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.