Archives for December 2009

A Prayer for Christmas Eve, 2009

written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
Christmas Eve, 2009

The candles are lit, the tree is glimmering,

the smell of fresh pine lingers in the air.
It’s Christmas Eve, Lord God,
that time when we gather together
to remember,
to tell the story one more time,
to celebrate
and contemplate
and wonder
and worship.
We’ve come from lots of different places tonight, Lord.
We’ve got lists in our heads of all that still needs to be done
before this holiday season is finished.
But….we’ve come.
We’ve come to church.
We’ve come to hear your word,
to sing of angels
and shepherds
and mangers
and mysteries too deep to decipher.
Some of us come here often,
some of us not so much.
Some of us come here hoping to hear good news,
some of us come here knowing we’ll hear it.
Some of us come because
someone else wants us to come.
Some of us come because, well,
we always come to church on Christmas Eve.
There are some of us, of course, who come
because we really want to be here.
And then there are those of us who come
because we are desperate to be here,
just plain desperate.
We’re hungry for hope,
we’re starved for beauty,
we’re panting for a spoonful of peace in our lives,
we’re gasping for a sense of glory,
for something bigger
and braver
and deeper
and denser
than the stuff we see around us everyday.
We’d like to catch a glimpse of an angel,
to hear just the faintest echo of a heavenly chorus,
to see the smallest reflection of a dazzling star,
to hear the muffled cries of a newborn babe,
a baby whose arrival
will literally change the direction of history.
The amazing thing about Christmas Eve, Lord,
is that all of us
the ones here to please someone else,
the ones here out of habit and custom,
the ones who delight to be here,
the ones who need to be here –
all of us are part of the story we tell tonight,
the story we sing tonight,
the story we hear tonight.
Because those angels
and that star
and that baby in the manger
are for all of us.

The wonder of the incarnation is not for a select few,
but for all
who will enter into the mystery,
become part of the Grand Story;
all who will listen to the angels’ song and join the chorus:
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

So…grant us the wisdom and the will to do just that –
to enter into the mystery,
to become part of the story,
to join the angel chorus.
Grant us the firm assurance of your favor resting on each one of us,
and fill us with the peace of the Bethlehem babe,
that same one
who grew in grace and favor with God and people,
that same one
who showed us how to live a life of
purpose and joy,
that same one
who climbed onto a tree of pain for our sakes,
who died and was raised again to glory.
It’s Christmas Eve and we are so glad!
Glory to God in the highest!
Amen.

A Prayer for Christmas Eve, 2008


A prayer written for last year’s Christmas Eve Service. Can’t get the formatting to do single space when I copy and paste from a word doc – any ideas??






December 24, 2008

Written by Diana R.G. Trautwein

It’s Christmas Eve again, Lord, and here we are.

Gathered in out of the rain,

our Christmas finery on,

our spirits eager – or weary;

our ears and our hearts open – or not;

our families nearby,

our dinners either digesting or awaiting us soon.

We’re here.

And for some of us, Lord, that’s just about all we can manage.

We’re just barely able to stand with those shepherds,

tired and cold from their nighttime duties,

confused about the strange singing in the skies above,

wondering about that tiny newborn in the corner.

“So,” we wonder with them,

“what’s the big deal with this little One?”

Some of us come, willing only to stand at the edges,

perhaps somewhere near those wise ones from the east.

Because we’re searching tonight, Holy Friend,

we’re searching… for truth, for insight,

for strange portents in the sky that will give us

the answer to the mysteries of the ages.

“Could this be the One?” we wonder with the eastern kings.

“Could this be the Answer we’ve been searching for?”

And thankfully, God, there are some of us in this lovely room tonight

who are a lot like Joseph.

Steady and stalwart,

well-versed in the traditions of our tribe,

yet open to something new that God might be doing.

We struggle to be obedient to what we think God is saying,

to be sensitive to what we think God is doing.

But…it’s been a long, hard journey getting here,

and, to tell you the truth –

we’re tired, through and through.

“Here he is, at last,” we say to ourselves.

“But now, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.

A baby to raise and protect,

a child to love and nurture,

a young adult to challenge and convince,

a lifetime of commitment and investment,

of worry and vigilance,

of duty and delight.”

And, Gracious God, there are even some of us here tonight

who might choose to align ourselves with Mary.

We’ve just come through a tough task,

but we did it!

The baby is safely birthed,

your promises have been fulfilled,

something remarkable is just beginning and we can feel it,

we can see it, shining in the unformed future ahead of us.

