Mothering God: A Prayer

 

 

Mothering God

 

Mothering God, we praise and bless your holy name.  You are our God and we are your children‑‑we have no other Gods before you. You pronounced our name and called us into existence, breathed the breath of life into us. Like a baby in the womb of its mother, it is in you that we live and breathe and have our being. You are our Mother and our Father. You are the Creator. We stand before you with praise and thanksgiving.

We thank you for those who carried and birthed us into existence. We thank you for our mothers and grandmothers and all the other mothers who precede us. We thank you for those other women who were mothers to us‑‑aunts, neighbors, teachers, others. We thank you that we experienced your loving, watchful care from these women.

Yet God, we lament with those women who are unable to have children, for whatever reason. We carry their sorrow and grief for their empty wombs. We lament with those mothers who have lost their children, who have had to bury their children.  We weep alongside them. We lament for those children who did not know their mothers, who have lost their mothers. Our hearts ache on their behalf.  You, Mothering God, who is the originator of life and love, we know that you hear our lament and grieve and weep as well.

Merciful, mothering God, because you love and watch and care for the world, we again bring before the cares of the world, in order for you to move and act. We pray for estranged families who do not know your peace. We pray for the families were there is abuse, in whatever form, we pray for your merciful justice.  We pray for those who are alone and feel desperately lonely and isolated from others and from you‑‑break through the protective barriers they’ve constructed in order to cope with the loneliness. Draw them near to your heart‑‑let them know they are not alone, but you are with them. We hold all of these broken, hurting lives before you.

We pray that you will continue to strengthen the healthy, thriving families with your love. We thank you for these families because they are homes where those who hurt can be healed. We thank you for the faithful families in our lives. Continue to pour out your loving mercy upon them. Let those families become deep wells of your mercy and your grace and your love that others can drink from. Continue to give each of us wisdom in relating with one another. Help us to see with your eyes and to hear with your ears. Enlarge our hearts with love.

Mothering God, we again thank you for brooding over us like a hen with her chicks.  Thank you for your watchful, attentive eye on us. We thank you for the privilege of being your children, of being called the daughters and the sons of God. We love you and we bless you.  Amen.

 

A confession based on Isaiah 6:1-8

statues--5-1-17 blog post

(in unison)

 

O God, we confess to you that we are a people of unclean lips:

we have complained aloud;

we have spoken harshly to others;

we have used sarcasm.

*

Forgive us, Merciful God.

We know that our lips reflect our hearts.

*

O God, we ask that you create us to be people of grateful hearts:

let us rejoice aloud;

let us speak kindly to others;

let us use patience.

*

Thank You Merciful God

for your patience;

for your kindness;

for your joy.

Amen.

The Story of Intimates

Jesus raises Lazarus to life - John 11:1-44

 

Lent 5–John 11:1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” 28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

***

I am intrigued with the interconnectedness of the people in this story. The friendships, the siblings, the affection and regard between the primary characters in John 11. According to The Women’s Bible Commentary (WJK, 2012-3rd ed), “This is a story about intimates … Jesus’ own future and the future of this family are inextricably linked.” (p. 523)

The passage begins with the sisters, Martha and Mary, felt free in their relationship with Jesus to send word to Jesus that Lazarus, their brother, was gravely ill. The language they used indicates the depth of friendship and affection between Jesus and the three siblings: He whom you love is ill.” The subtext here is “Your dear friend is dying and you can do something to stop his death.”

And Jesus lingers for two more days until he announces to the disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” But the disciples tell him no, not back to Judea because they knew that Jesus’ life was in danger as the religious leaders tried to stone Jesus when they were last in Jerusalem.

Jesus tells the disciples “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping.” They understood Jesus’ words literally—Lazarus was taking a nap. To them, Jesus didn’t need to risk his death for a napping Lazarus. The disciples were worried for Jesus: Why should Jesus risk his life for Lazarus if he’s only sleeping?

Then Jesus tells them: Lazarus is dead. The verse says: “Jesus spoke plainly to them.” I laughed out loud when I first read this passage last week. Often throughout the gospels the disciples are portrayed as thick-headed and a wee clueless. I imagine Jesus saying something obscure and opaque and the disciples looking at each other, “Did you understand that?”

“No, did you?”

“Me neither.”

Even if the disciples didn’t always understand Jesus they loved him and they decide to go with Jesus and die with him.

As they approach Bethany, Martha meets Jesus out of town and speaks freely from her grief. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

And Jesus asks her if she believes in him and Martha makes a beautiful statement of faith: “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Martha returns to their house and whispers to Mary that Jesus wants to see her outside of town. Mary goes to Jesus, falls at his feet and weeps, and also tells Jesus that if he had been there Lazarus would’ve lived. Then we have a glimpse into Jesus’ emotions: He is troubled. Some translations say he was angry, others say troubled.  Jesus asks Mary to take him to Lazarus’ tomb and, again, Jesus has strong emotions. The Women’s Bible Commentary suggests in this moment is the “… the intersection of the intimate and the cosmic: the pain of this family reminds Jesus of the pain of the world.” (p. 524)

At the tomb, Jesus calls for the stone to be moved. And the wonderfully sensible and practical Martha says: He’s gonna stink—he’s been dead for four days. But she trusts Jesus and has the stone rolled away.

Jesus then prays aloud: “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that sent me.”

He then calls for Lazarus. And the text says: “The dead man came out.” Not Lazarus but the “dead man” to underscore the magnitude of this miracle. Many believed in Jesus in that day.

