Writings



Prayers for Hard Times - Advent 2006 to Advent 2008


Posted on Dec 03, 2006 - 02:20 PM

Selected prayers given as occasional liturgical leader in worship at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from Advent 2006 to Advent 2008, times of great change and distress in election politics and economics. Posted here 4/6/09.

12/3/06 First Sunday of Advent

Lord Jesus Christ, it is a bit astonishing that we are beginning another Advent season, as though we are to remember over and over that you dwelt among us at a particular time in the distant past. A Jew born in a strange land under the rule of an overwhelmingly powerful empire, you were set on a collision course with that empire.

Sometimes, Jesus, we confess that we wish we never had to deal with thee as a grown up Jewish prophet. We are soothed by the sentimentalities that attach to little babies, sweet and gentle, even as we are sure you never cried or bawled like babies that annoy us. We like wise men and shepherds and glowing angels and mooing cattle. Yes, Jesus, they are an interesting and attractive mix of characters that give thy birth the unthreatening aura of innocent kindness and generosity. In your swaddling clothes you aren’t a threat to anyone, neither to emperors nor even to folk like us who just want to be comforted and affirmed in our daily travails of living.

O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, why did you have to grow up and put so much pressure on how we live are lives. Why did you become that sort of Savior who so harshly criticizes our complacencies and our desires to be left alone without feelings of guilt? Why did you command us to turn the other cheek, to refuse to return evil for evil done to us, to love folk that seem so strange and inimical to the ways we prefer to live? Why didn’t you just stay there in that mythical manger and let us adore your childish innocence? Why did you provoke just those political authorities upon whom we depend for security and to keep the wolfish criminals at bay? Why, Jesus, did you end up on a cross, slaughtered by all the powerful folk we are inclined to trust with our lives and purse? Why were you a criminal when we all know criminals are those who defy authority and power? Is it really necessary that the shadow of thy cross should fall across thy manger?

All right, Lord Jesus, here is a prayer request. This Advent season still has a few weeks to go until we have to confront the inescapable fact that you—a Jewish baby become prophet and Savior—are right here in our world and that we will have to deal with the sort of life you lived, the unnerving shape of your teachings, and your fate on a brutal cross. Give us a little time, we pray, between now and Christmas for us to smell the pine trees so grandly decorated, to sing those hymns that stir our hearts in the middle of wintry days and sad nights. Give us time to make a spectacle of thy infant gentleness and time simply to adore Mary and Joseph and thee from afar. Then, Jesus, after Christmas we promise to be ready for that steady, narrow, but oddly joyful and redemptive journey through winter into spring toward thy cross.

Yearning for peace and meaning and hope, we so pray. Amen

3/11/07
Lord God, Creator of all things visible and invisible, ground of all real goodness and hope, we gather this day with hearts in search of thy presence and blessings. We are keenly aware of the many ways in which we are creatures who live in time and in whom time lives. Yet time is such a mystery to us. Even though we have set our clocks forward, we know we cannot jump forward into the future, except in our imagination and hoping and fearing. Even as we gather today, our gathering will end in a few minutes and we will scatter, and our scattering will itself pass into another day in just a few hours.

Often time feels like a prison to us, inescapable and unrelenting in its movement forward. What will tomorrow bring to each of us, we ask? Why can’t we reach back and take back those cruel acts we have committed, those harsh words that cut to the quick of another’s life, that overwhelming lethargy that kept us on the sidelines while others were deciding our own future?

Lord, how can we redeem this hurtling through time that is just too fast? It is such redeeming that we seek as we gather to worship thee, to pray to thee our hearts’ concerns, to find the courage to persist faithfully into whatever short or long future we might have. We pray for the families of those whose time expired since we last gathered. We pray for those who are sick and know their bodies are in decay and rushing toward death. We pray for those who are in despair and feel only a dull dread about the tomorrows ahead.

O Lord, here it is: in our gathering in worship it is deeply obvious to us that we cannot redeem time, that even though we might turn the clock back or forward, we cannot stop time’s irreversible move into the future and we cannot heal the wounds of time. But you can.

Because of thy coming to us in Jesus Christ, we know you are our sure and dependable partner in time. Because of Christ Jesus, rather than time being a prison, we understand that it is more like a gift of new moments in which to live and to love and to give ourselves unselfishly to others, just as you have given so lovingly to us. Because of Jesus we have a hope in thee that the limits of time are not the absolute limits of our being and life before thee. We gather this day because we are grateful for our lives in time because you are continually redeeming our time and bearing it into eternity.

