Pandemic Prayers for Proper 25

A blind beggar started to shout and they silenced him. They ordered him to be quiet. I don’t know why that is jumping out at me right now. Is it that I have been silenced so many times as a woman? Or is it that I haven’t felt that I have spoken enough? I haven’t used my power and might to speak out for the things that matter. I could always do more.

That’s my baggage. Maybe not yours. Still, it leaps off the page to me. I love these healing stories for their fantastic imagery. Even in Mark’s brevity, there is this wild gesture of throwing off his cloak. There’s that voice that gets louder over the silence and so many great little nuggets from Jesus. Take heart. What if that was literal? What if we held each other’s hearts so close? Or even our own?

What do you want me to do for you, Jesus asks. Ooooh boy. Do you have a minute? Let me tell you about some things Jesus. I’m not sure you really know what you are asking but of course you do. Of course, you do.

Call to Worship
Inspired by Mark 10:46-52

What do you want me to do for you?
We've heard this question so many times 
before too often forgetting it is an invitation 
to heal. We come to hear it now
as broken people blinded
by racism and poverty.
There is so much that 
we refuse to see 
and so much 
God needs
us to see.

We come to find
healing and redemption
not just for ourselves but
for this whole broken world. 
We come with urgency for all that has 
happened and all that still needs to happen
and we feel powerless to change anything. 
We come to find faith in ourselves and 
in the one who dares to ask us such impossible questions
as, What do you want me to do for you?

Unlike the past couple of weeks, I actually wrote a whole new prayer for this Sunday but I always feel like I’m cheating you by only offering one lousy prayer. I’m a wee bit shocked I have nothing in my archives inspired by Psalm 126. I love this psalm. How is this possible? Here is an adaptation of Psalm 126 to close worship. I rediscovered these Living Psalms as I prepared to preach a few weeks ago and I just love them. Do you have a favorite collection of paraphrases of psalms? I’m always looking for more.

I know you’re all busy planning well beyond this Sunday and into the season of Advent. I’m working on some resources with the amazing Jo Owens of Vibrant Church Communications. Jo just released her Simple Gratitude Bundle for Thanksgiving. You should definitely check it out here. If you’re looking beyond Thanksgivings, there are some liturgies and group studies in my kitchen that might help your planning. Or if you can wait, you’ll be super excited to see what will come into your inbox in my very occasional liturgy-filled email. You can sign up here.

I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 24

I remember the last time this passage from Job popped up in the Revised Common Lectionary. I remember thinking that the whirlwind was how I felt then. I wish I didn’t still feel that now.

Still, I went looking for that prayer. You can find the original here paired with another bit from the Gospel of Mark. I’ve adapted it here for this week’s lections. I’m sharing it with another from Transfiguration Sunday earlier this year which I really didn’t adapt at all. I like it just as it is even if it doesn’t quite fit.

I remember too what it felt like to write these words and imagine the space at home that we were all were before in-person worship became a possibility. It isn’t for all of us still and so this prayer still speaks to the hope some of us carry in the same four walls we have spent so much time in the past two years. (Is it two years yet?! My my.)

Call to Worship
Inspired by 2 Kings 2:1-12

Stay here.
It has been a whirlwind
of confusion and wonder
but you are here. 
You are right here
in this place 
where nothing 
and everything will happen. 

Stay here.
Right here 
in this very room 
where life has unfolded
is now where God will be.
God was always here.

God never left.
God has always
been right here
with you. You have 
wanted to wander. 
You have wanted to be 
anywhere but here
but stay. Here we 
will be great. Stay 
and find God
is here again. 

A Prayer for the Whirlwind
Inspired by Mark 10:35-45 and Job  38:1-11

O God, it has been 
a whirlwind. We have 
felt caught up in the storm
of change. We thought the surge
had calmed only to be hit by 
another front. We thought glory would come
but it has not and we are so impatient.

O God, we really thought there
was nothing we couldn't do 
and maybe we only needed to ask you
for help but we were wrong. 
We are learning so much
about our limitations.
We thought we had 
the wisdom we needed
but never really understood 
how much we needed
you to lay the foundations
for what will come. 

O God, remind us 
again what it means 
to be a servant to
your hope. Stretch your 
hand out to us again 
and encourage us
to choose your wisdom
over our own. Help us
to rely on your grace
more than our own counsel.
May every one of our questions
and doubts lead back to
your good grace. Amen.

