The Friar of Carcassonne

File this book under: There is nothing new under the sun.

Also file this book under: Must read.

Friar_CarcassonneWritten by historian Stephen O’Shea, The Friar of Carcassonne: Revolt Against the Inquisition in the Last Days of the Cathars is a fascinating and thorough dive into church history at the turn of the 14th century in medieval France, a world entirely foreign to the modern world and yet entirely the same: the use of incarceration to control wealth & resistance, the conflict of power between church & state, the push-and-pull between formal & informal movements of the church (“religious vs. spiritual,” if you will).

At the center of the drama is the dynamic friar of the southern French city of Carcassonne: Brother Bernard Délicieux, a Franciscan of great oratory & political skill, who challenges the abuses of the Church’s inquisition against heretics — from the accusations against wealthier citizens (with the accused’s property brought under the auspices of Rome and the man’s wife & children evicted) to the practices of torture and imprisonment (including the charging of fees to prisoners for their own keep — a practice continued today).

Author O’Shea is skilled at bringing history to life without politicized sensationalism. He even warns the modern reader against attempting to draw direct parallels in critique (or praise!) of the Church and its abuses, cautioning that “the irrevocable chasm carved by the passage of time should always be kept in mind” (204). And so we should keep it in mind … but for intrigue and as an encouragement to read The Friar of Carcassonne, I’ll share a few passages that prompted me to shake my head & wonder if we will ever learn our lesson and provoked me to consider that Brother Bernard may have something to teach us:

“Bernard’s contemporaries asked plaintively where their Church had gone in this time of spiritual need. … People were told again and again to be afraid: of God, of Jesus, of Hell, of Purgatory, of the Church, of the inquisitors. Of strangers. Of neighbors. Of their own humanity” (176).

“The ‘formation of a persecuting society’ was a deliberate, conscious choice driven by social change and the entry of new actors into the arena of power” (39).

“To a culture of increasing persecution, of a developing Christianity of fear … to a culture intent on demonizing dissent and difference, [the friar of Carcassonne] said no. Brother Bernard saw violent persecution as incompatible with his religion” (133).

The Friar of Carcassonne is a fascinating and recommended read!

Sunday Prayer (Reign of Christ)

O God of David and Esther, God too of Pontius Pilate,
Sovereign of kings and queens and politicians,
Most Holy Wonder and Ancient Wisdom,
you who are the beginning and end,

In prayer we collect our voices; in prayer
we raise our plea before you, saying:

Remember your love for us.
Do not forget us in all your grandeur,
as you ponder the great mountains
as you flirt with the twinkling stars.

Remember us.


We remember you, O God,
in the ordinary and the extraordinary,
with every sunrise bringing a new day
with every heartbreak marking another season.

Our lives are so unlike your being:
we falter in love while you are unconditional
we tire before trying while you continue eternally.
It seems a poor spoof that we would
worship you in all your glory
using this dust and breath of humanity,
yet this is our praise and our testimony:
you are glorious and beyond compare.

We remember all that you have done,
the stories and works of your hand,
the memories of your grace.
We remember.

Remember us.

From your throne of eminence, remember us.
Around us and above us and so far beyond us,
nevertheless: remember us. Look and listen if you will
past the heavenly chorus: we are praising you too.

Remember us.

Though you are majestic and we are small,
though you are timeless and we are fading grass;
Remember us, though we are specks in the cosmos,
not even blinks between the Alpha and the Omega.

Yours is the glory forever and ever.
Ours is this breath, and not even that.
With our last and only breath, we will praise you
O LORD of life, Spirit of sanctity, Christ our cornerstone.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Advent Liturgies (Object Lessons)

Already posted: SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings; WAITING, PREPARING, SINGING, LABORING on the RCL’s Old Testament readings; WHERE JUSTICE GETS DONE on the Narrative Lectionary readings; and NATIVITY THROUGH ADVENT as a non-lectionary option.

Up now, the last of the original Advent liturgies that I’ll be posting for this season: OBJECT LESSONS, a non-lectionary set of liturgies (and related sermon series) aimed to make Advent tangible. I suggested OBJECT LESSONS as one of several Advent sermon series ideas during my Advent Preaching Hacks webinar, part of the Center for Progressive Renewal’s 2015 Advent webinar bundle. NOTE: When using object lessons in worship — not just for the “children’s moment” — it’s important to make the experience available to everyone. Don’t believe adults who tell you that they don’t need their own object to hold/use or that they’ll “just watch”; all of our spirits benefit from play!

