Friday, February 27, 2015

February 2015 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for February...

1. I was given Eager to Love by Richard Rohr as a Christmas gift, and have been reading it little by little the past few weeks. It's actually my first encounter with Rohr's writing, although I've been meaning to check out some of his stuff for a while after a lot of glowing recommendations by colleagues. In this work, Rohr examines the lives and witness of Francis and Clare of Assisi, as well as their enduring influence on religious orders and Christian practice in general. I'm a longtime Francis fan, and this has been a fascinating and inspiring look into the spirituality behind what he and Clare were trying to do in their movements. They were both devoted followers of Jesus, and while their approach seemed radical in their own time, I think it still would today.

2. When I finished all of the episodes of Parks and Recreation available on Netflix (read: all of them save the season currently airing), I thought that the final episode of last season would have been a perfect finale. I knew they were planning one more season, but I would have been perfectly satisfied if they'd ended it there. Another season, with a time jump and a drastically different set of circumstances for most of the characters, caused me to worry that the latest episodes would feel unnecessary. Thankfully, I haven't felt that way. The characters' lives are clearly different, but their personalities and relationships remain largely the same. The series finale, which aired this past week, featured a look into where each of them will end up doing, as well as a celebration of what Leslie has striven to do the entire series: work to make the lives of others even a little better. As fitting as I thought the previous season finale was, this did just as well.

3. We're nearing the end of the newer episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix, which includes all but the latest series with Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. Jenna Louise Coleman is the current companion to Matt Smith's Doctor, who provides a bit of spunk that others haven't had. I loved the story arc with the Doctor's impending death from the sixth series, but the seventh seems a bit meandering and disjointed, perhaps in part because there's a change in companions midway. What I'm really looking forward to is finally watching the 50th anniversary show, which as of this writing we're only a few episodes away from.

4. I've been listening to and enjoying Paperhaus' new self-titled album this month. I never heard of them prior to a few weeks ago; they have kind of a Modest Mouse vibe, with lots of focus on the interaction between guitars as their driving sound. There are only 8 tracks on the album, but each takes its time in developing musically. As mentioned, there's a lot of interplay between guitar sounds, and plenty of room given for meandering and noodling, with some long instrumentals. Being acclimated to jambands, I didn't mind these the way others would, and I was simply appreciative of the musicianship and experimentation. While each song gives itself a lot of space, the album as a whole gets in and gets out. I especially liked "Cairo," "Untitled," and "Surrender." Here's the video for "Cairo:"



5. I've also been listening to Tomorrow Is My Turn by Rhiannon Giddens, which pulls from a wide variety of musical influences including blues, soul, bluegrass, and gospel. Giddens' voice itself is smooth and strong, and each song showcases her many talents amid a diversity of instruments. Here she is performing "Waterboy" on Letterman:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Saint Francis and Doctor Who

"Wherever we are, wherever we go, we bring our cell with us. Our brother body is our cell and our soul is the hermit living in the cell. If our soul does not live in peace and solitude within this cell, of what avail is it to live in a man-made cell?" - Francis of Assisi

I've been thinking about this quote from Francis quite a bit lately. Part of the reason he's remembered so much for his connection to nature is that he was always out in it, out wanting to commune with the world rather than spend all his time in a monastery room. We don't need a cell in a special building, he said. Our own bodies are our cells. They go places, as they're meant to do. They interact and connect and bump into others. We ourselves are a sacred room in God's great big monastery. And we should seek comfort within ourselves in order to rest peaceably there.

We carry our cells with us. They're always present, not to retreat into but to live within comfortably.

So naturally, that got me thinking about Doctor Who.

The Doctor has a special ship called the TARDIS, an amazing piece of Time Lord technology that looks like an old-time British police box on the outside, but is much, much bigger on the inside. Not only can it travel through space, but it can travel through time as well. "Anywhere you want," the Doctor is fond of telling his companions. It can go there with a few buttons pushed and switches flipped. Any planet or country, past or future, the TARDIS can take you there.

But as incredible as it is, the TARDIS is not to be sat in idly. It contains a vast expanse of rooms and capabilities, but its true purpose is to get you someplace where you then leave it behind for a while in order to explore where it's taken you. Don't worry, it'll be locked. It's safe. People rarely tend to take advantage while you're away.

