thinking theology

Archive for July, 2015

Summer Prayers for Monday

Morning
Dawn opens the curtain of night to the hymn of birds, frogs, and insects. On the mountains, fog is rising; on the rivers, oceans and lakes, steam is curling in the warmth of the morning. All creation breathes with sanctity and peace. A new day is born.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, when the earth was unformed and darkness covered the face of the Deeps, a powerful rushing Spirit from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1:1-5

Holy and Abiding Spirit, we give you thanks that you have opened our eyes again to the wonder of life. Brood over us as at the beginning, breathing into us possibility, and brightening our lives with the light arriving from the beginning of the world. Amen.

Noon

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility. . . in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:19-25

Over my heart I carry the cross as the sign of sacrificial love that opens to embrace all creation. Although the world pulls us in opposing directions, opposing ideas, and opposing stress, the Spirit helps us to remain at the centre where serenity and clear vision hold us to a larger perspective and hope. Help us to see beyond and before this present moment. Give us the courage to learn and the strength to believe. Amen

Evening

Night draws a blanket of darkness over the earth so that the creatures of the night may enjoy their time to work and play, so that the earth may recover from our demands upon it, and so that your people may find each other in peace and love.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:28-35

Beloved of God, the day is spent, remain with us this and every evening that we may come to know and love you more.

Comforter and safe haven for the weary, we offer you this day. What we have done well, bless and magnify for all people. What we have omitted or done poorly, forgive and let us put anxiety to rest. May we have peace of mind so that we awake refreshed in body, mind,  and soul. Guard us with your holy messengers while we sleep and shelter our souls in the shadow of your loving wings. Amen
A Child’s Prayer for Nighttime

God of the stars,
God of the moon,
God on the earth,
God in my room.

Be in my teddy.
Be in my head,
Be in the dreams
Floating over my bed.

God of the morning,
God of the night,
Hold me and keep me
‘til dawn’s early light. Amen

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Summer Prayers for Friday

Morning
We say thank God it’s Friday, but perhaps we want to thank God for every day that grants our lives meaning and purpose.

With you, O Holy One, every day is eternity; teach us to live in and appreciate each eternal moment, a free gift of life.

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ Mark 12

Gracious God who gives us life and a global garden in which to live, today may we notice and value that which is small as much as that which is large. May we appreciate the hidden treasures of the ordinary. Amen

Noon
‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then Jesus took a little child and put him/her among them; and taking her/him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ Mark 6

It is not by power or achievement that we serve, but through the compassion of our hearts. In the middle of the day, let us offer our thanks for all those who work unseen and unknown, but who contribute to the common good.

Evening

It is evening, the end of another week. let us remember to fold our hands in prayer while the night birds sing their psalms and the leaves curl their leaves in repose. The evening flowers scent the night with holiness, the incense of the temple of God’s creation.

I have more on my mind to express;
I am full like the full moon.
Listen to me, my faithful children, and blossom
like a rose growing by a stream of water.
Send out fragrance like incense,
and put forth blossoms like a lily.
Scatter the fragrance, and sing a hymn of praise;
bless the Holy One for all the works of creation.
Ascribe majesty to the Divine Name
and give thanks with praise,
with songs on your lips, and with harps. . . . Sirach 39:12-16

Blessed God of peace and joy, receive our appreciation for your sheltering wings throughout this week. For all that has pleased us, thank you. For all that has troubled us, we thank you for what we learn from these struggles. For the people we have met, for the love you have given us to share, we thank you and bless your name forever. Amen

Summer Prayers for Wednesday

Morning

The rush of enormous trucks over the bridge,
busloads of people on their way to work,
construction crews dodging anxious commuters,
shop-keepers releasing shutters,
the chatter of children arising,
the city awakens to another day,
but who is singing praises to God?

But I call upon God,and the Holy One will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my prayer, and God will hear my voice.
Psalm 55:12

Holy One, as I begin this day, keep me safe in your love. Help me to remember that you are always with me, as close as my heart, as alive as the breath in my lungs, as vibrant as the blood pulsing in my veins. I pray today for energy, for awareness of the needs of others, for the memory of my baptismal commitment. And so I begin my day in you. Amen.

