Sunday Prayer

God of Moses and Miriam,
You led people by fire and by stars,
You who guided our ancestors across wilderness and sea:

Help.

We are overwhelmed by the journey
and weary of living in uncertainty.

Our lives are thirsty.
We turn to you for something to drink:
for hope to soothe our cynical souls,
for grace to mend our relationships,
for love to save us from our arrogance,
for peace to quell our longing for more.

Our lives are changing.
We turn to you for something to steady us:
for vision to fill us with childlike joy,
for wisdom to know our next steps,
for community to share the journey,
for patience through each struggle.

You are our rock and our water.
Though we feel unsteady, help us stand.
Though we fear drowning, call us to wade deeply.

You are our history and our future.
Comfort our spirits with familiar stories of your goodness.
Unsettle our lives toward the foreign terrain of your Kindom.

We remember that this wilderness is crowded with travelers:
We pray for the continued disruption of injustice
from Ferguson to Philadelphia to Hong Kong.
We pray for brothers and sisters who are in mourning
in our church, in Paraguay, in Der Zor, in eastern Congo.

On this journey, take us as we are, in your mercy,
and then do not leave us unchanged.

We pray by your name
and for your sake.
Amen.

A pastoral prayer based on today’s Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary readings, cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals.

A Psalm to God and a Corolla

Let me tell you a story, a modern twist of a parable,
a bit of everyday good news about God’s grace:

There’s a Corolla in my life
and it has been a witness
to God’s provision of
sanctuary to a weary soul.

And there was the Corolla, and there was God,
offering peace amidst the raging storms.

There’s a Corolla in my life
and it has manifested
God’s familiar presence
across miles and miles of road.

And there was the Corolla, and there was God,
reassuring like a pillar of fire in the wilderness.

There’s a Corolla in my life
and it is born the stain
of life’s chaos, crumbled
and matted into the upholstery.

And there was the Corolla, and there was God,
and there was grace for life’s messes.

There’s a Corolla in my life
and it has carried me
every time God said “Go” and
it has guarded me as I heeded that call.

And there was the Corolla, and there was God,
and there was the courage to follow.

There’s a Corolla in my life and I suppose
it’s very materialistic of me to say
but I am grateful to this car
that has faithfully revealed God to me.

And in this modern twist of a parable,
as I listen to my own story, I remember
that God’s grace continues
everyday in bits & pieces
no matter the vehicle …
because there is God and there is grace.

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Monday Muse: The Church at Meribah

The LORD said to Moses, “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it so that people may drink.” Moses did so, and he called the place Massah and Meribah, because the people tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:6-7)

Where are we going?

Where’s the food? Where’s the water?

Why isn’t God making this journey easy?

What’s up with this wilderness, God?!

(For more biblical whining, see “In the Spirit of Jonah.”)

The ancient Israelites’ questions might ring familiar to those of us in the church:

What’s our plan for programming?

Where’s our income? Where’s our growth?

Why doesn’t God bless us like the church down the street?

What’s up with this wilderness season, God?!

I have a special fondness for Numbers 20’s version of the water-from-a-rock story that includes Moses’ angry outburst, but here in the Exodus 17 version, Moses provides more thoughtful leadership in response to the people’s worries: following God’s direction, he and a few leaders step away from the people in order to listen to God for what’s next, in order to see a picture that isn’t clouded by anxiety. The people are concerned with the details of survival. Moses pauses to focus on the details of God’s work.

The modern American church is anxious, too, about its survival, and while our anxiety is understandable, it doesn’t draw us any closer to God or to God’s purpose for the church today. The challenge of living in this unfamiliar wilderness season of the church is we must occasionally step away from the details of survival in order to seek God’s perspective on the big picture and to discern next steps.

While we all individually need to mind this balance between anxiety and perspective, daily living and discernment, I believe that the church bears a particular responsibility to shed its anxious fretting and step back from its panicked ‘survival mode’ in order to catch a vision of God’s ability to produce a wellspring from a dry desert rock. The church bears a holy obligation to recognize and reconsider its participation in antics of moaning & whining & drama & financial anxiety & political tension, in order to celebrate God’s living water and then splash that living water out onto the world, showering it abundantly on all who are thirsty.

Sunday Prayer

Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the people, ‘Draw near to the LORD,'”
so Aaron spoke, and the people looked toward the wilderness. (Exodus 16:9-10)

We’re not sure, O God, that we care to face the wilderness
in order to draw close to you. Much simpler for you to find us
where life is familiar and routine and manageable.

We hold in prayer before you the places
that seem to us beyond control
and the people within them:

we pray for those in prison,
we pray for those who are hungry,
we pray for victims of abuse and war;

we pray over pervasive situations of injustice,
we pray for our church through its changing seasons,
we pray for all of us as we wonder what tomorrow holds.

For all that we don’t know, O God of Joseph and Jonah,
we do know you are faithful in every generation and
abundant in love and grace with each new day.

Remembering all you have done through our joys and trials,
remembering that you live within and among us,
we tell your stories with thanksgiving:

We tell of new possibilities, time and again;
of abundant grace even in the wilderness;
of your splendor in everyday moments.

We tell your story of radical fairness,
even while we are learning its lessons,
and of your unceasing welcome to all people.

We count and recount the many ways
you have stood us firm amid the storm
and guided our steps in the wilderness.

There is more to tell, O Living God, because you continue
to put a song on our tongues and a call in our hearts.
Make use of us wherever we are, in your mercy,

and our children and their children’s children will repeat
the truth of how you are unimpressed by circumstance
and ever-able to do a new thing. Amen.

A pastoral prayer based on the Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday September 21, cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals.

In the Spirit of Jonah

Do you see me GOD?!

Do you see how grumpy I am?!

You should stop what you’re doing and look at me.

I’m pissed off and cursing and
kicking the dirt.

Do you know why?!

Look at me, GOD. Listen to me.
Right.
Now.
Listen to me.

Do you know why I’m grumpy?!

Because the sun comes up in the morning,
just as it always does
faithfully
day in and day out,
but GOD I want to sleep.

I’m grumpy because the sun sets at night,
just as it always does
faithfully
day in and day out,
but GOD I still have work to do.

And I’m mad because I don’t like to cook
but there’s an abundance of food
in the pantry
so I don’t have an excuse
to go out to eat.

Plus I’m out of sorts and irritated
because the bush that protects me from the sun
— the work that protects my daily living —
withered and refused to thrive
for my sake alone,
and I should be enough reason
for that friggin bush to keep living, GOD!

And darn it, you’re always
overflowing with love, GOD,
just like you always do
faithfully
day in and day out.

Stop trying to make me smile
or enjoy this beautiful day!

I am just
trying
to be
grumpy
so leave me alone already, GOD.

P.S. Jonah, you rock. Keep sittin’ on that hill and waitin’ for Ninevah to spontaneously combust. I’m with you in spirit, dude.