Now, here's another trick that this ship has up its sleeve. Even when you wander away from it, you're still connected to it. Some of its powers go with you as you poke around the brave new world in which you've landed. It translates alien languages in your head. It sometimes gives its travelers the ability to heal or to stave off threats. Even though you've left it physically, it goes with you.

The Doctor and his companions carry the TARDIS with them.

So of course, this brings me to the church.

Those of us who serve established churches usually find ourselves working with a faith community with a set of assumptions about what the church is. Even the word "church" usually connotes something specific, that being Sunday worship. When you say you're "going to church," you usually mean you're going to worship. That phrase is for that particular event, not the Tuesday committee meeting or the Wednesday Bible study or the Saturday service project. When you say you're going to church, you mean the Sunday morning moment where you sing and listen to a sermon and pray and give money.

The word "church" also usually means a place with stained glass, classrooms, a fellowship hall, offices, and a steeple. Most in established faith communities speak of church as a physical place to which you go to do a specific set of activities. And this physical place needs attention and time and a great big set of budget line items to maintain it.

Now here's where we remind each other that the church is more than that building. There's even a Sunday School song about it: "the church is the people" and all that. But aside from singing that every once in a while, how good are churches at living it?

We are in a time where life in the church isn't what it used to be. Budgets and membership are shrinking, people are finding other things to do with their Sunday mornings besides "going to church." The whole practice of going to a place for even a few hours a week seems like a big daunting production for some families.

So how might we think about "church" in a new way? How might we think about ourselves as individual cells in God's great big monastery, in which we pray and are at peace with God and ourselves? How might we think of the church as more like the TARDIS, a community outpost that is always with us and empowering us even when we are apart from it? How can the church be a place that takes us to amazing new spiritual places when we are together, but is still with us the rest of the week when we're apart?

There's no easy answer. But if we start imagining, God might help us come up with some great possibilities.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Five Reminders for a Meaningful Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Lent is one of the holiest times of the church year, a season of 40 days and 6 Sundays leading up to remembering Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. It also seems to come with some misconceptions from both observers and non-observers alike. I thought that it might be helpful to share a few reflections and remembrances to help clarify what Lent is. Hopefully it will aid those making this journey toward Easter.

So here are some things to remember about Lent:

1. It's about self-examination, not self-flagellation. Many people recoil at this season because it just seems like such a downer. Who wants to sit around beating themselves up? The larger point is to take honest stock of yourself, and that includes habits, behaviors, and attitudes that don't line up with God's vision. You're invited this time of year to examine yourself, and to identify and seek God's help in transforming those things that hinder or even destroy life (including your own), rather than create it or build it up. Sure, doing that has a good chance of causing you to feel bad about some things. But the intent is to move through the discomfort of facing difficult truths into new ways of viewing God, oneself, and the world.

2. It's about awareness, not artificial sacrifices. A common Lenten tradition is to "give something up" for the duration of the season. Over the years, I myself have given up chocolate, cookies, television, alcohol, the internet, and fast food. A critique that I see fairly often is how First World Problems it all seems, as if staying off Facebook for 40 days is really supposed to bring you closer to God. True enough, by itself giving up sweets probably won't do much for your spiritual life. The other part of the equation is the awareness that this act of self-denial is meant to help cultivate. In part, you can consider how much time you may have spent indulging in the thing you gave up and the disordered attachment you have to it. In the meantime, you can fill that space instead with any number of spiritual practices such as devotional time, meditation, lectio divina, and many others.

3. It's about Jesus' suffering, as well as ours. People see Lent as a downer not just for the self-examination component, but because it focuses on Jesus' suffering, including his temptation in the wilderness and all the events of the final days leading up to his death. People are uncomfortable with this for a variety of reasons. But we don't focus on these events as voyeurs or glorifiers of violence. Instead, we are meant to journey with Jesus through them, sorrowing with him. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) to feel the suffering of these events as an integral and inescapable part of Jesus' life, and 2) to consider how God suffers alongside us in the same way.