That’s all I’ve got for this particular Sunday but I am faithfully working on a round-up of Advent and Christmas ideas to be shared in News from My Kitchen that will be further delayed because o of the amazing things that Jo Owens of Vibrant Church Communications and I are cooking up for Advent. It’s also why you’re seeing edited prayers rather than new ones. I took on a few too many projects right now. Oops. It’s good though. It’s good to have things to share in and people to good people to ponder big ideas with. I am grateful.

If you’re eager to order things and have Advent planned and done, there are some goodies in my kitchen that might help your planning. Or if you can wait, you’ll be super excited to see what will come into your inbox in my very occasional liturgy-filled email. You can sign up here.

I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 23

For only the second time in this pandemic, I recorded a sermon to be shared in worship. I wrote a sermon and preached it sitting at my dining room table. I sent the children away so that they wouldn’t distract me or the worshipping congregation — and I have some feelings about this especially on a Sunday when we’re supposed to remember that the realm of God’s possibility belongs to children.

It was a prayer for you, dear pastor. I know that you have done this hundreds of times now. Maybe even thousands and you mostly know what you’re doing in recording and preparing worship. You’ve figured a ton of things out only to be frustrated by the millions of changes that are thrown at you each week with variants raging. And then today, there was good news in the Untied States. My email announced that COVID is in retreat. May it be so. May this worldwide trend continue but even if it doesn’t, know that I’m praying for all of the ways that you’re loving God and loving her people right now. You are amazing. I already knew that but I prayed it a little harder this past week.

And now, a prayer for this coming Sunday to enter into God’s presence.

Invitation to Worship

Inspired by Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Seek God 
in the impossibility 
and the improbability. 

Seek God 
in what does not make sense
and what feels overwhelming. 

Breathe
and find the wonder
again that you are alive today.
You are alive today
and you were called to live.

There is much to
cause us trouble and worry
but for this moment
let us just catch our breath.
Let us breathe fully -- 
in and out --
and marvel at
what it means to be alive 
this day.

One of the talented pastors that has innovated so faithfully in this pandemic has a ton of wonderful lyrical videos on her YouTube channel. I thought this one might work well for following this prayer and giving a slight nod to the Gospel Lesson.

Called Me Higher by All Sons and Daughters is covered by the CCLI license.

That’s all I’ve got for this particular Sunday but I am faithfully working on a round-up of Advent and Christmas ideas to be shared in News from My Kitchen that will be further delayed because Jo Owens of Vibrant Church Communications and I just teamed up to create something amazing for Advent. If you’re eager to order things and have Advent planned and done, there are some goodies in my kitchen that might help your planning. Or if you can wait, you’ll be super excited to see what will come into your inbox in my very occasional liturgy-filled email. You can sign up here.

I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Another World Communion Sunday

The world doesn’t feel like it did last year when I offered pandemic prayers for what I had thought would be the one and only pandemic World Communion Sunday in my lifetime. It feels different now.

This is the song that has been at the center of my prayers with each and every headline. The refrain soars from the deep when I read what we have done to each other. So much has happened that it seems impossible to believe that we were planning for World Communion Sunday only one year ago. It feels longer but here we are again to wonder what it means to be a global community sharing in one bread and one cup.

Last year, I imagined liturgical elements focused on the central images in our faith: water, bread and cup. I feel the need for something else this year — and not just because this year I’ll actually be preaching with the good people at Old First Reformed Church in Philadelphia. Like so many of your congregations, their worship will be on Zoom again after being in-person for a short while. I crave being together as I imagine so many others do but I’m grateful for the mysterious blessing of the internet that allows us to worship together while I am all the way from Germany.

I’m thinking about this year differently when it feels like so much has been torn apart. Part of me is even wondering about if divorce is how to speak of such things. Any other year I would gladly skip over that passage but this year I might turn my heart into it. I might need to hear that good news for this whole wide world. There are indeed hints of where I am leaning in the following prayers.

Call to Worship

Inspired by Hebrews 1:1-4 and Psalm 8

Long, long ago
God spoke. 

God spoke 
to our ancestors
in many and various ways.

God spoke in and through
the created world
whispering the glory
that could be and 
would be as surely 
as the moon and the stars 
were established in 
the heavens above.

We come to 
listen and to 
listen for God
whispering 
and inviting us 
into glory.
Prayer of Confession

With open ears, we come as a global people
to admit that the world is not as it should be.
It is not what our ancestors imagined
or even what we once dreamed 
could be. O God, there have 
been too many times recently
that we have given up. We have
believed in the worst in people and 
allowed ourselves to be convinced 
that nothing in this whole wide world
will ever change for the better. 

