Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Psalm 66 and Contentment of Creation: A Lyric for Seasons of Angst and Uncertainty

“All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:4)*

without fear
worry nowhere present
only worship in the air
creation not naive
the earth fully aware
still content, unwavered
assured of God’s tender care 
listen to the birds
consider lilies in the fields
amidst chaos and confusion
not phased by despair
each tree a proverb
landscapes as parables
wisdom in their spoken words
if we listen, they are there
fear not
fret not
God is here

*This was the lectionary Psalm for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Proper 23 of Year C. Photo taken at the Colombia River Gorge in Portland, OR after the 222nd General Assembly. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Lord's Prayer for Days Such as These

Written after reading Julia Esquivel’s, "Lord’s Prayer from Guatemala" in Threatened with Resurrection.  Esquivel's contextual and liturgical expansion of Jesus' prayer provides a framework and formative praxis for individuals and communities called to prayer in the midst of the varied human struggles and related incarnations of the gospel. Work through each movement of the Lord's' Prayer and add what the Spirit may draw to the forefront of your heart and imagination...

Our Father of the human family
whose image is reflected in every person
young and older
here and there
across all nations, neighborhoods, colors, and class
Be near.

Our Father of children who walk into schools each day,
of teachers who guide and instruct them
of youth who do not have access to quality education
or the arts
vulnerable to a life of less and not enough
Be near.

Our Father of those who only know of violence and war
who flee countries
mothers and children
looking for refuge in a land not their own.
Bear near.

Our Father of those who know guns are too readily accessible 
whose loved ones have been killed
their bodies lay in the streets 
taken by weapons purchased with great ease
to others profit. 
Be near.

Our Father of First Nations People
those who have been forced to live as strangers 
Water Protectors who care for creation
more than oil, innovation, and profit margins
Be near.

Our Father of those who fear the red and blue lights 
who have to speak with greater caution when stopped
afraid they will be perceived as threat because of their pigmentation 
many slain by those called to serve and protect
in front of their children
Be near.

Our Father in heaven
your name is not hallowed on this earth.
But the names of the fallen are.
The endless names attached to hashtags and movements
headlines and calls to action
Hallow your name in the wake of their suffering.

Hallowed be your name through the witness of the persecuted church
the faithful present and in ages past
who have remained true to the call
even at the expense of their very lives 
claimed by those whose god is Terror
whose faith is Vengeance
whose doctrine is Hate. 

Hallowed be your name through the bodies of the oppressed
the wounds of the neglected
the cries of those who have struggled for far too long 
in neighborhoods quarantined from opportunity 
fenced off from privilege
brushed under the rugs of the elite.

Hallowed be your name in young people who struggle with visions of the future
who take on debt just to keep up with the new normal
youth who are uncertain about what is to come
yet know what is cannot remain
Hallowed be your name in their voices that long for change
seek a better way.

Hallowed be your name in the work of teachers and activists
doctors and lawyers
pastors and church leaders
theologians and contemplatives 
social workers and peacemakers
artists and writers
protesters and community organizers
leaders in political office who dare to see their work as truly serving the public good. 

May your kingdom come where there is malnourishment in the developing world
and in our own nation
where food banks have surplus in preservatives and nutrition comes at a high cost
May your kingdom come through urban gardens
Your will be done in community dinners.

May your kingdom come in calls to peace
your will be done in non-violent means to conflict resolution
May your kingdom come through the church willing to surrender old programs and paradigms
as we develop holistic initiatives that benefit those beyond our buildings
your will be done in faithful use of the arts alongside those in recovery
others re-entering after years of imprisonment

May your kingdom come in parts of the earth
Baton Rouge
San Diego
Mexico City
Tel Aviv
As it is heaven.

Give daily bread to those hungry for medical care
steady employment
fair treatment
women who long for equal pay and equal opportunity
immigrants looking for housing, employment, and full-inclusion as citizens in this nation.

Give daily bread to those unable to make mortgage payments
who fear foreclosure
cannot make rent
others whose families are torn by addiction and infidelity.

