Epiphany Week 7 (Year C): Litany for Loving Kinship

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This week’s Gospel reading includes Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. This account is also known as “blessings and woes,” as it differs from Matthew’s Beatitudes significantly. However, the spirit is the same, and they are incidentally not dissimilar to Mary’s Magnificat from a few chapters earlier in Luke. “Woe to you who are rich,” echoes Christ’s Mother’s words from years earlier: “he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (1).

I’ve been exploring themes of privilege and connectedness in this Epiphany series, and this week’s “blessings and woes” fit right in. Woe to you who are privileged, for your privilege blinds you. Blessed are you who who understand that we are all connected - by suffering, by need, by humanity… and that we are the very ones we judge to be lowly.

If we let them, this teaching of Jesus has the capacity to awaken us from our deadness, our un-compassion, our judgement, and into acceptance, forgiveness, and love. May it be so, and may we pray with humility and willingness to be transformed.


God, help us to cast aside all judgement,
All fear of Other,
All attachment to privilege,
All lack of compassion;
And to step instead into the glorious abundance of your community…

Love and Gratitude,

f

1) Luke 1:5







Epiphany Week 6 (Year C): Litany for Breaking Nets

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This litany is inspired by a reading of the Lectionary Gospel passage for the fifth Sunday of Epiphany, Luke 5:1-11. Jesus advises weary disciples who've fished all night to lower their nets just one more time...


God, we’ve been stuck in cycles of scarcity.
You bring us into abundance.
We’ve worked our fingers to the bone in our own power.
You invite us into the ease and flow of yours….

Epiphany Week 5 (Year C): Litany for Confronting Our Privilege

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The gospel reading this week comes from Luke 4. Jesus has just quoted Isaiah 61 in the synagogue on a Sabbath, stating that his mission is the same; that God “has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…” and so on. “Today, this has been fulfilled,” he says (Luke 4:21). His mission is freedom and deliverance and grace.

And then in the section we’re given this week, Jesus goes on to speak a bit more about his mission. He gets more specific. As Karoline Lewis puts it, Jesus “...reveals for whom [he] has come -- the widows, the lepers, the outsiders. Jesus’ whole ministry will be for the least of these, over and over again. Moreover, Jesus is for everyone” (2). And with that revelation, he is promptly driven out of town, his life threatened, and he must escape by (presumably) miraculous means.

Why were those folks so enraged by Christ’s words there? Back to Dr. Lewis: “Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth is a prophetic message. Jesus tells the truth about the realities of our world, where the lowly are looked down upon, where the poor sleep in cardboard boxes under freeways, where the captives remain in their prisons, where the rich live exceedingly full lives.”  Jesus confronts their, and our, privilege.

The outcast, the forgotten, the marginalized, those who exist in the liminal spaces - those are always the ones at the center of Christ’s gospel. And we do well to hear, and to allow the spirit to work her grace on us as we confront our own privilege as hearers, to allow ourselves to give up the prized place of centrality in the narratives we tell ourselves.

It may make us mad at first. It may make us want to run Jesus, or whomever the prophet confronting us happens to be, out of town or off a cliff (3). But if we’re following Jesus authentically, we will have to confront our own privilege, grow some compassion, and get outside of ourselves. Here is a prayer for that process.

God, we know from the message and example of Christ
That the poor and helpless are beloved by you,
That the outsider and outcast occupy your heart,
That the lonely and the prisoner have your attention…

Epiphany Week 4 (Year C): Litany for Parts of a Whole

I find it interesting that the Lectionary always seems to speak so keenly to the current moment. The past few days I’ve contemplated the state of things, and Dr. King’s legacy, and how the Church (capital C) is doing, and how the country is doing. And I attended an MLK memorial/celebration march and service at a local sibling church, which was inspiring in some ways, but sobering in others. We have so far to go with dismantling white supremacy in this country, and within the American Church; and that is not a new or disputable fact.

What I’m learning from listening to and reading BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) activists is that we white people need to listen humbly, educate ourselves and our communities, and support the work. And a great way to support the work is by financially contributing to organizations that uplift BIPOC communities and meet their needs. I’m doing this as I can, and I encourage my white siblings to as well. Here are a few I’m particularly inspired by*:

Equal Justice Initiative
Million Hoodies
A Voice for the Unheard
Black Women’s Health Initiative
Partnership with Native Americans

I’ve written this week’s litany with the Lectionary selections in mind, which remind us of our unchangeable status as parts of a whole, as siblings, and as co-laborers. What hurts one sector of our Beloved Community, hurts us all. What uplifts, uplifts us all. Christ’s stated mission in Luke 4 is our mission, too. And…


We are all part of each other.
Our connectedness is unbreakable.
Any separation is only imagined.