4. Holy Week makes Easter what it is. I get it. Your week is busy and there's a premium on your weeknight hours. Getting to a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday observance takes a lot of planning and rearranging and it seems like too big of a hassle to attempt. Nevertheless, the events of Jesus' passion, complete with their agony, uncertainty, emptiness, and seeming finality are what give Easter its celebratory power. We can't understand the joy of the resurrection without traveling through the crucifixion. If you can't make it to a service during that week, reflectively reading one of the Gospel accounts a little each day could be a sufficient substitute, as one possibility.

5. Lent was made for people, not people for Lent. This season is what you make of it. Take up practices that speak to you, leave behind those that don't. The journey won't be, and isn't meant to be, the same for any two people. To observe practices that are going to be burdensome, arbitrary, or based on others' expectations rather than help open your heart to the possibilities of the Spirit is counter-productive to the entire exercise. No matter the specifics, the ultimate goal is for you to deepen your awareness of and relationship with God, and to immerse yourself in Jesus' road to the cross. The way you mark this time is between you and God. However you do it, may it be inspired and transformative.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

An Invocation for Transfiguration Sunday

Faithful God, we come together to this moment where we are most obviously and visibly the church. Here we are your gathered people, seeking a sustaining and empowering word from you and from each other. And yet when we leave this edifice of brick and mortar, remind us that we are still the church, less obvious and less visible, but no less connected to Christ and to our fellow pilgrims. By what we receive in this moment set aside as sacred, inspire us and challenge us in the week to come to make other times sacred as well, by reflecting your love to a world in need of a new vision. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Gift

For as long as I can remember, I've been told that I'm good at empathizing with others; that it's one of my gifts.

One of my father's most treasured memories of when I was maybe 3 years old was a moment when he was seated as his desk, the burdens of the world weighing heavily on his shoulders, and I climbed into his lap and just cuddled with him. I apparently sensed what he needed, and I provided it as best as a toddler knew how to do.

I'm glad for that story, and I've mostly been glad for this gift that I've apparently been given. I don't really brag about it, because I don't think it's something brag-worthy. It's not only the nature of the gift, you understand. It's also that I haven't always been proud of it, or wanted it.

I was the kid on the playground who got upset when watching two classmates fight. I was the sensitive guy in high school who was the safe confidant for those around him. I was the guy basically holding pastoral counseling sessions in his dorm room in college, because I was always the good listener, the dependable one who'd be there for others in a pinch, the one who'd defer to other's stated desires at the expense of his own.

A guy like me can get taken advantage of fairly easily. I can point back to many instances over the years when my needs took a backseat to others'. But people saw this as a commendable thing. They'd even offer compliments and reassurances to that effect. At times, there's a fine line between sincere appreciation and ass-kissing, but I took it as a reaffirmation that I'd been given something. A gift. The type of gift that a good pastor needs.

This is what I was told over and over. "You're such a great listener." "You're always there when I need something." "Finally, someone I can trust."

I internalized all of it. This was the right and good thing that I was doing; this was what I could offer to the church and to the world.

When the right personality mixes with an empathetic, sensitive, "gifted" one, the wrong sorts of things can happen.

I've been called out on this before. Don't let yourself get taken. Say what you need. Tell them what they should hear. Give tough love. Breath fire.

Breathe fire.

I wanted to, so badly. I wanted to shut off the emotional valve, to close up that part of myself that would allow me to give in, to feel, to defer.

Then, one day, I did.

I finally reached a point where I'd given too much of myself away. The right personality had gone to the well one too many times. I'd burned out, and decided no more. No more giving in. No more deference. No more getting taken. Just show up, do what's needed, and leave. And if necessary, breathe fire.

I locked the gift away. I no longer needed it. It was time to do something else. It had caused me too much pain.

The problem was that I kept being a pastor. And when you serve as a pastor while leaving your emotion at home, you can only be of so much good. Sure, you can do the basic stuff. You can probably get away with writing a decent sermon and saying something interesting during Bible study, but if that's all you think ministry is, you're not doing much.

The phone call came on a Saturday evening. A man was having surgery in the next week. A strong man. A husband and father of three. An EMT with the fire department. Tumors in his abdomen and leg and so many other places that had made its way into his lymph nodes. The church had been praying, the community had been rallying and showing the family such incredible, unprecedented amounts of love.

The cancer in his leg had become so unbearably painful that they were going to amputate.

What did this mean for after? They'd cross that bridge later. What mattered was pain management, quality of whatever earthly life he had left.

