Thomas and Us: Living with Uncertainty in the Shadow of the Cross

Tags

, ,

2020 Easter 2

John 20:19-31

Where was Thomas that Easter day when the others heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection? Where was Thomas when Jesus stood among them alive again?

Perhaps Thomas was foraging for supplies, or for the word on the street. Perhaps he couldn’t bear to be inside. Perhaps he needed to walk… as the one who paces the floor waiting for the doctor to return after a loved one’s surgery. Perhaps he just needed to see that life still existed beyond the walls. Perhaps….perhaps….

Who was Thomas anyway? Though not often mentioned by name in the gospels, we have heard enough to know what distinguished him from all the other disciples. He was the one who understood what was coming. Among the followers of Jesus, those twelve named as apostles very early in Jesus’ ministry, Thomas was outspoken in his belief in Jesus’ mission, not brash or impulsive like Peter, but strong and assured.

In the days before Jesus’ passion, at the healing of Lazarus, Jesus told his followers about his plan to go the Jerusalem and he spoke of the danger of doing so. It was Thomas among the twelve who urged the followers to go, “Even if we must die with him.” He had understood both the plan and the risk, and he was willing to follow.

Thomas knew about death, some might have called him a realist. He had anticipated Jesus’ death, what he didn’t anticipate or know in advance was how to come to terms with that reality when Jesus was gone and he remained. And he asked the question many have asked since, “How do we go on living when death is all around?”

As we hear the story one of the few that is told every year it seems different. It’s hard to know just where we fit into the story this time. Do we identify with the disciples, shut up behind locked doors in fear? Or are we like Thomas feeling guilty, unsettled, and uncertain? Maybe we’re a bit like Thomas and the rest of the disciples.

We look out from our shuttered homes, seeing the ill, and the brave, and the foolhardy. We hear the news of those who taunt fate, who laugh in the face of the risk. We listen well to the warnings, taking them seriously for the sake of the future, of our children and grandchildren, and for ourselves. We see the ones who can’t stay home, those who work at jobs providing the most essential needs of society, and we see those who have no safe home or lack the necessary supplies.

We may like Thomas feel unsettled at what we see and what we imagine to be going on beyond our closed doors. It may be hard for us to wait quietly while the world is in chaos outside.

I remember my training and hear the oft-repeated instructions for chaplains and ministers who are told to provide a non-anxious presence. In this time of isolation and social distancing, we all need someone to calm our fears. How can one be non-anxious in this time of great loss and uncertainty? How can we sit in stillness when there are so many struggling?

And then we hear the words of Thomas’ encounter with Jesus. In awe, we hear Jesus welcome, even anticipate, the questions. “Come and witness my wounds and know that I am with you. In the scars of my suffering and death see that even now I am with you in life.”

It is hard, no it is impossible, my friends, to see the path that is before us. But we know this, that Jesus’ call for us to care for one another continues, and he promises to be with us in the process. Even as we sit in stillness, in prayer, standing vigil as many suffer. Knowing that those who live crowded in cramped living quarters suffer more illness and death and that those who must work are indeed at risk. It is right for us to be keeping watch. As we hold vigil for them and for the world, as we care for one another to limit the scope of the crisis, let us also reflect on how we live now and in the future. I believe even now God is bringing forth new life in us. Let us imagine how we will live into a future that values everyone. Let us remember that Jesus is with us, bearing with us the pain of the world and speaking to us those words for which we hunger, “Peace be with you.“

Meditation For Earth Day

Tags

, ,

Introduction to reading and meditation

From the beginning, God called us into relationship with the divine, with our neighbor, and also with the heavens, seas, mountains, and forests, and all that live there. Isaiah invites us to look to creation, to observe in God’s handiwork the possibility for peace that encompasses all creation.

Hear the words of Isaiah 55: 8-13 (NRSV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,
    and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
    for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

I invite you now into a time of meditation and reflection. Perhaps the past few days have been frenetic. Your to-do list has kept you inside, removed from the beauty of the outdoors. Today with a still heart you feel deep gratitude for this time set aside for personal renewal and consider how we will protect the fragile and wondrous gift that supports the life God created.

Make yourself comfortable. You may want to close your eyes. With your feet on the floor, relax your body from your toes, to your midsection and then to your face. Breathe deeply of the spirit of God that moves in and around you and release all tension as we imagine a walk in God’s garden.

You have come to this favorite space many times before. Checking your small pack, you prepare to set out with a bottle of cool water and a snack…. Ahead of you a trail beckons. The day is warm as sunlight floods the forest. Overhead, the forest has only begun its springtime transformation from its winter skeletal forms to lush summer canopy. Tiny chartreuse leaves begin to fill the once empty space.

