Tag Archives: PrayerC

Given and Given Back

Accept these prayers and praises, Father, through Jesus Christ our great High Priest, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, your Church gives honor, glory, and worship from generation to generation. AMEN.

When my boys were young, even before they could walk, we played a simple game. I would offer a wooden block or soft toy to them. They would take it, hold it for a moment, smile, and then stretch out their hands to offer it back. I would take the toy, smile and say thank you, and begin the game again. After the first couple of handovers, it was hard to tell which part they enjoyed more – the giving or the receiving. The toy itself didn’t really matter that much; it was the accepting and offering that brought them joy.

Sometimes when I pray, it feels like I’m an infant playing this game. I’m given a day and the miracles it holds. I hold it for a moment, then hand it back to the Giver. It’s a delightful game, at least for me and I assume for God – why else would God play? But there is one big difference: whatever I hand over to God in prayer comes back in a different form. The love of God transforms it into something more precious than whatever it was I handed over. Or perhaps it’s only when it’s given back that I see it for what it truly is. Either way, I am made new by what I’ve given and then been given back.

I think that’s one way to understand Church at prayer: a group of God’s beloved receiving Jesus, holding him close, then giving him back.

And this meal we share on Sundays? What a wonderful way to recognize in Jesus the giver, take the gift of life, and offer it back out of love and delight.

Eyes To See

Lord God of our Fathers; God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Lord God of our Mothers; God of Sarah, Leah, and Rebecca; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.

Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

[Prayer C, Book of Common Prayer. For full prayer, click “prayer C” above.]

Do I have eyes to see the hand of God at work in the world around me? With everything wrong and negative, everything harmful and hurtful reported with detail and (sometimes) relish, it’s easy to miss the good, gracious, and holy that surround me. If I don’t ask for eyes to see, will I miss it? If I miss it, how many will I encourage to miss it as well?

There’s a difference between knee-jerk optimism and a hope and joy that nourishes the soul. The first is dependent on things going well (or on denying when things aren’t going well), the second is laying claim to the presence of God in this creation, whatever the circumstances. Blessing and grace are everywhere, but they aren’t always immediately obvious and they come in unexpected forms and by unexpected paths. That makes sense, though. God is constant but not predictable: wouldn’t God-given blessings be the same?

When my eyes are open to God’s handiwork, I will find solace for my grief and strength to make of it something good. I will admit my mistakes and seek forgiveness; my life will be renewed so that I don’t make the same hurtful mistakes in the future.

What a marvelous truth, what a gracious life is offered to me and everyone else. How can I be anything but grateful?

Trying to Remember

Remembering now his work of redemption, and offering to you this sacrifice of thanksgiving:

We celebrate his death and resurrection, as we await the day of his coming.

[Prayer C, The Book of Common Prayer. For complete prayer, click “prayer C” above]

There have been so many battles over the word sacrifice when it appears (or doesn’t) in a communion or eucharistic prayer. On the Roman Catholic side, sacrifice; on the Protestant Reformed side, no sacrifice. The big question that governs the whole argument: is the sacrifice of Jesus a one-and-done or does it recur every time there is a Mass/Eucharist said? The Anglican church split the difference, choosing their words carefully to allow believers on both sides to worship comfortably together – a clear example of valuing practice and compromise over theological clarity.

I was a lot more invested in this theological sticking point in seminary classrooms than I ever was in church or at prayer. I’ve seen people with superb theology that haven’t a lick of compassion or gratitude. I’ve seen superb theology lead to a love for humanity that accomplished extraordinary things. I’ve seen the same in people without a single interest in theology. Right theology doesn’t seem to be the guiding factor in a life lived with love or without. I think remembering might.

If I remember the love of God seen so clearly in the life of Jesus, I just might try to love my neighbor and myself in that same way.  If I see in his death and resurrection the inevitable return of all beings to the love of God, I just might see holiness and blessing in every single day of my life. If that’s not something to celebrate, what on earth is?


At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.

On the night he was betrayed he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many (all) for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

(Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist Prayer C)

It’s not enough to say the words. The words, the bread, and the wine come with a touch.  The sound of voice alone won’t be as meaningful as voice and touch. The words aren’t a generic blessing or a general rule of conduct: this prayer is about this particular day, a particular place, and a very particular gathering of people. It’s not a history lesson or a moral position. This is a connection, a touchpoint. Just as surely as Jesus was present to his disciples, Jesus is present to us. He blesses not just the bread the disciples ate and the wine they sipped: he blesses the food and drink we will be given in this time and place. We are blessed and we are fed – our bodies as well as our spirits.

For me, these words mean something like this:

I love you. I leave with you my blessing. See in your every meal my love – not just in the feasts but in the PBJ’s. When you eat, when you give food to others, my love blesses you.

Incarnation on a plate, the love of God in a cup. For these blessings, we are indeed grateful. Amen.

Giver and Gift

And so, Father, we who have been redeemed by him, and made a new people by water and the Spirit, now bring before you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

There’s a sentence that’s sometimes said before the offering is taken up. The gist: whatever we offer to God comes from what God has given us. At such words and at such a time, this most basic question must be asked and answered: is it the gift that matters, or the love that the giver expresses in the gift?