To children who wonder their worth
sit alone at lunch
whose mothers or fathers are absent
Give them their daily bread of love and comfort
adults who will remind them they are valued and mean something to somebody
to You.

Give daily bread of freedom to those who live under surveillance
hear sounds of war out their bedroom windows 
who have lived under the thumb of dictators and leaders thirsty for more power
protect us from the threat of tyranny.

Give daily bread of liberation to those who have remained behind closet doors
in house
where orientation is used as yet another means to exploit
exclude, and rob another of their dignity. 

Give daily bread to those who truly need a slice of bread
or fruit
or fresh vegetables
that many of us waste without conviction
Give them our daily bread when we have weeks worth of sustenance 
taken for granted and left to rot. 

And forgive us when we ignore the cries and concerns of our neighbor
forgive those who have not heard us when we have been in need
move us towards the day when debts do not lead to another’s capital gain
Forgive us for the way we have constructed systems fueled by debt
worked by indentured servants
who go from earned degree to endless streams of bills never to be fully paid. 
Forgive us our debts.
Lead us to jubilee rooted in more than enough for all. 

Lead us not into the temptation of individualism 
separating ourselves from your call to the common good
to the needs of our neighbor
Deliver us from the evil of hoarding what we have for ourselves 
Deliver us from the evil of us and them language
from religious language as undergarments of political systems, 
legislation, and powers bent on the privileged
quests for empire expansion
Deliver us from the myth of national security that leads us to build higher walls
wield more weapons of war
and label persons of varied ethnicities and religions as perceived threats.

Deliver us from the evil of greed and rhetoric that bullies our opponents 
those with whom we disagree.
Deliver us from the temptation to seek the destruction of our enemies
versus pursue reconciliation, redemption, and diplomacy
at. all. costs. 
Deliver us from divisions in church and home, 
neighborhoods and nations. 
Lead us out of the temptation to despair alone. 

For yours is the kingdom of dreams and new possibilities
welcome and universal love.
Yours is the power that leads others towards wholeness and hope, 
not leveraged at the expense of another.
Yours is the glory that draws all towards a brighter day when all will have enough 
when the one human family will gather together
to worship
to work
to embrace
to celebrate
that our labors were never- not for one instant
in vain.
All will be well.
All will be right again.


Friday, September 30, 2016

A Litany for Conversations on Stewardship of Money, Mission, and Media

What is below was used as part of closing liturgy for the recent Money, Mission, and Media Seminar, a collaborative and ecumenical conversation among ministry leaders in the PCUSA, ELCA, and more.  Details here.  Other Resources here. 


Voice 1: Creator and Sustainer of us all, you made goodness out of nothingness, breathed life into what was once dust, and invited us into your creative work of caring for and nurturing all creation. This story of collaborative care, creativity, and holy possibility binds us one to another.

Voice 2: Alongside the invitation you have extended over and over, you continue to call, equip, and empower us to tell the story of your love for all creation, in word, in image, in action.  

All: May we respond to your invitation with courage and imagination. May we respond to your generosity with generosity, giving of ourselves and our resources freely and without conditions.  

Voice 3: In the midst of frequent narratives of scarcity and perceived limitations, remind us of your call to abundant life and gratitude. Where we are shaken by despair and tempted to pursue self-preservation and isolation, turn our eyes and ears, open our hearts, to the concerns of our neighbors.

Voice 4: Re-frame how we understand money, investments, and invitations to give so we and those we lead can fully live into our call to serve with imagination and love. Where our imagination fails us, show us how all we have can be transformed into resurrection hope alongside our congregations and communities.

All: May we be faithful stewards as we work within economic systems, contextual leaders as we equip others to give in new and old ways, and creative collaborators with new and existing partners for ministry.

Voice 5: Inclusive and loving Christ, you broke conventional understandings of who is in and who is out. You viewed every place and each person as a channel of God’s grace and redemption. Help us to do the same.

Voice 6: In our own time and place, enable us to see local businesses, digital platforms, social networks, community parks, and various places beyond the walls of our church buildings as cathedrals in its fullest definition: sacred spaces for conversation and community-building.

