Proper 15 (Year C): Litany for Fire

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“Is not my word like a fire, says the LORD, like a hammer that breaks rock in pieces?”

I believe that the message of this week’s Lectionary, of the fire and hammer of God, which are mercy and restorative justice, is THE message our society needs in this moment. We are protecting the gun lobby over vulnerable school children. We are protecting agribusiness over the well-being of the planet and over and above human thriving.* We are protecting corporate profits and political interests to the detriment of the poor and powerless. We are protecting white supremacy and status over our God-given duty to regard every human life, every human black and brown body, as beloved and sacred. This is the story of our country right now. This is the legacy we are living. 

And the cure, the antidote, is the mercy and restorative justice of God. The Fire and the Hammer. The holy fire that Christ says he “came to bring ... to the earth,” and he says, “how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). 

This is a prayer of confession and contrition. This is where we begin. Opening our eyes to our communal complicity, and changing our minds (repenting) about how we will continue on. This is heart-centered work. This in inconvenient work. This is uncomfortable work. Standing in the midst of holy fire is bound to be difficult. 



God, as a society we have turned blind eyes 
And deaf ears to the poor.
We can hear the cries of the needy,
See the struggle of the lowly and destitute.
How the weak and the orphan long for justice!
How the defenseless are in need of rescue (1)!


We confess that we have centered our policies
On the success of profit-margins.
We confess that we have protected the interests of corporations and the wealthy
Over the well-being of Earth’s most vulnerable inhabitants.**
We confess that we have judged unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked (2).
We confess that much of our economy and material wealth
Is due to exploitation of human and natural resources.

We have not done our God-given duty of creation stewardship.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
We have not upheld righteous standards.
We have not pursued justice and mercy for all. 

Forgive us, oh God, and lead us on the path of peace.
Restore us to your justice.
Bring us into the community of heaven.
Be merciful to us, oh God. 

For your word is like a fire,
Like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces (3). 
Break our hardened hearts;
Burn down our wicked ways.

Let the fire that Christ brings kindle in our hearts (4),
Igniting flames of justice and peace-making,
Of shifting old, unhelpful paradigms,
Of right-action and reform. 

Let the ethics and policies of heaven come to earth. 
Be merciful to us, oh God. Amen



*watch the documentary “Cowspiracy” for more info on this topic

**inhabitants, both human, animal, and plant-life

  1. Psalm 82:3,4

  2. Psalm 82:2

  3. Jeremiah 23:29

  4. Luke 12:49



Patreon Only: Litany for Grieving

I recently sat with my grandmother in the last days of her life. My mom and I were there holding her hand as she took her last breaths. It was a profound experience that has brought me to think about all the forms grief takes, and my own experience of grieving - how unpredictable it is, how sometimes consuming, how suddenly past only to reappear again. We grieve events, losses, trauma, time passing, people passing… and I’m coming to believe that grieving is not just some mental or emotional space that we are plunged into by life events; it is also a skill we can practice and hold space for. And the only way to get through this life whole is to learn the skill. If we can’t accept pain and process it through appropriate grief, we will be constantly resisting the experience of life. Through grief, we learn to integrate experiences we (dualistically) judge to be “good” and “bad”, bringing them into wholeness. The more life I experience, the more I’m convinced that learning to hold the tension of grief is as powerful a life skill as, say, positive thinking or good communication or self-care. Here's a prayer for skill-building, available on my Patreon page.

If my work has value to you and your community, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon, where you get access to exclusive litanies and content. This month’s Patreon-only litany is Litany for Grieving.

Litany for Dark Days

The prophet Amos says the  “Day of the Lord is darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it.” This week's Lectionary reading includes that passage from Amos 5, as well as others referenced in this prayer.



God, we are weary, weary.
The days are dark.
All day long we contend with evildoers.
We wake to discover more death.

We know that when the days seem dark
We must persevere;
That discipleship is costly,
And the risks of faith are great.

We may be outcast.*
We may be silenced.
We may be slandered.
We may be killed unmercifully. *
But we know that, despite the shame and chaos of the hour,
You are still our help and deliverer (1).

