Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pastoral Prayer: Memorial Day 2011

Faithful God, we come to you on this day and ask that you would capture our memories once again. Remind us of your story that unfolds before us in the pages of Scripture and draws us in as participants within your drama of love and redemption. Help us to remember that we are your people and you are our God. As we live, move, and have our being, capture our memories and form our hopes and dreams in light of the gospel, which is the life and work of Jesus, the world's Redeemer.

Remind us that as you created the heavens and the earth you continue to do new and beautiful things in the created world around us. Help us to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the miracles of a world created in, by, through, and for you.

Leader: Lord, hear our prayers.
People We remember.

Saving God, you led people on a boat and above the waters that flooded a violent world. You delivered your people though the waters and out of a land of oppression. You returned your people home after years of captivity in foreign lands, and you became one of us in Jesus and set us free from sin and death. Help our memories to be transformed by the good news that in Jesus the whole world, to include each of us, finds its light and salvation. May we remember our calling to proclaim with our lives and our lips this saving story. Where there is oppression, use us to be a people of liberation. Where there is captivity, make us a people of freedom. Where there are people confined to the margins, help us to practice radical hospitality. Where there are all forms of injustice and division, help us to be in solidarity with the weak, even as you are in solidarity with us.

Leader: Lord, hear our prayers.
People We remember.

Breath of God, you filled the lungs of the first disciples, captivated the earliest churches through your work at Pentecost, and even dwell within each of us as we take each breath and follow you in the world. Stir within us a fresh breath, a new wind, a faithful spirit that sends us to be your people in and for the world. As you breathe life into us, remind us that we are called to breathe life and peace into the world. We lift up to you now all those places, near and far, and people, be they strangers or close friends, who are in need of a fresh breath from you....

Leader: Lord, hear our prayers.
People We remember.

God of Justice and Peace, this weekend we ask that you would remind us that your dreams are for all people, all nations, and all of creation. Remind us that you long for a world that is in rhythm with the way you first created it- good, beautiful, and filled with life. Yet we are reminded that we dwell in a world torn by violence, held captive by war, and bent systems that elevate the powerful and privileged. On this day we also lift up to you all those who have served in and/or are victims of war, be they soldiers or children, veterans or innocent bystanders, Americans and/or any and all who have served in the armed forces, be it for this nation or another. Be their peace, be their hope, be their comfort. Remind us that the day is coming when nations will no longer study war and all we will know is life and peace that transcends any and all divisions and strifes.

Leader: Lord, hear our prayers.
People We remember.

As a traveling people, we move in the world as pilgrims. We travel not alone, but with each other. Help us to remember that each day is a journey, each place visited an opportunity, each encounter a possibility to see your work in another or to share the good news that in Jesus the whole world is being made right. And as we travel, form our memory around the prayer Jesus taught us to say:

Our Father...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Breath of God: Today's Pastoral Prayer

Below is a pastoral I wrote this morning for the worship liturgy. It is based off of the lectionary text from Ezekiel 37

God, in the beginning you created the heavens and the earth; the earth was a formless void, a stirring chaos, and darkness was as deep as it was wide. A sacred wind, even a breath from God, swept over the face of the waters and You said, 'Let there be light.'
Breath of God, where there is darkness in our world, bring light. Where there is chaos, bring calm and stillness. Where there are empty voids, fill them with your creative, hope-filled love and presence.
When there were yet to be plants, or herbs, harvests or creatures, God, You created humans, breathed into the their nostrils the breath of life, and invited humanity to be filled as living beings who dwelled within and cared for the world You created as good.
Breath of God, breathe yet again into us the call to care for your creation, to love one another, and to cultivate life in the world you created. Remind us over and again that all life begins in you, each breath a gift from you, each day an opportunity to dwell as living beings in a world filled with possibilities for growth and new life.
God, in the valley filled with dry and dead bones You announced that through Your breath life was to be returned and restored. God, You promised once again to do a new thing with something old, to set free what was held captive to death, to give fresh movement to what was left frail and immobile.
Breath of God, announce to us and the world that in you life is returned and restored. Breathe into our bones the ability to move in rhythm with your dreams for the world and your kingdom here and yet to come. Open our eyes to people and places held captive by systems of evil, greed, violence, and poverty. Breathe into your church, near and far, the ability to work for justice, strive for peace, and live into the resurrection that is for us and the whole world. We especially ask that on this day you would be with those in this congregation who are in need of a fresh breath of hope and strength for whatever reason or circumstance. We also lift up to you those who have recently been hospitalized or sick... We also pray for a breath of compassion upon those who grieve...
Jesus, after the resurrection you entered into a gathering with your disciples, greeted them, and breathed into them the Spirit of God. You then invited them to follow this Spirit, filled by the breath of God, as faithful disciples who carried out the mission of God that is for the whole world.
Breath of God, Holy Spirit, fill our lungs and stir within us the ability to follow you into the world. Send us from this place to be your people who bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, and self-control. And may the prayer Jesus taught us form us along the way as we travel together:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name
thy kingdom come
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven
give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflections on bin Laden's Death: Whose Death Brings Justice?

