looks like.  

You invite us to your revolutionary idea
That the Kingdom is now
That freedom is now
That Resurrection is resurrecting everything.

Help us to go to the scripture, to the rules, hand in hand with you.
     You guiding our thinking,
     You keeping our foot from stumbling
     You pointing out the most important bits.
Help us there to find all the freedom we expect from you
     Peace in every encounter,
     Love in every interaction,
     Joy in every invitation.

Amen

Litany for Worship

Ruler of heaven and earth:
We exalt you!
We come into your presence with singing and thanksgiving,
Because you are Good! (1)
You have reached out to us with open arms.
Your love endures forever! (2)

Heaven and earth are yours, created by you.
We belong to you!
Your beauty and power astound us.
We want to see your glory! (3)
For you are above all things and before all things,
In you all things hold together! (4)

Everything in the world that distracts and tempts us
Is nothing compared to you!
Everything that would keep us from your love,
You have overcome! (5)
Everything we need
You have provided!

For you are gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love. (6)
We want to be in your presence always, every minute, every day.
We worship you, and you only.

Amen

(1) Psalm 100: 4,5
(2) Psalm 106
(3) Psalm 63:2
(4) Colossians 1:17
(5) Romans 8:39
(6) Psalm 145:8

 

Litany for Mary, Martha, & The Mess

This week’s lectionary text is from Luke chapter 10:38-42 (Year C, Proper 11), the story of Mary and Martha. Preachers around the world will be preaching from that text on Sunday.


10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

I like the story of Mary and Martha. For one thing, I like it when there is a significant story about women, particularly ones with moxie who dare to sneak in an education at the feet of a renowned teacher in a time when not many families would waste an education on a woman.

I also like the story because I feel a great deal of compassion for both Mary and Martha. Martha is mostly cast as a nagging shrew, which I think is a shame. I imagine Martha as the older sister who has spent her life feeling like she has to carry her sister’s weight as well as her own. I imagine that she is bone tired and resentful that all the work of entertaining guests has fallen to her, and the only help she might have had, her sister, has abandoned her yet again, left her to clean up all the messes. I have heard this exact sentiment from my older daughter in reference to my younger daughter: Mommy, she’s not helping pick up toys! We are both supposed to help! And I myself have felt this way; left alone to deal with a slew of messes, the weighty responsibility of keeping everyone happy and fed.

I imagine Mary as a would-be intellectual. I imagine that she’s spent her life yearning to learn, but was never deemed worthy because she was a lowly girl, purposed to serve and birth. I imagine that she sees in Jesus a new regard, a glimmer of life possibility, and she just can’t let it pass her by, her one shot at understanding, her one shot at something bigger than housework. You’ll never be a rabbi, Mary. You’ll never go to seminary. You’ll never teach or preach. But you can sit at Jesus’ feet and listen right now.

I imagine the mess in the kitchen as the other character in the story. It's behind the scenes, the result of the privilege that a bunch of folks got, which was to eat a nice hearty meal for free that someone else prepared. I imagine that they didn’t care what happened in the kitchen so long as their bellies were full. The kitchen was invisible to them. The dirty dishes were not their problem to solve. I imagine that Martha’s love language is Acts of Service and she is getting no love despite the fact that God Himself is preaching the gospel in the next room. She is so overwhelmed by the enormity of her tasks that she can’t hear Jesus speaking, and doesn’t feel free to.

And here we are two millenia later, hearing the story of the woman who had a hard time swallowing the fate of the dirty dishes, and the fact that she got left out of the conversation because she was too busy dealing with her nemesis: the messy kitchen.

I also feel a little peeved at Jesus in the story, and if I were there I don’t think I could resist shoving my elbow into his side and saying, Look at that pile of dishes, they all enjoyed that meal, why aren’t these bozos helping, tell them many hands make short work!! Better yet, if he’s so humble why doesn’t he go help wash up himself?

I understand that the answer is that the dishes aren’t nearly as important as the gospel of the kingdom of God and the presence of Jesus. I get that. I’m just saying I see how Martha might feel. How can we be expected to listen well when things are such a mess?