And mysterious as it seems to be now,

we know, because of the grace we have already experienced in our lives…

it is all going to be good news. All of it.

And so, we gather tonight – like that amazing cast of characters gathering

in this beautiful story we repeat every Christmas Eve.

The story that is at the center of who we are,

the story that speaks to us of Love Unspeakable;

the story that sings to us of Joy Unsingable;

the story that tells us.

For all of us are welcome here.

That is the glorious truth we praise you for tonight.

All of us –

weary shepherds,

searching wise ones,

faithful yet fearful fathers,

loving yet wondering mothers –

all of us

are welcome here.

For that little one in the corner over there,

that wee newborn,

waving his hands,

looking around,

listening to the sounds of the night –

that tiny, weak and helpless One

is the same One who blew the breath of life into

each and every one of us.

“How can this be?” we wonder. “How can this be?”

And then, we hear again your words of love and promise and power:

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”

“He shall be called Immanuel, God with us…”

“For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son…”

And we sigh with relief,

we sing with gusto,

we remember with joy.

This is Christmas Eve – and we’re here!

Thank you for the story that calls us to this place.

Thank you for the Truth that sleeps in the manger.

Thank you for the chance to begin again at the beginning –

In the name of our remarkable Savior we pray together tonight.

Amen.

A Prayer for the 4th Sunday of Advent, 2009


With my thanks to a long-time friend and recent Facebook commentator, Francine Phillips, for the correlation of holiness and absurdity.

We begin our prayer time this morning with a small 4-line petition from Martin Luther:

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,

Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,

Within my heart, that it may be

A quiet chamber kept for thee.

Amen.

A quiet chamber kept for thee…

As we’re facing into this last week before Christmas, in this time and place,
Lord God, it’s mighty hard for us to find a quiet corner,
much less a quiet chamber.
But oh, how very much we need such a space!
So we join with Martin Luther
and with so many other fellow travelers on this way we walk,
this way called the Jesus way,
and we say, “Come, Lord Jesus – please come,
and please do make your bed, your resting place, within our hearts,
so that they might indeed become quiet chambers,
holy meeting places, kept for thee.”
All four of our Advent candles are lit, Lord.
We’ve lit one for hope, one for peace, one for joy,
and today, one for love –
just 4 of the many beautiful gifts,
a portion of the wondrous good news the world was offered
at that first Christmas celebration.
Hope, peace, joy, love.
Thank you that you are our hope,
you are our peace,
our joy,
that you are Love, with a capital “L.”
This is why we sing at Christmas – and all year long.
This is why we give each other gifts,
this is why we light candles.
Yes, it’s gotten a little over-the-top, a little crazy and a lot distracting.
But oh Lord, isn’t this whole idea just a little bit over-the-top?
The Lord of the Universe,
creator and namer of the stars in the heavens,
sinking earthward from the heights to become a tiny human infant,
totally defenseless and totally dependent.
Why? So that we might re-discover hope and peace and joy and love.
Thank you so much for the crazy extravagance of Christmas
and for the absurd holiness of this whole wacky scheme.
So, as we gather together our tithes and our gifts of money today,
we ask you to take these simple, everyday things
and do with them what you’ve done with us –
transform them into agents of the Kingdom of God
set loose in a broken and bruised world.
Because we give these gifts today so that
the good work of grace can grow and prosper,
that the good news of Christmas can work its way
into the creases and crevices of our needy world.
We set them aside this morning for holy purposes,
and we set ourselves aside as well, Lord.
Maybe we don’t do that often enough.
Stop.
Think.
Pray.
Offer ourselves up to you
for holy, crazy, extravagant purposes.
Help us to do that today and each day this week,
as we gather with family,
as we mourn those who are no longer in the circle,
as we celebrate those who are.
Surprise us again with the holy absurdity of the incarnation
and bless us, Lord,
that we might be your blessing to the world.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

A Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Advent…


Written & Preached at Montecito Covenant Church by Diana R.G. Trautwein, 12/6/09

I have decided I am not a fan of surprises. Now don’t get me wrong – I like GOOD surprises. But I’m not sure I like those kinds of surprises well enough to make up for the other kind of surprises – those things that shock and startle and wound and worry. In fact, in recent weeks, I have found myself very, VERY wary of such surprises.