If you’re looking for other litanies surrounding these topics, please check out
Litany for Justice and Equality
Litany for MLK Day
Litany for Addressing Racism
Litany for Embracing Race

*Even small amounts matter. But I know, not everyone can contribute financially. Do what you can, educate yourself via the multitude of free resources in local libraries and the internet, be curious, be humble. And may God bless your efforts.

Epiphany Week 3, Year C: Litany for the Party

This week’s Lectionary readings include the account of Christ performing his first recorded miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding. Also known as the time Jesus BROUGHT THE PARTY. There are so many interesting and fun details about the story: the way his mom talks him into it. The way the people react. The way he tries to keep it on the DL. His reluctance (I imagine a twinkle in his eye). The way he nonchalantly instructs them to “draw some out,” no big deal. 

And the most endearing part, to me, is what it says about celebration. That celebration is worth doing. That Jesus is able to look at this world, see it for what it is, accept it, forgive it, and still think it’s worth partying. 

And this is the lesson that Christ is teaching us:
That just when we think the party is over
And all our resources have run out,
There is abundance yet…

For the full text of this litany, go ahead and …

You’ll get access to Weekly Lectionary litanies, plus other content I post on a weekly basis, and various other liturgy-related goodies. Many thanks to all the new folks who have come on board in the past couple weeks. The party has only just begun!

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

Epiphany, Year B (Week 2): Litany for Being Seen

The account of the calling of Nathanael in John 1 (Lectionary for Second Sunday in Epiphany) has fascinated me for many years. I’ve never been able to definitively puzzle it out. But the narrative of it draws me in. I can imagine how Nathanael might have felt, waiting, hoping for something; perhaps all his life. Perhaps events in his life made him cynical. Perhaps he chose to watch from the edges, partially hidden. Perhaps he thought he’d never been seen, and had given up hope of being seen. Perhaps he’d lost so much he thought he’d never be found.  It seems like he and Jesus have a secret exchange here, buried in the dialogue. And whatever it is, it seems to be what he needs, because we can feel Nathanael’s heart open and his guard drop, simply from knowing that Jesus has seen him.  It occurs to me that this is part of what Epiphany means: we get in on the secret that God sees us as intimately as Christ saw Nathanael.
 

God, we are all hoping you’ll come looking for us,
Though our hearts might be hard --
Or maybe we have been running and hiding for a long time...
We want you to see us.

We want the Creator to pay attention to us
We want to be seen.
We want Someone, Something powerful to take an interest in us.
We want to be known.

Our deepest longing,
Our secret hope,
Our shadowy leaning,
Our mundane pain,
Our hidden dream,
Our forgotten spark:
These are things we long for a savior to save
For a flame to kindle.

You saw us all along:
Quietly observing
Keenly attending
Actively loving.

No matter what fig tree we hide beneath (1),
You see us.
No matter what bravado or sentiment we hide behind (2),
You see through.
We can rely on you to know the truth of us.
We can trust your mercy.

And, when we finally become aware of your merciful regard
We have seen the truth of you.
So, with gratitude and awe
We reflect your love.

Amen

1) John 1:48
2) John 1:46

Epiphany, Year B: Litany for the Wise

Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, after the twelve days of the Christmas feast. This litany incorporates references from the Matthew 2 and Isaiah 60 passages in the Lectionary for the feast of the Epiphany. I've also included some additional references.

God, we know that one way wisdom begins
Is in curiosity.
We know that the way to finding
Is by seeking.

Many people throughout history have been renowned for their wisdom
And remembered for their insight;
People who sought and studied
People who waited and looked.

And just as the Magi were guided by the heavens to the infant Christ,
So all who search for Christ will find him. (1)
Just as the ancient prophets and saints sought the wisdom of God
So all who search for wisdom will find her. (2)

Just as Christ has taught us about wisdom:
Ask and it will be given,
Seek and we shall find,
Knock and the door will be opened. (3)

Awaken in our hearts, O God
A desire for wisdom.
Awaken in our hearts, O God
A hunger for consciousness.
Awaken in our hearts, O God
A yearning for your kingdom.

