A season for snuggling

*a winter prayer*

O extraordinary God
who reaches into the ordinary moments
of our days and nights,
with such tender, transforming touch:
smoothing and shaping,
healing and breaking,
soothing and stretching,
warming and pruning,
I give You thanks and praise
for this changing season
which invites me to snuggle and settle
into Your unchanging love.

Forgive me for failing to see the signs of Your presence
in the rot of leaf litter and the chilling breeze.
Forgive me for my resistance to solitude and silence
and slowing down.
Forgive me for my
hard heart,
harsh words,
and relationships damaged by coldness.

As the heartbeat of the land slows down
and the darkness lengthens
and the harsh cold reminds me of my need
for shelter, and warmth, and light

may Your Spirit offer assurance
that beneath the surface the seeds of life are being tended,
that what is needed for future growth will burst forth
in the rampant joy of spring,
and that each season’s turning and re-turning
is just an ordinary part
of an extraordinary life with You.

Glory

An opening prayer based on Psalm 29 (The Message)

Bravo, God, bravo!
All authorities and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before Your glory,
in wonder before Your visible power.

Yahweh Melek*,
Yahweh Tsebaoth**
,
Your voice rolls over the waters
like thunder tympanic: 

smashing the cedars,
skipping the mountain ranges,
shaking the deserts,
setting the oak trees dancing …

as we fall to our knees
and cry “Glory!”
“Glory to God
who rules and reigns
over everyone and everything.”

“Glory!”
“Glory to God
who gives his people
strength and might.”

“Glory!”
“Glory to God
who blesses her people
with peace.”

 

* King of kings
** Lord of hosts, of all

Trinity Prayer

by Richard Rohr, 2005

God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing –
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
Amen. (So be it.)

In harmony

*an opening prayer, responding to the harmony in Psalm 133*

Psalm 133 – The Passion Translation

A song to bring you higher, by King David

How truly wonderful and delightful
to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity!
It’s as precious as the sacred scented oil
flowing from the head of the high priest Aaron,
dripping down upon his beard and running all the way down
to the hem of his priestly robes.

This heavenly harmony can be compared to the dew
dripping down from the skies upon Mount Hermon,
refreshing the mountain slopes of Israel.

For from this realm of sweet harmony,
God will release his eternal blessing,
the promise of life forever!

Gracious Gathering God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

from the beginning, connected
and through the connection, creative
and in all creation, communing

with Your children –

fashioned in Your divine image,
woven together with Your own hands,
named “beloved” and called according to Your good purpose and plan,

how wonderful,
how truly delightful it is
to enter this day into the sweet harmony
of Your salvation song:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

As we meet together in this moment and this place
with all our sisters and brothers across time and space,
may our togetherness be a source of blessing
and a sigh of our deep yearning
for the day when You will gather up all things
in heaven and on earth
into Your perfect peace,
forever and ever.
Amen.

Paying attention: a prayer of confession

In response to Isaiah 40:21-31

O True Light,
our Constant Companion,
we confess that we have not always paid attention to the signs of Your presence with us;
that, often, we have failed to grasp the immense gift of Your eternal love.
We spend our days scurrying after the insignificant and insubstantial –
worrying about how to get by,
how to compete
how to get ahead,
how to move on,
how to afford what we have,
how to get more,
how to find balance,
how to juggle it all
until we are burnt out, exhausted,
wondering where You are
and why You’ve lost track of us.

Great God who marches out an army of stars each night,
counts them off, and calls them by name,
forgive us for our foolishness
and set us in the firm foundation of Your faithfulness.
Remind us that You have not overlooked a single one of us,
nor a single moment of our circumstances.
As we wait upon You now, give us fresh strength
to persevere,
to hope,
to flourish
in Your presence
and through the power of Your love.
Amen.

The desolation of death

*Easter Eve: John 19:38-42*

Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid him there.
Verses 41-42

Darkness has covered the land –

not just darkness in the sense of night
but the darkness of betrayal
the darkness of denial
the darkness of disbelief
the darkness of mockery
the darkness of abandonment
the darkness of human barbarity
the darkness of death.

You know the desolation of this moment:

you who have buried a loved one, a child;
you who have been beaten, ridiculed, bullied, abused;
you who have been surprised by a positive result on an HIV test when you have always been faithful;
you who have watched the tiny bag of possessions – all that you own – taken from you and burned to nothing;
you who have witnessed people run screaming for their lives as bullets riddle their bodies and bombs drop from the sky;
you who have sat in the isolation of a TB ward …

… you ….

