A Little Worthlessness and a Lot of Love: A Pastoral Prayer

Holy and steadfast God, you have loved your wandering and distracted people for more generations than we can remember. You have forgiven us when we turned to other gods and regathered us when we scattered ourselves. Jeremiah speaks of a time when your people “went after worthless things,” and became “worthless themselves.” These words, written … Read More

A Prayer for the Innocents

prphotohoneymoonGod of all times and all places, we stand on the brink of a new year. Many of us harboring hopes for better days ahead. We want to leave the difficulties of 2013 behind and start new when that ball drops. Yet, we are probably not heeding Isaiah’s advice and recounting your gracious deeds and praiseworthy acts. It is by your mercy that we gather as the body of Christ. Open our eyes to all that you have done for us.

Just days ago, we welcomed you anew into our lives. We sang carols and lit candles in honor of the One whose light shines in our darkness. Many of us have already forgotten the promise of Christ. We’ve packed away our decorations and moved on, away from the vulnerability of the manger. We don’t want to think of the innocents slaughtered then… or now. The news reports of war, violence, and political unrest disturb us. We do not want to know about the children who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Egypt and countless other places. You are the Prince of Peace who can guide our feet in the way of peace. Let us turn away no longer. Shine your light in us and through us that we might become the way of peace here and now.

Ever faithful God, you wait patiently for us to come to you. You hear our songs of praise and wait until the familiar words touch our hearts and transform our lives. You are not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters even when we hesitate to speak your name. That manger in Bethlehem was not meant just for the wise ones who come bearing gifts but also for those who show up with nothing more than a yearning for life. Our decisions about who you love and who is welcome in your sanctuary are meaningless. You came into the world to seek and to save the lost, even those of us who’ve gotten lost on the way to Bethlehem. In this Christmas season reveal to us the radical inclusion of your love. Show us how to open our doors wide enough to let all your children enter in.

You call us to trust in you but we often forget to rely on your grace. The echos of lamentation and weeping make us want to hide rather than step out boldly bearing witness to the light that cannot be overcome by any darkness. As we face this new year, we pray for courage, the courage of Joseph who trusted you more than we can comprehend… The courage of Mary who brought you into the world for us… Grant us the courage to tend the fire of new life given to us once again. May we comfort those who weep and walk with those who lament, carrying hope for those unable to carry it for themselves.


Holy One who reveals our humanity, we are grateful for your overwhelming love for us. We yearn to make this year a year when your name will be praised and proclaimed in our congregations. We want to walk with you on a path of peace, letting go of those things we no longer need, making room for those who might want to join us as we seek to serve you. Let this year be a time of transformation for us, for our neighbors, for strangers, and for all those innocents who have yet to walk through our doors. By your grace and mercy, may we, the body of Christ right now, be the agents of your hope, peace, joy, and love.

With grateful hearts we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

RCL – Year A – First Sunday After Christmas – December 29, 2013
Isaiah 63:7-9 with
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

Meditation from Vacation

Let mutual love continue. Let me all people live in love no matter where life takes us. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. May we show extravagant hospitality to all those who come into our lives so to honor the One who sends … Read More

A Prayer for Sabbath


Steadfast God of love and mercy, how long you have waited for your people to bless your holy name! Through the words of ancient prophets and the Incarnate Word, you tell of your enduring, unconditional love for humanity. You call to us over and over again. Even now, your call to us continues.

We have wandered far from a time that honors the Sabbath. You gave us this day to help us be mindful that we are your people. We excel at ways to fill our quiet hours with our own thoughts and pursuits, forgetting our need to come to you for rest and to worship. Open our ears to the prophets of old, the teachings of Jesus, and those whose words point the way to you.

Gracious God, you are slow to anger and your steadfast love abounds. But, surely, we must test you. You have told us to feed the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted. You want us to stop binding ourselves to destructive ways, pointing fingers at one another, and speaking badly of those around us. Yet, we so often fail in these simple things. We frequently overlook the hungry and turn away from the afflicted. We continue our warring ways, blaming others for our wrongs, and speaking against our neighbors. Have mercy on us. Open our hearts to compassion and peace.

God of all, you remind us that there is much that bends us over, many spirits can cripple us at any time. But the time for healing is now. We can embrace the freedom you offer us right now. We can honor you by giving up our self-interested ways and giving things to you in all things. Even as we are overwhelmed by the tragedies in our lives and the world around us, you embrace us and call us to Sabbath rest. Open our lives that we may we come to you with all that is within us.

Passionate, fiery God, we live in a chaotic world with all kinds of noise and busyness to take our attention from you. We are so easily lost in work, information, entertainment, and in less meaningful activities. Set us on fire! Let us be consumed with a fire that brings light into the dark places of our lives. Open our spirits that we may worship you with reverence and awe.

