Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 9/20/16: Battered

Inspired by Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Dear God:

I think we feel battered.

We seem to have set ourselves up for failure and pain by trying so hard to avoid failure and pain that we have
Forced
Other times and people to receive the burden of our failure and pain which means that other times and people have more failure and pain and that these other times and people can bare which means that failure and pain overflows further and, yet, we are
Surprised
That we are trudging through a flood of failure and pain that is up to our knees

And rising.

And, so, we feel battered.
And maybe we are.
(Some more than others)
And we have contributed to
Adding failure and pain to the mix.
(Some more than others)
And yet, you seem to say that

It is up to each generation to make this failure and pain their own.
More specifically,
It is up to this generation to make this failure and pain our own.
And, this is how
It is up to each generation to make this faith their own
Or, more specifically,
This is how this generation may make this faith our own.

(The vastness of the flood can seem overwhelming, and yet

If we dive in we may find that
Justice, Love and Grace
Are
Just
Under
The surface.
If we don't dive in
These things may be lost to us;

Our faith merely

a legend.)

Give us courage.

Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 7/26/16: Some sort of trust...




Dear God:

Trust requires some sort of
surrender or some sort of
letting go or some sort of
humility or some sort of
simpleness

That I’m not always certain

I have.

I have trusted you when I’m out of other options but
living into it is too rarely my first option.
It doesn’t help that, too often, what some call trust
has actually been a
test
for You to pass or fail.

I am not certain what I should leave to trust.

Help me to figure it out.
Please.

(and, so,
I take
some sort
of first step)

Amen.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

What Can We Do?

Dear Siblings in Christ:

This week's lectionary reading is the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). It is a story many of us know well. It is the story of someone left for dead in a ditch after being robbed. It is the story of all those good people who passed him by while he lay there groaning and suffering. It is the story of a Samaritan - one of those most abused and despised by the people of that time and place - stopping to help and care for the man others had left in the ditch to die. It's a story that calls us to pay attention to the suffering of others and to care for them. It is also a story that challenges us not to be resigned to accept as inevitable the death of another human being.

This morning, many of are waking up to the news of another person of color losing their life in a police shooting. People of color, those who live with mental illness and those with developmental challenges are at the greatest risk of dying this way. Racism and prejudice are at the root of this reality but, in Washington State, part of the problem is also the law.

Washington State law makes it almost impossible to hold a police officer responsible for killing another person regardless of the circumstances. We ask police officers to protect us and entrust them with weapons that we hope will never be needed. The problem is that the legal expectations we give them around the use of these weapons in very low. By some accounts, it's the lowest set of expectations in the country. It is nearly impossible to hold a police officer accountable for a shooting that every other state in the country could consider as a criminal offense.

So, let's go back to the story of the Good Samaritan for a moment. The fact that this person helped a fellow human being by the side of the road is beautiful and good. What if we had the opportunity to prevent the circumstances that lead to the person being in the ditch in the first place?

I'm attaching to this note a petition to get I-873 on the ballot. Here is the link:
873 would give police officers clearer and more substantial guidelines about how and under what conditions the use of deadly force would be considered justified by Washington State law. I encourage you to educate yourself, pray, print this up, take it to church this Sunday and invite people to sign on. 

Just as a reminder for those of you who might be concerned, churches are allowed to take positions on issues such as this but are not allowed to endorse any particular candidate. Inviting signatures on this petition does not violate a church's tax exempt status.

This Sunday we reflect on the goodness of the Good Samaritan. May we accept that calling as our own. May we not just care for those left to die and mourn by the side of the road but work to put systems in place that will help prevent these deaths in the first place.

Peace.
Mike

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 6/28/16: Praise


Dear God:

Trusting you does not come easily.

The lines between trust and wishful-thinking and a sense of entitlement and even greed are not always clear. It’s so easy to slip from trust into any of the others. It’s easy to call the others “trust” and turn them into some sort of test.

This is what I wonder, today.

Maybe wishful thinking has a lightness to it. An ease to it where there is the expectation of flow and being cared for without really caring. Maybe wishful thinking is  a form of procrastination. “This will work out,” it says without the expectation of work. It is sprinkled with fake fairy dust and magic so fake that even the magician fools themselves.