Advent 1 (ORIGAMI) Isaiah 2:1-5
Also suggested: move the whole worship service to the chancel area. Crowd in the chairs for those who prefer seats and spread blankets/rugs for those who might enjoy sitting on the floor. Many church chancel spaces are elevated, thus bringing everyone up to the “mountain of the LORD’s house.”

Candle Lighting
In a world full of swords,
Make plowshares.
In a world full of spears,
Make pruning hooks.
In a world full of fear,
Make light and love.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We can imagine a different world, but God we are afraid that it is impossible to reach. We can imagine better ways of caring for neighbors and strangers, but God we are convinced that it cannot be done. Will we ever see a day without war? Will we ever see a season without fear? Will we ever reach your holy mountain? We are gathered at your feet, Most Holy God. Teach us, we pray.

Advent 2 (CLAY) Isaiah 64:1-9
Also suggested: structure this worship service so that it’s primarily an experience of silence. The Isaiah text invites a spirit of lament and confession; allow long periods of silence to make room for grief and meditation, and let the creative use of clay (or coloring for those who desire a not-so-messy tactile experience) serve as the good & redeeming news.

Candle Lighting
No ear has heard,
No eye has seen,
No hand has touched,
No heart has known, 
A god more awesome than this God,
A god more mighty, more merciful than our God.
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We have sinned, and you are rightly angry. We have injured one another. We have wilted in faith. We have tried to hold onto you for our own gain, tried to see you in our own image. Despite our sins, we beg you: do not hide your face from us and do not abandon our hearts. Instead overwhelm us and awe us into humility. Grab hold of us and shape us like the clay we are. We are the work of your hand.

Advent 3 (POTLUCK) Isaiah 7:10-16
For the potluck, invite congregation leaders to bring simple snacks — enough to share — or invite the whole congregation to contribute to the feast. Consider worshipping at tables together rather than in pews. Also suggested: Bring chrismons to the worship service (tree ornaments if your church has them or printed copies of chrismon designs along with crayons/markers for coloring), making sure that there are enough chrismons for each participant. The Isaiah text lends itself to learning about signs of God and of Christian faith.

Candle Lighting
A sign:
As high as the stars, as deep as the seas.
A sign:
An adult, a child, a loved one, a stranger.
A sign:
Curds and honey, bread and cup.
A sign:
Light and goodness to bless all people.
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
So often we believe that there is not enough: not enough signs to guide our faith, not enough love to turn the tides of war, not enough food to welcome all people to the table, not enough goodness to resist the powers of evil, not enough hope to comfort our weariness. You are enough, O Great God. You are more than enough.

Advent 4 (BUILDING BLOCKS) Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Also suggested: in addition to providing a wide variety of building toys (Legos, Lincoln Logs, etc.), bring seeds, pots & soil to worship so that congregants can “build” plants and sow seeds for new life.

Candle Lighting
What is God building?
Justice and joy.
What is God planting?
Comfort and community.
Give God your mourning,
And God will build gladness.
Give God your tired heart,
And God will plant praise.
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Have mercy on us, O God. We have become so accustomed to our ashes that we cannot receive your healing. We have become so accustomed to war-torn cities that we cannot imagine peaceful communities. We have become so accustomed to injustice that we cannot see salvation blooming around us. Have mercy on us, have mercy.

You are welcome to use and adapt these liturgies and sermon series ideas for your faith community. Please credit this source just as you would credit a printed source: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin or displayed on your projection screen identifying the author and website — Rachel Hackenberg and — as well as the date of this blogpost.

Advent Liturgies (Nativity)

Already posted: SIGNS, SAVIORS, SERPENTS, SONGS on the Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings; WAITING, PREPARING, SINGING, LABORING on the RCL’s Old Testament readings; and WHERE JUSTICE GETS DONE on the Narrative Lectionary readings.

Still to come: One more set of Advent liturgies on a non-lectionary theme (Object Lessons).

Up now: NATIVITY THROUGH ADVENT, a series of Advent liturgies centered on aspects of the nativity story. If you watched my webinar for the Center for Progressive Renewal, you heard me say that there are many approaches to preaching the nativity story through Advent: taking the story chronologically, focusing on individual characters, and examining the places/settings throughout the story, among many other options. While some of us may be liturgical purists who maintain strict boundaries between Advent and Christmas, working through & over the richness of the Christmas story during Advent can add depth to a holiday that otherwise is liturgically limited to December 24/25.

