Reflection on Jeremiah 32, for the United States

Jeremiah 32: 1-3a, 6-15

God, give us the courage of a Jeremiah
to believe in houses of hope
fields of community policing
and the vineyards
full of the communion
that is black lives matter.

Give us the courage of Jeremiah
to believe that someday in Tulsa and Charlotte,
in Falcon Heights and Baton Rouge,
in Cleveland and Ferguson
and Waller County Texas,
in Chicago, Charleston, Baltimore –

children will play in the parks,
people will walk,
some will drive on the roads
with their tail lights out
or reach for a driver’s license.

God, we know there is a cost
and we must be buyers
who may never see that day.
There will be a long, involved process,
and you will call on all of us
to make covenants,
to seal them with law,
to make open what is closed,
to fold treasure in the earthen vessels
of our commitment. Amen

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Prayer for Travellers from Aotearoa

Rosalie Sugrue of Aotearoa / New Zealand writes this prayer for travelers, and it is a prayer for those who are heading out to drive or fly or walk or roll or those whose journey is far more interior.

God, who inspires, we thank you for poetry that grounds our being while giving flight to our souls. We reflect with the psalmist who reminds us that…
If I take the wings of the dawn
And settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide and protect me. [Ps 139:9-10]

God, whose glory fills creation, we give thanks that you are with us wherever we go or stay. IMG_1039Whatever our state of mobility we are all on a journey. We all seek adventures to share and listeners who care. Keep us alert to finding good in every place and God in every face.

May all who travel with you feel your presence and stay sustained by the deep knowing of whatever happens we are not alone.
At this time we… (particularly ask a blessing on the journey of our friend/s __ ) or
(give particular thanks for the safe return of our friend/s __ )
In the name of the itinerant Jesus, the Pilgrim Christ. Amen

 

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A new canticle

God, bless the ‘possum,opossum_2
who wandered into my garden
with the neighbor’s rat trap on her paw.

She looks tired – it isn’t her time of day,
and I think she is hurting.

The animal control people scoop her up,
and I hope they mean it
when they say they’ll let her go
if her broken paw heals.

Send me a Francis to sing in my garden.

Sister Opossum, Brother Lemontree,
and, always huddled somewhere
in the corner where I don’t let my child play,
Uncle California Drought –

Praise God for each rescue
that reminds us we are family,
for we, who have discovered cars,
refrigerators, fracking,
and mountain top coal removal,
we who cut trees like there is
no tomorrow –opossum_270x224
are making traps for one another.

And then we do not want to be there
to see the painful limping away,
the weary red eyes,
the fear, the loss of all the babies
who may be carried
in the world’s pouch.

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Loving you, Jesus — prayer from Argentina

Difficult scriptures. Preachers avoid them. Leaders of cult groups use them to manipulate people into controlled living situations. Most of us read through them as quickly as possible. Not Gerardo Oberman, who takes what is arguably a very difficult text and realizes that it is not about hate, but about love and learning love from the one who can teach it best. It is not about a “cross” of self-flagellation or of an illness or of an abusive spouse … “my cross to bear” but about a cross to raise — a cross of justice and hope and, ultimately, love. Katie Fiegenbaum translates into English.

“If someone comes to me and does not hate their father or mother, their wife or children, their brothers or sisters, or even their own life, they cannot be my disciple. And he who does not carry his own cross and follows me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

Loving you, Jesus,
this is what we’re addressing.

Loving you like ocean waves love the coast,
that in an instant, moves away,
but always returns.
Loving you,
because every other love is foam,
including the love of family.

Loving you,
so in that love,
we build healthy relationships,
sustained with respect,
with listening,
with acceptance,
with the shared search
for communities that are affectionate,
inclusive, supportive, generous, wide,
capable of embracing diversity.

Loving you
so in that love
life is not just my small life
but the splendor that we share
with all persons in their virtue and fragility,
their achievement and failure,
their pain and their joy;
and so that this living also
includes conscious care
of each of the works of God’s creation.

