A Prayer of Thanksgiving

From time to time, I am asked to lead in our time of community prayer at Montecito Covenant Church, the community where my husband and I have been active for the last 23 years. Today was one of those days. The preaching passage was John 8:2-12 — the woman taken in adultery. I began with a reading from Isaiah . . .

As we begin our time of community prayer today, I’d like to share with you a reading from the prophet Isaiah.

In at least one of the lectionaries used by the church over the last several hundred years, Isaiah’s words stand as a companion text to our primary preaching passage today. It happens to be one of my favorite passages and I think it might help us move into a time of corporate thanksgiving and praise this morning.

Hear the word of the Lord as it was given to the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 43, verses 16-21. I will be reading from The Message.

“This is what God says,
    the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
    who carves a path through pounding waves,
the God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
    they lie down and then can’t get up;
    they’re snuffed out like so many candles:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is!

I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.”

The word of the Lord:Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

We bring our praise to you, O God. To whom else shall we go? All of us here, gathered in this space — we are a people custom-made to praise you. And so we do!

We praise you for rivers of water in dry places, we praise you for majestic mountains and mighty oceans.We praise you for green, green, GREEN everywhere we look these days.

We remember all too well that it has not always been so. We have seen fire and flood, devastation and destruction. And yet . . . here it is — new growth on the hills of our city; the sounds of new construction going on where all has been washed away; and here in our sanctuary, the coos and cries of new life already in our midst and the promise of new life still to come.

So today, we pause to say,

“Thank you for doing a new thing in our city. Thank you for hope. Thank you for every single raindrop of our very wet winter. And thank you for the newness of spring as it blooms and blossoms across the landscapes of our lives.”

As we lean into the newness of nature, the color and the moisture and the sheen of things, will you give us eyes to see the newness you are creating within us, too?

Thank you that the rain of your mercy continually washes us clean and makes us new. Thank you that the mistakes of our past do not have to determine our future. Thank you that your grand gift of salvation means more than saying the right words or even believing the right things. Because we are always works-in-progress, aren’t we? Like a river moving through the barrenness of our hearts, your saving grace continuously makes us new. It’s not a once-and-done kinda deal, is it, Lord? We are always being saved. Thank you.

.Your friend Isaiah reminds us to let the past go. And he gives us the mandate to ‘be alert and to be present,’ ever on the lookout for what you’re up to, for your work of newness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you that you are not done with us, that you are not done with our world, that you are not done with gift-giving, with care-taking, with companionship. That you will never stop seeing us, knowing us, loving us, saving us.

We will admit to discouragement at times, Lord. It’s loud out there in the world. Ands sometimes it’s loud in here, too. Here in the church, and here in our hearts and in our minds. We find the noise exhausting some days. When that happens, Lord, will you help us to hear the lovely sounds of your river of life right in the middle of  our own deserts?

Remind us of your goodness, your creative imagination, your awareness of our brokenness, your concern for our welfare. And then empower us to offer those same things to one another, will you, please?

We don’t want to be like those who come to throw stones and then turn away because of our own shame, because shame is never your idea, is it? No, it is not.

Your idea is always newness, your life-giving water poured into the driest parts of us, your encouragement spread across our discouragement, your grace triumphant over our shame.

Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Because of Jesus,

Amen.

A Prayer for Dusty People: Entering Lent – 2019

This is what the LORD says—”Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland…I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

Isaiah 43

O Lord, how we long for you to do a new thing in our midst.
How we long to see the way made in the wilderness,
the stream flowing through the wasteland.
For we are indeed your people, formed to praise you.
And so we do.

We praise you that you are the God of new things.
That you are the God of wilderness way-making,
that you are the God of life-giving water in the midst of life’s wastelands,
that you are the God who reminds us to ‘forget the former things,
because you are in the business of making all things new.

Start with us, please, Lord. Start with us.

Make us new, inside and out.
Teach us to live as new creatures –
not because we’re fad-hungry
or driven to own the latest new tech device;
not because we’re bored with life and need a new kick;
not because we’re in need of a diversion.

Make us new because we need your transformational energy at work within us in order to live as whole and holy people.

