I am really excited when poetry takes the national stage. I was surprised when it happened in the beginning of the pandemic. Major news outlets started sharing poems chosen by their editors to speak this moment. Poetry became popular while we have been home in our pajamas.
It happens every four years — or nearly so — that a poet is invited to speak this moment in United States history. We need such words to speak to the unknown. We need the wisdom of artists to sing their prophetic hope and so I am eagerly awaiting what will come when Amanda Gorman takes the stage tomorrow to share her poem The Hill We Climb. There are other things about tomorrow that are in my thoughts but I have channeled all of that restless energy into a deep dive into the gifts and talents of this poet laureate.
Watch this and you will fall in love with this talented woman that the same news outlets that celebrated the gifts of poetry in the pandemic now only speak to this woman’s youth. Let’s not do that, friends. Let’s remember that our faith is centered on the very idea that a little child shall lead us. Age does not dictate wisdom.
This might not be something you share in worship but I hope it’s something that emboldens you, dear pastor, to use your words boldly and prophetically. You might be especially wondering how to do that this week as we wait to see what will happen tomorrow and after the nightmares of last week. I’m not sure that the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary this week are much help though I found wisdom both in this and this to see the gospel truth in this moment as kairos time.
What I especially love about Matt Skinner’s wisdom in Dear Working Preacher is that it might not feel like time to stir the pot right now. My friend Stacey said something similar last week on Twitter. It does no good to condemn each other to the urgency that might be felt but we do have a responsibility to invite each other into what could be. The kingdom of God hasn’t been realized but it is still near.
I am going to borrow the brilliance of Amanda Gorman in her poem In this Place (An American Lyric) in the prayers I offer this week in the hope of uncertain hope of kairos time. This poem is not public domain and so it should not be used in the context of worship but it might be a link that is shared on social media or in the church newsletter to continue reflection on what could be.
Call to Worship Inspired by Mark 1:14-20 Now. The time is now. Now is the time for good news and to fulfill the hopes and fears of all the years. Now. It could be time for us to believe that we are just beginning. We are just now finding lyrics for our hope. Just now we are finding words to claim what it might mean for the realm of God to come near. It has all come to this. It has come to this moment when we gather for worship to wonder again how we will fulfill this time. Let us worship and wonder.
Prayer of Confession Inspired by 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and Mark 1:14-20 We will not pretend that our whole lives will change, O God. We would be lying. Things might look the same: same partner, same job, same lament, same hope. But we pray today that something changes with us and through us so that we are not so afraid of letting go of our pride, our privilege, our assumptions about the past and the present and even the future. Forgive us, O God, for our arrogance and allow us to find grace in following your love. Amen.
This final prayer was written for a curated collection of prayers for the Overland Park Christian Church and the First Christian Church in Smithville, Missouri. The wise pastors of these congregations have broken from the Revised Common Lectionary for Epiphany and are leading a preaching series through the prophetic works of exile challenging us to wonder what we can learn about who we might become after our own pandemic exile. I am so honored to write prayers for this inspiring series. Their focus text for this week is Ezekiel 37:1-14 so there will be illusions in this adapted prayer to that resurrection hope. If your congregation is interested in doing something similar and would like to work with me in creating liturgy, please contact me here.
Prayers of the People Inspired by the poetry in Christian Scriptures and of Amanda Gorman O Spirit, we have feared tyrants. We have been astonished by what their words can incite. We have felt like our words were not enough so we haven’t spoken. We have been silent while history has its eyes on us. We have been stuck in this feeling that the world was passing away and we did not know if we could do anything to change it or even care that it was happening. Our apathy won. We haven't said that out loud. We haven't wanted it to be true when our despair was the only thing that we could really pin down in this appointed time. We haven't felt the urgency of this moment even though it has now become clear that something needs to change. We feel the tension more than the hope. We feel the hate more than the love. We feel the long arc of the moral universe more than the immediate justice. It has been hard enough to get out of bed and change out of our pajamas, but we know that your hope only lives if it has flesh. It will only breathe possibility into creation if that hope finds its rhythm within our souls. Give us, O Spirit, the wisdom to see ourselves and all of creation with the eyes of artists and prophets, dreamers and poets. Let the old dream dreams and young see visions for what could be. Let your hope, O Spirit, be the muse that flows from within us and give us courage to climb over the hill of our hopes and fears. We might not get to the Promised Land. We might not get to see all that you hope for this world, O Spirit of God, but that does not mean we give up the fight. Challenge us to soar to new heights where there will be new dreams and visions for your people. O Spirit, breathe hope into our lives and into all of creation. Dare us to dream of what could be on the other side of our despair. We pray in your grace. Amen.
You might not have had the leisure of wandering through the exquisite words of this poet laureate like I have but I don’t want you to miss hearing her read one of her poems. Thus far, this is my favorite.
Though her books haven’t released yet, she has two children’s books that will release soon. You might want to read this bedtime story to your children as much as I do. Or you might want to share in the energy of the inauguration in this forthcoming picture book within your ministry to children.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week, dear pastors. I am praying for you. I am praying for you, as always.