How to Properly Attribute a Litany

Attribution is a tricky subject. The internet makes it even more complicated. And I've had a few instances where I've encountered my litanies not being attributed correctly. So today I'm trying to make attribution rules clear. And I'm grateful to the folks who've asked for clarity on this.

I want people to pray good prayers. I want love to flow in this world, and for people to connect to the Divine, and for our collective consciousness to be raised. For these reasons I allow my litanies to be used by church congregations and other non-profit groups, so long as my name and website are clearly referenced.

If you're using a litany of mine, whether it’s one that is freely available on the internet or via subscription on Patreon, please use this attribution tag alongside the title of the litany, anywhere a litany is projected or printed:

©Fran Pratt franpratt.com Used with permission

Please do not post or reproduce my litanies in their entirety on social media. A little snippet or quote is fine (even helpful in terms of getting the word out) as long as it's linking back to my website. It's also helpful if you share links to specific litanies on my website on social media. But please, don't post a photo of a printout or a screenshot of an entire litany. Driving traffic to my website helps me get the word out about my work, and about my book.

I encourage churches and organizations to subscribe to my Patreon. Especially if you are using my work regularly. Obviously I can't force you to do this, nor will I necessarily even be aware if you're using my work. You are on the honor system and I trust the Spirit in you. I spend a great deal of time creating liturgy and it is the creative work the Spirit has given me to do in this season. If you benefit from the work I do, especially on a regular basis, I don't think 3 bucks a month is too much to ask in return for a regular liturgical contribution to your community - it's a small amount that helps make the work sustainable for me to continue.

Finally, this is grassroots art. I know it's going to take on a life of its own. Everyone isn't going to follow attribution rules perfectly. I just ask for people who genuinely appreciate this work to please have my back in this small way.

Thanks. I love you and I'm grateful for you.

-Fran


Lent 2 (Year A): Litany for Grace and Rebirth

This litany incorporates the Lectionary readings for the Second Week of Lent (Year A). They're not easy ones. They contain concepts whose interpretation theologians have debated for centuries: "Faith vs Works" and the question of what it means to be "born again." These questions and ideas have sparked prolonged and intense debate among various sects of the faith. No wonder it's hard to write a prayer that everyone can pray surrounding these passages, one that is able to hold the tension and explore it.  Tricky business.

 

We lift our eyes up to the hills. Where does our help come from?
Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
The Lord is our keeper;
The Lord will keep our lives. (1)

We trust in the Lord, who justifies the ungodly. (2)
We are the ungodly, the lowly;
But the Lord is gracious to us,
And our trust is counted as righteousness. (3)
By faith we are reborn in the Spirit (4):
     New vision
     New ways of thinking,
     New power to accomplish good work.

For the Son of God has shined his face on us
With glorious light (5);
And the Lord has given us the gift of favor.
His promise rests on grace.

To accept the gift of grace
Help us, Oh God.
To trust in you
Help us, Oh God.
To turn away from evil and toward the goodness of Christ
Help us, Oh God.
To produce fruit that comes from vibrant faith
Help us, Oh God.

Amen

(1) Psalm 121
(2) Romans 4:5
(3) Romans 4:3
(4) John 3:6
(5) Matthew 17:2

Litany for Release

We have come through a tumultuous time here in the U.S. - one tumultuous time that has launched us straight into another. I have personally felt that I need to clear some inner space if I am going to interact with gratitude and the season of Advent. So, on this, the weekend before Thanksgiving I invite you to find a quiet space to pray this prayer with me.

I recommend praying this litany aloud, while doing a lot of breathing. In fact, I recommend a big ol’ breath in between each line. Some nice music would be good too.


God,
We humans have a tendency to hold onto things. Help me to loosen up and let go.

I release my fear to you, God.
I release my pain to you, God.
I release my uncertainty to you, God.
I release my shame to you, God.
I release my busyness and hurry to you, God.
I release my worry to you, God.
I release my defensiveness to you, God.