No really, how can we be expected to listen well when things are such a mess?

'Cause things are a mess and there are a lot of problems to solve. A lot of dirty dishes, if you will. Our national problem of racism comes to mind, but other issues of injustice also. And we have a lot of Marthas who are feeling resentful and abandoned and overwhelmed and left to fend for themselves with the odds against them. And rightly so.

Let’s pray that, like Mary, we can bask in the presence of Jesus and the good news and allow it to get into our bones and inform our hearts, but let's also help the Marthas so they can hear it too.

 

God of grace and peace, give us perspective on our national problems in light of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Give us grace and peace.

Grant that we may have the heart of Martha, understanding our responsibility and calling to peacemaking;
Willing to work hard to set things right.
Grant that we may have the heart of Mary, understanding that the presence of Jesus in our midst is the most important thing to seek;
Willing to seek first your kingdom.
Grant that we may have patience with the mess we are in, understanding that transformation is a process,
Willing to take the first steps.

Jesus, we invite you among us now
That we may sit at your feet.

We say to the worried and distracted,
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
We say to the spiritually hungry,
The Kingdom of God is near.

May we know the treasure of the presence of Christ,
The peace of the presence of God;
God among us,
God with us.

And may we set our distractions aside, making space to hear your voice, and only then setting about our work,
To be the hands and feet of Christ in a worried world.

Amen

 



 

Litany for Racism in the United States

We are in mourning over the events of this week in the United States - black men killed by white police officers, police officers killed in Dallas, presumably in retaliation (the whole story isn't out yet, as of this morning). This litany is a congregational, responsive prayer, intended for use in communal prayer by faith communities. It includes elements of lament and confession, psalmic exhortation, and also the Kyrie eleison, a traditional liturgical phrase meaning "Lord have mercy upon us."

Oh God, visit us now in our mourning
Be near to us in our lament.
Blood has been shed, precious lives have been lost, evil has had its say.
Christ, have mercy.

We acknowledge the hold racism and prejudice have on our national psyche.
Set us free from this bondage.
We acknowledge that violence has been matched with violence, and many are in pain and distress.
Bring healing to us all.

We pray now for the Church in the United States, part of the body of Christ on earth, that it may be a voice of peace,
A light of love,
Working for reconciliation and unity,
Working for justice.

We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters; all races, all skin colors, all ethnicities.
Hallelujah.
We stand against racism and injustice.
Hallelujah.
We stand for love.
Hallelujah.

For all the ways we are complicit in perpetuating racism
Forgive us, Oh God.
For all the ways we have hidden the light of Christ
Forgive us, Oh God.
For all the times we have kept silent
Forgive us, Oh God.
For all the times we have capitulated to fear of ridicule and retaliation
Forgive us, Oh God.
For all the ways we’ve given over to apathy
Forgive us, Oh God.
For all the ways our own prosperity has blinded us to the needs of others.
Forgive us, Oh God.

Protect the innocent Oh God!
Hallelujah!
Open the eyes of the blind!
Hallelujah!
Rout out the unjust!
Hallelujah!
Thwart the plans of the greedy and power-hungry!
Hallelujah!

May Christ, who re-imagined death, give us inspiration for how to move forward.
Love triumphs over hate.
May Christ, who said upon rising from the grave, “Peace be with you,” bring us into his kingdom.
Peace triumphs over violence.
May Christ, who did not retaliate but offered forgiveness, share with us his vision.
Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Lord, have mercy upon us. (Kyrie eleison)

Amen

Litany for Victims of Sexual Violence

The story of “Emily Doe’s” rape by an over-privileged white male athlete who was convicted but given a light jail sentence is deeply troubling. Her valiant fight and speaking out against rape culture is, however, inspiring and necessary. Thanks to Emily Doe, light is being shed on ways that this country is tolerant of rape, lenient toward money and privilege, prejudiced against women victims, and still has far to go in regards to equality. It’s a good thing our faith is not in the political or judicial systems because those are miserably failing. Jesus’ good kingdom is our only hope. We pray and hope and work for better.

If you're using this litany in a congregational or group setting, I recommend omitting the "We acknowledge" section. For the purpose of personal prayer, I feel that section contains worthwhile reminders about Jesus and his ideas about power.



