A Prayer for Ordinary Time…

Wow. Didn’t realize it had been so long since I posted anything. Here is the prayer from this morning’s worship service – a service which I led, in the absence of our Senior Pastor, who is on a much-needed, long-awaited vacation/study leave in the south of France. (A good friend, John Notehelfer, stepped in to preach as there was no time or energy for either preparation or delivery!) Unfortunately, I’m not in tip-top shape even for worship-leading, as it turns out. Still in recovery mode from a scary bout of blood clots in both lungs, which required hospitalization for a couple of days and a continuing – now 11 day – recovery and recuperation. I marshaled my energies for the morning, and then pretty much crashed all afternoon, more tired than I can just about ever remember being. Our bodies are indeed ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ and when they get out of whack, one needs to pay attention.

Today is the 2nd Sunday in the season of Pentecost on the church calendar – also called Ordinary Time. And that’s what about 99% of life is, isn’t it? Ordinary time. Here is a prayer for such a time, beginning with a line from our offertory hymn of the morning:
“…his strength shall bear you up, and nerve your heart, and brace your arm.”

There are days, Lord,
when we truly need
to have our ‘hearts nerved’
and our ‘arms braced.’
There are days, Lord,
when it seems as though whatever it is we are carrying
weighs a couple of tons.
There are days, Lord,
when we need to stop on the road a while,
take a deep breath,
and wait;
wait for your sweet,
sometimes subtle,
yet always reliable
to bear our spirits up.

And for many of us this morning,
today is one of those days.
Some of us have come through
wonderful times of celebration recently –
graduation day,
wedding day,
even a birth-day for beautiful new Isabella Faith.
We’re grateful for milestone celebrations such as these,
because they bring us reminders of your good gifts of
grace and goodness,
faith and faithfulness,
connection and commitment.
But because we are frail creatures of dust,
even parties can wear us out,
can cause rough edges in our relationships,
when schedules have to be set,
tasks have to be done,
deadlines have to be met.
So, will you sit with us,
by the side of the road this morning, Lord?
Help us to breathe deeply of your love,
and to wait for your strength to fill us
for whatever comes next.
For others of us today,
celebration has had to be pushed aside to
make way for more urgent concerns:
failing health,
failing bank accounts,
failing relationships,
exhausted resources.
We are truly in need of a roadside rest,
space to wait,
for our hearts to be nerved,
and our arms to be braced,
and our spirits to be borne up by your strength.

And while we’re sitting here,
on the side of the roadway of life,
it seems important for us to offer to you
some words of apology and contrition.

Because not one of us can manage to get through a single day,
even a single hour,
without revealing the shadows
of sin and brokenness that mar your image in us.
So, please hear our silent words of confession as we offer them to you:


Amazingly, dear Lord, we must also declare that there are moments,
here and there, once in a while,
when we know that you’re with us, at work in us,
reaching through us to others in need,
or simply filling us with deeply joyful gratitude –
because we’re alive,
because we’re loved,
because we are.
And for these moments, we want to say, ‘thank you.’
‘Thank you so much.”

We’ve brought gifts of love today, Lord God –
money that can be used to bring the gospel good news
of hope and healing into needy hearts and bodies,
both here and around the world.
We set these gifts aside for holy purposes today,
grateful that we can bring them,
grateful that you will use them.
Prepare our hearts to meet you today,
to hear from your word through your servant, John,
to hear your song of love to us,
even as we sing songs together,
to taste and see that that LORD is good
as we share together in bread and cup.
And then send us out,
arms braced,
hearts nerved,
spirits borne up by your strength,
refreshed from our
and sitting
and waiting,
ready to hit the road again,
with joy that is contagious,
with grace that is generous,
with thanksgiving that is overflowing,
with Jesus himself, alive and well within us.
For it is in his name,
and for his sake that we pray. Amen.

A Prayer for the 1st Sunday in Lent…

written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
for worship at
Montecito Covenant Church
February 21, 2010
Interspersed with words from Psalm 84
“How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

We gather this morning
as your yearning people, O Lord.
We join the psalmist in crying out for you,
the living God.
Beneath everything else we think we want,
below the surface dreams and fantasies,
sitting at bedrock in the center of ourselves,
is a deep longing for you.
You alone can fill the empty spaces
in our spirits,
and you can fill them
with life
and hope
and peace.
How lovely, indeed.

“Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.”

“Even the sparrow….”
the smallest, most ordinary,
everyday house bird
can find a place of welcome
and rest in your presence.
Your mercy and grace are like that, O Lord,
and we are grateful.
There is room for the likes of us
near your altar,
sparrow or swallow,
young or old,
male or female,
strong or frail –
there is room,
there is welcome,
there is rest,
there is home.
Thank you.

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

And we do praise you this morning, O God.
We praise you that you are our home.
that you are our strength.
And as we this week begin
our annual Lenten pilgrimage –
our journey to the cross of Good Friday,
and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday –
we want to set our hearts to it.
We want to open ourselves to the
quickening work of your Spirit.
May our souls be formed more and more
into the likeness of Jesus,
even as we place our feet on the Calvary road,
the way that leads through
the reflection and repentance of Lent
to the celebration and feasting
of Resurrection Sunday.

“Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.”

The psalmist beseeches you to listen, Lord God,
to hear and answer.
And we offer prayers as well,
prayers for ourselves –
that we might live more fully into
your picture of us as beloved sons and daughters.

And as your children, we offer prayers for our children,
most especially this morning
for those high school students –
who really are all our children
and their leaders as they play and worship
and learn together this weekend.
Guide, protect, instruct, refresh –
work your way in their lives,
calling each one of them to recognize and to honor
their own deep yearning for you.

We pray for those who are wrestling
with hard stuff today, Lord –
those who have lost a loved one
like Tom Dalton has this week
in the passing of his mother;
those who are facing treatment for cancer,
or surgery of one kind or another,
or who live with a chronic illness,
or long-term pain –
please bring healing and hope
into each of these situations.

We pray for those who live with
or who care for those who live with
mental and emotional distress and illness,
or the slow, lingering loss
of memory and sense of self
that comes with dementia.
Bring refreshment and hope and courage into
each unique situation and relationship.

Strengthen and encourage
your servant and friend, Helen,
as she brings for us your word of blessing this morning.
Thank you for her inspired leadership this past week
and for the truths she has skillfully
and gently guided us toward.

Thank you for the invitation
to bring our requests and concerns
right into your lovely dwelling place, O Lord,
and thank you that you listen with love.

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold from those
whose walk is blameless.
LORD Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you.”

O help us to be counted among those
who trust in you, Lord Almighty,
that our walk might be blameless,
that we might forever be found in your courts,
gifted recipients of your favor and honor.
We pray these things in the name of
the only truly blameless one, even
Jesus Christ,
our good shepherd,
elder brother,
Savior and Lord.

A Communion Prayer…

written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
for worship at Montecito Covenant Church
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Holy Father,
Loving Lord Jesus,
Comforting Spirit –
to you, Triune God, we lift our hearts in prayer,
to you, we lift our hands in praise,
to you, we lift our lives in gratitude.

We’re at the table again, Lord.
This table –
where you call us
to remember you,
to celebrate your gift of life even in the midst of death,
to eat a little piece of the bread of life,
to take a tiny sip of the fruit of the vine –
and in doing that,
to receive once again
you in our midst.

It’s not as though you’re not here at other times,
at all other times, as a matter of fact.
It’s that you’re here,
here at this table,
in a particular way,
a particularly blessed and sacred way.
A way we don’t truly understand,
but which we cherish
and look forward to
and find rich meaning in.
A way that speaks to us of mystery and wonder,
that calls us to humble confession and contrition,
that promises us a unique point of connection with you,
a connection that brings with it
and hope
and joy.

So, as we take part in this very familiar and dearly loved ritual today,
we want to stop for a few minutes and savor it.

we want to say how much we need to be here today.
We need it because we are needy people,
‘standin’ in the need of prayer,’
hungry for a sign of grace,
deeply desirous of a fresh start,
another chance,
a place to begin again.
Hear our prayers of need just now, Lord –
for in this moment of quiet,
we’re going to tell you how sorry we are for…
so many things
we’ve said or done
or not said or not done –
and how much we need, once again, your forgiving grace.
Hear, O Lord, our prayers of confession:

– Silence –

Thank you.
Thank you for listening once again
and thank you for the sweetness of forgiveness
and the releasing, strengthening power of sins forgotten,
because of grace-made-flesh in Jesus.

