A Word for These Times

It’s Tuesday in Holy Week. 
Jesus tells his followers that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:20-36) 

Like so many of his teachings, Jesus speaks a world of truth with a handful of words. Transformation and growth frequently (always?) look like death and disappearance. 

Sometimes, we know in advance that we are planting seeds:  that which is being buried is fecund and will give rise to great fruit and good life. We just have to wait for it. 

There are other times when all we can see is the loss, the burying, the death. In those times, may we reclaim hope and confidence that God is doing a new thing. 

Today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What goodness do you know today that was hidden before?


An important read from our Anglican cousins "down under".   These times demand courage and honesty, as well as radical change (which might feel like death, but is very much more likely to be resurrection)

What cancer, coronavirus and climate change have in common.

https://www.abc.net.au/religion/byron-smith-what-cancer-coronavirus-and-climate-change-have-in/12117926


It’s Monday. It’s Holy Week.

We begin to remember (literally re-member: bring back into ourselves) the story at the center of Christian faith and practice. It begins with an extravagant gift. Mary anoints her friend, Jesus, with fragrant, priceless, and rare oil. She sees him. She knows what is coming. Hers is an enormous gift of compassion and love. A tangible sign of her own outpouring love for this great friend who has been family to her, her sister Martha, and brother Lazarus.

What compelled her? Did she know what was coming? Could she read the signs? See his fatigue or sorrow? Was she simply grateful for him and all that he was and gave what she could?

Today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: Who are you most grateful for and why?


April 4

 

The palms are out. It’s a glorious day. May you always see Jesus on the road and be glad.


Each night, we zoom in to pray together at 7pm. Tonight, we were able to record the prayers so that you may join in "later".  This links you to Prayers for the Evening of April 3rd. Peace be with you.

https://www.facebook.com/172227972918805/posts/1735183746623212/?sfnsn=mo


In the middle of an earthquake, it is very hard to stand still. It’s impossible to maintain equilibrium, stay centered and balanced. Our inability to move is made worse by our flight-or-fight response on overdrive. Fear. Amazement. Horror. Surprise. Worry for those whom we love. Concern about our stuff. And our mortality. 

Is this it? Will the walls collapse and close me in? Will anyone come to my rescue? Who needs my help? Am I up to the task? 

Then there are the aftershocks. Sometimes bigger than the initial unsettling. Always unpredictable. Sometimes never happening. 

Earthquakes have a way of putting us in our place.
So do pandemics.

How are you being relocated within the givens of your life? 
What have you learned about what you hold most dear?

Which is today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What is at the center of your life? What is the most precious and beloved core of your existence? Give thanks.


A good word for this night...

 

Steven Charleston 

 

This is the hard part, this long, lonely walk through the valley of shadows. We know we are not walking alone, but it is hard to see the others. The Earth seems to have grown silent. The clouded sun offers a pale light and the stars are only small beads on the shawl of night. Then, in the darkest hours, a single voice begins to sing. We do not know who it is, but her voice fills the darkness and guides us forward. Her song comforts us, strengthens us, keeps us going. One after another, we all join in her song, until the valley echoes our voices to all four directions. Listen. Can't you hear her? The Spirit is singing for us all.


Sometimes, I just need someone to listen. 
How about you?
Especially these days.

Then, I think to myself “stop complaining” or “just be grateful” or “at least you’re not sick. Or dead” 
(Yep. I can go pretty deep down into self-pity…)
Which is not helpful. Or kind. Or true.
Because the sorrow is still there. I still worry. I still am who I am. These times are still what they are. 
And the oh-so-very-vocal ear-worms of “what if” seem to never cease. 

Then, from somewhere sacred and deep-seated, I hear another little voice. A voice of compassion. Of reassurance. Of Presence.

Out of the depths have I called to you; O God, hear my voice.

For thousands (!) of years, other people have felt the way I do. Other people have called upon God, the Creator of All that Is, the Lover of our Souls.  and they know that God hears.

Then.
Today.
Always.

So… today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What words (Biblical or otherwise) are seeing you through these days?


"Weeping may spend the night; but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
This I know to be absolutely true.

There is both weeping and joy in our lives - even in the lives we are living now.

No matter how many worry-monkeys are jumping on the bed all night long, joy comes in the morning.

No matter how many nights Sorrow stays for a sleep-over,
there will be delight again.

No matter how bleak and desolate night’s grief may be, there will be laughter in the dawn’s early light.

We live in a both/and world, not either/or. 
There is both weeping and there is joy. 
There is both fear and delight. 
There is both sorrow and gladness.

They are inescapable. 
They have their place. 
They make our lives sweet. 

Weeping and joy are so intertwined that whenever I try to silence the weeping, I discover that I’ve muted the joy as well. 
When I allow myself to feel moments of joy, I am also able to weep.

Both. And.

Which brings us to our GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: As we practice sheltering in place, when have you experienced joy?


Shall we be heroes?
I was reading a post about books to read in this season. 
The recommendations are not books I would choose, but they got me thinking.
About heroes, and heroism, and being present.

What about the heroes in your life? 
What can they show you about living a heroic life, even in the midst of the daily minutiae of “just getting through” today?

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What people are you grateful to know? 


Another word of Truth from this faithful and wise bishop.

 

Steven Charleston 

 

It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. These are words we would rather not hear, but they are the words we need to hear if we are to face tomorrow. We have seen the cost of pretending and have no need of that for false hope only prolongs the reality of sorrow. No, it is better to speak the truth, accept the truth, and know where we stand. We are living through an historic moment, a time unlike any other, one that will be remembered by generations to come. We did not ask for this or want this, but here we are. And even if we do not know the outcome in all of its details, we know this much: we want those future generations to know that we lived through this epic time with grace and courage, that we faced our reality together and cared for one another with a fierce love and a relentless hope, that we practiced what we preached and lived what we believed until we got through it and made sure others got through it with us. Look through the eyes of faith, not fear, and see this truth revealed: yes, it will get worse, but we will get stronger. The predictions of things getting worse are grounded in the exponential growth of the virus. But remember, that only triggers the exponential growth of our resolve to overcome it. In the end the virus will do its worst, but we will have done our best.


Have you found your stride yet? 
Do your days have a bit more shape to them than when we first began? 
Or is it still all a mishmash of “whatever”?

Many have compared this era “flying the plane while we’re building it” It is true that we are ill-equipped for this experience and our learning curve is very steep.

Nevertheless, we have stories to guide us. Stories of compassion and perseverance. Stories of tending and mending. Stories of sacrifice and love. These are the stories we need to live by now. These are the narratives that will connect our neighborhoods, tend our cities, mend our country, heal our global village. These are the narratives that will unite us in heart and mind and spirit as we find wholeness and healing, whatever may come.

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What is your favorite quote and why?


Let us pray...
Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.


Let us pray...
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

(From the Book of Common Prayer, a Prayer for Those who Influence Public Opinion)


I think this new routine is most difficult when the thought comes unbidden: “I just want my old life back.” 

Perhaps, from time to time, most of us yearn for that which has been lost to us, for the “good old days”, for our old normal. Then, the illusion passes and I remember that others have lost something much dearer than their daily routines. I remember that the “good old days” had their own problems and are merely “old” now, perhaps never were all that “good”. I remember that the old normal had more than its share of difficulty, chaos, and hardship. I come back to Now and know I can do this. However long it takes. I am renewed in my openness to seeing what is good about this new day.  

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE: What is good about how we are living now?


Have you heard about the global invitation to pray at noon, wherever we are?
Christian leaders are encouraging us to pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in Heaven.
Hallowed be your Name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial, 
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and for ever. ´┐ŻAmen.

Say it out loud. Say it slow. Say it with intention and purpose. Think about what we are asking. Imagine if love, selflessness, mutuality, and compassion were to spread across the globe as quickly and extravagantly as covid-19 and fear have done. 

And… Here’s today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
What prayer have you seen answered recently?

Peace be with you.


Let us pray…
O God, the life of all who live, 
the light of the faithful, 
the strength of those who labor, 
and the repose of the dead: 
We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past, and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night. Bring us in safety to the morning hours; through him who died and rose again fours, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. 
Amen.


Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: 
Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 
Amen.

This is the Collect appointed for Sunday, March 29th. We will pray it together when we zoom Morning Prayer. Seems like a very good prayer to be praying each day this week. Perhaps every day of our lives. When we wake up. When we sit still. When the “what if” goblins begin to wreak havoc with our hearts and trample our hope.  

Sometimes, even more powerful than the words of a powerful prayer, is the realization that it was not written for this day in particular. This prayer has been passed along from generation to generation - each one finding themselves in the maelstrom of their own peculiar covid-19 pandemic.  

Which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
What are you learning about yourself?


When we run out of closets to clean and chocolates to eat, what shall we do?
Without meetings and errands, work schedules and family get-togethers to tether us to our daily lives, how shall we mark our days? 
Where is the rhythm in this unfamiliar time?

(Spoiler alert: “Beats me” is pretty much my go-to response these days)

Perhaps this is the rhythm? 
Perhaps we are being invited, even in our separate-ness, to seek out that which unites us in this moment, and to learn how to live abundantly when we are not in charge. When we have Nothing to Do - when that which has given us status and place, purpose and significance, is no longer easily accessible (perhaps even denied to us) - who are we? When we are alone and apart, who will keep us company? When we can’t even hold onto our familiar illusion of knowing what tomorrow will bring, where are we?

Still in God’s heart.
Still in community with those who know us and miss us, love us and pray for us.
Still in this life, this body, this moment.
Still in sacred time and holy life.

… which brings us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
Where did you see God in your life today?


Let us pray...
Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. 
Amen.


Steven Charleston

Where do we begin in prayer, great Spirit, where do we turn first? There are so many for us to remember: the isolated elder, the over-extended health care worker, the frustrated nurse or doctor, the small factory trying to make enough masks? In every direction we look there is need for care and support. Even for our own family and friends. Even for ourselves. No, we cannot name them all. We can only trust that you know already who needs your help the most. Safety, strength, and mercy to all who are fighting this disease, holy Spirit, here and around the world. Drive back the illness and save your people, in every direction we look.


We enter Week Two.
At least many of us enter our second week of pandemic life. Some among us have been dealing with this pandemic for far longer: a shout-out of deep gratitude to Dr. Fauci and others who have toiled and learned and explored quietly, heroically, without notice for years: for days such as these. Thank you.

For the rest of us…
Now we begin to figure out how to live as if this is our new normal. For most of us, this is neither the bubonic plague nor a free spring break. It is “how we live”. It doesn’t really matter how long this will last. It matters tremendously how we live today. What practices await you? What old habits have served you well? What will make today a life-worth-living. Do that.

Perhaps it will be useful to build upon today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
Name a highlight of your day?


It's amazing - how we find ways to care and to connect even when it's important that we keep our distance. Our Community Free Meal tonight gave people delicious take-out meals. We had plenty for all. Feasts happened.

We are also trying Zoom Morning Prayer tomorrow. At 9:30 eastern time. Meeting ID is 988739700. ("Zoom.us" will get you there)

Others are wending their way toward sewing face masks and gowns for health care providers who need them.

The Holy Spirit connects us, even when we are apart. As we bring ourselves into silence, and hopefully sweet rest, let us pray:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ: give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.


Have you noticed this in your life?
Frequently the struggle I face today seems like (choose one or add your own)
a. The worst thing that ever happened to me
b. A battle that will never end
c. A hardship that fills my entire field of vision
d. A point of no-return on the timeline of my life
e. A riptide of anxiety and fear
f. An unrelenting pain in my backside
g. All that is and ever shall be

More often than not, today’s struggle builds tomorrow’s strength.
Which leads us to today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
What is a challenge you have struggled with in the past that you are now grateful for?


Let us pray.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


When times are tough, Mr. Rogers encouraged us to look for the helpers. Similarly, in these times, when things get hard, look for the gratitude.

Just as the helpers are not “just in our imagination” or “wishful thinking”, neither is gratitude in a time of deprivation.

Gratitude is real.
Gratitude is subtle.
Gratitude waits to be invited.

Unlike disaster which bursts through the doors and chaotically enters our homes, gratitude gently awaits our attention. Gratitude is always possible. Sometimes, we need to invite her in.

Today’s GRATITUDE CHALLENGE:
Where did gratitude knock on your door yesterday?


There might have been grief in your day. Uncertainty. Loss. The kind of melancholic sadness that throws itself around our drooping shoulders like cobweb. Barely there, very hard to catch hold of, let alone remove. If so, perhaps this prayer speaks for you? For those whom you love? For those who grieve and we will never know their names or their sorrows?