God, our hearts are hurting for our sisters and brothers who have been victims
  of rape, sexual abuse, violence.
Help us to help and care for them, and stand in solidarity with them.

For those who are victims of sexual violence we pray
Lord, have mercy.
For those whose bodies and minds have been violated
Christ, have mercy.
For those who have been overpowered physically or emotionally
Be their refuge.
For those who have felt helpless
Be their stronghold and help in trouble.
For those who have borne up under sexual abuse
Be their comfort and healer.
For those who have felt too damaged in body or mind to go on
Be their hope.
For those whom the legal system has failed,
Fight for them, Oh God.

We acknowledge that violence is not the way of Jesus.
We acknowledge that Jesus never forces his way on us, but wins us.
We acknowledge that Christ awaits our consent to enter our hearts and lives.
We acknowledge that Christ loved and respected people from all walks of life, all genders.
We acknowledge that Christ did not wield physical power over people, but healed and forgave.
We acknowledge that justice belongs to You, and we can trust You for it.
We acknowledge that Christ came to save the world;
    the victim and the perpetrator,
    the rich and the underprivileged,
    the foolish and the wise.

God, hear our prayer:
We ask for justice,

     understanding that we may not see it this side of eternity.
We ask for peace,
     which the Spirit of God is always offering here and now.
We ask for mercy,
     for violence to cease.
We ask for rest,
     that those traumatized may sleep each night in the peace of Your presence.
We ask for redemption,
     for the perpetrators to repent and make amends.
We ask for healing,
     for deep wounds to be mended.
We ask for forgiveness,
     that victims may be free from seeking revenge,
     and perpetrators may be made new by the forgiveness of Christ.

May Your kingdom come on earth.
May Your love abound to all, redeeming all.

Amen
 

Litany for Trinity Sunday

In the liturgical calendar, Trinity Sunday is celebrated the first Sunday after Pentecost, to acknowledge the Holy Trinity of God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We have plentiful references by Jesus himself to God-Creator (Yahweh) as "Father," therefore many traditions refer to God as such. I like to make room for the idea that God-Creator is not of a specified gender, and that we are given pictures of God that by today's standards might be culturally considered masculine as well as those that might be culturally considered feminine. To that end, I have included options in parenthesis for referring to God-Creator in more gender-neutral terms. Each congregation may choose the option that resonates most strongly for its people.

 

God, we acknowledge You as over all and in all.
Sovereign. Ruler. Creator.
You are vast and unknowable, yet we have been given a clear portrayal of You:
Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Christ is seated with you in heaven, and has left us a Helper:
The Holy Spirit.

Your character, Your nature, Your creativity; all reflected in the various aspects of Yourself:
Father (Parent, Creator, Yahweh), Son, Holy Spirit.
Your glory reflected in all creation; indeed even in human beings,
Whom You made in Your image.

We acknowledge the mystery of the Trinity.
Hallelujah.
We acknowledge You as a whole whose parts each reflect Your self differently, yet perfectly.
Hallelujah.
We acknowledge the loving community You exist in.
Hallelujah.
We are grateful for the many ways You have shown Yourself to us.
Hallelujah.

Dwell among us now, and cause us to live in unity and love just as You do:
Father (Parent, Creator, Yahweh), Son, Holy Spirit.

Amen

Litany for Boldness (and Bonhoeffer)

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who opposed the Nazi regime and was martyred in 1945.

God, we are reminded that Love is action.
As You actively love the world, we must actively love each other.
We must push past our comfort zones, reticence, and general inertia,
Allowing ourselves to be moved by the engine of Love.

We confess our tendency to withdraw.
We confess our desire to put our own safety and convenience above all.
We confess our quickness to downplay the needs of the poor, the plight of injustice.
We confess that we would often prefer to ignore the evil in our midst.
We confess that we often value our reputation above following Christ.
We confess our self-centeredness.

We ask for hearts aflame with the Love of Christ.
We ask for patience to endure suffering.
We ask for courage to pray for and love our enemies.
We ask for strength to accomplish the work of peace.