As silence settles in the tomb
and darkness and desolation within our hearts
we wait
in anticipation of the morning
and in the assurance that we are not alone.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”                                                                            Psalm 139:11-12

Last lessons: Discomfort

*Tennebrae/Thursday in Holy Week: John 13:1-17,31b-35*

 

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Verse 14

Oh Lord who honoured the sacred tradition of Passover,
and, in your last days, planted seeds of an eternal legacy within your disciples,
~ searching hearts,
~ imparting truth ,
~ reframing customs,

the floor is hard beneath my knees,
cold, uncomfortable, discomfiting

but not quite as disconcerting
as the state of my brother’s feet:
the road weary-roughness sandpapers against my soft hands;
the jagged hangnail on his right big toe a pain to us both
as I look away embarrassed,
afraid to touch.

Why would you put me in this place,
in this lowly position?
What lesson on love can I learn from the dirt, the dust
that clings to him?
And how do you expect this moment of awkwardness
to enrich our fellowship?

Tonight, as I follow in your footsteps
through the Garden of Gethsemane
to the cross on Golgotha’s hill –
keep me uncomfortable …
… unsettled …
… disturbed …
… and deeply connected to those who make the journey with me.

 

Last lessons: Betrayal

*Wednesday in Holy Week: John 13:21-32*

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
Verse 21

Oh Lord who washed his disciples feet,
and, in your last days, reclined at the dinner table with followers and friends,
~ savouring the intimacy,
~ seeing into minds and hearts,
~ wrestling with what lay ahead,

what do you see
as you look at me
beneath my masks,
my airs and graces –

a trusted friend
who drinks with you from a common cup?
a broken follower
sustained by your words, your grace, your love?
a faithful servant,
humble and willing to lay down my life for you?
a conflicted companion
with unspoken needs and expectations?
a cowardly deserter
who would abandon you at the first sign of trouble?
a two-faced turncoat
who would sell you out for my own gain?

Today, as I wrestle with my shadow self,
may I encounter the deep love
of a Savior, a Teacher, a Friend
who sees into the heart of me
and still extends a hand:
“This is my body,
broken for you.”

 

 

Last lessons: Sacrifice

*Tuesday in Holy Week: John 12:20-36*

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Verse 24

Oh Lord who showed up at festivals and feasts,
and, in your last days, spent time with those who wished to see you,
~ sharing truth,
~ evoking questions,
~ causing controversy,

in anguish I kneel before you this day …

bruised
broken
bleeding

afraid that the fragile skin I’m in
is altogether inadequate to contain
the sum of

my fears
and
bitter tears

of injuries sustained throughout the years
that have sickly festered
beneath my polite smiles
and cordial
“I’m fine thanks. How are you?”s.

There is no honour in being broken,
no success to be had in failure,
no empathy for those who just can’t seem to get their lives together:

we learn so at our mother’s breast,
in classrooms crammed with wooden desks;
from friends who smirk behind our backs
and gossip about the things we lack.

O Wheat of Life who drew all people through your woundedness rather than your power;
who overthrew the status quo through sacrifice, not violence;
who opened up eternity through the so-called finality of the grave;

may I embrace my brokenness this day
and offer all the pieces of me that I seem to have lost
or given up along the way
for planting
and watering
and pruning
and weeding
and budding
and feeding
and feeding
and feeding …

… those who are bruised
those who are broken
those who are bleeding.

.

 

Last lessons: Extravagance

*Monday of Holy Week: John 12:1-11*

 Jesus said,
“Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Verses 7-8

Oh Lord who raised Lazarus from the dead,
and, in your last days, reclined at the dinner table with followers and friends,
~ savouring the intimacy,
~ unearthing the essential,
~ contemplating the road ahead,

in grateful adoration, I kneel before you this day:
my Saviour,
my Rabbi,
my Companion …

my Treasure:
~ cherished,
~ worshipped,
~ sought after,
~ centre and sustainer of my life.

Like perfume from the alabaster jar,
may my unstoppered confessions spill
and find your welcome and defence:
~ that I have forgotten the cost of your unconditional love while putting a price tag on on my own offer of forgiveness and friendship,
~ that I have held onto and hoarded – for good reason and poor – my time, my resources, my grace,
~ that I have been so caught up in my plans, my agendas, my desires, that I’ve lost sight of your will and your way,
~ that I have been ignorant of your presence, of your need, in light of the urgent and the tangible that crowds in on each day.

As I look upon these feet that walked within my world,
freshly anointed,
soon to be wounded,
~ wipe away all of my transgressions,
~ make me attentive to the immediacy of your kin(g)dom,
~ and fascinate me with the fragrance of your chesed.*

Amen.

 

* Chesed – Hebrew term referring to the loving-kindness of God, describing God’s special love for humanity.