Pandemic Prayers for Reign of Christ

Time still eludes me. I had forgotten that I had managed to work a week ahead in what I offer here in these pandemic prayers. It hasn’t always been that way and I’m sure I’ll fall behind again but I gave myself a small heart attack when I clicked ahead in the Revised Common Lectionary. I gasped. Surely, it is not Reign of Christ already. Advent is that soon? No! It’s still two weeks out but it seems impossibly soon.

I am going to play a bit more this week with format as I try to troubleshoot this annoying glitch that doesn’t seem to allow for easy copying and pasting. If you are in the habit of copying and pasting from these pandemic prayers, could you let me know if it’s easier? Please drop a note in the comments so that this isn’t a problem any longer. I am so sorry that I’m only just learning how tricky this has been.

Reign of Christ seems to be a Sunday I skipped last year. There is nothing here for that Sunday though I can’t remember a Sunday n my ministry when it wasn’t the focus of worship. I always liked the movement of meditating on the wonder of God’s reign and Christ’s place in the world before diving into the uncertainty of Advent where it feels unclear where God is. The realm of God is, however, really hard to imagine. It feels even harder now and so I find myself wandering back into the familiar words of that beloved prayer that Jesus taught us.

The following prayers are adaptations for prayers I wrote for First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Smithville, MO and Overland Park Christian Church in Overland Park, KS. The two brilliant pastors of those congregations combined forces last year to imagine a special series inviting their beloved people to imagine what life after the long pandemic exile might mean. It was a beautiful series and I was so honored to offer my words to their worship experience and I love how these two friends supported each other in a preaching series that was life-giving to them and their congregations.

Opening Prayer
Inspired by Revelation 1:4b-8

Holy One, our fingers have scrolled 
and turned newsprint pages looking 
for the promise of good news. 

These palms have cradled remotes
and clicked channels scanning the world
inside our living room 
and our bedroom
and even our kitchen
for what might be 
on the other side 
of this. 

We hope our eyes
will see you, O Christ,
while our hands our busy
searching so that 
we can find hope 
and faith in the wonder
that you were there in 
the beginning and
are here now in this
present chaos and 
your glory and power
are imagining what will 
come in the days head. 

Our hands tremble
with hope and possibility. 
We rub our eyes in confusion.
Strengthen these tendons
and muscles with your promise.
Fix our gaze on your glory.
This we pray with the
One who is our Alpha and Omega
and gives us strength in praying...

I love this version of the prayer. There are a lot of other wonderful versions of this prayer that I love to add to worship to make these familiar words come to life in new ways. My current favorite is from the New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book. A visual interpretation follows below. With both of these videos, permissions would still need to be obtained to use them in your worship experience.

Pastoral Prayer
Inspired by Psalm 132:1-12 and John 18:33-37 

O God, the heavens 
and the earth have been shaken. 
We have felt unsteady and uncertain. 
We’ve been tempted 
to relish in the past
when everything seemed easier,
but things are not what they were. 

We are not where we were 
anymore. The world looks different now. 
We are different.
Or so we pray now that we find 
ourselves here waiting for heaven
and earth to meet. 

It’s not what we imagined.
O God, it is nothing like 
we ever imagined when we
thought your realm was not 
from this world. It is still not
here and maybe we though by now
that it should be.
Or it would be.

We never thought it would be this hard.
There have been so many hardships
that will not give sleep to 
our exhausted eyelids.

We have lost of many lives
to this virus. We have lost
lives that were untouched 
by the coronavirus 
but consumed 
by other diseases.
There has been 
so much death
and not enough 
hands to hold
in the loss we share. 

We have lost income
and financial security. 
Best made plans
dissolved with 
all our savings and 
we felt powerless 
as our favorite local businesses 
shuttered and closed. 

We have lost more, O God, 
awaiting your realm to come 
to this earth and into our lives.

We have questions
like Pilate of how you 
can transform this mess 
when we do not know 
how else to help and 
we can't help but give thanks
for the things that we do not know
of your realm. There is so much 
that we do not know so we
pray for the things that 
Christ taught us to pray for:
enough food to fill our bellies, 
forgiveness for all that we cannot understand
and grace to strangers and friends.
We are all connected. Forgive us
for ignoring this fact.
Our bodies are plagued
by the trauma of this pandemic
and we all need love. 
We need the love that
hangs on the end of every question
in our hope for the future. 
We need the glory and power 
of your divine love 
to redeem our present
with hope and wonder.
We pray in the truth
of you are the source
of all that is all that shall be,
Our Eternal Spirit, Earth-Maker, 
Pain-Bearer and Life-Giver. Amen.