In Christ’s holy and incarnate life and name we pray. Amen

5/6/07
Lord God, Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, we rejoice that we are gathered here in this place on this day to praise thy name by singing hymns, by giving offerings to the work of thy church, by hearing Scripture read, and by listening to thy Word proclaimed and explained by our pastor.

We rejoice at seeing those faces of friends and family sitting next to us and greeting us with open smiles and bright eyes. We are glad we are not strangers sitting with other strangers, wondering why we are here or wondering what is going on. And just so we pray that visitors among us will be gladdened by warm greetings and nurtured by words of gracious discernment and hopefulness.

However, Lord, we confess that in this past week many of us have worried desperately about the pains in body and soul, about our need for more money to make life more bearable, and we worry about the haunting uncertainties of our jobs and our capacity to make and to save money. We worry much about our children and their inescapable vulnerability to harm and their own inclination to careless, self-destructive judgments and decisions. And we worry about children who worry about parents absent and uninvolved, about the glares and stares of their schoolmates, and about whether anyone will find them lovable and desirable. We worry about elderly parents and friends whose lives are shortening and whose precious independence seems under such strain and threat.

We worry, Lord, about politicians who lack basic honesty and who make poor judgments that bring great suffering to others. We worry about soldiers called upon to inflict harm and to risk being harmed and who must bear terrible stress and fear. We worry about our Iraqi brothers and sisters who live in constant fear of sudden death and who live with only dim hope for a safer and happier future. We worry about Muslims who seem so strange and threatening to us, and it is startling to us, Lord, to be told by them that they fear we Christians intend to wreak havoc upon them and condemn them to hell.

Lord, Lord, hear our pleas and confessions: in us and in others, there is just too much hatefulness, too much selfishness, too much hardness of heart, too much envy and rivalry, too much killing and being killed. Lord, we plead with thee for guidance and strength in how we might live courageously and peaceably and graciously; how we might live without fear of death and disease; and how to live, in spite of our worries, with an abundance of joy that can pull us into the future as a time of peace and goodwill.

It is with all these worries and hopes that we dare to pray to thee in the name of Jesus that we might be granted the strength to do good and to be good and to turn our worries over to thee. Amen.

11/11/07 Veterans Day
Lord God, Creator of all creatures and Savior of human creatures so repeatedly given to sin and bedeviled by the consequences of sin. Thy creation seems to be in a mess. In the midst of that mess, we gather today to worship thy gracious name and to hear thy Word interpreted and proclaimed as that Good News about how we are to live before thee and before those sinful neighbors that seem so often to sin against us.

We confess, Lord, that you are the Good Creator who has created this world out of nothing and that you intended thy creatures to flourish and thrive in cooperation and mutual support. You created us to live in peace and yet we wonder why we find peace so elusive and why so many of us have never really known peace—that is, that peace that reigns between us and among us and that casts out fear.

To be sure, Lord, we sometimes glimpse an inner, fleeting peace. But we know you aimed for that peace between and among us humans to be everlasting and not a fleeting peace by lonely and isolated individuals. And we know, Lord, that you did not create us to be lonely and isolated, to live in fear of neighbors near and far, to spend our lives inventing newer and deadlier devices to protect ourselves from the ones we call ‘enemies’.

What’s happened here Lord? We, the people of thy church seem to stand in the line of those very powers that slaughtered Jesus because he seemed a threat to our human ways of dominating and subduing others in the name of our safety and advantage and of our justice.

We’re in crisis, Lord, right here on this day the nation says Veterans must be honored, and indeed they should be honored. Many are we who have gone to war or prepared to go to war, and many are the soldiers who faced harrowing death with an amazing courage and loyalty to the nation. And yet many are they who have died brutal deaths under the promise that just one more war and against just these most ferocious enemies will bring a lasting peace. Before thee today, Lord, as the people of thy church, we confess that we know that promise has always been a lie—the lie of that snake that coils around our hearts and chokes our powers to love and to be cross-bearing.

We need thy help, Lord, as we weep this very day for our dead and for our soldiers whose lives were torn out of joint and forced into a violence contrary to thy intentions. We weep for families among us who lost loved ones to the powers of war and fear and who still ache with grief. It truly terrifies us, Lord, that when we open our eyes to our human past that families on both sides of every war grasp desperately for the belief that their loved ones did not die in vain.