Help us to keep our priorities straight:
To seek first your kingdom,
To trust that you have provided. (4)
And we will say to our people:
“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and rulers to the brightness of your dawn. (5)

Amen
 

1) Matthew 2:1-2
2) Proverbs 1:20-24
3) Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9
4) Matthew 6:33,34
5) Isaiah 60: 1&3

Transfiguration Sunday: Litany for The Morning Star

Transfiguration Sunday marks the end of the season of Epiphany. The season of Lent follows. Transfiguration Sunday celebrates the day in which Jesus was confirmed by God as divine before the apostles. The Lectionary passages for the day tell the story, as well as its precursor story, that of the transfiguration of Moses in the book of Exodus. In an unexpected appearance, Moses himself is also witness to Jesus' transfiguration as described in Matthew 17.


Jesus, we have seen your majesty (1)
And we are captivated
By the light of your face, shining like the sun
And your clothes, dazzling white. (2)
You are more important than all who came before or after you:
More than Moses, or Elijah;
More than any prophet, priest, or king;
More than any pastor, politician, or world leader.

In you every message is confirmed (3)
Every message of hope
Every message of peace
Every message of reconciliation
The identity and character of God
Made known in the Son (4):
     Reckless forgiveness
     Radical Love.

We will look to you.
We will live by your light
Until the day dawns
And the Morning Star rises in our hearts. (3)

(1) 2 Pet 1:16
(2) Matt 17:2
(3) 2 Pet 1:19
(4) Matt 17:5
 

Epiphany Sixth Sunday: Litany for Thoughts

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, we hear Jesus saying that what happens in our interior lives matters just as much to our wholeness as what we manifest in our behaviors. Our thoughts have weight, and we must be just as ruthless in weeding the bad ones out as we are to keep ourselves from harming others overtly.

 

God,who knows our hearts, minds, and intentions
We know that what happens within us
Is as important as what manifests outside us.
Our thoughts matter,
Our words matter,
Our actions matter.

Transform our minds
That we might not sin against you
In thought, word or deed,
In action done, or left undone.

Forgive us for the violence inside of us.
Make us deeply peaceful,
    Deeply loving
    Deeply reconciling
    Deeply self-aware
    Deeply humble.

Help us to re-frame our problems in actionable terms.
Help us to re-train our brains to joyous thinking.
Help us to remind ourselves constantly
that you are always present with us,
And to live wholesome and positive lives
Both within our minds and outside of them.

Conform our minds to love
And our intentions to peace,
So that what reverberates out to the world from us
Is only life and light.

Amen

Epiphany Fifth Sunday: Litany for What To Do

This litany is taken directly from Isaiah 58, Psalm 112, and from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount iMatthew 5. Each of those is part of the Lectionary selection for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany.

Merciful God,
We receive your instructions about what pleases you:
To loose the bonds of injustice,
To free the oppressed,
To share bread with the hungry,
To provide shelter for the homeless poor,
To cover the naked,
To be present to our kin. (1)

You have said: “If you offer your food to the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
Then your light shall rise in the darkness
And your gloom be like the noonday.” (2)

You have said: “It is well with those who deal generously,
Who conduct their affairs with justice.
They are not afraid of evil tidings;
Their hearts are steady;
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
In the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” (3)

We acknowledge that what is wisdom to you seems like foolishness to the world;
    That the commands and example of Jesus seem ridiculous, and risky;
    That if our goal is to save our own lives, we will lose them;
    That, in your kingdom, giving is better than getting. (4)

Lord, give us strength.
We are the salt of the earth.
Lord, give us wisdom.
We are the light of the world.
Let our light shine brightly,
So all may see the goodness of God. (5)

Amen

1) Isaiah 58:6,7
2) Isaiah 58:10
3) Psalm 112:5-9
4) This theme appears multiple times in the New Testament. My favorite is Luke 6:38. Also, Acts 20:35
5) Matt 5:13-16

Litany for Simeons & Annas

The gospel lectionary passage for the day commemorating the Presentation of the Lord on Feb 2 is about Simeon and Anna the Prophet, From Luke 2. Jesus' parents presented him at the temple in Jerusalem, and Simeon and Anna, who had waited their whole lives to see the Messiah. This one may be more slam poem than litany, or equally. You can tell me.

God, in this time we are watching and waiting,
Fasting and praying,
Planning and scheming,
Hoping and dreaming,

For a new thing, a new day,
A breakthrough:
    Kingdom coming,
    Heaven opening,
    Son of God descending,
    The world awakening.

Looking around we see war and destruction
Strife and obstruction
Poverty and reduction
Tyranny and corruption.

And it’s taking all our strength and all our courage
To see beyond the present
To see past our sorrow
To see a future and a hope for tomorrow.

But we want to be
Faithful like Simeon
Devout and righteous;
And steadfast like Anna,
Staying engaged,
Prayerful and joyous.

