Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pastoral Prayer, August 30, 2015

Eternal God, we open our hearts and minds to you this day, anew … we seek your guidance and wisdom … the wisdom of the ages, tried and tested by women and men who have given themselves unto humanity, taken up the hard work of justice, applied themselves to the toughest problems of history … 

Open our eyes, O LORD, to those who love life and can teach us how to love all the more … women and men of great compassion and learning and devotion … they’re all around us, O God … sometimes we learn of them in the news, but most of the time, it’s a quiet witness they give … as they go about their daily tasks - with bravery, faith and love … bless them, keep them, in their noble endeavors, and watch over us all that we might constantly push ahead for the better world.

We pray for this church, O God … may it always be a safe haven from the storms of life, a place to learn of faith, hope and love … to hear the gospel proclaimed in all of its beauty and all of its power, to transform lives and reshape the world.

Bless our Trustees and Deacons … our Altar Guild and the Women’s Association, the Seekers Class, Pilgrim School, Jonathan and Christoph, and all our gifted musicians, and our staff, dear God - who maintain the books, print the bulletin, keep an eye on things, maintain our buildings and grounds, clean our hallways and offices … 

We pray for Scott and his family … may they all have safe travels in their various and sundry endeavors … may your Spirit continue to liven Scott’s spirit and provide him the words and insights needed to speak the gospel and to mirror its grace.

And for the members and friends of First Church - who work and pray, serve and give … to keep this church vibrant and growing … a reflection of humanity’s highest values and your deepest grace, O God … keep us we pray, in your hand, that we might be of great value to your world.

We pray this morning, O God, for rain … and for snow in the Sierras this winter …

We pray for the scientists who study our environment … who help us understand the world you’ve created, dear God, and how it works, and how we can spell the difference - for good and for ill … and we pray that your Spirit will guide us toward decisions that honor your creation, decisions that honor all creatures, great and small … decisions that honor the butterfly and the river, the vast oceans and the smallest minnow.

Even as we pray, remind us that you hear our prayers, and that every prayer counts … plain and simple, what’s on our heart, in our mind, well-said, or said in a panic … we lay our prayers before you, just as they are - it’s all we can do, O LORD, and these are the prayers we offer … 

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, who is, who was, and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of all things good, the end toward which all creation moves … a bright and glorious day, a new heaven and a new earth … all made new, all made good - our mission, our hope, our purpose, our dream. 

To the glory of God, and for the wellbeing of all. Amen! and Amen!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pastoral Prayer, August 16, 2015

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles

Eternal God, we give thanks … thanks for the day, these moments of worship … to be here with one another in the great fellowship of faith, to hear the words of hope and peace proclaimed in sermon and song … to feel the very presence of the saints - their memories linger here, O God, in stone and wood, glass and fabric, all of which speak to your high purpose and our task to bless the world.

With your Spirit, O God, help us to be attentive, to look with determined eyes, eyes to really see one another, the world around us, the beauty of our earth and the wonder of the universe … vast and mysterious, glorious and good … 

That we might have hearts of praise … hearts quick to respond to goodness … eager to praise and give encouragement: to the child next to us, to the colleague across the table, to our lovers and our friends … to lighten the darkness, dispel gloom, raise up hope, and speak the words of peace to our troubled world … 

Help us, we pray:

To be all the more devoted to seek humane solutions when others give way to violence … to preserve life in all its many forms … from the lions of Africa to the child living in a cardboard box … help us, we pray, to see the world with your eyes, and to apply ourselves as best we can to the great tasks of life … to never grow so weary that we quit, to never be so jaded that we give up, to never accept evil so that we cease doing good … 

And so we pray today:

For all of those affected by the explosion in Tianjin, China … 
For the refugees streaming out of Burundi … 
For the nation of Greece …
For the Peoples of Palestine …
For Cuba and for Iran …

In a world distressed and great with danger:
We give thanks … holy thanks, for those who seek peace and speak truth: so we especially pray today for President Jimmy Carter and his family … we know, O God, that his doctors will do their best, yet the clock ticks onward, as it does for us all … and time quietly steals us all away.

May President Carter find solace in the greats works of peace to which he has devoted his life … and may all of us continue to learn from his vision for a better world. 

We pray, too, for Julian Bond’s family as they grieve his passing today … what a legacy he leaves for us: faith, hope and love … bravery in the face of high difficulty, and a willingness to put his life on the line. 

O LORD, our God, we thank you that we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, who speak truth to power, and who live the power of the Crucified and Risen Christ. 

In their strength we are strong; in their wisdom we are wise … help US, dear God, to learn from them all.

With the courage of their faith encouraging us, we take up our cross and will never lay it aside, dear God … we follow Christ as he would lead, we go where the heart of faith calls us, we are brave in the face of difficulty, and will not turn aside, even though we tremble!

We will be as Christ to one another, so that life prevails in the goodness of love.

This we pray, in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ … Amen and Amen!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

It'll Be Okay!

When it comes to life after death,
My wife and I decided many years

That whatever happens, it'll be okay.

It's never been high on my list.
Because I had good preachers and teachers who
Didn't dwell on it, but on life, instead.

So, whatever happens, it'll be okay.
Whatever God decides.
it'll be okay.



With one caveat ... for others who've suffered
Much and had life cut short.
For them, I'd like something more.

A full belly.
A safe bed.
Some toys.



Whatever God decides.

But I hope ... for their sake ...
I'd be okay with that.



"Stand by Your Man" - Written by, Guess What, by a Man

A man wrote the lyrics for Tammy Wynette's hit, "Stand by Your Man" - Billy Sherill, country music producer in the 1960s and '70s, who recently died.

So I looked up the lyrics, and here they are:

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You'll have bad times, and he'll have good times
Doin' things that you don't understand
But if you love him, you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
'Cause after all he's just a man.
Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.

Wow ... what a dysfunctional message: Women, the guy may be a jerk, but, after all, you've had YOUR bad days, too, and he's just man - I mean, a low-down skunk with the morals of alley cat, who drinks too much and loves to use his fists, but that's all right, dear little woman, because you have your bad days, too, and he's just a man.

Only a man could have written this drivel, this nonsense, this dysfunctional, "love him no matter what." And how many women, living in hell, with "just a man" who's cruelty and selfishness know few boundaries, have sung this song in their tears, crying themselves to sleep. And how many evangelical pastors have relied on this abusive text to convince women to "forgive, submit and try all the harder," because it's their task to "stand by their man," no matter how many times he abandons his family, comes home drunk, beats everyone up, commits adultery without remorse ... because "he's just a man," and this is surely God's will for the woman. The Bible says so.

This song's a crime against women ... and, yes, it could've only been written by a man.