I’m thinking about my own prayer life a lot right now. I’m wondering about how I’m caring for the tender part of my soul that needs to grieve and sing and wonder — and it’s hard. It’s hard to find that space in this long season for parents whether we have children learning online or toddlers who can’t understand why we can’t go to the playground.
I have been so worried about so many things that prayer has continued to fall to the bottom of the list. Seriously, I work out first. That’s how bad this is. It is that bad. I work out first, friends. I’m thinking about that as I offer these prayer for communal meditation for your weekly worship. There are the prayers that we mutter when the siren blares and the governor makes a really stupid decision for the good of the entire state, but there are the things that we need to hear from God in the stillness. There are things that we can only find in the quiet when we allow ourselves to listen for what God might be saying to us.
Call to Worship Inspired by Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 Tears have been shed this week and just yesterday in frustration and anger. O God, we are impatient and restless and so very tired. We have cried for people and places and things that don't even make sense. We have cried to you, O God, in the trouble of this year and you have saved us from our distress. We come to worship and praise the mystery of your love that is with us always. It is with us now and so we sing with joy for all you are doing right now. O God, we come to worship your goodness.
In the online worship formats I’ve been attending in coronatide, I haven’t seen silence been used a lot. It has been brief if it has happened at all. I suspect that there are reasons for this. We are spending so much more time with the silence of our own souls that to spend those few blessed moments when we get to escape that inner quiet only increases the chaos when we try to be silent together, but it has been a year. It has been a whole year now and silence in worship is important for our collective listening. I think it can be done without it feeling like there is nothing happening.
I have wondered if it could be as simple as lighting candles for the lives that have been lost. In the United States, we jumped from 400,000 lives to 500,000 lives in way too little time. Maybe grief is what needs to be felt in this moment or maybe it is frustration of hitting this last pandemic wall. Can I say it’s the last? Will that ruin everything?
Opening for Silence Inspired by Numbers 21:4-9 We have spoken against God and each other. We have let words get in the way of our hope for we have feared that this will never end. More death will come and we don't know how to make it stop other than to close our mouths and open our ears. Together, we will listen for a word from God that will remind us of what it means to live. In the silence we will share, ask God for a word of hope and renewal. Ask God for a word of corsage and strength. Ask God for a word in the silence we now share.
I would conclude this silence that should be no less than 120 seconds with some music. I would choose this hymn because it’s what popped into my head as I was writing this invitation and then I might follow up on social media by asking people for their words. There are hundreds of creative ways to share such words that you’ve probably done already in this pandemic but in this moment it might not be so much about the creativity as the attentiveness to listen to each other’s prayers.
I have wondered how to mark that it has been one year since worship shifted online. It has been more than a year since so many have died. It has felt like an eternity since we adjusted to this new season of living. I want there to be something to mark the moment and remind us that we are in this together which reminded me of something my spiritual director taught me. She led me though this sensory grounding practice in one of our recent sessions. A grounding practice like this seems like a good way to mark the moment that we are in now and so I offer such a possibility for such a practice as the calendar reminds us that it has been a whole year of coronatide adapted from the gifts my spiritual director gave me. It functions like a guided meditation that could work anywhere in worship.
Pandemic Call to the Senses Beloved, find yourself here with two feet planted on the ground. Take off your slippers or socks or whatever is covering your feet. This is holy ground right here in this place where two or three are gathered in worship and wonder. Take a deep breath full of the dust of the ancestors and the lives lost this year. Feel the the presence of the whole cloud of witnesses here with us now. Breathe in and breathe out. Look around this space where you have spent so many hours in this past year. Life has happened here. So much life had happened here. Notice five things that you can see from where you are sitting that remind you of what this life has felt like this year. (Long pause.) Breathe in and breathe out. Reach from where you are sitting to touch four things that connect you to someone you have loved. (Long pause.) Breathe in and breathe out. Notice in this space where you have lived abundantly three things you can hear. Listen for the hum of life that is in this place. (Long pause.) Breathe in and breathe out. Call to your awareness two scents, aromas or smells that remind you that there is goodness here in this moment. (Long pause.) Breathe in and breathe out. Notice what stirs on your tastebuds and excites you about the future and for now acknowledge one thing that you can taste. (Long pause.) Breathe in and breathe out. For these things that you have tased, smelled, heard, touched and seen, we give thanks. We give thanks for the rich blessing of this life and for the ways that we seek to live into the days ahead. We give thanks for the life we have shared across internet connections and telephone wires. We give thanks and praise to God. Amen.
I would invite the worshipping community to share in coffee hour (if your church is doing that kind of thing) what they found through their senses. I might even suggest some simple discussion questions to suggest what felt most like life in this pandemic or what felt like it was missing.
That’s all I have for you, dear pastors. I am praying for you. I am praying for you, as always.