Pandemic Prayers for Another World Communion Sunday

The world doesn’t feel like it did last year when I offered pandemic prayers for what I had thought would be the one and only pandemic World Communion Sunday in my lifetime. It feels different now.

This is the song that has been at the center of my prayers with each and every headline. The refrain soars from the deep when I read what we have done to each other. So much has happened that it seems impossible to believe that we were planning for World Communion Sunday only one year ago. It feels longer but here we are again to wonder what it means to be a global community sharing in one bread and one cup.

Last year, I imagined liturgical elements focused on the central images in our faith: water, bread and cup. I feel the need for something else this year — and not just because this year I’ll actually be preaching with the good people at Old First Reformed Church in Philadelphia. Like so many of your congregations, their worship will be on Zoom again after being in-person for a short while. I crave being together as I imagine so many others do but I’m grateful for the mysterious blessing of the internet that allows us to worship together while I am all the way from Germany.

I’m thinking about this year differently when it feels like so much has been torn apart. Part of me is even wondering about if divorce is how to speak of such things. Any other year I would gladly skip over that passage but this year I might turn my heart into it. I might need to hear that good news for this whole wide world. There are indeed hints of where I am leaning in the following prayers.

Call to Worship

Inspired by Hebrews 1:1-4 and Psalm 8

Long, long ago
God spoke. 

God spoke 
to our ancestors
in many and various ways.

God spoke in and through
the created world
whispering the glory
that could be and 
would be as surely 
as the moon and the stars 
were established in 
the heavens above.

We come to 
listen and to 
listen for God
whispering 
and inviting us 
into glory.
Prayer of Confession

With open ears, we come as a global people
to admit that the world is not as it should be.
It is not what our ancestors imagined
or even what we once dreamed 
could be. O God, there have 
been too many times recently
that we have given up. We have
believed in the worst in people and 
allowed ourselves to be convinced 
that nothing in this whole wide world
will ever change for the better. 

We have not seen glory
but only screaming babies. 
We have not seen the work of your fingers
but only environmental destruction.
We have found no evidence 
that people are coming together
to heal this world but only
the pain of separation. O God, 
forgive us for not seeing
what you can see. 
Give us a hint of 
your glory today. 
Words of Assurance

Today, dear child of God, remember that glory is as simple as this: 
God has crowned you with glory and honor. God cares for us all.
God redeems us all and with God all thing are possible. Thanks be to God.

It has been a long time since I’ve preached and so my creative energy is going into my sermon creation. I really wanted to provide something fun and different for this week but it seems I had more creativity last year and so it might be worth checking out last year’s Pandemic Prayers for World Communion Sunday even if it was for a different set of readings. (I am toying with doing something with this version of Psalm 8 though. I still haven’t quite figured out what though.) Mysteriously, I didn’t include anything for the table last year so here is one for this year. I still feel like I might edit it but here is a first draft.

Invitation to the Table

Inspired by Mark 10:2-16 and Psalm 8

We have been so divided
in ideas and solutions. We have 
separated ourselves and 
felt so alone. 

We have been alone
so much and could only
watch as terror erupted. 
We have been so divorced
from each other that it seems impossible 
that any human being could ever 
be a little lower than God
but here God invites us
through all that separates and divides us
to find wholeness in our brokenness.
We gather around this table 
as global community to 
remember and believe that
in this bread we are one. 
In this cup, we are united
to share in what could be
for ourselves and this world.

We come to this table
again to remember
we have a place here.
Everyone born
has a place at this table.
Nothing can separate us
and in this feast, we will 
become whole again. 

I won’t be choosing music this Sunday because there are talents for this in the church that far exceed my own. (This is nearly always true. I am so grateful for the gifts and inspiration that musicians bring to our worship each week.) Still, I like this one and may or may not be playing it on repeat as I try to form a sermon around that Gospel Lesson.

Though the joke has been made that I’m now an international preacher, the prayers I offer obviously don’t reflect the diversity and brilliance that exists in God’s people. Most denominations have a wonderful gift of resources and prayers which you already knew but maybe forgot. For those of you on Zoom, you might want to search your denomination’s YouTube channel for something that would add to your worship experience on Sunday. The World Council of Churches also offers some prayers from the global church that are quite lovely though it requires a bit of searching. The prayers for the Week of Christian Unity in 2017 were focused on reconciliation and might pair well with this week’s readings. You can find those prayers here. I also really loved some of the prayers in this recent publication of pandemic prayers in a global perspective. There are a ton of other resources but I’ll add more for link to this Affirmation of Unity for times like these.

That’s all I’ve got for this particular Sunday but I am faithfully working on a round-up of Advent and Christmas ideas to be shared in News from My Kitchen. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my very occasional liturgy-filled email, you can do so here.

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

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 10B

I loved the movie. I did. I still do but I always found this one repeated line creepy.

It’s the same line that I hear repeated in the Gospel Lesson forcing us to wonder how any one of us will answer that question, “What should I ask for?”

It is a woman that asks this question and we rarely hear women speak so boldly in Mark’s story or any other gospel account. I really wish that I had my copy of the Women’s Bible Commentary unpacked. (I also wish that I wasn’t still living in a hotel.) There is something both about the femaleness of this question and the overwhelming privilege that unsettles me. It’s this that I’m praying out in the following confession and assurance. I warn you: it’s dark but if you’re brave enough to choose this text as a preaching text then it may be what you need.