Along the wooded path, you note branches felled by some storm several years past. Now they show evidence of change and decay that supports the new growth on the forest floor where bits of moss are turning green and a new seedling has taken root. Even with just two leaves showing, the seedling will compete with older stronger saplings nearby. Here and there trillium and Dutchman’s breeches flower, intent on gathering strength for another season of growth, their hope to propagate and sustain their species for another generation in this fertile biome.

At long last, you come to your favorite spot, one to which you return at different seasons, year after year. Sometimes the small spring-fed stream swells with the runoff of snow-melt or a summer rain. Today its mere trickle of water from the spring bubbles gently along. You rest your pack against the trunk of an old oak and sit listening.

Other notes fall on your ear… the melody of birdsong and a rustling of leaves in the underbrush as a squirrel scampers across an open space and up a maple. It occurs to you to wonder what the future holds for wild places such as this. You reach into your pack and celebrate a quiet communion with the forest flora and fauna grateful for their presence and their gifts to the cycle of life God created.

As you prepare to leave the forest now, you open your eyes, your mind, your heart and consider how your appreciation for these woodland spaces has led you to respond to the call to stewardship of God’s great gift.

Once again you hear the words of Isaiah…. sharing their earnest hope for many seasons of joyful celebration of all creation.

A Different Palm Sunday

Tags

, , ,

Matthew 21:1-11

Today I invite you to think about Jesus on that day long ago…

He must have known or suspected what was coming. He’d been hearing opposition from the very beginning. He knew about John’s run-in with Roman leaders. He himself had fielded all sorts of questions from leaders of the temple; from those who were afraid, who perhaps felt threatened, just trying to protect the people, paying the bills, putting food on their own tables. They worried, he knew. He timed his entry as a protest. Echoing the scriptures, his preparations were planned to help the people remember the words of the prophets. Remember that there was hope to stand against the mighty and the powerful who abused their power.

Think about the people on that day…

They must have known or suspected what was to come. They knew all too well the might of their Roman occupiers. They could hear the clatter of horses’ hooves and chariot wheels from across the city. They knew the oppressive taxes that funded Herod’s many castles. Lifestyles of the rich and famous did not just originate in our day. It’s been a theme running throughout history.

In spite of knowing, of harboring a fear of what might come, the people joined with Jesus and his disciples making noise, celebrating in the streets of Jerusalem, bringing joy tempered by fear, but choosing hope, however slim, that somehow their day was coming.

Looking back they may have wondered at their brash parade. Just how had they expected the ragtag crowd of followers that they were to succeed in the face of such a mighty obstacle? But in the years to come, the parade would take on new meaning. Their hopes of one who would be present in challenging times would be realized in countless ways great and small.

The anthropologist Margaret Mead said, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Today, we face a mighty threat. It is made evident in the face of a global pandemic. But it has shown its face in opportunists who use the suffering of others to their advantage for fame or power or profit.

But there is another way…the voice of the people lifted up in celebrating the heroes among us; the health care workers and support teams, those who provide transportation of people to hospitals, of food to market, those who deliver mail and babies. In places around the world people under stay at home orders gather nightly on balconies to cheer their heroes, medical staff applaud as those who recover are sent home, restaurants whose business is floundering turn instead to sending food to those on the front lines in hospitals or deliver food and beverages to police and ambulance corps.

And in this community of faith, the work of caring for one another goes on. Your Leadership Circle and those who make telephone contact check-in weekly so we can continue to meet the needs of the people in this time and place.

What will people say of us in that far distant time when COVID 19 is but a memory? They will say that the people followed faithfully in the way of Jesus shouting out their hopes, and yes, their fears. They will say the people trusted in God knowing that in this community of faith, whatever comes, God will be present in the work in the hands and feet, hearts and faces of those who gather here in God’s name. May it ever be so.

The Gift of Time in a Season of Mourning

Tags

, , , ,

John: 11:1-45

I imagine today many of us are feeling more than a little bit like Mary and Martha, and the other mourners gathered at the tomb of Lazarus. We may simply be mourning the changes this new event of a pandemic in our time has brought to our lives, or we may be mourning very specific people and relationships that are of concern to us.

When the time of parting comes, what can be hardest for those to whom it comes suddenly is the inability to say the final words we would like to have said. Now when we are stuck in our homes it is difficult to impossible to reach out and touch those with whom we might like to make amends. But we have do time, time to think and reflect, time to consider what we would like to do and say to those for whom we are concerned. It is a real Lenten moment.

I wonder if it crossed Jesus’s mind as he delayed going to the side of the grieving sisters that they and Lazarus too might have needed some time for reflection and working on their relationships. I wonder how they made use of it? Did they tell each other the stories of the best times they had shared? Did they take time to say “Thank you”, “I love you”, “I forgive you”? Did they share what they had learned from one another? These are the words we would all wish to remember as we say our final farewells.