And I know that I am not alone in my wariness – a lot of people – a lot of you dear people, and a lot of other people in my life as well – are reeling from strange and scary surprises that have literally smacked them upside the head and left them seeing stars. Let me list just a few:

A hard-earned graduate degree has proven to be a handicap not a help in a long-term job search;

Surprise!

A beloved child is discovered to be wildly abusing controlled substances;

Surprise!

A devoted wife is startled by the sudden exit from her marriage of a husband of nearly 40 years;

Surprise!

An elderly woman’s sudden black-out causes a brain-bleed leading to permanent full-time care;

Surprise!

A struggling middle-aged man on the way to a better life is found dead in his sleep;

Surprise!

These are the kinds of earth-shaking, unexpected happenings that can quickly over-whelm a person. These are the kinds of events that hurt and startle rather than delight and refresh. Surprises like these can change the course of our lives, re-arrange the texture of our days, re-focus our emotional energies, and alter our personal and family story. So, I’ll say it again: I am not a fan of surprises.

And the text before us this morning tells us about a humdinger of one –a surprise that not only changed a personal and family story, but changed the very history of the world. Turn in your Bibles, if you wish, or you might choose to simply listen, to the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew, beginning at verse 18:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

This is the word of the Lord for us this day.

Given the time and culture in which we live, I think it is more than a little bit difficult for us to wrap our minds around how hard this particular surprise was for a good, first-century, Jewish man like Joseph. Unmarried women surprise their families with pregnancies every day in the current age, if the tabloids are to be believed, and marriage is quickly becoming an afterthought – last, rather than first, in the line of happenings that used to follow a more particular order. There was, at one time – long, long ago – in another galaxy – far, far away – an old schoolyard poem that went something like this:

“First comes love, then comes marriage,

then comes (you fill in the blank with a pair of names) with a baby carriage.”

Not any more. More often than not, the baby carriage precedes either marriage or love, and there is little, if any, public shame or censure. So you’re going to need to put on your cultural sensitivity hats for a while this morning to more fully grasp the poignancy and the point of this morning’s primary text.

In first century Jewish life, marriage was a big deal – a really big deal. Necessary for the protection of women, who had few, if any rights, and who were always under the wing of a man – either a father, a husband or a son. So finding a husband was something that was done by the entire family and was never left to the vagaries of chance or “love.” Marriages were arranged, and betrothals, engagements, were entered into with all the seriousness of any legally binding contract of the present day. As Don mentioned last week, girls were often between the ages of 12 and 15 when they were betrothed, and men were usually in their late teens or early twenties, sometimes even older. The period of engagement lasted about a year, and it was serious, it was permanent, it was almost the same thing as marriage – it’s just that the couple did not yet live in the same physical space together. The girl remained with her parents, the young man remained with his. At the point of the actual wedding celebration – the young woman would move into the house of her fiancé. But until then, the couple was considered to be married – bound by law and commitment, a union which could only be severed by official decree of divorce.

So when Matthew describes Mary as ‘pledged to be married to Joseph’ in one sentence and in the very next breath calls Joseph ‘her husband,’ he is not contradicting himself. Their commitment was complete, it was just not yet consummated. Which makes the fact that Mary is found to be pregnant more than a little bit troublesome. Because her ‘husband,’ Joseph – a simple man of trade, as the song put it –Joseph, a righteous man as Matthew describes him – Joseph knows that this baby growing inside Mary is not his. No way, no how. Joseph is a good, observant Jewish person. He knows the rules. He lives by the rules. He values, even cherishes the rules and views them as a source of life and power and order. He knows he has honored the rules about betrothed couples staying away from full physical intimacy before the official wedding night. And he knows that he has honored those rules. He does not know that about Mary. Joseph also knows that, if he chose to do so, he could have her publicly humiliated – even stoned – for adultery.

We learn something really important about Joseph right here: We learn that Joseph was a man of righteousness – yes – but he was not a stern moralizer nor a harsh judge. He knew that the ‘right’ thing, the legally obedient thing to do was to end his legal betrothal; but he also knew that he did not want to be vindictive, he did not want to be highhanded, he did not want to be proved righteous in a public forum of any kind. Our text implies that he gave a lot of thought to what to do next, that he very carefully considered his options – and then he did what any thoughtful, deliberate person would do – he decided to sleep on it.