Invitation to Confession

We come today thinking that we know 
how the story goes. We know the plot
lines and the story arc but we come
together as people of prayer and hope
because we are disquieted with
the idea that some things have to 
be this way. We come to share 
in our human struggle 
by confessing our sins.

Prayer of Confession

Inspired by Psalm 48 and Mark 6:14-29

It doesn't feel like we danced.
It doesn't feel like we could have had
such rhythm getting to this point
but maybe we were more graceful 
than we imagined.

Maybe. Maybe that's how it went
or how we just managed to survive
to this moment in time. Maybe that's 
what it feels like now that vaccines are
widely available and the world shifts 
into a new normal that anything is possible.

Whatever you wish can happen 
now. That's the temptation. 
That's the tipping point
but it comes with caution
because our choices make 
a difference. Someone's head
could end up on a platter
and that was never our intent.

It was never our intent
but we always have the best
of intentions. We would never
mean to cause harm. It just happens
sometimes. That's what we tell ourselves. 
O God, we are so frail 
and so human.
Save us.

Words of Assurance

Inspired by Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed are you, dear child of God,
for being brave enough to name the discomfort.
You have set your hope on Christ
and you will live in praise of such glory.
You are part of the great story of redemption.
You are forgiven. You are loved. Amen. Amen.

It was two cycles ago when Amos’ plumbline came along in the Revised Common Lectionary that I was candidating for my last settled call. I preached on Amos that day but the liturgy I shared was rooted in the psalms. I’ve adapted the following prayer from that morning for the present day.

Prayer of Illumination

Inspired by Psalm 85

Show us, O Holy One,
as we come together as your people 
with our hearts open to your steadfast love
show us what you see. 

Because our eyes 
have grown tired.
Pass us that pair of bifocals.
Hand us that magnifying glass.
Uncloud our vision 
so that we can see what you see.
Show us, O Holy One.

Search with us
for that moment 
when love and faithfulness meet
because it has happened
and it will happen again
but we have forgotten to look.
We have forgotten so much
in our languishing and 
we need to open ourselves
to possibility again. 

Open us to the wonder
and delight in seeing 
righteousness and peace kiss
and feel faithfulness spring up 
like tiny bubbles of hope.
Come, O Holy One, 
into our worship and wonder
and lead us onto 
that path of possibility. 
Guide us there. 
Lead us with your love.
Come, O Holy One. 
Come.

That’s all I’ve got for this week though I know that you are busy with many things. As it helps you prepare for the ministry ahead, I want to share these prayers for Vacation Bible School from last year and encourage you to think about what options there might be for Labor Sunday this year. These suggestions from last year might not be the liturgical gifts you need for this year’s lections but I hope the prompts encourage you to think about another Sunday off from preaching. Some of you may already be planning for Backpack Blessings in Coronatide even if that title feels so last year.

I’m praying for you, dear pastor. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Advent 3

I hope you already found the beautiful prayers gathered by RevGalBlogPals in their weekly Worship Words. I am honored to contribute to this collection of wonderful prayers and appreciate the nudge that to remember that those in the Southern Hemisphere welcome this celebrations with an entirely different set of metaphors.

I wanted to use the words of familiar carols to fill our prayers in full awareness that one of the things many of us will be missing this year is singing together these favorite tunes. These carols, especially the one featured over on Worship Words, have a bias toward the cold and frost that is familiar to me at Christmas. I know there is a collection of songs that sing a whole different experience of this birth but they are unfamiliar to me. It’s a complicated place to be in right now. I both want the familiar but know that it won’t be what it was. Those familiar things will not be the same, not this year.

Here are a few prayers for worship on Advent 3B peppered with the words of familiar carols before I go back to working on Epiphany and Christmas worship for next year. Can you imagine writing prayers for next year? What will the world look like? How will we welcome that birth then? Yikes. Don’t worry too much about it, dear pastor. There are people faithfully writing those prayers for you. You don’t need to think about it now. That’s my job.

Call to Worship
Inspired by What Child is This?

Shepherds and prophets keep watch and wait
wondering what child is this?
They were like those who dream
of a world turned upside down
where joy erupts like laughter.

This, this is not how it is now.
This is not how it feels 
in these dwindling Advent days.

Haste, haste to bring 
such joy and love 
even into this 
pandemic year.

Let us greet such wonder 
with anthems sweet
and joy. Let there be
joy in our worship today.
Prayer of Confession
Inspired by John 1:6-8, 19-28 and O Little Town of Bethlehem

Who are we? Who are we now?
We’ve asked this question so many times
over so many months of isolation. 
Have we changed? Does it matter?

Our meek souls wait 
to receive the Christ Child
into this world of sin. 
Or at least into 
our little pod of sin.

What do we have to say about ourselves?
What will we say now
as we pray together for the hopes and fears
of this very long year?
O God, cast out our sin
and enter in. Become
light and joy to us today. Amen.
Words of Assurance
Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 

So much has happened 
in just a few months. You have tested everything.
Now, hold fast to what is good. Give thanks 
for the joy God finds in you every day.
Beloved, you are made in joy. Thanks be to God.