It has been a bad week.
Can we admit that? Can we conspire in that little bit of honesty?
A lot of bad shit is happening. I’m not sorry for my language. I am mad and you’re probably mad too. There are countless things that might make you feel like bashing your head against a rock. But, then, oh look! There’s Moses in the wilderness pounding the living daylights out a freaking stone because God told him that water would spring forth. Then, there is that bit in the Gospel about being afraid of crowds. Their reasons were different than those that occupy my pandemic angst but it is that phrase that leaps off the page to me. Well, that and the whole question of authority. Is there any authority now? Anywhere? At all? I appreciated Kentina Washington-Leaphart’s reminder that the “pathway to the other side [of all this shit] won’t be an easy one, and getting through it successfully will require sacrifice, patience, flexibility, and trust—trust in human leadership and, for people of faith, in God.”
I’m leaning into music this week because I need a song to sing. I miss singing in church and I need these songs to echo in my head so that all of that confusion that will surely come next week might have a new rhythm.
Gathering Together for Worship
I might just begin worship with this or a version of this using the talents within my congregation. Or if you are leaning into the trust we need to find in God, you might opt for this golden oldie.
Or instead I might begin worship with these words of poetry somehow figuring out a way to end the video before the promo for Leonardo DiCaprio’s website. (No offense Leo. We need your activism.) It speaks exactly to the grief I’m feeling in this moment and dares to catch a glimpse of what is on the other side of all of our complaining. (That’s the concluding line of Kentina Washington-Leaphart’s reflection in my email this week.)
Riffing on an Old Prayer
Just after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, a snippet of a prayer I had written years ago for Proper 20A was shared in the United Church of Christ Instagram feed.
Humbling? Yes. Completely.
It is always surprising to me when words that I’ve written continue to have life. I thought it might be fun to actually adapt that prayer for this Sunday because we still have work to do. We have so much work to do.
Invocation Inspired by Philippians 2:1-13 Call us together, O God, to find courage and comfort, compassion and sympathy. Call us together, O God, with all our lamentation and despair all of our frustration and sorrow, to make our joy complete. Call us together, O God, to find ourselves of one heart and one mind which admittedly feels impossible in 2020. Help us not to zero in only on our own interests but to find the heart and mind of Christ. Humble us. Empty us. Bend us. Call us together, O God, to strike the fury and passion of your work into us again. We have so much work to do. Let us find your good pleasure in the work we share here and now, in Christ's presence we pray. Amen.
Other Service Prayers
I want to play with striking the rock but anything that I’ve attempted sounds too violent. There is enough violence. There is enough violence we are doing to ourselves and what we really need is trust. That is where these texts pull me. We can put our whole trust in God even as we fight against the divine. God can take it.
Prayer of Confession Inspired by Exodus 17:1-7 We thirst for answers, O God. We thirst for clarity and some prayer that this will all be over soon. We thirst for comfort and assurance because we are no longer certain that everything is going to work itself out. It is why we thirst for justice for a broken healthcare system and the sins of white supremacy. We cannot believe some of the things that we have prayed for in these weeks and months and we thirst for your wisdom. We thirst for your presence and assurance but we have been so busy fighting with you about all of the things that have gone wrong that we haven't really stopped to wonder if you trust us anymore. O God, what will you do with your people? We are not yet done complaining because the infection rate still creeps up and 200,000 people have died for no reason. We are outraged and exhausted. We thirst for your grace and love especially when we quarrel with you again. Quench our thirst, O God, just enough to remind us that we have work to do in your name. Amen.
If you find yourself without words again for the Prayers of the People again this week, I suggest this beautiful composition by Christopher Grundy. As the artist himself explains it, Leaning In is a “gentle, sung prayer of intercession” that breaks “down the sense of “us” and “them” that is often the pattern of such prayers.” There are several options for purchase including an audio file, lead sheet and piano accompaniment. There is a refrain that could be sung by a virtual choir while a cantor leads the verses. It would be lovely this week or any week.
Though I haven’t offered a suggestion for closing worship before, I want this to be my prayer into the days ahead.
That’s all I’ve got for worship planning this week, though I seem to continually be editing this post so maybe you want to check back. I did, however, want to share a few other things. I discovered this week through social media that the fantastic Lindsay Andreolli-Comstock has created some wonderful pandemic-focused resources including one for those of us that are disappointed that trunk-or-treats and trick-or-treating should not be happening this year.
The planning packet Lindsay has created includes all sorts of goodies for a multi-day scavenger hunt among your congregation’s homes. It’s all socially distanced and includes instructions for everything. It’s the exhausted christian education director’s dream — and all for ten dollars. Be sure to add Trek or Treat to your cart. (And you might want to add the digital Christmas pageant to your cart while you’re at it.)
I’ve also been thinking about actually launching the newsletter I dreamed about years ago. (Has it been years? What is time?) My primary motivation at the moment is to do a better job in planning ahead so my goal would be to provide planning ahead materials on a monthly basis while I’d probably stick to a similarly unpredictable schedule on a weekly basis on the blog itself. There are some big things coming up like Advent and Christmas and I know I’m not the only one daydreaming about these things. Especially you’ve found my round-up of materials for stewardship, Backpack Blessings and World Communion Sunday helpful, I would love if you’d subscribe here. And to the 44 of you already subscribed, you’re the greatest.
I am always praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians.