A Prayer for the Cast and Crew

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Creating God, Divine Inspiration-
For human imagination we give gratitude.

We ask for blessings upon performers inhabiting stages
And opening themselves up to the present moment.
May their joy for the craft be contagious to all.

For the costumers and sound production technicians,
For the makeup artists and light operators,
For the ones preparing props and raising curtains-
May Your wisdom fill their minds and Your precision fill their hands.

For directors, choreographers, stage managers, and orchestral directors-
May their positive leadership infuse all people active in the production.
May Your vision dance within their heads
And Your dreams fill their souls.

We give thanks for the hospitality of ushers
And the presence of the audience.
May the shared experience of the show be one in which we grow to love humanity.

Bless all cast and crew – no matter who they are or what part they play.
Like Your world, it takes all of us acting together-
Using our sacred time and our unique talents-
To make Your Divine-infused creation to revolve.

Amen.

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The Refugee

A throwback post as you march for refugees and immigrants today…

Michelle L. Torigian

IMG_0426I am the granddaughter of a refugee.

Without the courage and resilience of my grandfather, I wouldn’t be here in this country.  I wouldn’t have privilege.  I may not have food or housing or the respect I deserve as a woman.

Or I may not be alive.  I may never have been born.

Somewhere back in each of our histories, I can imagine that we have the one person who was a refugee, an alien in a new land during a time of exile.  In the diaspora, they were strangers and lived on the grace and hospitality of others.

Exodus 22 says that we “shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

My grandfather was an alien, a refugee.

My grandfather told me the ugly stories of genocide, of wandering around the Caucasus region for years as an Armenian during and after…

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Art and Life in Step: The Handmaid and the Refugee Parent

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This post contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale, season 2, episode 10.

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I can’t imagine a more apropos episode of The Handmaid’s Tale for today.

Earlier today, I saw the following Instagram from Elizabeth Moss:

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I had a feeling I knew where this episode was going…

After some very brutal scenes earlier in the episode that needs a trigger warning, the last 1/3 of the show presents us with a familiar storyline. June/Offred is granted the opportunity to visit her daughter Hannah and spend a few rare moments with her child. As we see earlier in the series, the child was kidnapped from her parents and June was forced into sexual and surrogate slavery.

The conversation is heartbreaking. As their visit continues, the child asks her (former) mother why she didn’t try hard enough to look for her. She hides behind the Martha as she is so unfamiliar with the woman that gave birth to her and raised her for the early years of her life. Hannah screams out for her mother as people pry the child out of the mother’s arms at the end of their short visit. The two do not know whether or not they will see each other again.

So this is just another dystopian series, right?

Or is this too real?

What we see in this episode and hear on the news are eerily similar: children being ripped from the arms and lives of their parents.

(As they filmed the episode, I highly doubt they knew this episode would be airing this week of all weeks.)

Like what is going on today, the party who very much wants to push a pro-family platform destroys families that cross their path.  Children are ripped from the lives of their parents, undoubtedly crying themselves to sleep as they abide in a world of uncertainty.

Some people believe it’s part of God’s plan or divine intervention that such horrific moves are made. They want us to follow they demands of the government instead of God’s ethics. And yet, as they continue to believe they are the good guys, our world becomes like Canada in The Handmaid’s Tale: seeing a humanitarian crisis unfold.

Like some posts I’ve seen online this week, leaders in the Bible who separated children from their parents were not the “good guys.” Rather, they were Pharaoh and Herod. They were notorious not only for taking children away but killing them as well.

I don’t think any “Good Christian” wants to identify with the two of them. But here our Jesus-professing leaders are- following in their footsteps.

Dystopia is a breath away from us right now, America. When children and parents are ripped apart from one another, and the children are kept in cages, not allowed to be picked by adults, and may never see their parents again, the distopian nightmare is real.

