Monday, July 22, 2013

A Prayer of Thanksgiving and Offering

Loving God,

We are so often distracted
by our fears and frustrations,
by our losses and lacks,
by our angers and anxieties,
by the things that offend us
and by our need to be on the defensive--
we are so distracted,
we forget
that in all things
in all things
we are to give You thanks.

Still, we know
that we cannot even begin to worship You
without proclaiming our gratitude,
for You
are the Giver of all good and perfect gifts,
which become even more precious to us
in times of sorrow,
and conflict.
Forgive us, O God, for forgetting to be thankful
for all the goodness You give so generously.

Receive now our humble thanks:

For the gift of Your church,
the provision of a beautiful facility,
the care of loving pastors,
the fellowship of a diverse family--
God, gatherer of congregations,
we give You thanks and praise!

For the gift of Your presence, abiding with us
even and especially in deepest darkness;
for Your comfort, for Your help,
and for the comfort and help You give us through one another--
God, everlasting arm and eternal home,
we give You thanks and praise!

For the gift of Your freedom,
the amazing spaciousness of grace
where there is room for every part of us
and where there is room for all of us--
God, merciful sovereign,
we give You thanks and praise!

For the gift of Your Son,
who knows us by name and by heart, and
who offers us a strange and surprising task:
to let go of our worries so we can truly receive him.
God, Abba and I Am,
we give you thanks and praise!

And for the many gifts of Your people,
offered up this and every day in Your service:
gifts of money, time, attitude, song, study,
prayer, service, leadership, encouragement--
God, equipper of the saints,
we give You thanks and praise!

For all these gifts, and countless more,
we give you all our thanks and praise.
Receive our worship,
and receive all the offerings we bring.
We give them with full hearts,
desiring only that they--
and we--
may be used in Your service.


(partially inspired by the hymn "Abide with Me," and the Gospel reading Luke 10:38-42)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Day 21: The Return

Today's readings: Micah 5:1-5 and Luke 1:47-55

Then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord... and they shall live secure... (Micah 5:3b-4)

He has shown strength with his arm... he has filled the hungry with good things... (Luke 1:51a, 53a)

The Advent journey is a trip home.

The people of God take to the road with a familiar destination drawing them forward: the lands of our ancestors, the cities of our births. When we return to our kindred, we're struck by how changed things are (how changed we are) and by how other things are exactly the same... and tears may flow down our cheeks for both reasons.

When we return, we may be prodigals, welcomed with open arms and feasting, all our hungers being filled with only good... or we may be strangers, every door closed to us, "no vacancies" voiced by every gruff innkeeper.

But there is One who awaits our return, just as we've been awaiting his.

He's waiting to feed us on his strength, on the glory of his name. He's waiting to give us security that (no matter how adamant or how confident we are) we cannot achieve ourselves. He's waiting to bring peace, through us or in spite of us. He's waiting, just as we are, for the day when every ancient promise will be fulfilled: the lowest ones lifted up, starving bodies and souls nourished. He's waiting for us to come down the road singing----but instead of "Over the river and through the woods," he's listening for choruses of "My soul magnifies the Lord..." The old family home is ready for our arrival, lights burning in the windows, the feast prepared, the joyous welcome on his lips.

Why do we keep him waiting?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Day 20: Companions.

Today's reading: Luke 3:7-18

Do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our ancestor"; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  (v. 8b)

If you think you know who your companions are on the journey of Advent--on the journey of faith, the very journey of life--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) is peopled with tax collectors, soldiers, questioners, sinners. And if the pedigreed people in the religious family tree harden their hearts and close their eyes and fold their arms and refuse to be fruitful among this most unlikely company, God will raise up a brand new family from the surrounding stones.

If you think spouting your spiritual genealogy gets you off the hook of repentance--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) is the turning-around way, the bending-the-knee way, the giving-all way. What must we do to bear good fruit, to avoid the axe that cuts down even the most religious, but fruitless, tree? What must we do---recite our ancestry, repeat our bedtime prayers, regulate our creeds? No. What must we do? Give (and give more). Do your job fairly. Be kind and be truthful. Be satisfied.

If you think your religious membership is a Golden Ticket, an all-access pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) echoes with Hallelujahs sung by the outcast, rings with Glorias shouted by the poor, hums with prayers whispered by the unworthy.


If you think you are one of them (outcast, poor, unworthy--and we are all unworthy--); if you think there's no place for you on the holy routes; if you think you're too broken, too sick, too sad, too liberal, too conservative, too powerless, too doubtful, too angry, too hurt, too empty--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) is the Good News road! Think you've become hardened? God calls our stony hearts to life. Think you're mired in empty speeches and thoughtless recitations? God invites us to a faith that acts. Think your song has been silenced, your prayers unheard? God gathers up even the smallest grains of love into a harvest that will feed a starving world.

So if you think you're ready to join your unlikely, unworthy companions on this road (this Advent road, this Life road, this Good News road): come, and walk. We're on the way.