In the preface of N.T. Wright’s, Evil and the Justice of God, he reflects on September 11, 2001 and writes:

“The problem of evil” is not something we will “solve” in the present world, and that our task is not so much to give answers to impossible philosophical questions as to bring signs of God’s new world to birth on the basis of Jesus’ death and in the power of his Spirit, even in the midst of the “present evil age” (11).
This past Easter my wife and I brought home our two babies for the first time, Holy Week disrupted with the sacred arrival of two beautiful new lives. That being said, the Christian drama that unfolds each spring, while celebrated in our own way, did take a sort of back seat to the holy chaos and buzz that moved throughout our home. It was easy for me to move away from the new life found in the resurrection of Jesus because I had just witnessed new lives come into our world on Maundy Thursday.

And then there was last night.

As I watched the Phillies head to extra innings against the Mets, the broadcast was interrupted by the news that Osama bin Laden had been captured and killed. And our President announced that justice had come. Citizens Bank Park moved from a pitcher’s duel to a nationalistic celebration that transcended athletic allegiances. Celebrations were held in front of the White House.  Facebook was flooded with reactionary comments that rejoiced and found hope in the death of the leader of al Qaeda.  Even Christians claimed victory through the actions of our military.

And I wept.

I was torn by feelings of relief and questions about what is next. Does this really bring closure? Are we really now safer? Has justice really come? Is this really justice or vengeance? Am I to find hope in this news? Has it really been 10 years since 9/11? What does this mean for my two children and their future safety? What does this mean for the church, for Christians? How am I to hear Obama’s address in light of the gospel and Easter narrative? What should be my response to my neighbors, to include my Muslim neighbors?

This is neither the time nor the place to launch an unfiltered discourse in regards to my reactions, opinions, or political inclinations about the historical event that was last night. However, I do wonder, have we so quickly forgotten the event of Good Friday and the vocation of Jesus’ death that was God’s act of justice for us and the whole world. Again, Jesus’ death was God’s incarnation and subversive act of justice…and nothing or no one else. So, with the liturgy of the stars and stripes flooding twitter feeds, nationalistic shouts of Hosanna streaming through facebook statuses, and endless blogs, to include mine, reacting to the abrupt news of May 1, 2011, I pray that I would meditate on the words of Jesus, who lived in love, died as an act of justice, and rose from the grave as a foreshadow of the new creation and deliverance that is both already here and yet to come- for us and the whole world. And may we “bring signs of God’s new world” this day… especially this day.


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12)

 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43 - 6:1)

Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)

Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

Then he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:16-21)

He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial." (Luke 11:2-4)

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19:41-42)

Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

He is the image of God, the invisible one,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him all things were created,
in the heavens and here on earth.
Things we can see and things we cannot,
-thrones and lordships and rulers and powers-
All were created both through him and for him.

And he is ahead, prior to all else
and in him all things hold together;
And he himself is supreme, the head
over the body, the church.

He is the start of it all,
firstborn from realms of the dead;
so in all things he might be the chief.
For in him all the Fullness was glad to dwell
and through him to reconcile all to himself,
making peace through the blood of his cross,
through him– yes, things on earth,
and also the things in the heavens.
(Colossians 1:15-20)

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