We have not seen glory
but only screaming babies. 
We have not seen the work of your fingers
but only environmental destruction.
We have found no evidence 
that people are coming together
to heal this world but only
the pain of separation. O God, 
forgive us for not seeing
what you can see. 
Give us a hint of 
your glory today. 
Words of Assurance

Today, dear child of God, remember that glory is as simple as this: 
God has crowned you with glory and honor. God cares for us all.
God redeems us all and with God all thing are possible. Thanks be to God.

It has been a long time since I’ve preached and so my creative energy is going into my sermon creation. I really wanted to provide something fun and different for this week but it seems I had more creativity last year and so it might be worth checking out last year’s Pandemic Prayers for World Communion Sunday even if it was for a different set of readings. (I am toying with doing something with this version of Psalm 8 though. I still haven’t quite figured out what though.) Mysteriously, I didn’t include anything for the table last year so here is one for this year. I still feel like I might edit it but here is a first draft.

Invitation to the Table

Inspired by Mark 10:2-16 and Psalm 8

We have been so divided
in ideas and solutions. We have 
separated ourselves and 
felt so alone. 

We have been alone
so much and could only
watch as terror erupted. 
We have been so divorced
from each other that it seems impossible 
that any human being could ever 
be a little lower than God
but here God invites us
through all that separates and divides us
to find wholeness in our brokenness.
We gather around this table 
as global community to 
remember and believe that
in this bread we are one. 
In this cup, we are united
to share in what could be
for ourselves and this world.

We come to this table
again to remember
we have a place here.
Everyone born
has a place at this table.
Nothing can separate us
and in this feast, we will 
become whole again. 

I won’t be choosing music this Sunday because there are talents for this in the church that far exceed my own. (This is nearly always true. I am so grateful for the gifts and inspiration that musicians bring to our worship each week.) Still, I like this one and may or may not be playing it on repeat as I try to form a sermon around that Gospel Lesson.

Though the joke has been made that I’m now an international preacher, the prayers I offer obviously don’t reflect the diversity and brilliance that exists in God’s people. Most denominations have a wonderful gift of resources and prayers which you already knew but maybe forgot. For those of you on Zoom, you might want to search your denomination’s YouTube channel for something that would add to your worship experience on Sunday. The World Council of Churches also offers some prayers from the global church that are quite lovely though it requires a bit of searching. The prayers for the Week of Christian Unity in 2017 were focused on reconciliation and might pair well with this week’s readings. You can find those prayers here. I also really loved some of the prayers in this recent publication of pandemic prayers in a global perspective. There are a ton of other resources but I’ll add more for link to this Affirmation of Unity for times like these.

That’s all I’ve got for this particular Sunday but I am faithfully working on a round-up of Advent and Christmas ideas to be shared in News from My Kitchen. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my very occasional liturgy-filled email, you can do so here.

I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 17B

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.

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 15B and 16B

I feel like I should be living with abundance but then I read this.

Like every other parent, I am exhausted. I am tense with worry and trying like hell to make the best decisions fo my kids while still teaching them that there is wonder and glory in this world. It is, however, not something I feel in my own body. I feel like all I’ve got left is crumbs.

Mary Luti shared another beautiful original hymn composition pondering the gift of leftovers. I also really appreciate her critique of those little bread cubes that I know the deacons so carefully and lovingly prepared in the churches I’ve served but it is a ration of possibility rather than a hunk of hope. I need something to chew on.

I need real hope that I can grasp with both hands. I need grace to be so free that I can’t help but taste it in the air around me. I don’t even need to put my lip to the cup. The aroma of it is already in the air. I need that kind of abundance from God right now — especially when this most sacred act is something I’m doing all by myself in my living room. I don’t think I’m the only one but I haven’t a clue if you have it in you to offer that kind of wonder right now, dear pastor. I know you believe in it deep down. You know it is exists but I don’t know if you are able to claim it right now. I offer you two prayers for this week and next to add to your worship.

Prayer for Life Abundant

Inspired by John 6: 51-58

Give us life, O God. 
Because if we are honest
and we were really to
tell the truth:
we feel
as though
we have no 
life in us. 

We are so tired.
O God, we are so tired.
We are exhausted 
by worry and risk.
We have been here
before and we
are furious 
to find ourselves
here again. 

That is the truth.
We do not feel 
like we will live
forever. We wonder
if there is even 
enough life
left for tomorrow.