You may read this and say the refugees have broken the law. But they came here because their living conditions were so unstable and dangerous. And we turn our backs on them. We’ve been told over and over in Scripture that we are to care for the orphan, widow, and alien/stranger, and we ignore the many Biblical texts that give us this mandate. No matter what the law says or what the powers-that-be want the law to look like, Jesus was (1) a refugee and (2) a law breaker as he healed on the sabbath. Our powers-that-be wish to forget this.

I encourage each of you to watch the last 1/3 of the episode. Hear the screams between mother and child. Watch the tears swelling in their eyes. This is not fiction. This is not dystopia. This is America in 2018.

Pastorshaming

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We’ve all heard it and seen it: “If your pastor doesn’t preach on (fill in the blank), then walk out.”

Undoubtedly, people who are posting such statements have never served a church with truly different perspectives.

I’ve personally only had experience being a pastor in churches where there are people to the far right and far left and everywhere in between.

So while my message may be focused on hot topics of the day, I have to say things in a way that as many people as possible will listen to the message- because if I seem like I am siding with one perspective, then some people will close their minds and hearts to my sermon and to where God may be directing all of us.

And the message will not reach the people who have not yet heard it from another angle – especially if the news they watch are biased towards the other perspective.

Yes, it is our calling to be prophetic as well as pastoral. It’s our call to love all of the people in our pews. We can’t completely shy away from the subject, but we must speak words that will be considered. We must evaluate the time and space in which our message will be delivered.

So friends who are prophetic and shaming your fellow pastors into mandatory preaching on subjects: please stop it. Please stop putting extra pressure on colleagues. We are all trying our best in our unique contexts. Additionally, we must preach according to the Spirit’s call – not from the pressure of our clergy colleagues.

And to friends reading this who may disagree with your pastor- please give them a break. They are trying to be faithful to the Gospel. They are trying to share the Good News. And it may sound the opposite to what your favorite politicians may be saying. This is not the time to automatically side with your favorite politicians. This is the time to engage in discussions and dialogues on why people believe what they believe. This is a tough time to be in the pulpit because. Please extend grace to your pastors and one another.

To my fellow pastors who serve diverse-perspective churches: let’s keep working together to scatter the seeds whenever possible. We are called to preach the Gospel, and it’s tough. So let’s work together to lift one another up.

If your pastor doesn’t preach on (fill in the blank) this week, have a conversation with him or her. Please do not leave. This is a crucial time for us to dialogue our way through the wilderness.

The Dead Dads Club

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Years ago, I came across a scene of Grey’s Anatomy in which Dr. George O’Malley had just lost his father. He was standing outside of the hospital when Dr. Cristina Yang approaches him. The two engage in the following conversation:

CRISTINA: “There’s a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can’t be in it until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss… My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.”
GEORGE: “I… I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.”
CRISTINA: “Yeah, that never really changes.”

This scene rapidly came to mind on September 18, 2017. Early that morning, I became part of the Dead Dads Club. In a fog of exhaustion, I was thrown into a fraternity of humans wandering in grief.

It’s a permanent club with new members joining us every day. Since my induction, I’ve noticed more friends joining the club. Some joined after their dads perished following a long illness. Others were whisked into the club after a shocking death. I wish I could close the door on their membership. I wish I could delay their painful initiation. And yet, they joined us in the mournful ranks.

This year, many of us are enduring our first Fathers’ Day in this club. We scurry past the Fathers’ Day cards at the store. We try to forget what this Sunday is. We may be grateful that we don’t have to go to places like church where Father’s Day is all over the place. We hope we can make it ten minutes at a time throughout the day, knowing it will be a full year before the next one.

Ugh. Just ugh. I hate all of this.

Like George O’Malley said, I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad isn’t. I still feel like he’s just in the other room when I talk to my mom. I still feel like I’ll catch up with him a little later. I still want to call him when I hear something happening on the news or when I remember something I learned in his Civics class.

But he’s no longer here. And I have to live with this for the remainder of my life here on earth. Part of my brain just can’t grasp this. I don’t think I ever will fully wrap my mind around the world without my father.

