Saturday, December 17, 2016

Midnight Sun Invocation

I was asked to give an invocation at the Midnight Sun Holiday Lunch on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. The honored guest was Senator Lisa Murkowski. Senator Dan Sullivan and Representative Don Young were also in attendance. Giving an invocation is tricky because you're talking to God, but people can hear you.
I wrote out the prayer because I wanted to remember to cover everything that was important to me and I wanted to be sure to stay in my allotted time. I am sharing this with you because it might inspire your own prayers. 

Dear God, Holy Parent of all,
We gather today in this beautiful state, in a wonderfully diverse city, and we know that surely you are present here. Not only because you have promised to be where two or more or gathered, but we because we trust that there is a soft spot in the Divine Heart for Alaska as one of the best parts of your creation. 
We give you thanks for the opportunity to gather, to see old friends and to meet new ones. We look around and we remember those who are no longer with us and we commend them to you in their eternal rest in light. We rejoice for the ongoing work and community that comes out of this event. Bless us as we continue that work today and tomorrow and into another year.

Holy God, you already know the prayers of our hearts and minds, yet we lift them to you. We cannot stay silent in the face of war and threats of war around the world. The images of children, grieving families, beseeching refugees, and so much destruction are burned into our minds. We watch and we weep and we wonder where you are in all of this and what we can do in your name. Be with all who are working in war-torn regions- those who are offering medicine, shelter, education, those who are working for peace, for hope, for justice, those who donating, praying, and welcoming. Let your holy light shine into all these dark places and let us see that the darkness will not and cannot overcome it.

On our home front, we ask that your life light would bring healing to the divisions in our country, our state, our city, and our homes. Strengthen us to speak the truth and to hear it. Grant us to know, deep in our bones, like an unquenchable fire, what it means to stand with and for those who have been stripped of their voice, their power, their history, their choices, and their freedoms. Help us to remember that in the gospel according to John, Jesus spoke of having sheep in other folds. All people are our brothers and sisters in you. Grant that we may see them as such and work with them toward the healing and renewal of the earth, her people, and her resources.

We pray for those in power, especially those in elected positions who are tasked with the hard work of defending our Constitution, all Americans, and the resources of our great nation. We pray for those who do that task in the uniforms of the Armed Services, especially those who are away from the families and communities in this season.

Lastly, O God, you have told us to pray without ceasing, but people want to eat- so our prayers continue- with the power of the Holy Spirit- rising to you. Prayers for those in need. Prayers for our families and friends. Prayers about health and finances and homes and community. Prayers of joy and prayers of fear.

We lift all these to you and we trust that you hear them and that even now you are working in response, working for healing and restoration. We place all our hope and trust in your great faithfulness. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christian Bill of Rights: Amendment IV

Amendment IV 

The follower on the Way of Jesus cannot escape the power of God. No place is beyond the reach of the Spirit. No relationship outside of the hand of Christ. There is nowhere to go and so the follower must learn to wrestle with and to rest within both the Real Presence and the felt absence. This is the tension of the faith.

The same night [Jacob] got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the
By Talmoryair (Own work)
[CC BY 3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was
put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. (Genesis 32:22-31)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christian Bill of Rights: Amendment III

The follower on the Way of Christ understands that there is nothing that did not come from God and
that will eventually be either returned to God or rendered moot. Therefore, the follower on the Way is generous with all and to all.

Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

[Jesus] answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.” (Luke 3:11)

Keep loving each other like family. Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1-2)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christian Bill of Rights: Amendment II

The follower on the Way of Jesus will take seriously the tensions of living a holy life. The realities of just war theory, health care, national economic policy, and social justice are not as sharply defined as one hopes. Therefore, the actions one undertakes must be see through the lens of God’s love for all and a desire to bring healing to all.

Thou shall not kill. Exodus 20:13

Monday, December 12, 2016

Rend the Heavens: Advent Day 16

Rend the Heavens text: My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. These things I remember... Psalm 42:3-4

Prompt: Visceral

I still feel the impact of the text to me like a punch in the stomach. The words rejoicing at the results of the election, followed by words accusing me of being "intolerant" if I was not also rejoicing. My failure to accept what one believed to be the work of God caused maligning of my vocation, my work, all I'd ever done in Christ's name. I still feel the horrible weight of blocking a number and wondering what I needed to do legally to be protected. And who else might I need to protect?

Heavy, heavy hangs the head that remembers emails from another, telling me that a "bloodless election" was something for which to be grateful. As though the cries of those harassed, physically beaten, or killed before and after were nothing- just the background noise of democracy. 

Each cabinet name put forward feels like another brick, encasing freedom and truth and justice. I have no confidence in the confirmation process. I long for the days of a thumb in the scale, when the truth is that the scales of honesty, transparency, and community have been kicked over and beaten. 

There are people who look to me for good news, for hope, for food that is not tears... 

How can I tell them that we are now in the place for which we have been preparing to be? The place where we may give up our lives to gain our souls? The place where each taste of body and blood matters because our faith must deepen so that our actions become bolder and more fierce? The time in which we must become ever aware of having to account for our actions before the throne? 

Visceral, you say? Visceral, you ask? 