Nevertheless,

Jesus’ conversation with Mary and Martha transform this story from a miracle story about the raising of Lazarus into a story about the fullness of new life that is possible to all who believe in Jesus. For John, the initiative of these women sending for Jesus, their bold and robust faith, the grief and pain that they bring to Jesus, their willingness to engage Jesus in conversation about life, death, and faith, and their unfaltering love for Jesus are marks for discipleship. (ibid)

The interconnectedness of all these people model faithful discipleship for all of us.

 

*JESUS MAFA. Jesus raises Lazarus to life, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48269

Attentive Living: A review of Liturgy of the Ordinary

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren  (InterVarsityPress, 2016)

liturgy-of-the-ordinary-side

It is easy for me to zone out while doing tasks by listening to a podcast, or a recorded book, or NPR. I dislike doing chores without distraction. On occasion, I practice the discipline of silence and  imbue my chores with sacredness. I remember Brother Lawrence, the Carmelite brother who worked his adult life in the monastery kitchen and while cooking, washing dishes, and sweeping the kitchen floor as a time for prayer: “It is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God,” from Practicing the Presence of God.

But usually, well, my chore practice is to be distracted, and will organize my chore schedule to coincide with the NPR schedule so I can be absorbed in something not related to the task at hand.

In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, writer and Anglican priest, Tish Harrison Warren suggests that all our tasks can be imbued with the sacred. And, truthfully, she is making a convert of me. She reminds the reader that spiritual formation is taking place in us during these daily activities: “Is it in the repetitive and the mundane that I begin to learn to love, to listen, to pay attention to God and those around me.”

She shapes the book on themes which we find in ordinary life: checking email, sitting in traffic, fighting with her husband, calling a friend, and sleeping. She reminds us through an Annie Dillard quote that, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” So then, how do we spend our days—distracted and not fully present to our lives or mindful of God’s presence in and around us? Harrison Warren confesses, “It is hard for me to believe that checking email could ever be a place of prayer.” Nevertheless, she hopes her work, her tasks, will be blessed God.  Additionally, Harrison Warren suggests being mindful of God’s love and presence during the repetition of our daily life is similar to the repetition of our transformation, or, our sanctification:

Daily life, dishes in the sink, children that ask the same questions and want the same stories again and again, the long doldrums of the afternoon—these things are filled with repetition. And much of the Christian life is returning over and over to the same work and the same habits of worship. We must contend with the same spiritual struggles again and again. The work of repentance and faith is daily and repetitive. Again and again, we repent and believe.

Importantly, Harrison Warren reminds us that bringing the sacred into the everyday is not a mental effort but it involves and engages our bodies:

If we don’t learn to live the Christian life as embodied beings, worshiping God and stewarding the good gift of our bodies, we will learn a false gospel, an alternative liturgy of the body …. Our bodies are instruments of worship.

Her reflections are robust, and, truthfully, convicting (especially about checking her social media the first thing in the morning). The book includes discussion questions and practices that could be used for personal study or a small group study. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life is well-written and accessible for readers who are seeking more meaning into one’s everyday life, especially while doing chores.

 

 

 

Waking up singing a prayer

celtic triple knot with swirls

“Confitemini Domino”

(“Come and fill our hearts with your peace.

You alone, O Lord, are holy.”)

–from the Taize tradition

Fill my heart with peace, O God.

Only you can fill my heart.

Only you can give me peace—

the peace that is incomprehensible,

unexplainable, beyond knowing.

You are peace beyond peace.

You are peace beyond.

With this peace, fill my heart.

You, only you.

Prayer for compassion

june mears driedger

A cross-stitched labyrinth made by Kevin Driedger for Christmas, 2007. A cross-stitched labyrinth made by Kevin Driedger for Christmas, 2007.

O God, Compassionate One-

I pray for a compassionate heart this new year.

I pray for a heart that is willing to expand with your compassion, with your love.

I pray for a set of compassionate eyes that see what your eyes see.

I pray for a set of compassionate ears that hear what your ears hear.

O God, Compassionate One-

I pray for a heart willing to extend compassion to those who annoy me, infuriate me, enrage me.

Help me to see these people as your children, worthy of your love and compassion and therefore deserving of my love and compassion.

O God, Compassionate One-

I pray for a heart that is bold enough to seek reconciliation with those whom I have hurt, harmed or dismissed.

Help me to understand, to know (deep in my bones)…

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Ash Wednesday

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Today is Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent.

This Lent season it might be time to venture, as Jesus did, into the shadowy areas of our lives, confident of God’s merciful light surrounding us as well as willingly accepting the support of others. Lent is not about the ostentatious fasting that Isaiah (58:1-12) scoffed at, but a time to open ourselves to more light by lifting the lamp a little higher, by being God’s light to others and receiving it from them. It’s time to learn something new about God and move outwards to do something with it.

Lent might also be a time for us to move inwards with trust, to allow God to show us more of our own need and do something about that. As we live with the memory of the light and the hope of the Easter light to come, may the shadows we encounter become for us places of healing, wisdom and hope as well as fuel for the flame of light that we pass on to others. As light-bearers, let us be for others as merciful, gracious, and loving as God has been to us. God has taken the risk of sending the light of the Word into the chaos and terror of the world, and the darkness has not overcome it. God trusts us to keep ourselves faithful and transparent carriers of that light for the world. As the saying goes, “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

candle_slava_celebration

During this upcoming Lent season, let each of us carry God’s light into the shadows of our own lives, of our families, of our communities, and of the world.

 

 

Cross photo by Jennifer Balaska:candle photo by Petar Milosevic