Prayer for those getting through mother’s day

Spirit of gentleness,
wrap all your holy loving
non-binary compassion
around all of those
just hoping to get through a holiday
that washes them in tears –

because their mothers are dead
or their children are dead,

because they wanted children
but did not have them,
or their children don’t want them
right now in their lives,
or their parents don’t love
a gender identity so dearly chosen,

because their childhood family
or their present one
is marked by abuse,

because there is great distance
of miles or minds
of border wall or prison wall
between them
and someone they love,

because of a miscarriage,
a failed search for a biological parent,
a lonely foster care bedroom,
a desperate attempt
to be a perfect stepparent
or no attempt made at all,

or just because this holiday
holds up a magnifying glass
to the heart.

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Prayer for Peace in our Schools (USA)

God, hen, gatherer of chicks,
Savior, weeper over all places
that have no peace,
Spirit, whom to receive
is to feel the breath of wind
in a breeze across a playground,

we pray this morning
for Rigby, Idaho,
where a sixth grader started shooting
in the school hallway …
for two students and an adult injured,
and for all the fear,

and we pray this morning
for Columbia, South Carolina,
where a school bus hijacker threatened
driver and eighteen children
with a rifle,
and for all the fear.

Holy One, we pray for everyone
who has power
to take the guns away –
would that they know,
maybe their hearts tipped over
by this day

the things that make for peace.

amen.

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My Assignment is Late

God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. (Isaiah 50:4a)

I always write for “teachers’ appreciation week”
and this was certainly a year
when being a teacher was dangerous,
required acrobatic flexibility,
and was exposed to more-than-every-year
unwarranted parental verbal abuse.

But this year my assignment is late,
because every word I write
transforms into hours of memories
of particular teachers,
the odd and motley crew
that changed my life …

Her husband died by suicide
but a teacher came back to school,
not needing to teach history well,
because she taught us
how we could keep on going.

In seventh-grade geography
he kept us all afternoon long
till we could find our road through
a president’s assassination.

A Latin teacher
helped us love something ‘useless’
when we hankered after Fortran.

Another didn’t teach anything
that I wanted to study,
but volunteered to be the debate coach
so I could get out of town
for weekend tournaments
and no one knew I had no dates.

A PE teacher in grade school
helped me accept those thick glasses,
and laugh at clumsiness
of early height and weight

and a musician has first chair in heaven
just because he sat in a room
with me and a violin.

To set the record straight,
I was never tardy, my exams were solid,
my assignments were rarely late
and rarely brilliant –

not much reason to notice me
but, every time I was weary,
or lost or didn’t want to go home,

someone was there to speak the word
that reminded me
how very valuable I am.

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Prayer after the Mexico City Overpass Collapse

God who promises to be with us
when we go out and when we come in,
we are grateful that you traveled
on the Golden Line last night
in Mexico City,
when the elevated track collapsed,

present with those suspended
in the subway train,
present with those in the street below
as the debris fell, trapping cars,
present with firefighters and rescue workers
who rushed to their support,
present with the workers in hospitals
receiving disaster victims.

You were with them
in the overpass of the valley of death.

We pray now for your presence
with families and friends
of the twenty-three that died
as they grieve,
with those who care for
the seventy hospitalized,
with those who suffer,
and will continue to suffer, trauma,
with those who try to understand
what caused the collapse,
with everyone who must board
a subway train today.

God, ¡Presente! you are here with us. amen.

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Prayer of Support for Israel’s Day of Mourning

O Holy One, God of peace and comfort,
who rests with the sorrows of all your children,
we pray for those who grieve today
in Israel’s day of mourning
for the forty-five who died at Mt. Meron,
on Lag BaOmer,
remembering Shimon bar Yochai
celebrating the Zohar and its mysticism.

May the condolences of those far away
fall tender on their hearts,
the brightness of good memories
shine like the light of a bonfire,
the kindnesses of friend and family
ease the terrible loss
and pain in a time with no answers.

