Tag Archive: prayer


Lost Art of Lament

candle-1537086-640x480We live in a broken world, and we often live in one of two extremes. Sometimes we lean far over and put on the smile while ignoring the darkness and devastation around us. Then sometimes we lean far over in the other direction and we are overwhelmed despairing over the currently highlighted reason to be afraid. Whether it is a political candidate being depicted as this cycles new Satan, the threat of terrorism, the next pandemic, or out of control climate change we often get consumed with fear. We run toward quick fixes, prescriptions drugs, other substances, security systems, binge watching TV, or whatever else we can find to help us either white wash the tomb, or pad the pit of our despair. When we look through the scriptures and our Christian tradition we can discover rich resources of lament to help guide us through. It seems much of our culture, even within the church, has lost the art of lament.  Biblical lamenting willingly holds in tension both the reality of the darkness around us, and the hope that the darkness has not overcome the light of God that has entered into the world.

In worship this past Sunday we dusted off the treasure of lament, and afterward there seemed to be healing experienced by many. After worship it suddenly made sense why so many of our Psalms are coated with the healing balm of lament. It was powerful in worship to simply name the darkness and devastation we see around us -to name evil as evil and darkness as darkness, and to let our hearts join in solidarity as much as possible with those experiencing the blunt end of violence and cry out to God together. It was also powerful to remember that the light of God shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Lamenting didn’t seem to directly change the brokenness of the world, but it sure seemed to shift our perception of it. As we held together this tension of darkness and God’s overwhelming light I had conversations after worship that revealed how possible avenues of healing which seemed hidden before began to come into focus.

We do live in broken world, but we hold onto the promise of God making all things new.

Lord God Almighty, whose light shines in the darkness, light that cannot be overcome, help us to practice the art of lament and share this healing gift with the world. As we remember former tragedies or face new ones help us live in the glorious tension that acknowledges the reality of the pain we see and the greater reality of God. May your kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. 

I will be posting the laments we used in worship during the week so more can practice the art of lament.

Grace – Again and Again

GUE-bulletinNow I don’t want to minimize the prophet Elijah’s situation. He really did have a death threat. Jezebel promised that he had less than 24 hours to live. This threat was backed up by Jezebel already having killed off many of God’s prophets. It was after this threat that we see Elijah afraid and depressed and he is sitting under a tree wishing he were in the grave with his ancestors because he has had enough. His fear and this taxing depression made him feel ready to quit. Just like Elijah I think when we are in those dark places we tend to not see things as they really are.

Elijah, ready to give up, lost sight of all that God had done before. He forgot about the ravens, the oil, the flour, the widow’s son, and the fire that consumed the altar. Also he was speaking as if he were alone and the world was against him. He says to God how all of God’s people had forsaken their covenant relationship with God. This was only partly true. The people had turned along with king Ahab, but Elijah was there as he watched God’s people return to God on Mt. Carmel. In his depression he was failing to see the fullness of the story. Elijah claims to be alone – the last of GOd’s prophets. Jezebel had been killing off the prophets, but in his place of fear memory gets distorted. He leaves out key details of how God had delivered 100 other prophets . He felt like he was alone and the last one, but he wasn’t.  Just like Elijah when we are in our dark places we have trouble seeing what is real and true.

 

God comes and wakes Elijah up from a sleep that he did not want to ever wake up from, and God gently tells Elijah to “Get up and eat.” He wakes to a meal of hot bread and water/God’s presence and grace. Still bound to his fear and depression Elijah lays back down, but God offers second meal of grace and strength for the journey. God comes to him in this dark valley offering the grace of a meal and his presence again and again. God knows he needs this continuing grace to see the fullness of who God is, to see the reality of who he is, and to see his situation as it really is in the context of God’s presence and grace. God says to us again and again “get up and eat” so we can see out of our dark valleys and have strength for the journey.

Jesus Christ, thank you for offering yourself to us again and again in all the means of grace that we might have our eyes open to see you, ourselves, and the world clearly. Strengthen us by your powerful presence when we are wandering in the wilderness of depression. Amen.

 

Ringers

We all need to hear a certain type of bell ring.001

We hear many bells. We hear ringing of bells that alert us that class is over, the leftovers in the microwave are done, it is time to check the biscuits in the oven, we have email, or a text message arrived .

