Edited to add this link for the final document. A few of my prayers made the cut.
I’m hoping to submit prayers so that they can be collected with the prayers of other clergy and used for worship in the coming days. The group (Clergy Emergency League) I’m submitting to has these guidelines for liturgy:
“The focus of this worship service (and accompanied liturgy document) is to maintain hope in the midst of despair, foster faith in the midst of uncertainty, seek justice in the midst of injustice, and pray for peace in the midst of what will certainly be a tumultuous time for our country. It is unlikely that we will know the outcome on election evening. All evidence is suggesting that it could be days, weeks, or even months before the race is decided. Therefore, this worship service will be a time to gather in the presence of the Holy Spirit to petition God for peace to be maintained and justice to be achieved.”
The group recommends certain texts, but we are not limited to only those texts. Those texts are:
As I write and prepare myself for the post-election season, it has been helpful for me to reflect on these scriptures and on what it means to be clergy during this tumultuous time. This reminds me to engage in self-care and calming practices in order to be a calming presence among people who are and will be anxious in the coming days. I’m engaging in as many on-line de-escalation trainings as I can find (maybe I will post those in a different blog later). Here are the self-care practices I have found most helpful: Nice smells (candles usually, and I’m wearing perfume most days even if I’m not going to be around other people), Coloring (usually during zoom meetings to keep my eyes off of the screen for a few moments and something about it is centering for me), closing my eyes (sometimes with a cool rice bag over them) and breathing deeply for a moment, sometimes I say simple breath prayers too.
I reworked a blog post from last November (Saints and Sinners gathered at the table) to try to find something meaningful to say about this coming election, especially the weeks that follow. A little less than half of the prayers came from that reworking and some I’ve been working on slowly as I prepare myself for whatever happens after this election.
Last year, I was thinking about systemic sin and how we push people to the margins of society because we have decided that they are somehow worse sinners than the rest of us. By having a public scape goat, we can all feel better about our own short comings. What I propose instead of having a scape goat is to forgive others, restore relationships (when it’s healthy to do so), and honor everyone, especially those who are marginalized. Maybe by forgiving others we can learn to forgive ourselves? Maybe when we realize that we are forgiven we can then forgive others? Either way, it is through Christ’s work of reconciliation and redeeming love, that we are forgiven and learn to forgive.
I’m noticing that in some ways secular discourse talks about injustice in the ways that church talks about sin. Systems of injustice keep people oppressed, marginalized, poor, sick, unsafe, and even terrorized. We need to upset that system. I believe that Jesus tried to upset the system of injustice and sin, and the system crucified him. Jesus died for our sins, our individual sins and the systemic sins of this world. Christ rose from the dead proving that God is more powerful than sin and death, and that in the end, the last word will not be hate, the last word is love. This gives me hope, not just in the world to come, but that it is possible in the here and now, that love will overcome hate, hope will overcome fear, peace will overcome violence, and that we can live an abundant and joyful lives.
Lighting of the Christ Candle Liturgy: We light the Christ Candle with hope, knowing that God dwells among people. Jesus, we pray that your presence will be felt among those gathered today bringing us comfort in being united with you.
Opening Prayers: Holy God, we pray for peace in our land. May our sanctuary (or virtual worship space) be a shelter for those who need love and acceptance. The refugee and the stranger among us will be called beloved neighbor and honored guest, for we are all one family. Unite us in love, love of God and love of one another, so that no one is in need, or overindulged but that all live together in sufficiency and safety. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Call to Worship:
L: What does the Lord require of you?
P: To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
L: Let us worship God and meditate on God’s holy words,
P: because our inward focus in this moment will help us journey outward rightly.
L: May our connection with God and with one another
P: be holy, loving, and just.
All: Let us worship God.
Call to confession: We all know the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He climbed a tree to see Jesus. But Zacchaeus wasn’t in the tree because he was short. Zacchaeus was in the tree because no one would offer him space, no one said, come, stand in front of me so you can see, no one said, stand here, you should see Jesus too. Because everyone in town had already decided that Zacchaeus was ‘the’ sinner. They had already decided his sins were the worst and excluded him from community. Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner because no one else would. Jesus treats Zacchaeus like a beloved child of God. And in doing so shows all of us that we are never beyond God’s love and forgiveness. Beloved children of God let us confess our sins and seek forgiveness.