Blessed and praised be your name, O Holy One,
beyond blessings and hymns,
praises and consolations spoken in the world.

May there be abundant peace from heaven,
life for all the world,
and especially this day for all Israel, Amen.

(final six lines gratefully received and imperfectly offered from the Mourner’s Kaddish)

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Morning play

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

I was sitting with my older grandson,
so the rest of the house could sleep.

Ok, I won’t lie in a biblical reflection –
I was delighted each morning
for this time by ourselves
before the household rises,
virtual kindergarten starts for him,
his little brother
demands to play running games.

Though the running games are fun, too,
titanium knee and all –
I love the way it gets my heart-rate up
in a couple different ways.

But back to the holy pause-before-toast.
I watch and listen to him
act out small dramas
in a Lego world.
Today he has two minifigures
in blue with badges,

and one says to the other,
“What shall we do today?”
And the other responds,
“Let’s learn to be better police.”  

In a world where running
means so very often that black people
are trying not to die,
not to break hearts that love them,

it is not little children
who need to listen to John’s words.

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What I’ve Got

Driving to the Denver Botanical Gardens
at Chatfield Farm on a cloudless day
car buzz-full of kids’ excitement,
Bernadette Peters comes on the radio
as Annie Oakley singing,

“Got no mansion, got no yacht
Still I’m happy with what I’ve got
I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night …”


It is a suddenly blistering day
and no flowers are out yet.
Farm animals are hiding out in barns
and autumn’s corn maze is cut to dry earth,
but there is so much room to run
and yell, “Grandma,
this is where we picked our pumpkin.”

When evening birds and creatures wake,
we sit quiet around a fire pit,
the modern compass point
of storytellers,
and I think about returning home
tomorrow, crossing the country.

Tonight is a super pink full moon,
April sky’s flamboyant splash of optimism,
but it could be any moon,
and any people watching it rise,
from their sorrows and their joys.

God, I’m happy with what I’ve got,
“the sun in the morning and the moon at night.”

Supermoon April 26, 2021

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A letter to us today

1 John 3:16-17 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

It is ANZAC day
in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand,
and it is good to remember,
even across oceans and years,
the courage and losses of world wars
fresh as poppies
cut by children in red paper,
for everyone who lays down a life
lays it down for us.

In India, today the virus surges
almost beyond control,
hospitals are choked,
people die in line waiting for a doctor.
How can those of us
rejoicing in vaccination,
cautious travel, new gatherings,
not ask how we can help?

God’s love is not just laying down life,
but honoring those who do,
near and far, now and long ago.
God’s love is refusing
to join a world of refusal
to notice that lives can be saved.

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Prayer for Indonesia

Most Merciful, All Compassionate,
You who search the waters,
and care for all
who go down to the sea
and those who go down into the sea,
we pray for your tenderness
to surround those who grieve
those dead on the KRI Nanggala-402.

Surfacing are grease for the periscope,
the work of their hands,
and prayer mats,
the blessing of their knees.

Far below, as the psalmist claims,
at the very limits of the sea,
you have searched and
and you have found them all.

amen

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The Sacrament of Holy Communion Celebrating Immigrants and Refugees — A guest post by Michael Mulberry


Larry Trent, Minister to Migrants at Westwood Hills Congregational Church, writes of this photograph he took of the mural in the Comedor in Nogales, “The mural inside the new Comedor facility they opened in April 2020. I took the photo when there in Feb. 2020. It is painted by a local artist. ( do not know his name). The figures in the mural are all actual migrants who passed through the Comedor at some point.

I have been writing liturgy for Holy Communion for those churches sharing the sacrament in virtual spaces for the last thirteen months. During these April days while I am pausing from this blog and other writing while preparing the anthology, “Pitching Our Tents: Poetry of Hospitality” for the Peace Cathedral in the Republic of Georgia and being with family, I was graced to receive  this Communion liturgy. Michael Mulberry writes a Communion Liturgy focused on Immigrants and Refugees. He wrote to me, “With Immigration Sundays coming up in many churches (the UCC celebrates on the first week of May) and immigration having been a part of my lifelong work, I thought I would try my hand at putting together a communion liturgy.” I am glad to share it with you here and anticipate that you will be able to adapt it to the wide variety of worship settings in current use. My deep gratitude to Michael.