Since the last time we gathered together around this table, Lord,
each one of us has come up against it,
in one way or another.
Come up against
the darkness and sadness of life on planet earth,
as well as come up against
the gift and the beauty of life in this place.
Each of us has a long list of things
for which to say, ‘Thank you, God!’
and each one has a long list of things
for which to say,
‘Help us, O God!’
And we know, Lord,
that you are with us in the middle of it all
the beauty and the gift,
the darkness and the sadness.
So, hear, O Lord, our list of thank-you’s
as we offer them to you silently::

– Silence –

And hear, O Lord, our list of,
‘Help us, O God’ requests:

– Silence –

We know, O Lord, that your Spirit
is constantly at work within us
to help us be people who bear rich fruit –
fruit that looks like love and joy and peace –
no matter what circumstances
we may find ourselves in from day to day.
For life – full, rich, wonderful, terrible life
is such a crazy, mixed-up thing –
and the living of that life is made
infinitely deeper and richer when
we live it in the center of your will
and design for us.

So we pray that for ourselves this morning.
as we set aside these small pieces of bread,
and these tiny cups of juice,
for the holy and sacred privilege of sharing them
together in the act of communion –
we pray for our own continuing transformation –
that the fruit of the Spirit would be
evident in us,
and then through us,
also evident in our families,
in our places of employment,
in our circle of friends,
in our wider community.
For your glory, O Lord.

A Rainy Day Prayer…

During the announcement time this morning, our very talented pianist/vocalist came across the sanctuary to ask me if it would be all right for her to play a few chords as I began my prayer. She had done it for our senior pastor during the early service and thought it worked pretty well, was it okay? Sure, I said, and then you’ll sort of fade out, right? She nodded and slipped away into the crowd, heading back to the piano.

We sang a marvelous, somewhat new-to-us offertory song just before we went to prayer, and so I opted to preface my written prayer with a few words from the song, words that seemed appropriate somehow. The pianist played, as promised. And soon, so did the lead guitar, plus a little bit of reverb guitar and even a tiny bit of drum, I think. It was lovely – but it was a greater volume than I had anticipated, so I found myself morphing into Southern Evangelist Mode and fairly shouting through most of the prayer. Interestingly enough – as so often happens in worship preparation! – the Spirit had given me words that lent themselves to this style. At the close of the prayer time, the worship team segued into an unscripted reprise, which was just lovely. Our pastor’s chosen theme for the morning – ‘change.’ The song lyrics at the beginning and end are from “Revelation Song,” by Jennie Lee Riddle, Gateway Create Publishing, 2004
A Rainy Day Prayer
written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
for worship at Montecito Covenant Church
January 17, 2010

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come;
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings;
You are my ev’rything and I will adore You.
clothed in rainbows of living color, flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder;
Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power
be to You, the only wise King.

The rain is coming, Holy Father,
or so the weather folk
and the drops on the patio tell us.
The rain is coming,
showering the earth with the promise of new life,
washing the cobwebs away,
filling the reservoirs,
changing the brown, dry ground into a carpet of green.

The earth is thirsty for the rain, Lord,
hungry for the kind of change
that brings with it hope,
and the promise of new beginnings.
And we, as people of the earth,
are thirsty and hungry as well.
For the rain – certainly!
Despite its occasional inconveniences,
rain is refreshing,
calling us to quieter, more reflective activities.
We all need rain days once in a while.

But beyond that kind of thirst,
that kind of hunger,
there is something even deeper,
more urgent,
more necessary.
For we hunger and thirst after you, Lord God.
We long to hear you say, your Spirit to our spirits:

“I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
and my blessings on your offspring.”

We long for your Holy Rain
in our lives,
and in our world.
We watch the pictures coming out of Haiti
and cannot believe what our eyes are telling us.
Rain down mercy, Lord!
Rain down mercy, and healing power and hope!

We listen to some of the angry political rhetoric
furiously flying
out of the mouths of our leaders,
and we wonder if anyone tells the truth anymore.
Rain down reason, Lord!
Rain down reason, and truth-telling and wisdom!

