An Easter Prayer: Confessing What We Believe

March 27, 2016

Easter 1

One of the first principles of Christian worship is that prayers are the most important words of a service. They are spoken to God and therefore express the central reference point for everything that takes place during the ritual. They express the theological meaning of the actions and ceremonies that the worshipers perform.

Since Easter affirms the central claim of the Christian faith—“That God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19)—it is especially important that these words be chosen carefully. They need to affirm this meaning concisely. They need to do so in a way that transcends the confusion that often exists in church teaching and popular piety. The prayer below is how I expressed the core of the Easter faith in the church were I was one of the worship leaders on Easter 2016.

Life-giving God: On this holy and joy-filled day we gather with Christians around the world to proclaim that Jesus lives

  • In the testimonies of his friends and companions long ago;
  • In the sacraments of baptism and feast of joy that his followers have celebrated ever after;
  • In the secret recesses of our hearts as we open our lives in prayer;
  • In the courageous actions of people when they face the struggles of life in the world;
  • In the faith, hope, and love that sustain us and continue with us when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

On this day, when the world groans in travail waiting for its redemption, we dare to pray: Marnatha, Lord Jesus, come.

  • Come again to confound the forces of evil, especially in those places where innocent people suffer grievously.
  • Come again to renew faith, rekindle hope, and model the steadfast love that binds the world together.
  • Come again to free us from guilt and all that separates us from God’s love.
  • Come again to bring comfort as we mourn the death of the people we love.
  • Come again to proclaim the coming of the world of peace, joy, and life abundant that has been God’s will since the beginning of creation long ago.

All this we dare to pray, eternal God, through Jesus Christ, who embodied your presence with us, who willingly, because of his great love, gave himself up to death in order to reunite us with you, and whom who raised to take his place with you in everlasting glory. Amen.

 


A cyclist’s antidote to the winter blues

March 23, 2016

Grassland

A Winter’s Ride in the Southern Arizona Grasslands

 I love my homeland in the Pacific Northwest, including the mild winter rains, evergreen forests, and rich agricultural valleys. As winter lingers into February, however, I long for warm sunshine and open roads. For eight years I have been satisfying that desire by taking my bicycle to southern Arizona. A week of hard riding through the “Sky Islands” of the high desert grasslands southeast of Tucson seems just right as antidote to the winter blues.

Vigorous cycling with congenial friends renews a sense of physical wellbeing, and traveling slowly through this distinctive environment stimulates ever wider contemplations upon life in our time.

My 2016 ride combined two features. The cycling itself was the Historic Hotels Tour offered by PAC Tour, the touring company operated by Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo who have been noted long-distance cyclists for more than 30 years. We traveled from Tucson to Sonoita, Tombstone, Bisbee, Douglas, the Kartchner Caverns, Benson, and back to Tucson.

My contemplations were shaped by one of the most hopeful books I’ve read for some time—Stitching the West Back Together, edited by a team of experts on the challenges facing the Desert Southwest. I’ve written a 6,800-word essay outlining the tour and my contemplations prompted by the book and the things I saw.

One of my goals in the essay is to explain why open road cyclists enjoy long, challenging rides like these.

Another purpose is to describe two watershed-wide ventures in the high grasslands southeast of Tucson and another venture that is responding creatively to the tendencies toward urban sprawl around the city itself. All three illustrate the principle of working from the radical center that is a theme of the book I’ve been reading.

Friends who have read the essay say that it is interesting. My roommate for the week says that it reads like an essay from The New Yorker—maybe too strong a commendation, but I’ll take it, anyway.

To read the essay, click Winter’s Ride 2

 


A Prayer for Palm Sunday

March 21, 2016

Jesus’ New Kind of Politics

On Palm Sunday I led Vespers at Terwilliger Plaza, a retirement community near the center of Portland, Oregon. In my homily I described the vision of a new world that Jesus embodied. I also outlined the new kind of politics that he demonstrated.

  • He set aside all of the marks of success, power, and military might.
  • He spoke boldly to people in power, calling attention to their duplicity and slyly ridiculing them.
  • He used his energies and insights into human behavior to help people in practical ways, helping them find food and healing them from their ailments.
  • He continually talked about a new world that was coming, a world in which all things worked the way God and the prophets had said that they were supposed to.
  • He drew upon spiritual strength that enabled him to keep going even when he could tell that if he persisted he was likely to be tortured and executed.
  • At every point he depended upon persuasion rather than upon physical force.
  • He refused to back down.

The sharp contrast between the new kind of politics that Jesus represents and the old form of politics that dominates American life today was much in my mind as I prepared the prayer that followed the homily.

A Prayer for Palm Sunday 2016

Eternal God, on this Palm Sunday we join with people through the ages who have rejoiced in Jesus Christ who came to live among us. By his words and actions, he proclaimed a vision of the world in which all things work the way that you intend. In this world the seasons move through their annual cycles. Rains fall in timely fashion watering the earth, and all things living find the nourishment they need. People everywhere are bound into communities of love and mutual support.

We remember the patterns of leadership that Jesus used which differ so much from those that governments of this world choose: self-giving instead of self-serving; focused on ordinary people and their needs rather than upon the already privileged and powerful; and based on hope and love rather than on fear and greed.

Forgive us when we forget the politics of Jesus and turn to the politics of this world. Help us remain faithful to the example that Jesus set which he kept steadfastly even in the face of torture and death.

Holy One, during this election season we pray for our nation. Purge our leaders of their desire for prestige and love of power. Help all of us—the people and the politicians—to find ways of working together so that liberty and justice will flourish over all of the world.

We pray for people around the who suffer and especially for refugees who struggle to survive in camps with no place to go and no way to relieve their anguish. Strengthen aid workers and public officials as they seek to solve the ever deepening turmoil of our time and find ways to redeem the people who are suffering so deeply.

In the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace who wept over the people of Jerusalem, we offer this prayer. Amen.