Where injustice, poverty, and wrong-doing abound,
May we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.
When laziness and complicity would overwhelm us,
May we be empowered by Your spirit to renew our efforts.

We look to Christ, the model of loving sacrifice,
And to those saints throughout the ages who have lived and died for the cause of Love.
May we listen and act with confidence and boldness,
And find our reward in the joy of Your presence.

Amen



 

Lent Series: Litany for Lent, Week 5 "Waiting"

God, in this season of Lent
We quiet our souls
That we may see more clearly the one our hearts long for
We ask, seek, and knock
That our prayers may be answered
And our longing fulfilled

We acknowledge that so much of faith-life involves waiting
     for the voice of God to speak
     for the Spirit of God to move
     for the fullness of Your kingdom to come
     for Christ’s return
     for the world to be made new
     for justice and peace to become ordinary
     for love to become the world’s motivation

We acknowledge that even as we wait, you are working
     redeeming the earth
     redeeming people
     confirming Your love.

As Christ waited three days in a tomb
So do we wait for resurrection life.
We wait in faith,
That You are even now giving us new life.
We wait in hope for the Lord.
All creation waits for the Lord.

Amen

Lent Series: Litany for Lent, Week 4 "Thirst"

This prayer in the Lent Series is written for the fourth Sunday in Lent (this year March 6). I re-used lyrics from one of my songs for this one. You can find the prayers for the first Sunday in Lent (February 14, 2016) here, the second Sunday (Feb 21, 2016) here, and the third Sunday (February 28, 2016 ) here.

God, in this season of Lent we reflect upon our emptiness, and Your fullness
Our souls thirst for You.
We come to You, Wellspring of Life
Our flesh longs for you.
You graciously offer us a fountain of water, springing up to eternal life
In a dry and weary land, where there is no water.

Jesus, You are the Living Water, the holy spring
You satisfy our deepest needs.
Whoever drinks of the water You give
Need never thirst again.

We acknowledge the miracle, mystery, and kindness of Your provision
We were thirsty, and you gave us a drink.
Fulfill now Your promise to us:
That those who thirst for righteousness will be filled.

May our hunger, thirst, and need always lead us to You
Let all who are thirsty come to Jesus and drink of living water.

Amen

Lent Series: Litany for Lent, Week 3 "Hunger"

This prayer in the Lent Series is written for the third Sunday in Lent (this year February 28). You can find the prayer for the first Sunday in Lent (February 14, 2016) here, and the second Sunday (Feb 21, 2016) here.

God, in this season of Lenten fasting we set our eyes toward You.
We turn our hearts in Your direction.
We acknowledge our great need for you, and our great hunger.
Give us food from Your hand, oh God.
We confess that we often seek to fill a void inside us with frivolous things, spiritual junk food.
Forgive us, and bless us with manna from heaven.

We set aside the expectation that our hunger might be satisfied by anything but Your Spirit.
Nourish our souls, oh God.
We rely upon Your promise of provision.
They that hunger for righteousness will be filled.
Where we are empty
Fill us up, Oh God.

Jesus said: “I am the bread of Life. Those who come to me will not hunger.”
We come to You, Jesus.
We do not live by bread alone
But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Amen

 

Lent Series: Litany for Lent, Week 2 "Mercy"

This prayer in the Lent Series is written for the second Sunday in Lent (this year February 21). You can find the prayer for the first Sunday in Lent (this year February 14) here.

Hear, Oh God, when we call to You
Have mercy on us and answer us.

In our vulnerability
Have mercy on us, oh God
In our forgetfulness
Have mercy on us, oh God
In our anxiety
Have mercy on us, oh God
In our wrongdoing
Have mercy on us, oh God
In our hard-heartedness
Have mercy on us, oh God
In our blindness,
Have mercy on us, oh God

In your mercy, you rescue us from our enemies.
In your mercy, you remove our transgressions from us.
In your mercy, you made a way for us to be reconciled to You.
In your mercy, you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to heal our brokenness.

Grant that in this season of Lent, our hearts may be devoted to You,
That we may see Your mercies new each day.
Grant that we may be always ready to offer mercy to those in need of it,
For mercy triumphs over judgement.