Because we have a promise.
We have a vision.
Our eyes will see the glory,
Consolation and redemption.
And even if it takes
A lifetime or a day
In hopeful expectation
We work and we wait.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Come, Lord Jesus.
May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting. (1)

Amen
 

  1. I lifted this line from a liturgy from the Church of England
     


 

Epiphany, Fourth Sunday: Litany for How to Live

This week’s Lectionary passages are heavy hitters. Micah 6 and The Beatitudes in particular.

 

Jesus, we hear your voice and receive the intention of your heart when you said
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you
For great is your reward in heaven. (1)
 
(pause)

When you uttered those words, you upended the paradigm of the world.
Help us to understand what it all means:
What once looked like power to us
Now appears weak.
What once looked like wisdom
Now appears foolish. (2)
What once took last place in our priorities,
Now appears first.

What does the Lord require of us?
     To do justice,
     To love mercy,
     To walk humbly with God. (3)
Who may dwell with God?
     Those who walk blamelessly.
     Those who do what is right,
     Those who speak truth. (4)

We want our eyes opened, our spirits awakened
To the beauty of the Kingdom of God here now.
Teach us how to live well upon the earth;
Humble, gentle, and pure of heart.

Amen

(1) Matthew 5
(2) 1 Cor 1:27
(3) Micah 6:8
(4) Psalm 15:1,2

Epiphany, Second Sunday: Litany for God-Revealer

In Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 1:29-42, which is this week’s Lectionary text from the Gospels, he refers to Jesus as “God-Revealer.” That text is the starting point for this week’s litany for the Second Sunday of Epiphany. The liturgical season of Epiphany began on January 6. A litany for the first Sunday of Epiphany can be found here.

 

Oh God, who has sent Christ and revealed him to us
The Son;
Christ, who is the true nature of God
Human and Divine;
And Spirit, whom Christ left with us,
The essence and energy of God:

May your character be daily revealed in us
As we follow the Way of Christ.

May we be perfected in sacrifice,
Purified in service,
Re-formed by Love
Expanded in kindness
Filled with every spiritual gift
Renewed in mind and heart,
And transformed to goodness
by nearness to Living God.

May our lives always point the way to you:
Look the Lamb of God (John 1:29)
Who takes away the sin of the world!
We have found the Messiah! (John 1:41).

Amen

Epiphany, First Sunday: Litany for Life-Light

The first Sunday of Epiphany is traditionally designated as a celebration of the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. John plays a supporting role in the narrative of the Gospel Lectionary texts for the next few Sundays, of which Matthew 3:13-17 is the first for Year A. John 1:1-14 was touched upon in one of the Christmas Day readings, and I have included elements from it also. In Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 1, he refers to Christ as “the Life-Light," which I like and have included as well.

God, you have sent your Son
Immanuel, God-With-Us,
Word Made Flesh,
Life-Light.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
The darkness couldn’t put it out (1).

Your servants go before him
Preparing the way for the Lord.
As Christ was baptized,
Raised up from the water,
The heavens opened;
The spirit descended like a dove.
A voice spoke from heaven:
This is God’s Son, the Beloved. (2)

We follow him in baptism
Of water and of spirit:
Dead, buried,
And raised to new life.

Christ, the Life-Light
Has made us alive.

Amen

 

  1. A direct quote from John 1, MSG

  2. Matthew 3:16

Epiphany, Year A: Litany for Good News to All

Epiphany is the day in the Liturgical calendar when we celebrate and acknowledge that even pagan wizards who probably never heard of Yahweh came to pay homage to the Son of God. Even the stars in the sky spoke his name. Even ancient traditions that sprang from entirely other shoots could see that the world had somehow changed, could perceive that a shift had occurred, that the arc of history had changed directions.

The gospel text for Epiphany, Year A is Matthew 2:1-12.

The heavens declare
The glory of God.
Arise, shine,
For your light has come. (Isaiah 60:1)

Even the stars
Speak the name of Jesus.
Even the rocks
Proclaim his works. (Psalm 19:1-4)

The people of earth
Gather together,
Sons and daughters
From far away places.
They bring gifts of abundance and wealth
To honor you. (Isaiah 60:4)
You defend the cause of the needy,
And redeem their lives from oppression and violence. (Psalm 72:13,14)

To wise men from the East
Good news has come.
To Jews and Gentiles
Good news has come.
To the poor and oppressed
Good news has come.
To sons and daughters alike
Good news has come.
To all creation
Good news has come.

Amen

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