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…

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




 

Litany for Listening

If we are going to keep praying for reconciliation among the races; if we are going to keep praying for reconciliation between hetero culture and the LGBTQ community; if we are going to keep praying for reconciliation among differing religious paradigms; if we are going to keep praying for reconciliation among nations; then I wonder if we should start by asking for help with listening.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:18-20)


God, who so graciously speaks to us and is present to us,
Help us to be present to you, and to your people.

We confess that we are distracted and noisy people.
We confess that we have avoided quieting ourselves before you.
We confess that we’ve been afraid of what you might say to us.
We confess that we are often so busy speaking that all we hear is our own opinions.

We turn now to you, knowing that you are love,
And that love is what you are always telling us,
Even when you are gently correcting us.
We need gentle correction now.

We confess that we have not listened to our neighbors.
We confess that we have not made time and space to hear their stories and concerns.
We confess that we have allowed our differences to put us off.
We confess that by not engaging, we have stifled love.

Show us how to listen attentively,
And to love our neighbors near and far.
Show us how to open our ears and hearts
To those of different cultures, races, backgrounds, belief systems.
Show us how to embody the mission of Christ:
To prepare a great banquet and invite everyone to feast.

May we make space in our lives to hear your voice and do your good work.
May we know your voice.
May we overcome our fears of shame, and our reluctance to experience awkward moments.
May we follow the promptings of your Spirit without hesitation.
May our hearts be big enough to hold the stories we hear.
May we live love loudly, and listen quietly.

Be near to us as we do the work of quieting our souls (1),
That we may listen and learn from those around us.
Amen

 

(1) Psalm 131:
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
            Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
            Or in things too difficult for me.

 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
            Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
            My soul is like a weaned child within me.

  O Israel, hope in the LORD
            From this time forth and forever.

Litany for Gun Violence

We are still mourning Orlando. We are still mourning Christina Gremmie. We are still mourning San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Fort Hood, the D.C. Navy Yard, Sandy Hook, and on and on. A litany of loss. A litany of political strife and conflict and impasse. I do not profess to know the right answer to our problems. I've read some ideas that seem reasonable to me, but I see, to a limited extent, both sides of the issue. I want to help us pray from both sides of the issue.

God,
We approach You now, in a time of mourning and lament.
How long, Oh Lord, must we wait for justice and peace?
How long must we wait for all things to be made new?

We acknowledge that guns are tools:
They have been used to defend good. They have been used to perpetrate evil.

We acknowledge that human lives lost are mounting up, tragically and abominably.
We acknowledge that the subject of gun control and gun rights is a touchy, divisive one.
We acknowledge our tendency to close our ears to the voices of those who disagree with us.
We acknowledge that policies as they stand are not working very well.
We acknowledge our distrust of government leaders to faithfully care for us.

We are afraid:
That we might not be able to protect ourselves.
That losing part of one right might set us on a path to losing them all.
That our children might grow up in a world less-civilized than our own.
That more children and innocents will lose their lives in the coming days.
That our hopes and dreams will be unobtainable in an unsafe society.
That the many will suffer for the sins of a few.
That freedom is a bygone idea.

We pray for our leaders:
May they come together in unity, seeking a way forward.
May unity be, not a pipe-dream, but a reality.
May they find a way to both protect the rights of those who would defend goodness, and deter evil-doers.
May they be guided by You toward policy that respects the rights of all, and protects innocents.
May each side set aside its own agenda in favor of the good of all.
May the good and righteous overcome the greedy and pernicious.

We pray for peace, and set our fear out in the light of Your love.
We long for the day
    When we will beat our swords into ploughshares.
    When tools for destruction will be used for creation, beauty, and sustenance.
    When the lion will lie down with the lamb, and a little child will lead them.

May the day of Christ Jesus come quickly.

