They noticed that some of the disciples were eating with defiled hands.
Just reading that line sends a chill down my spine after these many months of worrying about how much I wash my hands. We have just returned from Paris with our two little children where we were did such things as ride the metro and wander around inside museums. All the while I was squirting huge blobs of hand sanitizer into my children’s defiled hands.
My two year old has just reached the moment where she loudly announces “I do it myself” when any task is to be accomplished. She is furious when I attempt to help. This is most frustrating to me when it comes to hand washing. Toddlers are terrible at washing their hands. They eat with those things. They run around the place and smear whatever was on their defiled hands onto everything else. It is disgusting.
That’s not what this text is about. And you know that, dear pastor. You’re thick into your text study and you know that there is more to this good news. And there is good news. There is hope even when this pandemic is crushing us again with fear and worry. It is easy to point to what defiles. It is harder to point to hope.
It’s why I offer this gathering prayer again with adaptations for this week because I think it matters that we choose to gather online and masked in-person in sanctuaries and outside spaces. We choose to find hope together. This is good news.
Call to Worship
Inspired by Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 We come together especially when it is hard. We come together when nothing makes sense and every thing pushes on our last nerve. We come, O God. We come together because all we see is evil. We have seen the worst that humanity can be. Our lips have curled in disgust one too many times so that we need to be reminded of your heart. We come, O God. We come together because we are repulsed and exhausted. We are not even really sure what we believe anymore. It is not what we hope. It is not what we want. It is why we come together. We come, O God, to find your spirit and your heart leading us to find new wonders and rhythms. O God, we come to worship.
There is plenty of fodder here for a good, long Prayer of Confession that focuses on all the people that bug you. But also from within you. Me, too. (I love this line from Matt Skinner’s commentary.) I thought about writing one but it feels that traditional words would work really well. Or maybe just some silence because it seems like most people are really angry. They are aware of their anger and rage but what might it mean to sit together with that feeling especially on Zoom where you are likely peeking at the gallery view of all of those lovely faces in your community. Does all defile? Really?
Maybe. Or maybe not.
Prayer for Anger
Inspired by James 1:17-27 We do not feel generous or giving. We don't feel kind or even loving because our rage burns so bright. We didn't have to be here. It didn't have to be like this and it is maddening. We are angry at all that we cannot control and all that we have thought we could control. O God, we are so angry that we cannot listen. We do not hear. Still, we turn to you. We cannot rid ourselves of all that defiles. We need your grace, O God. We need your heart. O God, give us your heart so full of love. Let your love change us again. Amen.
There are other things that cause our rage right now other than halting vaccination rates and refusal to wear masks in schools and anywhere else. There is more including the devastation in Haiti. Here is a lovely prayer for that heart. Anger might not feel like the right reaction but there is an element of the climate crisis that is within our control when so much feels out of control.
And, of course, there is watching the Afghan people flood the tarmac in Kabul trying to flee horrors yet unknown. Mine is a military family and though my husband never deployed to that region there is a lot of sadness about what we did in that place over the past twenty years. These are conflicted and complicated feelings and I don’t even think we should have ever been there in the first place. But we were and there is heartbreak and frustration in the military community right now. I hope you’ll offer a space for all of those complicated emotions. I know you will, dear pastor. I know you are doing so much to love your people and just want to help in my small way to provide words when yours fail. Here is a prayer for Afghanistan by the lovely Maren Tirabassi.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. I’m praying for you, dear pastor. I’m praying for you so much.