Jesus did arrive, and he stood at the entrance to the tomb and he wept, and he’s weeping now with us and beside all the mourning peoples of the world, in China and Italy, in Spain and Iran, in Washington and New York,… and In the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.

When Jesus wept the falling tear in mercy flowed beyond all bounds.

When Jesus groaned a trembling fear seized all the weary world around.*

One of the sayings or memes on the internet this week was “This is the Lentiest Lent I’ve ever Lented.” No doubt this is true for the vast majority of us. This Lenten season is calling us, no demanding of us that we put that time to good use. So take time in these days we’ve been given, to reflect on your life and relationships. Share your thoughts with your loved ones, in person when you can, on the phone or in a card or letter. Make this a time of growth and renewal of spirit. Most of us will come through this time, but things will be different. Let’s work to make our lives on the other side of this crisis better, even more loving and dedicated to all the world and its people.

We do not know what tomorrow holds. Truth is, we never do. But, by faith, we do know this: Jesus walks with us into tomorrow, standing beside us in sunshine and shadow, in joy and in sorrow, and he always will.

*William Billings, When Jesus Wept, 1770

Blue Christmas or Longest Night Ritual

Tags

, , ,

Blue Christmas or Longest Night Ritual of Prayer and Candle Lighting.

A table is set with candles artfully arranged as you choose. Some candles are lit before the service and others will be lit by those in attendance at the designated time. At the chosen place in the liturgy the following is inserted into the order of worship:

NAMING OUR BROKENNESS IN PRAYER AND RITUAL

Tonight we come, people who have been there. We have been the recipients of difficult news, experiencing it in the core of our body, the pit of our stomach, the rending of our heart. It may be recent or long ago, but the decorations and merriment of holidays going on around us recall and accentuate the sadness we feel.

Some are bereft; recalling the faces no longer present around the dinner table, some have been touched by a recent accident or new diagnosis for themselves or a loved one. Some are enduring a slow but sure lessening of abilities, noticing a stumbling or faltering step, failing vision that dims the sunlight and intensifies the darkness.

Some have lost a sense of place or purpose, a pink slip bodes of empty days and bank accounts, others are disoriented with a new address in an unfamiliar neighborhood, school or place of work.

Some come with shattered dreams, loss of plans and possibility in the experience of tragedy. Some come feeling loss with even a welcome and expected change that also brings uncertainty for the future.

And so we come to light candles, candles that tell of our longing for healing in this season of waiting. The candles we light tonight bring to mind the themes of Advent. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. Those familiar themes are not only for the individual weeks of the season, but for all of Advent and for all the days of our lives. For we are in need of the gifts they bring, a sense of wholeness in the midst of change and uncertainty, healing for our brokenness.

LITANY FOR HEALING

We look for hope in the face of loss. Hearts are touched by sadness of empty times and empty spaces in our midst. Fill our hearts with hope for tomorrow, O God, that we may be healed.

We look for peace in the ashes of communities. Homes and public places, cities, countryside, entire nations lie in ruin, torn apart by the violence and distrust, tribalism and war. Teach us the ways of peace, O God, that we may be healed.

We look for joy in place of sorrow. Days of mourning remembered, tables with meager offerings in lean times, celebrations where loved ones are absent. Renew our sense of purpose, O God, that we may be healed.

We look for love in the emptiness of our lives. Feeling forgotten, that no one cares, that people are apathetic to the concerns of others. Remind us of your care. Reconnect us. Show us that we are part one of another, O God, that we may be healed. Amen.

LIGHTING CANDLES FOR HEALING

Come now, to light a candle for healing for the loss or concern you bear tonight. Those who wish to do so may name their concern aloud as a request for prayer.

As music plays softly, people come forward to light candles. When people return to their pews we will keep silence that will end when a bell is rung after 3 minutes.

The service then continues with prayer, selected readings and song.

Prayers of Illumination – RCL Year B 2018

Tags

,

I began writing a prayer of illumination each week beginning January 2018.

2018.1.7 – O God of Truth, shine the light of Bethlehem on us. As we listen to the story of the wise ones who came to visit the newborn Christ Child, may our hearts too be filled with wonder and awe. As they were guided by angels, teach us, also, always to listen for your voice. Amen.

2018.1.14 – Holy God, as we listen to the story of people of faith in ancient days open our hearts and minds to understand the truths contained therein. Once again send your Spirit so that, hearing your words calling out to your beloved, we may be inspired to works of love and justice in your name. Amen.

2018.1.21 – Holy One, We long to know your truth. Prepare our hearts to hear your Word and give us understanding. As we listen to the stories of your ancient people may we be inspired to share our stories of your presence day by day. Amen.

2018.1.28 – Holy One, our Great Physician, we long to feel your healing presence. Open our hearts as we hear once again the words of scripture that we might feel your Spirit stirring in us, inspiring us to bring your hope and healing to the world. Amen.