Give us life, O God.
Give us life for this world
so that our tired flesh can face 
another day. Fill us 
with the wonder
that you are here.
You are here, O God, 
in this world 
and in the very life
beating inside our hearts. 
Help us to find life -- 
your life -- in each
cell and every breath.
Give us life and 
may it be abundant.
Amen.

I found this on Mark Miller’s YouTube channel. It’s a song he wrote from a verse chiseled on the wall at a Nazi concentration camp sung by a church in New Jersey for Easter Sunday. Though I went looking for a song about bread or even communion, this might speak better to this moment. I did not research copyright issues this time around. I’m tired too.

Call to Worship

Inspired by John 6:56-69

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 there are things
that we cannot accept.

There are things that
we know that you do 
not accept too and
we need to be reminded 
of those things. We need
to find you in our struggle.

We come, O God.

We come together
because we are offended
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 life
alive in this 
blessed communion.

O God, we come 
to worship.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. I’m praying for you, dear pastor. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Returning to In-Person Worship

I have hesitated to share any particular prayers for gathering together in-person again because it feels so unique to each circumstance. There is something particular about this experience.

It involves a particular group of people. It is the unique story of how the pandemic took hold in that exact location among those blessed souls and maybe there are universals. There are things we have all experienced in this pandemic but we are not all in the same place as this shift to in-person worship occurs.

I can’t think about this possibility — which for me is just a possibility as I continue to worship online with my sweet Texas church and have no options for in-person worship in our German city — still, I can’t think of this possibility without thinking about music. I remember vividly standing in my kitchen when The More We Get Together played for the third time that day on my kids’ Pandora station and I burst into tears. And then, there is this beloved hymn that closed every worship service in the early days when we thought this would only be a few weeks.

I will never hear this song again without remembering what it felt like to sing these words through broken sobs to my computer screen. At that point, I knew I was moving. I didn’t know that there would ever be a return to this group of people or this sanctuary. I had no idea we would move again within less than a year. And maybe especially because of my story, I am curious what it would be like to sing or hear this song again at the close of worship back in the sanctuary.

Music, as you know dear pastor, changes us. It gives us a melody to our struggle and a harmony to our hope. It pinpoints our memory to a particular time and place and congregations are full of these memories. So, what have been the songs that carried your people in this season? What would it look like to sing those songs again?

I might be extra tempted to shell out some extra dollars from the worship budget for some musicians to help us celebrate this reunion but I won’t assume that that is possible for every congregation. I know too that each church has chosen a different date for this reunion and that makes it really hard to choose focus texts but I’ll go with some old favorites including Psalm 133, Isaiah 65, and Ephesians 4:1-16 because it’s actually in the Revised Common Lectionary on the first of August if you happen to have chosen that day to gather. No matter what the chosen day might be, I pray these prayers might bless your regathering.

These prayers are still written for one voice as my other church in Pennsylvania — who I think you’ll be hearing about more and more — has wisely decided not to have responsive readings in their regathering. I want to honor that commitment but go ahead and adapt these prayers as they fit your worship experience.

Call to Worship

Inspired by Psalm 133 and Isaiah 65

How very good and pleasing it is
when people come together
through wireless routers
and cables buried in the earth
to pop up on each other’s screens
with a familiar smile that remind us
again that we your people, O God, 
are made for community.

We dwell together in harmony.
Or at least we tried
after servers crashed
and internet was lost
when we wanted most
to be together and praise 
your wonder and grace.
We tried so hard, O God.

And now, now
we are all together again
in the same place to 
worship and praise
so that it really does 
feel like expensive oil 
poured over our heads,
running down our collarbones
with blessing and joy.

There is such joy
today. There is delight
in this fellowship even 
when we know that all is 
not as it was. We are not 
the same people who last gathered
here in this blessed place.
We have become 
a new creation in your sight
and so we pray that our praise 
will have such movement
for the people we have become
and the God that has shown 
us how all things become new again. 

If this prayer sounds a tiny bit familiar, it is adapted from one I wrote in August of last year for Proper 15A when Psalm 133 was last in the Revised Common Lectionary. I want there to be something that recognizes what has been lost. There is a nod to it in the previous prayer but I imagine it will be strange to be gathered back together again and know that there are some missing. Some might still be online as many families with small children may well choose but more than 600,000 have died in the United States now. It’s hard to believe that that toll won’t impact churches in some way.