I release to you any feeling that I need to fake something, or put on a show.
I release to you any sense that I am unworthy, or unloved by you.
I release to you any interactions I’ve had with people that have hurt or shocked me.
I release to you any grudges or unforgiveness I’m holding.
I release to you any urge for vengeance or need to prove a point.

I release myself from inappropriate expectations put on me by other people.
I release myself from insisting on perfection.
I release myself from micromanaging situations, or taking too much responsibility.
I release myself from saying Yes when I should be saying No.
I release myself from saying No when I should be saying Yes.

I accept the peace you offer me in your presence.
I accept the rest you offer me in bearing my burdens.
I accept the freedom you offer me
  To not judge
  To not consume
  To not categorize or label
  To not fill silence with noise.
I accept the spaciousness that comes from giving up things that don’t serve me or others.

Amen.
 

Litany for Defense

For those who are unfamiliar, the Lectionary is a schedule of scripture readings that covers a three year period. Each week there is a reading from the Hebrew scripture, the Epistles, the Psalms and one of the Gospels. The readings for each week will cover the major arcs of scripture over the three years.

For the past few months I have been following along each week with the Lectionary readings from the Gospel of Luke, providing a litany that is a companion to the text. The prayers I provide are intended as both petition and as a tool for spiritual formation. This week’s text is Luke 23:33-43, in which Jesus famously says "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." I follow the Revised Common Lectionary. I'm continually inspired by the Lectionary as it pertains to current events.
 

 

We are tempted over and over
To try to save ourselves,
Rather than put ourselves in your care.
Father, forgive us. We know not what we do.

We are tempted over and over
To use violence to further our cause,
Rather than consider mercy a victory.
Father forgive us. We know not what we do.

We are tempted over and over
To choose a savior other than Christ;
A soldier instead of a shepherd;
A political or religious leader instead of a lamb.

Keep us from temptation,
And rescue us from evil.
As Christ chose not to save himself from death by violent means,
But instead succumbed
Willingly and without defense.
So may we willingly go down into death
That we may arise as new creatures,
Awakened and alive to Christ’s kingdom.

Amen


 

Litany for All Saints Day

All Saints Day, in which the global church honors those saints who have passed on, both known and unknown, both famous and obscure; is celebrated by Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, and Roman Catholic traditions on November 1. Here is a litany for that day.

God, we remember those Saints who have gone before us;
We lament their passing,
And honor their legacy.
We give thanks for all we have learned from them.

Those who followed the Way of Christ faithfully,
We follow their example.
Those who made mistakes along the way,
We learn from their experience.
Those who made progress for peace,
We continue their work.
Those who lived simply and quietly,
We are enlightened by them.
Those who gained honor and distinction without pride,
We are humbled by them.
Those who were martyred for their faith,
We commend them to your care.

They have finished their work on earth,
And it lives on,
Reverberating into our lives now
As the work of Christ lives on.

May the peace of Christ continue to inspire us
To good works, humility, simplicity and peacemaking,
As those foremothers and forefathers were inspired by him
To live in grace and love.
 

Amen

Litany for Transformation

The Lectionary text from the Gospels for October 30, 2016 is from Luke 19:1-10. This prayer is based upon, and an adjunct to a reading of that passage.

God, transformer of persons,
We look to you.

May we have the enthusiasm of Zacchaeus
We want to see you.
May we be willing to go out of our way, to climb obstacles to behold you.
We want to see you.
May we be confident in our stature, our status as Your Beloved.
We want to see you.
May we count the Kingdom as our highest treasure.
We want to see you.
May we be willing to give away all, possessions and power, to receive the riches of grace.
We want to see you.

May we have the openness of Christ, who was a guest of sinners.
We want to be like you.
May we have the mind of Christ, who sought out the lost.
We want to be like you.
May we have the priorities of Christ, who disregarded those who grumbled at his ways.
We want to be like you.
May we have the compassion of Christ, who loved all the poor and powerless.
We want to be like you.
May we have the grace of Christ, who forgave even those who abused their power.
We want to be like you.