2108.2.4 – O Christ, the Bread of Life, we hunger for your presence in word and sacrament. Come to us now in the reading of scripture that we may learn to follow in your way of truth. Amen.

2018.2.11 – Transfiguration – Light of the World, open our hearts to let the light of your truth shine in them as we draw near to hear the story of your vision and ministry. Then send us forth enlightened and empowered to witness to your presence in our lives. Amen.

2018.2.18 – God of our Salvation, your bow in the clouds proclaims your covenant with every living creature. Teach us your paths and lead us in your truth, that by your Holy Spirit, we may remember our baptismal vows and be keepers of your trust with earth and its inhabitants. Amen.

2018.2.25 – Holy One, We are full of doubt and need to hear the testimony of our ancestors in the faith. Open our hearts to hear their truth so that we may be filled with courage to spread the good news of your love and forgiveness. Amen.

2018.3.4 – Loving God, we long to hear a word from you. Come to us now in the words of those who long ago sought to do your will. Speak to us through their voices that we may be inspired to follow in Jesus’ way of love for all. Amen.

2018.3.11 – Nurturing God, we come hungering for your word. Feed our spirits on our Lenten journey that we may go forth in courage to witness to your truth. Amen.

2018.3.18 – Gentle Savior, we come again to hear the story of your great love for us. Grant that we listen with open hearts so we may be filled with joy for service in your name. Amen.

2018.4.1 – Easter – Holy One, It has been whispered among the people that there is amazing news. We come to hear a word of hope, longing for possibility of rebirth. Speak to our listening hearts that we may joyfully carry your Good News into the world. Amen.

2018.4.8 – Faithful One, We come today, some full of wonder, some lost in doubt, longing to feel your presence revealed in the words of our ancient stories. Speak to us now, reveal yourself, fill our hearts with joy to spread your message of love. Amen.

2018.4.15 – Gentle Savior, We come listening for a word of hope, longing to feel your presence. Speak to us through psalmists and apostles that we may know your truth using as a guide for living every day. Amen.

2018.4.22 – Creator God, we come to you having heard creation groaning in travail. Speak to us through your holy word that with insight and compassion we may care for all creation. Amen.

2018.4.29 – Living Savior, draw us closer to you in the reading of your word. Nurture us with the essence of life that our passion for your message of hope will be seen in renewed and renewing witness to your love for all people. Amen.

2018.5.13 – Risen Jesus, on this day of waiting, we long once again to see your face, to hear your truths. Speak to us in the words of the ancient story that through our lives we may witness to the hope and peace you would have us share. Amen.

2018.5.20 Holy One, come to us in the reading of your Word. Open us to the Spirit’s presence in our hearts so that our lives may be a vessel for your truth bringing hope to the world. Amen.

2018.5.27 Holy God, you are spirit, truth and love. We long to feel your presence. As we listen to the old, old story inspire us to share its wisdom as people reborn. Amen.

2018.6.3 Holy One, Creator of Time and Space, our time of Sabbath rest brings us close to you. Speak to us in silence and scripture your words of timeless truth. So may we be moved to help create holy space in our daily lives and the lives of others. Amen.

2018.6.10 Loving God, wounded, isolated, alone even in the company of others we long for connection. Teach us through the words of scripture, we listen for words of connection and covenant. Speak to us of possibility and hope that we may live together in love. Amen.

2018.6.17 God of Truth, troubled by chaos and confusion we come seeking your vision. Open our hearts to hear the good news of grace, the wisdom of your way. Transform our lives that guided by Christ’s example our lives will reflect your light and love. Amen.

2018.6.24 Loving Teacher, Troubled by the world’s uncertainty, we look to you for words of truth and hope. Speak to us through these our forebears in faith that we may be set free to love guided by your teachings of justice and mercy.

2018.7.1 Again we ask, O Jesus, how shall we live? We long to hear your wisdom, born of the Spirit, of your very being in and with God. Teach us how to love, that the world may be blessed by the light of your grace reflected in our lives. Amen.

2018.7.22 Tender Shepherd, We come like sheep, dependent on your guidance, longing to hear your voice. Speak to us a word of reassurance that encouraged by your word we may be strengthened for our daily life and service. Amen.

2018.7.29 God of Peace and Love, we open our hearts to the story of your ways. Teach us the way of truth through the words of our faithful forebears. Then send us out with eager to see where you are at work in the world today. Amen.

2018. 8.5 Holy One, we long to hear the stories of your people and your love and care for them. Speak to us in the ancient words so that we may find hope our life and direction for our actions. Amen.

2018.8.12 Giver of Life, you have hopes and dreams for all your creation. We want to hear them. Speak to us now in old and familiar words that we may discern your desires for us. Inspire our living and growing in community. Amen.