Maybe the sound of entitlement is the last bit of water circling the bathtub drain. It expects because the expectation of being served is nurtured. The faithful ring a bell and God (or god) answers with a “sir” or a “m’lady.” A pittance is paid and God (or god) is expected to be thankful. To the side, parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, etc. nod their approval.

Maybe Greed is violent and tries to snatch a blessing out of God’s hands; pummeling God into submission. It tries to enslave God, to own God, to sell God. Greed only sacrifices others on its own altar that it creates to serve itself. It smiles and lies.

I have been acquainted with all of these. Intimately.
I thought my faith had failed when they did.
They were little deaths.

I think trust is a decision. It is the deep breath before moving. Trusting you scares me a little bit, always, and a lot, sometimes. It is not devoid of doubt or desperation. It is letting go when letting go seems unwise but called for or holding on when holding on seems unwise but called for. It is not always pleasant and you serve it but it
sets
the whole world
free.

Trust is lifting my sweaty palms in praise and giving my racing heart to you.

It is not easy to trust in you but
it might be the best decision I make today.

Amen

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pentecost '16 Prayer: Fire

Inspired by Acts 2:1-21

From: http://www.omhksea.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/sundayofpentecostfull.jpg


Dear God:

I have felt the Pentecost Spirit dancing around my head and
Known the fear and excitement of it as
The air is sucked out of the room
Right before the
Roar;
the deafening roar
of past hopes and dreams being
burnt away as fuel and to make room for
something unlike anything anyone before me knew how to

Hope and Dream.

Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 2/26/16: I Get It.

Inspired by John 14:23-29

Dear God:

Why couldn’t you have based it all on respect or
tolerance or
positive regard or
good manners or
something easier than

Love?

(Particularly considering you gave us the option to act in ways
that seem so

unlovable?)

Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 3/15/16: Lingering

Inspired by Luke 19:28-40

Dear God:

I remember the smell of palms.
I remember walking into church on
Palm Sunday morning and
Smelling the freshly cut palms.
It was a subtle smell but distinct like
Freshly cut grass or
Strawberries right out of the garden or
Almonds.
It was the sage of Easter with hints of Hosanna and victory over the grave.

This year I smell the dread that lingers with the palms.
The hint of decay that comes from a grave.
This was theater of the soul
- a spiritual gesture to the powers and principalities -
that mocked those who would assume to be King.
They marched on the Temple.
They chased out the money changers
and gatekeepers;
the liars and the lie makers;
The, now, interrupted demagogues who

who encouraged the abuse of those they called unworthy;
who deflected their blame by
pointing at the blameless from
other lands and
other religions; those
whose bodies they used to
build the foundations of their
Empire with
the blessing of those who damned themselves
when they called themselves
Religious.

This small group marched on this Temple in
Chicago. I mean
St. Louis. I mean
Cincinnati. I mean
Kansas City, I mean
Jerusalem and they
Shut it down.

They shut
It
Down.

Eventually, the soldiers acting as police were set on them.
They were beaten and spit on by offended mobs.
They killed one of them; one of their leaders but

first there were Hosannas
celebrations and the possibility of
change. There was hope
as there was dance and there was hubris and humor but something
Happened

Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday; as Passion faded
and fear began to insist on a reality that needed the
profit made from souls sold to
prop it up and something turned and the
Hosannas were mumbled.

The smell of freshly cut palms still lingered.

Speak your Hosanna.
Yell it if you can.
Scream it when they beat you.

Hosannas all over until...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 2/23/16: On the other side.

Inspired by Luke 13:1-9

Dear God:

I know, first hand, the corrosive power of shame.
This is that demon on my shoulder that tempts me in to living my life as though
I am (secretly) unlovable if people knew I…
Or had been around when I…
Or would find out that I…

It is that voice of accumulative decimation that seeks to more than balance out
The joy of any good I might do with whispers of
Corroded implications of motivation and
A withering look that makes me
Question my
Worth and
(On more than one occasion)
Has almost taken (the good of) my life away.