Make us new because we’ve worn out the old ways, we’ve tried them repeatedly and learned the hard way that they just don’t work. Make us new because we want to be people who radiate the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus – that amazing, multi-faceted, lovely fruit-of-nine-sides that Paul listed out for us:

Love, Joy, Peace,
Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control.

So…start with us in this making-new business.
Because if we’re truly open to the newness your Spirit can bring
and if we truly live out of the fruit your Spirit grows in us,
then we can carry that newness into every situation and relationship
we find ourselves in whether that’s
our family home, our dorm suite, our place of business,
our classroom, the grocery line, the traffic jam,
the blog comments, the political debate,
the kitchen table or the table at our favorite restaurant,
the well-worn beach path or hiking trail,
or the sidewalk right in front of where we live –
wherever our lives lead us –we can bleed newness, your newness, into our world.

So, we ask that your church worldwide might be a sign of newness,
a whisper of beauty, a word of kindness,
a presence of hospitality, a ray of civility”
in an increasingly uncivil and terrifying world.

Convict us when we fall short of this worthy goal;
convince us that we, with you at work within us,
have the inside scoop on the hope this world needs.

Consider that we are but dust – but then . . . continue the work of new creation even in our dustiness.

And please, bless our very dusty leaders, denominational and political,who are engaged in important decision-making on many fronts.

Grant us peace in our churchly dialog and in our civic discourse,
wisdom in our personal and our national decisions,
and grace with one another when the day is done.

Thank you, Great God of all things new,
for your everyday goodness and grace,
for your mercies which are new every morning
and which sustain us our whole life long.

In the name and for the sake of Jesus, your son, who makes it possible for us to be made new each and every day.

Amen.

This post is a re-post from a few years ago. It originally appeared as a Lenten column in The Covenant Companion, a publication of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

A Prayer for Those Needing Hope

As is my custom, whenever I am asked to offer prayer in public worship, I post it here. Today, I also had the privilege of leading the worship service, in the absence of both of our pastors. Another congregant, Dr. Greg Spencer, Professor of Communication at Westmont College, preached a powerful word on learning to hope well. This prayer was built on two passages — Psalm 33:18-22 and John 11:1-44. Immediately before this prayer, the congregation sang 3 verses of
“Be Still, My Soul.”

I want to invite you to still your souls for a few moments. To quiet and center yourselves in the presence of the God who loves you,
the Lord who is on your side,
the One who is your best, your heavenly friend.
I will extend this same invitation to stillness
at several points throughout today’s prayer.

 

Please pray with me:

Faithful Friend,
Loving Father,
Beautiful Savior,
Winsome Holy Spirit,

Blow through the cobwebs,
loosen the grip of fear and anxiety,
free us from the distraction of the various responsibilities we carry,
open our minds and our hearts to YOU.

Help us to remember you are consistently guiding us to a future which you can see, but we cannot. You are not controlling us or condemning us, you are guiding us.You are coming alongside, you are a companion on the way. A companion who knows us, inside and out . . . and loves us anyway.

Part of what keeps us distracted, what makes it difficult to still ourselves, are all the lists we carry around in our heads. One of those is the list of ways in which we have fallen short — fallen short of who you’ve designed us to be and fallen short of what you’ve called us to do.

So, in the silence of the next moment or two, help us to still our souls, and to offer that list to your tender care. Help us to also receive the forgiveness and acceptance that your grace makes possible.

Hear our prayer, O Lord:

+++Silence+++

There are other lists inside our heads, too, Lord, lists we sometimes fail to recognize
or acknowledge in ways that might bring us life and joy. A primary one of those is the gratitude list — all those things, which, if we take just a minute to think about it, we are deeply grateful for — things about our life, our work, our community, our home, our relationships. It’s a good thing to be grateful, God, a very good thing. So hear our words of thanksgiving now, as we sit, quietly, with you.

+++Silence+++

And as a gentle word of encouragement to those sitting nearby us, we offer to you one or two items from that list out loud, all together, right now:

+++Shared speech+++

Oh, it’s lovely thing to say thank you! And we truly do have so many things for which to say it. “Thank you! Thank you!”