For those using an outdoor space, I wonder about using a fence to create a community weaving as part of this remembering. Maybe a shape like the church building or logo that could be filled in with scraps of colorful cloth or even yarn.

If this is happening in the sanctuary or far from a fence, a temporary loom could be constructed. People might need to be reminded to socially distance as music is played and they each come forward to add their bit of color but I don’t think it would take much more than a reminder. I think it’s worth the effort to make something beautiful to call us into this new creation.

Or if that all sounds too daunting because it’s been a hell of a year and you don’t have time for something so large scale, maybe steal this wedding guest book idea to make a large poster board that can be a focal point in the narthex or even in the worship space. I might tweak the language in the following prayer to draw a stronger connection to the chosen ritual.

Prayer for Re-Membering

Inspired by Ephesians 4:1-16

We have come this far 
with all humility and gentleness.
Or so we pray O God.
We pray we've had 
patience though
we know we did not
rest easy in this time apart.

We have been broken open 
by what we could not comprehend
and what has taken to many lives
so that we cannot look around
today without remembering
what we have lost. We pray
that we might truly bear one another
in love and grief and hope.

Today, O God, we pray
you will take the lonely remnants,
the frustration, the grief
and the shreds of hope
with re-member us 
into one body and spirit.

Gather who we once were
with what we have lost
and all that still remains uncertain
to equip us for ministry
and the building up of the body of Christ.
We have been so tossed and blown about 
by every kind of thing since we first 
heard the word coronavirus
and we need you, O God.

We need you to be above us all
and through us all 
and in every bit of this 
new creation we are 
becoming together.
There are variants 
and variables we cannot control
but we pray you will take our whole lives,
knit/graft us together 
and build us up in love
and truth. Amen. 

That’s all I’ve got for right now because my children are totally losing it. Still, I hope you’ll share your hopes and dreams for this regathering. Or if you have already shared in this reunion, please share with us what most inspired you about this first in-person worship.

I’m praying for you, dear pastor. I’m praying for you so much.

Weaving Bridges by Laurie Wilson

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 8B

I love the healing stories in the Gospel of Mark. There are two in this pericope and the first part is my very favorite. It seems all the more poignant this year when we are reaching for possibility and trying to be faithful to hope and love.

We are reaching with our hands outstretched for so much. For some of us, we are reaching out to hold the hands of beloved family and friends after nearly a year and a half apart. For others, it is the possibility of justice and the work we are committing to do for racial justice. For others, it is just to believe that this uncertainty is not all there will be. We are reaching into the unknown.

Call to Worship
Inspired by Psalm 30

Across and afar
Far and wide
we have searched 
for our God. 

From the pit of despair
and under the covers
when it has felt impossible 
to greet the new day
we have needed grace.

We have cried.
We have called out. 
We have not yet
found our way
out of the depths.

We come together
to watch for the morning
light to dawn and 
hope to revive our souls.

Most of my prayers — as in this call to worship above — have opted for a singular voice but this week and with this narrative to lead our hearts, I wanted a responsive prayer that I know some of you have kept on Zoom and others will be reintroducing as hybrid worship emerges.

Make Us Well, O God
Inspired by Mark 5:21-43

Here we are on the other side
of what has been so much suffering
and so much death. We have 
suffered. We have suffered 
for so long.

Make us well, O God.


We have crossed over
a chasm of impossibility
and some things have changed. 
Some things are different
but we are still reaching
into the unknown with hope.

Make us well, O God.

There are some things
that feel worse than they were before
but we have spent all we have.
We have used up every bit 
of energy on dreaming
and we are exhausted. 

Make us well, O God. 

We do not want 
this to be all that there 
is on the other side. No matter
how tired we might be, we have
faith that the world we imagine
could give us healing. 

Make us well, O God.

We extend our arms
to touch your grace
and transformation.
O God, heal us.

Make us well, O God.

Though this is not within my talents, I wonder about someone in your congregation who could teach a simple sung version of the above refrain that a cantor could sing alone on Zoom — and the congregation can join in singing from their living rooms and kitchens. A cantor may even work in in-person worship depending on the restrictions within your area but I love how a simple refrain like this can offer a responsive prayer throughout the week. Or maybe this is the song that needs to carry us all.

Your church may have resumed worship gathering together in-person. There may be people worshipping without masks or there may be arm bands to communicate individual comfort or perhaps buttons and bracelets like this Texas church. It might feel like you have reached the other side of this pandemic while my prayers continue to linger in this liminal space. I feel this awkwardness as I write these prayers and wonder if perhaps something should change in how I am composing these words so that they might be more helpful to you in your ministry. I welcome your comments or if you are looking for something more particular in your worship planning, please do contact me.

