Proper 11 (Year C): Litany for Reconciling All Things

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This week's Lectionary passages contain many themes, but the one that stood out to me most was this idea of Christ "reconciling all things" from Colossians 1. I was just having a discussion with friends about having a posture of life that "accepts what is," as the Buddhists put it; but that theme resonates in Christ's work of forgiveness and reconciliation also.

We can observe that the people we meet who have the most resilience and ability to accept suffering and change seem to be the ones who can tap into this quality of forgiving what is, accepting reality, and lovingly working within it. That's where my mind is in this litany, in the reconciling of all polarities, dualities, and seeming contradictions. I hope it resonates for you and your community also.

God, we are learning that life is full of unexpected challenges
And unexpected gifts.
With you, there’s surprise in deepest disappointment
Hidden beauty even in trial…

Proper 10 (Year C): Litany for Showing Mercy

Hi! As you may have noticed,
I’ve moved much of my work over to Patreon.
This is part of my effort to make 2019 a #yearofwritingsustainably
So thanks for reading and subscribing.
You can find archived litanies here, and purchase my book here.


This week’s Litany brings in themes from various parts of this week’s Lectionary selections: the Colossians, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Luke passages. The Gospel story is that of the Good Samaritan showing mercy to the stranger. I love seeing how the themes intertwine some weeks. This one is coming right at the perfect time for us as a national and global community. 


God, we know that your word is not too hard for us
Nor is it far away,
And that we have been transferred into the community
Of your beloved Son, Christ Jesus,
In whom forgiveness is abundant
And mercy is foremost

Litany for Forgiving Others

God, it is our nature to keep record of wrongs (1).
It is your nature to forgive (2,5).
We tend to let wounds fester.
You offer light, air, and healing.
We tend to get stuck in bitterness and pain.
You embody freedom.

Come now, into the places where our hearts have been wounded
Where we have been betrayed or abandoned
    Or disrespected
    Or overlooked
    Or kicked while we’re down
    Or stolen from
    Or slandered
    Or misunderstood.
Come now, into the dark parts of us that want revenge
    That want to grind axes,
    That want our enemies to suffer
    That want to keep a list of grievances
    That want to prove how strong we are
    That want to defend ourselves.
Replace our pride and bitterness
With superhuman love.

This is hard work for us:
Becoming like you
Turning the other cheek
Making ourselves vulnerable (3).
It’s why we need you so much -
Because we are weak.
We need you to move mountains for us:
Mountains of pain and resentment.

Strength, wholeness, and redemption
Life, peace, and resurrection
Are in forgiveness;
And in forgiving, we are forgiven (4).

Amen

(1) 1 Cor 13:5
(2) Ps 103:10-14
(3) Matt 5:39
(4) Matt 6:14-15
(5) Ps 130:3,4

 

Litany for Confession

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

  1. Parable of the sower, Matthew 13

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

  3. Matthew 25:35,36

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

  5. See item (1)

  6. Psalm 51:9

  7. Psalm 51:17

     

Litany for Peacemaking and Forgiveness

I have been thinking a lot lately about reconciliation and peacemaking. What difficult, humble work it is! In a 24-hour period I have sent a message of apology to a person I had fallen out with many years ago, apologized to my husband for a hurt I’d dealt him, and called and apologized to a friend for yet another hurt.

We have been hurt, and we have dealt out hurt. If we haven’t already, we know we will eventually. The hardest part for me about forgiveness is that it is so open-ended, such a continual journey; and that we need it on both sides: the wrong and the wronged. We can never be certain another person has forgiven us; we can only be certain of God’s forgiveness toward us. As Bonhoeffer says, “Forgiving has neither beginning nor end, it takes place daily, for ultimately it comes from God.”

It’s probably some of the hardest work we’ll do, so we’d better pray about it.  
 


God, we turn our attention now to the work of peacemaking and reconciliation.
Christ is our peace.
We remember Jesus in the throes of death, offering forgiveness and peace to those who had taunted and tormented him.
Christ is our example.
We remember Jesus after his resurrection, offering forgiveness and restoration to his disciples who had denied and forsaken him.
Christ is our leader.

We acknowledge that we have wronged others and been wronged by others,
And need forgiveness applied to both.

Help us to forgive others as we have been forgiven by You,
For in forgiving, we find peace and freedom.
Help us to have humility and courage
   To admit when we are wrong
   To confess and apologize
   To make amends to those we have hurt.

We acknowledge that forgiveness benefits the forgiver
And that we can never force others to forgive us.
We acknowledge that we may never see the results of our peacemaking
But that you see our hearts.

We thank you God, for removing our transgressions from us
Thanks be to God
We ask for hearts conformed to the way of Christ
Ready to offer peace; willing to forgive and be forgiven.

Amen

 

Litany for Our Enemies + That Time I Accidentally Told My Kid About ISIS

*I'm sharing a story along with a litany today. I usually try to keep strictly to the prayers, but maybe sometimes a story will give context for how a litany can be a useful place to go, a useful tool in a kit for coping with the reality of evil and posturing ourselves towards Jesus.

I accidentally told my 5 year old daughter about ISIS. Oops.