2018.8.19 Listening God, though we’ve heard the words before, like the disciple we still want to know more about how to connect with you. Speak to us in the words we hear today, that our prayer life may be enriched and we may feel your presence more deeply. Amen.

2018.8.26 Still Speaking God, we come hear wanting to connect with you and our neighbors. Open our hearts to hear your truth in the words of people of faith through the ages. Then give us courage to share what we have heard. Amen.

2018.9.2 Gracious God, we come in hopes of hearing affirmation of your works. Speak to us in the words of the sacred texts. Open our ears to hear and our eyes to see the work yet to be done to help enact your vision for the community and all creation. Amen.

2018.9.9 O God of Wisdom, we come into your presence seeking to know your truth. Pour out your grace in the words of the gospel that we may learn your way of peace and justice. Amen.

2018.9.16 Wisdom of the Ages, we come wanting to hear your voice of truth which is too often drowned out by the noise of worldly speech. We are listening, speak to us now. Fill our hearts with a love of your word that we our lives may model your ways and will. Amen.

2018.9.30 Holy God, the words of scripture sometimes comfort us, sometimes surprise us. Help us listen for a new and inspiring word from you that our hearts may understand that you still speak in and through our words and actions today. Amen.

2018.10.7 Creating God, We come to hear and marvel at the story of your imagination made known in our world. Open our hearts as we hear your word and lead and lead us from despair to hope, from death to life so that we may be inspired to share the wonder of your grace. Amen.

2018.10.14 O God of Love, we come to hear your word seeking refreshment for our souls. Pour down your wisdom upon us that we may bring a cup of cool water to your thirsty children who long for justice. Amen

2018.10.21 O God of Love, soften our hearts. Prepare in us fertile ground to receive the stories of your people. Let the truths we have received grow in us and bear fruit for your harvest of justice. Amen.

2018.10.28 Redeeming God, We come today remembering that great cloud of witnesses who have heard your word proclaimed throughout the ages. Open our ears to hear to your voice still speaking to us now that we may faithfully respond to its truth as it is made known in this age. Amen.

2018.11.4 Great Teacher, remembering the saints who have taught us, we want to hear more. Open our minds that your words may inspire us. Stir in us a will to do the work to which you call us that all we do may be touched by your grace. Amen.

2018.11.10 Christ of Compassion, Come to us now and feed our spirits on the truth of your word. In our hearing your call may we be inspired to serve others in your name. Amen.

2018.11.18 Bountiful God, We come longing to hear your blessing for us. Speak to us now as you spoke to faithful souls in days of old. As we hear your word, let our hearts be opened to the essence of your love and your desire for community that this place may reflect and radiate the wonders of your grace for all to see. Amen.

Prayers of Illumination – RCL Year C 2018 – 2019

Tags

,

2018.12.2 Comforting God, come to us with a word of hope. We are troubled in a world of sadness and pain. We long for a balm for our aching hearts that we may convey your blessing to others. Amen.

2018.12.9 Come, Light of the World. Show us the way by the example set before us in scripture that our feet may follow the path illuminated by your word of truth. Amen.

2018.12.23 God-with-us, Emmanuel, come to us now in the words of your advent story. Fill our hearts, our whole being with the knowledge of your presence. Teach us to honor the holy in ourselves and in all your creation. Amen.

2018.12.30 Draw near to us, O God, as we read the words of your prophets and apostles. Inspire us with the songs of our forebears in faith that we may sing your praise always and in all places. Amen.

2019.1.13 Beloved Son of God, we come today longing to hear the old story that tells of your life and ministry. Speak to us in words, signs, and ritual that remind us of the new life that is ours. Inspire us then to witness to your love and grace in our lives. Amen

2019.1.20 Healing God, We come longing to for peace in our hearts and our community. Speak to us in words of scripture, open our hearts to hear that we may resolve to follow where you lead. Amen.

2019.1.27 Worker of Miracles, we come longing to hear the amazing stories of your life and work. Open our eyes to see in your work the possibilities available to us through trust in you, so that we may share in your abundance with hope for tomorrow. Amen.

2019.2.3 Holy One, refresh our spirits and our dedication to you as we hear the words written so long ago. May we, having heard your truth, give voice to your will for the world so that your peace and love prevail. Amen.

2019.2.17 Holy One, we come because we thirst for your Living Water. Pour out your mercy on us in the words of scripture. Quench our thirst so that with refreshed spirits we may carry cups full of blessings to people we meet every day. Amen.

2019.2.24 God of peace and peacemaking, we come to you knowing our tendency to put our wants before the needs of others. Teach us your ways so that we might learn to choose actions that bring peace to our families and community. Amen.

2019.3.3 Transfiguration – Radiant God, we come seeking the light. Shine on us in the images of scripture that we may behold your presence among us today, and that beholding, we may share the story of your grace and love. Amen.

