Distant Promises

They died in faith without having received God’s promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. (Hebrews 11:13)

What do we ask of you, O God,
but faithfulness in presence and
mercy from devouring powers?

What do you ask of us, O God,
but integrity in discipleship and
compassion in community?

How have we failed one another, O Christ?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but timeliness in justice and
holy fury in redemption?

What do you ask of us, O God,
but patience in labor and
hope in restoration?

How have we tested one another’s limits, O Call?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but a rock to rest upon and
reward for sacrifice?

What do you ask of us, O God,
but trust in your steadfastness and
surrender of our treasures?

How have we counted one another’s costs, O Creator?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but inspiration for renewal and
courage for peace?

What do you ask of us, O God, but
but humility in worship and
dreams of what may be?

How have we failed one another, O Covenant?

What do we ask of you, O God,
but that you come?
And what do you ask of us
but that we be ready?

And will it be so?

Amen.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Learn Your Lessons

Gimel
Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.

Daleth
I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.

– Psalm 119:17, 25 (NIV)

Through my earbuds plays the wisdom of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” about setting boundaries after a bad relationship: “One: Don’t pick up the phone… Two: Don’t let him in… Three: Don’t be his friend…”

One, two, three.

The psalmist prays in an acrostic format, with one letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning each stanza’s lines: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, Dalet.

A, B, C.

Given the complexities of the world, given the complexities of our lives, given the complexities of faith as we mature and ask hard questions and wrestle with God: it’s no wonder that sometimes we need simple tools and elementary lessons to keep us grounded.

One, two, three. A, B, C.

In Sunday School when I was a child, the foundational lessons were built into our songs: “One, two, three. Jesus loves me! One, two. Jesus loves you!”

In the days of memorized catechism, it was a series of questions and answers: “What is your only comfort in life and in death? What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” (à la the Heidelberg Catechism)

In Psalm 119, twenty-two letters shape the psalmist’s prayer, but it can also be a string of beads or the fingers of a hand or the hours of the day that help us pray. It can be the simplicity of a rhyme or the faithfulness of a sunset that teaches us of God’s love. It can be an earworm or an alphabet that keeps us honest about our relationships with God and with one another.

So long as we learn the lesson. So long as we keep returning to it, by whatever simple tools we find most useful for the living of these complex days.

A: All that I am is yours, O God.
B: Be present with those who suffer, O Christ.
C: Call us beyond our egos and out into the work of love, O Spirit.

written for the UCC Daily Devotional

Religiosity

If I am zealous in faith
but do know not peace,
I am a dangerous firebrand.

If I kneel before the LORD
but cannot stand beside my neighbor,
I am a self-righteous Judas.

If I preach “Christ is near”
but shame those who cry to Jesus,
I am a false and jealous prophet.

If I shout out God’s praises
but refuse to resist injustice,
I am a faithless narcissist.

If I build glorious altars
but do not tear down dividing walls,
I am a godforsaken disciple.

Faith is not a solo experience or a self-serving endeavor. Faith cannot love God and hate a stranger. Faith is not simple or perfect or grandiose. Faith holds mystery, knows pain, and practices curiosity. Faith worships and welcomes, waits and works. Faith dwells in love, walks in peace, and joins in hope.

Reflecting on the lectionary texts for
the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (A),
patterned after 1 Corinthians 13