Pandemic Prayers for Proper 13

I’m finding it hard to enter the power of the miracle in Matthew’s Feeding of the Five Thousand. I feel myself withdraw and not in the prayerful and restorative manner that we imagine Jesus does in that thirteenth verse. I am tempted to play with that word especially as so many of us feel overwhelmed by parenting, protesting, watching and waiting to see change manifest when every day feels the same. It creeps into the pastoral prayer below but I find myself leaning in to hear the psalmist better.

Gathering Together

I want to swim into the words in Psalm 145. It made me want to go looking for a more modern translation like that in Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle edited by Martha Spong. I confess I haven’t ordered it yet because my husband and I are currently lamenting why we have so many dang books and no built in bookshelves in this new house. Still, it’s hanging out on my wish list and it should be on yours too.

Because I don’t yet have this book and couldn’t find a translation I liked better than the NRSV, that is what you’ll hear in this video. Sometimes all we need is the words of the psalmist to center our hearts and minds for worship.

I really miss the ocean right now. Can you tell?

I don’t know if these videos are more or less helpful so I thought I’d also include some gathering words that could actually be copied and pasted. Here are such words.

Call to Worship

Come tired and worn.
Come worried
and hunched with despair.
Come because you need compassion
and hope. Come because you are hungry
for good news and reassurance.
Come to remember that you are not alone.
You are never alone.
You are beloved
and you have come
with a hunger to
share in this mysterious
gift of life.
Come. Bring all that you are.
It will be enough. Come
and find that we have been waiting for you.
Come.

Prayers of the People

Maren Tirabassi wrote this gorgeous liturgy for Holy Communion for this day. I think you should use it. It’s just lovely.

I feel so beaten up by this pandemic this week that I have zero interest in writing a confession and assurance. There’s a lovely, sassy one here. I am instead still thinking about the pastoral prayer that I heard last Sunday in my sweet Texas church online. It was one of those prayers that dared to name that we are no good at praying. It seemed to capture all that I’ve been feeling. I was reminded of it again in reading this reflection on a God who feels.

A Pastoral Prayer

God, we come to you
in prayer and possibility.
We come with hearts wide open
and brains spinning
with so many thoughts.
We come to you
without having prayed
as we should
or as we wanted
or maybe even as we imagined
because our words have been elsewhere.
Our words have been in
the streets of Portland,
in every intensive care unit
around this globe,
in detention centers
and court rooms
waiting for justice
to finally come.

O God, we come to you
with names heavy on our hearts.
We come in prayer to name
Breeona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery,
Dion Johnson, Tony McDade and George Floyd.
We uplift the names of those
that white supremacy would
rather erase.
O God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

O God, we come to you
with doubt that anything will change
if a virus is found
when a virus is tested
and one pandemic ends.
We fear that the healthcare system
will still be broken, racism will persist,
our elders will still be overlooked and undervalued
and we will remain forever uncertain
how to best educate and care for our children.
O God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

O God, we come
seeking your grace and mercy
because so much feels as though
it has been deserted and lost
so that we are not even sure
how to name what needs
peace and hope. But you, O God,
open your hands to
the broken world and
so we ask for your words.
O God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We come with more names,
names of those close to us
who seek your grace and peace.
We pray for {names on prayer list}.
O God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for the hungers
and desires in our own city,
especially for {agencies like the food pantry and
local homeless shelter or headlines to be named.}
O God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for our country
and the election that awaits
tired people.
O God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for your love to wash over
this world and all your people.
We pray for your open hand to guide us
and lead us especially when
we are tempted to withdraw
from the good stuff.
We pray for your compassion,
especially for ourselves
for you are gracious and merciful
always. We pray in your grace, Amen.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week.

Dear pastors, liturgists and musicians, I’m praying for you, as always.

Leaving the East Coast

Today I said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean. I dip my toes in the cold water on this dreary day and hoped that I might get to come back soon.

It was only last year that we moved to the East Coast. It was a return for me and Nigel knew it. He knew how much I wanted to come back home so that when he was given moving orders he figured out how he could get me home. We weren’t married yet and it would be ages before he proposed but he wanted me move with him. He was determined, so determined that he was going to make sure that I would go.

Dipping my toes in the surf this morning, I couldn’t help but remember Nigel’s excited face illuminated through the magic of my iPhone. He was overseas doing that military thing he does and we were not planning on moving. We had only just begun the “this is forever” talk between the two of us. In an instant, we moved. We settled into the East Coast.

I had high hopes of spending summer hours in the sand under my umbrella reading books as I spent so many days while I was pastoring in Maine. Our home was only an hour from the shore. It seemed like it was possible, like it could happen but it never did. My sister planned my bachelorette party by the ocean and it rained that weekend. We managed to get our toes in the sand but the wind and the rain chased us off the beach sooner than I would have hoped. Same thing happened yesterday. I had planned one last silly night with my cousin in the ridiculousness of Atlantic City with the hopes of spending some time on the beach, but it rained. This time, it rained quite hard.

Tomorrow, after worship is over and some cake is shared, I’ll get in my car headed to the middle of America. Nigel has already settled there and eagerly awaiting my arrival and I’m eager to get there too. It’s been a long summer with too few beach days. It wasn’t the weather. It was me. I didn’t make the time. I made excuses about the traffic and the other things I should be doing. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy this thing that I love so much. Why do I do this to myself?

The beach is a place where my soul is restored. I am calmed by the sound of the waves. The silky pink sand of the East Coast is so familiar after having spent so many summers with my grandparents. It is a place of happy memories. It is place where my family still gathers so that even when I cannot be with them, it is a homecoming. I didn’t enjoy it enough. I wish I had because there is no ocean where I am moving. There may be a lake or two, but there are surely no oceans in the middle of America. I don’t know when we will move back to the East Coast or any coast, but I’d like to think that next time I’ll allow myself to enjoy this place that I love so much.