Our watches and phones beep and ring binding us to the time.
Pulling and prodding us away from what is around us to what is ahead.
Bells ring for our safety because we haven’t fastened our seat belt, a battery is low, a heart monitor announcing our pace, or a sensor keeping track of the level of oxygen in our blood.
Yesterday, after round and round of chemotherapy, ups and downs, anxiety and fear, tears and struggle a young boy was declared liberated and free from the things that were threatening to rob him of life. A bell sounded. Treatment is done.
We never ring the bells of liberty alone. Surrounding that young boy reaching for that bell is a great cloud of people witnessing to the kingdom of God. From a mom, dad, a sister, and a brother holding and lifting each other while the waves of cancer swelled, to the doctors and nurses using God given compassion, wisdom, and reason to participate in his healing. From the janitors who kept a well lived in hospital room clean to women sewing and praying offering comfort in the form of a pillow. From all the members of a community shaped by Christ offering shoulders for crying and giving lots of hugs, to those who kneel in God’s presence speaking words on behalf of a family whose words are consumed with diagnosis, treatments, side effects, and procedures. We never ring the bells of liberty alone.
There are bells we need to hear.
Let Freedom Ring… not of a country, but a Kingdom. Let the bells ring and set off vibrations throughout the atmosphere, the ground and down into the physical matter of all our hearts and minds. Let the bells sings of the glorious kingdom of God being at hand, so close you can see it. See it in the smile of a child free of cancer. See it in the mother who cried so many tears, now crying tears of gratitude and joy.
We need to hear the bells of the kingdom ring announcing its proximity, its accessibility, its availability. With all the forces that oppress, rob life, inhibit abundance that seeks to dampen the sounds of the kingdom it is good to hear the sounds of the kingdom breaking through. When the dark silence of cancer, racial injustice, poverty, prejudice, unforgiveness, and divisive ways of talking over issues of gender dampen the sounds of this world I thank God I have heard the bell and I know a ringer.
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Lord Jesus, as we encounter your grace, love and experience your kingdom, help us to grab the rope and chime the bell sending vibrations resonating throughout all creation announcing your kingdom, until the sounds of joy, holiness, and glory are all we hear. Amen. 

Good Friday Reality

A slow wading into the strange midday gloom of Good Friday listening in the darkness to the words spoken. Chosen words. Cross words. Words that would have taken concerted effort just to gather enough breath to utter. Heavy words that identify with our breathing and our aching.
“Why have you forsaken me?”
“I am thirsty.”
Words that speak to us with the unseen gravity of hope that draws us to and draws us through the dark places.
“Father, forgive them.”
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Forty days of journeying toward resurrection is a journey with one’s eyes on the ground as these Good words move out of the peripheral and into focus. The moon in orbit still pulling and affecting things below still sets our dates for celebrating The Life. On this particular annual trip around my eyes have focused on something much closer instead of a detached and distant view through the scope. These words have drawn my eyes to see the spirals, swirls and ridges that make up the imprint of a finger. Original one-of-a-kind fully fully human. The dignity of the divine is unforgotten, but the blood and pulsing pressure system that moves the red life around the body more real this year than before.
Chords and words of hymns of wood and blood sharpen the focus. Weekly gathering in community both large and small proclaiming and sharing magnifies things all the more. Today thanks to friends new and old I more than remember things which had gone soft in focus. I am re-membered because what came into view as those cross words were spoken was firm reality. Real as the warmth of the sun, the touch of a hand, and the force that holds me to the earth and pulls me to the grave. The solid reality of no more beating, the finality of a last breath and the concluding words from the cross saying

The Word went silent and breathed no more. The strangeness of this good dark day has placed firmly in my life the reality of a servant and a ransom, of a gift and lost things found, and of peace near and far. The reality of clear access to the Holy and the One because of the concrete reality of blood and breath.

This season of Lent as we have focused on the words Jesus Christ spoke from the cross has been like what I understand praying with an icon is to be like where you are simply drawn deeper and deeper into the profound reality of our faith.

Lord Jesus, when we distant ourselves from reality, we distance ourselves from you. Help us as we approach Easter to live into the reality of your loving sacrifice so that your gift of life becomes the real solid ground we walk on. Amen.