In gratitude for the abundance of your steadfast love and mercy, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

RCL – Year C – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 25, 2013
Jeremiah 1:4-10 with Psalm 71:1-6 or
Isaiah 58:9b-14 with Psalm 103:1-8 and
Hebrews 12:18-29 and
Luke 13:10-17

Heartbreak and Yearning

I feel like I need to preface this post by saying that the Hebrews passage for this week is one of my favorites and I often look forward to preaching on it. I usually read it as a reminder of how many, many generations of people have wrestled with faith and run the race to it’s completion. I love the image of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. It’s a great image of hope and encouragement. But work has been intense these days. I’ve witnessed some difficult acts of aggression and violence that are not easy to let go of. My vacation is coming soon, so all shall be well.

But my thoughts on this Hebrews passage shifted this morning. That cloud of witnesses that I think of as cheering us on, turned into one disappointed and trying to find words that will get us running the race again. You see, on my drive into work I heard about the violence in Egypt and the hopelessness people on both sides feel about the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks. When I came home and looked for more information about these stories, I found more violence in Egypt, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, and  possible sabotage to submarines in India.

These events, though far from where I sit, feel overwhelming and I cannot make sense of them. I keep hearing the words to “God of Grace and God of Glory” in the back of my mind as I try to understand the violence that slashes through the world today.

oldtown_19_bg_022506Isaiah says, “he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” When will our response to God’s love for us be justice for all people?

Jeremiah reminds us that God is nearby and not far off. Our ways are not hidden from God. Why have we not learned to take better care of the gifts we have been given?

Hebrews speaks to the lineage we have as God’s children. We are not alone. We are, in fact, “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” What are they saying to us? What do they call out to us?

Luke shares Jesus’ message of division. It’s not a comforting message for sure. But I have to wonder if Jesus isn’t still waiting for his fire to be kindled. There have been flames here and there, but a fire that burns so brightly and clearly? I don’t know…as we try to run this race?

I don’t have an answer to these questions. I don’t have anything more than a yearning for humanity to do better and stop breaking the heart of our Creator. So I will keep singing the hymn that has echoed through my thoughts all day. And I will add the words of the Psalmist:  Restore us, O Sovereign God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.


RCL – Year C – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 18, 2013
Isaiah 5:1-7 with Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 or
Jeremiah 23:23-29 with Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Challenge, Change, and Faith

churchThe church is dead. The church is dying. The church is irrelevant. I’ve heard statements like these increasingly more often in the last couple of years. Truth be told, I’ve made similar observations myself for more than a decade. But after reading this week’s lectionary, I no longer agree that the church is dead, dying, or irrelevant. Although, it could be if we don’t pay better attention.

First, Isaiah’s words to the people of Israel. God is not pleased. The offerings and prayers of the people have become meaningless. They are going through the motions of faith, but they do not seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend orphans, or plead for widows. They have lost their way, again. God does not want empty religious rituals. God wants their hearts and their lives. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Isaiah’s word’s to be meant for today’s church goers.

The Hebrews text is the beautiful reminder of the power of faith. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. The passage goes on to remind the church in Jerusalem that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had faith in the midst of challenge and change; they did not sit still and wait for things to happen. The emerging church was changing the face of religious practice in those days, and it was scary. The reminder to trust God to guide the journey and fulfill promises was a timely one. And, like the Isaiah text, it’s not hard to imagine that these words spoken to the church now.

No, we aren’t dead. No, we aren’t dying. No, we aren’t irrelevant. But we could be all these things if we don’t pay more attention. The caution to Jerusalem’s emerging church was not to do things that would make God ashamed to be their God. It’s a reasonable caution for today’s emerging church. Where have our rituals become empty? Where have our offerings become meaningless? Is God honored by our actions or ashamed of them? Do we truly seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend orphans or plead for widows?

We aren’t dead or dying, but we are changing; something new is emerging. Change is essential to the church’s survival and we don’t like it. This resistance to and dislike of change has been consistent since the early church. We don’t know what to do when the shape of our religious practice shifts. It makes us anxious and in our anxiety we tend to cling more firmly to things and rituals that don’t really mean all that much. Therefore, the reminders of the faithful who have gone before us. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Miriam, Rebecca, and Rachael. Peter, Paul, and Stephen. Mary, Martha, and Lydia. And the countless men and women who walked paths of faith when the present and the future were unclear.

So lest we become irrelevant, let us get moving with the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Let’s ask ourselves what is essential for Christian faith right now, and pray for the courage to let all the rest fall away. It’s not too late. We aren’t dead yet. And we are not irrelevant. People need faith now as much as ever before, if not more so. The church has a unique message for those who are hungry. It’s time we look to see where our treasure lies (and move it if it is in the wrong place.)

Let your steadfast love, O God, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

For those of you who need musical motivation, check this out:  Do Something

photo from pdphoto.org

RCL – Year C – Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 11, 2013
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 with Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 or
Genesis 15:1-6 with Psalm 33:12-22 and
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40