CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter
I have been thinking about the “pastoral” prayer I shall give in worship this morning. I am not opposed to writing prayers ahead of time, but I don’t like to do so myself, because almost always as I pray, the Holy Spirit [at least, I HOPE it’s the Holy Spirit] redirects me at a point or two. It’s good, though, to pray ahead of time about the prayer, to be open to the Spirit before I have to open my mouth in worship, to be sure that the hustle and bustle of the worship time does not cause me to ignore some concern that should be a part of our prayers. So, I’ll probably pray something like this come worship time…
Gracious and giving God, we are supposed to start our prayers with praise and thanksgiving, and so we do so now, out of habit and custom, to be sure, but also because these angry times in this dangerous world smack us in the face and wake us up. These violent days and hostile nights, from Dallas to Turkey, from Baton Rouge to Syria, remind us that life is never to be taken for granted, and so we thank you for the rest of the night, and for the opportunity of the day, for the occasion to be here together to worship, for the very air we breathe, for the Spirit that blows over our souls like that very air. Yes, we are alive, and we see each other’s face, and we give thanks.
We confess, though, that we are distracted by many things. We are pulled first one way and then another, and we get so confused and so tired. It’s hard sometimes to believe that life in this world is a good gift. We are tired of the ways of this world, tired of hunger and homelessness, tired of war and disease, tired of greed and anger, tired of being shot at and being yelled at, tired of psychopathic politicians and empty promises, tired of being afraid, tired of taking a step forward and sliding back two. Tired of feeling helpless, tired of settling for prayers and vigils instead of action. Tired of arguing about what it means when we say that lives of any hue matter. We’re tired of being tired. And we’re tired of ourselves.
We remember, though, that Jesus promised his followers not a rose garden, but the Garden of Gethsemane. We know that it is in that garden, of agony and self-sacrifice and finally accepting God’s will, that Christ walks with us and talks with us and tells us we are his own.
And so we give thanks for the lives we bring here this morning, however insignificant they may seem, and we give thanks for the life we find here together. Renew in us the determination to make the world feel “the stubborn ounces of our weight.” ]1]
Hear us now, we ask, as we approach you with prayers for those most precious to our own hearts and lives, as we pray for those who are hungry and homeless, sick and in prison, as we pray for those who have no one else to pray for them.
1] That phrase is from a poem by Bonaro Overstreet.