We, who with unveiled faces, contemplate the Lord’s glory
Are being transformed into his image (1).
As we gaze upon Christ,
We are transformed.

Amen.

(1) 2 Cor 3:18
 

Litany for Presence

I mentioned a couple of litanies ago that I think Contemplative faith has a lot to offer us in terms of ways to order ourselves so that we remain hopeful. Since about 2012, I have been delving progressively more deeply into contemplative faith, and discovering that the mystics have found an entirely other way to be faithful, one not often found in conventional church teaching today. We who are stuck in our ruts of dualistic thinking, of us and them, of right and left, of either/or, just don’t have the framework for contemplation; and to me this seems more evident than ever.

Richard Rohr says that “Contemplatives refuse to create false dichotomies, dividing the field for the sake of the quick comfort of their ego. They do not rush to polarity thinking to take away their mental anxiety… Contemplation refuses to be reductionistic. Contemplation is an exercise in keeping your heart and mind spaces open long enough for the mind to see other hidden material” (1).

I just think if there were ever a time that our culture could use a healthy dose of non-dualistic, contemplative thinking, it’s this election cycle. I see myself and so many of us expending so much energy on judgement and control that we have no silence left. We are busy categorizing, so we have lost the thread of the narrative, the bigger picture of the Presence of God here and now, within and among us, redeeming and working through everything.

If you’d like to dip a toe into contemplation, here is a prayer to get you started.


God:
(ALL:) You are here.
We quiet ourselves now, that we may know more deeply
You are here.
We don’t have to ask for your presence.
You are here.
We don’t have to earn your presence.
You are here.

Help us to find the quiet spaces within ourselves.
You are here.
Help us to see more widely and farther.
You are here.
Help us to become more aligned with your nature.
You are here.

With compassion
You are here.
With benevolence
You are here.
With peace
You are here.
With love
You are here.

We breathe in.
You are here.
We breathe out.
You are here.

Amen


(1) Rohr, Richard. _The Naked Now_ pg 34

 

Litany for Gender Equality (part 1: Lament and Hope)

This litany has been a long time coming. This is part one of a series on gender equality. Here is the prayer for the women's voices: Lament, and Hope for Moving Forward.

God, hear our lament now:
We have been meek.
We have done our duty.
We have cared for children and husbands and aging parents and sick folks.
We have cooked and cleaned and tended livestock and gardens.
We are ready for more.

We have been first to your birth, and first to your tomb.
We have been paid less for more work.*
We have been beaten and imprisoned for asserting our rights.
We have been abused, then shunned for divorcing our abusers.
We have been raped, then blamed for our own trauma.
We have been blamed for the sins of men, indeed the sins of the world.
We have let our dreams die because we were told it was your will.
We have been told No so many times that we have stopped asking for permission.

We have been sold; but you are telling us our worth
We have been soiled; but you are washing us anew.
We have been silenced; but you are giving us a voice.
We have been hidden; but you see us.

(ALL:) You have always seen us.

We see you:
Making room for us at the table,
Opening our mouths to speak,
Strengthening our hearts,
Educating our minds,
Honoring our martyrs.

(ALL:) You are redeeming us.

Even now equality is making glorious progress in the world,
     expanding along with the Kingdom of God.
Even now strong women are rising up to make change,
     to lead, to correct, to work for peace.
Even now men and women are working together,
     each acknowledging their need for the others’ perspective.
Even now more places are being set at the table,
     for the inclusion of women alongside men,
     slave and free,
     young and old,
     every nation and language,
     every background and gift-mix.
(ALL:) Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!

We partner with you, Living God,
To remake hierarchy into equality.
To replace violence with peace.
To remake retribution into kindness.
To abolish comparison and celebrate uniqueness.
To transform weakness into strength.
To transform fear into confidence.
To replace apathy with assertiveness.
To replace exploitation with justice.
To replace oppression with mercy.