And here’s where our story gets really interesting, isn’t it? And here is also where we connect this text for today to our year-long, self-designed lectionary preaching series on the Holy Spirit, most especially, this is where we connect to the short series-within-the series for Advent this year – looking at how God’s Spirit speaks to people through special messengers called angels. But of all the angel encounters we’re looking at this Advent, this one is unique. This one is different from the others – because in Joseph’s portion of the story of Christmas – he angel comes in a dream, not in person.

I really like that fact, I have to say! Because I’m with Don on this one – angels are not something I’m totally comfortable even thinking about, much less teaching or preaching about. So to look in depth at a story about a dream-angel was somehow easier for me. Because I believe that dreams are powerful psychological and spiritual events and that God can and does speak to us through them. Dreams are a gift of God that enable us to process things that are happening to us in our conscious lives while we’re unconscious, while we’re sleeping. So to spend time studying Joseph’s dream the past few weeks has been both a joy and a privilege.

And here’s what I really love about this dream: in it, God encourages Joseph to re-define what it means to be a righteous person. God invites Joseph to walk right through his fears, to look this strange and scary surprise squarely in the eyes and embrace it. The angel takes what Joseph thought to be bad news and tells him that not only is it NOT bad news, it is the best news he or anyone has ever heard.

For you see, the kingdom of God is breaking into history. The kingdom of God is pushing through that unseen barrier between time and eternity. The kingdom of God is, by God’s choice and God’s design, folding itself into the form of a tiny human life, silently growing within the willing, obedient body of a young, Jewish virgin named Mary. Mary, who is betrothed to a righteous and good man named Joseph, who just happens to be in the line of David, the greatest king in Israel’s history, the line through which the Messiah – the Anointed, the Chosen One will come to save Israel.

And Matthew has taken the first 17 verses of this opening chapter to lay that connection out really clearly. He lists a genealogy which traces Jesus’ human lineage back to Abraham. And along the way, he takes a few – 5 to be exact – surprising detours – by listing women in that family treeall of whom are of questionable moral character, at least according to the thinking of their neighbors. The fifth of those five is, as we have already noted, Mary, whose morals were questioned even by her betrothed husband.

And then, at verse 18, Matthew’s focus shifts to become much more specific about Joseph, the man who will raise Jesus as his own. We’ve only got 8 short verses here – not a whole lot of detail – but what we do have is pretty amazing. We’ve already discovered that Joseph was both righteous and merciful. We’ve seen that he was deeply thoughtful, reflective and deliberate in his decision making. Now we know that God had a very specific word for him – a word of comfort, hope and challenge.

The angel addresses Joseph with respect, using the title “son of David.” He goes right to the heart of the problem with the words, “Do not be afraid…” Because – let’s be honest here – isn’t fear so often the big ugly thing at the bottom of so much of what motivates us most of the time? Fear of what others will think of us. Fear of what God will think of us. Fear of what will happen if we go this way or that way. Fear of what will happen if we don’t go any way. Fear that we won’t measure up. Fear that if we give up our right to worry, we’ll ‘lose’ control over all those things we really don’t control anyhow! Fear that the surprise – whatever it may be in our own lives – will be too hard, too horrible, too painful, too overwhelming, too, too, too… too much or us to bear.

And the angel of the Lord speaks directly into that fear: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.” There it is. Complete the deal, Joseph. Make it official. Let go of your fears, of your need to be the man in charge, your need to obey the rules you know… because…some of the rules you know are about to be tossed around like fruit salad. Some of the rules you live by are no longer pertinent. Some of the rules that form your own definition of yourself are slipping out of your hand, changing shape, taking on new colors and textures and interpretations and meanings. Why?

Because what is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit, that’s why. Because life as you know it is changing in ways both subtle and dramatic, that’s why. Because a Holy God has stooped to hide within a human womb, that’s why. Because a mighty plan of salvation, and companionship and transformation is being set in motion…..and you, son of David, you are to be an integral part of that plan. You are to give this plan, this babe who will become a man – you are to give him his name –Yeshua – God saves! For “God saves” – Yeshua – JESUS – will save his people from their sins. Surprise!

And then the entire dream-angel message is set firmly within the context of fulfilled prophecy with those closing words taken from Isaiah 7 …. “they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” God saves. God with us. About as full and complete a picture of Jesus the Messiah as you can find in two names. The name he was called –Jesus. The name that describes who he is and what he came to do – Immanuel. The amazing, saving, incarnate God – fully human, fully divine.