Amen

Litany for I'm Sorry

I had planned to post a litany today about Trump and Hillary (and about Jesus), which I feel pretty excited about sharing. But I just can’t do it; it will have to wait. I can’t turn off all the feelings I feel about the Orlando shooting. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about how a specific community of people was targeted and systematically put to death in cold blood by a maniac. I have had to monitor my intake of news about it, lest it overwhelm me completely. I feel guilty saying that sentence because some people don’t have a choice about whether or not this thing will overwhelm them, because it has definitely, without a doubt, overwhelmed them with sorrow, grief, loss, lament, pain, despair, hopelessness.

And then I read some folks criticizing church folks for waiting until now, until something completely tragic and unthinkable has happened, to extend any kindness toward the LGBT community. Which is kind-of valid, church. Although it’s also kind-of valid that a lot of us have been loving and welcoming LGBT folks all along we just haven’t made any headlines about it. So that feels kind-of dismissive, but then again maybe we should have been a little louder about our love. But then again we’ve all just been doing our damndest to live well in the context we are in, to see as far as our horizon will let us, and try to be some kind of bridge people between the ideologies that keep us in tension all the stinking time. Which is exhausting but I shouldn’t be complaining because I’m not the one getting persecuted and gunned down and I probably don’t even know the meaning of exhausted in comparison.

Do you see the complexity here? Do you see how many feelings it might be possible for anyone on any side of this to feel? Do you see the rabbit holes it is possible for a person’s mind to go down, how many guilts it is possible to internalize, how many sorrows it is possible to become engulfed by, how frustrated it is possible to get? Or is that just me?

Let me dial this down for us:
God loves human beings; that’s God’s thing. If we are not about the business of loving human beings, then we are not doing God’s thing; we are doing something else, and woe to us.

To the LGBTQ community, in which I have friends and family and beloved folks:
I’m sorry I didn’t live my love louder before now.
I’m sorry the society we live in left the door wide open for this to happen, and for all the ways I’m complicit in that society.
I’m sorry the church-section I’m a part of has done such a shitty job of loving you, and for all the ways I’ve been complicit in that.
I’m sorry for every time I’ve ever missed an opportunity to love you, to listen to you, or to walk beside you in companionable silence.
I’m sorry we haven’t gotten far enough along in our relationship to trust one another with deep things.

I believe that Jesus is for you.
I believe that the Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus, is for you.
I believe that when Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest,” He means you, too.
I believe that God made you, God loves you, and God is pouring out love upon love indiscriminately on you all your life.

I want to do better at getting in line with God’s agenda on that.
I want to do better at trading stories with you and hearing your heart.
Forgive me.

 

God:
We, the church, Your body on earth, turn to You in humility and contrition, confessing our failure at loving our LBGTQ brothers and sisters well.

We’ve insulated ourselves.
We’ve turned a blind eye to injustice.
We’ve perpetuated misunderstanding.
We’ve capitulated to fear.
We’ve withheld help and concern.
We’ve cheapened the grace of Jesus.
We’ve forgotten that, of faith, hope, and love; love is greatest.

We know that where we are inadequate, You are more than enough.
We know that there is always redemption when Jesus is around.
We know that Jesus is always where the pain is.

Our hearts mourn for the pain we have caused.
We are sorry.
Help us to be better at following the Way of Love.

Amen
 

Litany For Those With Difficult Families

Oh God, you have brought us near to You, into Your family as
Sons and Daughters
Brothers and Sisters of Christ Jesus
Under divine parentage.

We call you now:
Nurturer-Comforter-Always-Gentle-Love-Never-Fails-Faithful-Father-Mother-God

Even though we are often an unfaithful, giving-up, hope-is-lost, wayward-looking, grace-forgetting family,
Your patience with us is endless;
Your love, boundless;
Your faithfulness, sky-stretching.

Where we have failed, You are faultless.
Where our families have disappointed or hurt us, we look to you for comfort and healing.

In taking upon himself our wounds, our Brother-Jesus has offered to us
Balm-in-Gilead-presence-of-God-here-and-now-soul-healing Rest,
and we take hold of it now, fiercely, as a baby clings to its mother.

May we now un-clench our hands from about our wounds and let our wise healer do His
binding-up-knitting-together-breathing-deeply-reconciliation-peace Work,
knowing we are safe and cherished in the presence of One-Who-Loves-Us.

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