Then there is different kind of list, a heavier one. That’s the list of people and situations that feel difficult, maybe even hopeless to us — physical, emotional, mental, financial, political, relational — all of them places of pain, in our lives and in the lives of others whom we love. Hear and answer, O Lord, as we silently lift to you some portion of that list which we each carry in our hearts. Have mercy, Lord Jesus. Hear us as we pray:

+++Silence+++

Last, but far from least, in that pile of lists we carry with us is the one which holds those things we hope for — events, milestones, healing, newness, times of refreshment,  moments of reconciliation — this list is unique to each one of us and yet the hope is something we share, at a level deeper than words. Will you help us to hope well? To trust that you know best? To learn from our mistakes, to focus on your faithfulness, and to practice resurrection as we wait? Help us in this moment of stillness to verbalize or to visualize those things for which we hope:

+++Silence+++

God of all hope, thank you for listening. Thank you for the invitation to be still in your presence, and for the assurance that though the way may be thorny, the end, ah, the end, is filled with joy.

Be with our brother Greg as he breaks open the Word for us this morning. And bless our pastors this day, Lord God — Ian and his family as they find rest and recreation in the Sierras, and Jon and his family as they meet and worship with the congregation in Salem on this day. May each one of them find moments of soul-stillness, moments when the assurance of your loving presence fills them, and us, with joyful expectation.

We pray all these things in the blessed name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John 11:1-44
“Well, what did you expect?”

 

Here you are reading this. You anticipated something, or you hoped for something, right? “What did you expect?” is a question we often hear—and it has a hint of criticism in it. “Aren’t you shrewd enough to know what’s coming next . . . that there would be traffic . . . or a negative answer . . . or that you would need your sweatshirt?” Expectations are part of how we think and talk about the future. So are anticipations and hopes. Jesus cares about how we live in relationship to the future. He wants us to “anticipate well” by keeping our insistent expectations about this world low and our hopes for what God can do high. Sound like a hard line to walk? We’ll walk through it together this Sunday morning.

A Prayer for Those in Need of Goodness and Mercy

Whenever I am invited to pray in public, I try to post those prayers in this space. Sometimes, people ask me for a copy and this is the easiest way to make that happen. In our church community, we find ourselves in a surprising season of discord and misunderstanding. We’re working on it! And the sermon for the day helped, as did the song that just preceded this prayer, “Psalm 23,” with the chorus that begins with, “Surely goodness, surely mercy” Yes, indeed. Please, Lord. (Our primary teaching text was Zechariah 8)

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Oh, Good Shepherd, we gather together in this place,
at this time in our history and in the history of the world, to acknowledge —
out loud and with all of who we are —
that we stand in need of goodness, we stand in need of mercy.
Every last one of us as individuals, and all of us together as your people at Montecito Covenant Church. All of us.

We need to remember, and to give thanks for, the truth that You are on our side,
even though the valley be dark and the way ahead, uncertain.

Lead us, O Lord, into green pastures. Restore our souls, refresh us with the water of life, remind us that we belong to You, and remind us that You are good.

Even as we acknowledge that goodness in You, O God, we must also own the truth that we are sometimes not so good.

We step on toes, 
we say harsh things,
we talk about others when they are not present,
we make judgments with incomplete facts,
we make assumptions,
and stand on entitlement,
and fail to practice grace and peace.

Forgive us, O God. Forgive us. And help us to forgive one another, too.

The climate in the world around us right now is not particularly conducive to forgiveness, nor to goodness and mercy. So it seems even more important than usual that we — as members of Christ’s body — practice what we preach. Will you help us to do that, please?

The text before us today reminds us of some of those things we preach, and we need to hear them, we really do. Bless Pastor Jon as he brings us your word for today. Give us ears to hear, O God, give us hearts to understand, and give us feet that walk out that truth into our world, beginning with the patio, and then the lunch tables we will share together a little later today. May your grace and joy infuse every conversation, guiding us into wisdom, and good decision-making.