Noon
The story of Paul’s conversion from violence to Jesus’ teaching about inclusion and forgiveness reminds us that we are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Later the messenger Ananias said to Paul, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.” Acts 22

Holy One, may I always be open to learning your way more deeply and serving others with humility and commitment to forgiveness and healing. Amen

Evening
Somewhere on earth, there is singing tonight and somewhere there are tears. For someone, life is beginning and for another, life is ending. Under the overarching stars, there is a time for everything. May there be a time when cruelty and violence are forgotten. May my life have been more about love, companionship and reconciliation than anything else.

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places. Isaiah 32:17

Sheltering One, gather us into your embrace. May I rest in peace, confident in your restorative love and power to heal. May all the people of the world come to trust in peace and run from violent solutions. Amen.

Child’s Prayer

Gonna lie down, quiet down,
rest my little toes,
my little nose,
my big big brain
cause God’s got plans for me
tomorrow and the next day too!

Summer Prayers for Tuesday

Let the favor of our God be upon us, and prosper
for us the work of our hands- 
O prosper the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17

Morning

Hands scarred by loving the earth, the seeds of invention
tenderly planted; energetically weeding the past,
making food and friends without gloves,
a life lived without protection from the elements.

Divine Presence, we thank you that you call us to rise, to work, to do those things that benefit this earth, its creatures and all humanity.  May all that we do today be pleasing to you and support the growth of all into your community of peace and love. Amen

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:7-9

May the wages that we receive also be those of peace and trust in God’s love. May the work that we accomplish alone and with others lead to justice and compassion for all. So be it.

Noon
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day. Proverbs 4:18

May the path I walk today show me the way of compassion and healing. May I feel the light of Christ dwelling within me. Amen

Evening

As evening breezes cool the land, sharing breath with ocean, relaxing into the time of rest and flow, so may we offer our day as the evening sacrifice, the work of our hands, a holy offering to God.

They heard the sound of the Holy One walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Divine Presence among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Loving and Holy One, in Christ we learn not to fear you or our own limitations, but to offer our strengths and weaknesses to your purposes in our lives and in creation. May all that we have done today support and encourage the work of healing for the earth. Amen.

Child’s Prayer

Angels, angels in the night
standing guard ‘til morning light.
Bless my mom and bless my dad.
Thank you for the day I’ve had.

Neither a King

Do not let them see you as the shepherd or they will learn to follow, not question. Do not let them see you as a king or they will think that power can solve problems. Last week, we heard Mark explaining how Jesus pointed to the immanent, abiding God as the good shepherd, waiting to be given birth amongst the people. This week we hear virtually the same story from John but with a different twist.

In the gospel of John, many see the writer as lifting up a regal Christ, but another way to read this gospel is to see how John turns the question of power around. After healing and feeding the people, Jesus suspects that the next step will be to promote him as a political figure – and he turns away to avoid it. In his confrontation with Pilate, the issue of kingship arises and Jesus deflects the argument by refusing to engage in human constructions of power. He says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” To which world is he referring? I think he is referring to the world where power is brokered and human lives are bartered for profit or influence.

Jesus does not come to make life easier or less perplexing. I think his presence in the world is to teach us to ask questions, to refuse to be chattel or pawns. We must make political choices of course, but they need to be based on the gospel of abundance and generosity, of inclusivity and acceptance. We are only pawns when we allow ourselves to fight wars for the wealthy, or blame victims of expediency, the poor, the refugee, the sick, the immigrant. From Hebrew to Christian scripture, God’s prophets always teach us that God loves the poor, shelters the wanderers, shields the orphans, protects the strangers. The key words of faith are hospitality, generosity, compassion, peace.

For the gospel of John, I think we find some insight by noting the way a very human activity of Jesus is mirrored with a “divine” activity. The interaction between the human and the divine is the model of humanity that Jesus offers in this writing. It is more terrifying than walking on water because it calls for courage in the face of everything we have been taught about personal safety. It says to welcome the stranger, learn about difference, open ourselves to being wrong, to being embarrassed, to revealing our weakness, to live with the reality that there are no guarantees.

Last week we read about how God animated from within community. This week we hear an invocation of the God who comes into human life through people seeing the world in a more complex way. What is this bread that we eat? Who is this man and how does he reveal the divine to us? The presence of God enters through our interactions, our questions, and also when we learn how to be still in the middle of a storm. Jesus goes away to a quiet place to collect himself and so might we learn from this. At the heart of all our busyness, we need to create oases where we welcome the divine, who heals and reveals.

Summer Prayers for Thursday

Thursday

Morning
What tools do we bring to our lives? Planting can be as simple as a hand in dirt, as modest as a trowel or as large as a steam shovel. Everyone is called to use what we have to work in the world; we are all artists and artisans, dreamers and doers, leaders and helpers. May God help us to discover the tools that we have and to use them with wisdom and joy.

Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought. Wisdom 6

Source of joy and hope, as I walk into this new day, surround me with your Spirit and gladden my heart with your many blessings. May I see your Beloved in all people and your Wisdom working in all things. Amen.

Noon

You, who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide within the shadow of the Almighty,
will say ‘My refuge and my safe dwelling;
my God, in whom I trust.’
For the Holy One will deliver you from
the terror of the night,
and the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday. Psalm 91

At this time, we remember the silence of God when Jesus called out from the cross. Let us remember that this silence is not God’s refusal, but God’s embrace, God’s solidarity with suffering. May we not fear suffering for ourselves or turn from others in their suffering. Let us not fear broken hearts, but hardened ones.

Evening

Evening is a time of fullness when the day is complete. All of life is the inhalation and the exhalation of the Divine Breath, the Ruah of God. The world spins and dances sf thus we live. The atmosphere spreads a canopy of protection over us. Surely the creation is beloved and blessed.

If you will only obey your God, by diligently observing all the commandments that I am commanding you today, your God will set you high above all;
all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you:
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.
Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading-bowl.
Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. Deuteronomy 28

God of our beginning and our end, you enclose us with blessings, even in times of trouble. We give thanks for all the blessings we have recognized this day and also for those to which we were blind. As we lie down to sleep, may we rest secure in the knowledge that you are the God of life and your desire is life in abundance for all. Amen.

Child’s Prayer
God of the moon and of the stars, be in our dreams tonight. Be in our playing and learning tomorrow. Thank you for all the good things of today. Thank you for all those we love. Help us to make tomorrow a good day for others too. Let it be so.

Do We Need a Shepherd?

The 23rd psalm is possibly the most familiar piece of scripture. It has comforted people in many different situations. The whole idea of the good shepherd pleases us, at least as long as we retain a sanitized romantic picture in our minds. Real shepherds were rough and tough men who had to be ready to fight off predators, scramble through thickets and down cliff sides to rescue wayward sheep. They smelled like sheep and their calloused hands were stained with the oil from the sheep’s skins. They had to know when to butcher and when to save. The sheep were entirely dependent on the shepherd for food, and safety.

How does this image work theologically? In a belief system in which all of creation, humanity in particular, is entirely dependent upon a God who is interactive in each life, the good shepherd oversees the details of existence. Leaders are expected to emulate the behaviour of God in their personal righteousness, mercy, and fierce judgement. The sheep have only to obey, at which they famously fail, as do the leaders.

Our interpretation of the good shepherd in Christian scripture is dominated by John’s interpretation in which Jesus is the good shepherd. Mark’s version, however, seems to differ.
In Mark, Jesus is pursued by the crowds clamouring for healing. He sees them and reflects that they are like sheep without a shepherd and he feels compassion for them. If you looked at them and thought like Jesus, what image would come to mind? Dirty, wayward, bleating, confused sheep shoving each other randomly?

So what does he do? He teaches them! And then he orders his disciples to arrange food for them. And how does the miracle of abundance happen? Does Jesus do a magic trick? Is the miracle that he has taught them how to still themselves, how to share, how to be participants rather than observers? Sadly, the disciples don’t get it and they behave, as they usually do in Mark, in surly obedience.

Is Jesus the good shepherd of this narrative? Is he the messiah come to save? Or does he show them that collectively they can be the good shepherd, they can save themselves. In their midst, the messiah of a new world can be born, in their flesh and in their hearts. I think that, of all the gospels, Mark takes the incarnation most seriously and literally. To recognize God in Jesus is to recognize the immanent connection of the divine in all things. It is to experience the divine abiding within our lives.

When we understand ourselves not as aliens visiting life, but as participants in life, part of the creation, body and soul, then the storms are to be managed, not feared. Bread is to be shared, like love and comfort and hope. We do not have to be passive, but we do need to be open to the spirit who inspires us to freedom. Jesus shows us that we can grow into awareness of the divine within and around us, whose love can show us a new way to live.