Monday, February 19, 2018

Wilderness


A week ago, those of us who observe Ash Wednesday and want to encourage others to practice those things that give us a holy beginning to Lent were wondering how much of a shadow Valentine’s Day would cast over the beginning of Lent in the greater culture. What would people be thinking about Wednesday evening — hearts and flowers, or the beginning of our forty day wilderness journey? By evening, though, the nation’s focus was on yet another in a series of horrible acts of violence, this one a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed seventeen people. Once again, American children were killed at school. Once again, our nation’s leaders were big on thoughts and prayers but not so interested in talking about what substantial policy changes they proposed to help protect our children from deadly violence at school. 
We are in the wilderness, and not just the figurative wilderness of our Lenten journey. We are lost in a place that is empty and disorienting and frightening. Taken as a group, the adults of our nation have forsaken our responsibilities to our children. We have said we love our nation’s children even as we allow greed and sloth and probably several other deadly sins to keep us from having policies such as those in other nations that would make our public places, including our schools, much safer places for children. 

That we Americans allow sin to keep us from protecting our children is no new revelation, of course. We have been in the wilderness a long time, watching global temperatures rise along with concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere while greed and sloth and probably several other deadly sins keep our leaders from developing policies that could mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Much has been made of the hollowness of “thoughts and prayers” without action after events like mass shootings. Prayers of confession and repentance, though, necessarily result in action. Truly changed hearts result in truly changed lives. Truly changed hearts in our nation’s adults would produce genuine love that would not let sin get in the way of protecting our children. That said, we as a culture are far from that point of conversion. So long as a short-sighted desire for a perceived private gain trumps any impulse toward the public good in the hearts of voters and the people they choose to develop our public policies, we will remain in the wilderness. 

At its best, the wilderness is a place where so much is stripped away that we see ourselves as we are — our sins along with the gift of being beloved children of God — and repent. This is why many Christians choose some sort of discipline for Lent that echoes the wilderness experience; that wilderness experience can bring us closer to God when it results in penitent hearts. When we see clearly who we are and the things that tempt us and then choose to turn our backs on the temptations, we are ready to leave the wilderness. 

But some of us won’t even acknowledge that we are in the wilderness.  If we refuse to acknowledge the reality of our situation, if we pretend that we can continue living as we do and putting our sinful desires before our love of God and our neighbors — including our children — we will remain stuck in the wilderness, lost in a place that is empty and disorienting and, if only we would let ourselves feel it, frightening.

This week, much of our nation was shaken by yet another school shooting. This week also the Bering Sea lost a shocking amount of sea ice, something that should not be happening at all in February. The upshot of these big changes in the Arctic region is that changes in the Arctic create changes in weather patterns further south that promise to be very disruptive. An unstable Arctic means an unstable planet, and an unstable planet means a terrible legacy for our children and grandchildren. 

We are in the wilderness. Some of us want to do what we must to get out of the wilderness, and some of us don’t care enough about ourselves or others to even tell ourselves the truth about where we are. Our work is to do our own work of repentance, and then take the news — both the news of the reality of our situation on earth and the good news of repentance and restoration — to others. 

For everyone this year, not just observant Christians, Ash Wednesday revealed just how far astray we have gone. Jesus calls us back to the discipline of love that will make all the difference in how we live. 






Friday, January 5, 2018

An Epiphany Prayer

God of all Creation, we remember how an unusual star led people wise enough to notice what others ignored to the wonder of the Holy Infant, and how they heeded the warning in a dream to return by another road. Give us wisdom to notice the signs around us that others may ignore and to change the road of deadly environmental destruction that we are on. Give us courage to make a new road by walking in awareness of the wonders there are to see all around us and by speaking whenever we gather as the Church of these wonders and the forces that threaten them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who walks with us always. Amen.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Prayer for the Twelve Days of Christmas


Gracious God, you so loved the world that you sent us your Son to live in our world as one of us and teach us the ways of love. Help us through this Christmas season to find joy in the remembrance of his birth and joy in the world you created and love, seeing Jesus through all living things on the earth, and seeing your world through his loving eyes. We pray in the name of Jesus, the light who always shines in the darkness. Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Coming Light: Prayer and Reflection for the Fourth Week of Advent

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (p, 212, The Book of Common Prayer)
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
With Christmas Eve on Sunday this year, we have only a few hours to experience the Fourth Week of Advent and prepare ourselves before beginning our celebration of Christmas. Already sunset is a minute later than it was at the Winter Solstice on Thursday. Though winter’s chill remains awhile more, the light outside us will soon be noticeably brighter. The darkest days are behind us for another year; the inner light we’ve been kindling in our journey through Advent continues to glow, soon to be matched by brighter light outdoors. 