Sunday night, I sat in my living room, thinking about the visit I'd make the next morning. I'd head in and pray beforehand. I'd sit and hold the hands of this man and his wife, and I'd say some small thing to God about healing and comfort and assurance. I'd search for the right words to say and hope that someone would hear them.

I thought about all of this, and the gift decided that it was tired of being locked up.

Every dimension of this situation came at me at once. What would this mean for this family's future? What were the kids going through? Why does this crap happen at all? What difference would my presence make? The accompanying emotions washed over me, and I let them. Fighting them would only make things worse.

Time seems to slow down in a moment like that. I don't know how long I was there, releasing every last sigh too deep for words into the universe, but I knew that I had to stay with it until I was really finished.

And then a voice from some deep internal place said, "This means you're still human. You couldn't resist it forever. This is who you are. Just be wiser about it this time."

With that, I was as ready for the next morning as I could be. The one who'd given me this thing would be there, and maybe do something through me or despite me. I didn't know which, and I wasn't going to dwell on it. The very least I could do is show up. Not just drive there, not just walk into the room, but really show up. I'd know the gravity of the moment, even if it was fully possible I'd be worthless in the face of it. At least I'd know, and at some level I'd want to understand.

I have a gift. I haven't always loved it, but it's mine.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

That'll Preach...Someday

"Daddy, build something."

My son and I are sitting on the floor of his room in front of a tub of LEGOs. I played with most of these exact pieces when I was his age, and I've been excited and proud to see him so interested in them as well. This is a typical afternoon, the two of us huddled over these little blocks and accessories. As much as he likes to tinker with them himself, he wants me to be involved; to try to capture some of the old inspiration that these gave me to make something new. He wants to watch the construction process, and whatever I come up with will surely be a part of the epic LEGO battle to follow.

So I set to work. Running my hand through the bin, I find a piece I might be able to use. And then I find another. My continued rummaging eventually finds me quite a pile of interesting, unique bricks and supplementary pieces. They get me thinking of how I can use each of them in different combinations, my mind popping with possibilities.

Eventually, it's time to assemble my creation. I can find a spot for this light piece, but not for this antenna. I could use these wings, but only if I give up on the wheels. Maybe I'll use the propeller, or maybe I'll save it for something else.

The thing is, I'm not completely sure of what I'm making until it's finished. The process has shown me what fits and what doesn't, but I don't know until I get to the end and each piece makes sense together. Some extras for which I couldn't find a use litter the carpet. Maybe whatever I make the next time will require them.

I'm always on the lookout for sermon illustrations. Every book I read, every movie or TV show I watch, every interaction with another, every trip I take, I am always at least subconsciously thinking, "this could preach." Once you've been through the weekly cycle of sermon writing long enough, this just becomes a natural tendency. I constantly wonder how the things I experience might make it into a sermon at some point, preferably the closest Sunday, since I'm on a deadline you know.

Of course, I never know what I'll really need until the end, because I don't know what the sermon is until then. I have my scripture notes, complete with word studies and historical and textual background. I have in mind the liturgical season. I have in mind the situation of the congregation and at least some of its individual members or families. And I have at least a few stories, film scenes, workshop learnings and other miscellany onhand as I think about what to say.

So I start building. I take all of these pieces and start trying to fit them together. This illustration makes sense if I focus on this part of the Biblical scene. These two lines from this novel seem to fit if I bring the season to the forefront. This TV show would work if I really want so-and-so to hear a word of hope. Eventually, something starts to emerge, and not all of these pieces make sense to use any more. It is inevitable that some fall to the carpet, unused. Maybe the next week will require them instead. Or the week after that. Or a year or two from now.

