Thursdays in the Lectionary – When They Were All Together in One Place

This week I’m at a the Forum for Theological Exploration‘s Christian Leadership Forum, and I’m part of the team preparing the Fourm’s times of worship.  Because Pentecost is this coming Sunday, our team decided to focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit and the sometimes difficult waiting we do in anticipation of that arrival.  We read this litany at our opening worship this morning, and it was my hope in writing it that it would prepare our hearts for the often surprising activity of the Spirit.      

When they were all together in one place, God of the unexpected, your people had no way of knowing what would happen next.

We have come together to be shaken out of our complacency.

When they were all together in one place, unimaginable God, you met your disciples there, right where they had gathered.

We have come together with empty hands and tired hearts, knowing that our desire to be present is enough.

When they were all together in one place, untamable God, you breathed into their beings a holy disorder, a sacred cacophony, a resurrected life that baffles, confuses, and invites us into new ways of knowing and being.

We have come together as people still learning how to let go of our plans and expectations to make way for your wild grace.

But God, we so often forget that the miracle of Pentecost came fifty days after the miracle of Easter. There were fifty days between an encounter with the empty tomb and the formation of a Spirit-filled community. We are impatient people, and we fill the quite spaces of our lives with attempts to capture you in words, in numbers, in progress reports and projected outcomes.

Give us humble spirits and fresh eyes to pay attention to your surprising acts of justice and mercy.

God, when we seek the presence of your Holy Spirit, you call us to gather together from our places of difference and listen—to you, to each other, to the longings you stir in us.

We have come together to wait.

Come Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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For the times we are walking in the wilderness

A second litany for a second pop-up worship at my seminary.  The litany is based on themes from Isaiah 40:3-5 and the songs “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” and “Guide My Feet, Lord.”  We closed with “We are Marching in the Light of God.”  See the first pop-up worship’s litany here.

You, uncontainable God, are always coming, always making way, always breaking in where we least expect you.  Wake us up to your arrival!

Guide our feet, Lord.

You, life-giving God, come into our dried-up places and breathe out the miracle of your rejuvenating Spirit.  Walk with us in our wilderness!

Guide our feet, Lord.

You, inviting God, pull us out of our pits of fear and set us on the road to freedom.  You call us as your way-makers–show us the roads that lead to you!

Guide our feet, Lord.

You, persistent God, never leave us to travel alone.  We are held by your love and propelled by your justice with healing in our hands and fire in our hearts.  Fill us with your strength!

Guide our feet, Lord.

When we get stuck in worn-out daily liturgies, renew our practice of your presence.

Guide our feet, Lord.

When we are filled with dried-out words, ideas, and stories, bubble up in us your refreshing water of life.

Guide our feet, Lord.

When we are lost in rough relationships, redeem our interactions and re-orient our priorities.

Guide our feet, Lord. 

When we are confronted by uneven and unequal structures and systems, build us into your all-embracing family of shalom.

Guide our feet, Lord.

God, you are our road, our guide, and our final destination.  Bring us all into your glorious kingdom.

Guide our feet, Lord.

And all God’s people said,

Amen. 

A litany for difficult times in the semester …

I wrote this litany for a “pop-up worship” service in March.  A group of us entered the main atrium of our school and began an unexpected short service of lament, prayer, and hope.  These words also speak to the final push at the end of the school year … or at any other time and place of stress and difficulty.  The congregational response is intended to be simple enough for people to join in without written instructions.  

The word litany, by the way, comes from the Greek words for entreaty and supplicant.  Fitting for this particular piece.      

God of all the universe, we come to you heavy-hearted and light-headed, confused, distracted, and frustrated.

Lord, we cry to you.

God of our planet-home, we come carrying equal parts anxiety and hope, and we pray that they mix into some sort of faithful future.

Lord, we cry to you.

God of every creature, great and small, we want to live in your peace and justice, but sometimes the gap between our love and your love is just so great.

Lord, we cry to you.

God who dwells in the deep places of our hearts, we want to obey your call to “be not afraid,” and so we cry out, “Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!”

Lord, we cry to you. 

God of every moment, we feel your insistent presence in the beauty of a birdsong, the smile of a friend, and the warmth of a blanket, and we praise you for the small things.

Lord, we cry to you.

God of the pilgrim way, we thank you that you have brought us this far and rejoice in the call you have given us.

Lord, we cry to you.

God who holds our time in your hands, we know that you promise never to abandon us, and we pray for an enlivened sense of your presence with us.

Lord, we cry to you.

God, our beginning and our end, keep pulling us into your story of salvation, keep reminding us of our own belovedness, and keep sustaining our steps as we walk into your kingdom.  And all God’s people said:

Amen.