Invitation

One:    It is political philosopher Ayten Gündoğdu who locates the ultimate authority for human rights not in the nations that allegedly protect them but in human beings themselves who demand their rights by migrating in response to unjust law.[1] We are known as human as we sojourn in the wilderness.

God gathers the peoples from the east and the west, the north and the south to recline and rest at Christ’s table. 

Our Biblical story finds its beginning in a Hebrew people who seek a broad and spacious land first to worship and then to live just and righteous lives within the context of community.  Indeed, “salvation” literally means to broaden or enlarge a space for community life and conduct.[2] 

Come to this table to practice salvation.

All:  This is the joyful feast of the people of God!  We come from all over the earth to celebrate at Christ’s table.  We remember.  We were once strangers living in the land of Egypt.

One:   Yes, Children of God, Body of Christ!  Sisters and brothers, siblings and cousins, said 36 times in holy Scripture, we are to remember we were once strangers in Egypt.  God fashioned us as neighbors.  We were once slaves in Rome.  Christ called us to table as friends. 

All:  In the wilderness, we are greeted by the Divine Host’s hospitality and plenty.

One:    The abundance and welcome of God await!  As we were once strangers and slaves, we make room at the table for strangers, immigrants, and refugees who wonder if the table is open for them. 

All:  Yes!  In God’s sight, we are enough.  And we remember and welcome as God does knowing that God delights in our diversity.

One:  So let us pray.

Prayer of Consecration

One:    As bread that was scattered on the hillside, was gathered together and made one in the time of Moses and Miriam, so too, we your people, scattered throughout the world, are gathered around your table and become one.

As grapes grown in the field are gathered together and pressed into drink, so too are we drawn together and pressed by our times to share a common lot and are transformed into your life-blood for all.

So let us, O Great Provider, prepare to eat and drink as Jesus taught us:
Inviting the stranger to our table and welcoming the poor.
May their absence serve to remind us of the divisions this Eucharist, this meal of thanks, seeks to heal.  And may their presence help transform us into the Body of Christ we share.  Amen.[3]

The Elements

One:    While two disciples walked dejectedly along the road to Emmaus, mourning the death of their friend and teacher, a stranger walked alongside them and accompanied them.  The stranger told them the great stories of the faith and helped them to see God’s hand in all of life.  Only by granting hospitality did the disciples know Christ (breaking of the bread), when he shared bread with them.  So let us walk that same journey no matter where we may be:

All:    For it may well be that the stranger, the immigrant, and the refugee are the peoples who teach us the great stories of faith as we walk along the road, lost and brokenhearted.  As we grant hospitality to them, the goodness of God is shared and we are aware of the Risen Christ among us. 

One:    On the night when Jesus was betrayed and deserted, he took the cup, and when he had given thanks (pouring of the cup), he gave it to his disciples.  It was the promise that God would once again be present with us, in the midst of our struggle—in the midst of our blood, sweat, and tears. 

And it is also this cup that reminds us we are to be God’s life-blood for the world.  It is the cup of Miriam, an immigrant and refugee fleeing unjust law—who praises God upon birth as a new people and brings drink to overflowing.  It is the cup of Elijah—who speaks on behalf of the poor and oppressed.

All:  We are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the city set upon a hill for all to see.  We remember we were once strangers in Egypt, people leaving home like Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham, immigrants fleeing famine like Ruth and Naomi, the Holy Family as refugees escaping violence to Egypt, and disciples living as slaves in Rome.  Through the drinking of this cup, let us remember our covenant promise to be present for each other.  Amen.

One:  Come, for all things are now ready.