If you don’t use the New Zealand version in your worship experience, I recommend adapting that last bit of the pastoral prayer to words that evoke the wonder of the version you have chosen.

As you may know, I’m also hard at work on a special service for the first few weeks in January with something I’m calling New Year Epiphanies. It’s why I didn’t opt for the new year celebration here. It wouldn’t make sense with what I’m imagining for the first Sundays in January.

You can find a brief summary in my kitchen as well as the other materials I’ve created for Advent and Christmas. I pray all of these things help your planning for the upcoming season that I know you are busy imagining with great love.

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

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 29, Thanksgiving and Keeping Watch Under Pandemic Skies Release

I have already moved into Advent. I made the leap. The Christmas carols have been turned on though I’m refusing to put the tree until after Thanksgiving. It feels like it has been Advent for months already though, doesn’t it? Still, the huge uptick in COVID-19 cases across this nation mean that any worship plans to be together have most likely changed…. again.

My dear friend and pastor at my sweet Texas church wanted to provide something different. Something that allowed the community to experience this season in a new way while still being connected to the physical space of the church, even if that physical space was outside in the garden, outdoor chapel and labyrinth instead of inside the sanctuary. She asked me to help and so I’m thrilled to finally release Keeping Watch Under Pandemic Skies for all of the changed plans of 2020.

I’m really excited about how this turned out and hope that it might be a blessing to all of your changed plans. It’s meant to be simple though there is a bit of legwork in getting yard signs set up along the two different paths you create on your church property. The meditations unfold over Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons with music, reflections, prayers and actions to take. I’ve included sample yard signs in the bundle and even an outdoor Christmas Eve service. Order your bundle here.

I will be taking a break from writing weekly prayers in Advent so you won’t see new prayers for weekly worship here next week, but I do have a few other things up my sleeve so be sure to sign up for my News from My Kitchen so you don’t miss out. That said, I have a prayer for this week. It’s not my favorite but it’s something for the weird cacophony of this Sunday. It feels like too much to me every year. Too many things at once as we try to honor the Reign of Christ, Reformation Sunday and the end of the church calendar. It’s too much especially when I just want to bellow into the unknown future.

I want to know what will be. I’m hoping that the hatred and contempt so embedded in our national life right now will change. I’m longing for hearts to change and hoping that God will be known in new and wonderful ways. I’m hoping for a vaccine but hesitant to name that prayer too loudly.

Prayer for the Wondering
Inspired by Matthew 25:31-46

O God, tell us what can be
where we divided 
and separated 
like sheep from the goats.

On the right 
and on the left,
we need blessing
and grace.

Our foundations 
have been shaken. 
We never imagined
that this would be
our reality. Here we are, 
O God, wondering what 
could be. Speak to us
in sacred story
and modern parable
so that we can see
your place in every thing.  
We need to 
know that you
are in every thing, 
O God. Fill our jagged
edges and open questions 
with your presence
so that we can 
wonder what will 
be with you. Amen.

At the same time, I’m thinking about gratitude because that’s supposed to be something we are feeling this month. Maybe that’s for only when we are not in the third wave of a global pandemic. My first call was in Maine that marked that occasion with joy of pilgrims. We know better now, I hope. We are working harder than ever at learning from our mistakes and our implicit bias. I think that requires a new language of gratitude that is not tied to that childhood tale of strangers becoming friends around a table of abundance. We will be isolating this year. We won’t be with our families. Gratitude can’t be found in the familiar. At least for me, it’s a little bit sassier.

Prayer for Pandemic Gratitude
Inspired by Deuteronomy 8:7-18 and  2 Corinthians 9:6-15

O God, bring us 
to that good land 
full of your living water
and the abundance of 
good things. Bring us 
to that place where
we might be full 
and satisfied
this nagging feeling 
is exhausting. 

This constant
agonizing feeling
that nothing will 
get better and 
nobody cares 
because we can't 
agree on what love
looks like now
just needs to stop.

We are not cheerful.
Don't ask that
of us, O God,
because we don't
have that in us. 
Sorry. It's true.
Skip ahead 
to the part 
where we 
give to the poor
and multiply the seeds
for the farmers 
and bread bakers
except that we've confused
what we can do in this 
great and terrible 
pandemic wilderness 
with what you can do. 

Remind us 
that gratitude
doesn't have to
turn over every table
but only had to turn 
our hearts 
to notice the indescribable
wonder of living in your love.
O God, with every
breath in our bodies,
help us to live 
in our love
enough to praise
you with thanksgiving.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week, dear pastors. I’m praying for you as always.