A Litany For Gun Violence

(This litany was written for Gun Violence Sabbath – December 13, 2015. It is appropriate any day, and any place where we are confronted by the senseless evil of murder by guns. This Litany was composed by Rt. Rev. Steven T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Vermont.)


Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence.

For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers and aliens, and those known to you alone,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Barack, our President, and [n.], our Governor, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.

For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.

For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died, (more than 30,000 this year,) in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care.

For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change.

For your dream of love and harmony,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ.

Amen.


The intercessor / reader / leader reads the text in plain text, and the group / congregation joins in reading the bold type. The italicized type is optional, or the numbers can be adjusted by year – the 30,000 shown is for 2015.)


A suitable hymn:

Abide With Me
hymn tune: EVENTIDE

 

 

Abide With Me
lyrics by Henry F. Lyte, 1847

based on Luke 24:29

“But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”

 

  1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
  2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see—
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
  3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
    What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
    Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
    Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
  4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
    Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
    Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
    I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
  5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
    Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

 

 

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Where the Millionaire Preachers Get it Wrong Every Time

Quite simply: if you do it right, there’s no money to be made.

This morning I was listening to a song by the Claire Lynch Band called Children of Abraham, and as most spiritual music does, the song explained it all.

The first line of the refrain for the song is:

Children of Abraham come by it honest,
Living on nothing but a lick and a promise.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase “a lick and a promise,” that is southern speak for “being so poor that we have nothing but wishes to live on.” The Children of Abraham came from intense, mud-digging poverty, not great wealth. And nothing about wealth or the path to gain it will do anything to make one spiritually better. If nothing else, it gets in the way.

The story of the song is from the book of Genesis-Exodus, of Moses leading the Children of Israel into the wilderness and they wandered around – pretty lost – for 40 days. (Biblical stories tend to work in a 40 day time frame.) This after some pretty huge promises from God to Abraham about this great nation that God and Abraham are putting together.

One hitch: Abraham has to do it all without God’s direct help. There’s the challenge: Not money or Lear jets or prayer cloths or books and DVD sales, but the pure survival of an entire nation, while God watches to see how you pull it off.

Imagine yourself being there: lost, and so lost that even your leader doesn’t know where you are going except “out there.” He’s led on by nothing but grains of sand as a promise that something better lies beyond the desert. And if you ask him … all he can stutter back to you is, “out there.”

Here, Claire brings the song into our own life, and that is how we all – we Children of Abraham – continue on. We want to fly like the eagles borne on the wind but we can’t do that just yet. So what does the singer pray for in the song? Patience. Not better wings. Not a swifter wind. Not more eagle-like strength. The singer prays for the patience to stick with it until the knowledge, the strength, and the strong wind comes along.

And that is the tough part of being a spiritual person: the time when there’s nothing around in any direction but hot dry dusty air… the desert of the heart. And even though what we may want is oasis, what we really need to get through is patience.

It has nothing to do with mission seeds of as much money as you have in your 401k. It’s absolutely nothing to do with a theology of prosperity – one of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard any TV preacher spout. Being this child of Father Abram that she describes is all about sticking to it, with nothing but grains of sand in your pocket to go by.

And living on a lick and a promise.

Keep the faith!
– Amen


 

Children of Abrahamlyrics
– sung by Claire Lynch and the Claire Lynch Band

Back when the blessing was only a dream,
Old Father Abram was looking at me.
I’m one of the many stars in the sky:
Don’t care if I stumble, I’m learning to fly.
A token of promise, like one grain of sand,
was all that he needed, to enter the land.
And those who were chosen to answer the call,
will follow his footsteps, forsaking it all.

[Refrain]
Children of Abraham come by it honest,
living on nothing but a lick and a promise,
flying on the wings of a prayer.

The young grow weary, they run and they faint,
I want to be strong, Lord, teach me to wait.
I’ll soar like an eagle, borne on the wind,
Going wherever the Spirit will send.

[Refrain]

The Spiritual Selfie – beginning the way through Lent

The 40 days leading up to Easter are – for Christian believers in such – a time of quiet and self-contemplation. This is different from the 40 days leading up to Christmas known as Advent which is also a time of quiet reflection (spiritually,) and yet is a time of anticipation.

Something new is about to happen! How do we / how do I prepare for whatever that change is?

In Lent, it’s all about me: where am I now spiritually? What’s going well, and what’s not? What needs change? What can I do to be both a better Christian and a better member of a greater community?

If you subtract out the “Christian” part, you can see how this works as a great plan for anyone of a contemplative slant: taking a dedicated, demarked time off for a lot of spiritual selfies of how we are, internally. What we believe. What we do not believe. And (the most important part), where do we need to improve.

Think of this as your annual spiritual review. You give yourself some new “jobs,” you drop off some that aren’t working, and you evaluate.

Our life as contemplative people is always this process of trying, review, change, and trying again.

The sort-of traditional way that Lent works is that one “gives up” something for these 40 days, and here is where all the late-night jokes come into play: giving up paying bills, giving up the wife, giving up my job, etc. etc.

What should happen in reality is that you give up something that will cause you some degree of distress to have to do without it for these 40 days. For me, it would be something like drinking coffee. I would say something like watching a favorite TV show except that I know my DVR would record it and I’d just watch it a month from now.

And, Lent is also a time to take on something new. (This part doesn’t make it to the late-night standup routines, so you might not be familiar with it.) The idea here is we add on something that is a task of some sort that needs resolution, not a burden that is impossible or will cause additional stress and fatigue.

And there doesn’t need to be a 100:100 balance of taking on vs. letting go. Going into Lent this year I found lots of taking on, and haven’t been inspired yet (two days into the event) of what to take off. Perhaps I’m burden hoarding this year!

That still doesn’t take me away from the central idea of these 40 day, of introspection and turning over the rocks in my spiritual path and looking to see what sorts of bugs and worms are under there. There’s no goal as to what happens with this self-examination: it’s not meant to necessarily make you better or worse, or to make you just throw up your hands and give up on all of it. The idea is that you have looked inside yourself and your own spirituality (of whatever type you have,) and that you better understand what you saw.

Change, then, will come out of that understanding.

Keep the faith!

 

A call to prayer and service at the beginning of Lent:

 

Dear People of God:

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.

This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.

Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

 

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At the end of these 40 days – during the great brouhaha of the Easter season and on into what we call “the ordinary time,” – how many of the things you gave up will stay off your agenda, and how many of those jobs that you took on, will remain?