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.

Monday Muse: World Communion Liturgy

World Communion Sunday (October 5th this year) is an annual ecumenical celebration in some mainline American denominations, originating from a time in history when the spirit of ecumenism in American Christianity was high and global concern was heightened by the World Wars. The event served to remind American churches of their unity around Christ’s table with Christians in neighboring churches, neighboring towns, neighboring countries, and all around the world.

Today, the celebration of World Communion Sunday has spread globally, although it is not a universal liturgical event. In past years and former ministry settings on World Communion Sunday, I’ve crafted liturgies that rejoice in the diverse unity of Christ’s Body across time zones and geographies. I’ve served naan and rice cakes, rye bread and corn muffins. I’ve poured Japanese sake and French wine. I’ve said, “In Christ, we are one!” And I’ve meant it.

In light of national and international events, however, this year I find myself wondering about the ability of the American Church — specifically the White American Church — to give witness to and authentically celebrate World Communion Sunday. If you read “Do White Christians Care Enough About Racial Justice to Make It an American Reality?” or any number of insightful critiques of the White American Church, you’re aware that the White Church isn’t exactly running toward racial justice and inclusivity with open arms. Can we proclaim truthfully on World Communion Sunday, “In Christ, we are one!” when we are unwilling to live this way?

With these wonderings in mind, I offer a confessional World Communion liturgy for the White American Church:

INVITATION

The table is set. The feast is ready.
We are here! We are ready!
Where are your sisters? Where are your brothers?
They have their own tables. Let us eat.
Our community is incomplete.
Christ will make us whole.
Christ our Lord is broken. Let us pray.

COMMUNION PRAYER

God be beyond you.
God be beyond us.
Make your hearts humble.
We are humble before God.
Let us confess to God Most High.
It is right to concede our sins to God.

You are beautiful, O Christ, in all your people and in all the world. But we have failed to affirm your beauty and presence in others, certain that we were good enough to be your Body by ourselves. We have neglected to welcome brothers and sisters at our table. We have neglected to meet you outside our church walls and social circles.

How we are missing out on the diversity of you! How we are missing out on the fullness of your love! How we are missing out on the depth of your grace in the work of listening to and understanding one another!

In the flesh of Jesus, a Middle Eastern man, a man born into poverty, a man who roamed with a gang, a man who inconvenienced the status quo with his protests against injustice, a man who welcomed the dirty and the sick and the foreign and the cast-out, in Jesus Christ you reveal to us the brokenness of your heart. In Jesus Christ, you reveal to us the brokenness of ourselves.

We are broken and torn, splintered and disjointed as we gather at your table. Our prayers of compassion lack commitment to reconciliation. Our songs of praise lack a diversity of voices. We dare not sing or pray before you, so entrenched are we in our sin. Instead we wait in silence, listening as “Holy, holy, holy” is sung by your people around the world. [silence is kept]

BLESSING OF ELEMENTS

We remember that Jesus’ closest friends did not know how to stand by him when violence and injustice threatened his life. Yet even as his allies failed him, Jesus invited them to sit at the table and to dine with him, saying: “Take, eat. This bread is my body, broken into pieces like you. Take, drink. This cup is my blood, spilled out on the earth. As often as you divide yourselves, remember me. As often as you kill one another, remember me.”

O God, by your grace, bless this naan and cornbread and pita to our bitter remembrance. Multiple this sake and wine and sparkling cider with our humble repentance. Do not withhold your Spirit from this bread and cup and each of us, but stir among us for the purpose of healing. Then while our hearts are still tender, change us to be more like your Body — beautifully diverse, willing to be pieced together in new ways alongside our sisters and brothers, until at last we bring glory to you. Amen.

Take, eat.
The bread of brokenness.

Take, drink.
The cup of reconciliation.

Sunday Prayer

Before and behind,
without and within
surround us, O God.
Stretch out your hand
to lift us up
to call us out.
Be our sanctuary
and our wilderness,
our foundation
and our trembling.

Before and behind,
without and within
overtake us, O God,
with a flood of grace.
In our worry
in our chaos,
be a mercy
and a judgment,
a proclamation
and a secret.

Before and behind,
without and within
lead us, O LORD.
Mark our ways
for love
for wonder.
Bless us to something new.
Bless us to relationships.
Free us to change.
Free us to life.

Amen.

A pastoral prayer reflecting upon the Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary readings for 9/14/2014.

70 x 7

Jesus said, “Not seven times
but seventy times seven times.

Forgive debt and
do no harm
seventy times seven times.

Love your enemy and
pray for those who rally against you
seventy times seven times.

Leave your boats,
leave your dead,
seventy times seven times.

Share bread and cup
in remembrance of me
seventy times seven times.

Give the people
something to eat
seventy times seven times.

Pray without ceasing
and be not afraid
seventy times seven times.”

on Matthew 18:22