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 Proper 14B

My colleague and friend, Sarah Lund, shared on Facebook the simple joys of making banana bread. She called it Banana Bread Therapy. That sounds right to me.

I should add Sarah is also a talented and wise writer who offers her whole heart in writing about her own mental health and the struggles within her family in her two excellent books. She is committed to breaking the silence about mental illness and it is so inspiring.

Banana bread is a quick bread. It doesn’t need need any leavening and so it can simply bake after being folded together. It doesn’t need time to rise. There is no yeast to coax. It happens quickly and deliciously.

Banana bread is one of those wonderful comfort foods that so many of us share. It was the first recipe I really learned to make on my own with the guidance and encouragement of my stepmother. We both still use that recipe from my first cookbook geared for children. It was and is just that good.

I wonder what it would be like this week to invite people to share their favorite quick bread recipe. Perhaps zucchini bread is the best option for all that is bumping out of the garden or in other regions there might be a preference for cornbread. It may even include drying and grinding your own corn from the farmer’s harvest. How might we experience the Bread of Life come alive if we were to nurture our hearts and souls in something like Banana Bread Therapy?

Here is a prayer for such a possibility.

Prayer for Bread Making

Inspired by Sarah Griffith Lund 
and John 6: 35, 41-51

Stir us together, O God,
in the simple act of making bread.

Let our clothes and 
our counters be covered in flour. 
Let it clap from our hands 
so that it might feel like
a part of who we are. 

I am the bread of life
says our God. Let us 
meditate on this 
living surrounded 
by all of these ingredients
that we so carefully fold
into the batter with love
and hope. There is joy 
in this bowl too
as surely as there
is a hint of grief 
and loss. This recipe 
has been shared 
so often that 
it too has life. 

Bake with us, O God,
and make us ready
for another slice
of life together. Amen.

Here is one more prayer that might be a better fit within congregations that are struggling with the reversal of what was hoped for in the emergence of the delta variant. For the record, I have plenty of complaints of my own.

Prayer for Complaining Anyway

Inspired by John 6: 35, 41-51

Do not complain among yourselves.
Do not complain is the wisdom
that the Lord gives
when we have so many 
complaints to air.

It is a long list to worries
and concerns as the delta variant 
makes us pause again
to consider how 
best to care for ourselves,
for our children and our neighbors. 

We have complaints
and we know that God 
is listening. We are not being 
told to be silent but are invited 
to learn from God. As it is written 
in the prophets, we could choose 
to be taught be God and 
it is this understanding
we need now. O Lord, 
teach us now. Teach
us especially through
all our complaining.
May it be so.

Two week ago, when these bread words first appeared in the Revised Common Lectionary, I shared this Prayer of Illumination. It could be used with these prayers or in your personal devotion and study.

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 13B

We have moved into our home and there is now work being done to install new heaters in our very old building. The wall of the garden behind our home was a fortification built to protect the city from Napoleon. People hid from US bombs in the cellar that is now our storage in the First World War.

I have so many questions about how the German people have made these realities part of their identity. I am not even sure how to start this conversation with strangers but it’s what I am thinking about every time I clean up the dust from these workers. And there is a lot of dust.

I have been making multiple trips to the markets to stock our pantry. I really want to get back to baking bread but we don’t yet have a working oven even if there was not such a mess. So for now, I’m just gathering the ingredients. It didn’t feel much like a spiritual practice — honestly my spirit is just tired — until I read this story in Capernaum on the other side of the sea. You might also hear a nod to Simone Biles and her strong no.

Prayer of Confession

Too often we have 
allowed ourselves
to work and work
and work until 
exhaustion and burnout.

You know, O God.
You know that your church
doesn't set out with a new mission 
until we are certain 
of our success.

You know that 
we want to win.

You know that we
haven't even rolled up
our sleeves to try 
to feed ourselves
with flour, yeast,
salt and water because
we already know
it will not be perfect.

Encourage us, O God,
to take the time to 
gather the ingredients
and ready our hearts
for what will endure.
For we have not 
yet had our fill
and we are waiting
for your assurance.

I am partial to sung assurances rather than spoken ones. This is one of those moments where I want there to be a melody that assures us. I want that tune to carry us in all of the doubt and frustration. This is the one that comes to mind but maybe you have another suggestion.

Last week, I shared this Prayer of Illumination that is written as a corporate prayer for worship but could certainly be used in personal devotion for the preacher preparing for study or the family sharing in meal time meditation. Maybe this is the week where you make stress balls in worship and knead them through the Gospel Lesson. Or maybe you save that for next week.

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