Litany for What Ails Us

This litany follows along with the week's Lectionary passages from Mark 4, Psalms 30 & 130, and Lamentations 3.

God, thank you for showing us over and over, in myriad ways,
That you care for us.

Even as Christ walked the earth in human form,
He healed ailments (1),
Brought life where death seemed imminent (2),
Cured diseases,
Welcomed little children,
Offered food for body and soul.

We are afflicted by so many sorrows and discomforts,
But you know them all.
We are brought low by various circumstances and particulars,
But you care about them all.

We suffer most when we distance ourselves from you.
We suffer most when we forget you.
Out of the depths we cry to you, God. (3)
Nothing about us goes unnoticed by you.

The steadfast love of God never ceases,
Your mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness. (4)

You have taken off our sackcloth and clothed us with joy;
You have turned our mourning into dancing,
So that our souls may praise you and not be silent.
O LORD our God, we will give thanks to you forever. (5)

Amen

 

  1. Mark 5:29,30

  2. Mark 5:41

  3. Psalm 130:1

  4. Lamentations 3:22,23

  5. Psalm 30:11,12

Epiphany, Year B (Week 3): Litany for New Creation

This litany contains references to selections from the Lectionary texts for January 21, 2018 (Year B).

God, even now, in ways we can hardly comprehend
The old is passing away.
Your voice, the voice of Christ, speaks to us:
“The time is fulfilled
the kingdom of God has come near;
turn from evil, and believe in the good news." (1)

All around the world there is turmoil
There is suffering, hunger, and war.
Here in our midst there is upheaval:
In our government, society, and streets.
But we see the subtle ways in which you work:
New creation steadily appearing.

Help us, oh God, to pay attention
To the nearness of your Kingdom,
To the rhythms of your working,
To the newness of life around us,
To the opportunities in our midst,
To the mystery of Christ within us.

For the present form of this world is passing away. (2)
New Creation has already taken hold
And is working and growing behind the scenes,
Beyond the screen of what our eyes can see.

Trust in God at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before God;
God is a refuge for us.
Power and steadfast love belong to God. (3)

Amen

  1. Mark 1:15

  2. 1Corinthians 7:31

  3. Psalm 62:8,12

Litany for Knowing God, Even in Suffering

Here is this week's Lectionary-based litany, containing elements from Psalm 23, John 10, and 1 Peter 2. I threw in the Hosea cause I felt like it worked.

 

God, you are the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1)
We want to become more aware of you (2)

We hold as our example the Christ, who suffered
But did not threaten;
The Christ, who endured abuse,
But did not return abuse; (3)
The Christ, who bore pain -
By his wounds we are healed!... (4)

Because Christ revealed the heart of God.
You desire mercy not sacrifice (5).
Because Christ has shamed the principalities and powers.
You desire the knowledge of God, not offerings (5).
Because Christ has torn the veil and made way to the Holy of Holies (6)
You desire rich relationship with us, your creations.

Come, let us press on to know the Lord
His appearing is as sure as the dawn (7).
We hear your voice -
You call to us and lead us out (8).
Wherever we go, you are with us,
Comforting, loving, restoring, guiding (9).

Be near to us, Lord, in whatever darkness or suffering we must encounter in this life,
Help us to see every pain redeemed in the light of Christ’s love.

Amen
 

 

(1)1 Pet 2:25
(2) 1Pet 2:19
(3) 1 Pet 2:23
(4) 1 Pet 2:24
(5) Hosea 6:6
(6) Matthew 27:51
(7) Hosea 6:3
(8) John 10:3
(9) Psalm 23:4


 

 

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_



 

Litany for Not Losing Hope

The Lectionary text for October 16 is Luke 18:1-8.

I have been thinking a lot about how easy it is for me to become overwhelmed with the suffering of the world in the Smartphone age. We have twitter and facebook and all manner of news at our fingertips or in our pockets literally all day long. I can know about nearly every terrible thing that happens on the earth at any given moment and become crippled with sorrow, a crumpled mess. And I have. Which is ok sometimes to do, even recommended. But I think I have work to do to figure out how to be engaged and aware and prayerfully participating but not consumed and overwhelmed.