And here’s the last little piece that we must not miss, we simply must not miss. The dream-angel is gone. And Joseph is no longer sleeping, but wide awake. And what we read, in simple and elegant words, is that Joseph did as he was told. He, like Mary in last week’s lesson, did exactly what the angel asked him to do. He immediately brought Mary home as his wife. He cared for her throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. And when she gave birth to that long-promised son, Joseph named him Jesus. And with that simple, obedient act, he gave Jesus not only is given name – but a family name –allowing the miraculously conceived son of Mary to have a full, legal, legitimate place in his first century Jewish home.

In a very real sense, that’s what you and I are asked to do as well, isn’t it? To name Jesus – to allow him full, legitimate access to all of who we are – to listen to the angel of the Lord as he spoke words of promise and hope to Joseph, and to listen as the Holy Spirit speaks those same words to us: Do not be afraid. Call his name Jesus. He shall save his people from their sins. He will be called Immanuel, which means, God with us. Surprise!

Let us pray:

Good and surprising God, who can take even the most difficult of surprises

and somehow work redemption through them,

hear our hearts this morning.

Prepare these hearts to receive you anew,

to name Jesus as savior and lord,

to savor the sweetness of the with-us-God,

who joins us in this vale of tears and says,

“Do not be afraid!”

As we gather round your table of life today,

hear our prayers of confession and contrition.

Remind us again of your gracious choice

to forgive us,

to walk with us,

to encourage us to live our lives in tune with the Holy Spirit,

the Spirit who gives us life with a capital “L,”

and who daily reminds us of your love and grace.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

A PRAYER FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 2009


Prayer offered after the singing of “A Strange Way to Save the World,”

written by Fred Hammond, Dave Clark, Mark Harris and Don Koch.
“A strange way to save the world,” indeed.
If we’re really honest with you and with ourselves, Lord God,
we don’t completely ‘get’ what you’ve done for us in the coming of Jesus.
We get pieces of the puzzle,
and we celebrate joyously what our limited imaginations can grasp.
But we, too, can easily join the chorus of,
“Why him?” “Why here?” “Why her?”
And I, for one (and probably many others in this room might join me in this)
I am very often one to second-guess what angels have to say!
I try, and fail, to wrap my mind around
the mystery of the incarnation,
the mystery of salvation,
the mystery of faith itself,
and I second-guess everything … a lot!
It sometimes seems like a highly visible,
high and mighty,
fully-grown military leader extraordinaire
might fill the bill as savior a whole lot better than
a red-faced,
squirming,
squalling
very needy, tiny baby
who makes his grand entrance on the scene
with no one but animals and shepherds and dirt-poor parents for company.
And when my second-guessing takes me down that particular road,
it’s time for me to stop,
to slow down,
to step back,
to breathe in and breathe out,
and be still.
Still enough to hear your voice of love through all the garbage in my head.
Still enough to allow your Holy Spirit to re-capture my imagination.
Still enough to remember that You are God and I am not.
To remember: that you always do things in unexpected ways,
that you continually confound those who are wise in their own eyes,
that you choose to make yourself visible in
the weak,
the lost,
the little,
the least;
that you are not in the business of taking over the world by force,
but rather you are in the business of wooing your human creatures
in ways that are subtle and strange,
surprising and mysterious.
And for that, we most humbly say, “Thank you.”
And for that, we most humbly ask, “Woo us, O Lord.”
For we’re here in this place today, God,
to say that we need a Savior,
we need a healer,
we need a companion on the way.
Many of us are dreading these days ahead –
we’re missing people from our family circle,
through illness or death or divorce;
we’re struggling with illness and pain ourselves;
we’re tired of the overhype and the overkill;
we’re broke and we’re frightened about the future;
we’re struggling to find our place in the world
and we don’t quite know where to put our feet next;
we’re facing into exams and papers due
and not enough time or energy to do any of it;
we’re facing the harsh reality of aging, failing bodies and we yearn for heaven;
we’re a mixed up, crazy bunch here, Lord.
And we truly don’t ‘get it’ a lot of the time.
But … and this is a huge word here…
BUT – we deeply desire to get YOU.
Through all the questions
and all the wrestling,
and all the sighing
and all the wondering,
we want you.
We want you to be – in us and through us –
the God who surprises people with grace.
We want you to be – in us and through us –
the God who welcomes the stranger with words of hope and peace.
We want you to be – in us and through us –
the God who comes to us as one of us,
tiny and squalling, poor and needy.
The one who cries tears of compassion over our lostness.
The one who heals our diseases and feeds our souls.
The one who lives a fully human life,
and dies a fully human death,
and who is resurrected by the power of Divine Spirit,
and who will come again to bring justice and mercy
where justice and mercy are due.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Amen.

