Veterans Day Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God,

On a day set aside to remember a war to end all wars, we confess that our ideals were not as noble as we once believed. Our brokenness was too great to be healed by treaties, agreements, and standing armies. Forgive us for making death so efficient, killing so easy, and peace so hard.

We pray in hope. As veterans, survivors, and witnesses of war hope for a time when sacrifice is honored, death is no longer glorified, and the grieving are comforted; the church continues to wait for the coming kingdom of God.

We wait in hope. The world does not understand our hope. Those around us grow impatient. We too are mystified by the presence of hope in grief, love in tragedy, faith in sorrow, and kindness in an angry world.

We live in hope. Hope brings that which is formless and void into love and light. Hope creates in the midst of nothingness. As we walk through the shallow steps of sorrow and grief or the highs of joy and celebration; your hope gives us a perspective to understand where we are and where we’re going.

The expectation embodied in the hope of your arrival is not ours to contain but through the Holy Spirit, ours to share. O God, your hope challenges the intricacies of the status quo which we accept without question. Your hope reorients our lives, our vision, our hearing, and our perspective in ways we may barely notice but cannot deny.

Save, heal, and forgive us.

In hope we pray,
through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

Richard Bryant

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Why Halloween Sucks

  1. Yes, I said it. This day, the rituals, the costumes, the traditions, the ideas, they all suck.
  2. Children dressing in costumes and asking for candy from strangers is a cultural norm that is well past its prime.  The Great Pumpkin is dead.  Let us move on.
  3. Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, a religious festival that precedes, All Saints Day. It’s a Christian thing with pagan origins (much like Christmas).  Now it’s been commercialized and fetishized into a celebration of fear, death, and early onset diabetes in children.
  4. Adults enjoy Halloween because it creates excuses for mid week alcohol abuse, stupid selfies to post on Facebook, and reasons to wear something made in a Chinese sweat shop now deemed “sexy” by the capitalists at Party City.
  5. Halloween sucks because it forces well meaning homeowners who participate in this absurd ritual to be nice to people who’ve spent no time preparing their costumes.  “Yes, don’t you all look nice?”  No, you don’t look lovely.  You look like you grabbed a flashlight; a pillow case, a sheet, and your mom’s eyeliner.  You look like crap.  You don’t deserve my candy.  You deserve my pity and scorn.
  6. If turning off your light meant you could avoid the whole thing, I would do it. You can’t avoid something that’s infected the whole culture.  We are forced to watch this madness.
  7. Who said putting a rotten gourd on your porch was attractive? Who ever thought this was a good idea?  No one in their right mind!
  8. Do we not have enough death in this world? Let’s pick a day where we make death fun and cute.  How dumb is that?
  9. It’s just a place holder for Christmas. Christmas doesn’t need place holders, especially one that’s so vapid.  Go straight to Christmas if you love it so much.
  10. Halloween sucks because all the witty people who know they’re witty get to foist their wittiness on the rest of humanity with their witty Halloween costumes and we’re asked to bow down to the altar of their wittiness for another year. If I wanted to worship wittiness, I would read Dorothy Parker.
  11. No one wants to live in a bi-polar trick-or-treat world of punishment and reward.  Life like that is a living hell.  Why experiment with such nightmarish stupidity for one day?  Because it’s cute and we’ve always done it, what will it hurt?  Everything, it hurts everything.
  12. Each time a door bell rings and a child says, “trick-or-treat”; Allah, Buddha, Jesus, and Krishna cry.  Angels lose their wings and humpback whales die.

Pastoral Prayer for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Gracious God,

It seems as if every week is “one of those weeks”.  There is little time to breathe, think, respond, or react amid the news of more chaos in our world.  We are not separated from the most pressing needs of humanity by our television screens or computer monitors.  In the past week, death came to our door. In this sanctuary we celebrated the lives of two beloved members of our community.  And yet, as we gathered in grief, hospitals in Puerto Rico still lack water and medicine.  Families are no closer to answers as to why their loved ones were murdered Las Vegas.  Firefighters watch the uncontrollable power of nature destroy lives and homes in California.

Suffering does not respect geography, wealth, or any boundary.  Safety is in scarce supply.  The world proceeds as normal but we know something is amiss.  Like a nausea that will not go away, we feel it.  We are the lucky ones because we can pretend everything is fine.  Our children are in school, our water is running, and our homes are not burned to the ground.  Our grief is manageable because our sense of community is strong.  It is not so easy for our neighbors.  It is for them, those whose ideas of normalcy and safety are forever shattered, we pray.  There but for the grace of God are we.