Most of all, Lord God, will you help us to let your goodness and mercy inform what we say and do in our day-to-day living? That is not always easy for us. Some of us are in the throes of deep grief during these days of summer —

loved ones die,
relationships dissolve,
circumstances take a nosedive,
hard decisions must to be made,
ugly voices rise to the top in too many dialogues,
children suffer,
politicians seldom tell the truth,
poverty of all kinds surrounds us,
wars never end.

To us, the world feels a shambles, and we forget about goodness and mercy.

But we are not YOU, O God. Help us to look around us and see what you see — a world in need. . . yes. But a world that is also deeply loved, a world held in place by a Good and Merciful Sovereign, a world in which we are invited to partner with that Good Sovereign in the necessary work of restoration, reconciliation, recovery, and renewal.

We give you thanks this day for the evidence of that good work in the lives of those graduating from Bethel House and the Rescue Mission last night, celebrated right here, in our sanctuary. And we give you thanks for the changed hearts in thousands of teenagers, including some of our own, who were at the CHIC conference in Tennessee this past week. Thank you!

Bless and encourage every hurting heart in this room, O God. And use each of us to make that blessing real. Help us to be good neighbors — to each other, and to all those we meet day by day. Because everybody, from the grocery clerk to the rude driver behind us, needs a little goodness and mercy in their life, too.

They need the truth that we already know: that all of us belong to you — every last, mixed-up, weird and wonderful one of us.

Glory be.

In the name of Jesus — who loves us, who died for us, and who, by the power of the Spirit, was raised to new life, the One who dwells today in the church, including this one, in that name, we, together say,

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wide Believing — For SheLoves, April 2018

I took a month off from SheLoves in March, but I’m back in the April edition, pondering some words that I found in the memoir I reviewed here last week — “Forgiving God,” by Hilary Yancey. Come on over to their site to finish this reflection. Click here.

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“If I could ask anything of us, this ragged band of us looking for a way home, crossing the Jordan River, it would be to believe wider for each other.” — Hilary Yancey,
in “Forgiving God: A Story of Faith,” pg.57.

 

I have heard the truth that ‘thoughts and prayers’ are not enough. This is a phrase shouted by voices around the world in recent days, words that flow from the painful experiences of those who are oppressed, victimized, traumatized, ostracized, threatened, abused and neglected. And these words are true. Thoughts and prayers are too often not enough, at least in the way ‘thoughts and prayers’ are so often understood and defined.

I find myself wondering if we have allowed our language about prayer to descend into the realm of cliché because we have not fully grasped what prayer is and what prayer can do. I am in the late autumn of my life and I still do not fully comprehend either the definition or the experience of prayer. It is an idea we use (and abuse) far too easily, I think, a word better saved for deep times of soul connection and firm commitment. It is no small thing to promise someone that you will pray for them; no, it is not.

Hilary Yancey’s words, quoted at the top of this post, are from her new memoir . . .

Please do click this link and come join us at SheLoves. After a month off, I’m back in that good space today with some thoughts about prayer, about widening our understanding, definition and practice of it. Just click here!

An Advent Prayer: SheLoves — December 2017

Just click right here to finish this prayer with the readers at SheLoves.

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We’re halfway there, Lord. Halfway.

We’re walking through this season of waiting we call Advent,

this season filled with songs in a minor key, and we’re grateful for it.

 

More than many in recent memory, this particular Advent feels

heavy, confusing, and terribly sad.

The world around us is rife with tension,

with pain and loss and too many people living with heartache and fear.

And some of those suffering are friends inside our own circles,

sisters and brothers we know and love.

Some of that heartache and fear is even inside of us.

 

So these four weeks that we set aside

to wait, to look for your coming,

to remember the story that centers us —

these four weeks are a gift in the midst of all that is not right,

all that still needs the redeeming work of a Savior.

 

As we move through this time we’ve set aside to pause,

this time of intentional waiting and wondering, we want it to be a time

of making ready, of being ready.

We want to be ready for that tiny baby,

for that holy family,

for those shepherds and wise men,

for those heavenly singers, the ones that lit up the night sky

with a song of good news!

 

So, Lord, as we wait together,

this cluster of sisters who live all around this world you’ve created,

will you help us to be on the look-out for that angelic light?

To look for it with hope, and with expectation,

and most of all, with grateful hearts?

