A Post-Election Prayer

Oh God, on long, weary, and troublesome days,
we remember that you do not grow faint, you do not grow weary,

Your otherness is necessary for our strength,
and yet your vulnerability in creating us is
the most intimate connection to be experienced.

On days when clouds loom, fears persist, and exhaustion from the injustice and relentlessness of life sets in, we are reminded to wait. 

To wait on the strength that you will give.
To wait on the renewal that you will give.
We turn our eyes to the hills.
We turn our eyes to each other.
And wait.

We wait with hope. We wait in community. We wait in Sabbath.
We wait with impatience. We wait with gratitude.
We wait knowing that nothing can separate us from Your love. Not angels, nor demons, nor death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor scary medical diagnoses, nor exclusive theology, nor financial worries, nothing can separate us from your love.

For where does our help come from?
It comes From You, the Creator, the Source of all that is.
From You, the God who cares for lilies and sparrows,
From You, the God who is love and loves all creation with fierce peacefulness.
We cannot and will not be separated from this love.

Hear our prayers, O God, as we wait in Your love.

Amen

Blue Hill Prayer

Here in the blue hills of Asheville,

I was anointed this morning by the needles of the White Pine,

falling upon the crest of my head.

The smell of Rosemary Geranium filled me.

The wind flowing through the trees, kissing them,

created a symphony of sound,

drawing me into its mountainous song.

My heart swelled with love for these connections with creation.

They are family to me.

Thanks be to You, God, the Creator of all.

 

I Want God: Entering Into the Lenten Journey

I am most grateful today for the ice storm which brought forced rest into my life this week. This rest allowed time for reflection, which seems like the most appropriate way to honor Shrove Tuesday as I prepare to enter into Lent. You may wonder why someone who is so very Baptist might observe a liturgical season such as Lent. However, it is my very autonomy as a Baptist which allows me the latitude to explore seasons that would more typically be observed by higher churches, like The Episcopal Church or the Catholic Church.IMG_5751

Lent looks pretty different for the diversity of folks who observe it. Some folks are more comfortable adding something to their routines/ lives to focus on God, while other folks remove routine items/ practices so that they may better focus on God. Either way, the idea is to prepare yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically for the high Holy day of Easter, the day of celebration of the resurrection of the Christ. This is the day, which I believe theologically, that the Creator God gave a finality to Death (read: evil, sin, and greed) insofar as saying “Death does not win.”

Practically, Lent can be a structured time (six weeks) that one brings a level of discipline to one’s life which, oddly enough, creates liberation. I use liberation here to mean a time where one is freed from the rat race that one’s life can snowball into in pursuit of the completion of the eternal to-do list, the pursuit of self-affirmation through external sources (especially other people), or even the pursuit of service to others. In naming these things, it is easy to see that though they may not necessarily be harmful, however, the pursuit of them necessarily detracts from the pursuit of their opposites (ie. stillness; self-affirmation through internal/ spiritual means; self-care). These lists may not be entirely fair, but I suspect they are plausible enough that they sound familiar.

So alas, here is my impetus to observe the Holy Lenten season. Most simply put:

I want God.

I want to prepare myself (as much as possible in my feebleness) for the observance of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Eternal Word, the Son, the second person of the Triune God, Christ Jesus. I want to slow myself so that I may open myself to the mystery of grace, mercy, and love that the Creator God, the first person of the Triune, gifted creation with in the act of the Incarnation. Because of this act, God, Emmanuel is with us. This is a gift that I must seriously consider in the next six weeks.

To find a starting point for my Lent practice, I dwell on the words of an Anglican systematic theologian, Sarah Coakley. For Coakley, contemplation (which she classifies as an ascetic discipline) must be a serious endeavor in a Christian’s life. She defines contemplation as particular kind of prayer, wherein one repeatedly waits on God in silence. This practice cultivates the work of the Spirit, the third person of the Triune, who is often reduced to fluff, but who is actually a fierce subverter of powerful and evil institutions. Further, contemplation is a vulnerable act as one sits and receives the divine gifts that God gives, but in this process, the self is expanded. This makes much sense to me; when one is quiet and open, one can see much more about oneself and the world than one could in the midst performing a series of tasks.

I foresee this practice of contemplation (along with the removal of activities which preclude me from contemplation), as being a dear companion through the journey of Lent. I want God. I want to be opened, filled, humbled, and challenged by the Creator who first prepared this journey for me. My prayer is that this season would be as meaningful for you as I hope it will be for me. May we sustain ourselves through this Lenten season with the richness of God’s mercy, God’s justice-making, and God’s Love.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a last quote from Coakley, which can be easily re-written into a prayer:

Contemplation makes great ethical demands– to lose one’s life in order to gain it, to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies. It is not a form of disengagement, but of passionate reordered engagement.1

May it ever be so.

1) Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity‘ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) 340-344.

To Our Round and Borderless God (A prayer)

Designer, Creator, most provident God,
As we gather today,
When the days may seem a little too hard,
The grace seems to wane and exhaustion takes over,
When uncertainty is the best we can do,

O Lord, in your round and borderless mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We ask for strength for our community as we are aware of illness, lament, anxiety, uncertainty, and loss.
We ask for the relentlessness to keep showing up.
We ask for reprieve from scarcity.
We ask for rest and for healing.

O Lord, in your round and borderless mercy,
Hear our prayer.

For folks living in Nashville food deserts,
For those who are imprisoned and on death row,
For those who are racially profiled,
For those who labor for unlivable wages.

O Lord in your round and borderless mercy,
Hear our prayer.

For those living in the immanence of violence,
For those who know little of peace,
For those who are losing their culture to globalization,

O Lord in your round and borderless mercy,
Hear our prayer.

For our tired and nearly depleted earth,
For species which will become extinct today,
For the wild space that we will never know.

O Lord in your round and borderless mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Show us, O Lord, how we may return the blessings that you have given us by caring for ourselves, for each other, for our earth.

For your mercy is round and it is borderless.

In this mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen.

Regarding Wisdom: A Pastoral Prayer

O God, we find ourselves, along with all of creation, made in your image.
We are made in your likeness; image-bearers of the divine.

Knowing this is deeply meaningful and ministerial.

But even with this knowledge, sometimes in the midst of loss, or fear, or especially political, personal, communal, and spiritual uncertainties,

It is easy to forget this image-bearing business.

It is easy to forget that we are not only made in Your image but that You, the source of Wisdom, dwell among, intimately near.

So today, O God,
we ask that wisdom, in all its forms, would not be elusive,
but that it would be readily found. 
We know that it can sometimes be tough to have the wisdom to stop trying or to keep trying.
It can be tough to know when self-care is a must,
It can be tough to know which words would be harmful and which would be helpful.
It can be tough to know one’s worth amongst feelings of inadequacy and shame.
It can be tough to sort out God’s promises among many competing voices.
It can be tough to know how to love someone because love is imperfect.

Oh God of whom, we are image-bearers,
It can be tough to know when to help a neighbor,
It can be tough to know how to give radical hospitality,
It can be tough to know how to stay at the table we’ve gathered around.
It can be tough to know how to care for all of creation,
It can be tough to know how we can make a difference.

Uncertainty and doubt, O God, are more frequent visitors that we would like.
They can be powerful and convincing.
And as much as we want to rush forth with an answer, a solution, a revelation,
perhaps the wait time, the time of parenthesis,
is where we find wisdom.
Wisdom to remember, Oh God,
that we, along with all of creation, are made and held in Your image.

Amen.

Prayer for All Saints Day (Baptist Style)

Oh God, whom we live and move and have our being,
Gather us in as we worship together on this day to remember the Saints.

This, All Saints Day, is full of memories,
Memories that comfort us, memories that inspire us,
and perhaps memories that still hurt a little bit.

With gratitude and awe, we remember today Saints of the Church
who are here in this great cloud of witnesses.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola,
Saint Francis of Assisi,
Saint Mother Teresa,
Saint Oscar Romero
Saint Martin Luther King Jr.,

And what about our Baptist saints,
Thomas Helwys and John Smyth,
Roger Williams,
Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong,
Will Campbell.

Today, we remember and give thanks to you for these saints.
We also remember today the saints in our lives who have gone before us.
These folks who loved us and were dearly loved by many,
These folks who shared their lives with us, and left impressions of love that we remember and honor today.

We celebrate them as we miss them.

Oh God, whom we live and move and have our being.
Dwell with us in this community,
We ask for comfort especially as we miss our loved ones,
But also for comfort during hard days when our bodies are weary,
when our backs ache, and hands are blistered.
May we give each other salve and a good chair to sit in.

As we dwell in you, O God,
we give thanks for this church community of folks who bear each others joys, burdens and pains.

We give thanks for pastors who hands work with love and persistence.
We give thanks for the faithfulness of members of this community,
who give of themselves around this table.

Oh God, whom we live and move and have our being,
thank you for this communion of saints today and for this
communion of faithful and loving folks who gather today to remember those saints.

Amen.