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A Prayer for Super Bowl Sunday

Today is the day on which people in the U.S. consume more food and alcohol than on any day except Thanksgiving. Celebration. Getting together with friends. Being reminded of all that unites us and draws us together… Embracing commercials and commercialism. Bread and circuses are entertaining, and fill you for a little while.

And yet…

Today in Syria the bombs still fall.

And today in Guatemala… the maras.

And today in Yemen… drone strikes.

And today in Nigeria… Boko Haram.

And today in New York City… #blacklivesmatter

And today in Paris… the 19th arrondissement.

And today in Englewood… Hamilton Park.

And today in Kolkata… Songachi.

And today in Rio… Complexo do Alemao.

And today in Freetown… Kroo Bay.

And today in my neighborhood…

Alcohol abuse. Violence against women. Isolation. Systemic violence. Oppression. Marginalization. Oppression. Depression. The search for meaning. Hopelessness. Apathy. Exhaustion.

And into this world we wade – committed to doing the hard work of love, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of listening, of sharing, of connecting, of reaching out, of listening to those we want to ignore, of avoiding simplistic narratives and attempts to other…

“There is something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” ~ Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We look for beauty. We notice the image of God in all people. And we search for God in all things. In the darkness… and in the spotlights… with trust that if we keep looking for God, God will find us. And maybe we will find that God has already found us, even before the looking began.

A Prayer for Super Bowl Sunday
~ Walter Brueggemann

The world of fast money,
and loud talk,
and much hype is upon us.
We praise huge men whose names will linger only briefly.

We will eat and drink,
and gamble and laugh,
and cheer and hiss,
and marvel and then yawn.

We show up, most of us, for such a circus,
and such an indulgence.
Loud clashing bodies,
violence within rules,
and money and merchandise and music.

And you – today like every day –
you govern and watch and summon;
you glad when there is joy in the earth,
But you notice our liturgies of disregard and
our litanies of selves made too big,
our fascination with machismo power,
and lust for bodies and for big bucks.

And around you gather today, as every day,
elsewhere uninvited, but noticed by you,
those disabled and gone feeble,
those alone and failed,
those uninvited and shamed.
And you whose gift is more than “super,”
overflowing, abundant, adequate, all sufficient.

The day of preoccupation with creature comforts writ large.
We pause to be mindful of our creatureliness,
our commonality with all that is small and vulnerable exposed,
your creatures called to obedience and praise.

Give us some distance from the noise,
some reserve about the loud success of the day,
that we may remember that our life consists
not in things we consume
but in neighbors we embrace.

Be our good neighbor that we may practice
your neighborly generosity all through our needy neighborhood.

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The little things are the big things…

I hunger for big things: the grand romantic gesture, the one time blazing act of martyrdom, the finished marathon, the diploma in hand, the wedding vows stated in front of all.  I wanted to save the world.  (And if I’m being honest, I still do.)

I read of the violence in the Central African Republic, the discplaced in refugee camps all around Syria, the trafficked, the poor, the outcast, the vulnerable.  I hear the stories of the immigrants who have come to this country in search of a better life, and the children of those immigrants who have braved deserts and rivers and violence and death in search of their families.

I see the brokenness, and I want to fix it – to be the hero – to solve the problem – to make it better, in one grand gesture – in one quick fix.

But I know my smallness – and also have come to know that, if I’m honest, I’m not that special.  I’m not the smartest, or the hardest working, or the most creative.  I’m not the most loving, or the most disciplined, or the most faithful.  I’m above average in some ways, below average in others – mediocre in more ways than I care to admit.

And that is OK.  (At least they say it is…  sometimes I believe it.  But more often than not, I don’t.)

—–

I’ve heard this before.  I’ve known this at times.  But I forget.  I learn, and forget.  I remember, then forget.  I see the stories, feel the need, taste the darkness, and all too easily become overwhelmed.  It hurts too much to care about this beautiful, broken, frozen frozen world.  It disappoints you.  People let you down.  They are broken, but it can feel like a betrayal.  I let myself down.  I am broken too, but it can feel like a betrayal.

To open ones heart to the world is to let it thaw – to open oneself to pain.  And all too often this past semester I have chosen the easy way – the lazy way – of sitting, of withdrawing, of sleeping.  Of shutting out, of building walls, of numbing.

