Lord, teach us to pray: A Sermon for Proper 12, Year C

Before turning to today’s gospel reading, I’d like to say a few words about the reading from Hosea. I’m sure as you as listened and read, questions arose about this difficult and disturbing text. God commands the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute, or a promiscuous woman; then orders him to give their children awful, offensive names: Jezreel (God sows); Lo-ruhama (not pitied), and Loammi (I am not yours). It doesn’t get any better as the book continues. There’s adultery, separation, and perhaps reconciliation. All of it to symbolize God’s relationship with Israel as that of a husband and an unfaithful wife. Throughout the book, there is very little hope of repentance, although perhaps one gets a sense of it in verse 10: “in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’.” Continue reading

St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest and most important theologians in the History of Christianity. His biography is available here. This is the prayer he reportedly said every day before an image of Christ:

GRANT me, O merciful God, to desire eagerly, to investigate prudently, to acknowledge sincerely, and to fulfill perfectly those things that are pleasing to Thee, for the praise and glory of Thy holy Name.

 

O my God, order my life, and grant that I may know what Thou wilt have me to do; and grant that I may fulfill it as is fitting and profitable to my soul.

 

Grant me, O Lord my God, the grace that I may not falter either in prosperity or adversity. May I not be unduly lifted up by the one, nor unduly cast down by the other. Let me neither rejoice nor grieve at anything, save what either leads to Thee or leads away from Thee. Let me not desire to please anyone nor fear to displease anyone save only Thee.

 

Let all things transitory seem vile in my eyes, and all things eternal be dear to me. Let me tire of that joy which is without Thee and to desire nothing that is outside Thee. Let me find joy in the labor that is for Thee; and let all repose that is without Thee be tiresome to me.

 

Grant me, my God, the grace to direct my heart towards Thee, and with a firm purpose of amendment, to grieve continually my failures, together with a firm purpose of amendment.

 

O Lord my God, make me obedient without complaining, poor without despondency, chaste without stain, patient without grumbling, humble without pretense, cheerful without dissipation, mature without undue heaviness, quick-minded without levity, fearful of Thee without abjectness, truthful without duplicity, devoted to good works without presumption, ready to correct my neighbor without arrogance, and to edify him by word and example without hypocrisy.

 

Grant me, Lord God, a watchful heart which shall be distracted from Thee by no vain thoughts; give me a generous heart which shall not be drawn downward by any unworthy affection; give me an upright heart which shall not be led astray by any perverse intention; give me a stout heart which shall not be crushed by any hardship; give me a free heart which shall not be enslaved by passion

 

Bestow upon me, O Lord my God, an understanding that knows Thee, diligence in seeking Thee, wisdom in finding Thee, conversation pleasing to Thee, perseverance in faithfully waiting for Thee, and confidence in embracing Thee in the end. Grant that I may be chastised here by penance, that I may make good use of Thy gifts in this life by Thy grace, and that I may partake of Thy joys in the glory of heaven: Who livest and reignest, God, forever and ever. Amen.

A prayer for today

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

God in Proof, God in Prayer: A Sermon for Proper 12, Year A

Proper 12, Year A

July 27, 2014

“The Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

Right now I’m reading a book by Nathan Schneider called God in Proof. I first encountered Schneider’s writing some years ago through the website he began with some other young writers called “Killing the Buddha.” It’s hard to describe in a few words what they’re trying to do with the site, but at its core is the quest of young people, millennials, to explore questions of faith and spirituality in our modern world. Continue reading

Rowan Williams on prayer

Some kinds of instruction in prayer used to say at the beginning, “Put yourself in the presence of God.” But I often wonder whether it would be more helpful to say, “Put yourself in the place of Jesus.” It sounds appallingly ambitious, even presumptuous, but that is actually what the New Testament suggests we do. Jesus speaks to God for us, but we speak to God in him. You may say what you want—but he is speaking to the Father, gazing into the depths of the Father’s love. And as you understand Jesus better, as you grow up a little in your faith, then what you want to say gradually shifts a bit more into alignment with what he is always saying to the Father, in his eternal love for the eternal love out of which his own life streams forth.

That, in a nutshell, is prayer—letting Jesus pray in you and beginning that lengthy and often very tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals and hopes are gradually aligned with his eternal action, just as, in his own earthly life, his human fears and hopes and desires and emotions are put into the context of his love for the Father, woven into his eternal relation with the Father—even in that moment of supreme pain and mental agony that he endures the night before his death.

Rowan Williams writing on Origen and prayer in the Christian Century

How to fill the faith-shaped hole in modern life

A lovely collection of essays in the New Statesman on ritual after God. It includes Rowan Williams’ description of how he begins his day in silent prayer and meditation.

Lucy Winkett has this to say:

If rituals help us navigate the thresholds of life when emotion is high and the tectonic plates of desire, fear, hope and despair collide, then the truth is that I travel a long way not just when I’m celebrating the Eucharist but while I’m walking the dog. Ordinary life is full of grief and miracles. Rituals are performed at the boundaries, on the border. What we do almost every day, sometimes without noticing, is step over the line.

Killings in Overland Park, KS

The news of the shooting deaths of Jews in Overland Park, KS is deeply distressing, especially on this day as Christians begin Holy Week and Jews prepare for the celebration of Passover. I mentioned in my sermon today the anti-Judaism in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death. The deaths today are a reminder of the violence and hate that plague our culture; a reminder, too, of our duty to proclaim and work for a gospel of peace and love.

We should also pray:

Loving God, Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts. Amen.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.