2019.3.6 Ash Wednesday -Gracious God, We come with contrite hearts longing to learn from you how to live out our faith. Speak to us that we may gladly live your truth with thankful hearts. Amen.

2019.3.10 Open our hearts, O God, to hear the words that tell the story of your people. Teach us the way of Jesus, that in our work and in our play, in our families and in our community we may know and live his way of compassion. Amen.

2019.3.17 Loving Savior, we come with longing hearts to listen once again as you speak your words, your truth. Inspire us with words that provoke and challenge, that comfort and heal, so we may be transformed to serve God and our neighbor. Amen.

2019.3.24 Living Water, we come to you, spirits parched, souls thirsty for your water of life. Renew us through the hearing of your word of second chances. May we take to heart the call to daily repentance so our lives might be fruit-filled blessings to the world. Amen.

2019.3.31 Jesus, Guide and Guardian, we are lost without a touchpoint when we do not attend to your word. Speak now your words of truth. Engrave them on our hearts, so that knowing your lovingkindness, our lives may be filled and overflowing with your saving grace for all the world. Amen

2019.4.7 Wellspring of Life, our spirits yearn for a message of hope. Fill our hearts with the water of life, that, spirits refreshed, we may share your message of rebirth and renewal to all who are discouraged. Amen.

2019.4.14 Loving Jesus, Humble Leader, we come from our place in today’s world and a very different landscape, yet we believe in our hearts, you have timeless truths to share with us. Speak to us now in the words of your story from long ago. Teach us to find in them find a blessing and a guide for today and tomorrow. Amen.

2019.4.18 Maundy Thursday – Longing to know you more fully, we come tonight, O Jesus, to hear a word of hope for this broken world. Speak to us a word for tonight and for tomorrow, when the worries of the world threaten to overwhelm us. In hearing your truth, may we find the courage to witness to your love despite the brokenness we see in ourselves and around us. Amen

2019.4.19 Good Friday – Holy One, in our grief, memory fails as we struggle to understand the meaning of the death of Jesus. Speak to us again the words he spoke, so that hearing we might comprehend the extent of his deep love for humankind, and understanding we may choose to walk in his Way of love. Amen.

2019.4.21 Easter – Surprise us today, O God, with words surpassing our understanding, and so may our hearts be open to wonder, today and every day. Amen.

2019.4.28 Dear God, Sometimes your stories seem too good or too unexpected to be believed. Open our hearts and our minds as you speak to us in the patient words of Jesus, that we may be open to the promise and possibility of new life for us, even now. Amen.

2019.5.12 Speak to us, O God, the familiar words of comfort and compassion. Raise us to new life in the hearing of your words of hope that we may be inspired to as your co-creators to build communities of safety, peace, and blessing. Amen.

2019.5.19 Steadfast God, we come in need of your inspiring word. Remind us of your enduring hope for humankind that we may learn and live into new possibilities of creating community. Amen.

2019.5.26 Life-giving God, we who forget our role in your creation come in need of a reminder of your charge for us. Open our hearts to listen and to hear your words that we may know and follow the path you set before us. Amen.

2019.6.2 Holy One, we come to listen to the words of Jesus. May we hear his voice echoing through the centuries inspiring us even now to follow, and may our hearts be filled with courage to witness to his timeless call to love one another. Amen.

2019.6.9 Pentecost – Holy Spirit, today we listen for the rushing wind that speaks of your coming among us. Breathe in us words we recognize and understand and settle upon our spirits this day, this hour. Breath of Life, renew and inspire us to share the joy your presence brings. Amen.

2019.6.16 God of All Creation, speak to us now your timeless truths. We come wanting once again to hear the story of your presence in time and eternity so that knowing our place we may be moved to share the work and witness you call us to do. Amen.

2019.6.23 O Great Physician, we come longing for a word of hope for our wounded world. Speak to us words of comfort from the story of Jesus so that, heartened by his compassion we may boldly spread the Good News of your care. Amen.

2019.6.30 Loving God, open our minds and fill our hearts with your words of wisdom and grace, that led by your Spirit, our lives may demonstrate that your dream of creation in harmony is possible when we are in tune to your message. Amen.

2019.7.7 Speak to us O God, Bearer of Truth, in the words of your people long age. Inspire in us an understanding of your will as we listen to the ancient text, that hearing we may be moved to understanding and living your call to embrace all your creation as one holy expression of your wisdom. Amen.

2019.7.14 Creator of Stories, tell us once again the story of Jesus. Speak to us his words of compassion, that hearing we might understand how we can offer care to those who are most in need today. Amen.

2019.7.21 Great Teacher, Speak to us as one who would lead us from our broken places to discover the hidden treasure within that we may value even the brokenness as places where the light of the Spirit can shine through as a witness to your grace and mercy. Amen.

