Advent Prayers – A Prayer for Focus

Tags

, , , , , , ,

christmas-2750200_1920

Spirit of Strength who abides with us in the sparkles and shadows-
In the midst of this glitzy season
Filled with every distraction known to people,
Give us the focus to finish what we’ve started.

May Advent draw our attention to the sweetness of the journey-
Not the saccharine superficial sentiments of cultural expectation.

May Advent enliven our spirits and energize our tired minds.

May Advent drive us away from disturbances
And give us the gall to reach into the caverns of injustice
to aid in the delivery of God’s holy righteousness.

Amen.

Advertisements

When We Aren’t the “Good Guys”

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

C182ACBE-DC5B-459D-9F9A-0996E38FC29F

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:17-19

 

“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’” – Matthew 2:13-15

I remember through the seasons of The Walking Dead watching how Rick started as a person who wanted to stay as ethical as possible. As time passed and the situation wore on, Rick makes decisions in which his community unilaterally chooses to attack people in another group. While the others appeared more toxic, Rick and his followers forgot their system of ethics. To them, the end justified the means. Killing people out of a vague fear was a better decision than waiting to see what would happen next.

I feel that as Americans we have reached – or are at least nearing – this point once again. There have been times in the past which we have sunk this low. As Native Americans were slaughtered, slavery of people of color was encouraged, and people of Japanese ancestory were placed in internment camps, we were, without a doubt, the “bad guy.”

We acted out of fear and used privilege to invade our hearts. And now we watch refugees fleeing from dangerous parts of Latin America, and we refuse to have constructive conversations about this situation. When children are separated from their parents and kept in cages, we’ve reached an ethical valley. We’ve chosen to allow America to sink into the hole of injustice and fear once again.

We can’t just pretend that we are the “good guys” all of the time just because we are America. When we oppress aliens/sojourners/immigrants as well as widows/single moms and orphans/marginalized children, then we are absolutely not the “good guy.” I remember as children that we were taught that America was the best country and how fortunate to have been born here. As we got older, we heard history beyond the victor’s side. We’ve seen how America is the best country… but not for most Americans much of the time.

Back in the days of the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites always believed that God was on their side. But the prophets disagreed. As they left behind the widows, orphans, and aliens, God was not in favor of their actions.

So when unethical and marginalizing behaviors are being done in the name of America or the name of God, we must embrace a collective self-awareness that helps us to articulate that we have much room to change and grow. Just because we identify as American or Christian doesn’t automatically make us right when unhealthy actions are being done to others. If we wouldn’t treat Jesus this way, then why is it fine to treat others in the same manner?

Friends, it’s time for us to work together to end this reign of fear. It’s time for us to embrace the radical hospitality of Jesus. If we don’t, our country will keep regressing, and it’s spiritual flags will continue to become worn. By moving from exclusively nationalistic to inclusively patriotic, from fully autonomous to covenantal, and from fearful to embracing holy vulnerability, we will build the New Heaven and Earth God visions for our world.

 

A Retail Worker’s Prayer

Tags

, , , , , , ,

6F488BB8-7FCA-47DE-881D-DF25834BED26

Ever-Present One, as the day seems long, and our energy is dwindling, give us the strength to see the hope and joy in this very moment.

Give us patience during these many hours. Help us to reach out in love. Open our eyes to new possibilities in our jobs. Present to us opportunities to spend time with friends and family, And provide us with restful sleep tonight.

Amen.

Grieving the Saints

Tags

, , , , ,

04777A83-6601-4049-9709-4DB77AA6A5FD

Death’s bite clenched my heart again this year. While the loss of my dad stings even almost 14 months after his death, I’ve had three friends pass in the last week.

The third friend died on November first: All Saints’ Day.

The thick fog of grief hovered as the new month was ushered into our lives. From the deaths of years ago to the crisp new blustery winds of grief’s winter, my heart feels deep sadness. Even when the people who die aren’t the closest of friends or relatives, often we feel off. Like a mild cold or minor infection in our bodies, something is not quite right. We aren’t crying for hours, but our minds are distracted.

This is grief too. Even when someone isn’t close, their loss impacts our world because our connection with one another is deep and eternal.

For all the saints, we give gratitude. For all the saints, we sing a bittersweet melody. For all the saints, we celebrate blissful memories.

 

Eden in the Wilderness (A Prayer for Our Tree of Life Siblings)

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

267609_10150229536537810_3191724_n

“For the Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.”
– Isaiah 51:3

Your prophets told the people that Eden would be here.  Your prophets foretold comfort and joy, gardens and gladness.

And upon arrival, only wastelands stand.

So where is this flowering land?  Where is the spiritual destination foretold?  Where is the sanctuary where soul and body are safe and nourished?  They thought they had arrived…

And yet – only the raw wilderness remains.