 

Because, Lord — in the midst of the busyness,

the gift-wrapping and the cookie baking,

the family gatherings and the carol-singing,

in the midst of our own personal struggles and worries,

we need you to help us hang onto hope,

and to firmly grab hold of gratitude.

 

We confess that sometimes we forget.

We forget to say ‘thank you,’

to slow down, to look up, to look around

and tell you and one another

that we are grateful.

We are so very grateful for this story of ours.

 

We are thankful for its life-changing power,

and we are thankful for its grittiness.

Ours is a story that fairly reeks of real life — life as we know it,

life as we live it, and as we see it in the world around us:

families living under oppression, poverty, homelessness,

the murder of innocent children,

an unexpected, even scandalous pregnancy.

 

And this is the story that you — our Great God, Creator of the Universe —

this is the story that you deliberately chose to step right into.

You chose to experience this life, this human life here on planet earth,

in all its crazy mixed up-ness.

 

And you chose a girl like Mary,

and a man like Joseph, to be the ones who would help to tell the story.

So we thank you for these good people, these good parents.

And we ask you to open our hearts, settle our minds,

and learn what they have to teach us. . .

A Prayer for Communion, Written for People in the Midst of Real Life

I record all my public prayers in this space, which means there will be an extra note from me in your inbox today. For that, I apologize. Maybe there’s a way to post without sending an email to subscribers? If so, I have yet to discover it. This is the prayer from last Sunday, when our new pastor and his wife had to leave unexpectedly due to a family tragedy and our associate stepped in at the last minute and asked me to assist him at communion and to offer the pastoral prayer for the morning. This is that prayer.

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Gathered as we are, Lord, around this table, this place of remembrance and celebration and recognition, it seems natural for us to talk to you about how we are, and who we are, and where we are.

And yet, as Pastor Jon has so powerfully reminded us, it’s really all about grace, isn’t it?

It’s not about us so much as it’s about YOU and how you love us.

This is hard for us to believe, Lord, we’ll admit that. We look around our world and see disaster, illness, death, and loss upon loss being suffered by good and innocent people. Ugly politics and greed-disguised-as-business-as-usual seem to rule the day, and we wonder,

“Where are you? Who are you?”

If we’re honest, that’s a primary reason we’re here today, Lord. There’s something about being together to worship you, and to ponder your word, that helps us to remember the answer to those questions of“where” and “who.”

You knew this truth about us, Lord Jesus. You knew that we would need to remember that we are joined together by “ligaments and sinews,” as the writer of Colossians put it. Yes, even when we’re not thrilled about it, even when we’re not sure we even like each other a lot of the time, even when we forget — we still belong to one another.

And we belong to you — all of us together — we belong to you: we are joined to you, for you are our head.

That’s where you are. That’s who you are.

You are the God who is with us, the God who is one of us, the God who calls us to live together in ways that are new and life-giving and graceful. The One who says ‘yes’ over us! Thank you!!

As we prepare ourselves today to receive these elements — the bread and the cup — we begin by agreeing with you that we get it wrong a lot of the time. We misread your call, we sully your design. We try to go it alone, we close our hearts to one another, and to you. Forgive us, we pray.

Remind us that we are better together.

Remind us that you put us together in the first place. Remind us that even when the world gets ugly-looking and the people we care about are struggling and everything seems to be heading to destruction with increasing speed — even then, Lord, remind us that you are good.

That you are the Ever-Present One, that we don’t walk through the tough stuff by ourselves.

And some of us are walking through some pretty tough stuff these days. Many of us are grieving, right here, in these pews. We’ve lost people we love, relationships we care about, our health, our job, our hope. Comfort us, we pray, and use us — each of us and all of us — as members of your body — your arms and legs, your hands and feet — to do that comforting.

We pray particularly today for Mindy Noyes and for her family, in the loss of her twin sister, Mara, this past week. It’s been a long and difficult journey and now a loving husband and two young children are without their wife and mom. Yes, we take comfort in knowing that Mara is with you, restored and rejoicing. But oh, Lord. Those who are left behind are struggling.