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom we pray. Remember them, Lord, in mercy; nourish them with patience; comfort them with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon them; and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

And us, too, good Lord. Remember us, too. Nourish us with patience. Comfort us with a sense of your goodness. Lift up your countenance upon us. Give us peace, too. Just for tonight. Amen.


A message of faith, hope, and love, from our Presiding Bishop.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/3xwpiyyh1j?fbclid=IwAR0qo1GFIN00V362_klr1tPNi8QiCZ936aCmPTG3qg-JRM1Gj0-t6d049ec


The names we use matter. The stories we tell shape our world.

We can hear this in our world now.
“Chinese virus”? Covid-19.
“Social isolation”? Community solidarity.
“Protecting myself”? Watching out for my vulnerable neighbor.

In our tradition - particularly in this season of Lent - fasting is an honored and valuable practice.
Fasting releases us from behaviors and ideas that hold us captive and separate us from God and from one another.

Fasting opens up time for different spiritual practices: practices that are life-giving and restorative
Fasting clears our vision, unclutters our days, and opens our minds.

This is a time of fasting.
Fasting from hustle and bustle.
Fasting from retail therapy (which is only therapeutic in the adrenaline rush of a new shiny thing).
Fasting from the busy-ness which hides our wounds and obscures our pain.

Let us also fast from the angst of “what if” (What-if this goes on for months, not weeks? What-if I get sick? What-if the stock market continues to tank? What-if I run out of toilet paper?)

Let us also fast from tracking every “news flash”, Twitter storm, and Facebook flurry.

In that fasting, may we find our way into a new rhythm of life. One that is more attuned to the rising and setting of the sun. One that embraces the healing balm of enough sleep. One that offers time to write a letter and make a phone call. A rhythm of life that notices the healing of the earth while we are still. A rhythm of life that knows there is enough time for important human work: love, prayer, self-awareness, connection…

And time to clean a cupboard.
 


As evening comes, let us be people of prayer (with gratitude to our Companions of the Way in New Zealand for this prayer in particular)

Holy One, be present to us this night.
As you were present at creation, be present in us now.

We stumble in the darkness.
Light of the world transfigure us.

We have wounded your love.
O God, heal us.

We forget that we are your home.
Spirit of God, dwell in us.

Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done; 
what has not been done, has not been done. 
Let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness 
- of the world and in our own lives - rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

Let us rejoice in God who forgives all our sins and transforms our lives.
Amen.


“Be not afraid.”
If we judged by frequency, this might be the first and great commandment. It is repeated all through Scripture, from beginning to end. Spoken to Noah and to Mary. Repeated to the slaves escaping Egypt and to the shepherds abiding in the fields. Over and over. 

Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

Must be important.

When you think about it, it is. 
When we’re afraid, we fall flat on our faces. 
When we’re afraid, our lizard brains kick in and we make really bad decisions. 
When we’re afraid, we are like deer in the headlights, blinded and immobilized. 
When we’re afraid, we buy up all the toilet paper and stand in long lines to buy ammo.
We lash out. We can’t think. We can’t see. We are lost.

Be not afraid. Not then. Not now.
We can do this. We can take each day as it comes, fully alive to whatever is good and life-giving about this new reality. 

Let go of fear and you just might see shimmers of grace all around.

Panicking About Coronavirus? Here’s What You Can Do


The day draws in and the light shines through my windows (in my Sandusky neighborhood, at this time of year, sun-shininess is a rare thing, so it is a particularly beautiful gift). Reminds me of the beautiful words that begin our Evening Prayers:

“Now, as we come to the setting of the sun,
And our eyes behold the vesper light,
We sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

As your day draws to a close, and the light changes, where have you been blessed today? 
How has God’s light flickered in the long hours of this day?
What gives you a glad heart to remember?
When you lie down to rest, what praise, specifically, will you sing to God?


Let us pray:
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

This prayer in our Book of Common Prayer (p.461) is "For use by a sick person" in the morning. Seems to me that it suits all of us this morning. All of us. From our lips to God's ears, may this be a day when we live with integrity and presence, no matter what our work may be.

Blessing upon you.


We are being asked to do something most of us don’t know how to do. Here is some guidance from one who does.


 

Post a Comment


Contents © 2020 Grace Episcopal Church • Church Website Builder by mychurchwebsite.netPrivacy Policy