2019.7.28 Blessed Jesus, we come to you in our weakness and vulnerability, longing to hear your words of reassurance, wisdom, and hope. Speak to us now, draw us closer to you and to one another that we may be builders in your kin-dom of grace. Amen.

2019.8.4 Word of God, we need your wisdom to guide us. Speak to us a message of hope and inspiration to light our way into the future, so that, filled with your truths our lives may be filled with compassion for others and joy in serving your holy will. Amen.

2019.8.11 Speak to us, Blessed One, the words we long to hear. Words that assure us of your presence, your care, your guidance for us in routine and troubled times. May your truths inform all our actions for we want to follow as you lead us into right relationship with all your beloved children. Amen

2019.8.18 Loving Creator, we want to know more about you and your hopes for creation. Speak to us through the words of those who lived long ago. May their words and Christ’s example inspire in us openness and care for all you have made. Amen.

2019.8.25 Life Giver, We come to you, a broken people. Speak to us words to in words that lift our spirits and encourage our restoration. Teach us how to care for ourselves and one another that we may be agents of your healing peace for the world. Amen.

2019.9.1 Speak to us, O God. We long to hear your voice. We are in need of guidance and direction for the road is rocky and the path steep. Put our feet on the right path so our work and witness may point to your way of peace. Amen

2019.9.8 Creating God, We come to you longing to hear the stories of our beginnings and your intentions for us. Speak to us in the words of your prophets and all the faithful. So may we be inspired to spread the news of your presence every day in all the world. Amen.

2019.9.15 Life-giving God, we are a thirsty people. We long for refreshment of our souls. Pour down on us the lifeblood of your Wisdom so that, our emptiness filled, we shall bring your truth to all our relationships and work in the world. Amen.

2019.9.22 Faithful God, we are in constant need of reminders of your example for us. Speak to us now in the old, old story. May we be inspired, through our listening and hearing, to share your love and grace with those we meet each day. Amen.

2019.9.29 Teacher, we come with hearts that are hurting from the brokenness of the world. Speak to us of your ways and your will. As we hear your truth, move us to embody your love that we may reach out sharing your healing balm with those in pain. Amen.

2019.10.6 Holy One, there are times we feel lost and alone in this world of chaos. We long for your word to center us. Speak to us now a word of hope that, reassured of your constant presence, we may go into the world bearing your peace. Amen.

2019.10.13 God of creation, speak to us through the words of the prophets reminding us of your love and care for all the world. May we be moved to reach out beyond our comfort zone to embrace the ones you love to work toward your dream of a world in harmony. Amen.

2019.10.27 Jesus, Teacher and Friend, we gather around to hear your stories, parables that engage us in puzzling out life’s challenges and opportunities. Speak to us now and give us patience and insight to discern the meaning of your story so that our lives may be reflections of your love for all humankind. Amen.

2019.11.3 Holy Comforter, We come to you in times of longing in hopes of a word of encouragement and comfort. Speak to us of your love. Teach us your truth that internalizing your care for us we will be moved the share the story of how you renew us with your never-ending grace and mercy. Amen.

2019.11.10 God of Wisdom, Sophia, we come in need of your truth to guide us. Speak to us now through the voice of prophets so we may be led to live in gratitude and mercy. Amen.

2019.11.17 God of Abundance, we come to hear the stories of your people and your promises. As we listen to your word, we learn a word of gratitude so that in our thanksgiving we may know joy and spread your love and mercy. Amen.

2019.11.24 Wisdom of the Ages, teach us how to live. In the stories of the faithful throughout time, show us how to be friends one with another. Lead us then to practice your ways of compassion, love, and mercy with everyone we meet. Amen.

 

Christ Jesus, Bearing the Darkness

Tags

,

2017.4.14cross for post

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 31-35 (NRSV)

What are we to make of Jesus’ passion and death?
The leader chooses to take basin and towel in hand,
to bow down as a servant to wash the feet of his followers.
We might describe the poignancy of the task
and the meal he shared as anticipatory grief
for the gospel writers let us know the intentionality
with which each moment of the evening is observed.
A simple meal is given new meaning
through the charge to remember in its repetition.

And then, they move on,
out into the gathering darkness of the night,
to face the darkness of the world mired in sin.
As he has so often on a mountain or by the sea,
Jesus stops to pray, this time in a familiar garden.
It is an olive grove hundreds of years old
that will go on for generations to come, even to this day.
He is not alone. The disciples are nearby,
but he feels the abandonment of those who betray and deny him,
who cannot or will not watch with him.
It is the loneliness he has experienced in observing the least, the lost,
those who have been rejected and misunderstood.
These are the ones for whom he will stand trial.

In the courts, he stands alone, endures the taunts of the crowd
who sneer at one who claims power, a strength
that is not defined by greed – enforced by any means.
He stands silent as they mock him and inflict brutal pain.
He bears the despair of those whose hope is dim,
who are not valued but rather used and abused.