You’ve promised that you will walk with us through the valley of the shadow, so we are bold to ask you to do that in ways that are unique and personal to each member of the extended Noyes family. We also ask that you do that for each person in this room who has lost someone they love in recent months, and for each person we care about in our city and beyond, who is facing uncertainty and confusion in days ahead. There are quite a lot of us, Lord. Hear our prayer.

As we make room in our hearts for lament this day, we also want to acknowledge that lament is not the only song we sing. We sing a song of thanksgiving and we sing a song of praise. We sing a song of beauty and we sing a song of joy. We sing a song that includes both dirges and dances, a song that weaves its way into the very sinews that connect us. We sing a song of YES. Help us to sing it well, O God. Help us to sing it true.

For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Photo Journaling: Day One – An Introduction

At the beginning of September, I had such high hopes for this year’s 31-day series. I wrote the introductory theme piece several weeks ago and never got back to add more. So I have decided to change course! I will be joining Kate Montaug’s 5 Minute Friday 31 day group, writing on a particular theme each day of the 31 days of October. Hopefully, it will happen each and every day this month. Time will tell, right?

So here is the intro piece to the first series I planned to write. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try this series idea next year!

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It’s (almost!) October again, and for the sixth year in a row, I am joining Crystal Stine’s 31 Day Challenge, choosing a theme to write on every day of the month. I am trying to be just a tiny bit more intentional about this blog space again, despite the loss of subscribers I experience every time I write here!

This space has been an important part of my life for the last decade and I’d like that to continue. One way for me to do that is to be disciplined about writing short, hopefully pithy, posts on a daily basis whenever the invitation arises. And this invitation is a big one! So . . . “once more, into the breach,” right?

The theme I’ve chosen for this year is Photo-Journaling, something I love to do and can easily transfer here. I take pictures a lot. A lot. And I always have — even before the invention of phone cameras! It’s a way of documenting, remembering and reflecting on my life. My photo folders tell our story as a family, my story as a pastor and as a child of God/wife/mother/grandmother/friend. I have often used my photos to organize my blog posts or my newsletters, weaving words around the pictures as I go. Something about the combination of the photo and the words tells the story more completely.

So here are a few thoughts for day one of our journey together this year. The photo above was taken on one of the walks I take several times each week. My husband and I have headed for the marina in our town quite a lot during the last few weeks and always see something fun/interesting/educational/inspiring when we do. This particular late afternoon was an interesting one. The fog had rolled out about midday, sitting like a lurking giant just beyond the breakwater. It was a low roll, however, leaving space for the clear blue skies which had become our predominant view just a few blocks further inland.

As we walked out on that concrete barrier that protects millions of dollars worth of yachts and fishing boats, a small sailboat was cutting across the water at exactly the right angle for me to capture both the fog and the blue, blue sky behind it. Something about that image grabbed my heart. I saw myself as that little boat, sailing across the vast mystery that is our life as followers of Jesus. Sometimes thick fog blurs my view and feels as though it is limiting my options. But what I need to remember during those times is that the blue sky is still there, somewhere just above me, encircling both my small boat/life and the fog bank, no matter how huge it may appear to be at any given moment. And that boat is heading straight for safe haven, making a bee-line for the harbor entrance. That’s where I want to be — en route home.

Can I hear an ‘amen?’

Longing for Home: An Advent Journey, 2016 — Day Nine

Today’s post is a little bit different. I offered the prayer of consecration and supplication in  yesterday’s worship service and am posting that prayer here. It comes out of the same set of readings we looked at yesterday and seemed an appropriate way to launch into this third week of Advent. We will be back on schedule with our daily readings/reflections tomorrow.

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An Advent Prayer

2nd Sunday, December 4, 2016

Montecito Covenant Church

It’s the Sunday of peace, Lord, and we gather now around your table
to remember how you chose to come to us,
as one of us,
to be our peace.

Yes, it is your death we remember
as we gather round today.
When we come to this table, we remember your sacrifice on our behalf,
and we thank you, with our whole hearts.

But on this particular Sunday of the year,
we also remember your life among us,
as one of us, and we remember it from that very first moment
when your mother heard 
a special word from your Father,
from our Father.
And oh, we thank you for that, too, with our whole hearts.