Rather than a wilderness flourishing like Eden, this garden remains rocky.  Its sandy soil erodes with each bigoted downpour.

The diaspora people in their new orchards struggle for the fruits to blossom while deep, infiltrating weeds of privilege sprout and strangle.  The flowerbeds cannot abide in beauty while wayward shrubs obstruct the sun’s streams of healing and nurture.

We keep praying for comfort.  Comfort the people.  Comfort our neighbors.  But the warm winds are blocked by the biting breeze of bigotry.

We ask again for their comfort.  And, this time, we must ask for our complacency to end.  We must work for our inertia to end.

Divine Cultivator, even when the winds are harsh and the weeds unruly, let us be willing to abide together in orchards.  Let us be willing to sow together in new gardens, and may we be willing to uproot the crabgrass which overtakes healthy soil.

May Eden abide in the diaspora, and may we be willing to cultivate Eden with all your gardeners.

Amen.

 

© 2018   Rev. Michelle L. Torigian.  Permission is given to reproduce for worship or educational purposes.

A Prayer for Christine Blasey Ford (And All Telling Their Painful Stories)

Tags

, , , , , , ,

justice-2060093_1920 (1)

God, you waited with us in our shadows,
You currently abides with us on thresholds
And you will walk with us in the sun-

Today, a voice will exclaim her truth.
And you will be with her.

There have been many women and men throughout the ages who have sat in chairs-
Watching as they’ve expressed themselves
And detailed a piece of their past.

Yet trauma awaits them in the chambers,
Lurking behind tables,
Entering the room through vicious questions and piercing stares.

May peace rest upon the heart of Christine
And may her soul be soothed.

May others who need to tell their stories – whether related to this particular case
Or other cases-
Find your strength that already abides in their hearts.

And for the questioners…
May wisdom fill their dreams as they sleep.
And as they wake,
May your clarity guide them when speaking
And may openness stir them into listening.

For the ones who commit such abuses,
Who have left scars upon the spirits of many,
May your voice enter their minds.
May the winds of change nudge them to repent
Not only for the survivors, but for the spiritual survival of our world.

We are slowing moving towards justice.
May Christine find healing
May we say her name, Anita’s Name,
The names of women throughout times and spaces –
From Tamar to Vashti and many more.
In lifting their resilience and courage
We will find ours too.

Amen.

A Prayer for the Ones Not Believed

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

DF9B4F19-B887-4D73-84EB-1A6D4B6CE86FGod of the vocal cords and facial expressions and gestures…

Sometimes there are times when we remain quiet in our trauma. Sometimes we wonder if our words matter and our bravery will transcend injustice.

But most of the time we remember the experience when our words evaporated quickly after attempting to express ourselves.

Do we say anything if we know it will fall on closed ears? And the tougher question with which to wrestle is this: what if they turn it around and the blame falls on us?

We become the Eves and the Gomers and the Jezebels when we assert our value. And we think to ourselves “why bother???”

So when we are questioned years later as to why we remained silent, hopefully they will understand. Hopefully.

(You understand this God, right?)

A slow triumph- the stories are emerging. They linger longer and fill our world with much-needed discomfort.

And through you, Holy Narrative, we find our voices. Your strength and courage deliver us from trauma to peace and from injustice to righteousness.

I believe the stories. You believe them too, God.

Let’s do this.

Amen.

Women’s Agency and Autonomy on Trial

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

supreme-court-546279_1920

Shrugging off has been our mode of coping.  Most of us women have shrugged sexual assault or harassment as it was happening – either because we hadn’t wrapped our minds around what happened or we know we wouldn’t be believed.

And we, ourselves, do not want to go on trial when we did nothing wrong.

It’s exhausting to live in a word in which we have to be hyper-vigilant while also knowing that even in our vigilance we may still be taken advantage of.  Even when we work to ensure our own safety and assault occurs, we know we will transformed from victim/survivor to evil voice.  We will become the demon, the Eve, the Jezebel, the Gomer – all wrapped into one – when coming forth about the incident.

Living eighteen years after the turn of the millennium and nearly 100 years after women began to get the right to vote (although not all women), we still fall short of what it means to be fully human.

There’s a message we hear from our leaders and institutions:

We don’t care about your bodies.  We don’t care about your health.  We don’t care about your livelihood.  In many ways like people of color or immigrants or LGBTQ people, you matter less.

We don’t want you to make decisions about your bodies.  We want to make them.  We want to use them when it is convenient for us.  We want to control them to ensure that a traditional patriarchal system continues.  We want to dispose of them when they no longer suit us or if they don’t fit our ideal standard for what a woman should be.

This is how it feels.