I think love determines the answer to this question most of the time. If I’m the receiver, it’s the giver that determines the answer: any gift given by a beloved is a worthy gift (how many parents have refrigerator artwork that is beautiful only to their eyes?). If I’m the giver, it’s the gift I offer: is it something that is an expression of love and sacrifice?

There isn’t a single thing in this universe that I can offer to God that isn’t already God’s own. But offering something, finding a way to give my love a concrete vessel, is something only I can give. If I give it as one among many, I am bound to those who also offer their hearts and gifts to God.

For some inexplicable reason, that’s more than enough for God.

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

Holy Holy Holy

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the one (he) who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.


If it wasn’t followed by heaven and earth are full of your glory, I might think the power and might of God was more destructive than constructive. Lots of time, power and might refer to military strength or physical abilities that can overcome adversaries. But the rest of the sentence makes me rethink this reading. Heaven and earth are full of your glory reminds me of God’s creative act – the heavens and the earth were created when God spoke them into life. Looking into space or looking out the window, heaven and earth are so complex, so alive, that I’m filled with wonder for this creation and praise for its creator. Hosanna in the highest is just another way to say WOW.

This song doesn’t give the name of the one who comes in the name of the Lord. It could be Jesus, certainly, but it might mean another. I think anyone and everyone who comes to this broken, beautiful world and sees in it the hand of God is indeed blessed – to wake every day in a sacred creation, surrounded and embraced by God’s living world is to live a blessed life. To see in anyone and everyone a child of God, perhaps even when gazing into a mirror, is to live in joy. For this, Hosanna in the highest is just another way to say WOW.

(Wondering Where the Lions Are, Jimmy Buffet, originally by Bruce Cockburn)



In Company

And therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Solo singing is very different from choral singing. The musicians take cues from solo singers, bending their talents to fit the style of whoever happens to be singing. If a soloist loses the melody or forgets the lyrics, there isn’t much anyone else can do to help. Responsibility and credit rest on just the one singer.

Choral singing is something else altogether. Every singer bends his or her voice to fit with the other voices. Singers listen to each other to keep a balance between parts and to honor the piece of music being sung. As a group, singers can hold notes much longer than any solo artist – singers just stagger their breathing. There’s a fullness in the sound of choral singing that cannot be duplicated with single voice, and the many voices together create a depth of sound quite different from even the most talented single voice. Low voices and high voices sing together, and no one person has to be able to do it all.

I think prayer is as much like choral singing as it is a solo act. It may seem like we each pray alone, separated from all others. But there’s a whole host of faithful through time and place who pray with us. We may not be able to see them, but the rest of the heavenly choir is always with us. All those who have ever prayed, all those who pray now, and all those who will pray in the coming years belong to the same choir. My strength becomes theirs, their strength becomes mine. Without this heavenly chorus, would I have the strength to pray?

Healing Hurts

By his blood, he reconciled us. By his wounds, we are healed.

It’s understandable, avoiding the people who’ve hurt us. Who wants to spend time with the ones who teased us, called us names, bruised our egos and perhaps our bodies? It’s why family and high school reunions are about staying disconnected from those who hurt us almost as much as they are about reconnecting with those who love us. Some of us are haunted by the hurts we’ve suffered over the years and have no interest in an encore performance.

But what about the ones we’ve hurt? More specifically, what about the ones I’ve hurt? Facing them is looking in the mirror and seeing my own pettiness and aggression. It’ not a pleasant experience and it takes a great deal of strength to do it willingly. I’d much rather see my good deeds and intentions without the darker aspects that are visible in my true reflection. If I don’t see the harm I’ve done, I can pretend there are no consequences and no reparations necessary. It’s a negative riff on the “ignorance is bliss” theme.

But avoiding and denying the damage I’ve done is a snare for my soul. I’m trapped, repeating the same hurtful mistakes over and over. Only by facing the hurt and the harm, only by admitting my part in it can release me. If I learn the painful lesson that I have done harm, I can choose another action in the future.

I think that’s why the cross is such a powerful truth: I have harmed someone and avoided seeing my own faults. When I see the cross, I can choose another way. But it’s more than that. When I see the Jesus who suffered, I see in him forgiveness I don’t deserve. It’s not just a lesson learned and a pattern broken, its the love of God gazing at me with compassion in his eyes.

Straying from the Path

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.

 On the Heifer farm in Rutland, Massachusetts, I stood outside the barn with my arms spread wide, part of a human channel leading to the grassy meadow. Thirty of us formed the path to get the goats from barn to grassy meadow in the morning and meadow to sheltering barn in the evening. But there were always a good number of goats who darted off toward the rocks or pig barn. A few even headed for the visitor center, apparently seeing something on the steps or dirt driveway that looked better than a meadow full of grass to eat or a comfortable spot in the barn. Young and old, they strayed off the path that led to food and shelter; young and old, they ran toward things that could hurt them. But they weren’t left wandering into the unknown: they were gently nudged, sometimes even carried, back to green meadows and the rest of the herd.

People standing together, forming a path toward what feeds the soul and shelters the spirit – I think it’s a wonderful image for understanding the prophets and saints we find in scripture, tradition, and walking the earth with us. They give us direction and guidance, a path for God’s flock to walk. When we stray, they gently nudge us back home.

I am grateful.

[For full prayer, click Prayer C above.]


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.