I noticed, but waited for something to change – for some epiphany to strike, for something to happen that would result in change and redemption and newness and hope.

These last weeks, I’ve been thinking though…

I’ve been thinking about decisions, and hope.

I’ve been thinking about faithfulness, and about small steps.

I’ve been pondering what it would look like to be living a life that is abundant.

I’ve been pondering what it looks like to live fully, richly, in ways that open myself up to the present – to possibility – to the risk of rejection – the risk of failure…

To remind myself that living courageously is sometimes not a matter of standing in front of the tanks or lying to the SS, but sometimes it is to step into possibility knowing it may not work out.  Sometimes, it is to risk that rejection one again, even if you don’t think you could survive.  Sometimes, it is to risk failure, even if you have failed time and time again, and you think that one more failure will destroy you.

Sometimes, that is courage.  Sometimes, that is what living faithfully looks like.

And sometimes, it is putting on layers and going down to the lake and running through the ice and snow.  Sometimes, it is building a fire and connecting with your roommate and picking up the guitar that you haven’t touched in months and playing until your fingers ache.  Sometimes, it is making that phone call, writing that email, praying the examen and really listening to your heart.  Sometimes, it is a posture of gratitude, and doing what needs to be done today, even if you did it yesterday, and even if you’ll have to do it again tomorrow.

And sometimes, that one small act really is the grand gesture – the simple act of beauty that will save the world.

 

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Merry Christmas

nativity

 

Celebrating the birth of Jesus – the gift of newness, the unexpected “thrill of hope” that shoots through us when new possibilities are revealed, new opportunities are before us, and new life springs up where before there was only death, and barrenness, and emptiness, and loss. Because of this, we have hope – and we are reminded once more that “He is making all things new…

Walter Brueggemann reminds us of what it means to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and what that can mean for us:

There is a time to be born, and it is now

There is a time to be born and a time to die.
And this is a time to be born.
So we turn to you, God of our life,
                   God of our years
                   God of our beginning.
      Our times are in your hand.

Hear us as we pray:
     For those of us too much into obedience,
          birth us to the freedom of the gospel.
     For those of us too much into self-indulgence,
          birth us to discipleship in your ministry.
     For those too much into cynicism,
          birth us to the innocence of the Christ child.
     For those of us too much into cowardice,
          birth us to the courage to stand before
               principalities and powers.
     For those of us too much into guilt,
          birth us into forgiveness worked in your generosity.
     For those of us too much into despair,
          birth us into the promises you make to your people.
     For those of us too much into control,
          birth us into the vulnerability of the cross.
     For those of us too much into victimization,
          birth us into the power of Easter.
     For those of us too much into fatigue,
          birth us into the energy of Pentecost.

We dare pray that you will do for us and among us and through us
     what is needful for newness.

Give us the power to be receptive,
     to take the newness you give,
     to move from womb warmth to real life.

We make this prayer not only for ourselves, but
     for our school at the brink of birth,
     for the church at the edge of life,
     for our city waiting for newness,
     for your whole creation, with which we yearn
          in eager longing.

There is a time to be born, and it is now.
    We sense the pangs and groans of your newness.
    Come here now in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

From Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

For birth is not easy. It is painful. Frightening. Unsettling. But it is worth it.

May we have the eyes to see that which longs to be birthed in our hearts and in our lives in this coming year, the courage to welcome it, and the grace to persevere…

 

 

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Not the Kingdom of Death…

An Easter prayer:

Christ is risen!

We give thanks for the gift of Easter
that runs beyond our expectations,
beyond our categories of reason,
even more, beyond the sinking sense of our own lives.

We know about the powers of death,
powers that persist among us,
powers that drive us from you, and
from our neighbour, and
from our best selves.

We know about the powers of fear and greed and anxiety,
and brutality and certitude.
powers before which we are helpless.

And then you – you at dawn, unquenched,
you in the darkness,
you on Saturday,
you who breaks the world to joy.

Yours is the kingdom…not the kingdom of death,
Yours is the power…not the power of death,
Yours is the glory…not the glory of death.

Yours…You…and we give thanks
for the newness beyond our achieving.

Amen.

~ Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

via Prayers and Creeds

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