That’s all I’ve got for you, dear pastor. I am praying for you. I am praying for you so much.

Last Minute Pandemic Prayers for Proper 7B

Though I am struggling to find a new normal, our world continues to turn. It has been announced that there is hope that the EU will open to American tourists leaving me to wonder if this is good news. Is this over? Can we go back to normal? Or does normal mean that we choose to embrace new holidays and traditions as President Biden demonstrates in making Juneteenth a federal holiday?

I was thrilled to discover this liturgy for Juneteenth Day from the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America offers this worship resource for the day including a litany inspired by Lift Every Voice and Sing.

I remain uncertain if it is really appropriate for white congregations to sing this black anthem. There is a nice history of the song on the NAACP website that explains why. CNN goes a little bit more in-depth. If your white congregation opts to include the anthem, this would be a great time to use the gifts of other talents on the internet like this one though I can find nothing about licensure.

Or maybe what is needed is some poignant words of poetry to stir heart and soul about the power of Juneteeth. I was stirred by these words from Kenneth Carroll in his poem A People’s Historian. It seems to speak directly to the hymn. Or perhaps Fenton Johnson’s Tired might speak to the languishing so many of us feel in the pandemic and call us to the work of racial justice again.

I am assuming, dear pastor, that you have already done all you can to plan worship for the Sunday. I imagine you have perhaps already recorded or are just catching your breath before leading in person worship on Sunday morning for the first time. I offer one prayer of my own that might add to the work you’ve already done or perhaps it is a prayer to care for your soul in this season where so much weight is heavy on your shoulders.

A Prayer for the Other Side
Inspired by Mark 4:35-41 and Job  38:1-11

O God, it has been 
a whirlwind. We have 
felt caught up in the storm
of change. We have felt
stuck, hopeless and confused. 
We have languished and waited
on the other side 
of whatever
will be. 

O God, let us go
across to the other
side where you lead
us into tomorrow and
and next. Lead us through
these uncertain winds 
and across this great sea
of possibility to find peace
because we have been
so afraid. O God, we 
have felt like we needed
to move heaven and earth.
It has rested heavy
upon our shoulders
and we need to know
that you will make a way.
You will lead us, O God, 
to the promise of possibility. 
You will get us to the other
side if only we can find
a little faith. O God,
give us faith. Selah. 
Selah. Amen.

I know that many of you have already moved to hybrid or in-person worship. I’ve seen questions about liturgical gifts that might bless the regathering of the body of Christ. I hesitate to write something general as it seems that the particulars of each first worship service off-line will depend on so many variables but I would love to help craft something for you. If there is something that I can help imagine with you and your congregation, please contact me.

That’s all I’ve got for you, dear pastor. I am praying for you. I am praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 6B

We have been in Germany a whole week. In fact, it has been a week and a day now. I’m still not sleeping well as my tiny children adjust their bodies to a time zone a whole ocean away.

These prayers reflect a bit of my exhaustion and the curious wonder of hearing familiar words again.

Waking Up to Praise
Inspired by Psalm 92:1-4

O God, everything
in my body and soul
feels out of tune.
I feel unprepared
for what must be 
done. I don't really
know how to greet 
this new day.

But, O God, I am here. 
I am here with breath
in my body and a heart
pounding with hope
so I praise you
with my tapping foot
and my fingers 
drumming on the side 
of my coffee mug. 
I praise you with
readiness to find
your rhythm 
and work growing
in each step.
O God, I am here
and I praise your work
again and again.
I’m not even going to bother to search to see if this version is covered by a license because I can nearly guarantee it is not but it’s so good. And it’s what I want to wake up singing every morning.
Prayer for the Scattered
Inspired by Mark 4:26-34

We have been so scattered
between what was and 
what could be. We have felt
flung between what
we remember and
what we know
could be better
but we aren't quite
so sure where to plant 
ourselves. We feel
so small and so 
unprepared for 
the world that 
is to come. O God,
help us to find roots in 
your endless grace.
Amen.

I shared some other prayers in reflection of this Gospel Lesson last summer that may also inspire. It’s another version from another Gospel as the Revised Common Lectionary goes but perhaps it will be what you need.

That’s all I’ve got for you, dear pastor. As you prepare worship this week, please know that I am praying for you. I am praying for you so much.