It seems to work that way pretty often, really. More immediate experiences seem to be the most ill-fitting for the impending preaching moment. Usually, I have to let them sit within me for a while before it becomes obvious how they might best help communicate to others what God is up to in the world. Every time I run my hand through the bin, it'll be there. I might need it someday. But not yet.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Small Sips Knows Who It Wants to Take It Home

Yes. This. So much this. All of this. I'm still sorting through my thoughts on some things related to Emergent before I post them. My colleague Emily Heath has some good words to share in reclaiming the term "progressive Christian," and remembering that it's actually different from "Emergent Christian:"
But here’s the challenge; in the very recent past the term “progressive Christian” has come to be conflated with “emergent Christian” and “post-evangelical Christian”. And I’m not saying that you can’t be one of those things and also be a progressive Christian. This is a big tent movement, and you can. But I am saying that it’s not right to co-opt a term that has been used for several generations to define a theological movement for your own benefit. And it’s especially not right to do it when you are not familiar with, or not willing to honor, the values that progressive Christianity has been trying to model for the larger church for years. 
My elders in the progressive Christian movement, some of whom are now dead and cannot speak for themselves, deserve more than to have their legacies misrepresented by those who never knew them. And those of us who came of age in the progressive movement over the last few decades are now being called on to bear witness to the history and values of this tradition, and to help to articulate a vision for the future for the movement. 
As I continue to consider the history and present of the Emergent movement, I am right where Emily is. Emergent is a movement of post-evangelicals that at times have misrepresented themselves as "discovering" stuff like social justice and Biblical criticism, and at other times seem to be the same old evangelicalism in a Ramones t-shirt. And as she points out, progressive Christianity has been around for quite some time and has been on the cutting edge in the face of real cost long before some disillusioned evangelicals jumped on board.

But I have more to say about that later. If I can get the words right.

Some good pre-Lent reading. Lodro Rinzler gives some advice on meditation:
If you are beginning a meditation practice, you will, at some point, hit the wall where you want to quit. People don't stop meditating because they start to change for the better. They stop meditating because they don't see rapid enough change. We're so used to instant gratification in America. Meditation is not that. 
Meditation is a gradual shift. You have to put in the work of sitting on your butt on a daily basis, coming back to the breath over and over again, and only then do you start to see subtle results. You might notice that you were less reactive when that jerk at work was showing off. Or you were more present with your partner over dinner. Or you were more patient with that person in front of you in line at the supermarket. It's those moments when you say, "Ah ha! I might be kinder/more present/more patient because of this thing I'm doing."
With the season of Lent coming up this month, the points that Rinzler makes are important. Meditation and other spiritual practices are not quick self-improvement schemes. They are neither fast-acting, nor might they produce the exact results you want. But if you enter into them with an open mind and spirit; if you truly give yourself to the practice, my experience is that you'll be pleasantly surprised by what can happen and how you will be changed.

No, really, this is okay. David Hayward, aka the Nakedpastor, shares his thoughts on Marcus Borg's "willful ignorance:"
So when I say “willful ignorance”, I mean his willingness to admit he didn’t know. His willingness to embrace mystery. What I’ve learned is that this is not a cop out. In fact, I claim that insisting it is so or it is not so may actually be the cop out, the unwillingness to enter darkness, to not know, to embrace mystery. 
In any profession, it takes courage to say I don’t know. But especially in today’s theological climate of certainty, it’s very risky to do so.
I'm taken back to a book study that I led on Borg's The Heart of Christianity, where a few people were adamantly opposed to his embrace of mystery and his consideration that we could learn from other religions. The felt need to be right, to know for sure, and to view one's own tradition as gatekeeper of truth is strong and widespread among many Christians.

For my own part, I find as much release in admitting what I don't know as others do anxiety.

The Son in the Mummy. That was awful. I'm sorry. Scholars think they might have found the oldest copy of the Gospel of Mark inside a mummy mask:
A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published. 
At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200). 
This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.
I don't have much to add. I just thought it was cool.

Hey. I like some of these. Stephen Aldridge gives us a handy guide to Christian code words:
Congratulations on getting saved! Now that you’re a Christian, there are a few things you really should know. First, you must listen to the songs “Secret Ambition” and “Jesus Freak”. These two songs will come up a lot in conversations, and have the potential to make you a lot of friends. Familiarize yourself with them. Be ready to lip sync to them on demand.  
Second, get used to drinking awful coffee. Since the very first meetings in Jerusalem, Christians have insisted on drinking coffee that tastes like scalding hot paint thinner. It is one of the trials and tribulations we must endure.  
Finally, learn the Christian code words. What you may not have realized is we have our own special code language. If you’re going to communicate with other Christians, you need to memorize our code words and their definitions. What exactly are these code words? I’m glad you asked. What follows is a guide to understanding Christian-speak. Think of this as the Rosetta of the Christian world.
What follows is a light-hearted look at words like "story" and "echo," as well as Moleskine notebooks (I resemble that remark). I confess that I use a couple, though thankfully not many.