The conversation started at bedtime, as many of our deep conversations do, in those still moments when mostly I’m feeling antsy and ready to be done parenting for the day but am trying to remain present and sing songs, talk quietly, help them decompress for sleep. I don’t even really remember how we got started, but I was caught off guard and unprepared for the line of questioning, and ISIS has been on my mind so therefore I let the ISIS cat out of the bag. I also have this pesky value for telling my kids the truth that sometimes trips me up.

I think we were talking about kindness, and in the context of that I said the word “violence.”

What’s violence?
It’s doing things that hurt people.
Like being mean?
Yes. We want to be kind, not violent.
But some people are violent?
Yes, some people are.
You mean some people are mean?
Yes.
Where do they live?
Well, there are mean people everywhere, but I don’t think you know any.
(My kid just learned that mean people exist. Hallelujah. Christ, have mercy.)
But WHERE ARE THEY?
Well, there are some mean people in a place far away called the Middle East, they call themselves ISIS.
(Oh I have done it now. Instant regret. No turning back now.)
What do they do? Do they kill people?
Yes, they do. They do violence.
How do they do it? With bow and arrows? With guns?
(Here is where my head is finally on straight and I refuse to mention bombs. I deflect, for better or worse.)
Why do they do it?
I think they are confused about what God’s way is. God’s way is love, peace, and beauty.
Do they have neighbors and friends? Do they try to hurt them?
They have neighbors; I don’t know if they have friends.
Are they sad and lonely?
I think they might be.
What do the neighbors do?
I think some try to help them change, and some try to move away to a safer place.
THAT MAKES ME SO SAD. I’M GONNA CRY NOW, MAMA.

You and me both, sister. Now, let me pause here and say that this is an abbreviated version of the conversation, and that my mind was churning with how best to respond. There were a lot of other questions. (Do they wear red and black clothes? They wear regular clothes.) (How do you know about them? I read the news.) She is a very empathetic soul, and I don’t want her up in the night worrying about terrorists and refugees at age 5. But I do want to give her a place to go with the sorrow. So I say:

Jesus tells us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.”
What’s persecute?
Be mean to. Would you like to pray for ISIS and their neighbors?
Yes!
Jesus please bless the people of ISIS. Please show them your way of love, peace, and beauty. Please change their hearts and show them kindness. Help them not to be confused about God’s way.
AND HELP THEIR NEIGHBORS MOVE!
Help their neighbors find a safe place. Help the mean people become kind.

AMEN.

I held hands with my sweet little daughter, lying in her little bed, and prayed for the redemption of ISIS. This is the story of how my parenting gaffe made possible a moment of impossible beauty and sadness. My head is still swimming with it. And isn’t this typical of Jesus? To hide a core of beauty within apparent sadness? Isn’t this exactly what happened on Resurrection Day? So, there is sadness that my child must eventually have the knowledge of good and evil, and that other children live in the lap of evil daily; but there is beauty that THERE IS ALWAYS PRAYER. There is always a beautiful way to follow. There is always hope. And there is always, always forgiveness and redemption.

I invite you to pray now:

Resurrected Jesus, we call upon your mercy now.
We ask you to turn your attention to our enemies, those who do violence and terror, who kill and destroy.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
We ask you to bless, love, and redeem them; to show them the kindness of your heart.
We ask you to lovingly clear up their misunderstanding of God’s way.
We ask you to care for and protect those innocents around them.
We ask you to bring them all, violent and innocent, into the safety of your kingdom.
Amen

 

 

Litany for a Terrorized City

*I originally wrote this litany as a response to the attack on Brussels on March 22, 2016. I later learned that many other places in the world were attacked by ISIS during the surrounding time period, attacks that never made headline news. This litany can be used to pray for folks in any location that has experienced terrorism. I wish it weren't true that we might have use for a general prayer for terrorized cities. Christ, have mercy.

God, we cry out to You on behalf of the people of [Brussels, Belgium].
     For the families and friends of those killed in the attacks, we cry.
     For those wounded, we cry.
     For the bystanders, those shocked and terrified, we cry.
     For the emergency workers, giving tirelessly of themselves, we cry.
     For those in government and law enforcement, we cry.
     For the residents of the city, stranded and immobilized, we cry.
     For a world beset by evil, we cry.

We commend the souls lost into Your care,
And ask for healing and comfort for those that remain.

These events bring us into a place of questioning:
     Of Your goodness
     Of Your sovereignty
     Of the nature of humanity
     Of the future of the world
     Of how we might move forward.

We commend those questions into Your care,
     Asking You for wisdom
     Asking You for hope
     Asking You for courage to continue on in good work
     Asking You for help in overcoming
     Asking You for comfort in trouble
     Asking You for a heart of love toward our enemies
     Asking You for justice.

We acknowledge that our lives are precious, vulnerable, and often short.
We acknowledge that safety is never guaranteed.
We acknowledge our inability to perfectly follow Jesus’ example
     of meekness, forgiveness, and peacemaking.
We acknowledge that when Jesus took upon himself the wrongdoing of the world,
he took terrorism also.

We look toward the completion of Jesus’ work.
We look toward the fullness of Your kingdom come,
And Your will done on earth as it is in heaven. 

We look toward the day when the whole world is aligned with the law of love.

Be near to the brokenhearted, close in Your compassion and lovingkindness, Generous in Your giving of understanding.

Amen

 

Litany for Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness

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

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

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

Hallelujah.

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

It is to that Person that we cry now:

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

Amen