First Sunday of Advent: Hope

The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the year on the liturgical calendar. It’s also the the Sunday of Hope. You hear it in today’s readings, which include  parts of Isaiah 64. Here is an excerpt from The Message:

Since before time began
    no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who happily do what is right,
    who keep a good memory of the way you work.
But how angry you’ve been with us!
    We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!
    Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?
We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves—
    sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.
No one prays to you
    or makes the effort to reach out to you
Because you’ve turned away from us,
    left us to stew in our sins.

Still, God, you are our Father.
We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion’s a ghost town,
Jerusalem’s a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, God?

To hear a really beautiful reading of this, listen to my friend Chuck read it, starting at minute 10:25.

Like many families, we use an Advent wreath to guide us through the Sundays of Advent. Here is ours this year:

Blackbear Bosin, Indigenous Artist

Sometimes I get to share children’s time teachings with my congregation. When I do, I share them here. 

Today’s children’s teaching focuses on Blackbear Bosin (also called Tsate Kongia), one of the most famous indigenous people from our area. As you watch today’s video, you might ask yourself:

1. What is a detail from his paintings or sculptures that I like?

2. What is one thing I learned about or was reminded of about indigenous culture from his artwork?

Have you seen any of Blackbear Bosin’s work in real life? Share your experiences, please!

And you can find the whole service online here.

Jonah’s Big Feelings

Sometimes I get to share children’s time teachings with my congregation. When I do, I’ll share them here. 

Today’s children’s teaching focuses on Jonah 3:104:11, when Jonah expresses how angry he is–so angry he could die!–about God’s kindness to the people of Nineveh. As children listen this week, you could ask them:

1. What is a big feeling you’ve had before?

2. What is one silly way you could describe your anger?

You can watch the whole online service here.

Prayers during a Pandemic: For Protestors

Our family is taking time daily to pray about the current global health crisis. Our prayers will likely reference the Christian tradition, but we’ve written with an ecumenical and agnostic audience in mind.

If you’d like us to pray for you, let us know. If you’d like us to write a prayer for you or for a concern you have and share it here, just ask. You don’t have to share your name if you don’t want to, and we won’t share it or any other identifying details about you here or elsewhere.

Today we pray for people around the globe who are protesting racial violence in the US.

Today we pray for all those who are protesting racial violence in the US. We pray for those motivated by grief, anger, frustration, compassion, solidarity, and a quest for justice.

We pray for those we do not know as well as those we do, including ourselves. [Name the names of protestors now.] We honor the lives that inspire them to action. We mourn with them over the deaths that draw them to protest. We are grateful for their courage, their fortitude, and their leadership.

We think of all those who support protestors, including their family members, medics, clergy, and trained legal witnesses, lawyers. We are grateful for the solidarity of bus drivers who refuse to move those arrested into detention and for police officers who turn over their badges in protest of a culture of violence and silence. We rejoice for every one trained up in violence, who swims in the American sea of white supremacy and yet who rejects it like a shepherd who finds his lost lamb or a widow her lost coin. We are grateful for the activists being made right now, for those who are joining the movement for social justice for the first time.

We pray for those who are afraid, attacked, and injured. We pray for them calm and resilient spirits and bodies quick to heal. We pray for those who are taking big risks; we pray for them support. We pray for those who will face persecution and backlash because of their willingness to guide us toward justice; we pray for them steady friendships when times are difficult. We pray for those who are crossing their families and their faith traditions to protest; we pray for them joy that compels those they love to join them.

We pray for ourselves, wherever we are, to join in protest against racial injustice in body and in spirit, in word and in deed, every day as needed–forever if needed.

We are thankful for those who cry against injustice. We are thankful for their voices and their presence.

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Above, Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin by Christo and Jeanne-Claude shows the German Reichstag wrapped in cloth.

 

God is a … chicken?: A children’s sermon

Sometimes I get to share children’s time teachings with my congregation. When I do, I’ll share them here. Today’s children’s teaching invites children to think about metaphors and similes from nature that describe God.

Before or after watching the video, considering helping the children who will watch collect a few items from nature to help them write their own simile to understand God’s nature. You can help them fill in this sentence: God is like a ____________ because they both ____________.

You can watch the entire service here.  

Prayers during a Pandemic: For those who mourn

Our family is taking time daily to pray about the current global health crisis. Our prayers will likely reference the Christian tradition, but we’ve written with an ecumenical and agnostic audience in mind.

If you’d like us to pray for you, let us know. If you’d like us to write a prayer for you or for a concern you have and share it here, just ask. You don’t have to share your name if you don’t want to, and we won’t share it or any other identifying details about you here or elsewhere.