The larger point, I think, is that when people of faith bog themselves down in code words and insider language, they lose effectiveness in communicating with the rest of the world. Exhibit A: 98% of all church sign messages. My denomination is spectacular at coming up with new phrases that are light on explanation.

And the word "authenticity" has been forever ruined by Christians. There, I said it.

Now that alcohol line seems awkward. Do you remember the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic, and how we all thought it obviously was about being kicked out of a bar? Well, it's not:
My sister was at college, so wasn’t able to visit us in the hospital. Nevertheless, she gave us a wonderful gift: The next morning, I received an email with a link to a special performance by Dan Wilson of the band Semisonic.  
 If you’re around my and my husband’s age (we’re both 32), you’ll likely remember the song “Closing Time.” The song came out when I was a self-centered, doe-eyed teenager, so of course I didn’t glean its true meaning when it was released in 1998.  
My husband and I clicked the YouTube link from my sister, with our tiny newborn daughter in the bassinet next to the hospital bed, and watched in amazement. By the end, my hormones and emotions got the best of me, and I was dabbing my eyes.  
Dan Wilson explains, “I hid my junior song in plain view….” If you’re a biological parent, think back to having your first child as you watch this. If you’re short on time, start listening at 3:44.
And here's the aforementioned video:



So, how about that? I'll never hear the song the same way again. Which, I guess, is the point.

And then this happens. Gordon Atkinson writes about his experience after giving up the Christian code words mentioned above:
I have wandered in and out of churches, hoping to connect to something I once had but now can barely remember. I am like a man who returns home after a journey to the far country and finds that he doesn’t recognize his mother and father. The conversations around the dinner table with his siblings sound oddly familiar but make no sense to him. After a time he gets up and slips out the door. No one notices. He goes to the porch and looks at the sky, seeking something familiar and comforting in the ancient stars. 
Maybe this is the dark night of the soul that Saint John of the Cross wrote about. Maybe it is penance for all the years I tossed church words out into the congregation on Sundays as if they were free. As if that sort of thing doesn’t cost you. As if one day a pound of my soul would not be required of me. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the people outside of the church walls and am now cursed to walk in the twilight with them. Or maybe this is simply the collapse of my spiritual worldview, a good old fashioned loss of faith. Another soul that used to be at rest in Christ and now cannot fathom what that even means.
I sometimes wonder how my life would be different if I wasn't in ministry. I wonder about how my vocabulary would change, how I'd spend my free time, what I'd think about in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. I suspect it'd be something like what Gordon is going through, although I'd also look forward to building something else in its place, which is slowly happening to him as well.

I've no intention of leaving my vocation. But posts like this remind me of the constructed reality in which I live, as well as my need to transcend it in order to relate to others. And sometimes to myself, too.

Misc. Jan Edmiston makes the case for accountability in the church. This seems quite timely. PeaceBang tells you why you should be on Twitter, which I echo completely. See what I did there? Caleb Wilde with some common funeral myths.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Show Your Power - A Prayer for Epiphany 4

Based on Psalm 111 and Mark 1:21-28...

O God, we aren’t always able to see what you see.

We’re not always able to pick up on the bad spirits that influence us: the systems we enjoy, the injustice to which we turn a blind eye, the advantages we exploit, the prejudice we hold. When we consider that you do see these things, we feel the sting of shame and are slow to confess. You call us to new sight: to see these spirits for what they are, and we seek the power and courage to call them out.

We’re not always able to see the good, either: the joy of new life, the refreshment of sacrament, the opportunities to serve, the gifts we’re able to share. When we consider that you do see these things, we are renewed by their potential and are eager to point them out to one another. You call us to new sight: to see these gifts and blessings for what they are, and we seek the peace and resurrection that they bring to our world.

We wish to see what you see, both the need for healing and the blessing of hope, as we lift our prayers to you… (prayers of intercession)

Faithful God, show your power to us yet again, as you did through Jesus. Call out our shortcomings, and renew our spirits for service in a world that needs new eyes. Amen.