We pray, Lord, that you might empower us to hear thy counsels of peace-making, that we might refuse to simply perpetuate that constant state of war, of killing for a presumably righteous cause that seems to be at the heart of our lives—and of our forebears’ lives, and of our children’s and our grand children’s prospects, and seems to have been at the heart of those billions of other humans who have preceded us in life and death on this earth.

Yes, yes, Lord, we know you have spoken to us in the teachings, the crucified death, and that strange resurrection of Jesus—that you have left no doubt that our fears and warring ways are not what you intended and are not what you have blessed. But Lord work among us that we might be empowered by thy gracious and forgiving Spirit to be more faithful.

In the name of thy Son Jesus, and yet with troubled souls, we dare to pray and to weep and to hope. Amen.

12/2/07 First Sunday of Advent
Lord God, as we gather this first day of Advent, we find ourselves overwhelmingly busy. For us students there are tests to take; for us parents there is the struggle to find enough money to buy all the gifts we think we should buy. For those of us who live alone we are busy worrying about our loneliness and fearing that no one really cares. And when we confess all of this before thy all-knowing eyes, we feel a bit foolish.

We know that in our church year, Advent is the time of preparation for the birthing of Jesus our Savior. And yet, when we are so busy and harrowed with all the necessities of buying presents and wanting presents and planning parties, we often think the real savior we need is one who will deliver us from Christmas fury. How odd it is, O Lord, that we in thy church feel we need someone to save us from all the busy fears and frustrations that have become the Christmas season in our world. We confess, Lord, that sometimes we are just not sure who Jesus was and what he is about, and we are often unsure what it means to call him ‘our Savior’.

We pray, Lord, on this first day of Advent that we might have eyes to see and ears to hear the songs of angels declaring Jesus and Jesus’ kingdom are coming.

In this season we pray especially with those among us who are in ill health and feeling deeply their mortality. Be with the young who are puzzled about friendships and peer groups and peer judgments. Be with wives who feel unloved and unappreciated, and with husbands who are bewildered about what is important in their lives. Be with enemies that arouse fear in us and empower us to see them as thy human children; and disarm both them and us of our fears and angers.

Be with Kevin as he plunges into Advent with so much expected and so much to discern. Protect him from sleepless nights and anxious days. Be with Georgia as she tends to the sick and searches for the hope that is at the heart of Advent.

Surprise all of us, O Lord, in these coming days that we might be like the shepherds who steadfastly tended their daily tasks with few long-term hopes. And yet, astonishingly, Lord, they were those upon whom you bestowed surprising joys and hopes that they had neither earned nor expected. Surprise us too, Lord. Surprise us that we might hear thee coming—as though for the first time. Surprise and astonish us that we may be glad of heart and filled with hope.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

1/20/08 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Dear Lord God, long suffering Savior of this bewildered and violent world. Even as we gather to worship thee this day, we confess that we have done little to promote peace in thy world, even though our impression of ourselves is that we are peace-loving and live peaceably. But we confess Lord that we shudder at the thought of being peacemakers in all of our living and doing and feeling.

We confess that sometimes we feel lonely and disheartened in our own practice of discipleship to Jesus, thy eternal Son and our Savior. Today, however, in spite of our waywardness we take some encouragement from recognizing that millions of thy church people around the world are engaged in active praying and work for the unity of thy church. We are not alone in confessing Jesus as Savior.

Yet, even as we know that Jesus summoned his disciples into a distinctive way of living as his body of redemption for the world, we worry whether we truly and faithfully are Jesus’ body in the world. We know the words, O Lord, but we are not sure we know the melody as a pattern of life for the redemption of the world.

Lord, teach us on this very day in our worship, in song and word, that we have fellow Christians in Indonesia, in China, in India, in Iraq and Iran, in Palestine; fellow Christians in Okemah and Wichita Falls and in New York City and Chicago, who are praying for us—gathered right here in Muskogee—that we too might know we are one people as the body of Christ.

Teach us, O Lord, that we might learn faithfulness from these brothers and sisters around the world who also confess and live as though Jesus is Lord, the ultimate peacemaker, the ultimate sufferer for the good of others, and the One who loves us and desires that we be One as his body throughout the world.