Prayer of Confession: Merciful God, we have sinned but instead of seeking forgiveness we are quick to point out the sins of others. We are cruel and inhumane, and worse we are indifferent to the suffering of others. You call us to work for justice, but we are frozen by apathy. You call us to work for peace, but we would rather fight about who threw the first stone. You call us to love ourselves and each other, but we are poisoned by our hate. Help us to see the pain we cause and guide us in the work of healing and restoration. Keep us from chasing the Zacchaeus in our midst up a tree, but instead to go out on a limb and offer an olive branch. Holy God fill us with your spirit of peace. We ask these things in the name of the one who showed us how to love, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Sometimes it is hard to break away from sin and sometimes it is hard to let go of the label that is put upon you by your family system. Like Zacchaeus, if we are being called worthless sinner, that is all we can imagine being, but Jesus calls us beloved saints; he brushes away our sin like the dust from his hands. He liberates us from our sin and restores us to righteousness. Jesus forgives and shows us that sin does not have to destroy our community but that true justice restores us to our proper place at the table of the family of God. Friends believe the good news of the gospel that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Prayer for Illumination: Holy God, none of us knows what to say in this season of unrest, we ask that you speak through the scriptures read and words preached today that we may hear your words of justice and love.
Call for the offering: Stewardship season is upon us, and perhaps that is the most appropriate focus in these tumultuous times. Stewardship is not something we do only in a well-appointed sanctuary. Stewardship is about how we live, each day, as the people of God. Our pastors have crafted sermons for this season to help us to examine ourselves and our commitment to God and neighbor. These sermons are calls to a new way of looking at our faith in this season. Even in our grief over not being able to worship together in our sanctuary, we can still worship God. Even in a world so violently divided, we can still love our neighbors. Even when we are afraid of scarcity, we can trust that God will provide enough for us to live sufficiently. If we take Jesus’ message seriously, our question to ourselves should be how has my faith helped others? How do my actions who my love for God and neighbor? What have I done to make this earth feel more like heaven for my neighbors, especially those who are in need of compassionate care? The answers to those questions lie in how we use our time, talents, and treasures.
As we listen to the anthem today, we can take a moment to give online through the website or write a check and mail it in, but most importantly let us reflect on how our love for God and neighbor should influence our lives.
Communion Invitation: Today, as we gather around this table, we are untied with all who believe in Christ, with all of the saints and sinners who have gone before us, and with all of the saints and sinners we will not meet in this lifetime. We are united with all believers in every time and place. Christ welcomes all of us. As we prepare to celebrate this meal, let us take a moment to remember who is here with us. There is a short tax collector at this table and a woman singled out for a partnered crime. And with them are all of those who shunned and scorned them to hide their own sins. At the table are all of us who have clenched rocks in our fists and finally decided to drop them instead hurling more injury and injustice into the world. Around this table are holy people who were imperfect and made mistakes and yet found in Christ freedom from sin and death and went on to do God’s work in the world. At this table we are surrounded by our enemies and our loved ones. And as we look into the face of each child of God, we realize that the things that divided us on this earthly world do not matter, there are no barriers between us, there are no harsh words or hatefulness, but only love and unity among the children of God. This meal is a foretaste of the coming kingdom of God, where true justice restores us to one another, and where love unites us.
Affirmation of Faith: Based on Luke 1:46-55 CEB
With Mary, we will glorify God with all that is within us. From the depths of our souls and the movements of our bodies we will rejoice in God our savior. For God has looked with favor on those whom the world says are worthless. We believe that God highly favors the marginalized and shows bias towards the poor. We are called to do the same, in God’s holy name. God shows mercy from generation to generation of believers. God’s strong arms cradle the weak and scatter away arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. God has pulled down the powerful and uplifted the lowly. God fills the hungry with goodness and sends away those who are full of themselves. God will come to the aid of the faithful, remembering the ways of mercy, just as was promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and Sarah, and to their decedent’s forever. Amen.
Prayers of the People/Prayers of Petition/Intercessory Prayers Based on Matthew 5:1-12:
As we pray together, I will pause for a moment of silence between phrases. In this space, I invite you to breathe deeply and hold those dear to you in prayer. And as we pray together, let us put aside the thoughts about what is good for us as individuals and pray for what is good for our neighbors. As I read the version of the beatitudes found in The Message, imagine Jesus speaking these words to you and you speaking these words to your neighbors. Let us allow these blessings to wash over us and those for whom we pray.
Holy God, we lift up our hearts to you that you may enter in and refine our desires and thoughts so that they are directed towards you and to that which you have called us to do, love our neighbors. We pray for peace, justice, and mercy, and most of all, we pray that love guides all that we say and do. Help us to be a blessing in your world.
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. [allow for meaningful silence]
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. [allow for meaningful silence]
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. [allow for meaningful silence]
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. [allow for meaningful silence]
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. [allow for meaningful silence]
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. [allow for meaningful silence]
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. [allow for meaningful silence]
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. [allow for meaningful silence]
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. [allow for meaningful silence]
Holy God, we lift up all of the prayers we prayed in the silence along with the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, Our father…
Charge and Benediction: Saints of God, go out into the world offering forgiveness and love with generous hearts. Remember that we are all one in Christ and seek unity with your brothers and sisters. Seek out the meek and marginalized and lift them up with joy and work to restore them to their rightful place as children of the living God. And in all you do, go with the blessing of God. Amen.