Tag Archives: liturgical

A Mighty Love: Prayers for Reformation Sunday

A mighty fortress are you, O God,

Creator, redeemer,

Protector, provider.

 

The earth is yours, and all that is in it.

We give you thanks for the bounty of our lives,

and the abundance of your creation.

Move us to recognize your gifts, O Lord,

and challenge us to share them.

 

A mighty fortress are you, O God,

Creator, redeemer,

Protector, provider.

 

A mighty love are you, O God,

Parent, teacher,

Comforter, friend.

 

You walk with us through joy and heartbreak,

and you bind us together in holy community.

You poured out your grace in the life of Christ,

and we witnessed your love in his resurrection.

 

Move us to know the depth of your love,

and challenge us to share it.

 

A mighty love are you, O God,

Parent, teacher,

Comforter, friend.

 

A mighty Spirit are you, O God,

Reformer, sustainer,

Challenger, change-agent.

 

On this Reformation Day,

we give you thanks for the saints of our faith,

who have followed your leading at any cost:

For Mary, John, and Peter,

who were there to tell the news of the first Easter Day;

For Paul, Lydia, and Chloe,

who built the church on the foundation you laid;

For Martin, John, and Marie,

who dared to lead your people in Reforming;

For all the reformers since,

who have dared to challenge the status quo.

 

A mighty Spirit are you, O God,

Reformer, sustainer,

Challenger, change-agent.

 

As we remember the Reformation 500 years ago,

do not let us sit idly and reflect on the past.

Move us to follow your Holy Spirit

into the leading of the future.

 

Help us to be your church, reformed and still being reformed.

Help us to be your people, formed and still being formed.

 

Glory be to you alone,

Soli deo Gloria.

 

Move us to be people reformed and reforming,

standing on the cornerstones of our faith:

Scripture alone, Christ alone,

Faith alone, Grace alone,

Glory always, to you alone,

Knowing that we are never alone.

Amen.

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Remember that You are Dust: Ash Wednesday Reflection

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The quote is from Genesis 3:19, and churchy types will remember hearing it said on two occasions: funerals and Ash Wednesday. The phrase is often said during the “imposition of ashes,” when one person makes the mark of the cross on the forehead of another, often using ashes from burned Palm Sunday fronds. It doesn’t sound like the most uplifting of rituals, and it’s not. But, in my experience, it is one of the most honest.

Two years ago, I co-led an Ash Wednesday service at a local retirement community and nursing home. In a creaky, old, 1970s-style auditorium, my older adult friends and I called ourselves to worship, confessed our sins together, and sang of God’s forgiveness. It came time for the imposition of ashes, and, after saying a few words of introduction, my colleague invited those who wished to receive ashes to come forward or raise their hands, noting that we would be glad to meet them at their seats. Following her lead, I picked up my small, oily tin of ashes and made my rounds around the room. I stopped at every raised hand, and nearly every hand was raised. I dipped my smooth, twenty-something-year-old finger in the black muck and dragged it gently across more beautifully wrinkled foreheads than I can count.

“You are dust,” I told them, “and to dust you shall return.”

It felt strange, even hypocritical, saying those words to people in their late 90s, even early 100s. I felt certain that these people did not need a reminder that they were going to die. It felt awkward. It felt pretentious. And then, four or five people into the ritual, a tiny, 90+ year old woman shattered my selfish worries with four small words.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I told her.

Thanks be to God,” she told me, with eyes full of both confidence and humility.

Thanks be to God. It’s not the response that I expected, but it’s the response we all need to hear. Thanks be to God for breathing life into dust. Thanks be to God for making us dust, and thanks be to God for being more than dust. Remembering that we are dust means acknowledging how very small we are, how very great God is, and how very much God loves us. Remembering that we are dust means recognizing that, ultimately, we are not in control.

Remembering that we are dust means remembering that we belong to God, in life and in death. and thanks be to God for that.

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