So here I am with my fellow “club” members. We all don’t want to be a part of this club. But we are glad that we don’t have to journey alone – not that we want others to have to go through this pain. If we all have to face the pain, at least we can be there for one another. I give thanks for the friends who reached out this week who happen to be enduring similar pain. I give thanks for the friends who sat and waited at the funeral home – just in case I needed them at any point. They are my cohort, and with them we will make it.

So for the day or whenever I need, I rely on God’s mercy and grace to allow what tears may need to fall. I give myself permission to reach out to others in this dreadful club. Because through God and neighbor, we may find some peace along the way.

A Prayer for a Friend’s Ordination

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Spirit whose power hovered over the early swirling seas and whose power called the cliffs to creation:

You will encircle my sister in her ordination today. You will give her the words you gave Mary Magdelene to share the good news on the crisp resurrection morning. You will give her the strength and courage you gave Vashti and Esther and Rahab. You will give her the pastoral  nature to sit with the dying and sick and grieving as you did with Ruth.

For such a time as this you call her, Holy Fire.

We thank you for her call, her passion, her openness to you. We thank you that her season of waiting for this plant to bloom has arrived. We thank you for this threshold she walks across today.  We thank you for your grace which continuously covers her heart.

May this prayer be my hand resting on her shoulder as your winds encircle her on this very special day. She walks with the sisters of all times and places who preached and cared for your children.

For all of this we celebrate.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Exhaustion

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Deliver me from exhaustion, Holy One- as my steps become labored and my eyes fall to gravity.

Deliver me from exhaustion, Holy One- as Standing too long had become for me a form of torture. Lead me to places of rest- whether couches or beds or a nice plush patches of grass.

Deliver me from exhaustion, Holy One- as my words make little sense, and my brain feels like mush, and I trip over my own feet.

Deliver me from exhaustion, Holy One- when work appears too great and the temptation to work longer lurks beneath my to-do list.

Deliver me from exhaustion, Holy One- when sleep seems like a privilege and when given the opportunity, I am just too tired to drift to sleep.

Deliver me from exhaustion, Holy One- as Sabbath was created for us, and without it, we are arid beings.

Amen.

Liturgy for a Final Sunday

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For my last Sunday at St. Paul UCC, Old Blue Rock, Cincinnati, I wrote this service which includes a communion liturgy. Please feel free to use with attribution!

CALL TO WORSHIP
One: ​As the trees release their spring flowers and welcome ​summer’s deep green leaves,
Many: ​God’s spirit accompanies us.
One: ​As each season passes their baton forward and years ​speed by in a flash,
Many: ​God’s Spirit strengthens us.
One: ​As we welcome new faces and bid farewell to others,
Many: ​God’s Spirit fills us with peace.

OPENING PRAYER (unison)
All:​God of questions and answers, of mystery and clarity, we grasp onto your presence today. In this time and space, we celebrate the crossing of thresholds. Here and now We express our gratitude that you abide with us in our laughter and tears. Saturate our souls with strength. Open our spirits to understand that all will be well in our seasons of change. Amen.

PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION
One:​Holy one, we enter this space today knowing that the winds of ​change are entering this sanctuary. The doors have opened to the ​Spirit’s surprises. But before we look towards a new chapter, we ​must conclude our current one.

All: ​God and Neighbor, we come to you today knowing that we ​must move towards a new future. In this space, we ​acknowledge that our hopes and dreams occasionally fell short, ​and we let one another down. Before we close our doors, may ​we extend grace to one another. May we know that we will ​always be part of the vine and branches, and that our love for ​one another extends throughout eternity. Amen.

Silent Prayer

ASSURANCE OF GRACE
One: ​God understands our human hearts. God extends grace ​continuously, and God delights when we pass that grace ​and mercy along to one another. Let us celebrate that ​even in our most human moments, we hold the image of ​God within us. May peace abide.
All: ​Amen!

INVITATION TO OFFERING
One: ​In both seasons of stability and change, God gives us the tools we ​need to serve this congregation, the Church, and the community. ​In recognition of our talents, time, and treasures, we give back to ​God in a spirit of gratitude. Let us celebrate all that has been and ​all that will be in this congregation by sharing our gifts.

