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ImageLast night I had the honor of offering an opening prayer at La Cena, an All Saints Feast put together by Cafe Momentum and House of Plates. Here’s the prayer that I wrote. Please feel free to use it for churches or other celebrations (churches may want to substitute “today” for “tonight”)

 

 

Tonight we remember the saints

And give thanks for the way they shaped us. May we mold the world according to their witness.

Tonight we remember the saints

And give thanks for the way they loved us. May we reflect their light, long after their lives have slipped into darkness.

Tonight we remember the saints

And pray  we be remembered like them. For this fleeting flesh will not last, but the fossil remain of our work will surely linger and give shape to the coming age.

Tonight we remember the saints

And savor their memory as we do this meal. May we be nourished by this food, nourished by their memory so that we might serve the world in a way that brings light to darkness food to hunger courage to victim flesh to bone water to thirst life to death.

Tonight we remember the saints

and give thanks to God, the giver of death.

Tonight we remember the saints

and give thanks to God, the giver of life.

1: What if the wisemen passed through Bethlehem on their way to Herod?

2: What if they went to a king to find a lamb?

1: What if they passed the shepherds along the way?

2: What if they looked up to a star when God was giggling below?

All: What if we were like them?

1: What if Epiphany is a divine do-over,

2: a holy mulligan,

1: for those who are regarded wise

2: and for those who miss Christ along the journey?

All: What if we find the Christ child today?

In the Blink of an Eye

A prayer for the 10th anniversary of September 11th, led by four voices

1: In the blink of an eye, a mangled torrent of steel, jet fuel and earth ended hundreds of lives.  Our nation opened its eyes once again to tragedy.  And we wept.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

 

2:  In the blink of an hour, thousands more would die.  People who showed up for work at a desk.  People who showed up for work, on a plane.  People who showed up for work on the back of a firetruck, never to return home.  They made one last phone call, said one last prayer and their eyes were closed.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

3:  In the blink of a day, tens of thousands flocked to scarred remains of earth, broken shards of buildings.  Churches opened their doors, restaurants opened their tables, donors opened their veins and their wallets.  The world opened its heart.  Humanity’s best reflected light in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  Covered in ash…covered in shock…covered in grief, we were all the same…and the world opened its eyes to hope.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

4:  In the blink of a year, we were at war—twice.  Revenge tangled with justice…confusion tangled good will…hatred tangled hope.  In some ways, we offered peace.  In some ways, we became like those who had hurt us.  We saw the world with blinders that follow injustice.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

2:  In the blink of ten years, we have adjusted to a new normal.  On September 10th, 2001 ,we had more wealth, more confidence, more naiveté, more innocence, more friends.  We had far fewer scars.  But scars, too, are signs of hope—reminders of healing–that life goes on, that the  arc of the time bends towards recovery.  Scars in our memories, in our land and in our skyline remind us that injury and death do not have the last word unless we give it to them.  Scar tissue is resilient, tough and hopeful.  We see the world with renewed hope.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

1:  And so we confess

2:  That we have not loved our enemies

3:  That we have not prayed for them

4:  That we have, at times, become like them

2:  That we have bombed their children instead of feeding them

3:  That our instinct to hate and hurt were in us before we were attacked

All: Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

1:  And so we celebrate

3:  That there is light in valley

2:  That we were able to participate in that light

4:  That the nations of this world struggle towards freedom

2:  That you were not silent on 9/11 and you have not been silent since

3:  That we have begun to heal

All: Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

 

1:  And so, wide-eyed, we look

4:  For a world of hope

2:  For a world of peace

3:  For a world of faith

2:  For a world of love

4:  In the long gaze of God.

All:  Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

A PRAYER in REMEMBRANCE of 9/11

With light, in three voices

Preparation

Set up a table or altar with 100 lit candles (tea lights are easy) and 1 Christ candle in the middle (bigger than the rest).

Arrange for 3 readers.  Position them around the room.

Arrange one acolyte to extinguish candles in the appropriate places.  You will want to line up an additional few acolytes for the last section.

 

 

Prayer

<extinguish six candles>

1:

On September 11th, 2001, 2,626 people died while they began their day at work in buildings so tall they scraped the sky. 125 died in the Pentagon—the only military personnel to die that day.  246 died aboard airplanes that no longer lived in the sky.  Nearly 3,000 lives were lost in a matter of hours. 

2:  For all those who suddenly lost their life.

3:  For all those whose prayers rose up and were suddenly silenced

2:  For those who made one last phone call goodbye

3:  For those who did not have time for that last call or who never got through

1:  For the innocence lost that day

3:  For images that are burned permanently in our minds

2:  For the questions that rise out of the ashes

3:  For all who mourned and continue to mourn.

3:  Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

<extinguish six candles>

2: Since September 11th, 2001, 5,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and at least 1,700 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

1: For the family members of those who have lost their lives

2: For those families that wait with constant fear of bad news

3:  For those families who live with constant anticipation of any news

1:  For those who watch  their friends die

2:  For those who are willing to die for their passion

3:  For those who carry the weight of death

1:  For those who live in fear and distrust, never knowing which un-uniformed civilian intends them harm

2:  For those who live in the shadow of death

2:Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

<extinguish six candles>

3:  Since September 11th, 2001, roughly 16,000 Afghani civilians have died. 

<begin rapidly, but reverently extinguishing candles until only the Christ candle and a few others are lit>

3:  Since September 11th, 2001 countless Iraqi civilians have died at the hands of insurgents and coalition forces.  Conservative estimates place the death toll in the neighborhood of 60,000.  An estimate put together by researchers from Johns Hopkins, Cornell and an Iraqi University place the actual death toll well above 100,000.

