Sunday, August 12, 2018

Prayers from First Presbyterian Santa Monica

Prayer of Dedication before Offering
Our offering, O LORD, is given in thanksgiving.

For the life we have in Christ.
And the world you’ve created for us.
For the love of family and friends.
For the joy of this place, wherein the stories of faith are celebrated, and we’re challenged to be more than we are, and reminded that what we are is glorious and good in your sight.

Be pleased, O LORD, to grant your blessing to these, our tithes and offerings … to be used for the honor and glory of Christ, the wellbeing of this church, and the welfare of our world. Through Christ our LORD we pray. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

We bow our hearts, O LORD, before the glory of your love.

Mindful of your Word of Life, given to us in the pages of our Bible, in the stories of our time, in the lives of those who’ve trod the pathways of faith and service long before our advent … the saints and sinners who’ve loved you, and often put their lives on the line for the sake of Christ … 

With them, O God, and for them, we do no less … so we pray for the fullness of your Holy Spirit, and the transforming of our hearts and minds according to the word of Christ, that in our time, we would be brave to speak words of kindness to those who are bullied and shamed, that we would challenge those impressed with their own achievements of wealth and success, that we would speak truth to power, and in all ways, dear God, embody the humble gratitude befitting those who follow the Christ. 

We give thanks for the mighty and wondrous ways in which you have been at work, to sustain your creation against the predations of those who bear your very own image … forgive us, we pray, for the wrong we have done to your earth, to your air and water, and the suffering we’ve caused for all your creatures, great and small.

On this day, Eternal God, we run not from the sorrows of our world … we do not seek shelter from the storms … but in you, O God, we find our courage, our voice, our purpose, our character, flowing from your eternal vision for our world, given to us in our baptism, sustained for us in the bread and drink of the LORD’s Table, and the daily provisions of life you so generously grant. 

We pray, O God, for our nation and its wellbeing … and for all the nations of the world … giving thanks that every day, and everywhere, there are women and men who bravely hold high the torch of truth, lighting the way for peace and justice. 

Those who would mock such things O God, as weak and worthless, those who know only the power and might of money and armaments, those who use religion to feather their own nests, to mask their cruelty toward the poor and the weak, LORD have mercy. Deliver them from the idols they’ve created, and deliver us all from such influence and infidelity.

We pray for loved ones, heavenly Father, for friends and family … some of whom are in distress, in danger, assailed in storms of doubt, and bereft of hope … we pray, O God, for your gentle hand upon them, to see them through the days of trial, and to use us, as instruments of your peace.

And so we pray for ourselves, too, O LORD, … because sin weighs heavily upon us, that which we have done heedlessly and cravenly, and the good we’ve often forgotten to do … our physical ailments, and the burdens of our soul … our fears for tomorrow and too many sleepless nights … O LORD, be merciful, and lead us with your kindly light.

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, ever-present and always faithful, who taught us to pray, saying:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pathways of Hope

On a happier note:
My thanks to the strange geniuses
Who create our stories.

Novelists, of course.
Poets and artists.
Script writers and directors.

As long as we can tell stories,
We can imagine.
A world through which wind the pathways

Of hope.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Matthew 25.14-30 Parable of the Talents

Lectionary musings ...

Matthew 25.14-30 ... hmmm ... the business of the talents ... and business it is ... then or now, it's about work and profits ... sure ... that's what life is all about ... for those who have, and those who don't. I don't know of any other kind of life, other than a monastic vocation, which, however, relies upon the work and beneficence of others, even as the monks themselves must labor in the fields and barns and workshops of their monastery.

One commentator suggested that the original story made the third man the hero, because he refused to participate in the system. Well, that may be ... but in looking at Matthew 25, thinking a bit about what's intended in the gospel, I read and re-read the story, looking carefully at the third man.

Who was afraid.

So, maybe this question: Was his fear accurate?

Was his understanding of the "master" true?

The other two had no difficulty whatsoever in doing something good ... they gave it their best shot, whereas the third man was crippled with fear, and hid the talent, and in so doing, failed both himself and the master, not to mention the entire household.

Without getting all psychological here, I wonder how many folks misperceive God, and how many of god's preachers offer the misconception, compelling people to bury what's given to them, filling them with a fear of judgment, and so they never really use what's been given to them, thus denying themselves the adventure of life, denying the household of their labor, and the master of a fair return.

It doesn't help to micromanage a parable, looking for meaning in every tad and bit ... but if this parable touches upon the crippling power of fear, then it's a painful reminder that those who are trapped in it, for whatever reason, will lose everything. Fear is a terrible thing, and distorts reality, and closes doors, and life gets buried before the end.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017



Dogs are scared to death with all the noise ... so, to be mindful of their state ... it's the least we can do.

It's a crazy night, and here in LA, the sky around our place is alight with streaks and flashes and color in every direction ... screeches, crackles, booms and bangs.

For some, it's hamburgers and hotdogs ...
Cold beer or Margaritas ...
Friends and family.

Some will be thoughtful about the times.

Lady Liberty and Justice for All.

