The service concludes as follows
Officiant: Let us bless the Lord
People: Thanks be to God
it’s done, this 10+ minute service in the middle of the day. We’ve read a psalm or two, prayed the Lord’s Prayer and all the other ones written on pages103 to 107; we’ve even lifted a few joys, concerns, and people that are on our hearts – with our own words and in our own time. It’s time to begin the rest of the day.
And so we end, not with asking for another blessing or two, but by blessing God and offering thanks. We end with giving, not receiving. Beloved children that we are, we give our blessing to the God who gave us life and breathes life into us every day. We may not understand all that God has done, but in this final part of the service, we are given the marvelous gift of being able to bless freely and generously.
In medias res, in the middle of things, I doubt there’s a happier or better ending.
Free Intercessions may be offered.
One of the big complaints against the traditions that have a set liturgy – prayers, responses, etc., that are used all the time – is that there isn’t any place in them for heartfelt, spontaneous prayer. Canned religion, some call it.
There’s some truth to that accusation; it can easily become a rote exercise, familiar words mumbled without really paying attention to them. We can revert to Automatic Pilot mode, avoiding any deep engagement with God, ourselves, and one another.
There’s a lot of ignorance to that accusation; beautiful words that have been spoken so often that they are familiar friends can guide us into God’s presence when our own imaginations and verbal resources aren’t up to the task.
Here’s the irony – the best of both worlds is already offered in these five words: free intercessions may be offered. Here is our chance to speak what is on our hearts, in our own words, with our own sense of purpose and timing. We can let the ancient prayers and offerings revive our souls and replenish our own spiritual imaginings, then move into this free space. Here is the place, now is the time. Lift yourself, others, this entire world to God in your own words.
Free intercessions may be offered. It’s a shame that this sentence is written in such small print as to be easily overlooked.
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.
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.
Illumination is a gift from God to be sure, but it comes at the cost of the life we assumed we would lead. Paul had no desire to bring the love of God to Gentiles, but that was the holy calling and life that he got. The flash of light and the voice from heaven stripped him of his spiritual blindness courtesy of a three day physical blindness.
Perhaps it is only when we are stripped of the illusion that we see reality clearly that we are willing to rely on God’s vision. It’s quite a bold thing to ask for, as an individual and as part of the nations of this world, this clarity of vision. If it changed Paul’s life so dramatically, it’s likely to do the same to ours…
Blessed Savior, at this hour you hung upon the cross, stretching out your loving arms: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may look to you and be saved; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.
I haven’t spent much time thinking about when Jesus was on the cross. Only in Holy Week does the movement of my hours align with the hours of crucifixion. But here it is, in the middle of my routine day: a prayer to remember the cost of true love.
If I claim Jesus, then Jesus has a claim on me. I doubt it will involve martyrdom, but it does demand that I take up the cross of my own life. I’m meant to love truly in this time and place, and to sacrifice to foster that love for and in others.
It’s the best of all possible realities, not the easiest.
Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP, p. 107
Most mornings, I remember to pray when I wake up: Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace…in all things, help me to rely upon thy holy will…in every hour of the day, reveal thy will to me. There are more lines, asking for the strength and wisdom to act with kindness and steadfast strength. It’s been my way of putting my feet on a good path for the day.
There are some mornings that I skip the prayer – I forget to set an alarm, I’ve slept past my usual time, it’s a day packed with more than the usual activities. Oddly, it’s on the days when I most need to say my morning prayer that I don’t.
The morning has come and gone without me noticing the direction of my feet, heart, mind, and will. Now it’s noon, and there’s still time to take a deep breath and ask God for a reset. Here is my second chance to collect myself and set my feet on a good and loving path. May I be wise and loving enough to take it.
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…
A meditation, silent or spoken, may follow. (BCP, p. 106)
Words, spoken aloud or within the heart, have the power to change our perceptions. They can reassure, humiliate, amuse, and frighten. Some can bring us closer to God in new and unexpected ways; others can assault the spirit and break us. They can be the words spoken by others, and they can be our own self-created and sustained inner dialogue/diatribe.
This meditation isn’t at the beginning of noonday prayers; it is in the middle, following psalms and a couple of other short scripture passages. The Lord’s Prayer follows soon after. But in between the two are these words:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Have mercy, loving God, on the words I ponder within my heart or speak out loud. May they be words that reveal your love, imperfect as they are. Give me the courage to speak and meditate. Give me the wisdom to recognize and admit my limitations. Fill in the gaps with your grace. Amen.
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.
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.