Make of us strong leaders and wise advocates;
Hands that work for justice, and voices that speak truth,
Students that dig deeply, and priests that call upon your presence.

Amen

*Right now, women in the U.S. are paid, on average, 80 cents on the dollar compared to men.


 

 

Litany for Money

The Lectionary text from the Gospels for September 18, 2016, Proper 20 (25), is from Luke 16:1-13.

I recently listened to a sermon from Brian Zahnd entitled “How Much a Dollar Cost.” Every year he does a series called “Finding God on your iPod” in which he takes popular songs and examines what they might teach us as Jesus-following folks. Kendrick Lamar’s song “How Much A Dollar Cost,” is a rap song about a time that God spoke to Kendrick about reevaluating his attitude toward money. It is very compelling and I recommend taking a listen.

In his sermon, Zahnd says (I’m quoting from memory here, so might be imprecise) that one of the greatest obstacles to the Kingdom of God that a person can face is economic self-interest. We can find this time and time again in the teachings of Jesus. The passages I’ve written along with from Luke over the past couple of months have continuously addressed this. Today’s passage does as well, but this time we are told outright: “You can’t serve both God and wealth. You have to choose.”

It’s a powerful message we can’t ignore. I can’t. The culture I live in values prestige and success and possessions and power; and the culture Jesus is asking me to invest in has an entirely different set of benchmarks. Resisting the one and embracing the other is not going to be convenient.

 

God, who sees behind appearances to the heart:
We know that one of the biggest obstacles we face in living out your kingdom
Is our own self-interest.
We know that we must learn to regard money as a tool
And not a prize.

Help us not to capitulate to the ways of the world, to resist:
Dishonesty and exploitation,
Vengeance-taking and competition,
Power-seeking and violence-wielding.

Yours is an altogether different economy
In which mercy is valued over judgement
Care for the least is valued over self-promotion
Meekness is valued over popularity,
Generosity is valued over accumulation,
Spiritual riches are valued over financial wealth.

Help us to understand your values
And live in light of them.
Help us to be faithful in the smallest responsibilities:
Acts of kindness
Gifts given generously
Words spoken gently,
Finances stewarded faithfully,
Peace offered freely;

So that when our destinies arise before us,
We are ready to meet them.

Amen
 

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 9/11

Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This litany will also be posted on Godspace. I have reposted it here for the sake of my catalog.


God, we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
We know that you remember them too, and are keeping them in your care.

We acknowledge the pervasiveness of violence in our world:
    Sometimes it explodes with intent to kill
And has its success, as on 9/11.
And sometimes it creeps in subtly:
    In attitudes and mindsets, in worldviews and passing words.
We find it even here in our own hearts.

Cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and restore us to justice.
We rely upon your mercy.

Grant that we may forgive those who have committed atrocities against us
And remember them also to your merciful love.
We hear your words to us: “Do not resist an evil person;” (1)
We are baffled and astonished at this instruction.
We have no paradigm for understanding a peaceable kingdom,
Other than your example.

Console us in our grief, Oh Lovely One.
Speak to us in our confusion.
Guide our feet on the path of peace. (2)
Be to us a light in darkness,
A lamp of peace drawing us lovingly in.

Amen


(1) Matthew 5:39
(2) Luke 1: 78-79
 

A Bilingual Litany: Litany for Wars (English/Arabic)

My friend Sara, who is from Jordan, helped me with some Arabic phrases for bilingual litanies. "Emnahna al salam" means "grant us peace."

em-NAH-HH-nah AHL sa-LAHM (you make the H-sound as a syllable)

I encourage you to try saying the phrase out loud, even if the words feel strange in your mouth, to speak in solidarity with those Arabic-speakers whose nations are at war and in deep suffering. Your willingness to discomfort yourself in this small way then becomes its own kind of prayer: stumbling, mis-pronounced, and self-conscious, but heart-felt. I have Syria in mind for this litany, but the name of any war-torn nation may be substituted.