Today we pray for people who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

Today we pray for all those who mourn the loss of a loved one. We pray for those whose losses are recent as well as those who have lived long with grief.

We pray for those we do not know as well as those familiar to us, including [Remember now the names of those who are grieving, including ourselves]. We honor the lives and memories of those they loved and miss, and we stand as witnesses the the challenges of complex grief over the loss of people whose actions were often hurtful or harmful.

We think of those who work with grief daily, including counselors and therapists, chaplains and pastors, doctors and nurses, funeral directors and death doulas. We are grateful for their training, labor,and dedication. We pray for them strength, stamina, and love for those they serve.

We pray for those struggling with the complexity of grief, for those who feel they are drowning in it, for those caught off-guard and pushed off-center by its sudden appearances, for those expressing grief as anger, for those feeling orphaned, for those feeling abandoned, for those feeling alone. We pray for them focus, rest, stable footing, insight and peace, comfort and good memories, companionship, and connection.

We mourn with those who mourn, without end; we pray that we can be brave to enter the grief of others when invited.

We are thankful for the vulnerability of those who grieve. We are thankful for lives of love.

A painting of seven people in a sickroom, some seated some standing, grieving over the death of a loved oneAbove, Death in the Sickroom by Edvard Munch (1893) shows seven people in a room, a bed at the center, several cups, including one of a bright red liquid on the nightstand next to it. At right, a man leans his hand against the wall. At right, a woman sits in a chair facing the bed. Several figures have their hands clasped as if in prayer, their heads bowed.

 

Prayers during a Pandemic: For those who are hungry

Our family is taking time daily to pray about the current global health crisis. Our prayers will likely reference the Christian tradition, but we’ve written with an ecumenical and agnostic audience in mind.

If you’d like us to pray for you, let us know. If you’d like us to write a prayer for you or for a concern you have and share it here, just ask. You don’t have to share your name if you don’t want to, and we won’t share it or any other identifying details about you here or elsewhere.

Today we pray for people who are hungry or who live with food insecurity, unsure of a steady source of food.

Today we pray for all people around the globe who are hungry, who fear hunger, or who live with food insecurity.

We pray for those we don’t know and for those we do, including [names of people we know who are hungry, including ourselves].

We pray for relief from the pain of hunger and for the fear it creates. We pray for peace in the face of anxiety about having enough. We pray for dignity in times of need. We pray for generosity to flow through communities and societies, but, more, for solidarity. We pray that the hunger pang that one person feels is felt by all.

We pray for those who work in agriculture and for those who work in food processing, production, and distribution. We pray for fair, humane, and safe treatment of all those who labor to feed others. We pray for farm laborers, meat packers, grocery store workers, and all others who participate in our food system. We pray for just food systems, ones that honor work, the environment, and animal life. We pray for a system that places human need above profit.

We pray for those who serve in soup kitchens, food pantries, WIC and SNAP offices. We pray for them tender hearts and encouraging words. We pray for those who prepare and share school lunches with children and families. We pray for them stamina, good health, and generous spirits.

We pray for those who hunger around the world, from those who are first encountering it to those who are long acquainted with it. We pray for the 821 million people worldwide who are chronically hungry and the many more who are at risk of a hunger pandemic related to the spread of the coronavirus. We pray for those in the Horn of Africa, where drought, flooding, and locusts have decimated crops. We pray for those in Yemen who face hunger due to war. We pray for those in North Korea, where drought and lack of farming supplies shrunk agriculture production last year. We pray for for farmers, policy makers, and families, especially pregnant women and young children, in Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and Syria. We pray for their bodies and their spirits, for them as individuals who are at risk of hunger, for families where the risk of violence and abuse increase because of hunger, and for societies vulnerable to violence due to hunger.

We pray, too, for those for whom a return of hunger or the threat of it is a reminder of past famine, suffering, or abuse. We pray for them comfort, confidence, and assurance.

We are thankful to live in a world where there is enough to meet every need. We seek to make a world where every need is met because every life is valued.

File:Antoine Wiertz - Faim, folie et crime.jpg

Above, Antoine Wiertz’s Famine, Madness, Crime (1853) shows a woman seated on the floor between a hearth and a table. An overturned basket on the table is nearly empty of food; a turnip or beet has fallen to the floor below. The woman’s left breast is revealed, as if she has been nursing the child on her lap. She holds a bloody knife in her right hand. The child is bundled in a cloth, a red stain has soaked through it. The first beneath the hearth is fed by what appear to be wooden chair legs–perhaps of the chair she should be sitting on rather than on the floor. The infant’s leg sticks out from the pot.