And when I read the story of Lot offering his daughters to be raped just to keep the men whole and holy, it makes me sick.  It’s not just a story that was told centuries before the birth of Jesus.  It’s also a story in which many people believe is the inspired Word of God.

So God would rather women be raped than men?  Why do either need to be raped?  Why are we not bettering our systems to hold rapists accountable?

Which brings us to this standing theology: Men’s bodies are holy.  Womens bodies are sinful and unclean.  Men are to be believed.  Women should endure pain because they aren’t as fully human as men, right?

(As someone who endures chronic pain due to reproductive health issues, I’ve felt dismissed by doctors on more than one occasion – even female doctors.  I’ve seen the health of my friends dismissed as I’ve notice the maternal mortality rate hanging too high for a developed nation.)

Between this story of alleged rape, the story that Kavanaugh wanted female clerks with a “certain” look, and his record on women’s reproductive health care rights, I see the larger picture of Kavanaugh and how he values – or doesn’t – women’s autonomy and agency.

And I know – he hired many women to serve as his clerks.  But the way a Generation X man devalues a woman will be different than a man who is a Boomer or from an earlier generation.  The way that one man devalues a woman is different than man from another generation or a man from his own generation.  He may hire a woman because he knows that women provide intellectual services yet may still believe that a woman still holds less autonomy and agency in other areas of her existence.  A man can appreciate a woman’s mind while still objectifying a woman’s body.

So I stand against any nominee for the SCOTUS or anyone leader in our Executive or Legislative Branch who carries on this ethos of male supremacy.  I stand against a system that doesn’t question what he’s done or the choices he has made.  Shouldn’t we have learned something from the time that Clarence Thomas was accused?  It’s been well over 25 years; shouldn’t we be farther along in the process of full autonomy and dignity for all women?  Shouldn’t we choose presidents who don’t take advantage of subordinates or assault women or pay women or brag about what they can do to women without their full consent?  There are men in both parties who have devalued women.  Why do they still have power?

We are women.  We deserve to walk at night or go to parties or hang out in social clubs or anything else without having to worry about being raped.  We deserve to go to work without being harassed.  We deserve to go to doctors and be believed because we know something isn’t right with our bodies.  We are not disposable, and we are fully human.

When will the powers-that-be in America and across the world believe us?

Or will we humans still be having this conversation in three thousand years – just like the story of Lot’s daughters?

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – I believe you.  You are a beloved child of God.  You are made in the Image of God.  No one can take that from you – no matter how hard they try in these next few days.  And we have your back.

A Labor Day Communion Liturgy

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

agricultural-agriculture-asia-226621

One: Creator of the harvest- We lift our voices in praise!
Many: Creator of the table – In you we find our peace.
One: In gratitude we gather to share this meal.
Many: With thanksgiving, we gather to share our love for neighbor.

One: As the sun sets earlier, the days become cooler, and the crops near harvest, we celebrate the plenitude of fruits available to us.  We acknowledge the ways that we can use our gifts to care for our siblings in need.  We extend this table through the work of our hands and the missions of this church.

As we celebrate this sacrament, may we remember the laborers in the fields:
The harvesters of the wheat and grapes.
The transporters of the their yields.
Those who transform wheat into bread and grapes into juice.

Bless their hands and feet as they labor at farms and gardens, in trucks and warehouses.  We give thanks for the ones who prepare the table here today.  May their gifts of preparation and hospitality inspire us to extend hospitality to the strangers among us.

After laboring on the streets of Jerusalem-
Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God-
Jesus clutched bread in his hands.  He blessed the food, gave thanks, and heartfully expressed to his friends that this was the bread of life.  “As you eat this bread, remember me.”

After supper, Jesus grasped the cup filled with the gifts of the vine.  In his blessing, he reminded them “whenever you drink of this cup, remember me.”

Spirit of wisdom and of wonder, wind around these elements today.  May they stir us from stagnation into actively loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves.  May our participation at this table transform us into the people God is calling us to be.

With gratitude, we gather at this table.  As we take a piece of bread, let us experience the love of God as seen in Jesus the Christ.  As we immerse the bread into the cup, let us remember the grace that pours from God.

A Prayer for the Choir

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

choir-840987_1920

God of harmonies and melodies,
Of clanging and clashing cymbals,
Of sopranos and basses, of tenors and altos-

As voices unite together in this new season,
Bless the vibration of vocal cords
And the lungs which birth the songs.

May the words streaming from their spirits
Be ones in which unite us with You and neighbor.
May each stanza strengthen the souls of Your children
And may the chorus invigorate static hearts.

May those absorbing the sounds and beats of these tunes
Experience your presence through song.

Divine Symphony of Love,
Our hearts of gratitude celebrate this ensemble
And all who gift us with music.

Amen.