God, wars rage and nations are in turmoil.
Emnahna al salam.
Only the power of God can turn hearts and minds toward peace.
Emnahna al salam.

In your mercy, look upon the people of Syria.
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon the poor and vulnerable;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon the sick and wounded;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon the government and political leaders;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon those whose pockets are lined by war;
Emnahna al salam.
Look upon those who are caught up in violence and cannot see a way out.
Emnahna al salam.
Bring your justice and mercy swiftly.
Emnahna al salam.

Spoil the plans of those who instigate trouble because of greed and power-hunger.
Emnahna al salam.
Rescue those who are suffering from violence and unjust government.
Emnahna al salam.
Fill the hearts of those who can help with compassion and strength.
Emnahna al salam.
Empower leaders whose hearts understand the goal of Love, and who enact justice.
Emnahna al salam.

May the spirit of Christ, the Prince of Peace, be strong in that region.
Emnahna al salam.

Amen

Little Litanies: Psalm 23

I’m teaching my five-year-old this version of Psalm 23 that I wrote/mashed up. It’s a mix of influences from the NIV and the MSG, and some simplifications of my own invention. I wanted to create a version that a very young child can connect with, but that retains some of the beauty and imagery of the original and can serve as a touchstone prayer for comfort and encouragement and a reminder of the loving presence of God. I also wanted it to be accessible to a kid who is not being raised in an agrarian society, and for whom metaphors are not yet obvious (1).


God, you’re my shepherd.
I am your sheep.(2)
You give me everything I need.

You let me rest in green meadows
And drink from peaceful waters.
You refresh my soul.
You guide me so that I can honor you.

Even if I’m in a dark, scary place,
I’m not afraid because you are with me.
You comfort and encourage me.

You prepare a party for me,
And ask me to invite my enemies. (3)
You put oil on my head. (4)
My blessings are overflowing.

My whole life is full of your beauty and love,
And my home is with you. (5)

Amen

 

  1. For instance, just recently I had drawn a picture of a cucumber wearing a t-shirt that said “Eat me” and put it in her lunchbox. Her response: “Why did you give me a picture of a cucumber with no pants!?!...<a pause for consideration>...OOOooh, because you put cucumbers in my lunch and you wanted me to eat them!”

  2. This line is not in the original Psalm. I added it, again because the metaphor is not obvious to a digital-age five-year-old.

  3. Yep, I’m taking a liberty here. I’m mixing in the sermon on the mount (Matt 5:44). I used to think this line was about gloating. Now I think it’s about inviting.

  4. My kid is familiar with this concept, because I anoint her head with essential oils regularly.

  5. These two lines are much like Eugene Peterson’s in the MSG.



     

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 Readiness

The Lectionary reading from the gospels for August 7, 2016 (Proper 14) is Luke 12:32-40. Read it here.

 

Recently I’ve been experimenting with capsule wardrobes. A capsule wardrobe is simply a more intentional, minimal wardrobe. I know you’ve opened an overstuffed closet or clothes drawer and felt overwhelmed by the number of items inside. I know you’ve done this because you most likely live in a developed nation (most of my readers are here in the US) and you obviously have access to the internet, and therefore that makes you a fairly privileged person, therefore you are most likely living in a culture where excess is normative. In the developed world, we are much more likely to have to guard against owning excess stuff rather than guard against not having enough. I regularly have to cull my home of items that appear inside it, items that I didn’t intentionally acquire or purchase, that have no meaning or value to me. Clothing in particular is cheap and easy to come by.

