Lament: Brought to Speech (Psalm 13)

What is Lament?

In January for the past 4 or 5 years we’ve participated in Peace Month with other churches from our Yearly Meeting. This January our focus is Lament and peace. We are going to talk about personal lament, communal lament, and more.

You may wonder the connection between these two. What does lament have to do with peace?

But before we get there I want us to explore what is lament?

Q: What are some words that come to mind for you when you think of lament?

I want to start today with one of our favorite Shel Silverstein poems:

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Continue reading Lament: Brought to Speech (Psalm 13)

On the Harm We Have Done

Here is a prayer from Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) that seems as timely as ever, and one we ought to be praying regularly, especially given the state of the church and its too often unfortunate behavior in American society and politics.

OUR Father, we look back on the years that are gone and shame and sorrow come upon us, for the harm we have done to others rises up in our memory to accuse us. Some we have seared with the fire of our lust, and some we have scorched by the heat of our anger. In some we helped to quench the glow of young ideals by our selfish pride and craft, and in some we have nipped the opening bloom of faith by the frost of our unbelief.

We might have followed thy blessed footsteps, O Christ, binding up the bruised hearts of our brothers and guiding the way ward passions of the young to firmer man hood. Instead, there are poor hearts now broken and darkened because they encountered us on the way, and some perhaps remember us only as the beginning of their misery or sin.

O God, we know that all our prayers can never bring back the past, and no tears can wash out the red marks with which we have scarred some life that stands before our memory with accusing eyes. Grant that at least a humble and pure life may grow out of our late contrition, that in the brief days still left to us we may comfort and heal where we have scorned and crushed. Change us by the power of thy saving grace from sources of evil into forces for good, that with all our strength we may fight the wrongs we have aided, and aid the right we have clogged. Grant us this boon, that for every harm we have done, we may do some brave act of salvation, and that for every soul that has stumbled or fallen through us, we may bring to thee some other weak or despairing one, whose strength has been renewed by our love, that so the face of thy Christ may smile upon us and the light within us may shine undimmed.

-Walter Rauschenbusch “For God and For the People.”

Prayer and Pointing the Finger (pt. 4)

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This is the last of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

Finally, and maybe this is so obvious I don’t even need to say it but, this parable is about taking responsibility for ourselves and coming to a place where our spiritual lives are not dependent on us blaming others or pointing finger. Continue reading Prayer and Pointing the Finger (pt. 4)

Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)

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This is the third of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

Another thing this parable teaches us that prayer can help us to see ourselves more clearly.

We all know what a blind spot is. We have blind spots when there is “an obstruction in our visual field.” We talk about blind spots when we are driving. We talk about blind spots in all kinds of life. Continue reading Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)

Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)

Flickr image: Thomas Hawk

This is the second of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

A second thing we might learn from this parable is by considering how the pharisee and the tax collector are worlds apart socially. The distance between these to characters is like saying the Wall-Street Exec. and a person living on welfare went into a church together to pray. Continue reading Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)

Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)

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This week I have four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

This parable is in many ways about prayer, but it isn’t trying to teach us what to say, so much as the kind of attitude, or posture we are to have when we pray.

Story

The Catholic football team was on its way to an important game. A reporter boarded the train and asked for the football coach.

“I understand,” said the reporter, “that you carry a chaplain to pray for the success of the team. Would you mind introducing me to him?”

“That would be a pleasure,” said the coach. “Which one do you want to meet, the offensive or the defensive chaplain?”

From Anthony de Mello’s Song of the Bird (p.150)

Many of us are probably familiar with at least the idea of the great lengths that sport fans will go to make sure their team is on the winning side. But there’s another way to hear this second parable and it is about the attitude in which we pray. Continue reading Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)

A Prayer For All Those Beginning a New School Year

Today begins a new semester for many beginning or returning to college, and if seminary and graduate school has not begun for you it is just around the corner. Here is a prayer I want to offer to all of you as a new school year begins:

Almighty God, in whose hands are all the powers of man [sic]; who givest understanding, and takest it away; who, as it seemeth good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and inquiries.

Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which Thou hast hidden from me.

Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit, so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which Thou hast allotted me; and so further with thy help that labour which, without thy help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus. Amen.

From the Works of Samuel Johnson.