Category Archives: Prayer

Noonday Sight and Blindness

Almighty Savior, who at noonday called your servant Saint Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles: We pray you to illumine the world with the radiance of your glory, that all nations may come and worship you; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Was it at noon that the burst of light and the voice of God met Saul on the road? At noon that his companions had to lead a blind Saul into the city? At noon that a blind Saul was healed, transformed into a sighted Paul?

How is it that we can remain blind to what it takes to live a holy life – loving God, self, and neighbor – even on the brightest of days? Saul couldn’t see it, or didn’t see how to apply it; it took three days of blindness, the courage and grace of a stranger, and a new name for writer of so much of our New Testament.

What will it take for me to see?

[Book of Common Prayer, p. 107]

Our

Officiant and People: Our Father, who art in heaven

If you look through the New Testament, the word saints is only in its plural form – no singular saints, just a collective. This is different from the honorific Saint that is bestowed on a select few whose very human essence scattered the love of God like a prism flings light. Christianity, like its mother Judaism, is a communal affair rather than a singular pursuit.

The collective shows up again in the prayer Jesus left with us. Our father, not my father or your father. God isn’t the personal property of a single person, even one praying this prayer in solitude. God gives life to everyone, and everyone is claimed as a child of God’s love.

Our means I can’t exclude those I’d prefer to exclude, and they cannot exclude me. We are in this life together. We come before God together, even when we don’t, can’t, or won’t admit it.

What a powerful reminder, in the middle of whatever activities the day brings, that I am not alone – unique, beloved, but never alone.

That goes for you, too.

[For more on the Noonday Prayer service, click above.]

Silent or Spoken

A meditation, silent or spoken, may follow.

There are so many words thrown at us every day, almost every minute of every day, that they can become an indistinct buzzing more than bearers of anything important. When the words become too loud and too numerous, turning them into background noise can keep things manageable – a way of keeping our heads above water and our lives moving forward. But there’s a cost to it: life-giving words are filtered out along with the meaningless babble.

Built into this mid-day service is a pause, a space for a meditation. It might be filled with words, it might be an intentional respite from words. In the middle of the day’s activities, in the middle of this service, is this pause. Silent or spoken, a time to ponder life and love and holiness and fear, this is opening our hearts and souls to God – if only a crack.

What would life be like if we took time in the middle of every day to pause? If only for a moment, a few breaths in length, we welcomed God into the middle of our commonest of activities?

I can’t say I know, but I think it’s worth giving it a try.

It Could Have Been Otherwise

People: Thanks be to God.

[An Order of Service for Noonday, BCP, p. 105]

For the first time in almost exactly twenty years, cardboard boxes are forming a wall inside the walls of my home. My husband and I are making lists of things to bring, things to leave, tasks that must be done before moving day, and tasks that must be done upon arrival at the town that will become our home. We are leaving many friends and two sons behind us, setting out on our own for the first time in almost a quarter century. For whatever reason, it’s time to leave the familiar and loved to embrace the unfamiliar and soon-to-be-loved.

It’s a time for saying goodbye, for saying thank you to so many people for being a part of our lives these past two decades. It’s time to tidy up the work we’ve done here, preparing as best we can for the ones who will bring their own gifts and ideas when we are gone. I’ll miss the rhythm of my daily life here, but it’s someone else’s turn – while no one can be replaced, someone else can take on the work and move things forward.

Thanks be to God for that.

Thanks be to God for my time in this very particular place with these particular people. Thanks be to God for the challenges and the joys native to this time and place. It was in this place, in this time, that God walked with me through twenty years of life. It could have been otherwise, had my husband and I made different decisions. But it wasn’t, because we made the decisions we made and lived our lives within the space they created.

Thanks be to God for everyone who welcomed us to this place, who loved our sons as they grew, who prayed with us and for us, for whom we have prayed. What a sacred privilege we’ve been given.

It could have been otherwise, had we made different decisions – and such an otherwise would have brought its own uniqueness. It could have been otherwise, but I’m glad it wasn’t.

Thanks be to God.

Psalmlight

Your word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light upon my path.

I have sworn and am determined to keep your righteous judgments.

I am deeply troubled; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.

Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips, and teach me your judgments.

My life is always in my hand, yet I do not forget your law.

The wicked have set a trap for me, but I have not strayed from your commandments.

Your decrees are my inheritance for ever; truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes for ever and to the end.

Psalm 119, BCP

When the seminary library was doubled in size by a new addition, many of the existing sidewalks were removed or rerouted to connect the new indoor spaces to the outer campus. Most of the sidewalk lights were taken out during construction, so new lighting was needed for old and new walkways. Unfortunately, the tall bright lights that were originally proposed couldn’t be installed – a town light ordinance banned bright lights in order to preserve its historic charm, even at the expense of safety. The seminary had no choice but to comply. Still wanting enough lighting to keep the paths illuminated, designers went in a new direction: footlights. Two feet off the ground, with caps to keep the light directed downward, the new fixtures illuminated the paths without adding light to the surrounding airspace. The town was happy, and everyone could see where to direct their feet even in the darkest of nights.

I think of those paths when I read this psalm. Scripture doesn’t turn the darkness into daylight – my own limitations keep me blind to much of reality. But scripture offers enough illumination for me to keep my feet on the right path. I may not be able to see where the path is going to take me, but I trust that it leads to God, making my life a holy walk.