Among the “Nativity Through Advent” ideas, the theme of PLACE holds particular resonance for me, so the following liturgies assume a sermon series on places in the nativity story and in our faith.

Advent 1 (SANCTUARY) Luke 1:5-23

Candle Lighting
In the presence of God,
We are in awe.
Overwhelmed by God,
We are speechless.
Graced by God,
We are thankful.
[first candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are humble before you, O God. We are in your place, in your time, in your presence, and we confess our awe before you. How can we stand before your power? How can we boast in the presence of your imagination? How can we claim wisdom before your foolishness? Everywhere we go, you stun and surprise us. All the world is your sanctuary, O God. Keep us ever mindful and meek.

Advent 2 (HOME) Luke 1:39-45

Candle Lighting
You are welcome here.
God is welcome here.
You are welcome here.
We are welcome here.
Come and be here.
Come and be you.
Holy God, come among us and be You.
[second candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are not always welcoming, O God, and we do not always feel welcome. We have not celebrated one another as the good gifts we are. We have not cried together in the seasons when we have needed a good cry. We have not visited one another often enough to gasp in joy or sigh in pain. Forgive us, O God. Teach us again to create home for friends and strangers, loved ones and enemies.

Advent 3 (CITIES/BUSY PLACES) Luke 2:1-5

Candle Lighting
The ways are crowded,
God is not lost.
The days are busy,
God’s time stands still.
The journey is long,
God’s light guides our feet.
[third candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
Our ways are not our own, O God. We hurry and race, twist and turn, trying to keep up, trying to get ahead, trying to stand out in the crowd. We change our ways at a moment’s whim. We change our minds by fear or persuasion. We are told where to go, where not to go. We struggle to listen for you. We cannot sense your way. Where the ways are crowded and confused, guide us we pray. Where the noise fills our ears, bring a quiet piece to our hearts.

Advent 4 (FIELDS/WIDE OPEN SPACES) Luke 2:8-15

Candle Lighting
Field and forest,
Glory to God!
Sheep and sparrow,
Glory to God!
Rock and river,
Glory to God!
Let all creation
Give glory to God!
[fourth candle is lit]

Prayer of Confession
We are longing for wide open spaces to breathe and to be amazed, but so often we do not look up to see them. So often we do not look up to see you. We miss the beauty of a drop of dew, of a single snowflake. We fail to tune in to the bird’s song. We forget to breathe deeply. Startle us, we pray. Wake us up, and our praises will echo across the open fields to your glory.

IMG_0959You are welcome to use and adapt these liturgies and sermon series ideas for your faith community. Please credit this source just as you would credit a printed source: with a citation printed in your worship bulletin or displayed on your projection screen identifying the author and website — Rachel Hackenberg and — as well as the date of this blogpost.


Jesus sits in a coffee shop now that the weather has turned cold. Third table from the entrance, near a window. She dozes in the early morning over a large red cup of coffee. Wrapped around her shoulders is a thick plum blanket to shake off the night’s chill. Wrapped around her hair is a beautiful red scarf patterned with gold leaves and berries. A gray hard shell suitcase is tucked under the counter nearby, miles on its wheels. No one disturbs Jesus as she sleeps, and I think that’s the most basic gesture of dignity: to give someone space, to acknowledge that they have space, need space, occupy space and breath and life. She rests, and no one says “You can’t be here.” Occasionally when I come into the shop for my morning caffeine, Jesus isn’t dozing but is watching something funny on her phone or smiling with the baristas. I don’t think any of us could survive this life without a few moments of joy, and probably Jesus needs joy even more than the rest of us, especially during the winter. As I wait in line for my own cup of joy, I wonder about the little things, like how long it’s been since Jesus had the opportunity to have her hair done, to unwrap the scarf and let her scalp be scrubbed, to relax as deft hands pull with understanding at the knots before weaving their life together again with oil. I wonder when Jesus last had the chance to stretch out, to sleep somewhere where she didn’t have to keep one ear awake to her environment. But I haven’t even met Jesus’ eye yet to say hello or introduce myself, so it seems inappropriate to speculate. The line of customers shifts forward, and I give my appreciation to the baristas who in turn I know are giving hospitality to Jesus.