One:    Would those who are able please stand and join in the singing of our communion hymn, Walls Mark Our Bound’ries

Communion Hymn

Walls Mark Our Bound’ries[4]

Walls mark our bound’ries
and keep us apart;
walls keep the world
from our eyes and our heart.
Tables are round,
making room for one more,
welcoming friends
we had not known before.

Refrain

So build us a table and tear down the wall!
Christ is our host. There is room for us all!
Build us a table and tear down the wall!
Christ is our host…. There is room for us all!

Walls make us sure
who is in and who’s out;
walls keep us safe
from all question and doubt,
but at a table
in open exchange
new ties are formed
as our lives rearrange.     R

Once we were strangers,
divided, alone.
hate and distrust
built a wall stone by stone.
Now at a table
the bread that we share
joins us to Christ
in a circle of care.          R

Sharing the Bread and Grape

One:    (as bread is distributed for sharing)  An early Christian legend tells of the Holy Family, as refugees, seeking safety and sanctuary from Herod’s soldiers.  They duck into the home of a bakerwoman who recognizes the terror of the family and quickly folds the child into her dough.  The soldiers enter and are unable to find the child.  As a result of her hospitality, it is said that God forever fed the bakerwoman’s community from the bread in her bakery.[5]   

(In taking the bread)  In righteousness and justice, O Body of Christ, the abundance of God!  Take and eat!

One:   (as grape is given to Deacons for sharing)  The author of the gospel of John begins the life Christ with the wedding feast at Cana.  It is the first miracle story in the gospel.  In ancient times, wine was the sign and symbol for messianic joy.  By placing this miracle story of water to wine at the beginning of the gospel, at a wedding feast with the diversity of family and friends, the author is setting the theme for life with Christ.  Life with Christ is like a wedding feast where the joy never ends.  Amen. 

(In drinking the cup)  In the diversity of family and friends,  may we be God’s life blood for all.  Take and drink!

One:    May these gifts strengthen and keep us throughout our whole lives.  Amen.

*Prayer of Thanksgiving

One:    Would those who are able please stand and join in unison for the Prayer of Thanksgiving.

All:  Through this communion, O God, we have taken you into us—your love and compassion, your gentleness and justice.  Bread from strangers has been shared with us and blessed by you.  Your cup of liberation has been celebrated in song and given to us by immigrants and refugees.  In our gratitude, we pray that we might now broaden and expand your table to share your salvation.  Thank you for your grace which allows us to take up the journey of sharing bread wherever we may be on the road.  Let us forever know your presence in front of us, beside us, within us as we seek to be faithful.  Amen.

*Passing of the Peace

One:    When Christ began his public ministry in the Gospel of Luke, he declared the Year of God’s Amnesty—that good news would be preached to the poor, that political prisoners would be released, that the oppressed would go free.  There are no longer walls between you.

Look around you now.  These are the people who were once strangers who are now part of God’s community.  These are the people who may have once been slaves to a Domination System who are now friends. 

Rome made its peace through military might and economic domination.  It called people outside its borders “barbarians.” 

Not so with Christ.  Through mutual care, sharing, and grace, Christ extended and broadened his table in peace.  Practice this work we are called to do in the wider world by now passing the peace of Christ to one another.  Amen.


[1] Ayten Gündoğdu, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2015). 

[2] “salvation,” Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), https://www.bibleodyssey.org/HarperCollinsBibleDictionary/s/salvation.

[3] Adapted from an adaptation of the Didache, Janet Schaffran and Pat Kozak, More Than Words:  Prayer and Ritual for Inclusive Communities (Meyer Stone & Co., 1988).

[4] Jim and Jean Strathdee music, Pilgrim Press, 1996, Ruth Duck words, Pilgrim Press, 1997, Desert Flower Music, https://strathdeemusic.com/WallsMark.html

[5] Jane Yolen, Hark!  A Christmas Sampler (New York:  Putnams, 1991), taken from an Egyptian legend.

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