Earnestly, therefore, O God, we pray that we might find faithful and steady ways of being thy people, of being thy body, here in Muskogee, here in Oklahoma, here in the United States, here in thy world. We know that from the beginning of all things you intended all these places of human habitation to be places of thy presence and grace and people living in peace together. May we thy church, as one body, be a gracious beacon of hope for the unity of all thy creaturely children.

In Christ name we so pray. Amen.

3/9/08 Fifth Sunday of Lent
O Lord God of Israel, Creator of all creatures, incarnate Lord in Jesus the crucified Jew, we praise thy name as we gather here on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, keeping our eyes lifted toward the astonishing Glory and Beauty that beckons us toward Easter Resurrection Sunday. As we now gather to sing hymns, to read Scripture, and to hear thy Word commanding our attention and illuminating our souls, we confess that our minds have been continually diverted from thy Glory and Beauty by the images of death and violence and despair and the utter absence of neighborliness in our daily worlds.

Some of us, Lord, are sick and aging fast and it is not easy to be grateful for life and hopeful. Some of us are without meaningful work and it is not easy to be hopeful and responsible. Some of us live in relationships that are disheartening and threatening, that suck life out of us rather than give life and hope to us. Some of us are young and saturated with anxiety and angry about how hard it is to live joyfully and hopefully. Some of us resent just how lonely life can be, how hard it is to be stuck in a rut of isolation and abandonment. Some of us thought we were really important and successful and have ruefully discovered how shallow and negligible we now seem.

Some of us are so cynical about leaders and authorities that we find a sour comfort in condemning just about everyone. Yes, Lord, we admit it is a sour comfort that is utterly bereft of hope and utterly convinced that all beauty is mere fleeting appearance and at base mere self-centered sexual attraction and commercial deceit. We are bewildered, Lord, when we search on our own for what is truly beautiful, truly glorious, truly trustworthy, and truly redemptive.

Yes, Lord, there are many of us for whom these confessions of the absence of enduring Glory and brilliant redemptive Beauty are the honest truths of our hearts. We gather here regularly, hoping against oft-disappointed hopes that Jesus is the bearer of genuinely good news about us. Is it really possible, Lord, that we might become capacitated during this Lenten season to understand and to believe that you have lavished everlasting Glory and Beauty upon us as Jesus is nailed to a cross? We shudder when we admit that on the cross Jesus is abandoned by his disciple friends, with only a handful of no-body women there to comfort and weep as he dies.

Lord, please empower us in the coming two weeks and beyond to grasp how thy Son—the crucified Jesus—is the very Beauty of your Life coming incessantly and graciously in search of us to mend our brokenness, to redeem us from our hopelessness, to convert us into lovers of peace, to free us from fear, to empower our hearts to hear hope and our eyes to feel thy awesome Beauty pulling, attracting, and beckoning us to imbibe deeply of thy resurrected Beauty and Glory.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus Come! Amen

3/23/08 Easter Sunday
Lord Jesus Christ, the bitter opposition of the powerful, the terrible loneliness and dereliction of thy cross, and the dark cave of death and burial could not defeat your life and mission. You are raised from the dead, you left the grave empty, and you have come in search of us—miserable and bumbling sinners all. But what difference does it really make that you have been raised from the dead? Are we to be fascinated and speculative about the implausibility of a dead man coming back to life? Are we to be impressed with such awesome power? Are we to try to convince the world that you live and the grave is empty? If you are indeed the Word made flesh and the crucified Lord who reigns over the whole world and over all flesh, what do you want from us?

Today we celebrate that you were raised from the dead, but tomorrow we will live as though you are an interesting but forgettable myth and an impractical Lord. We will live as though it matters not whether you are or are not raised from the dead. We will return to the messiness of everyday life and we will continue to be messy and fearful. We will deal with enemies as though our battles with them are indeed the only important issues in our lives. We will pretend that we are immortal, but will live as though surviving the mortal threats of the day is all consuming.

Most of all, Jesus, we fear death and we want to be really safe from the threat of death. We feel justified in using whatever means available to postpone death and to protect ourselves from whatever threat or power that might kill us. We want to live forever, Lord, but we want to live forever on our own terms and under our own power. We want the ways we have chosen to live to be immortalizing. We do not want to bear crosses.