The body keeps the score of each spiritual punch, intellectual slap, psychological kick. And yet I rise again. The ultra-marathon of living the Way of Christ happens in the body, in the Body- one step at a time. 

Christian Bill of Rights: Amendment I

The follower of the Way of Jesus has the obligation to assemble with other followers on the Way. Such an assembly should occur as often as possible and should not fail to include prayer, hospitality, confession and assurance of forgiveness, counsel, and observance of the sacraments.

Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

Rejoice always. Pray continuously. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.  Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good. (Romans 12:9-17)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Rend the Heavens: Advent Day 7

Rend the Heavens text:  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” John 1:21

Prompt: For Pete's sake

Once, in a sermon for a preaching class in seminary, I portrayed Martha speaking to Jesus about not coming when her brother, Lazarus, had died. The professor didn't like the sermon because he said, and I quote, "It was too angry." 

I have spoken about that moment many times. 

Too angry? Too angry at an untimely death? Of someone Jesus loved?

What's too angry? 

What is too angry with Jesus? 

Are we too angry when we want a little more clarity on the when and where this is all coming down? 

Are we too angry when we are ticked about the unfairness of grace, even as it includes us?

Are we too angry when the heavens seem silent about injustice, war, and pain? 

Are we too angry when we wonder why the second time Quirinius was governor was the right time, but not the first time Trump was president?

Are we too angry when we are grieved to silence toward the Divine at untimely deaths and powers and principalities that seem run amok? 

For Pete's sake, what's too angry? 

Because I'm not sure that I'm actually there. Because I still breathe, I still speak, I still pray, I still hope. 

So, no. No. I am not yet too angry. 

And I'm pretty sure Martha wasn't either. 

Rend the Heavens: Advent Day 6

Rend the Heavens text: May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. – Psalm 72:4

Prompt: Yearn

God in heaven, what would this look like?
You withstood David’s murder of Uriah and his adulterous tendencies, allowing the img_7470defenseless Bathsheba not only to be raped, but to experience the death of her child.
You allowed Solomon to conscript his own people for the building of the temple- a building meant to honor you, but raised on the backs of people with choices take away.
Constantine was permitted to use your name and your story for the shaping of his own plans and expectations, forever altering how those who follow you would be viewed- within and without the Way of Christ.
So many have hung their harps on the willows, unable to sing your songs.
So many have screamed to the winds for you to dash the descendants of their enemies against the rocks.
So many have wept and wept and waited for joy in the morning that did not come.
Can you not feel the yearning of your creation? Do you not feel our strain and grief for healing and resolution and all that you have promised?
“How long, O Lord” is too stale a question now? We peer into the depths out of which we cry, listening to our own echoes, and wonder if you are there are at all? If you are planning to act ever? If you have forgotten your covenants, your end of all the bargains, your own character?
I yearn not to be your defense lawyer, your apologist, your witness.
I long to be overwhelmed by your power, your action, your holy fury.
Lord, hear our prayer.
And in your mercy, answer us.

Originally written for and posted to

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rend the Heavens: Advent Day 3

This prompt was originally scheduled for 11/29, but I'm catching up.

Text: Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures. Genesis 9:15b (CEB)

...and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. Genesis 9:15b (NRSV)


You can add up the parts 
but you won't have the sum 
You can strike up the march, 
Every heart, every heart 
to love will come 
but like a refugee. 

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in. 

Anthem- Leonard Cohen

There's a fancy church word for the moment in communion wherein the presider asks God to send the Holy Spirit into the elements: epiclesis. It is in this invocation or calling down that one asks, in front of all gathered, for power of the Holy Spirit to come into the bread and the product of the vine (juice or wine) and to bless them. 

Even though epiclesis is part of my (Lutheran) tradition, it is not something that I think of that often in presiding. There's a fair chance that when I utter the words of institution themselves, I may not
actually ever invoke the epiclesis. This is because I am not sure that God is ever actually apart from what God has made. 

I believe that God is the ultimate farmer- having given blood, sweat, tears, and love to all that has been made. Destruction of any part of creation weighs heavily on the divine memory. In as much as I believe the flood was God's decision to start over (which is to say that I don't really think that), I also think that those who told this story perceived that action was deeply out of character for One in whom all creation exists and moves and lives and has being. 

In truth, I think the fracture- the lifting up and breaking of the bread- is the true epiclesis moment of holy communion. Not any words that I might say, but the moment where there are no words. The moment in which all our eyes are drawn to something that God has created from air and soil and seed and vocation... and which we break. The fracturing is where the light comes in, where the Spirit's power is most visible, where we comprehend that things all apart, but God- and God alone- brings the healing. 

God allows creation the full run of the leash of free will, much to God's regret (in my opinion). But the flood promise, the covenant after the receding waters, says that there are limits to how much destruction God will allow. When we see the fracture in the clouds- the mix of light and mist that creates the rainbow- we remember God's promise. More importantly, God remembers God's promise. God remembers that there is too much, too far, a pain too great- for the Divine to bear. And so never again. 

When we look at the fractured world, do we see and perceive the grief of the Divine being? Are we speaking rotes words, believing we are calling upon the Spirit... when, in truth, the Spirit is always with us- pouring through the cracks in everything, revealing how the Light gets in?