Heaven On Earth

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and forever. Amen.

Peace I leave with you, Jesus said. He didn’t say leisure, money, power, or the security and insularity they might buy us. Don’t look at our blindness or our inability/unwillingness to see past our own desires: see us always as part of that spiritual congregation whose vision is clear, we ask. Because the peace and unity of heaven will never settle in our bones and our communities through our own efforts. Such things come from an awareness and acceptance of our own participation in a communion that stretches back to the beginning of this creation and will embrace all life that is to come.

Heaven on earth isn’t a mini-paradise of our own making. Heaven on earth is already here, in the peace that Jesus left with us. If we want to find ourselves in it, we have to let go of our smaller, self-centered versions that will always fall short.

What a gutsy, wise thing to request in the middle of my day.

Shortened

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Lord, hear our prayer.

And let our cry come unto you.

Let us pray. (BCP, pp. 106-107)

The last couple of lines are left off – the kingdom, the power, and the glory are missing at the end of the prayer. Morning and Evening Prayer services don’t leave them off, just the prayers at noonday. It could be to save room – the end of the service is the last line available on the next page; it could be that everyone is so familiar with the prayer that the last couple of lines aren’t necessary – we’ll say them anyway; perhaps, it’s because these lines vary in different versions – leaving them off allows us to fill in our own versions of how the prayer ends. Any one of these reasons would be sufficient, and a combination of them even better.

But I wonder. If I am honest with myself (and with God), affirming the eternal and ever-present kingdom, the power, and the glory of God takes hope and nerve when I’m only halfway through a day of traffic, short tempers, frustration, worry, envy, and distraction.

I’m going to need divine intervention to finish the prayer. So I cry out for just that…

In Every Place

From the rising of the sun to its setting my Name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered in my Name, and a pure offering; for my Name shall be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 1:11) (BCP, p.106)

People: Thanks be to God.

It doesn’t say that the nations will follow a holy path, or that love of God, self, and neighbor will be the guiding political principles. But somewhere in the world, among the many nationalities and faiths, there are people who offer sincere and honest prayers to God. Every moment of every day (the sun is always rising, shining, or setting somewhere, after all!) God is loved, honored, called upon, and recognized.

There isn’t a single place on the planet that lacks the spirit of prayer, or the Spirit that guides them. There isn’t a single faithless, prayerless moment.

Every day, from the rising of the sun to its setting, you and I are invited to participate in this most holy endeavor. What a wonderful thing to remember as morning transforms into afternoon.

Reconciled, reconciling

If anyone is in Christ she/he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Godself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (BCP, p.106, 2 For. 5:17-18)

God offers us the chance to be a new creation, every minute of every day. The old can pass away at any time, and the new ushered in with gladness. This isn’t something we do for ourselves – it’s a blessing Christ offers.

Thanks be to God, we respond.

But there’s something missing if we leave it at that. God also gave us the ministry of reconciliation – the joy and responsibility of handing on that reconciliation in our own lives, our own relationships. It’s not an easy or pleasant thing in all times, places, and circumstances. Sometimes, reconciliation is painful, difficult, and at the expense of something we’d rather do or have.

This ministry of reconciliation doesn’t seem like much of a gift compared to the chance to be a new creation. But there it is. I’m going to take it on faith that this ministry of reconciliation is every much the gift that new life is. For that reason, I’ll respond:

Thanks be to God.

Sung or Said

One or more of the following may Psalms is sung or said

Psalm 119: Your word is a lantern to my feet, and a light upon my path.

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?

Psalm 126: When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, they were we like those who dream…

It makes a difference, whether you sing or say a psalm. Psalms are poems, sung or spoken in Jewish and Christian worship services. Singing comes from a different place in the heart and brain than speaking does – it’s why people who cannot speak can sing (and swear!).

There are times when I cannot speak to God. Words fail me, or seem incapable of conveying what is most important and true for me. Grief can steal my words; anger can keep me from talking with God; I can murmur memorized words without really paying any attention to them or God.