God, we come to you this morning in a spirit of dialogue.  Here us as we clear our minds and open our hearts to the thoughts beyond our words.  Search our souls as we find gratitude and thankfulness among our requests and petitions.  Place within us a desire that forms our prayers into tangible actions.  May our “amen” be the next step in creating a partnership with you to help answer our prayers instead of passively waiting on you to do all the work.  You need us as much as we need you.

Amen

Rev. Richard Lowell Bryant

A Prayer for The Tragedy in Las Vegas

 Gracious God,

Our hearts are weary.  Our tears have no place to run and hide.  When we open our eyes, the blood stained idea of innocence lies broken before us.  In what seems a never ending silence, we hear the unimaginable sound of evil taking aim at humanity.  Yes Lord, we are weary of death, violence, and unanswered motives.

We give thanks for those who risk their lives to save lives in the face of evil.  For we know they too feel these strains.

We pray for those who are grieving and mourning.  There are no words to say which can adequately address this tragedy.  May your Holy Spirit be a comforter and prompt those friends, family, and caregivers to speak with a single word, gesture, or act of mercy.

The tapestry of our souls feels frayed, O God.  Weave us back together.  Take the frayed ends of our lives and entwine the fiber of our spirits into a community which is strengthened by its connections to each other.

Untangle the knots and cut us free from the entanglements we have created, so that we may be a tapestry which covers a multitude of sins and comforters all who need warmth.

Lord we know your will is not death, violence, storms, or disease.  You call us to love one another.  Let us reject evil, the powers of death and division, and plant the fruits of the spirit in places where death has tried to stake a claim.

Hear us as we pray,

Amen

Richard Lowell Bryant

When I Think of Taking a Knee

I think of prayer.  I think of active resistance to the principalities and powers, those of which the Apostle Paul wrote in the letter to the Ephesians.  I think of the place I go when I have nowhere else to turn.  I think of looking up when I have been made to bow down.  I think of the foot of the Cross.  I think of emptying my words, heart, dreams, and hopes, on the ground before me.  I think of the worn carpet before the altar.  I think of the old wood floor beside my desk, I think of the gravel in the driveway.  I think of the grass by the side of the road.  I think of everything and nothing.  I think of the words I want Jesus to hear and those I am afraid to say.  I think I can withhold nothing from Jesus .  I think of what must be brought to light.  I think I am not alone.  I think of the prayers before me,  around me, and waiting for my knee to bend.  I think.  I speak.  I weep.  I mumble. I give thanks.  I listen for God.  I listen to God.  I feel God’s creation beneath my knee as touch the Earth.   I bend my knee in love.  I pray in peace so I may serve others as the disciple Jesus called me to be.  I take a knee because Jesus taught me to pray from my knee so I might minister with my hands, arms, feet, and legs.  I think of prayer.

Richard Lowell Bryant

 

A Niemoller Moment circa 2017 (First They Came)

First they came for athletes calling attention to police brutality and racism. I did not speak out.
Because I was never brutalized for being white.
Then they came for the dreamers, bi-lingual achievers, and immigrant families. I did not speak out.
Because I was handed the American dream.
Then they came for anyone who disagreed with their version of reality, religion, and life. I did not speak out.
Because I could not find something to Tweet.
Then one Sunday morning, they came for me.
The church was empty, the streets were bare,
And there was no one left to speak for me.

–Richard Lowell Bryant

Richard’s Quick Guide to Mindful Prayer (An Exercise)

1. Find a comfortable, easy, or favorite place to sit.  It shouldn’t be so comfortable you’ll fall asleep.
2. Turn your phone off and place it beyond your reach.
3. Look around. Notice what you see going on around you.  Look for the nouns (people, places, and things) and the verbs (what are the nouns doing).
4. Close your eyes.
5. Take a deep breath and exhale. Do this slowly.
6. Count to five. (1 1000, 2 1000, 3 1000 and so on)
7. Do this two more times.
8. Your eyes are still closed.
9. To this point you’ve been focused on your breathing.
10. Your eyes are still closed. Do you hear what you saw a few moments ago?
11. What do you feel? (Pay close attention to the breeze, sunshine, and where you’re sitting.)
12. Is there one word, feeling, or emotion that keeps popping up in your mind? (Eyes still closed.)  What is this word or feeling?
13. If you could think of one word to describe what you’re feeling, at this moment, to tell God something, what would that word be?
14. Remember, you are still breathing nice, easy, and, slow.
15. After you’ve thought of your two words, (a word of description and a word of communication to God) say “Amen”. Suggested time for this exercise is 5-8 minutes.  When finished, stretch your legs and grab some water.