Honestly, Jesus, we confess this is how we are. Yet it does linger dimly at the edges of our souls that if you have been raised from the dead, then you are indeed the Lord over all creaturely lords—even though we really love these creaturely lords that we serve almost everyday. Yet you summons us to live differently than we do now: to be cross-bearing lovers, seeking the good of others over our own, caring for the least powerful among us, with the courage to know that whether we live or whether we die, we are thine.

Sometimes we get it, Lord Jesus: if you are raised, then everything has changed about what is important and what is negligible, about the meaning of life and the meaning of death. The powers of death-dealing have been defeated; we are free to refuse them allegiance or heed their demands and threats. That is really good news! We are only safe in the arms of thy grace and in doing thy will.

Come Lord Jesus, Risen Savior of us all. Amen

7/20/08
O Lord God, who creates all things from nothing and who called Abraham to be the father of all nations in a new way and who called Israel to be a special people as a light to the nations, and who came to all the nations in that odd Jew named Jesus, the one from Nazareth, the one we crucified because he seemed so uppity, naïve, and odd—we gather today because we believe that this Jesus in his oddity was thy very Word made flesh showing us how to live under grace in love and hope. We pray now in Jesus’ name.

The rains seem now to be in retreat; they left our lakes and rivers full and flooded— our lives often drenched. Now the sun shines often and the heat rises, as the grass grows greener and the animals loiter in the warmth of the sun. We are drying out, Lord, but we don’t want to be too dry. But whether the rains come and we are wet or the sun shines and we are dry and hot, help us to remember that you are Lord over all things and we can trust thee as the One who will not let us go into despair or death by flood or drought without your being present and beckoning as our Savior.

Bless our new pastor, Mark, and his family. We realize that he and his family have been undergoing a huge transition as they get acquainted with us as thy people and this town and county as a place strange and given to its peculiar ways. As they make their home here with us, keep us mindful, O Lord, that we must not fall into the temptation to think that Mark is here to minister to us and that we have no ministry to him. We confess, Lord, that in our better moments we know it is a heretical inclination in us to think our pastor is the one who does all the ministering and we are the ones who get ministered unto.

Yes, Lord, we know that the signs of the times suggest that we are moving into hard economic conditions, that setbacks and tightening of belts seem inevitable. We pray, O Lord, that as conditions harshen, we may not fall into the temptation of thinking that it is every person for himself, that we are not interconnected with everyone as people dependent on one another. Teach us how to be friends in the midst of struggle, poverty, and hard times. Teach us, O Lord, the simple rule that selfishness itself only leads to bitterness, enmity, and despair. In selfishness and fear there is no real hope. Yet in thee we hope that whatever comes, nothing can separate us from thy love in Christ Jesus.

All this we dare to say in Jesus’ name. Amen

8/24/08
O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are our Savior and Hope, and we pray this day that we—this gathered folk here at St. Paul UMC in this wee town of Muskogee, Oklahoma—might boldly grasp what it means to be saved and to have hope. We confess, Lord, that we talk about salvation a lot, but we remain unsure what it means to be saved and how we are called to live insofar as we are saved.

We seem to think, Lord, that we are saved from our sin and from the consequences of our being sinners. How did this happen? That is, how did it come about that we sin and that we are saved from the consequences of our sin? As good Methodists, Lord, are we to believe that we earn our salvation by righteous living—that you are going to reward us with heaven?

And what exactly, Lord, is that righteous living you will reward? That we have faithfully loved the neighbor, the stranger, and the enemy and that we have in all our living nonviolently sought their good? What happens, Lord, if in fact and practice, we have refused to love some of these folk? Are we on our way to hell, to living in utter isolation and fear, terrified of what the future might bring?

This is quite confusing, Lord; something has really gone wrong. We confess we do not seem to be living in such a way that you might reward us with salvation from the consequences of our sins.

But Lord, aren’t you supposed to be merciful, forgiving, and gracious? Why this hard line about having to love the stranger and the enemy? We do not want to do that, for it would upset the whole pattern and balance of how we want to live our lives. We find strength and solidarity in being wary and suspicious of the stranger and in fearing and loathing the enemy: these are the ones we want to keep at a distance and perhaps destroy. Why can’t you mercifully bless our fears and defenses and pat us on the head for being good citizens?

What, Lord? You are concerned about being merciful and gracious to our enemies and to those strange to us—they are your children too and tender to your heart?

O Lord, even in our hardheartedness and fear, please grant us mercy and hope, that we might learn the ways of faithfulness to thy kingdom of peace and grace.