Singing is different. It bypasses my grief, anger, and complacency. Singing can bring me before God when I most need to be there and I am least able to find my way.

There is such wisdom in setting our prayers to music. Sing along, why don’t you?

Always and Forever

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Glory to the Mother, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

It has a different feel and flavor in the mouth, the glory going to the Mother rather than the Father. It’s not particularly heretical – there are feminine images for God throughout scripture; but it’s not customary or common. So why the insistence on God as male to the exclusion of God as female?

It’s important to notice gender differences, especially if one gender is valued above another as a general rule. But alternating male and female pronouns shouldn’t be the end goal: a deeper awareness of and openness to God’s presence is what we seek. The words are sacred not because of any magical property, but because we are drawn through them into God’s loving embrace.

Isn’t that the point of this often said phrase? God is, was, and will always love us; God holds our past, present, and future; we are never lost to God.

Save us, help us

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Why these words at the beginning of a noonday prayer service? It’s not likely that anyone praying them is in mortal danger. Anyone who is in such a predicament isn’t likely to have their BCP in hand, after all. As I pondered these words for the past few days, these thoughts arose…

The officiant is the one who asks God to save us, not the people. Although we shouldn’t need it, having a leader ask for God’s saving presence gives the rest of us permission to do the same. Everyone needs God’s saving love and presence, and asking for it is a sign of wisdom rather than a terrible weakness.

Most of us are okay with giving help, but needing help? It takes strength to admit to needing help; it’s easy to consider needing a help a character flaw rather than a universal human truth.

Asking God for help, admitting our need to be saved by God, is easier with practice. If the words become part of us, we will have them when we need them. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes for sufficiency.

I may not need saving from a physical danger at the moment, but I do need saving from things that kill the soul and maim the spirit. Disdain for others and self, hopelessness, and a perspective so limited that I am unable to act with love and compassion are deadly if not in an obvious way. I may not wish someone harm, but without recognizing my limitations and my need for God’s saving love I may not wish them well – and I certainly won’t be willing to foster their wellbeing.

In the middle of the day, in the company of others, I am asking for help. Only with God’s help and saving grace can I hope to love God, myself, and others. I’m so very glad there are others asking for help, too…

Noonday Prayers

I pray in the morning, I pray in the evening, but I don’t pray at noon on any kind of a regular basis.

I’m familiar with Morning Prayer and Vesper liturgies, but not the Noonday service.

I say prayers throughout the day, depending on what I see, hear, and feel; I don’t say mid-day prayers as a routine activity. There’s no “noonday prayers” on my calendar. Why is this?

Our Muslim sisters and brothers pray at noon as part of their every day faith, stopping in the middle of activities to orient themselves toward God. Isn’t it time I give this a try?

I hope you’ll join me. With these words, let us begin…

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

 

Lettuce Leavings

It’s the bottom of the lettuce, the part I cut away to free the leaves for my salad. A rough, flat nub and an inch of tough ends that usually ends up in my compost pile. But set it in the garden bed, and a miracle happens: new leaves begin to grow from the stump overnight. Three or four days later, it’s enough to snip and add to the top of my taco. Even more amazing, the new growth is beautiful to see.

Life from a throwaway, from something that has already fulfilled its primary purpose. Beauty arising from the ordinary. If such remarkable regeneration comes from discarded things, how can anything be impossible?

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 

Isaiah 11:1, NRSV

What Do You See?

The Words of My Mouth

July 16, 2021

Twenty years ago today, just after eight in the morning, Jared Embrey Fredrickson arrived. For these twenty years, I’ve watched him grow from an infant to toddler, elementary student to high school graduate. That first day, I didn’t know what his favorite color would be, what would make him laugh or cry, or where he would find God’s presence in his life. What I did know: the words I would say and the words I would leave unsaid would matter to him. Tone of voice and eye contact would make a difference; whether I was talking to him or at him mattered.

Words matter, and the heart behind the words matters even more. There are a few prayers that I say because of this truth.

Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.

Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me.

And most important:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Marc Cohn, The Things We’ve Handed DownThe Best of Marc Cohn