Loving you above every other love,
is to learn to truly love
everyone and everything.

Loving you and later following you,
with the cross as a symbol
not of a death to weep,
nor of a failure to come to terms with,
nor of a torture to undergo,
but as a promise of full life,
as victorious announcement of love over hate
as signal of hope in new realities,
as symbol of the justice of God
that uproots death’s arrogance.

Loving you and following you,
with cross raised
as denunciation of all forms of oppression,
as slight to all treachery,
as mirror of all hypocrisy,
as call to humility in service,
as open invitation to every suffering person,
as offering of pardon and new opportunities,
as the beacon of worlds
without walls, without bars, without exclusions.

Loving you and following you.

 

“Si alguno viene a mí y no sacrifica el amor a su padre y a su madre, a su esposa y a sus hijos, a sus hermanos y a sus hermanas, y aun a su propia vida, no puede ser mi discípulo. Y el que no carga su cruz y me sigue, no puede ser mi discípulo.” (Lucas 14:26-27)

Amarte, Jesús, de eso se trata.
Amarte como las olas del mar que aman la costa,
que por instantes se alejan,
pero siempre regresan.

Amarte a vos,
porque cualquier otro amor es espuma,
incluso el amor a nuestra propia sangre.

Amarte a vos,
para que en ese amor
construyamos relaciones sanas,
sostenidas en el respeto,
en la escucha,
en la aceptación,
en la búsqueda compartida
de comunidades de afecto,
inclusivas, solidarias, generosas, amplias,
capaces de abrazar en la diversidad.

Amarte a vos,
para que en ese amor
la vida no sea apenas mi pequeña vida
sino el espacio maravilloso que compartimos
con cada persona en su virtudes y en sus fragilidades,
en sus logros y en sus fracasos,
en sus dolores y en sus alegrías;
y para que la vida sea también
acompañar el cuidado consciente
de cada una de las obras de la creación de Dios.

Amarte a vos sobre cualquier otro amor,
para así aprender a amar de verdad
a todos y a todo.

Amarte y luego seguirte,
con la cruz como símbolo
no de una muerte para llorar
o de un fracaso por asumir
o de una tortura que sufrir,
sino como promesa de vida plena,
como anuncio victorioso del amor sobre el odio,
como señal de esperanza en realidades nuevas,
como estandarte de la justicia de Dios
que supo arrancarle a la muerte su soberbia.

Amarte y seguirte,
con la cruz levantada
como denuncia de toda forma de opresión,
como desprecio a todas las traiciones,
como espejo de todas las hipocresía,
como llamado a la humildad en el servicio,
como invitación abierta a cada persona sufriente,
como oferta de perdón y de nuevas oportunidades,
como faro hacia mundos
sin muros, sin rejas, sin exclusiones.
Amarte y seguirte.

 

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Day for solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

Day for solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation —
water is life, land is holy, rock is standing

Mni Wiconi — water is life.
living water is the drink
of samaritan wells
and the bright Missouri
when no pipeline passes through.

Land is holy to the nations
who live there
by their choosing and by their tears,
those who were not consulted,
those whose burial sites,
and environmental wellbeing
are on this path
between an oil field and a profit.

And the rock is standing,
when all who have hands to join
come together,
children of the sacred land, water,
children of the spirits
of those who lie buried —

Lakota, Crow, a hundred tribes —
and some children of the invaders, too,
long ago and yesterday trespassers
on native lands and ways of life.

This shadow shall not pass —
not the Dakota Access Pipeline,

not the expectation that those with power
will always be free
to spoil the land,
to poison the water,
to buy the courts and lawmakers,
to break the hands of protest.

This shadow shall not pass –
in the way of many broken promises.

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Just Peace Sunday — some resources

The United Church of Christ suggests that churches celebrate “Just Peace” or “Peace with Justice” Sunday on the Sunday each year that precedes September 21, the United Nations International Day of Prayer for Peace. I wrote some resources for colleagues in New Hampshire, US, and share them here.