In fact, I’d started some notes for a post along these lines, about not losing hope, staying engaged, keeping on praying. And then I read this week’s passage from the gospel of Luke.* How bout that? A parable about our “need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Jesus, you rascal, with your uncanny sense of irony.

So how do we, folks who care, folks who pray, folks who want justice for the oppressed both at home and abroad, how do we not lose hope? How do we find the strength and perseverance to keep on praying, even though new tragedies happen every day and the work is never done? Even though kids are dying of chlorine gas attacks in Aleppo; Hurricane Matthew has devastated Haiti; race relations in the US (and elsewhere) result in death and devastation nearly daily; 1 out of ever 113 people on earth is currently a refugee; women all over the world are marginalized, abused, and underpaid; the U.S. political scenario is currently discouraging (at best!), and on and on.

Well, I’m convinced of a few things:

Contemplative Christian faith has valuable things to offer: ancient practices of the church which inspire peace within and without, and which ground and unify us and give us words and space for lament and grief and heart-change and focus. We would do well to learn them.

Real faith expresses real emotions, even the ones that we might consider negative. We don’t have to do the happy-happy-joy-joy constant victory dance. We can be present to suffering. We can express lament. We can weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. We can feel our feelings and allow others to feel theirs. This is part of our work of compassion in the world, and part of our victory. We can take our example in this from Christ himself.

Sabbath makes sense, and not just for resting from work. We can embrace the divine offer of Sabbath by turning off our personal news outlets one day a week. The world will survive while we take a moment to re-group. I don’t advocate sticking our heads in the sand, except for one day of the week, which you choose in the freedom and goodness of God, to receive the mercy of God in your own heart.

I don't think these are a panacea for hopelessness, but in my life I’m seeing them ground me in hope, and I know I can get better at leaning into them.

If you need help with hope, pray with me.

 

God, our faithful Friend: we know that you are not like the unjust judge in the parable.
You are just and merciful and compassionate,
We often find it difficult to hold suffering in our minds alongside hope.
Our hearts are often fragile and our minds forgetful.

Help us to be ok with expressing a full range of emotions:
Lament and joy
Anger and affection
Gratitude and disgust
Excitement and sadness
Doubt and empathy.

Help us to be disciplined, grounded in practices that bring us life
Prayer
Meditation
Fasting
Sabbath-rest
Worship

May the fruit of our practice be a river of hope
That flows beneath all we do
Into which we may refresh ourselves
Whenever we grow weary.

And help us to be as persistent as the widow
Not losing hope
Praying without ceasing
Seeking and working for justice.

Amen

 

*I try not to read ahead from week to week before preparing the Litany, just as a way of keeping an open mind

Litany for God's Presence in Suffering

*I originally wrote this litany for a retreat for pastors in difficulty or crisis. I anticipated that there would be no way of projecting the prayer onto a screen, so I made the congregational response the simple "You are with us." I've found that sometimes these simple responses are the most profound in context, giving the congregation a chance to decide if they really mean what they are saying and allow it to take root in their consciousness.

Oh God, we remember now Christ in His suffering, and echo the feeling in His words: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
We remember:
You are with us.
We remember Christ tempted in the desert, Christ suffering at Gethsemane, Christ hung on a cross.
You are with us.
We see that suffering echoed in our own lives, and acknowledge our inability to suffer as Christ did, perfectly, without sin. We remember:
You are with us.

When we are uncertain,
You are with us.
When we have lost things or people precious to us,
You are with us.
When sickness overtakes us,
You are with us.
When we are overwhelmed with grief,
You are with us.
When we are exhausted from our labors,
You are with us.
When enemies rise up against us,
You are with us.
When our souls are in the dark night,
You are with us.

We take comfort in Christ, who is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief; and we are consoled by His having walked the road of suffering ahead of us.
You are with us.
We believe anew in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
You are with us.
It is because of Christ that hope still stirs within us.
You are with us.
And it is by His example that we turn to You in the midst of our suffering.
You are with us.

May our dry bones be enlivened; our stone hearts be made flesh; and our sickness be not unto death.
You are with us.

Hallelujah. Amen.