Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Confession Based on Luke 9

God, you gave us your spirit
And you told us to go and heal a hurting world,
But the magnitude of our own needs overcame us
And your spirit felt like a tiny, insignificant flame.

People:  Rekindle your flame in us, God.

God, you gave us your strength
And you told us to spread your love,
But our own desires to be great overcome us,
And in our pride and arrogance, we tried to snuff
The flame of your love.

People:  Rekindle your flame in us, God.

God, you gave us your grace
And we argued about who deserved it more.
You gave us grace—our cups overflowed—
But in our anxiety to grasp what is ours
We complained of all we lacked and begged for more.

People:  Rekindle your flame in us, God.

Jesus, filled with our own importance and the significance of our calling,
We sought justice for our enemies and shunned the simplicity of your love.
Then you opened your arms to children, and reminded us of our calling:
To love fully, to welcome everyone in your name, to heal the brokenhearted.

People:  Rekindle your flame in us, God.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Prayer for Wandering in the Desert

I have not sought this desert,
nor have I chosen to travel alone
in scorching heat by day, in sudden freeze at night.
How long must I walk this barren place?
Old desires shimmer in the distance, only to disappear. 
Nothing is what it seems.
Voices echo, silenced by shifting sand,
and I carry the silence within me. 

Is this your voice now in the wind, in the shadows of evening,
in pale streaks of morning?  Is this your hand that moves over
this place, carving shelter from rock? 

Here find water, hidden away,
flowers blooming bright red:
tiny flames in the wilderness.
See, I am to be found even here, in heat shimmer,
cacti, seas of sand.  I am the cloud by day, cooling you, weary traveler.
At night, I gather the darkness and breathe upon it.  There!  I am the fire by night!

Someday I will flood this place with water.  Trees will grow by the river. 
Flowers will unfurl from hidden seeds.  You will see.
But now, you must walk in this place.  

--Text this week:  Luke 4.  Jesus wandering in the desert.  I love the beauty of the desert but I have NEVER liked the idea of wandering there, like our church mothers and fathers, and I hate the idea of hiking by myself in a desert.  It sounds terrifying, especially because I feel like depression and sadness create such deserts for us--and those are hard places to walk patiently.  I love the image of God appearing in a cloud by day and a fire by night--this comfort in such a stark place by day, this hope and sense of direction by night.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


May the imagination of God, which created life from darkness,
flood your minds and hearts with light
so that you may go from here with eyes to see the flame
of God's love in each stone and leaf and sunrise;

And may your eyes be opened
to God's presence in each face you behold,
so that you may be moved with compassion
to enter into the world's joy and suffering.


I wrote this blessing to close our service today, which is all about John the Baptist, that enigmatic forerunner of Jesus.  John preached against complacency; as Kierkegaard once wrote, he is the example of what a Christ-follower should be: alert to the suffering of the world, he was a person who gave all that he had to the poor.

Martin will sing the Rich Mullin's song "Everywhere I go, I see you."  I hope this blessing, which calls for the renewal of our imaginations--and thus our compassion--will be a good send-off.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Corporate Prayer: We Are Part of Your Story

This is a corporate prayer I wrote for our first Sunday in the gospel of Luke.  I felt intrigued by the controversy over the recipient of Luke's letter.  Was Theophilus a specific person, an official of high rank?  Or are we all Theophilus--in Greek--'lover of God'--and therefore all the intended audience for Luke's letter?  I like to think that even now I am reading a letter written to me.

It is this reflection that prompted the Story theme of our worship.  We are all part of the ongoing story of Jesus' life.  We are all part of the amazing, paradoxical wonder that Luke records.  But sometimes, if you're like me, I question my significance in the Story, and when I stop there, in that place of complacency and discouragement, my sense of purpose and vocation wanes.

 We will follow this confessional with a beautiful, somewhat lost hymn, "I Need Thee Every Hour."  If you have not looked at this hymn in a while, do!  It is a tender prayer that first affirms God's presence with us, then insists upon it in pain or sorrow, then celebrates the active, dynamic presence in us.
   Reader:  God, we are part of the same story that Luke wrote so long ago.  But sometimes we feel that we are insignificant.
     People:  Help us to trust that even the smallest acts of goodness and courage are not lost.
Reader:  God, we are part of your story, but sometimes, in times of doubt, need, and sorrow, we forget to think of you.
     People:  Forgive us.  Have mercy on us when we forget to tell your story to our children and our friends, by word or deed.
Reader:  Forgive us when we lose our courage, when we try to wrest our lives from you and rewrite them after our own desires.
     People: Forgive us when, in our longing for happy endings and easy resolutions, we scorn your gentle, scarred hands.
Reader:  Help us to think of your faithful servants, of Mary, who when she heard of this mysterious and frightening plot twist—that she, a virgin, would bear a child—did not ask for her story to be rewritten, but sang this song of gratitude:
     People:  The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name,
and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him.
Reader:  He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart.
     People:  He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly.
He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

God, I am a tiny speck on your palm--

Blow me into the soil, just turned today
still damp from children's careless hose spray,
warmed by noonday sun.

When I fall, feeling loam rise,
smelling leaf decay and welcoming
the dark space of becoming,
I think I will find that you are there, too,
and that you are water, sun, and soil,
and I am never without you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Prayer: Do You Weary of Us

Today it seemed you cut the mountains from blue construction paper,
smacked them up on the horizon, added a zigzag of snow. 

Sometimes I wonder: do you weary of us--
sigh, turn your attention to crafting easier, prettier things,
the narcissus trumpeting against the fence post, velvet-petaled primroses,
the blackbird high in the blue spruce, whose whole body shook with its call.

Still, what about the two old people who passed me this morning in the park
as I stopped to gaze out on smooth grey water? 
I noted their easy companionship, their small worlds of idiosyncrasies:
the hatted woman's purse bouncing against her thigh as she walked laps,
the man always one step behind.  Down in the dog park, a cluster of three men
watched labradors, threw balls, laughed.  And at the corner, two women
on a break from work smoking cigarettes, smiling as I walked by.

I imagined that you shared the morning with us,
threw a ball for a dog, hurried to catch up with the couple,
swapped jokes with the women at the corner.
Did you fall into step beside me as I paused to take in the mountains
and the water?  Was yours the song in the blackbird's mouth,
the delight that bent his black feathered body to singing?