A Prayer for All Saints’ Sunday – November 2, 2008


Hallelujah, hallelujah, indeed –

“Eternal God, unchanging, mysterious and unknown.”
Today is a day when we can sense
those seraphim
circling round your throne more clearly than on most days.
Today is a day of rejoicing in life eternal,
in the transcendence of your presence
beyond what we can see and experience
within the limits of our space-time continuum.
Thank you that you are God beyond our ability to understand.
Thank you that you are God beyond our ability to articulate.
Thank you that you are God beyond us.
Today is also a day when we celebrate and remember
with love, affection and longing those of our number
who are no longer with us here inside the bounds of physical space and time.
Today is a day when we remember our limits
even as we celebrate your limitless love
and creative energy and imagination.
We are very much aware today, Lord,
that we have bodies that bear the marks of time,
bodies that eventually wear out
and are laid in the earth to await your resurrection day.
And yet…
And yet…
in some miraculous, mysterious way-
we also remember today
that the inhabitants of those bodies are –
in some way we cannot even begin to understand –
here with us, even in their absence.
It is a paradox too amazing for us,
yet we know it to be true.
For as we experience your presence with us today,
we also acknowledge the loving presence
of all those who have gone before us on this journey of faith.
And we thank you for the heritage that is ours
because of them.
We thank you for the richness of memory
and the reality of shared experience
and the gift of connections that stretch across the limits of time.
Strengthen our faith as we remember theirs.
Enrich our community with one another
because we share community with them.
Enliven our conversations
because we have been blessed to know them,
to read the words of so many others,
even across the centuries,
to somehow share in those lives already lived
even as we live ours today.
Continue to bless us as we live for you
on this side of the veil;
empower us to be salt and light in the here and now.
Remind us of those in our community who are even now grieving
those who are gone from us,
though present with you.
Help us to help each other as we walk our own journey
to the hereafter.
Grant us grace in the living of these days –
as our country faces into one of the most important elections
in our national history,
as we find our way through the current financial and healthcare crises,
as war is waged around the world.
Help us, Lord God, to keep looking up,
to set our sights higher,
to walk in the way of the saints gone before us,
to walk in the way of Jesus.
In whose name we pray today. Amen.

A Prayer for Anointing…..November 15, 2009


“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord,
take and seal it,
seal it for they courts above.”
Fall on me, Lord.
Fall on us.
How we long to say with the prophet Isaiah,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me…”
The Lord has chosen me –
has chosen us, even as Jesus himself was chosen –
to do such good work in the world:
to bring good news
to bind broken hearts
to speak freedom to those who are bound
to bring light to those who live in darkness
to say that the time of justice is now
to bring comfort to all those who mourn over what’s been done to them.
But so many people have lost so much, Lord,
that we know in and of ourselves – we ain’t got…
no good news
no miraculous salve
no gigantic, prison-opening key
no powerful lantern
no ability to bring fairness and order to a world
marred by inequity and chaos
no word of hope in a time of loss and loneliness.
Which is exactly why we hunger for an anointing, Lord God.
A touch, a mark, a physical reminder –
that we don’t have to rely
on what we’ve got in and of ourselves
to do your work,
thank God.
We need you.
We need you to touch us,
to mark us as your own,
to remind us, deep within, that your Holy Spirit can do
in and through us
what we cannot do on our own.
For you, Holy Spirit, are the only true source for the work
we are called, chosen, anointed to do.
So, we come to you today – weary, heavy-laden,
and we are bold to ask for an anointing, Lord.
A sign –
an inner certainty –
a centering calm –
a reassuring, internal nod of the head
that speaks to us of YOU,
and of your call on our lives to do your work.
Speak powerfully to us through your servant Don this morning.
Sing to us through your Word.
Breathe in us, O Breath of Life.
Breathe through us,
enlivening our hearts,
enriching our conversation,
loosening our wallets,
strengthening our weak hands and our feeble knees,
calling us to our best selves,
urging us to do your good work,
loving us into conformity to your will,
molding us into disciples of Jesus in
every corner of our lives,
every minute of our days,
taking every thought captive
so that we might become
people who “restore the places long devastated,”
people who “renew those who are ruined,”
people who not only preach the good news,
but are the good news in a world that needs such news
more than it even knows.
For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.