There will be no websites with memorials to every victim, nor will there be plaques on walls.  For most will remain nameless in the eyes of the world—only known by the other members of their village as a father, mother, son, daughter, co-worker, friend.

1:  For those who have lost a loved one in sudden death.

2:  For those who have died with no relationship to the cause of violence

3:  For those who have given their lives to a cause they did not want

2:  For those who want the cause but not the cost

1:  For those who held a loved one in their arms

3:  For those who struggle with guilt following the death of the innocent

1:  For all the soldiers who have offered mercy

3:  For the soldiers who have not offered mercy

2:  For all those who have begged for their life

3:  For those who are in harm’s way but do not know it

<begin lighting candles again>

2:  For the church who struggles to find its prophetic voice in the midst of a changing world. 

3:  For Christians, who struggle with questions of conscience and loyalties between religion, ideology and patriotism

1:  For Muslims and Jews who struggle with questions of conscience and loyalties between religion, ideology and patriotism

Lord in Your Mercy

Hear our Prayer

3:  For the leaders of our world

1: For the terrorists in this world

2: For our bishops and the leaders of other churches

3:  for the pope

1:  for President Obama

2:  for Foreign Prime Ministers, Presidents and Dictators

3: for Ban Ki-Moon and the United Nations

2: for the soul of Osama Bin Laden

3: may he rest in peace

1:  For wisdom

3: for peace

2:  For discernment

1: for peace

3:  for restraint

2: for peace

1:  For justice

3: for peace

1:  for mercy and understanding

2: for peace

1: for peace

3: for peace

2: for love   <pause>

3: Lord in your Mercy

Hear our prayer

1: We humbly ask that you would bless us and keep us in the palm of your hand.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

We offer this time of quiet, praying that your mercy would fall upon us.

<wait at least two  minutes…TIME IT>

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

This past week, I took a handful of college students up to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to walk a prayer labyrinth.  I walked the labyrinth looking for direction about some upcoming decisions.  At times, I’ve been trying to make things happen and was curious if I was supposed to make them happen or just see what happens.  As I began walking the labyrinth, my thought began to quickly wander.  I’m not typically good at this naval-gazing spiritual reflection stuff.  By the time I made it to the center, I had calmed the random thoughts and focused on one thing: ‘how do I lead a meaningful discussion about the labyrinth experience when this is over.’   I walked into the labyrinth looking for discussion points and had forgotten to reflect on my question–my spiritual need.  So I told myself (or God told me), ‘stop planning, just be.’  In a flash, I realized that God had just answered the question that led me to the labyrinth in the first place–am I working to hard to make things happen?

Similar to my experience walking into the labyrinth, it seems to me that many pastors (by which I mean, myself) read the scriptures looking for talking points.  We hone in on the meaty stuff, ignore the stuff that won’t obviously connect with our people and, I believe, frequently miss the bigger picture and beauty of the scripture.  If I hadn’t caught myself, I’m not sure I would have ever opened myself to God to hear the message.  There might be a sermon in there.

Conversations with the students afterwards was great.  Here are some highlights of our insights together:

  • The longest, uninterrupted pathways were the ones that were the farthest from the center.  In order to stay close to the center, you have to keep turning and changing direction.
  • Entry into the center was a surprise.  The end of the journey into the center happens very suddenly from the outside of the circle when we thought we were far away.
  • It’s hard to tell where we are on our journey…how close or far away.  It’s even harder to tell where other people are on their path–even if we know who started before or after us.
  • “My feet were deliberately walking along a particular direction for the first time in a long time.  Usually I just lollygag my way around.”  Seems to be true of real life as well.
  • There is only one path.  That being said, we can choose to ignore the lines, jump to a different spot on the path or just go straight to the center.  OR, we can follow the path layed out before us which was (literally) difficult to see at times.  We wondered how many people missed some of the pathway lines and ended up back in the middle after thinking they were on their way out.  IF we chose to ignore the lines, intersting outcomes can happen, but we all saw how cheap of an experience it would be to simply walk into the middle and then walk out.
  • At one point, one person got lonely, abandoned his path, put an arm around me and started walking with me.  At first, I was annoyed. ‘didn’t he listen to the rules?  This is supposed to be a solo journey.’  Then I realized, ‘this is cool…he abandoned his path to walk with me because he didn’t want to be lonely.  I should be willing to work with that.’  We walked togehter for a bit.  Eventually, he decided to let go and walk on his own again. 

If you’ve never walked a labyrinth before, make sure to give it a try and experience what it is to wander in the direction of God.

This is a short prayer that I wrote on the way to church on Sunday.  It was inspired by a David Crowder song:

When darkness falls on us,

We will not fear, we will remember that your light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

When rain falls on the earth,

We will not fear, we will remember the waters of our baptism that bring death, but also new life, purpose, calling     and grace.

When sickness overshadows our bodies,

We will not fear, we will remember that Jesus healed 2000 years ago and that Jesus continues to heal today.

When we walk in the valley of the shadow of death,

We will not fear, we will remember that you are with us—your rod and your staff comfort us.

When our sins and mistakes cover our souls.  When we’ve broken someone’s heart.  When we’ve broken your heart,

We will not fear, we will remember the prodigal son who remembered the goodness of the father.

When  fear creeps in, help us to remember.

Amen    

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