Alleluia

It comes after the Glory To‘s, and the So Be It/Make It So/Amen that is our affirmation that such glory is the right response to God’s graciousness and eternal presence.

But nothing in those words says we have to be happy about any of this. Nothing says giving God glory is a joy, an honor, a privilege, and something we love. The wonder and elation that we are blessed to offer God the glory is summed up in a word that is hard to define exactly, but is almost universally understood:

Alleluia

Perhaps the reason we don’t say it during Lent is to remind us that we can choose a joy-filled or a joyless life. It’s our call.

Speed and Haste

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O God, make haste to help us.

[An Order of Service for Noonday, Book of Common Prayer, p. 103]

The middle of the day doesn’t usually lend itself to extremes in the same way that the middle of the night might – or early in the morning, for that matter. The day is moving along its usual course, leaving the extremes in favor of moderation. By noon, there doesn’t seem to be enough time or energy to change the general direction of the day; such things can be put off until the next day.

I wonder if this lull in awareness, this willingness to aimlessly keep to the task and the direction already begun might not be the very peril that endangers me: this willingness to disengage from the only holy life I’ve been given as if I had an eternity of days to enjoy the beauty of the world and offer thanks to the loving creator that included me within it.

Coffee Wars

It does not insist on its own way. I Corinthians 13:5, NRSV

[For the full text, click I Corinthians 13 above.]

The coffee pot was moved back to the corner, and thus began the battle…

The church kitchen had been a disorganized mess for years, so the youth group took it on as a way to contribute to the life of the community. Cupboards that hadn’t been opened in years, much less emptied, were given a thorough scrubbing; what was broken or dangerous was removed; what was left was cleaned, organized, and labeled. The walls were degreased and repainted. It took hours, but the transformation was spectacular.

One of the best things: the coffee station had been relocated to a space near the service window. Everything was within easy reach, and it made coffee hour so much easier for hosts and guest alike. The youth group did the honors that first Sunday after the reorganization, hosting the coffee hour and revealing the new kitchen.

The grumbling started within hours. How could the teens change the kitchen without asking (they had permission from the church leaders)? How could they toss things out without permission (only broken and expired things were thrown away)? What right did they have to change anything?

The next Sunday, the coffee pots and machine had been moved back to the corner by persons unknown, recreating the old set-up. The youth, assuming someone didn’t know about the new place, moved it again. The next Sunday, it happened again. And again. And again. Finally, the youth gave up. Their hard work and best intentions had run into a communal unwillingness to change. The coffee making status quo was restored, but the damage was significant: the youth no longer believed that their efforts or their presence were welcome.

I doubt the adults who moved the coffee pots were intentionally causing damage to the teens of the church. I’m almost positive that there wasn’t a conspiracy intent on rejecting and dismantling the gift of time and effort given by the youth. This was just a typical knee-jerk reaction, a reclaiming of turf, an exercise of power. I wish the adults had asked themselves this question:

What is more important: keeping things the way I want them or honoring the gift offered by others?

The true and most disturbing question: what would have been their answer?

I Am Nothing

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

[For full text, click I Corinthians 13 above.]

Let’s assume I have good intentions, and my wishes for prophetic powers, perfect understanding and knowledge, and abiding faith are all answered. All I lack is love – meaning good things for others and sacrificing to bring them to fruition. I could still do so much good if I don’t use my gifts to harm, couldn’t I?

Doubtful. Not because I couldn’t accomplish amazing things, but because I’ll miss the point and purpose of those amazing things. Intelligence, knowledge, accurate prediction, and belief aren’t enough. Add them all up, and they still won’t give me the one thing I need: wisdom.

Wisdom assumes love – it’s why there are evil geniuses but no evil wise women and men. If I perform miracles without love for every living thing, I’m likely to manipulate others rather than invest in their uniqueness.

Wisdom recognizes limitations. Amazing abilities take their toll if fueled only from personal resources. The well runs dry eventually because no one is meant to live outside loving relationships with God and others. A car with an empty tank cannot fulfill its potential, even if it’s a top-of-the-line model.

Without love, I would be destroyed by my own abilities, a null and void self – nothing. God being gracious to everyone else, whatever I did manage to accomplish would bring blessing. God being gracious to me, creating me to be something rather than nothing, the wish wouldn’t be granted in the first place.

Love Letters, Old Style

Origami heart, last steps…

Valentine’s Day decorations are still up in windows, on shelves, and in the 75% off aisles of Target and Market Basket. Yet, less than a week beyond the day, it all seems a bit half-hearted and tattered. If love is strong, such things are a nice extra, but not necessary; if love is not strong, even extravagant trimmings can’t fill the void.

It’s a truth we all know but don’t often say aloud: love has to be more than a fleeting feeling and a paper doily heart. It’s time for something constant and substantial, something strong enough to steady our feet and grow us up.

It’s a letter that was never meant to be reduced to romantic love, no matter how often it is read at weddings. It’s Paul’s letter to an entire community that was playing the Whose gift is best? game. As we view Valentine’s Day in the rearview mirror and move forward into Lent, let’s take another look at this old, old-fashioned love letter from Paul…

 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophesies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully even as I have been fully known.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13, NRSV