Tag Archives: presbyterian

Prayers from Matthew and Esther: For Such a Time as This

These prayers were written with Matthew 10:34-49 and Esther 4:1-17 in my mind and my transgender friends in my heart.

Let us pray.

Speak to us this day, O God,
and humble us to hear your word.
Make us still enough to notice your presence,
Quiet enough to hear your voice,
Brave enough to speak your good news,
and wise enough to follow your spirit.

So often we pray to you for life:
to preserve life, to prolong life,
to guard life, to begin life.
Today we pray something else.
We pray for courage to lose our life for your sake,
and we pray for the wisdom to find it.

As Mordecai challenged Esther to be faithful at all costs,
make us hear the voices of people oppressed,
whose stories challenge our way of life.

We pray for your children everywhere:

For your people who are suffering,
Discriminated against because of their race, gender identity,
sexuality, or religion.
For your people who are fearful,
Faced with losing their access to healthcare or treatment.
For your people who are isolated,
Living in the shackles of addiction or abuse.

Holy comforter, challenger, redeemer,
We know that you are in our midst.
Help us recognize your spirit on the move,
and empower us to join your work.

Help us be your church, reformed and still being reformed.
Help us be your people, formed and still being formed.
Help us boldly share the news of your love,
For such a time as this.

Amen.

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Holy Holy Holy: A Prayer from the Lips of Isaiah

Refrain: Holy are you, Lord of Hosts. Holy, holy, holy.

God of mercy we pray to you,
With all our joys and all our burdens.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

Your power is beyond our imagination;
Your grace is beyond our comprehension;
Your presence is beyond our senses;
Your goodness is beyond our wildest hope.

We give you thanks for the movement of your spirit:
In the church and in the world,
In the past and in the present,
In our lives and in our neighbors,
In our hearts and in our minds.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

Even as we praise you for your power and your might,
We carry the weight of a hurting world.
Where there is pain, breathe your comfort.
Where there hunger, help us share our bread.
Where there thirst, splash living water.
Where there is weakness, help us know your strength.

Hear the prayers of our hearts,
O God our maker,
and hear the prayers we dare not put to words.
Lift them into your being,
Lift our hearts to your presence.
Into our lives, breathe your love.
Into our silence, breathe your mercy.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

In the name of Christ,
In the love Christ,
In the grace of Christ, we pray.
Amen.

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Signs and Wonders: Prayers of the People

I have the honor of serving as the liturgist for the Massanetta Bible and Church Music conferences this week. Over the course of the week, I am leading worship eleven (ELEVEN?!) times,  and I have written every word of the 30 page worship book. It has been a lot of work, but it has also been an incredible joy. 

My office for the week

I will not post all 30 pages here, but I will post a few of my favorite pieces. These are the Prayers of the People from Monday Morning worship, inspired by the conference theme, “Remembering the Reformation,” and the sermon scripture for the day: Acts 5:12-32. 

Let us pray. 


Holy God, three-in-one,

We give you thanks for your holy spirit moving through this place.

We have seen your signs and wonders;

We have heard your teachings in the street.

We have felt the shadow of your presence,

and we have been witnesses to the depth of your grace.
We give you thanks for abundant grace

that you have showered upon this world.

We give you thanks for the saints of our faith,

who have followed your leading at any cost:

For Peter, John, and Mary, who were there 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 church in Reforming,

For all the reformers since,

who have dared to challenge the status quo.
We give you thanks, O God of wonders, for these and all the signs of your goodness.

People of God, for whom and for what else do we give thanks?

(Prayers are named aloud or in silence.)

We give you thanks, O God of Mercy,

Hear our prayers. 
Your apostles carried your good news into the streets,

into the temple,

into the lives of people who were hurting.

As you did then, O God of Peter,

speak to us with your signs and wonders.

Hear our prayers and free us from our bondage.
We pray for the world that you so love:

For the ones who are imprisoned, and find no angels to open the doors.

For the ones who are sick, and find nothing to heal them. 

For the ones who are lost, and fear that no one will find them.

For the ones who are hurting, with no balm to ease their pains.
People of God, for whom and for what else do we pray?

(Prayers are named, aloud or in silence.)



Bring your signs and wonders, Holy God, 

into our lives and into your world.

Breathe your healing presence, triune God,

and burst through our locked doors. 
We offer these prayers in the name of the Christ,

The one whom you sent to bring freedom to the world.

Amen. 

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Dust: Ash Wednesday Reflection

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; on the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.


 

IMG_0368

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

I have proclaimed those words in two spaces at Central Presbyterian Church: the chapel on Ash Wednesday and the memorial garden, where green grass grows above the ashes of beloved church members. I have stood on the holy ground by that grass to pray, weep, and sing of resurrection as we buried the ashes of people we loved.  

At the end of this Lenten journey, the church will gather in that grassy patch on Easter morning, to proclaim that the truth of life is good news for the dead.

Today, though, we proclaim some form of the opposite. If on Easter, we preach that the truth of life is good news for the dead, then, on Ash Wednesday, we preach that the truth of death is good news for the living.

Last week, I found myself chatting about Ash Wednesday with some church members. We were on a trip to visit our partner church in Haiti, and the slow journey along bumpy, unpaved roads provided plenty of time for theological reflection. We got to talking about the meaning of the day and, I began, “The ashes are a sign that we are finite, and broken, and…” Another person piped in, “And we are going to die!” We laughed at the truth of her point. Maybe we laughed because it made us uncomfortable. Maybe we laughed at the irony of discussing the meaning a high liturgical day while being tossed around the back of Toyota Landrover.

Vanity of vanities, says the teacher, all is vanity.

We bumped on along the road, crawling over every boulder and bouncing with every ditch. We arrived at the village of Trou Jacques to visit with the school children and see the school lunch program that our church sponsors. We met with women in their microloan program, started by our Haiti partnership. We visited the site of their new church, being built in memory of beloved church members. We talked about plans for a new cistern, to provide water for the village. I walked around with precious Haitian children holding my hands and tugging on my skirt, trying desperately to make me understand their creole words.

The day was filled with hope and joy, but I found myself feeling burdened and overwhelmed. There is so much need, both there and here. It felt like the weight of the world, or at least the weight of one village, was resting on my shoulders.

On the way back down the mountain that day, we split into two vehicles. Blake and I decided to make the return trip in the back of an open air pickup truck. The difference in comfort between the two cars is minute; you have to hold on equally as tight in each, and the air conditioning is no cooler than the breeze in the truck bed. The main difference between the two is the dust.  

I started noticing it within the first few minutes of the trip. As our tires spun on the rocks, clouds of dirt kicked up behind us. Fine, red dust began collecting in my clothes and hair, and it made the bench seats slippery, as if covered in baby powder. I sat in the relative quiet, listening to the hum of the truck engine, feeling the dust on my skin and in my lungs, and I felt these words, deep in my soul:

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

For a moment, I remembered that God was in charge. I remembered that it is not about me. I remembered that the weight of the world is not mine to carry, and my breath returned.

If on Easter, we preach that the truth of life is good news for the dead, then, on Ash Wednesday, we preach that the truth of death is good news for the living.

The good news of Ash Wednesday is that it is not about us. The weight of the world is not ours to carry, for we are dust. Beloved, baptized dust.

“And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to the God who gave it.”

When we start to think that it is all about us, when we inflate our own self importance and start to suffocate under the weight of the world, let us stop to feel the dust on our skin and under our nails.

Remember that you are dust, and breath returns. 

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