Yes, we know Jesus has taught us about that kingdom and we pray as he has taught us. Amen

10/10/08
O God our benevolent Creator, our unwavering Redeemer and Lover, we gather this day as thy people, here in eastern Oklahoma—a place big and important to us, but a small place amidst global markets shifting funds and devastating lives. We gather as Methodists, eager to live as faithful followers of Jesus, living those methodical disciplines of neighbor-love our mentor John Wesley so much emphasized. We gather Lord to hear a good word about our living in these times that seem so extraordinarily out of whack. Frankly, Lord, we are really scared; there are dark clouds all around; our financial securities are shrinking and our election politics are harrowing, confusing, and terrifying.

We pray now to understand what you want from us. No, Lord, we are not going to pray about what we want from you and expect you to do for us. We want to know what you want from us—how you are calling us to think and live in the days ahead.

Are you calling us to live as folk angry about those we identify as the evil-doers and thieves threatening to our way-of-life and not only angry but ready to destroy them in order to preserve our way? Are you calling us to live as folk ready to tell lies and withhold the truth in order to protect our own myopic self-interests? Do you want us to live as though only we and our loved ones are important to thee—that our survival is the only real concern? Are you calling us to be driven by greed in order to compete and make our way in the world?

So, who, Lord, are you calling us to trust, with whom are we to invest, for whom do we vote? Who will save us? Lord, what does thy “salvation” really come to?

Lord, here we are praying for a bright light upon our path, and as we pray a sobering shadow is falling over us. O Lord, is it Jesus’ cross that is casting that shadow? Jesus hoisted onto a cross by those with the power to kill to protect their political order, by those who tell lies in order to dominate and control outcomes, by those who think they are the masters of the universe.

So it’s the cross of Jesus that you are summoning us to think and pray about in the midst of our troubling times. That is so hard, Lord, for we do not like to bear crosses or to bear the burdens of peacemaking, of truth-telling, of steadfast neighbor and stranger love. Yet we beseech thee, Lord—that whatever the future might bring—that you might breathe thy Holy Spirit upon us that we might be faithful and learn the joy and hope that comes with living for thee and thy kingdom.

Amen

12/14/08 Advent
O Lord God, you created us and all that has life and being, you called Israel to be thy people, and you came among us in Jesus the Jew from Nazareth, and thy Spirit continues to inspire good spirits and broods over the whole world. Lord, as powerfully meaningful as these words are—words we repeat in so many ways in our worship and prayers—we confess that in the midst of this Christmas season we find ourselves overwhelmed with worry, fear, with conflicts, controversies, wars, with theft and malfeasance, and losses far beyond anything we know how to control or correct. We really feel lost.

We know you do not want us to retreat into a private, inward spirituality insensitive to the woes of our neighbors, who are also thy children. But what are we to do in this Christmastide in which we remind ourselves that in Jesus you came to us in a Jew born and raised in astonishingly humble surroundings. And we remind ourselves that this Jesus so irritated powerful leaders that he was killed in a manner intended to demonstrate to the world—to us— who is really in charge of life and death. The politically powerful, in possession of money, arms, swords, spears, armor—those weapons deemed necessary to impose and keep order—they thought then and they think now that they are still in charge.

That’s it Lord: in the midst of the disorder in our times and in our lives, how are we to live if it is true that Jesus is the Savior of the world?

Say that again, Lord: you want us to live as though all of our sins have been forgiven and as though the sins of our neighbors and our enemies have been forgiven? You want us to reckon with the abundance of thy grace for the whole world and you want us to learn how to be gracious? You want us to share what we have—no matter how little or how much—with others and not simply with family or the neighbors from the neighborhood but with those others near and far whose needs are so urgent and desperate?

You know, Lord, that doing and being gracious is not easy and is not what comes rushing to mind when we are experiencing losses and are scared about what the future might bring. So, Lord, you really do understand our hesitations and fears, but nevertheless you still want us to be the Body of Christ in the world—the bearer of Christ’s mercy for the world? To be a generous and life-giving Body, not bent on revenge but on peaceful hope?

O Lord, we lift these matters of heart, these matters of life and death, these matters of grace and forgiveness unto thee in the name of the one whose Body we have been called to be, namely, thy Son our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, born in poverty, bold in spirit, and crucified dead, but raised from the dead as light and hope for the world.
Amen.

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