Prayer for Just Peace (Micah 6:8)

God, who never “teaches to the test,”
help us embrace your requirement
as an invitation to community …

that we may do just peace and just economy,
just environment and just eating,
just policing and just politics,
just energy and just education,
just medicine and just marriage,
just faith and just interfaith …

love kindness enough
to listen to and be in dialogue with
those who do not think or live
or vote or pray the way we do …

and walk humbly under every sky,
as if it were ours,
because it is yours. amen

Prayer of Confession (Jeremiah 8: 18-9:1)

God, there are harvests past,
and yet not everyone has been fed.
There are summers ended,
and not everyone is in a school.
We have sung of Balm in Gilead
but your people need health care.

We have prayed for just peace
for more than thirty-three years,
and still for the hurt of your poor people —
for migrants drowned, denied, deported,
for the deaths of black people
and violence against police,
for fear in public places
and incivility in public speech —
we are still weeping.

We are a fountain of tears —
weeping for the summer ended
in Nice and Orlando,
Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights,
Dallas and Turkey,
for the heat of climate change,
for the losses beyond number
of those who need a home
where no bullets fly.

Forgive us, strengthen us,
and give us hope and a blessing. Amen

Assurance of Grace
We have just forgiveness – enough to begin again.
We have the peace of forgiveness – God’s grace sustains us,
and God’s blessing grants us life.

Call to Worship (Psalm 85)

Come to worship – just open the door.
Come to worship where we pass the peace.

God speaks the words of peace
to those with open hearts.

All the ways we love
and all the ways we trust
meet together here.

Justice and peace are so close,
that they kiss each other.

Faithfulness rises up from the community,
And hope-living looks down upon us.

God gives what is good to God’s people —
justice for journey’s path
and peace as its destination.

Benediction

May the need for justice –
break your heart,
bee-sting your conscience,
open your mouth,
mark your platitudes “spam,”
gnaw like puppy-teeth
on your self-satisfied shoes,
and change your life.

May the abundance of peace
overflow this church,
transform your Monday mornings
and your Saturday nights,
gentle your sadness,
juggle your imagination,
feel incredibly heavy, prickly and skunk-scented
until you give it away,
and away, and away, and away,
and it comes back home.

Reading for seven adult voices and a child’s voice

A child’s voice: What does peace mean when you add justice to it?

V 1: Peace at the table, only when everyone eats.

V2: Peace by the bed, only when the world sleeps safely.

V3: Peace in the love story,
when all the lovers can be “married happily ever after,” if they want it.

V4: Peace in the family,
where there is work for all, school for all,
where sickness is cared for in the body and the soul.

V5: Peace in the faith that celebrates every name of God,
and breathes a little non-invasive blessing
in the general vicinity of nones.

V6: Peace for the earth and the ocean. Peace for the energy and the climate.
Peace for endangered creatures, and for all plants bearing seeds.

V7: Peace in the spirit for everyone who came to worship this morning — 
sad or happy, doubting or certain, fearful or relaxed or just a little bored, 
lonely or loving, or so confused.
That’s what peace means when you add justice to it.

A child’s voice: That’s “just” about peace for everyone.

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“All Through the Night” a hymn after tragedy

“All Through the Night” words (C) Copyright 2016 by Randy K. Hammer

-Tune: Finlandia

All through the night to God I raise my pleadings;
through tears of pain I suffer through the hours.
How long, O Lord, I cry and often wonder,
shall violent men their hateful deeds impart?
And evil win over the good that men do?
And senseless killing rage throughout the land?

At break of dawn I lift my eyes and sunward;
and see the rays roll back the clouds of gloom.
A gleam of hope shines through to give assurance
that kindly deeds shall in the end prevail!
That humankind can someday live together
in perfect peace and harmony and love.

“All Through the Night” was inspired by the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre.

As we approach the fifteenth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2016, I am mindful that this song of Randy’s (who is known by so many as the “Reflective Naturalist” for his brilliant photography) may be sung on the occasion of remembering many events in which human cruelty has broken many hearts.

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