We also must admit that some of these hearts of ours
feel far from peaceful this morning, Lord.

Some of us are grieving the loss of a person we love very much;
some of us feel utterly exhausted — by school, by life, by illness;
some of us are worried about people we love; some of us are frightened about
something we ourselves are facing into right now.

In this moment of silence, we lift those concerns before you now.

— SILENCE —

And now, as we gaze on this bread,
as we consider this cup,
will you help us to remember
that this ordinary, torn-up loaf
and this common purple liquid
become something more, 
for us and in us, on this day.

We offer these simple things to you now,
and ask you to bless them, to set them apart,
and to make them uniquely beneficial to us, in body and in spirit.
May they become emblems of your love,
and strong, clear symbols of your Peace.

Even as Gabriel spoke to Mary those strange and wonderful words of invitation,
may you speak to us through
this time at the table.
Help us to hear you,
help us to be open to whatever invitation you are extending to us,
both individually and communally,
and help us to say a resounding,
“YES — let it be to us according to your word!”

And then, Lord, as we gather our belongings and turn to head out the back door into the sunlight and the friendly chatter of the patio, will you help us to remember that there are “Elizabeths” all around us today — male, female, young, old — all sorts of folks who have in some way or another experienced the reality that for you, “nothing is impossible.”

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear
the miracle stories that are all around us.
No, not all of those stories have what we might label a ‘happy ending’ —
Mary’s story wasn’t exactly all sweetness and light, was it?

But all of us who have walked with you for a little while or for a lifetime —
all of us know
that your faithfulness can be trusted,
that your goodness is unassailable,
that your peace is ever and always available,
even when the tough stuff happens.

Help us to live those truths, those stories, out loud, Lord.
Help us to be encouragers in all our interactions with one another
and within the larger communities
where we live and work.
Help us, dear Lord,

to seek peace and to live it.
For Jesus’ sake.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Communion, Two Days Before An Election

Our sermon text on Sunday came from the end of the Sermon on the Mount — Jesus’ words about the narrow way. Pastor Jon did his usual excellent job of parsing and paying close attention to the text and to life. Perfect timing for the morass we find ourselves facing at this juncture in our national history. May grace prevail, no matter the outcome today.

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We’re gathering ourselves around this table again today, Lord God, grateful for it, grateful for the story it tells us, glad to do it together.

And today, we’re going to come to it one by one, a physical and tactile reminder that sometimes, it is good to be deliberate about finding that narrow way, the way that leads to the real, the wonderful.

Please take these simple things in front of us — this torn up bread, this poured out purple — and bless them. Breathe on them and breathe on us with the gift of your Holy Spirit, your Holy Spirit of love and invitation.

Some of us really need to hear the love in your voice this morning, dear Lord. We’ve been listening to so.many.voices. for the past too-many months of electioneering, voices that speak ugly words, voices that tell lies of expediency and excuse, of dissatisfaction and disdain. Help us to hear your strong, clear words of truth, and grace, and acceptance amid the word overdose that clutters our life in this season.

As we listen for your voice of love today, we also ask you to forgive us for giving into fear, for speaking words of judgment, for caring too little for the ones you’ve commanded us to love — the least and the lost. And forgive us for sometimes forgetting that also includes us, Lord. Truth be told, we are all little and frequently lost.

So we ask you to hear now our prayers of silent confession, our prayers for forgiveness for the ways in which we fall short of your dream for us, your call to us.

— SILENCE —

Thank you for hearing, for offering us the grace of forgiveness, and for calling us forward to a better way, a more narrow way.

We also ask you to bless all those whom we love who are struggling this day. And sometimes that group includes us, too. I think it is fair to say that all of us are carrying around a fair amount of grief these days. Will you bring comfort, please? And will you help us to be comfort for one another?

Through it all — all the grieving, the worrying, the wondering, the recognition of our own contribution to the ugly voices all around us . . . and sometimes, inside us, too — in the midst of it all, please give us ears to ear your voice of love, your words of invitation.

Grant us grace to choose, day after day, minute by minute, the narrow way, the way of love, the way of Jesus. 

In whose name we pray, Amen.

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