We can hope ...
A trait so profoundly human.
So daunting at times.

But hope is our lifeline to life.

And with the sky alight with color, with all the oohs and aahs of the crowds, and the cries of excited children, we hope for our nation and hope for our world.

So remember the dogs.
And the people, too.

For all of them, we hope.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Prayer for the Day

Prayer for the Day ...

O Thou who art the source of all ...
Whose word creates the substance and the storm,
The moment and the motion,
The span of life and all of love ...
Unto whom we all belong,
In life and in death,
Body and soul,
Here, there and everywhere ...

In times of distress, you speak tenderly to our wary hearts.
When all seems lost, you anchor us in your eternity.
When love blossoms, you laugh with us and feel the joy ... of hope and pleasure, desire and dreams ...

In life, you are a guiding light, and sometimes the luminous darkness of unknowing and wandering ...

In death, you are the final comfort, the beckoning hand, that welcomes and in some strange way, rewinds the clock ...

That which is lost is found.
That which is blind is given sight.

The bound and the broken are released.
The fearful and fatigued are taken in your hand.

When it's dark and cold, Christ is born.
When hateful powers seek his life, escape is made
He's baptized and tested.
Asks a woman for a drink.
Welcomes Mary as a disciple, much to the distress of her bothered sister and to the amazement of the men.

With him, O God, we walk.
We talk and we wonder ... and follow.
As best we can ... with halting steps and faltering faith.
But in faith, as it is, with steps as they are, we reach for the Kingdom of faith, hope and love.

And maybe, O God, we have some tables to overturn, and we'll do it ... fearful maybe, but we'll do it.

As best we can.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pastoral Prayer, May 29, 2016

Pastoral Prayer
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles

To be the church of Jesus Christ, O God.
This is our prayer, this is our hope.
To let our light so shine, O God,
That others might see our good works and glorify your name.

To you, O God, we give the cares of life that besiege and beset every soul … anxiety about tomorrow … the distress of difficult relationships … employment and daily tasks … family life, in all of its myriad shapes and forms … trying to understand ourselves, O God, and why we are the way we are … health issues, dear God - our frailty, our mortality … the passing of time … our desires to love and be loved … our quest for purpose and value … the crushing question of why bad things happen … tears of bereavement and loss … the pain of regret, the demons of impatience and judgment … 

Be with us, we pray, O God, in all the turnings and tumult of life … be merciful to us, in our comings and our goings … in all things, O God, encourage our devotion to you, our love for one another, our faith in your providence … for we are yours, O God, bound with a love that will not cease, nor ever be broken … in this life, and in the life to come.

And so, we pray:

For the well-being of our nation … and for all the nations of the world.

For the economic engines of capital and commerce, to be wisely tuned to the needs of the planet, the needs of its people, and all of its creatures, great and small.

For people of faith, whatever their faith, dear LORD, to shun the ill-turned temptations of religion … temptations of power and domination … temptations driven by fear and ignorance … temptations that reside in all of us, O God, in the dark corners of mind and heart.

On this Memorial Day Weekend, O God, we remember the women and men of our nation who have fallen in war … something they didn’t expect, or want, and maybe even feared … but they faced the day, O LORD, and did their duty … and so we honor them in thought and prayer, and above all else, we honor them  with our sacred pledge to seek peace when and where we can, to hold in check our emotions when the drums of war are sounded, to be serious in our dedication to peace … to always see beyond the boundaries that nations draw, to behold your Kingdom, O God, a kingdom that dawns bright and fair … where the children are safe and war is no more.

Lead, kindly light, we pray … lead us anew to places of love and reason, strength and hope, wisdom and kindliness … lead us, we pray, to life centered in Christ … the truth that sets us free … a living faith, vibrant with courage and commitment … to be visionaries for the future, and in our time, O LORD, instruments of your peace. Amen!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Class of 1966 Reunion

Yesterday, at the Class of 1966 Reunion, I felt nothing but gratitude.
To have made it this far.
To know what I know.
To know what I don't.
To love the folks I love.
And to be loved of them.
Along the way, a lot of friends.
Friends for a bit of time.
Friends for all the years.
Friends forgotten.
Friendship renewed.
Couldn't recognize anyone.
But take a few moments and some chat.
It's the eyes that are the same.
And the smile.
And like wiping a fogged mirror.
Yesterday's image appears.
On the back of the program.
A list.
Of those no longer here.
It's sad, for sure.
My throat clinched.
At the Commencement,
We sang.
Several thousand of us sang.
"This Is My Father's World" ...
I choked a few times.
Thanks to Calvin College for putting it all together.
Not a beat was missed.
Choreographed with kindness.
Memories, laughter, and the steady beat of love.
And the gracious reminders of something divine.
We are not alone in this life.
Nor are we our own.
But we belong.
To a gracious God.
Now, and forevermore.
It's been a remarkable weekend.
Gratitude running deep.
Love all around.
Thanksgiving for what has been.
The courage to live, here and now.
Hope for what shall be.
And that's the way it is for me.
Of the Class of 1966.