He is mourning for the world that cannot see or understand
that in all creation are other real living beings loved by God and worthy of care.
He chooses to confront injustice in its most stark and raw form,
exposing just what it is, a lie that assigns blame to the innocent.
The choice he makes in laying down his life is done in the hope
that holding up a mirror to humanity will reveal the senseless suffering.
His greatest desire is that all will grasp the immensity of this gift of grace
and be inspired to another way of living.

And so we remember and pray for strength to listen, to hear, to look,
and to resist turning away from that mirror held up for us
so we might learn once again to live as he taught,
loving God, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Paul’s Letter and Labor Day

Tags

, ,

Paul’s Letter and Labor Day – Think of five activities you engaged in the past week. These should include another person or some type of item. List simple daily or weekly tasks, people with who you interacted or items you used in your home, work, play, entertainment, leisure, shopping, transportation, or something you observed at a distance. Think of a diverse list, items as different as possible.

(See activity sheet – Provide a sheet with the above paragraph which invites listing 3 items. Instructions will be given later, providing a visual of the BakerFacesPainRatingScale, google it. Then people will reflect and discuss possible actions. )

Item: _________________________________________________________

Rate this 0 to 5          0     1     2    3    4    5

Action: _________________________________________________________

 

Pastor’s words of instruction:

What kind of work environments have you experienced? Have you had the good fortune to be in a place where affirmations were a daily experience, where even small contributions by skilled and unskilled workers were affirmed as values in the working of the whole? Have you experienced settings where the boss was always on top of everyone, second-guessing every action, reprimanding people for imagined mistakes, seemingly creating opportunities for conflict? Have your coworkers been eager to help out when a sudden crisis arises or have people complained about what goes on without making any effort to understand what could be done to relieve it?

Paul says we are to treat each other as siblings in Christ. He asks Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a runaway slave, but as a brother. The activities or items you listed involve other people in some way. In some cases, others were directly involved in the activity. In other cases, people made and/or supplied the item you listed or recycled/disposed of it when no longer useful to you. Sometimes people engaged in the work of making your entertainment possible depict actions that are either life-affirming or troubling. Or entertainers may themselves be celebrated or reviled.

 

(Distribute the following questions and the pain scale and invite reflection and sharing.)

You are invited to rate the way in which the other people in the activities or the people behind the items you listed were and are treated by you and/or by society. Are they affirmed or are they discounted?

Using the rating scale below*, rate the perceptions and actions of society in general as causing no harm to causing much suffering to the people involved. Ask yourself these questions. What comes up for me as I reflect on this text from Paul? Do I contribute to any suffering? What can I do to change or alleviate the suffering or to raise awareness of my concern?

*BakerFacesPainRatingScale

 

(Gather in small groups to discuss what you have observed. Provide time for sharing observations with the whole. Facilitate and affirm conversation. Conclude with prayer.)

Holy One, you call us to labor, to be caretakers of earth, good stewards of your bounty, and you call us to take time to rest in your divine presence. Teach us to be aware of those whose labor is rarely rewarded with time of rest, those whose compensation is not enough to supply even basics of shelter, clothing, food, school supplies, and health care. As many celebrate a holiday this weekend others must work the sales. Some have no option, there is no work on the holiday and thus a reduced paycheck awaits them at week’s end.

Be with us, O God, in our desire to seek and do justice in your name. Lead us to sit with the disadvantaged, to affirm their skill and contributions. Challenge us to give of ourselves so that all may find room at the table. Amen

Earth Day Blessing of Garden and Field

Tags

,

St John Garden

Creator God, we come to you in gratitude for the gifts of this earth.

From the beginning of time this ground has been sacred;
shaped by your hands,
sculpted by your breath,
watered by summer rain and winter snow,
enriched by elements and multitudes of creatures,
it is holy in your sight.

We come, O God, this day remembering those
who have walked upon this land in every age, caring for it.

For native peoples
who honored the Great Spirit, Mother Earth, Father Sky,
as Giver of all, respecting earth as communal inheritance.
who trod this land mindful of the seasons of the grassland prairie,
staying for a time and living lightly in this place,
generously sharing with plant and animal species alike.

For our forebears who found this fertile ground a place to call home
tilling the rich soil to feed the hungry near and far,
terracing fields to preserve their future use,
planting trees to endure for generations.

Grant, O God, that we also may be faithful to your call
to care for all creation.
Teach us so to guard and nurture this space
that our children and our children’s children
may know the joy of working the earth,
the mystery of life that springs from it,
the feast for the senses; sight, smell, and taste,
nourishment for body and soul from an abundant harvest.

Bless our gardens and fields as we rededicate them to you.
Bless those who till, plant, weed, and harvest
that rejoicing in your care for us we respond to your call
to tend the earth and our fellow beings. Amen.