In a capsule wardrobe mindset, instead of having a closet full of clothes you didn’t think too hard about buying and that you don’t really like or wear much and don’t suit your needs very well, you evaluate each item of clothing you own with intention and thoughtfulness. You actually think about the items you own and how to make the best use of them. You acknowledge that ownership brings responsibility. You acknowledge that there is effort and hassle involved with owning too much. You acknowledge that weeding through a hundred mediocre options is time-consuming and that time is your most valuable resource. So you pare down to what you really love and use, what really brings you joy and serves you, what helps you get ready quickly and kindly. You figure out how much is enough, but not too much.

So why am I talking about capsule wardrobes? Well, because I find it interesting that in last week’s reading Jesus tells us not to worry about clothes or what we will wear. And this week we are hearing from Jesus a big fat “Be Ready” that directly follows an admonition to “sell your stuff and give to the poor.”

Don't hear me wrong. I'm not saying everyone needs a capsule wardrobe; I just happen to have already been thinking about them and about minimizing possessions in general. But it's not really about that. 

These scriptures give me the sense that part of being prepared for the kingdom to come involves lightening our load, weeding out our distractions and time-sucks, paring down to the essentials; so that we can be dressed and ready quickly, able to pounce on kingdom opportunities when they arise. It makes me wonder if Jesus is not only talking about how generosity affects the receiver; but also how generosity makes clean and light the heart and mind of the giver. And if Jesus is maybe inviting us to be free from worry because we literally own less to worry about.

I don’t think “sell your possessions” is meant as a burdensome request. I don’t think it means we are supposed to deny ourselves aesthetic pleasures - on the contrary; I think Jesus is always bringing the party and with it abundance and enjoyment. And isn’t it interesting that Jesus rarely talks explicitly about gratitude, but is always inviting us into practices that enhance our sense of blessing? So I do wonder if maybe we are being asked to edit things down to what is manageable so that we can both enjoy our lives with less hassle and anxiety, and also have space and time for the unexpected - both the gifts, like the master arriving home to share a meal, and the thief-in-the-night emergencies.

Do we own too much? Do we have too many obligations and distractions? Have we built in margin for the unexpected? Are we being intentional about our ownership, our time-management, and our kingdom priorities?

 

 

 

God, you have blessed us abundantly.
We thank you.
At times, in the culture in which we live, abundance threatens to overwhelm us.
Give us discernment.

We hear your advice to be ready.
We are easily distracted.
We want our priorities and possessions to reflect your goals
May we be generous, ready, alert.

Where we have acquired too much meaningless stuff and need to lighten our load
Forgive us and help us.
Where we have allowed too many distractions to clutter up our time and space,
Forgive us and help us.
Where we have missed opportunities to love people because we’re too busy and blind,
Forgive us and help us.
Where we have hoarded blessing for ourselves out of fear of not having enough,
Forgive us and help us.

Help us not to settle for cheap imitations of blessing,
Which moth and rust destroy;
But instead clear out and make space for true value:
Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Help us to be prepared when you come knocking
Dressed and ready to do your work.

Amen

 

 

Litany for Privilege

The other day I gave an exasperated lecture to one of my kids. My kids are 3 and 5, so I’ll admit it may have been developmentally inappropriate, but I was frustrated and venting and I figure I may as well start them early at recognizing their privilege. The lecture went something like this:


Why are you whining and complaining all the time?! I’m sick of hearing it. You have a beautiful, wonderful life. You are safe. You have a mama and papa who love and adore you. You have a sister who is your friend and who loves you. You have aunts and uncles and grandparents who love you. You play outside all the time. You go on nice outings. You eat nice food. You sleep in a comfy bed in an air-conditioned room. You have plenty of clean clothes. Every aspect of your life is cared for. Do you know what this whining and complaining is called? It’s called ingratitude. That is when we don’t thank God for the blessings God gives us and we don’t appreciate them, and God doesn’t like it and I DON'T EITHER.

So. This mama may have taken a few deep cleansing breaths after that. This mama may have thought about how this child is unable to see her privilege because she has never known anything else. This mama may have realized she was lecturing herself, and recognized that the lecture may have caused a new swell of gratitude in her own heart, and a new commitment to helping her kids learn compassion.

