Monthly Archives: June 2017

United or Separate?

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.

Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

We begin as an egg and sperm, sourced from two different people. We are born unfinished and dependent, requiring others to love us and teach us how to be human. This brings the gift of memory, allowing us to learn when we do things the right way and when we don’t. This brings the gift of reason – something that must be fostered over many years, something that can be damaged or encouraged. This brings the gift of skill, the talent and ability to build and change the world in countless ways.

What happens when we forget that we cannot be who we are without others – and that others cannot be who they are without us? What happens when we decide that our survival and our gain is about getting rid of others rather than acknowledging that we are dependent on others? What happens when we make ourselves rulers of creation without remembering that a loving God made us? What happens when we forget that we are not self-created?

When we turn against others, thinking it will be to our advantage in some way, we damage ourselves as well as others in the process. Who we are will always be tied to everyone else. When we remember that we began in God’s embrace, just as all things did, we just might pause long enough to see in the face of another our own lives. We begin biologically in others, we grow with others, and we die into the great community of all living things. Returned to God, forgiven and embraced.

Have mercy on us, Lord. Help us remember our common creation, use our reason to honor and love others, and our skill to build a world where every living thing is treated as your precious child. We can’t do it without you. Amen.

Island Living

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

By your will they were created and have their being.

It’s the cosmic view at the beginning, going smaller as the sentence progresses: every single thing in this created universe shrinks down to our off-the-beaten-path planet. This cosmic expanse keeps expanding, with everything around us moving out and away from the point where it all started. It’s impossible for us to see such movement  – the scale is beyond our perception, and we are in the thick of it. Some things are just too big to see, and our universe as a whole is one of them.

In some ways, our beloved earth is very much an island, a small dot in this vast expanse of interstellar space. It is a small home, taking up such a little piece of the galaxy that it hardly bears mentioning. But for us, for me and every other living being, it seems almost endlessly large. Perhaps this is why loneliness is something many of us experience- a vague sense of being unimportant and unnoticeable to the larger universe.

But our blue planet island isn’t really alone, and it isn’t disconnected from this immense universe. For the scientifically minded, we are connected to everything by gravity and strong and weak forces. For the poetically inclined, our common big bang origin makes us all kin. For the seekers of God, it’s our creator that binds all things together.

Years ago, Margaret Wise Brown wrote a lovely children’s book – The Little Island. A kitten visits a small island off the coast of Maine, separated from the main land by miles of ocean. But a fish tells him that at its roots, the island is part of the whole – not disconnected or alone at all, but a tiny part of this big world. Although he cannot see the connection, the kitten believes this wonderful truth.

I can’t see how my island home, my planet, is connected to everything deep down. But I am kitten enough to believe this truth, even if I can’t see it.

And it was good to be a little Island. A part of the world and a world of its own all surrounded by the bright blue sea. [Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Island, New York: Dell Dragonfly Books, 1973, last line. Originally published in 1946 by Doubleday & Company, inc]


God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.

Glory to you for ever and ever.

I got an email from the town manager’s office yesterday. It was a reminder for submitting an annual report, and it came with an attachment to answer any questions that might come up. Since this was the first I’d ever heard of an annual report, and I had many questions, I opened the attachment right away. It wasn’t what I expected, and it wasn’t helpful. There were very specific directions for the form the report should take, along with precise directions on the acceptable format for tables and charts. There wasn’t a single mention of what the report should contain – no list of questions to answer, no sample of a report from a previous year, and no “for more help, contact ____” to find them. My first thought: all form and no content makes for a dull report and a poorly managed town.

But today’s prayer words are all about content: Who God is, what God has created, and who we are in the whole thing. We may say the same form of this prayer week in and week out – a familiar box for a gift that it cannot fully contain. No matter who prays the words, no matter where, no matter when, who God is will always be bigger than the words. All powerful, universe ruling, praiseworthy and glorious – there aren’t enough adjectives and there aren’t enough days in a lifetime to describe such a loving God. Such words are content in good form, but never fully contained.

Lord of the Universe, may my life be more than empty form. May the form my life takes be a vessel of your love. Amen.


[For complete prayer, click “Prayer C” above]

About Face

Then, facing the table, the Celebrant proceeds

Rubrics – the little italicized lines that let everyone know what to do during the worship service. There aren’t many of them, but this is an important one. The woman or man leading the service has been facing the congregation – one part of the give and take, exhortation and response. Now she or he turns around, facing the same direction as everyone else. The point of this isn’t to show the back side of whatever robe is being worn. Something else entirely is going on, and it’s something we overlook or forget to our own diminishment.

The men and women who choose ordination, who choose to pray for and with any and all who enter the church (and travel to pray with and for those who don’t), hold a unique position among their congregants. Their vocations and education may set them apart to serve others in the name of Jesus, and they bear the responsibility of leadership. But when it comes to directing their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls to the Lord who made them, they are the same as everyone else. No higher, no lower, not facing another direction. This about face is a weekly reminder to clergy and congregation alike that everyone stands before God on equal footing.

Everyone comes before God a beloved child – no exceptions and no exclusions.

Word Change

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give (him/God/our) thanks and praise.

What we say depends on the church we are in. Some churches stick with the original him – either for reasons of tradition or for the comfort of the worshipers.

In other churches, the original him has been altered to a gender neutral God. God isn’t male or female, or God is both male and female, so using a proper noun instead of a gendered pronoun is one way of reflecting this truth. Another might be to alternate between saying him and her.

In still other congregations, the direct object of our thanks and praise disappears, replaced by an our to describe the thanks and praise. A genderless plural adjective reflects the worshipers; God as the object of our thanks and praise is implied from the sentence above.

The word change is important, but I don’t think it’s the heart of the exchange. For me, it’s the call to thank God and praise God every minute, every day, every week. There are no exceptions. It is right to thank God and praise God, regardless of our particular circumstances on any given day.

There’s a theological idea that says humanity’s special place in creation has nothing to do with our geographical or temporal location in the last few seconds of a billions of years old creation process. As self conscious and articulate creatures, it is our responsibility and privilege to be the universe’s self-awareness. We are the universe knowing itself as a beloved creation. There is no other response to this self-knowledge than humility; there is no other response to the God who created everything than praise and thanks.

For such a truth, perhaps It is right to give God our thanks and praise would be best…


Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

At any graduation, baptism, sporting event, or concert you are likely to see them: parents lifting their children over their heads or onto their shoulders. Without a higher perch, most children would see only a collection of legs, wallets, belts, and shoes. There’s no way for them to see over the crowds without a willing, caring adult giving them a lift. The littlest and youngest of us would never see the diplomas handed out, the singer or actor, winning shot or the newly baptized baby without moving to a higher location.

I think the same is true with prayers and worship. If someone doesn’t remind me to lift up my heart, I doubt I’d ever see past the forest of liturgical words to catch sight of Jesus.