UNISON PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Here and now, God, we express our joy for the gifts you’ve delivered to us and for the talents you’ve bestowed upon us. May each gift that we’ve been given as individuals and as a congregation be used to shine the light of Christ into the world. Amen.

SERVICE OF COMMUNION
One: Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season for everything.
Seasons for planting and reaping
Seasons for mourning and dancing
Seasons for losing and seeking.

Today, at this table, we embrace the intersection of two seasons:
The season of welcoming and the season of bidding farewell.

We welcome new faces to the table of Christ knowing that all are
welcome to this time and space as Jesus the Christ crafted a table set
for all.

This table also represents a time of farewell- of the departure of faces
from this space. Yet as we reach for the bread and cup, even with
droplets of sadness in our hearts, we understand that the table forever
unites us for eternity.

May the Spirit of God surround these elements as the Spirit surrounds
us in our seasons of change. May the Spirit guide us in our ministries
and service. May the Spirit bless us as we mourn and dance, lose and
seek, plant and reap.

On the night before Jesus’ departure, Jesus gathered his friends one last
time for a meal like no other. As he took the bread he blessed and broke
it.
“Remember me” he said and passed the loaf to his friends.

On the night before Jesus’ departure, as the friends gathered one last
time for this meal which extends beyond time and space, Jesus took a
cup filled with the fruit of the vine.
“Remember me” he said and passed the cup to his friends.

A first meal. A last meal. A meal like no other.
This gift from the Christ connects us for eternity.
And through our time together today we are forever part of this Table.

UNISON PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
God, your love crafted the table at which we feasted today. Your love
connects us whether we are nearby or miles apart. Through your
love, we grow closer to you and our neighbor. May the bread and cup refresh our souls and renew our relationships, and may we know that we are part of this table for eternity. Amen.

BENEDICTION
One: ​​As we depart today, may we know that through Jesus the ​Christ we are eternally siblings in faith. May we go ​forward in love, may the memories of joy abide with us ​forever, and may we celebrate our shared time on life’s ​journey: Forever connected. Forever loved. Forever part ​of the Body of Christ.
All: ​Amen.

A Prayer for Last Days

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Divine One who shifts the workings of the universe-

This marks the end of a chapter- the final words on a page. How sad this segment of the story is closing! With voices retiring and being moved into the archives of my mind, I find myself saddened by this narrative’s end.

I will miss conversation and laughs, the characters I’ve grown to love, and the flow that’s delightfully comfort.

But we all know, Divine One, that comfort is not your goal for the active moments of our lives.

You ask us to turn the page, to trust that this next chapter includes beauty and joy. You ask us to trust you as we look towards the future with cautious optimism.

So as I cheer on the new chapter, I beg you to feed my heart with peace. May I release these memories and people and places into the world, knowing that you care for them, knowing that you connect us forever, knowing that we are all being called to serve your world.

Amen.

Pentecost Prayers

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Hello Friends!

I adore Pentecost. I suppose it’s the non-commercial tendencies of the holiday, the illustrations of nature that accompany the celebration, and the renewing nature of L the Holy Spirit.

Below is a link for a call to worship and opening prayer that I wrote in 2015. Also below is a link to a communion liturgy that I wrote last year.

CALL TO WORSHIP
One:​Listen for the Winds.
Many:​We hear the howling uncertainty.
One:​Feel the Breeze.
Many:​Air of comfort encircles us.
One:​See the world swaying.
Many:​The Spirit stirs us from complacency.
One:​Inhale the Breath.
Many:​The Spirit saturates our souls.

OPENING PRAYER
Restless Spirit, Fiery God,
You ignite our soul with the flames of inspiration-
Light our dimly-lit minds,
Burn in our chilled hearts.
Clear our eyes to see visions from afar.
Kindle our sleep with your dreams.
May we walk in the glowing path of Christ. Amen.

Communion liturgy for Pentecost

Prayer on RevGalBlogPals that can be used as a pastoral prayer