Help us, as we go along, to keep our lamps filled and trimmed (2)
That we may wait with hope
In a circle of light -
Awake and ready for action (3).
We are poor and needy,
Yet still in your care (1).

These are days of darkness and change,
The Day of the Lord, unfolding; (4)
So. Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an everflowing stream (5).

Amen


1)Psalm 70:5
2)Matthew 25:4-7
3)Matthew 25:13
4)Amos 5:20
5)Amos 5:24

*as the pastor and prophet Jonathan Martin was last week cast out of Liberty University for speaking against the actions of its administration and calling for a prayer vigil
*as were the 26 people (plus 20 more injured) mowed down with an assault rifle as they gathered for worship this past Sunday. And the 58 (plus 489 wounded) the month prior in Las Vegas.

Litany for the Earth

Here is the text of the first half of Psalm 24 (NLT).

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas
and built it on the ocean depths.

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols
and never tell lies.

They will receive the Lord’s blessing
and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Such people may seek you
and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.
                 - Psalm 24:1-6


God, we lament the destruction that has been done
That we have permitted to be done
By our silence and inaction
And by our direct action
To the Earth - Your creation. *
Forgive us, Oh God.

Even now we realize that our home
Is suffering
Its inhabitants are suffering
From lack of clean water and air
     Lack of life-giving nourishment
     Lack of safe habitat.

Help us to become aware
     Of the needs of humanity,
     Of the needs of generations to come,
     Of the needs of soil and creatures.
We acknowledge that we have a chance:
     To choose peace over profit
     To choose activity over complacency
     To choose a Greater Good over today’s convenience.

Arouse in us a new compassion,
A new willingness to change,
A new excitement to foster community,
A new faith in the abundance of your Kingdom.
A new zeal for establishing the Peace and Justice of God,
A new desire to set the Earth to rights
A new understanding of the connectedness of all things,
A new appreciation of the gift of Earth.

Amen

*Recommended reading for people of faith on the topic of Creation Care is Tri Robinson's _Saving God's Green Earth_.

Litany for Lament

God, our hearts are weary,
Broken, and sad.
Grief follows us;
Pain is our companion on the road.

We are divided: parents against children,
Brother against brother
Sister against sister,
Half-nation against half-nation.

The sins of our past have revisited us.
They were just beneath the surface,
Covered in a coat of whitewash.
We are newly aware of our complicity.

We mourn our blindness.
We regret our apathy.
We weep at the state of our world.
We wish we had done things differently.
We grieve the wrongs done by us and by others
And reap a harvest of shame.

We open our hearts before you;
We are vulnerable and at your mercy.
Let your will be done to us.
Refine us in your fire.

We purpose ourselves now to walk steadfastly and humbly
Through the chafing grief
And the ache of suffering,
Out to where the mercy falls. (1)


Notes:
Lament has a long tradition among faith cultures, Christianity included. Lament is simply being present to suffering and present to the expression of grief. Happy-go-lucky Evangelicalism has largely forgotten it, and has instead taught its followers to shame those who engage in it. I think we would do well to remember our roots, to go to the book of Lamentations, the book of Job, the Psalms, even to the lamentations of Christ himself (2).

Lament is an important part of the transformation of pain. Richard Rohr says, “If you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation” (3). I think we have an opportunity here: to lower our defenses and allow ourselves to bear witness to our pain and that of others, and to stop disbelieving others when they tell us they are hurting because we are either a) disconnected from suffering (i.e. “stuffing it”) or b) consumed by it because we’ve never authentically grieved.

In terms of current events: Lament is not a partisan effort. On both sides of the political aisle we have a lot to lament. This isn’t new, but it does seem clearer now in the wake of the most divisive election of my lifetime. Maybe if we hadn’t forgotten how to lament, to really sit with grief and pain for a hot minute, just long enough to let it pierce our armor, instead of only ever reacting to them; we would not be finding ourselves in the situation we are in.

What I’m saying is this: authentic lament might be a checkpoint on the road to reconciliation. It might be one of the keys to transforming our collective pain into something redemptive and beautiful.

  1. “Where the Mercy Falls” is the title of a song by David Ruis and Bob Hartry.

  2. See Matthew 26

  3. Rohr, Richard. _The Naked Now_