We listen to the words coming out of our own mouths
some days and we wonder
if some mean-spirited alter-ego
has taken up residence in our souls.
Rain down forgiveness, Lord!
Rain down forgiveness, and humility and love!

We watch our children and our grandchildren
stretching toward the light,
learning to be human.
And we hope and pray for a viable future for them all.
Rain down protection, Lord!
Rain down protection, and healing to our planet,
and strong systems of care – from the nuclear family to
the Department of Social Services.

We watch our elders,
saints who have led us on the path toward you,
and we pray for a good ending, Lord,
a good ending and the promise of a rich new beginning
as they transition from this life to the next.

And for all of us, Lord,
children, elders, middlers,
youth, students, young parents,
all of us thirsty for you,
so in need of the life-giving rain
of your Spirit in every corner of our lives –
for all of us,
we ask pliability,
bendability –
the willingness to yield to change
and the wisdom to ask for it with our whole hearts.
Cleanse away those cobwebs!
Fill the reservoirs to overflowing!
Change the dry, dusty ground of our being
by bringing forth a carpet of green,
fresh and new.

Change us into that vision
you hold for each one of us –
that reality that is totally unique to each of us,
yet clearly related to our elder brother,
Jesus Christ,
in whose image we are designed,
through whose sacrifice we are reclaimed,
from whose resurrection we take assurance of our own,
even Jesus Christ.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.
Who was and is and is to come.”


A Prayer for Beginnings…

written by Diana R.G. Trautwein
for worship at Montecito Covenant Church
January 3, 2010

Today’s table prayer will be longer than usual
and will include several opportunities for silent prayer.
Will you come with me, ‘down to the river to the pray,‘ this morning?

It’s a ‘back to the basics’ kind of day today, Lord.
A small window of time designed
to help us cut through the complicated web of
and just plain ‘stuff’
that we tend to gather around us like so much
heavy luggage,
a time to push away from all that insulation
that too often causes isolation,
a time to breathe a little bit more calmly,
to slow down,
to remember who we are and whose we are,
beloved children of Almighty God.

And we need that kind of breather about now.
It’s important for us to just stop here for a few minutes,
isn’t it, God?
It’s important to reflect quietly on where we’ve been,
and on where we’re headed.
And in the process of that reflection,
it’s good for us to say some simple, basic,
but very important, words to you,
basic words that loved children
say to a loving Father.
So we’ll begin with these:


Thank you, thank you, thank you
for the goodness and beauty of life,
for the power and promise of our faith,
for the joy of knowing you,
and of being known by you.
Hear us as we offer silent prayers of thanksgiving
for those people and experiences
in the year just past which have given us glimpses of your love.

— Silence —

We continue our time of quiet reflection
with another set of basic words, Holy Friend,
and here they are:


We are very sorry for the words,
spoken and unspoken,
for the deeds,
done and undone,
for the thoughts,
silent or expressed,
which have caused pain for others or ourselves
and which have gotten in the way of our
relationship with you.
Hear us now as we offer silent prayers of confession
in this moment of quietness.

— Silence —

For the wondrous reality of grace in our lives,
for the confidence that our sins are forgiven,
we rejoice and give you praise.

And as your thankful, forgiven children, Lord God,
gathered round the family table this morning,
ready to dip our fingers in the waters of our baptism,
ready to remember all that you’ve promised,
we also need to offer these really basic words:


There are so many in our midst who are struggling today,
people we love,
people we care about,
maybe even we ourselves.
And there are so many others,
whom we don’t know,
whom we don’t love –
except in the most abstract possible use of that word –
people who are caught in messes
that are beyond our power to comprehend,
who are suffering in ways
we have trouble even imagining.
They, too, need your mercy.

So today, before we eat this bread or drink this cup,
before we swirl the waters,
before we participate in these holy parables of love and promise,
we pause to remember that you are God,
the God we know to be loving and merciful and just.
So, hear our prayers for mercy, O Lord, as we offer them to you
on this day of new beginnings, in the silent temples of our own hearts.

— Silence —

Holy Trinity –
Father, Son, Spirit,
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,

Thank you!
We’re so sorry!
Have mercy!

Back to the basics, indeed.
We pray today in the sweet name of Jesus,
using that most basic of prayers,
the one he taught us, saying…
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins as
we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever.

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!

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.


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.


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.
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.


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,
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!

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.