This demon points to these things and offers to protect me from them
by
Standing between me and them
and
Suggesting I am too weak to approach them
and
That they just might kill me
If I do.

God, please remind me what I already have been told by those who know better:
That those things that may make me
uncomfortable
are not always those things that make me
unsafe;
That these things are more likely to kill me when I avoid them;
That these things become stronger when I feed them my shame;
That sometimes I need to lift up some of these things and love them, first;
That some of these things are too heavy for me to lift alone;
That these are things I no longer need to live with;

That I can leave this place.

That on the exit door is enthusiastically scrawled one, joy offering word:

“Repent”

Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday Essay 2/18/16 Ordination Exam: Question #2

“ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVE: Do you, with the church throughout the world, hear the word of God in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and do you accept the word of God as the rule of Christian faith and practice?
ORDINAND: I do.”

Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote one essay on the first of 8 questions asked of ordinands at their ordination. At that point, the plan was to write and post one every few weeks or so until I wrote a bit on all 8 of them. Well, it was a good plan, anyway.

However, the idea never went away. I officiate at most ordinations in the Pacific Northwest Conference and I’m the one who gets to ask these questions. Although I’m not the being asked to answer these questions, I feel the weight of them and some days it’s a check in around my own sense of call.

Like with most folks who take the Bible seriously, the rhetoric mixed up in ideologies of scripture sometimes gets in the way of my relationship with scripture. I can answer affirmatively to this question but I know different people hear different things. Like any relationship, not everything means the same for every person in the relationship.

I hear word of God in the scriptures but I don’t believe the scriptures are, in and of themselves, some transcription of God speaking. Scripture is the place where humanity has tried to transcribe what other humans believe, think, know and feel about God and that’s what makes the scriptures sacred; that striving to be in communication with God. Through that interaction, God comes through a lot of the time as do a lot of descriptions of what different humans believe is sacred, good and evil.

Scripture is the place where I am in dialogue with my spiritual ancestors about these themes as well as justice, faithfulness, power, humility, love and a thousand other topics. I do not always agree with my spiritual ancestors or like what they did or said but to ignore them is to our detriment. I am convinced that God is present in all relationships; sometimes encouraging us; sometimes challenging us; and sometimes challenging us to to remove or defend ourselves from that relationship. So, not every biblical person is someone I seek to emulate but there is something important I can learn from all of them even if it’s only to practice my “No.” The word of God emerges from these interactions.

And that all means that accepting “the word of God as the rule of Christian faith and practice” is not as simple a road as some would suggest. It means that “the rule” changes as the relationship with the word changes. It means there will be days of certainty, days of doubt and days of confusion as each of us try and figure out “the rule.” It means will have days when we will have to understand the gift of grace in a whole new way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Prayer for 2/16/16: All these things.



Dear God:

This is what I was taught.

Courage is like a mountain top that
it is the realm of heroes and
once we arrive we never have to leave.
Courage
is
a
skill and once we have it

it stays.

A hero is courageous and those with courage are heroes.
The courageous are strong and able and certain.
The courageous sleep well and are
incorruptible.

fine.

My courage waxes and wanes like the moon;
Flows in and out like the tides;
Collapses under the weight of itself.
I am afraid I will not have enough of it when it is called for.
My courage sits there with it’s arms crossed while my fear
makes
a
scene.
My courage is just a little ragged and frazzled and has cramps from
crossing its fingers.
I do not meet courage on a mountain top but in the valley fog.
I have it in limited supply and some days getting out of bed uses it all up.

I think having a hero is natural but aspiring to be one is ridiculous.

If I were strong and able and certain, I would not need any courage
at all
because I would be strong, able and certain.

My courage stays up some nights biting its nails and thinking about calling in sick.
It makes deals and puts conditions on its emergence and misses many opportunities because the conditions it set were just one inch too high.

So, today, I hold it and hope I am not holding it back.

I hold it as though it has felt betrayed by gravity and failure and evil and fear and hope and love and joy and, well,
You.

Somewhere in all that it learns what it is and, as it does,

I inhale it. Deeply.

Before
I start
to Breathe.

Amen.