As we pray this Sunday for God to purify our conscience, we might consider how we can more justly share God’s gifts to us so that the poorest people among us might not only live, but thrive. Our nations and institutions need some deep, systemic changes so that that the earth, worn down like the poor by our greed and selfishness, can be renewed and restored.  Working for justice for all is daunting at this point of our history, but we know that just when the days get darkest, the light becomes more apparent. Advent prepares us to recognize and embrace the Light that is born on Christmas and to count on God's promises, and our faith in Jesus in turn gives us strength for the work of environmental justice.


God of hope and promise, forgive us for squandering our gifts in ways that cause suffering for others. Help the approaching light to shine so brightly in our hearts that we happily change our ways so that all your children can share in the bounty of your gifts. Help our hearts and minds to be ready to receive the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, and to readily follow his way of justice, peace, and love. We pray in the name of  Jesus, the Light of the world. Amen.


A note about these Advent offerings:

The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.

It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joy in Creation: Prayer and Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent (p. 212, The Book of Common Prayer)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
When I was a child, the December days before Christmas Eve dragged along , and I wanted nothing more than for Christmas to be here now. But my memories of a mid-twentieth century midwestern childhood also include memories of snowball fights, games of fox and geese, feeding birds, tracking animals, and going for evening walks with my dad as the streetlights illuminated big snowflakes falling. It seemed Christmas would never come, but now I realize that the fun of early winter made those days of waiting rich and full. 

Our Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent asks God to “speedily” help and deliver us. At Church of the Resurrection in Omaha, we sing “Soon and Very Soon” during Advent. As adults waiting for Christmas, we yearn not only to know more fully Christ’s presence among us, but also for help in amending our own lives so that we are ready to receive Christ when he comes.

The Winter Solstice comes during the Third Week of Advent this year. As we light the pink candles on our Advent wreaths and take up the theme of joy, we know that the light outside will “soon and very soon” begin to slowly but surely grow brighter.  We have preparations to finish at home and church this week, but we also have the joys of God’s creation in this time and place to help make these days of waiting rich and full. Taking time just to be outdoors for even a few minutes can feed our souls and prepare us to fully be ready for Jesus. This small pause lends support to the hard work of more fully amending our lives, and helps us remain joyful as we do the work of preparing in all ways for the coming of Jesus. This week we pray:

God the Creator and Sustainer of the world, help us to wait with joyful purpose. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the beauty and joy of your creation, and give us hearts and minds willing to pause in childlike wonder at the richness of the world around us. Through Jesus Christ who was and is and is to come. Amen.



A note about these Advent offerings:

The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.

It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.






Friday, December 8, 2017

Prophets and Joy: Prayer and Reflection for the Second Week of Advent

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter.

Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent (p. 211, The Book of Common Prayer)
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some of today’s prophets are scientists and environmentalists who warn us of the long-term dangers of pollution and overconsumption. From the growing problem of plastic pollution to using unsustainable amounts of resources to our dependence on fossil fuels that are extracted from the earth in ways that endanger land, water, and human health before emitting carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming, these prophets warn us that our actions endanger us, future generations, and other living things. 

“Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation,” according to the Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer. By that definition, our disregard for the environment is indeed sinful. Our repentance this Advent season requires us to examine our neglect of the environment that sustains life on this earth and to change our way of life so we are better stewards of the gift of God’s creation.

Advent is also a time when a walk outside can reveal much to bring us joy: winter birds, sometimes footprints in the snow, soft pink light at sunset, and dazzling stars at night. When we look around and notice the wonders all around us, we realize that repentance returns us to a place of great love and great joy in God’s creation. 

This week we pray:

Merciful God, you have sent us prophets in the form of scientists and environmental advocates who can teach us how to better care for the gift of your creation that sustains every living thing on the earth. Help us to better hear them and learn from them, that we can continue to find joy in your creation and pass along the gift of your creation to future generations. Give us penitent hearts and such joy in your creation that our desire is to do what is right. We pray this in the name of  the Son that you sent to live among us because you so loved the world. Amen.


A note about these Advent offerings:

The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.

It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Hope: Prayer and Reflection for the First Week of Advent

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent (p. 211, The Book of Common Prayer)
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Outdoors it's late fall. The days grow shorter and the sun lies low in the sky. We know with certainty, though, both that longer days and brighter light lie ahead and exactly when the winter solstice will bring the gradual return of the light, but still sometimes the weeks of darkness seem unending. 

Our situation with climate change caused by global warming can seem hopeless when we look at the scientific data and the global and national political situation. Unlike our knowledge of the returning natural light, we have no certain knowledge that better days lie ahead. Any genuine hope in this case is deep hope, hope that something better and brighter than the most likely outcome -- and perhaps something even better and brighter than anything we can imagine -- will come to pass. In these waning days, we pray a prayer of hope:

O God of all power and all goodness, the days are dark and our future seems uncertain. Send us in this season of Advent deep hope and the will to do what we must to help that hope become a real possibility. We ask that even when it seems foolish, you give us wisdom to put on the armor of light so all can live in hope of a future when humankind and all living things both not only live, but flourish. In the name of Jesus, the true light of the world who is not overcome by the darkness. Amen.


A note about these Advent offerings:

The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.

It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.