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

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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

 

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.

A Prayer As We Boarded the Hand-basket

For this hand-basket we’ve boarded between the Mexican Earthquake and Hurricane Maria, we give thanks;

Let us pray:

Yesterday’s earthquake in Mexico was really bad. I understand it was on the anniversary of another large earthquake back in 1985. What’s with the symbolism? I’m not one to be easily spooked but that unnerved me. Did you see the elementary school that collapsed in Mexico City? Of course you did, you’re God. Twenty-five children were crushed to death. Puerto Rico is being battered by a hurricane, people are certain to die there. Who knows where Maria will go next? In the midst of so many hurricanes that I’ve lost count, twenty-five innocent children died in one of the most horrific means imaginable. Where are you God?

You are in the lives of the first responders, those digging through rubble, and others seeking to offer assistance. That’s the official line.  However, at this point, I’m no longer certain.  Are you (God) present or are the rescuers trying to clean up the mess you’ve allowed to be made? Are they instruments of your grace and mercy or are they responding to a world where God is absent, death is on the march, and we’ve been left to care for each other (because we’re all we’ve got)?  Given what the world’s been through in the past few months, I think those are fair questions.

It’s hard to keep saying, “God has a plan and God is good” when the bodies start piling up. You and I have a credibility issue. The good stuff attributed to you looks random at best and like playing favorites at worst. The bad stuff, which is vast and horrific, seems capricious and mean.  You may not intend it that way, but that’s how it feels.

My congregation asks: Why is God doing this?  Like it or not, for good or bad, people of faith see you involved in the world.  They also want to know why evil and suffering exist; especially if God is so good.  They’re not looking to blame homosexuality, crime, Trump, Clinton, or drug addiction on a natural disaster.  Instead, they want to make sense of their faith and the complex world around them.

Your people, the church, those who keep this thing running are exhausted. Their hope is faltering, their lives are in peril, and all we can do is respond.  At this rate, our response isn’t what it once was.  Miracles, grand, sweeping, proactive acts of God used to be your thing.  What happened?  Were those just stories?  I hope not.  Because the body count is already way too high.

Amen

Richard Lowell Bryant

A Morning Prayer for the Journey

Gracious God,
You are here with me now,
In all that I am, you are my very existence,
Within your life giving presence, I acknowledge this moment;
the blessing of time to respond and reflect on the call
to love you with all my body, mind, soul and my neighbor as myself.

In these quiet spaces, where your Spirit dwells,
I confess I have not loved my neighbor or you with my whole heart.

Forgive me.

I ask for the grace to abandon my own cares.
Where I will not hear, may my deafness be healed.
Where I will not see, may my blindness be redeemed.
Where I will not walk, may your Spirit push me toward love.

Now, I embrace the gift of today. These hours before me are your grace made anew.
Yesterday’s failures, foibles, and faults are but calls to forgive ourselves and others;
to reflect your love and to gather your grace for those who need it most.

Every aspect of my life is open to you, O God. From you, nothing is hidden.
You know my fears and hopes. You are with me when I laugh and cry.
Even when I feel you are absent, you are present.
I know your love never ends.  Nothing will separate me from your love.

Bless our journey.  I am grateful for the path before me and the people along our way.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

When Humanity Becomes Human

 

On this day after,
We are rightly amazed,
When humanity becomes human,
Random kindness by strangers,
Simple acts of courtesy displayed,
These are not what anyone might do,
But grand deeds of bravery,
Shocking, surprising, astounding,
Utterly beyond our belief,
People standing together,
Against the bigots for all to see,
Surely this is how we are… normally?
Or are we kind of kind,
Only when innocent children die,
Morality appears to survive,
When it seems,
random people offer tea,
Does terror no longer thrive,
When our phones are charged,
And Instagram knows were alive?
Keep calm and carry on being human.
For this we need no special reward,
Though I offer my prayers,
For my faith in ordinary decency,
Is somewhat restored.

–Richard Bryant