Amen


 

Litany for Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Congregants wear a smudge of ash on their foreheads to symbolize repentance and fasting, and commence the season of preparation for Easter.


Oh God, we are reminded this day of the temporality of our lives here on the earth.
We are dust and to dust we will return.
It is by your Spirit and your power that we are given life.
You are the source of all hope and life.

We enter now a season of repentance.
That we may turn from selfishness.
We set aside some comforts
That we may turn our attention to Your holiness.
Cast now our transgressions far from us
As far is the east is from the west.

We mourn the profound disconnection from You that happened at the dawn of humankind.
Bring us back into Your presence.
We rejoice in the perfect work of Christ on earth.
Christ reconciles us to You.

Prepare our hearts, Oh God, for Resurrection life.
You bring beauty from ashes.
Prepare our hearts for the joy of Your coming.
You bring gladness from mourning.
Prepare our hearts for the fullness of Your presence.
You bring forth praise from despair.

Amen

 

Litany for Fat Tuesday

This litany was originally posted at Godspace. Happy Mardi Gras!

God,
We revel in your expansive grace;
We bask in your boundless love;
We delight in the excess of your blessings to us.

As Christ turned water to wine at Cana,
So You are spreading out a bountiful feast for Your people.

We acknowledge that your kingdom is
    always expanding
    always welcoming
    always inviting
    always growing  
    always blessing
    always filling.

We acknowledge that in Your presence there is always
    a joyful song
    a chorus of worship
    a fountain of life.

We acknowledge that your attitude toward us is always
    joyful celebration
    unconditional love
    wholehearted acceptance.

The universe is bursting, drunk with Your love.
Our hearts are plump, satisfied with Your love.
Our lives are filled up, ripe with Your blessing.

May we live our lives in the fullness of joy.
Amen

Lent Series: Litany for Lent, Week 1 "Temptation"

Holy God: in this season of Lenten fasting, we remember Christ
Who went out into the desert to fast and undergo temptation.
We confess that we are often distracted by material comforts
And tempted to value them above the Kingdom of God.

You, God, are our help in difficulty;
Christ is our inspiration.
We confess that we do not live by bread or worldly provision alone,
But by every word that comes from Your mouth.

May we fill our mouths, our hearts, our minds now with your words
That we might be transformed and renewed.
May we, with renewed hearts and minds,
Better serve the purposes of Your kingdom.
May we, by setting aside worldly distractions
Become more like Christ.
May we, with purified motives and deeper understanding,
Receive Christ when He comes to us.

Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Amen

Litany for the Presence of God

*This litany contains more formal, directly scriptural language; which I think is nice interspersed with less formal contemporary language in the modern worship service. "Sunday Best" language, spoken aloud in community with sincere hearts can feel fresh, and shed new light on Biblical turns of phrase.

 

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of Your presence!
Oh, the beauty of Your sanctuary!

Give to the Lord honor and offerings
For great are You, Lord, and greatly to be praised.
Give to the Lord glory and honor -
The glory and honor due to Your name!

We enter Your gates with thanksgiving, and Your courts with praise.
To be in your presence, Lord, is joy.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
To be in your presence, Lord, is to be free.
You bless Your people with peace.
In Your presence is peace that surpasses our understanding.

We earnestly seek the presence of the Lord all day long.
Joy, freedom, and peace are the hallmarks of our lives.
Daily we carry the presence of the Lord with us,
And this mystery is Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Daily we acknowledge Christ, in all things;
For in Him all things hold together.
Daily we reach out for You, Lord, and find You, for You are not far from us.
In You we live and move and have our being. We are Your children.

Amen

 

Litany for Retreat

*This litany was originally written for a retreat for gathered worship leaders in the Vineyard movement, of which I am a part. The congregational refrain is the simple "hallelujah." I think this lends itself to various types of retreats for both leaders and lay-folk.