All: May we be faithful servants to our neighbors outside the church walls: those in our neighborhoods, main streets, work places, schools, and all the “third places” in our midst.

Voice 7: Holy Spirit, you dwell within each of us and send us to be both a gathered and scattered people. When we limit your mission only to worship and not community engagement, reduce the gospel to well-crafted theological statements, and become comfortable with variations of privilege and power, confront our conscience and call us back to the vision you have for the world, for the Church, for us. .

Voice 8: Make us cultivators of community and gardeners of justice. Empower us to be agents of welcome and hosts of the stranger. Stir our hearts and minds to ask faithful questions as we extend solidarity alongside our local and distant neighbors.

All: May we listen to and uplift voices long silenced and those who have been marginalized for far too long. May we link arms and join the cause of those labeled least and last among us.

Voice 9: God who includes, who provides, who loves, who guides, who challenges, may our understanding of who you are and how you relate to us frame how we view and relate to one another.

Voice 10: Unify us amidst the divisiveness of both church and world, and guard us against confusing sameness with oneness.

All: May we be faithful stewards and caretakers of the varied gifts and stories, histories and cultures, ministry dreamers, and community leaders in our congregations and communities. May we listen and may we tell the story of how you are at work in the world with imagination and joy.

Voice 11: May we be faithful stewards of our money. Remind us that everything we have is a gift from you. Our money does not own us. Quiet the voices of scarcity and remind us of all the times you have provide for us. Give us the courage to practice unclenching our fists and give our money in ways that are creative, daring, and enlivening. Bless our gifts, multiply them, so that all may know your love for them and this world.

Voice 12: May we be faithful stewards of media. Remind us that the Good News is a story, a Story you have been writing since creation, a story of love, redemption, and reconciliation. Give us the skills or send us the right people to help us tell that story in word and in images, across contexts and platforms, with authenticity and love.

All: May we be faithful stewards of God’s mission in and for the world God so loves. May we encourage God’s people to live into their call as disciples who extend love and tell the story of the Gospel. Amen.

Written and Developed by Rev. Greg Klimovitz and Rev. Rebecca Blake, 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Money, Mission, Media: The Beginnings of an On-Going (Ecumenical) Conversation

What would it look like to host a conversation on the varied intersections of stewardship and media and all things ministry in the twenty-first century?

How could we as Presbyterians and Lutherans model ecumenical collaboration critical for church witness in our local cities and neighborhoods?

Would it be possible to host a conversation that would at least acknowledge, if not reduce, the anxiety that surrounds new media and the here-to-stay digital world?

Dare we suggest the possibility of stewardship and digital platforms for generosity and community formation as sacramental, means to encounter God's grace and proclaim the gospel?

As local PCUSA and ELCA ministers, we raised these questions and more to one another over coffee and the occasional beer. We also knew these were questions others in our synod, presbytery, and related congregations were asking.

So, with the respective support of our communities, we recruited voices in the church who are exploring the edges of ministry in a digital world, Adam Copeland, Mihee Kim-Kort, and Keith Anderson, pulled together a panel of practitioners for a fishbowl discussion, and launched #MoneyMissionMedia: Insights & Strategies for 21st Century Ministry.  Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia even graciously offered to host.

We initially targeted 75 conversation partners across both the local ELCA Synod and the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, over 200 showed up.

I learned much. What I most valued was the praxis of ecumenical collaboration that continues to deconstruct any territorialism that impinges upon our larger Christian witness in and for the world. Even more, the conversations were raw, honest, deeply theological, and rooted in a commitment to contextualized expressions of the gospel.

As our Presbytery's own Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace noted in the opening remarks, "We are indeed in a new Pentecost moment."

May the church dare embrace it.

Here are a few resources from the gathering:

My tweets from that day.
Summary article from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (ELCA)
Adam Copeland Presentation (Facebook Live)
Mihee Kim-Kort Presentation (Facebook Live)
Fishbowl Conversation with Local Practitioners (Facebook Live)
Keith Anderson Presentation (Facebook Live)
Closing Liturgy

Article by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

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