 

God, this life here on earth is a mixed bag
Of joy and pain
Grief and exuberance
Stillness and frenzy.

We don’t get to choose where we are born, or to whom,
But we know you made us and we are your children.

Open our eyes to all the ways we are blessed
That we may share and bless others.
Open our eyes to all the ways we have been born to privilege
That we may live with grateful hearts.

In many ways we are born to pain.
Let us bear one another’s burdens.
In many ways we are born weak and blind.
Let us be kind to one another.
In many ways we are born to poverty.
Let us know the riches of your grace.
In many ways the privilege we are born to blinds us to the pain of others.
Let us be considerate of our brothers and sisters.

May we spread goodness and mercy wherever we go
Regardless of where we come from.
May we find healing and acceptance with you
And know you as the one who gives good gifts.

Amen.

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 Persistence

I liked last week's exercise in which I wrote a litany to go along with the Lectionary text from the Gospels for the Sunday, so much so that I wanted to do it again even while I'm away this week on vacation. So I was pretty enthused when I read this week's sermon text from Luke 11:1-13, in which Jesus himself offers us a litany of his own devising: the Our Father, known to Protestants as The Lord's Prayer. Various translations offer various versions of it, and I read a handful of them. Here it is, simply presented in the NRSV, Jesus' own litany:

Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.

I'm grateful for this prayer. It's so helpful. "When you pray, say this" says Jesus. It's always there when we need it, covering most of our prayer bases, easy to memorize, easy to say under your breath while jogging or cooking or driving.

But then, just after giving them the litany, Jesus starts talking to the disciples about persistence in prayer; about knocking on doors in the middle of the dark night and shamelessly asking for your needs to be met, and doing it even thought it seems like the person you're asking is annoyed or inconvenienced at being asked. It takes a certain amount of audacity to knock on someone's door in the night to ask for bread. It's rude and socially inappropriate and maybe a good way to lose a friend, and yet Jesus urges us to ask anyway.

"For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened."

I wonder if any of us have gotten tired of asking. Or ashamed of being so needy. Especially those of us who are interested in asking for things like peace, racial reconciliation, an end to violence, and healing and rest for those who have been traumatized by evil. I wonder if we are starting to feel that God is sleeping and doesn't feel like coming to the door. I wonder if we would do well to be reminded to keep asking even though we feel ashamed, or doubtful, or fearful, or like we don't even know which door to knock on.

Let me be clear: I don't think God is sleeping. I'm just saying it might be easy for us to project onto God that God might be sleeping, that God is grumpy or curmudgeonly (or an exhausted parent who has finally gotten the kids to bed and just doesn't want to deal with anyone else's problems) and doesn't want to answer the door, drag Godself to the kitchen to rustle up yet more bread for yet another needy person. No. Jesus says God will give us good things (verse 13).

I don't think God is annoyed with the prayers of God's friends. (I think God also welcomes the prayers of folks who don't consider themselves God's friends.) I think God is sad about all the bad stuff happening in the world, and has endless grace and love for us all, victim and perpetrator alike. And I do think, in some ways, that it is the middle of a long, dark, night. How gracious for Jesus to offer to let us ask and receive even then, and to remind us that it is when we will need the most persistence and audacity in prayer.


God of heaven and earth,
We exalt you.

Some of us have grown tired of asking
for peace, for reconciliation.
Some of us have grown tired of hearing bad news
of evil and pain.

Yet you encourage us
to keep asking,
keep seeking,
keep knocking.

In a long, dark night, full of evil,
we are knocking on your door,
we ask again for your kingdom to come;
we ask again for peace.

Hear the prayers of your people,
Give bread to all,
comfort those who mourn,
allow the weary to rest,
encourage the disheartened,
show us the path to peace.

May we not grow weary of doing good,
and keep on praying shamelessly and boldly.
May our faith grow, and peace reign in our hearts,
even in darkest night.

Amen