Oh God, we are reminded that You are the Author of work, rest, and play.
Hallelujah
We recognize our being made in Your image, having need of all three.
Hallelujah
With consciousness and intention, we now set aside our daily tasks and make space for relaxation, revival, and enjoyment.
Hallelujah
We breathe deeply of Your presence, and drink deeply of Your delight.
Hallelujah
We pray for open ears and soft hearts, that we might hear Your renewed calling on our lives and be willing to accept it.
Hallelujah
We soak in the freedom and joy of being among people who share in our passions.
Hallelujah
May we emerge from our respite with clean hands, pure hearts, and steadfast spirits.
Hallelujah
At the end of our rest, may we re-enter our ministries with refreshed balance, purpose, energy, and clarity.
Hallelujah

Amen

Litany for Gratitude

To You, O God, we give thanks.

We give thanks for the morning, when joy comes to us.
We give thanks for the evening, when we meditate on your love.
We give thanks for the in-between, the working hours, the accomplishing hours; when we must practice gratitude amidst distraction and busyness.
We give thanks for the long dark of night, when our souls and bodies assimilate and regenerate.

We give thanks for the people we love effortlessly, but also for the people who chafe and challenge us.
We give thanks for our enemies, who teach us to bless and forgive.
We give thanks for our families, who teach us grace and forbearance.
We give thanks for those whose lives we touch only momentarily - may we be a lasting blessing.

We give thanks for the boisterous, jubilant seasons. 
We give thanks for the subtle, quiet seasons. 
We give thanks for the seasons of difficulty and pain. 
May we emerge from each bearing the image of Christ Jesus.

We give thanks both when we are certain, and when uncertainty plagues us; both in the black and white, and in the gray.

We give thanks to You, acknowledging that every drop and morsel that sustains us comes from Your hand; that our place in the universe exists because You created it; and that Your purposes exceed the bounds of our imagining.

Litany for Epiphany

 

Epiphany is the day in the liturgical calendar that the church traditionally celebrates the coming of the Three Kings, the "Wise Men" who paid homage and gave costly gifts to the Christ Child. We also celebrate the manifestation, or revelation, of Christ to non-Jewish people.


Oh God, as the kings of old traveled great distances and expended great effort to acknowledge the coming of Christ the King, so we acknowledge this great epiphany:

Christ has come. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

All of our hopes are bound up in the person of Jesus Christ. We could not hope for better news than His gospel.

To Christ we offer our most profound gifts:
talent
effort
time
attention;
In certainty that what we offer will be put to good use, woven into the fabric of Christ’s completed work.

And this is the work Christ has done and is doing: awakening in us and in the earth the Kingdom of God -- that good kingdom, that Promised Land, present and unseen, now and not yet, revealed and mysterious.

May our gifts be as pleasing to you as gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And may we continually renew our understanding and awe of the coming and work of Christ Jesus.

Amen

Litany for God's Presence in Suffering

*I originally wrote this litany for a retreat for pastors in difficulty or crisis. I anticipated that there would be no way of projecting the prayer onto a screen, so I made the congregational response the simple "You are with us." I've found that sometimes these simple responses are the most profound in context, giving the congregation a chance to decide if they really mean what they are saying and allow it to take root in their consciousness.

Oh God, we remember now Christ in His suffering, and echo the feeling in His words: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
We remember:
You are with us.
We remember Christ tempted in the desert, Christ suffering at Gethsemane, Christ hung on a cross.
You are with us.
We see that suffering echoed in our own lives, and acknowledge our inability to suffer as Christ did, perfectly, without sin. We remember:
You are with us.

When we are uncertain,
You are with us.
When we have lost things or people precious to us,
You are with us.
When sickness overtakes us,
You are with us.
When we are overwhelmed with grief,
You are with us.
When we are exhausted from our labors,
You are with us.
When enemies rise up against us,
You are with us.
When our souls are in the dark night,
You are with us.

We take comfort in Christ, who is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief; and we are consoled by His having walked the road of suffering ahead of us.
You are with us.
We believe anew in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
You are with us.
It is because of Christ that hope still stirs within us.
You are with us.
And it is by His example that we turn to You in the midst of our suffering.
You are with us.

May our dry bones be enlivened; our stone hearts be made flesh; and our sickness be not unto death.
You are with us.

Hallelujah. 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.